Creating a Lineage for Those Who Come After
Cultural appropriation has been very much in my face lately. Halloween was just a little over a week ago and there was a lot of talk about how Native American costumes are unacceptable and how wearing a feathered headdress is appropriating that culture. Some of these conversations began around the idea of the Sexy Squaw costumes that reinforce the idea that Native American women are trash and that as such, they can be used and thrown away. The rape statistics are shocking for Native women, with ONE THIRD of them reporting having been raped. This contrasts with 17-18% of white and black women and a much lower statistic for Asian American women. I certainly agree that if we can shift this for our sisters, then we need to avoid that costume and dress up like a Sexy Lawyer or other alternative.
Other conversations showed up around how celebrating El Dia de los Muertos, an honoring of our dead, is also cultural appropriation. I can see that, yes, and yet in my Pagan practice celebrating the thinning of the veil with an altar to my deceased loved ones is a normal part.
Today I was reading some information from a course I’m taking. The course is offered by an Irish woman who is a powerful blogger and has strong ideas about who should share ideas about Irish mythology. She talks straight to us about how those of us who have not grown with our feet in the soil of Ireland, or in the larger context, the British Isles, should not attempt to appropriate that culture.
And here I am, a white woman of British and Northern European descent, looking for a way to connect with my land, with a culture and a mythology and everywhere I turn I’m told that I am appropriating something that belongs to someone else. Where does that leave me?
I’m going to attempt this! It’s so multi layered. Obviously I understand that I am a member of the ‘overculture’ or ‘dominant culture’ here in the US.
It is possibly important to know that I am a healer by nature and one of the things I do is to heal the land. I live in my grandfather’s house and there was a lot of trauma to this land. Arson, rape, suicide, sexual abuse of children and spousal abuse were all perpetrated here. After years of work the land has released much of the pain, the vibration of love has increased. People come here and never want to leave.
I feel like I’m really good at that, the healing of land and homes and the clearing of old, stuck energies.
The spirit of the land is connected to me BUT the spirits on the land are not those of my ancestors, except for 2 generations (1 of which is still living) back. The spirits on the land are native and though they welcome me and some of them are spirit guardians for me as I do my work, I am not descended from them in a physical way. No shared DNA until we get to Africa and the all-mother ‘Eve’, if you know what I mean?
So, I do not have a lineage that connects me to this place, country, land or the spirits on it and this knowledge leaves me both challenged and bereft. I want to connect both to the Native spirits on the land without pissing anyone off and I want to call in the spirits that my ancestors lived with, those who I resonate with deep in my bones.
My ancestors are from the UK in it’s many little countries and before that, Italy and Scandanavia (according to DNA tests my dad did). My ancestors were connected to a land that had a mythology and connection to spirt, but if I went there to live, I would be an Outlander, a perennial outsider. Welcome, not welcome. I can’t connect with the land if I can’t connect with the people. In the part of me that is Scots/Irish, there is a longing for the land and for the spirits of the land who would recognize me as one of their own. Alas, I am not Irish nor am I Scottish, I am American. I do not have a culture that is connected to that part of my lineage, nor do I have access to that. I do not, in fact, have a culture that is actually a culture with a richness of story and tradition and ways of the spirit.
So far as what was passed down to me as a way of worship, those tiny little rivulets of shame and woman-hating, are things that I have rejected as inauthentic, at best, and hateful to me, at worst. It is possible to grow up Irish American and to feel deeply connected to one’s lineage and to have a culture to cleave to. Ditto for many people who have come here from other places. At least, I perceive that to be true. For most of us white folks, I think, we have a watered down heritage made up of cartoony bullshit that has no heart.
Most people don’t care. They want the next Iphone and some 9West shoes. For others of us, that’s not enough, or it isn’t even desired. We are making up an American Pagan path that is springing directly from us. We are the mothers birthing a culture! How do we birth an entire culture for those who follow us without picking from here and there? Jesus was Osiris, after all. Why can’t I put a feather in my hair when the hawk drops it in my path? Why shouldn’t I honor my ancestors when the veil is thinnest? Why shouldn’t I tell my daughters of the Shee la na gig? The goal is not to diminish anyone or any culture, nor to rob it blind but only to find the place where I, and by extrapolation those who are like me, fit into and onto this land and this place.
In so many ways I feel like a toddler just taking her first steps into the world, only this is the world of creating something that will serve those who come after. Story. Ritual. Rhythm. Ceremony.
The question of who we are is one that comes up for many of us more and more. Where are you from? Where do you name home?