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Author Topic: Religious Paraphenalia and Cultural Non-Members  (Read 3233 times)

Juni

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Religious Paraphenalia and Cultural Non-Members
« on: September 28, 2011, 11:11:41 am »
On this past Sunday, I purchased a traditional Lenape rattle made of a turtle shell from a member of the Lenape tribe; I expressed in chat, to Nykti and Finn, how I was initially unsure about owning a FN ritual item. We had an interesting conversation, and I thought I would open it to the board and pick everyone's brains. :)

How do you feel about people owning religious paraphenalia from a living culture that they do not belong to?
Would it bother you if the item was used in accordance with its intended purpose?
What if the item was used for a different purpose, but still with respect?
Or not used at all, but displayed as art?
Do your feelings change if the religious paraphenalia comes from a dead culture, but is still not one the person belongs to?
Do your feelings change if the item was not originally used in a religious context?
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sailor

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Re: Religious Paraphenalia and Cultural Non-Members
« Reply #1 on: September 29, 2011, 02:52:25 pm »
Quote from: Juni;22771
On this past Sunday, I purchased a traditional Lenape rattle made of a turtle shell from a member of the Lenape tribe; I expressed in chat, to Nykti and Finn, how I was initially unsure about owning a FN ritual item. We had an interesting conversation, and I thought I would open it to the board and pick everyone's brains. :)

How do you feel about people owning religious paraphenalia from a living culture that they do not belong to?
Would it bother you if the item was used in accordance with its intended purpose?
What if the item was used for a different purpose, but still with respect?
Or not used at all, but displayed as art?
Do your feelings change if the religious paraphenalia comes from a dead culture, but is still not one the person belongs to?
Do your feelings change if the item was not originally used in a religious context?

 
I'm going to ask a few questions first.

Did you buy it at an event that many non-members of the tribe would be present? or maybe a better wording would be that non-members of the tribe might purchase such stuff?  An example would be a Pow-wow open and intended to bring in the public.  

If so, then the tribe member selling it apparently doesn't care, especially if they didn't ask.

In general though any religious object should be used in a respectful manner; mostly that means using it in the manner intended.

monsnoleedra

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Re: Religious Paraphenalia and Cultural Non-Members
« Reply #2 on: September 29, 2011, 03:47:48 pm »
Quote from: Juni;22771
..

How do you feel about people owning religious paraphenalia from a living culture that they do not belong to?


I personally have no issue with it.  Many times we learn of or about things simply because something attracts our attention.

Quote
Would it bother you if the item was used in accordance with its intended purpose?


Again no.  Depending upon the item and my knowledge of its usage I would probably be more impressed to find it being used as designed and intended.

Quote
What if the item was used for a different purpose, but still with respect?


Define respect.  What i'd consider respectful may not be what another would consider respectful.  Even usage becomes a two edged sword, for how is to say the person was not inspired to use it a different way?

Quote
Or not used at all, but displayed as art?


There I would have to look upon what the item was.  Some items die a slow death when placed in storage as art.  It's like a child's toy, when used and played with it is alive and vibrates.  Placed in some dusty collection it is nothing but a lump of whatever it was made from, especially if it is still in its original box.

Quote
Do your feelings change if the religious paraphenalia comes from a dead culture, but is still not one the person belongs to?


No.  Heck a great many of the things in our homes today are due to inspirations from dead cultures.

Quote
Do your feelings change if the item was not originally used in a religious context?


Not at all.

Marilyn/Absentminded

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Re: Religious Paraphenalia and Cultural Non-Members
« Reply #3 on: September 29, 2011, 03:56:45 pm »
Quote from: sailor;23060

In general though any religious object should be used in a respectful manner; mostly that means using it in the manner intended.


My grandmother (who had little to no religious education outside native spirituality and the version of Christianity taught to children) used a menorah as a candelabra for years, simply because she didn't know any different and thought it was pretty.  

She stopped when my uncle told her it was a religious item, but kept it in her china cabinet with her other valued items.  Not valued for religious reasons, but because she had enjoyed using it.  (Personally I wanted to kick my uncle in the shins.  I didn't think she was being disrespectful by using a candle holder as a candle holder.  Once she knew what it was, however, her sense of propriety wouldn't let her keep (mis)using it.)

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And I die for the truth in my secret life

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Nyktipolos

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Re: Religious Paraphenalia and Cultural Non-Members
« Reply #4 on: September 29, 2011, 04:00:02 pm »
Quote from: sailor;23060
Did you buy it at an event that many non-members of the tribe would be present? or maybe a better wording would be that non-members of the tribe might purchase such stuff?  An example would be a Pow-wow open and intended to bring in the public.  

If so, then the tribe member selling it apparently doesn't care, especially if they didn't ask.

 
There are objects and artwork that is available for non-members to purchase. That's one of the major ways they can make money for their family and tribe. Most of the time the artists who are selling stuff DO know what limitations there are on what they can sell and what they can not.

My best advice is that if one is worried is to contact that tribe (whether an organization they belong to [like a public, networking face?] or the tribe itself) and see if it's okay.
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I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night." - Sarah Williams
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Malkin

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Re: Religious Paraphenalia and Cultural Non-Members
« Reply #5 on: September 29, 2011, 09:54:29 pm »
Quote from: Marilyn/Absentminded;23071
She stopped when my uncle told her it was a religious item, but kept it in her china cabinet with her other valued items.  Not valued for religious reasons, but because she had enjoyed using it.  (Personally I wanted to kick my uncle in the shins.  I didn't think she was being disrespectful by using a candle holder as a candle holder.  Once she knew what it was, however, her sense of propriety wouldn't let her keep (mis)using it.


I probably would have done the same as your grandmother did, personally. Does that seem so unreasonable? Sounds like she was just trying to be considerate.
 

Quote from: Juni;22771
How do you feel about people owning religious paraphenalia from a living culture that they do not belong to?


I think it's a pretty context-specific issue.

Quote
Would it bother you if the item was used in accordance with its intended purpose?


Probably not.

Quote
What if the item was used for a different purpose, but still with respect?


How does one "respect" an object's cultural origins when you are using it for something other than its intended purpose?

Quote
Or not used at all, but displayed as art?


I don't generally have a problem with this. I think it's a great way to help others learn about/be exposed to the culture in question.

Quote
Do your feelings change if the religious paraphenalia comes from a dead culture, but is still not one the person belongs to?


I actually have some mixed feelings about this. I happen to know a handful of well-to-do pagans who like to buy ancient Egyptian artifacts online...sometimes I find myself a little put-off by that! I guess I tend to feel that rare artifacts shouldn't be in private/foreign hands. But they typically buy very common artifacts like coins, bottles and ushaptis, so it's not really an issue.

Quote
Do your feelings change if the item was not originally used in a religious context?


That's also fairly context-specific. Some cultural objects might not have "religious" significance, but a highly specific social significance instead. Remember that bindi fad in the late 90s? You wouldn't call it sacrilege, but it was certainly a little weird and rather thoughtless. Not so much for Gwen Stefani, who started the fad - she was exposed to Indian fashion through the woman she probably thought was going to be her mother-in-law. I'd say that's a bit more organic than seeing a "forehead jewel" (lol) in a magazine and using it without knowing where it came from or what it means.

Or, in another case...normally I'd say it's pointless or even disrespectful to wear a tartan when you aren't Scottish. However, fashion designer Alexander McQueen incorporated his family tartan into many of his pieces, and even had Sarah Jessica Parker wear it when she accompanied him to an event. Clearly that was a very meaningful gesture between friends, and not one I would ever object to. And it was clearly meaningful for him as a Scottish person to see people in the cultural majority wearing his tartan. Yet, this was a situation he had total control over as designer, in contrast to having something like that commodified by uncaring, third-party manufacturers, as with the "forehead jewels."

But anyway, my point is, it bears some thought even if the object doesn't have a religious significance.

MadZealot

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Re: Religious Paraphenalia and Cultural Non-Members
« Reply #6 on: November 07, 2011, 12:18:20 am »
Quote from: Juni;22771
How do you feel about people owning religious paraphenalia from a living culture that they do not belong to?
Would it bother you if the item was used in accordance with its intended purpose?


 
Probably wouldn't bother me, but I wouldn't do it.  For instance, I am not Catholic, so I do not have a rosary; neither would I wear one as a fashion accessory.
Spider Man 3 never happened. Change my mind.

Asch

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Re: Religious Paraphenalia and Cultural Non-Members
« Reply #7 on: November 07, 2011, 12:47:17 am »
Quote from: Juni;22771
How do you feel about people owning religious paraphenalia from a living culture that they do not belong to?


If the item was acquired legally and respectfully and is treated with respect and dignity I don't have a problem with it.

Quote
Would it bother you if the item was used in accordance with its intended purpose?


Hard to say, it would be one thing if the person using it were a student with permission vs. an over eager novice inadvertently stepping on sensitive issues. Either way I personally wouldn't be comfortable doing so and depending on the situation may speak up against it.

Quote
What if the item was used for a different purpose, but still with respect?
Or not used at all, but displayed as art?


The first would depend on the use, for instance if the usage were similar or complementary then maybe - but that's assuming that I would have the correct knowledge/perspective to grasp the nuance, or for that matter, even recognize the 'misuse' in the first place.

Quote
Do your feelings change if the religious paraphenalia comes from a dead culture, but is still not one the person belongs to?


Excellent question. Yes and no. If the culture was recently destroyed etc, if the user was disrespectful or callous then yes. Otherwise if the user/owner was behaving in a respectful or investigative manner with the item probably not, but again, highly dependent on the situation.

Quote
Do your feelings change if the item was not originally used in a religious context?

 
Again, excellent question. I think it would be more humorous for an observer to catch someone misusing say, a cooking pot as a hat than it would be for someone to observe the misuse of a sacred item. One is an action that it is possible the original creators/owners would find amusing whereas the latter is something that I think most persons can at least conceptualize the insult and outrage of, which then makes it that much more unacceptable.

Devo

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Re: Religious Paraphenalia and Cultural Non-Members
« Reply #8 on: November 08, 2011, 10:53:32 am »
Quote from: Juni;22771


I am a bit biased on this topic, as I am in the process of starting up a practice of a faith that is of a living culture that is not my own. It's a religion that is technically open to everyone- but many people of the culture seem to not agree with that- they are very homogenous in their lifestyles and culture.

Quote
How do you feel about people owning religious paraphenalia from a living culture that they do not belong to?

I have no issue in it. I would prefer if people learned about religious paraphenalia before they get it, but I understand that sometimes items find people and not the other way around.

Quote
Would it bother you if the item was used in accordance with its intended purpose?

Not at all. That is what it is made for- to serve a particular purpose.

Quote
What if the item was used for a different purpose, but still with respect?

I think I am open to this. Respect is very important, imo.

Quote
Or not used at all, but displayed as art?

I am still fine with this. Many items that are used in religions are beautiful.

Quote
Do your feelings change if the religious paraphenalia comes from a dead culture, but is still not one the person belongs to?

Nope.

Quote
Do your feelings change if the item was not originally used in a religious context?

Nope.

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Devo

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Re: Religious Paraphenalia and Cultural Non-Members
« Reply #9 on: November 08, 2011, 10:57:28 am »
Quote from: Malkin;23126


I actually have some mixed feelings about this. I happen to know a handful of well-to-do pagans who like to buy ancient Egyptian artifacts online...sometimes I find myself a little put-off by that! I guess I tend to feel that rare artifacts shouldn't be in private/foreign hands. But they typically buy very common artifacts like coins, bottles and ushaptis, so it's not really an issue.

 
Buying artifacts from AE is a difficult subject- and it really boils down to where you get the items from. I have known some people who buy artifacts from AE and make sure that they are getting them from good sources and keep them in nice cases, etc. Some artifacts will get purchased by a museum to go rot in a storage closet somewhere. Totally awesome way to end up. Sometimes a private collection is better.

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Turningtides

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Re: Religious Paraphenalia and Cultural Non-Members
« Reply #10 on: August 27, 2013, 02:29:48 am »
Quote from: MadZealot;29221
Probably wouldn't bother me, but I wouldn't do it.  For instance, I am not Catholic, so I do not have a rosary; neither would I wear one as a fashion accessory.


I agree. Wanted to add my two cents to this: I have been raised Catholic and used the rosary as my primary way of connecting to Deity for many years.  So it was strange seeing a stand selling rosaries as a fashion accessory.  To make it even more surreal, it was at an anime convention in Japan, where Shinto and Buddhism are quite firmly enmeshed in the culture. All I could keep thinking was, Why would someone wear a tool for connecting to the sacred? Kind of like wearing a screwdriver instead of using the screwdriver. XD I have read that in other countries where Catholicism is dominant or well-known (I was born and raised in the US, where it appears Protestant Christianity is the dominant monotheism), wearing rosaries is acceptable. But having been enculturated to use it in its common religious context, it was very surreal for me to see it as jewelry.

Turningtides

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Re: Religious Paraphenalia and Cultural Non-Members
« Reply #11 on: February 21, 2016, 04:22:52 pm »
Quote from: Juni;22771
How do you feel about people owning religious paraphenalia from a living culture that they do not belong to?
Would it bother you if the item was used in accordance with its intended purpose?
What if the item was used for a different purpose, but still with respect?
Or not used at all, but displayed as art?
Do your feelings change if the religious paraphenalia comes from a dead culture, but is still not one the person belongs to?
Do your feelings change if the item was not originally used in a religious context?

 
If the culture's alive, and the person earned the item, I don't really see any problem whatsoever, as long as they don't abuse it in any way. As to dead cultures, many people don't know squat about the religious artifacts of dead cultures (because most people are ignorant), so while it would bother me, I really woundn't do much because it would be more trouble than it's worth - a dead culture's a dead culture, no point in fighthing for its rights, especially with someone who won't care about what you have to say about it.

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