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Thread: Cultural Appropriation and the Gods

  1. #21
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    I agree with ExiledMystran and commend you for voicing it in a way I couldn't. Monsnoleedra, I can tell this is a hot topic for you so I apologize if I pressed or continue to press any buttons. I am well aware of the Japanese (Nipponese) history politically and religiously, and they are by no means ideal in every way. The forced separation of Buddhism and Shintoism, and their regular practice of closing themselves off from anything outside is not the only time they have shown some major xenophobia. Even now many of there people and policies show major xenophobic and elitist tendencies (just look at the rights denied Japanese-Korans who where born and raised in Japan as nothing but Japanese). And you will NEVER hear me say that colonialism is a good thing, or ok, or a normal standard example of multiculturalism, or acceptable appropriation. In fact I would argue that those past histories should serve as a lesson for what NOT to do and what disrespect of a culture and people looks like.

    But that doesn't mean that an adult American (to keep with the Nipponese example) can't become a Shinto priest with the right official training and certifications. But not everyone wants to be a priest, some people just want to honor the gods and rites and rituals of a people not their own. Some want to be a "practitioner" not a leader. In my opinion one shouldn't cherry pick without as complete an education as they can get and damn good justification. If that was the case we would never have gotten Voodoo or the different sects of, Buddhism, Christianity, or (depending on your beliefs as far as creation is concerned) even the native tribes (theoretically they all started as one tribe in the long long long long ago, which again depends on your beliefs on history and creation). We all cherry pick in one way or another, we try things, see and feel what works and why and decide if it will work for us. The Key is not claiming authority or trying to change the original. Religion and culture are not a stagnant thing, they are constantly changing and growing with the peoples experiences and history and to try and hold it in one ideal state to keep your own identity is, in my opinion, a folly.

    In the end where do we draw the line? if it is all about being born and/or raised in a culture then I should be christian, possibly Pentecostal, as that was my earliest faith (started church at 5 yo, so before that it would have been Christianize agnostic). My grandfather on my mothers side was born on a reservation in Oklahoma but never registered as a member in his adulthood because he was only half and at the time it wasn't really something to be proud of. So neither my mother nor I have any cultural ties, even if she may have enough blood, so that door is theoretically closed. Our other half is Irish but again that was so many generations ago do I really have any clam to that heritage? Defiantly not the culture. Especially in America we have the issue of being a young conquering nation with little religious culture that we as pagans are drawn too. Then we get into your second post concerning the Gods and what they choose to give us. I have a very good relationship with Jesus and the christian God but they are not my gods. I am blood bond to Loki but he has encouraged me to look more into Shintoism and Shugendo. Is my practice of honoring all the gods as best I can with the knowledge I have managed to gain so far, and continue to try and grow, Appropriation and unacceptable? some think so, others don't. How much of this is a human construct and how much of it is divine?

    Again, in the end I think it comes down to respect and education. If you where given a teaching in confidence then it is not yours to share anymore then a secret given to you by a friend, but that doesn't and shouldn't bar you from perusing information and fulfillment as best you can from what you can. to continue the prom dress analogy, two people may wear the same dress but they will NEVER be the same person. Even two people from the same culture, even the same city, will not look a their culture the same way. A first born will look at being a second born threw the fish bowl just as the other will do the same looking out. An outsider may never be able to know what it's like to be brought up on the inside but that doesn't bar them from moving there later and learning all they can with the life they have left, and possibly share (not force or lord over) their own birth culture for the benefit of anyone interested, if they so choose. That to me is multiculturalism.
    神の恵みと祖先の恩とに感謝し
    明き清きまことをもって祭しにいそしむこと。

    Kami no megumi to sosen no on to ni kanshashi
    Akaki kiyoki makoto o motte saishi ni isoshimu koto.

    I am grateful for the blessings of the kami and my ancestors
    And will practice my faith with brightness, purity, and sincerity.

    敬神生活の綱領
    Keishin seikatsu no koryo
    Commitment of Life Devotion

    - 'Shinto Norito' by Ann Llewellyn Evans -


  2. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by monsnoleedra View Post
    So where does that leave the practitioner who receives direct revelation from a divine being? Especially if said divinity is not of that practitioners ethnic or cultural heritage. For many there is a claim it is cultural appropriation as the divine would not contact them to begin with.
    I'm sure there are people with the arrogance to try and stick divinities in a box and say they never step outside that box. I tend to think said people are begging to have the divinity in question apply a large blunt object to their skull though and I like to keep a a bit of distance so I don't get caught in the blast zone when the divinity they are trying to cage decides to meddle. I'm all for skepticism regarding any given individual's claimed experience with the divine but claiming, for example, "You aren't Hellenic, Zeus would never speak to you!" strikes me as a case of a mortal trying impose boundaries on the King of Olympus and I'd prefer not to be there when lightning strikes...

  3. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by ExiledMystran View Post
    I'm sure there are people with the arrogance to try and stick divinities in a box and say they never step outside that box. I tend to think said people are begging to have the divinity in question apply a large blunt object to their skull though and I like to keep a a bit of distance so I don't get caught in the blast zone when the divinity they are trying to cage decides to meddle. I'm all for skepticism regarding any given individual's claimed experience with the divine but claiming, for example, "You aren't Hellenic, Zeus would never speak to you!" strikes me as a case of a mortal trying impose boundaries on the King of Olympus and I'd prefer not to be there when lightning strikes...
    I admit I do think it interesting when I hear people say a divinity will not speak to a person who is not of a certain ethnic group or gender. Though I do admit I find it likely that certain divinities would be restricted in where they would or could function. Such a Pele the Hawaiian goddess associated to a specific volcano and a very specific place on earth. She is not found anywhere else, only that specific volcano nor do the people see her in any other volcano as she is a very region specific goddess.

  4. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shawn Cameron View Post
    .. Again, in the end I think it comes down to respect and education. If you where given a teaching in confidence then it is not yours to share anymore then a secret given to you by a friend, but that doesn't and shouldn't bar you from perusing information and fulfillment as best you can from what you can. to continue the prom dress analogy, two people may wear the same dress but they will NEVER be the same person. Even two people from the same culture, even the same city, will not look a their culture the same way. A first born will look at being a second born threw the fish bowl just as the other will do the same looking out. An outsider may never be able to know what it's like to be brought up on the inside but that doesn't bar them from moving there later and learning all they can with the life they have left, and possibly share (not force or lord over) their own birth culture for the benefit of anyone interested, if they so choose. That to me is multiculturalism.
    I think the only way I can answer this is the way it was put to me. You quote things dealing with the Kami and their influence. Ok have you walked the land? Has the spirit of the land infused you? Has it entered you through the lungs? Has it entered you through the pours of your feet, the palms of your hands? Have the Kami breathed over you at night, have they danced about you in the darkness or walked beside you in the light? Has the Spirit of the Nipponese landscape passed into and through your very lifeforce and melded it with its own? Have you crossed through the Tori gates walked in the mists high in the mountains or breathed in the fog of the coast, smelt the sickly sweat smell as the bodies are burnt on Wednesday of passed the dogs at the gate? Have you respected the tatami mats? Not read about it in a book or saw it in a film or such.

    I was told Nippon would never leave me or my family, the Kami would never leave me or my family as my eldest son was born there. The Kami had touched us, we had breathed them in, eaten of the land, drank of the water and conceived from its spirit and brought forth life. It was and is not something you can learn from a book or movie nor something you can decide you will be without going to Nippon. The Kami are Nippon and Nippon are the Kami and Shintoism is the voice of the land and spirits, the ancestors there. That is part of the Nipponese culture and heritage that can't be understood from a book or study as it is deeper than that, it's almost primordial in its connection to the land and between the land and the people. Especially in the more rural and remote areas, granted not so much in the cities as they are more westernized now and getting even more so as they loose their Nipponese identity and become something else.

    No matter where the Nipponese people move to they are tied to their homeland by the kami and their language / customs / heritage. It is the heart and soul of their people and kept beating via the rituals, ceremonies, beliefs, etc that are performed regardless of where they are living. In that regard it is similar to other peoples who have similar beliefs and such that tie them to their heritages and such and hold them to the soul of their ancestry regardless of where they may go to. So things are words but they also know words have power and vibrational power to them. But also visual power that accompanies the vibration that instills generations of blood imagery and ancestral memory and imagery that goes with all of it. Imagery that is joyful yet painful, elation yet sorrow, hopeful and dread, birth and death, summer and winter, fall and spring, dragon and tiger. It's also looking at the land as it is, as it was and as it could be again. But you have had to actually walked the land to know its memories and the memories of the Kami and ancestors that are there. For like I said the Kami are Nippon and Nippon are the Kami and Shintoism is their voice.

    That's the problem with supposed cherry picking. Most do it from a safe distance and never visit the place. They think they know what is there and presume because they read a book or study what someone else has said that they got it right and maybe better than someone else. Hoping to disregard the parts they don't like or doesn't fit their idea's or worse using modern ideals and morality / ethics to judge. Usually morality & ethics that are westernized and have little to no bearing upon the group they are judging or evaluating.

    Playing the devils advocate here. You have a quote as a signature from Ann Llewellyn Evans, clearly a white woman claiming to have been trained in Japan writing about Shintoism, about Shinto theology and beliefs. A system that is Nipponese in practice and heritage. Yet there are hundreds if not thousands of books written by Nipponese authors and translated into English with artwork by Nipponese artist giving Nipponese perspectives of the Kami, Ancestors, beliefs, etc and what they mean. To include Shintoism's influence upon the society, prayers, chants, rituals, ceremonies, etc. I know I've seen more than a few wood-block engravings of shinto themed images. All this in a thread about respecting culture and why cultural appropriation is a bad idea as the actual Nipponese writers and artist have been ignored for a western writer. That is what cultural appropriation is in most peoples versions of multiculturalism.
    Last edited by monsnoleedra; April 10th, 2017 at 11:56 AM.

  5. #25
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    Pele is sufficiently outside what I'm familiar with that I shouldn't comment on her. Geographically restricted entities wouldn't overly shock me though. Place spirits are a pretty old concept. I would prefer not to place bets that geographic restrictions are absolute rather than simply preferred though. Pele might be restricted to one volcano. She might just be largely uninterested in other locations. Once I make the jump from, "There's no evidence of her outside this one region," to, "She absolutely doesn't exist outside this one region," I'm making assumpions about the divine and some of them get pissy when you do that. The assumption might be logical, it might even be right but I don't need to make it and there's no real profit to me in doing so.

  6. #26
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    I will add the disclaimer I've read nothing by Ann Llewellyn Evans so can't comment on her actual writings. Only on the fact her bio says she was trained in Japan. In that regard she at least was in Japan and was touched by the spirit of Japan and the Kami / ancestors and their influence. But it doesn't remove the fact for many it would qualify under the idea of a westerner writing about things that many Nipponese authors have already written about. Similar to white writers pushing books about Native American histories when there are Native American authors who have written their own histories and spirituality books, or the many African Disapora religious practice / religious books written by white authors about typically black practices. In many instances so called outsiders writing about things from an observers perspective vice as a practitioner or "revealed" information as a collection.

  7. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by ExiledMystran View Post
    Pele is sufficiently outside what I'm familiar with that I shouldn't comment on her. Geographically restricted entities wouldn't overly shock me though. Place spirits are a pretty old concept. I would prefer not to place bets that geographic restrictions are absolute rather than simply preferred though. Pele might be restricted to one volcano. She might just be largely uninterested in other locations. Once I make the jump from, "There's no evidence of her outside this one region," to, "She absolutely doesn't exist outside this one region," I'm making assumpions about the divine and some of them get pissy when you do that. The assumption might be logical, it might even be right but I don't need to make it and there's no real profit to me in doing so.
    Pele is the first that sprang to mind to be honest. I don't think there are or can't think of to many in the major pantheon's that are geographically restricted. Vulcan is pretty much restricted to a single volcano in Roman lore but not sure you could say that is the only volcano he is restricted to. Hephaestus (Hellene) is also associated with one volcano near as I recall, but again not sure that is the only one. Though I suppose one might argue name variants are associated to specific sites and perhaps restricted to them, ie Artemis is known as Cynthia on Delos from Mt. Cynthus. As such she'd only be called Cynthia there.

    But then you could also get into the argument that are the gods / goddess unique individuals are simply archetypes. But that is a discussion for another thread I think.

  8. #28
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    Monsnoleedra, I see where you are coming from by you also seem to be under the assumption that we all live in an ideal situation with freedom and finances to go and do as we please, when we please, and when the spirits or Kami beckon. I have not been to Japan, despite saving and scavenging and trying for a long time, it is an obsession of mine to someday do and do exactly as you say and walk the land and breath the air and possibly finally relieve some of this aching in my heart at the mere sight of a picture of the landscape. But what I HAVE done is contact the Tusbaki American Shrine, where I purchased every book they had available, despite my lack of funds, including Ms. Evans book of Prayers. I'm not sure what countless translated books your talking about, if you have links I would sincerely love to place them on my wish list, this was the only one I could find and even I doubted it at first but decided to give it a try after some research and the recommendation of Rev. Dr. Yukitaka Yamamoto 96th Chief Priest of Tsubaki Grand Shrine, Nippon. I did this after a meditation in which I was contacted by Sarutahiko-No-O-Kami who is enshrined at both Tsubaki shrines (America and Nippon). But we are getting off track and I don't want to sound too defensive despite the above.

    I say I try not to be defensive, and I have to confess there are times I find it difficult, because those who are very against what they call cultural appropriation would tell me I am delusional and have no right to follow the teachings of the Kami, that my mere interest is an insult and threat to the culture. They assume I cherry pick knowingly and with no communication or reasoning and that I have no respect for the original culture or their experiences and practices. That is not true, and I think it is not true of most (not all) who explore faiths and practices outside their own heritage. Most wish to walk the land of their chosen faith and commune with it and the spirits there, but many CAN'T, at least not yet. Does that mean they have no right to do as much as they can with what they can? I am by no means trying to say that taking a bit here and there without at least attempting to get as much context and knowledge as it is possible for out outsiders brains to do comprehend is "good enough". People should always try and grow and learn as much as they can about what they are involving themselves in, and to be respectful of it every step of the way. But there are some people who would bar them from even that because it is theirs and "how dare you show and interest and try and take it from my people!"

    Which again is why I say it comes down to respect, education, and intent. Someone wanting to learn more and do what they can with what they have should not threaten someone else’s personal spirituality and identity. If what I choose to do in my private or even public spiritual life rocks the foundations of your sense of culture so much then you need to take a better look at your own definition of culture and where you sit in it. IMO something so firm and strong should not be so fragile, because cultural appropriation does not equal colonialism.

    But I think we may have gotten off track. I respect your opinion on the mater and will just have to agree to disagree on some of the details. My short answer to the original question is this: If someone feels that it is not the right of an outsider to adopt their culture in part or in full then that is their prerogative and I will not try and force them to believe or do otherwise. But I also don’t think they should force their belief on someone who IS willing to share (what gives the former more rights to do or not to do so then the later?) or for them to actively attempt to sabotage someone attempting to learn or practice. As far as the “appropriator” in this question, I think they should show respect to the culture and the former member who may not want to share, and try and learn all they can for as long as they plan on using anything from that culture (basically if someone corrects you don’t shrug it off like it doesn’t mater, they may know more then you and you should at least check it out). Other then that I don’t think there is any reason why an Australian Aboriginal can’t follow a Hellenic goddess in as close to the original way as they can manage if that is what they are called to do.
    神の恵みと祖先の恩とに感謝し
    明き清きまことをもって祭しにいそしむこと。

    Kami no megumi to sosen no on to ni kanshashi
    Akaki kiyoki makoto o motte saishi ni isoshimu koto.

    I am grateful for the blessings of the kami and my ancestors
    And will practice my faith with brightness, purity, and sincerity.

    敬神生活の綱領
    Keishin seikatsu no koryo
    Commitment of Life Devotion

    - 'Shinto Norito' by Ann Llewellyn Evans -


  9. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shawn Cameron View Post
    .. I say I try not to be defensive, and I have to confess there are times I find it difficult, because those who are very against what they call cultural appropriation would tell me I am delusional and have no right to follow the teachings of the Kami, that my mere interest is an insult and threat to the culture. They assume I cherry pick knowingly and with no communication or reasoning and that I have no respect for the original culture or their experiences and practices. That is not true, and I think it is not true of most (not all) who explore faiths and practices outside their own heritage. Most wish to walk the land of their chosen faith and commune with it and the spirits there, but many CAN'T, at least not yet. Does that mean they have no right to do as much as they can with what they can? I am by no means trying to say that taking a bit here and there without at least attempting to get as much context and knowledge as it is possible for out outsiders brains to do comprehend is "good enough". People should always try and grow and learn as much as they can about what they are involving themselves in, and to be respectful of it every step of the way. But there are some people who would bar them from even that because it is theirs and "how dare you show and interest and try and take it from my people!" ..
    Bolded mine.

    Let me address this first. I will not say nor ever imply you are delusional nor have no right to study or learn about a culture or insist an interest is a threat to that culture. As to practicing it I won't say you don't have a right to practice it though I don't agree it is not cultural appropriation by doing so. But personally I think many people find a hole in their own practices and beliefs and seek elsewhere for clarity only to confuse what they find with what they think they were missing.

    From a shamanic perspective I know the Kami of Nippon and their relationship to the land and people are very similar to how the Native Americans and the spirits of the land are similar yet different. The same as my Celtic & Highland Ancestors and the spirits of the land there related to the land but again similar yet different. Even the Nordic influence as part of my ancestral family was influenced by that mythology and the land wights which again are similar to the Kami and the ancestral relationships between the land and the people but again different. So I didn't need to look to the Orient for the Kami and the ideals of that for it's all already existing in Europe and the America's, similar yet different. Only my gods / goddesses told me to look there to understand the differences not to turn from them but to come closer to them in understanding. But that also meant touching the land and it touching you and the spirit of the land breed into each of us. In part seeing how they commune with the spirits there enabled me to better commune with the spirits here and the ancestors here.

  10. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by monsnoleedra View Post
    Bolded mine.

    Let me address this first. I will not say nor ever imply you are delusional nor have no right to study or learn about a culture or insist an interest is a threat to that culture. As to practicing it I won't say you don't have a right to practice it though I don't agree it is not cultural appropriation by doing so. But personally I think many people find a hole in their own practices and beliefs and seek elsewhere for clarity only to confuse what they find with what they think they were missing.

    From a shamanic perspective I know the Kami of Nippon and their relationship to the land and people are very similar to how the Native Americans and the spirits of the land are similar yet different. The same as my Celtic & Highland Ancestors and the spirits of the land there related to the land but again similar yet different. Even the Nordic influence as part of my ancestral family was influenced by that mythology and the land wights which again are similar to the Kami and the ancestral relationships between the land and the people but again different. So I didn't need to look to the Orient for the Kami and the ideals of that for it's all already existing in Europe and the America's, similar yet different. Only my gods / goddesses told me to look there to understand the differences not to turn from them but to come closer to them in understanding. But that also meant touching the land and it touching you and the spirit of the land breed into each of us. In part seeing how they commune with the spirits there enabled me to better commune with the spirits here and the ancestors here.
    Ah! But this gets into a bit of a divide. Is it cherry picking if one worships the Heavenly Kami such as Amaterasu-omikami in the traditional way for doing so in Nippon (or as close as one can manage) but then honors the land spirits of the south west (because that is where this hypothetical person lives) in the way that is traditional for them? I think not. I would find that respectful to the spirits, because as you say the cultures that dwelled on and with those land spirits shaped each other in a way one person can’t possibly separate. The same would be if a Heathen dedicated to the Norse gods moved to Japan, they should honor the local Kami in the way Nippon does and not in the way they would normally honor the land wights of their home, because they are similar but different.

    That being said, we do what we can with what we have and it is better to honor them in whatever way you can with whatever knowledge or tools you currently posses then to completely ignore them because you can’t do it “right”. If your only experience with honoring land spirits is with land wights of the Norse tradition then do it that way until you can learn differently from a reliable source.

    I think the biggest issue we are having is a miscommunication (totally my bad) in the difference between cultural appropriation and cultural mis-appropriation. Some don’t believe that there is a difference, those are the ones who might make the example accusations from my previous post. I very strongly do believe that there is a difference and it is huge, revolving around respect for the culture and desire and effort to learn as best as you can.
    神の恵みと祖先の恩とに感謝し
    明き清きまことをもって祭しにいそしむこと。

    Kami no megumi to sosen no on to ni kanshashi
    Akaki kiyoki makoto o motte saishi ni isoshimu koto.

    I am grateful for the blessings of the kami and my ancestors
    And will practice my faith with brightness, purity, and sincerity.

    敬神生活の綱領
    Keishin seikatsu no koryo
    Commitment of Life Devotion

    - 'Shinto Norito' by Ann Llewellyn Evans -


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