Thursday, October 27, 2016

A Short Essay on Cultural Appropriation

Cultural Appropriation. Since the beginning of our predecessors’ quest for control of the lands of the Americas, colonization efforts have served to massively appropriate the lands, art, ceremonial artifacts and practices to the extinction and near-extinction of hundreds of Indigenous cultures. The remaining fragments that the Indigenous peoples have are heavily tied to their religious identity. The appropriation of these last vestiges of a once-thriving people is fueling the final extinction of the original cultures (Young & Brunk, 2012, p. 93). Appropriation is different from cultural exchange in that exchange occurs naturally between two or more cultures whose interactions are on a peer-level. Appropriation occurs when a group with more power takes cultural elements from a group with lesser power without their permission or instruction. We see far-too-many self-professed “White Shamans” whose lineage involves a list of other white people who have learned the knowledge they teach from books written about Indigenous peoples that often blend the religious practices of several tribes while giving credit to almost none of them. These individuals are often referred to as plastic shamans, these people attempting to pass themselves off as shamans, holy people, or other traditional spiritual leaders with no genuine connection to the traditions or cultures they claim to represent (Pagan Wiccan, 2016).

The spirit of appropriation is also relevant to those who work with “dead cultures” such as the Old Irish, Old Norse, and Indo-Iranian hearth cultures. As Starhawk (2011) states, appropriation is “Taking the gifts of the Ancestors without a commitment to their descendants” (p. 59).  This is the premise of much of the awareness we promote at Mountain Ancestors. Rev. William Ashton II (2016) recently spoke of Outdwellers being made by a new power of dominant culture pushing the conquered peoples to the outside away from the fire; his modeling involves making an offering of tobacco to the descendants of this land, those who we have made the Outdwellers, in the hopes that we will one day heal the wounds inflicted by colonialism in the United States. Further, we promote the exploration of the current, modern peoples from the cultures whose Gods and practices we have borrowed or reconstructed in addition to the scholarly pursuit of ancient archaeology and lore, not only as adult education, but also as part of children’s education. We have been working toward peace relations between the pagan community and the Indigenous peoples in the area. There are several local tribes, and it is part of our work to build a bridge of respect and understanding with them in the hopes of building community.


Ashton II, Rev. W. (2016). Outsiders. Mountain Ancestors Fall Symposium. 17 Sept 2016. Boulder, CO.

Pagan Wiccan Plastic Shamans. Retrieved from

Starhawk. (2011). The empowerment manual: A guide for collaborative groups. Gabriola Island, BC: New Society Publishers.

Young, J.O & Brunk, C.G. eds. (2012). The ethics of cultural appropriation. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Part the Mists: A Podcast Interview

Rev. Badger and I attended an ADF festival, more of a retreat, with Columbia Grove, ADF, at Trout Lake Abbey in Washington. The entire event was meaningful. We met some pretty brilliant folks, including Phaedra Bonewits, whom neither of us had seen for ages. 

During the trip, I was honored to be asked for an interview with Arin. They asked me quite a few questions about how I ended up where I am. Also included in this issue are words from several members of the ADF Hellenic Kin.