Thursday, January 18, 2018

Cultural Appropriation And Spirituality

People have asked why I call myself Kether. The story begins when as a pre-teen I had an “entity” come to me. He called himself Rufus. For many years I thought about this entity and came to the conclusion it was just my vivid imagination or some sort of imaginary friend. Then I quit thinking about it. This “friend” told me things and also was a protector of sorts to me. Its voice was with me and gave me warnings about situations. He also told me my real name was Kether. This name stuck in my mind and I told no one about it until I was in my fifties.

I was about eighteen when I learned what Kether meant. It was then I thought perhaps I had subconsciously picked it up from my mother, who was a psychic and read tea leaves and tarot. As I became more involved in Chaos Magic it became my “secret name”. (or Craft name if I were a neo-pagan). As I said, I was in my fifties before I used it publicly in any way. This brings me to the heart of my post today. Cultural Appropriation. Specifically spiritual cultural appropriation.

The most vocal group who are angry about this are Native Americans. They decry “Pretendians” and especially White Shamans and Plastic Medicine Men. The debate goes on about the difference between the two, shaman or medicine man/woman. I began my page on Indians with this in mind. There is a group who tracks “Plastic Shamans” and New Age practices avidly. In their introduction they say “Native people DO NOT use the label "Shaman.”

One of the main points and purposes of my website Kether Muse is to show how myth, spirituality, religion and also science share beliefs and blend together. Even politics is in part a blending of these themes and culture.

The United Nations wrote the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to address this as well as other issues. “The Declaration recognizes and affirms the rights of indigenous peoples to their cultural, religious, and spiritual practices, to have private access to sacred sites, as well as to maintain and strengthen their spiritual relationship with their traditionally held lands, territories, waters and coastal seas and other resources. With the Declaration, Native peoples have rights acknowledged by the international community of nations, including rights to sacred places both within existing reservation or territorial boundaries and beyond.” But as I see it the declaration gives no explicit opinion on a monopoly of ritual or practice. It is more about land. So to me it is a matter of personal opinion.

Back to my Name Kether. I am not Jewish. I am not a Kabbalist per se. But one reason I call myself a Chaos Magick Practitioner is I don't want to be pigeon holed in my spiritual quest. Just because I am not an Indian does it mean I cannot do a Vision Quest? Many Native Americans say so. Or because I am not an Aborigine am I not allowed to Dream Walk or have Dream Time? When Jesus went into the wilderness, was not that a vision quest? Or the forty year adventure of Moses? Or when the Buddha took his walk and sat under the Bodhi tree wasn't that a Vision Quest? For a pantheist a rock is as sacred as a cross is to a Christian? I have many rocks I consider sacred.

When I walk down a mountain trail and I come upon an owl or hawk feather I consider it a gift and a blessing. My spiritual mentor (now dead) gave me an eagle feather which I have on my alter to represent the element of air. Now Native Americans and the law would say that I had no right to keep that feather. According to federal regulations, only enrolled members of federally recognized tribes can possess eagle, hawk and owl feathers according to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Does it not seem odd this is a felony but I can go dig up a grave, and it's only a misdemeanor? (Alabama Grave Robbing Law)

In my last post I spoke about understanding other people, what they consider sacred and the dangers of slipping into ones cultural spiritual identity, sacrificing ones basic moral and ethical standing which has many shared traditions. It is all about coexistance. As our world becomes smaller and smaller the need for this is more important than any time in history.

So in closing I implore you to reject the dogma. Like Matt Johnson (musical heroes) said in the song Armageddon Days Are Here (Again) “The world is on its elbows and knees. It's forgotten the message and worships the creeds.”


Marco V. said...

What a profoundly written post. I like Kether, it's unique and meaningful. I was only looking for synonyms of how to validate a degree from another country but luckily ended up on your blog. I saw your other site too.

Kether said...

glad you liked it. thanks