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Academic Cultural Appropriation of Neopaganism and Occultism

Author's Note: This is a reprint of an article I originally published in the Anthology: Talking About the Elephant in 2008. Because the theme of the month is on cultural appropriation I thought I'd dig it out and reprint it here. I've added a commentary on the end to show where my thoughts on this topic are now (5 years after the original article was published).

While some of the articles of this anthology [Author's note: I'm referring to Talking About the Elephant] deal with cultural appropriation issues that Neopagans and Occultists may perpetuate, the goal of my article is to provide a look at a different form of cultural appropriation currently gaining popularity in both the academic and Neopagan/Occult cultures. This cultural appropriation comes in the form of academic articles and books focused on Neopaganism and the Occult. On the surface, it would seem that scholarship on these subjects is a good thing, certain to buoy the public relationship image that both Neopaganism and Occultism have with mainstream culture. However, as I will argue, there is a different, more subtle agenda occurring in these academic works, and in a manner that can be considered cultural appropriation. Unfortunately, there is a tendency to revere academic works without coming to them with an open, but critical, awareness of how those works really represent their beliefs. Nor is the question raised by Neopagans or Occultists, if the benefits of said academic works are really good for the community, or are only good for the academic who happens to be doing the research.

 

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  • Taylor Ellwood
    Taylor Ellwood says #
    The knife does cut both ways and I'm sorry you had that experience, but imagine if you'd gone in, recorded everything and publishe
  • Amarfa
    Amarfa says #
    I tried that myself, and I got burned badly. I can't use my research at all. I wasn't allowed to record, barely able to take not
  • Amarfa
    Amarfa says #
    I have a question on this subject: Has a researcher ever encountered a Pagan population they wanted to study that has said "No" t
  • Taylor Ellwood
    Taylor Ellwood says #
    Not that I know of, per se, but by the same extension has the researcher fully briefed them on what they would be doing and/or sha
  • Amarfa
    Amarfa says #
    *I apologize for poor grammar and sentence structure in the last paragraph, I hit submit before I was actually done.*

Women all over the world are tired of being treated like third class citizens. Even in cultures that traditionally worship the divine feminine, grown women are granted fewer rights than a male infant and are punished with mutilation and death if they display personal initiative or act in accordance with nature. Three world religions blame females personally and vindictively for a mistake supposedly made by the very first woman ever created! By what logic should the ancient misjudgment of Eve be held against our mothers, wives, sisters and daughters today? This is a classic example of masculine propaganda: if we men say that women are inherently flawed, we can blame them for all of our problems. We can even make the outrageous claim that we were made in the image of God—but they were not!    

It is shocking how many women have bought into this mind manipulation, and actually believe that they are inferior. But this is not universally the case; these days many are seeking a different sort of religion that will give them equal, if complementary, status to their brothers.

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  • gary c. e.
    gary c. e. says #
    hi re: "There is an important difference between the Christian conception of Satan and the Hindu or Buddhist notion of Mara, the
  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor says #
    This is so lovely, Gary! Thank you so much for sharing it. Tolkien has long been among my favorite wordsmiths, and now I see that
  • Stifyn Emrys
    Stifyn Emrys says #
    I enjoyed the article and agree wholeheartedly with your conclusion, but I don't see where the foolishness comes in. The headline
  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor says #
    Thank you, Stifyn - and you are absolutely right! I think it WOULD have been foolishness personified if I had presumed to supply

[Note: This is a revised version of an earlier essay that appeared on the Humanistic Paganism blog.]

"... creative imagination is the only primordial phenomenon accessible to us, the real Ground of the psyche."

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Another Ancestor Q&A

...When honoring the dead makes your skin crawl

 

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  • Virginia Carper
    Virginia Carper says #
    I agree. There are Ancestors who are willing to help you with the toxic ones. I had to go back a few generations to find Them. Onc

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
A Day in the Life

 

Sannion has written a delightful post at http://thehouseofvines.com/2013/06/09/what-does-a-sannion-do/ about an average day in his devotional life. I know that I always find it interesting to know what my colleagues and friends do for their Gods, and how they both order and balance the demands of devotion but until reading this, it hadn't occurred to me to write anything about my own average devotional day (though I have occasionally been asked what I do).  Well, I"m going to do that now, stealing an idea from Sannion (whom I hope will not mind too much!). There is of course, one caveat to all of this (as Sannion also points out in his post): what i write here is what I do. It may not be what those of you reading are called to do. The thing here is to ask yourselves how you can deepen and better *your* practices. If this helps, then I'm glad. If not, let me know what you're doing devotionally--it might inspire me and others reading this. 

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  • Betty Prat
    Betty Prat says #
    I read Sannion's and enjoyed it very much. I am so glad you added to it. It's good to know and hear how others "walk their talk" d

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Deity Centered Polytheism

 

I just returned from a creative retreat where I spent the better part of the week blade-smithing and oil painting and I intended to move on to issues other than the current 'pop culture vs. devotional polytheist' Pagan debate. Upon returning, however, I found this brilliant post: http://www.witchesandpagans.com/Pagan-Paths-Blogs/gods-of-consequence.html by Anomalous Thracian, and realized that I wasn't done yet. In light of some of the comments there, I think that perhaps I need to articulate where I'm writing from a little more clearly. Because one thing that's getting lost (purposely, I think) in this debate is that what it really comes down to is those whose practices are devotionally centered on the Holy Powers (Gods and ancestors) and those for whom the human experience, human emotions, human society,  the human mind. and most of all human comfort is centric. I actually think that this is the heart of many of the misunderstandings that we're seeing. We're not speaking as one community. We will never speak as one community so long as devotion to the Gods is being marginalized. We will never speak as one community so long as devotional polytheists are expected to accept a certain homogenization of our beliefs, predicated on acceptance of attitudes and practices that to those of us who prioritize the Gods are objectionable. We're not speaking from the same place. We're not even speaking the same devotional language. Instead, we're each fighting to wrest the roots of our various traditions from out of the other's hands. 

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  • Marie Dees
    Marie Dees says #
    One of my teachers in my spiritual path was Hindu. I remember that he had a great devotion to the goddess Durga. Devotion is recog
  • Betty Prat
    Betty Prat says #
    I support you and agree with you 100%. These people are just causing dissension because they have nothing better than to slander g
  • Galina Krasskova
    Galina Krasskova says #
    Byron, thank you. That means a lot right now. thank you. and looking forward to chatting with you next Wed on the show.
  • Byron Ballard
    Byron Ballard says #
    Yes, me, too. I will give thought to this month of silence but doubt that I, since I'm traveling so much, will participate. But pe
  • Byron Ballard
    Byron Ballard says #
    Because it is planting season--at last!--here in the southern highlands, I have missed much of this ongoing pissing contest betwee

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Questions on Devotion

Over the next few weeks, I'm going to start writing about the basics, the real fundamentals of devotion, spiritual engagement, and polytheism as I see it, live it, and teach it. I've often lamented that I see way too many people coming to me lacking the basic foundation, a foundation that were we living in a polytheistic society, were we living in a community where our indigenous traditions were intact never having been sundered by monotheism, would have been taught by osmosis. We'd have learned by doing. We'd have learned by living in a community where our parents, our grandparents, our leaders, our friends, our neighbors all modeled these ideas and approaches. It would have been reinforced by the community in a way that simply doesn't happen today.

I've often complained about this to colleagues, but it wasn't until a few days ago that my partner said "why don't you write a series on the basics of devotional work as a way of providing something of that foundation. Gods know people have enough questions." Well, I know a good idea when I hear it, hence this post. 

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  • Tess Dawson
    Tess Dawson says #
    Have you thought about covering the differences between shrines and altars?
  • Trine
    Trine says #
    I'd be really interested in a piece on that - from the p.o.v. of several traditions too, if there is a difference.
  • Rebecca Buchanan
    Rebecca Buchanan says #
    Okay, here is a silly/serious question: how important do you think it is to pepper our everyday speech with references to the Gods
  • Galina Krasskova
    Galina Krasskova says #
    You know, i've never really thought about that. For me personally, it's not that important at all (though i did have a christian f
  • Tess Dawson
    Tess Dawson says #
    I've been working on this frequently. Sometimes you'll hear me pop out with a "Sweet Ditanu!" when I'm frustrated. (Ditanu is the

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