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Author Topic: Celtic Myth and Cultural Appropriation - Questions  (Read 2654 times)

Nymree

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Celtic Myth and Cultural Appropriation - Questions
« on: November 24, 2019, 06:10:19 am »
Hi all,

I have some housekeeping before I bring up the queries I have for discussion. Firstly, I'm aware this is a hotly contested topic, and I intend no judgement towards others and their respective paths/faiths and approaches to that nebulous concept 'culture'. This is mainly just me trying to clear some of my own ignorance in healthy discussion and information sharing.
Secondly, the reason I have chosen not to post this on the Druidry SIG is because I'm aware that many take inspiration from Celtic traditions without necessarily considering themselves Druids (though I submit to the power of the Mods should they choose to move it ;D ).

I've been reading up on what cultural appropriation is and how it applies to Paganism recently, especially through those threads already on TC. However, what I feel to be a confusing grey area for me is what issues there may be in using insular Celtic literatures, traditions and myths in modern Paganism - especially those of Ireland and the Irish, who have been mistreated historically.

I'm Cornish myself, so there is a Celtic culture I am directly a part of and grew up in/live around. I'm trying to connect to the surviving literature we have at home, however I've felt for a long time a great call to the Welsh and Irish mythological traditions (I've been reading the Mabinogion for a while). Additionally, in practical terms the quantity of Cornish myths (compared to Irish) is not great in my experience - though I have to acknowledge ignorance here. Likewise, we don't seem to have many traditions on the Gods that survive as the Irish and Welsh ones have. Even so, I'm very cautious of allowing myself to connect too deeply with the literature of other Celtic cultures, as I'm vividly aware that my use of them might be deemed impermissable - I'm likely to make mistakes, or reinterpret those tales as a literature student, and feel morally self-conscious of how that might be problematic.

The case is very different from that of Native American cultural appropriation, of course - but when I connect soul-deep to the myths from these Celtic cultures, a small voice says in the back of my head, 'is this okay? How would someone from this culture feel, if they found I was incorporating their myths into my rituals?' This brings with it two other concerns: a feeling of never quite belonging to the cultural traditions that informs my religious practice, a feeling of outsidership; and a fear that, one day, I'll need to give up my religious connection to those myths should someone from that culture make it clear I've overstepped a line (which is not my place to take issue with, my role being to respectfully accept that, but is still a doubt in my connection nontheless).

These are, obviously, incredibly small concerns compared to the suffering of people who have had their culture taken and caricatured, or reimagined without sensitivity to their original contexts. There is also the other concern of where cultural appreciation lies in all this - and I of course acknowledge that it is possible to appreciate a culture without appropriating it.

A part of me is conscious of how personal a religious practice (like mine) is, and how deeply those myths become part of my life and identity. Drawing a line, then, becomes increasingly difficult for me - at what point does this use of myth become an appropriation? And will I ever be able to feel totally comfortable, in my practice as well as my identity, in using them?

I'm playing devil's advocate here as much as I'm voicing real concerns that have been on my mind for, honestly, months now. It seems quite specific an issue, and one that lies in enough of a grey area that I suspect I will never totally satisfy myself or everybody else.

I would be incredibly grateful for anyone's ideas, personal experience or critique of this (as you're comfortable with sharing, of course). It should be said that I'm relatively new to Paganism (3 years and running), but I'm looking forward to improving my approach to these issues going on.

Blessed be, and love,

Nym
« Last Edit: November 24, 2019, 06:14:18 am by Nymree »

Kylara

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Re: Celtic Myth and Cultural Appropriation - Questions
« Reply #1 on: November 24, 2019, 02:08:38 pm »

A part of me is conscious of how personal a religious practice (like mine) is, and how deeply those myths become part of my life and identity. Drawing a line, then, becomes increasingly difficult for me - at what point does this use of myth become an appropriation? And will I ever be able to feel totally comfortable, in my practice as well as my identity, in using them?


While Celtic myths aren't a huge part of my practice, I do draw on myths from cultures that I am not blood related to, nor did I technically grow up in the culture.  Ethnically I am half-Chinese and half-white (dad is European descent, but yeah, his half is southern-American realistically speaking).  I did spend my high school/college years in Hawaii, but I don't (to my knowledge) have any Pacific Islander blood in me.

My practice is Norse-centric (I do have some Scandinavian ancestors...but I only know that because my grandfather was into genealogy), and I also work occasionally with deities from other Pantheons (which include Egyptian, Celtic, Hawaiian, Chinese...it's a real mixed bag for me!).  I adore myths and legends, and I enjoy working in that framework.

My personal (and possibly unpopular opinion) on cultural appropriation is that it comes back to the word 'appropriation' and the attitude in which you approach things.  None of the things I do appropriate anything historic/cultural.  I don't claim that any of the practices I've drawn from books or outside sources are mine, nor do I try to take them away from anyone else.  I have never worked with any deity or cultural myth without an honest feeling of respect and honor in my heart.  If I am working with a thing it is because it has touched me and it is something that has meaning to me.

I do fusion a lot of my practices, which I know some people might have issue with.  If I like a thing, but it doesn't quite work for me, I might change it up so that it does work for me.  This might mean mixing things that come from different practices or cultures.  I will quite happily talk about where I drew my inspiration from, and will admit that I made changes (I have never tried to claim that what I do is authentic or traditional in any way).  But, at the end of the day, I am a modern practitioner, and my practice is built in the day and age I live, in the mixing pot of both America and the modern internet culture.

I can't speak to when you might feel comfortable with your practice, I think that is a personal thing.  There are some things that I do that still feel a little foreign to me.  I think it's part of learning what is going to be a permanent part of my practice and what will be temporary.  Many things feel odd at first, but sometimes as I work with them longer, they become a part of me, and sometimes they just don't and I set them aside.  I am always grateful for what I learned, while working with a practice, even if it doesn't work for me.  I think that there is always value to having tried things, and often that means I am better able to talk with people who do use a similar practice as part of their path.
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Dynes Hysbys

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Re: Celtic Myth and Cultural Appropriation - Questions
« Reply #2 on: November 24, 2019, 03:08:55 pm »

Secondly, the reason I have chosen not to post this on the Druidry SIG is because I'm aware that many take inspiration from Celtic traditions without necessarily considering themselves Druids (though I submit to the power of the Mods should they choose to move it ;D ).

I've been reading up on what cultural appropriation is and how it applies to Paganism recently, especially through those threads already on TC. However, what I feel to be a confusing grey area for me is what issues there may be in using insular Celtic literatures, traditions and myths in modern Paganism - especially those of Ireland and the Irish, who have been mistreated historically.

I'm Cornish myself, so there is a Celtic culture I am directly a part of and grew up in/live around. I'm trying to connect to the surviving literature we have at home, however I've felt for a long time a great call to the Welsh and Irish mythological traditions (I've been reading the Mabinogion for a while). Additionally, in practical terms the quantity of Cornish myths (compared to Irish) is not great in my experience - though I have to acknowledge ignorance here. Likewise, we don't seem to have many traditions on the Gods that survive as the Irish and Welsh ones have. Even so, I'm very cautious of allowing myself to connect too deeply with the literature of other Celtic cultures, as I'm vividly aware that my use of them might be deemed impermissable - I'm likely to make mistakes, or reinterpret those tales as a literature student, and feel morally self-conscious of how that might be problematic.

The case is very different from that of Native American cultural appropriation, of course - but when I connect soul-deep to the myths from these Celtic cultures, a small voice says in the back of my head, 'is this okay? How would someone from this culture feel, if they found I was incorporating their myths into my rituals?' This brings with it two other concerns: a feeling of never quite belonging to the cultural traditions that informs my religious practice, a feeling of outsidership; and a fear that, one day, I'll need to give up my religious connection to those myths should someone from that culture make it clear I've overstepped a line (which is not my place to take issue with, my role being to respectfully accept that, but is still a doubt in my connection nontheless).

These are, obviously, incredibly small concerns compared to the suffering of people who have had their culture taken and caricatured, or reimagined without sensitivity to their original contexts. There is also the other concern of where cultural appreciation lies in all this - and I of course acknowledge that it is possible to appreciate a culture without appropriating it.

A part of me is conscious of how personal a religious practice (like mine) is, and how deeply those myths become part of my life and identity. Drawing a line, then, becomes increasingly difficult for me - at what point does this use of myth become an appropriation? And will I ever be able to feel totally comfortable, in my practice as well as my identity, in using them?

I'm playing devil's advocate here as much as I'm voicing real concerns that have been on my mind for, honestly, months now. It seems quite specific an issue, and one that lies in enough of a grey area that I suspect I will never totally satisfy myself or everybody else.

I would be incredibly grateful for anyone's ideas, personal experience or critique of this (as you're comfortable with sharing, of course). It should be said that I'm relatively new to Paganism (3 years and running), but I'm looking forward to improving my approach to these issues going on.

Blessed be, and love,

Nym

I'm Welsh and follow the Welsh pantheon and mythology.

I'm somewhat sensitive about it given I've been told by more than one American ( not here!)  that I can't possibly be a Celt because I'm not Irish. I'm also liable to go off on long tedious rants about the use of Mabon for the Autumn Equinox.

Having said that - there is such a close relationship between the Cornish Celtic language and the Welsh and we are so geographically close that our links must go way way back. I don't speak Cornish  but I recognise so many linguistic similarities when I visit Cornwall. 

Certainly Cornwall was trading with Wales and Ireland back in the Iron Age. More so probably than the rest of England.

I'd certainly have no problem with you using the Welsh material if that draws you.  The lines are so blurred that I really see no problem and in return I've been known to use some of the Cornish witchcraft practices myself!


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Re: Celtic Myth and Cultural Appropriation - Questions
« Reply #3 on: November 24, 2019, 04:50:30 pm »

A part of me is conscious of how personal a religious practice (like mine) is, and how deeply those myths become part of my life and identity. Drawing a line, then, becomes increasingly difficult for me - at what point does this use of myth become an appropriation? And will I ever be able to feel totally comfortable, in my practice as well as my identity, in using them?


Hi Nym,
I have to say I find it confusing too. I'm drawn to certain Irish deities without having any Irish blood that I know of.

I very much agree with Kylara on her response.

From what I've learnt so far the best thing seems to be, to be clear that your path is personal and not some kind of true path for the whole religion. To understand how the deities were tied into the culture that they came/were born from. To respect that the nature of the religions and deities were/are tied into how their cultures work(ed).

Obviously that is very much just how I see the information I've got and some parts are as important in getting a rounded idea of a god(dess) as they are in respect for a culture. If I'm wrong or missing things I will welcome feed back

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Re: Celtic Myth and Cultural Appropriation - Questions
« Reply #4 on: November 25, 2019, 04:51:43 pm »

I would be incredibly grateful for anyone's ideas, personal experience or critique of this (as you're comfortable with sharing, of course). It should be said that I'm relatively new to Paganism (3 years and running), but I'm looking forward to improving my approach to these issues going on.


This might be of interest also..

Its a youtube video of Lora O'Brien talking about this subject. She seems to be highly regarded where I've come across her and is an Irish born person who is ( again where I've come across her ) regarded as an expert in Irish lore.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8oC3dUqEXaY&feature=youtu.be&fbclid=IwAR16UJDA_zLHk6iqzcFsJT3p2KvaGXxTCJgXfcgLzLGxQikseHEapYtY8js

Again I will add that I'm relatively new to this aspect of life so may knowledge may be limited

 ( Ps, Sorry for calling you Nym without first checking you were happy for me to do so )

Nymree

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Re: Celtic Myth and Cultural Appropriation - Questions
« Reply #5 on: November 26, 2019, 03:17:34 am »
( Ps, Sorry for calling you Nym without first checking you were happy for me to do so )

Thanks for the video, I'll check it right after my lectures.
And Nym is fine ;D it's why I sign off with it.

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Re: Celtic Myth and Cultural Appropriation - Questions
« Reply #6 on: December 06, 2019, 03:16:07 pm »
My personal (and possibly unpopular opinion) on cultural appropriation is that it comes back to the word 'appropriation' and the attitude in which you approach things.  None of the things I do appropriate anything historic/cultural.  I don't claim that any of the practices I've drawn from books or outside sources are mine, nor do I try to take them away from anyone else.  I have never worked with any deity or cultural myth without an honest feeling of respect and honor in my heart.  If I am working with a thing it is because it has touched me and it is something that has meaning to me.

Well if that is unpopular it isn't with me, I  think it makes a lot of sense.

If I like a thing, but it doesn't quite work for me, I might change it up so that it does work for me.  This might mean mixing things that come from different practices or cultures.  I will quite happily talk about where I drew my inspiration from, and will admit that I made changes (I have never tried to claim that what I do is authentic or traditional in any way).  But, at the end of the day, I am a modern practitioner, and my practice is built in the day and age I live, in the mixing pot of both America and the modern internet culture.

And ditto to the above  (except England, not America).
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Nymree

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Re: Celtic Myth and Cultural Appropriation - Questions
« Reply #7 on: December 15, 2019, 05:24:22 am »
My personal (and possibly unpopular opinion) on cultural appropriation is that it comes back to the word 'appropriation' and the attitude in which you approach things.  None of the things I do appropriate anything historic/cultural.  I don't claim that any of the practices I've drawn from books or outside sources are mine, nor do I try to take them away from anyone else.  I have never worked with any deity or cultural myth without an honest feeling of respect and honor in my heart.  If I am working with a thing it is because it has touched me and it is something that has meaning to me.

So I've been thinking a lot over all the responses here, and reading through my introductory package from OBOD for the bardic grade (it arrived yesterday ;D ) and I think there's a really important part of this discussion that I haven't seen brought up much elsewhere, so I'll add it in here. How do we apply this line of thought to institutions? BDO have a response to cultural appropriation on their Q&A page, establishing the respect they use in approaching other cultures and that, where they do use indigineous practice (for example) alongside Welsh myth they do so for the end of revivifying an English indiginous practice and with the permission of those practitioners.

This branches off a bit from the original focus on Celtic myth alone, which maybe justifies this being a thread of it's own. Reading the initial few pages of the first Gwersi the term 'shamanism' is used (which from what I gather is contentious, though I may be off the mark there), Welsh language is used in places, and some indiginous ritual practices (I remember reading Native American either there or on the site somewhere) may inspire some of the practical work.

OBOD could justify this in the same way BDO has, but I have my reservations as I couldn't find anything either online or in the booklets on the subject. OBOD go back quite a bit and are quite large, so maybe there isn't really a straightforward answer where they're concerned.

Applying the rules of cultural appreciation to an institution seems one step harder because then you encounter the 'profiting from' arguments - are these orders profiting from these practices? And further, what right have I to learn them through an institution, and not through the original teachers from the culture? OBOD also seem to put forward the idea that they're continuing an ancient tradition, historical and cultural, and authentic to ancient Druidry. The complications of that deserve their own topic, but if we take that for granted, what does that say for arguements of cultural appropriation?

I don't want to step on any toes about this. I like OBOD's approach and I'm excited to start the Gwersi, but my conscience has started to hold me back from appreciating them as fully as I was hoping to.

Apologies if this has derailed a bit. I actually lost sleep last night thinking this over! It's a lot to think about, and I'd be really interested to see what people think.

Blessings,
Nym

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Re: Celtic Myth and Cultural Appropriation - Questions
« Reply #8 on: December 15, 2019, 07:46:36 am »
So I've been thinking a lot over all the responses here, and reading through my introductory package from OBOD for the bardic grade (it arrived yesterday ;D ) and I think there's a really important part of this discussion that I haven't seen brought up much elsewhere, so I'll add it in here. How do we apply this line of thought to institutions? BDO have a response to cultural appropriation on their Q&A page, establishing the respect they use in approaching other cultures and that, where they do use indigineous practice (for example) alongside Welsh myth they do so for the end of revivifying an English indiginous practice and with the permission of those practitioners.

[...]OBOD could justify this in the same way BDO has, but I have my reservations as I couldn't find anything either online or in the booklets on the subject. OBOD go back quite a bit and are quite large, so maybe there isn't really a straightforward answer where they're concerned.

Applying the rules of cultural appreciation to an institution seems one step harder because then you encounter the 'profiting from' arguments - are these orders profiting from these practices? And further, what right have I to learn them through an institution, and not through the original teachers from the culture? OBOD also seem to put forward the idea that they're continuing an ancient tradition, historical and cultural, and authentic to ancient Druidry. The complications of that deserve their own topic, but if we take that for granted, what does that say for arguements of cultural appropriation?

OBOD’s (lack of) response to issues around cultural appropriation has been a problem for me, and was a big reason why I stepped back from the organisation.

As context: I actually think the conversation around cultural appropriation needs to get a lot more nuanced in the Pagan community. There are issues to be discussed around profiting from the work and beliefs of indigenous cultures without offering anything back to them, misrepresenting their practices, falsely claiming their practices as your own (just as three examples)... Each of these is a slightly different aspect of cultural appropriation, and they all need to be considered carefully IMO, especially by institutions and organisations.

Because there’s not so much of a colonialist power difference between (for example) white Americans and white Irish people, I think cultural appropriation is a very different issue with the remnants of British/Irish/insular practices. Of course there was colonialism in Ireland, and there still is in Scotland and Wales, and its results definitely continue to be felt - but there’s not nearly as much of a power difference there as there is, say, between white Americans and Black hoodoo practitioners, or rich white English people and poor Thai people. There’s some misrepresentation of the history and culture of Britain and Ireland by Pagans, but that’s on a very different level from poaching indigenous practices from people living in oppression and poverty, and then making money from them while never even acknowledging where you got the practices. And I’ve seen the latter in OBOD and other larger Druid orgs.

I don’t see BDO as exempt from criticism around cultural appropriation either. They use the term shamanism too. And calling British-based modern Pagan beliefs ‘indigenous’ is tricky stuff, as Kavita Maya has explored here https://feminismandreligion.com/2016/06/14/goddess-politics-and-the-cauldron-of-memory-by-kavita-maya/. But the BDO do at least talk about their stance on cultural appropriation, and I like their philosophy on it generally. (Or I did a few years ago - it’s been a while since I looked at their stuff.)

This criticism is not meant to condemn all Druidry. I still consider myself a Druid, and I love many of the practices that have come out of modern Druidry (although I’m an independent and critical Druid at this point). I also think there’s lots of great stuff in the OBOD material and I’m still a member of a lovely inclusive OBOD grove. But I was put off quite a lot of institutional Druidry, including but not limited to OBOD, because of the way I’ve sometimes seen these organisations and/or their leading members treat indigenous cultures, among other marginalised groups.
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Nymree

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Re: Celtic Myth and Cultural Appropriation - Questions
« Reply #9 on: December 15, 2019, 09:03:19 am »
OBOD’s (lack of) response to issues around cultural appropriation has been a problem for me, and was a big reason why I stepped back from the organisation.

As context: I actually think the conversation around cultural appropriation needs to get a lot more nuanced in the Pagan community. There are issues to be discussed around profiting from the work and beliefs of indigenous cultures without offering anything back to them, misrepresenting their practices, falsely claiming their practices as your own (just as three examples)... Each of these is a slightly different aspect of cultural appropriation, and they all need to be considered carefully IMO, especially by institutions and organisations.

Because there’s not so much of a colonialist power difference between (for example) white Americans and white Irish people, I think cultural appropriation is a very different issue with the remnants of British/Irish/insular practices. Of course there was colonialism in Ireland, and there still is in Scotland and Wales, and its results definitely continue to be felt - but there’s not nearly as much of a power difference there as there is, say, between white Americans and Black hoodoo practitioners, or rich white English people and poor Thai people. There’s some misrepresentation of the history and culture of Britain and Ireland by Pagans, but that’s on a very different level from poaching indigenous practices from people living in oppression and poverty, and then making money from them while never even acknowledging where you got the practices. And I’ve seen the latter in OBOD and other larger Druid orgs.

I don’t see BDO as exempt from criticism around cultural appropriation either. They use the term shamanism too. And calling British-based modern Pagan beliefs ‘indigenous’ is tricky stuff, as Kavita Maya has explored here https://feminismandreligion.com/2016/06/14/goddess-politics-and-the-cauldron-of-memory-by-kavita-maya/. But the BDO do at least talk about their stance on cultural appropriation, and I like their philosophy on it generally. (Or I did a few years ago - it’s been a while since I looked at their stuff.)

This criticism is not meant to condemn all Druidry. I still consider myself a Druid, and I love many of the practices that have come out of modern Druidry (although I’m an independent and critical Druid at this point). I also think there’s lots of great stuff in the OBOD material and I’m still a member of a lovely inclusive OBOD grove. But I was put off quite a lot of institutional Druidry, including but not limited to OBOD, because of the way I’ve sometimes seen these organisations and/or their leading members treat indigenous cultures, among other marginalised groups.

That's really interesting, because I have been feeling the same. In this light, then, would you still recommend others to the OBOD course? I've been finding it increasingly difficult as an aspiring Druid to find resources/courses that do take these issues into account, and on the other hand by buying the Bardic grade course I feel as if I'm supporting this lack of acknowledgement of cultural appropriation and it's related issues (or becoming part of the problem). There's obviously practical value from the course, though, in terms of learning modern Druidry, and I feel I do need to learn and be initiated somehow in order to pursue this tradition.

I wonder if there's a Cornish Druid tradition out there somewhere  :-\

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Re: Celtic Myth and Cultural Appropriation - Questions
« Reply #10 on: December 15, 2019, 10:17:11 am »
In this light, then, would you still recommend others to the OBOD course? I've been finding it increasingly difficult as an aspiring Druid to find resources/courses that do take these issues into account, and on the other hand by buying the Bardic grade course I feel as if I'm supporting this lack of acknowledgement of cultural appropriation and it's related issues (or becoming part of the problem).

Interesting question. It’s one of several reasons why I might tell people to look critically at the course. (I rather memorably had a bit of a blow-up at them online for their ban of people with certain mental health problems from doing the course, and I’ve had other issues too.) I think I’d recommend talking to people with a range of experience of the order and the course - I could poke a few people I know who are active or past OBOD members and see if they’d be up for telling you about it, if you’d be interested? And there are lots of good public blogs by members. DM me if you want to discuss. :)

Quote
There's obviously practical value from the course, though, in terms of learning modern Druidry, and I feel I do need to learn and be initiated somehow in order to pursue this tradition.

You might find it useful to think about what you mean by initiation, and exactly what you want to be initiated into here. I don’t see ‘druidry’ as one tradition. It’s more like a collection of orders and paths that have found themselves under that name, one way or the other, but which are all very different. ADF Druidry bears almost no relation to OBOD Druidry except the name. And what kind of initiation do you mean? The OBOD course includes a template for an initiation into the order but it’s between you and the gods/spirits. There aren’t really any teachers for the course, although they do have tutors you can write to/email for advice, but that’s all very light contact. In my opinion, you won’t get much more teaching from the OBOD course than you would from reading books - unless you join a grove or go to gatherings and work with people. (Connecting with other members has been the best thing about OBOD for me, much more than the course.)

If you’re looking for something different, there are a few smaller alternative courses out there. I did an interesting year-long course with Cat Treadwell https://druidcat.wordpress.com/about/. I don’t know if she runs the course anymore, but you could contact her and ask. There’s also the Druid Network, which I’m involved with - https://druidnetwork.org/ - it’s a loose network of people living their Druidry in many different ways. Because these approaches are less institutional than OBOD, I’ve found a bit more space there for working out what I wanted my Druidry to look like.

But honestly - and this is only my opinion - I now think that anyone can call themselves a Druid, without any training, in the same way that anyone can call themselves a Pagan. There isn’t one set Druid tradition - Druidry is a complete mishmash (meant in the nicest possible way, because some of the best things are) of different sources and starting points. You get some people trying to divide traditions into reconstructionist Druidry and revivalist Druidry -  https://druidnetwork.org/what-is-druidry/beliefs-and-definitions/articles/faces-of-druidry-an-article-by-potia/ - but I think it’s even more complicated than that. A lot of things get called ‘Druidry’ that really don’t have much in common. Which brings me back to ‘what do you want to be initiated into?’ really.


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Aster Breo

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Re: Celtic Myth and Cultural Appropriation - Questions
« Reply #11 on: December 17, 2019, 07:21:27 pm »

First, thank you for thinking about this so carefully.  It's nice to see people closely considering this issue.

I think this is an issue where there are few bright lines.  One of those few is someone from outside the culture profiting off of it.  That is clearly not ok.  But there's a pretty big grey area when it comes to those of us who practice spiritualities based on cultures not our own and that are or have been oppressed, including Irish culture.

All I can do is tell you about my own approach.  I'm a Brighid dedicant -- have been for something like 15 years.  (I don't really remember.)  I've read a ton about Irish lore, history, art, archaeology, and religion.  But, no matter how much I read, I'll never be Irish.  Nevertheless, I was called and continue to maintain a strong relationship with an Irish goddess. 

I think the first point here is that the Gods call who They call.  That's Their business, not ours.  And who someone worships is also not my business.

I'm a co-founder of Clann Bhride (https://clannbhride.org/), which is a spiritual path focused on Brighid.  Our FB group currently has 555 members, so we apparently stumbled on something that resonates with more than a few other people.

With CB, we did our best to base our tenets on the original lore, because that's the best source for info about Brighid.  Our Elements are laid out here:  https://clannbhride.org/theology/the-nine-elements/

However, while our path is based on what we know and believe about Brighid, as found in the lore about the goddess and the saint, what we DO is not Irish or even Celtic.  Some members might use some Irish-language prayers or songs, and that's fine.

Ultimately, though, I think what it boils down to is:  It's nobody's business what I do in the privacy of my own home.  Including using rituals or elements taken directly from another culture.

But, the moment I take that public, whether to sell it or promote it or whatever, my use of those rituals or elements becomes appropriation.  We tried to be very mindful of that with CB.

That's my view of it.  I know others disagree, but this is what makes sense to me after thinking about it for several years.
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Re: Celtic Myth and Cultural Appropriation - Questions
« Reply #12 on: December 18, 2019, 05:36:18 am »
But, the moment I take that public, whether to sell it or promote it or whatever, my use of those rituals or elements becomes appropriation.  We tried to be very mindful of that with CB.

That's my view of it.  I know others disagree, but this is what makes sense to me after thinking about it for several years.

That’s close to my approach too. I try to think about everything I do/say in public (including blogging and even writing on public forums). This strays into areas like what you claim is ‘authentically’ Irish/Welsh/Scottish/Manx/other cultures vs what you say is your personal interpretation, which overlaps with being clear on UPG vs scholarship. (Even though our use of scholarship and the entire concept of ‘authenticity’ are complex issues in themselves.)

But this makes the conversation around cultural appropriation even more complicated, because it’s partly about how we use surviving lore *and* living cultures as inspiration, and how that impacts modern Irish/Welsh/etc cultures, whose people might look at what we do with very raised eyebrows. One example is one priest in an Irish-inspired tradition, who took a hoodoo spell and put it into a book on Irish magic, and, when criticised for this, said it was “probably a lot like” what the ancient Irish did. That’s appropriation that impacts two living cultures, but is too easily side-stepped by excuses like ‘well we don’t know what ancient cultures did’. Another example is people who say that they try to imagine what “uninterrupted paganism in a modern setting” would look at (https://www.patheos.com/blogs/fromacommonwell/2018/10/misconceptions-of-pagan-reconstructionism-and-adf/). Sounds like a nice, responsible idea. But this imagined ‘uninterrupted’ paganism often draws on very interrupted, post-Christian sources from living cultures for its inspiration. These modern cultures may have things to say about what we do with their stories and cultural artefacts. I’m not sure what my conclusion is here - just that, again, I’d love us (‘Celtic’-inspired practitioners) to look in a more nuanced way at potential issues of appropriation. The idea often seems to get boiled down to a concept of ‘rules’, which can cut off discussion and debate before it begins.


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PerditaPickle

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Re: Celtic Myth and Cultural Appropriation - Questions
« Reply #13 on: December 21, 2019, 07:38:52 pm »
Interesting question. It’s one of several reasons why I might tell people to look critically at the course. (I rather memorably had a bit of a blow-up at them online for their ban of people with certain mental health problems from doing the course, and I’ve had other issues too.)

I don't even remember coming across this when looking into them previously!  But now that you've pointed it out I'm … I think the word is flabbergasted.

I don’t see ‘druidry’ as one tradition. It’s more like a collection of orders and paths that have found themselves under that name, one way or the other, but which are all very different. ADF Druidry bears almost no relation to OBOD Druidry except the name.

I'm glad to hear you say that, actually.

But honestly - and this is only my opinion - I now think that anyone can call themselves a Druid, without any training, in the same way that anyone can call themselves a Pagan. There isn’t one set Druid tradition - Druidry is a complete mishmash (meant in the nicest possible way, because some of the best things are) of different sources and starting points.

I'm shanghaiing this thread a little right now (sorry), but I've been excited to see so much Druidry talk lately - I'd love to see some more activity in the Neo-Druidry SIG but I keep forgetting to come up with any new thread ideas/making a note of the ones which pop momentarily into my brain (and then back out again).  Anyone?  For ease of navigation, here's a link:  https://ecauldron.com/forum/neo-druidry-sig/

So I've been thinking a lot over all the responses here, and reading through my introductory package from OBOD for the bardic grade

Back to the topic at hand, though - I'm going to have to re-read the intro to the New Order of Druids bardic course, too, and scan their materials to see if there's any consideration toward cultural appropriation there as well.  I really hope that there is, as I've not felt that ADF or OBOD were a good fit for me so I was hoping NOD would be.  In fact, I'm encouraged to note this is referred to on their webpage in some updates from earlier this year, though I've yet to do more in depth reading into this.

I guess it's a good idea to keep this topic on one's radar.
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Nymree

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Re: Celtic Myth and Cultural Appropriation - Questions
« Reply #14 on: December 24, 2019, 02:44:08 pm »

Back to the topic at hand, though - I'm going to have to re-read the intro to the New Order of Druids bardic course, too, and scan their materials to see if there's any consideration toward cultural appropriation there as well.  I really hope that there is, as I've not felt that ADF or OBOD were a good fit for me so I was hoping NOD would be.  In fact, I'm encouraged to note this is referred to on their webpage in some updates from earlier this year, though I've yet to do more in depth reading into this.

I guess it's a good idea to keep this topic on one's radar.

Definitely, and it'd be a nice idea if others could refer to this thread in the future for their personal research into different orders/courses, to find out which ones address the issue of cultural appropriation and how they do so. I know it's been on the top of my mind in my own searching.

I actually direct messaged OBOD on facebook, and although they were very polite they sort of just dodged really. I directly asked if any Native American inspiration was used, though my main line of enquiry was the issue of cultural appropriation in general. They really only said that no, Native American practices/inspirations are not used. So I guess that's where that path ends  ???

 

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