Archive for January 17, 2014

Being a Bastard

I am a bastard child of the British Empire, a genetic mish-mash of people that got together because the British nobility decided they wanted Land, Tea, Spices and Cheap Labor. Mostly Irish, Scottish and English and some German.  I’m a heir to their glorious and hubristic culture, neither proud nor ashamed of it. I simply am what I am. The problem is all too often, those of us Euro-mutts who live in the United States, Canada, Australia and other former British colonies (or other former European colonies) feel as if we are “bastards” illegitimate regardless of what traditions we try to follow.  We don’t feel as if we belong in European traditions, but when we try to draw from indigenous traditions we tread into dangerous waters of cultural appropriation. Even folks who have some Native ancestry may feel trepidations if they aren’t very connected to their heritage.

Some of us “bastards” don’t know our entire ancestry, or sometimes any of it, due to histories of immigration, slavery, tribal records getting lost/stolen/destroyed/falsified. Or relatives just not telling the truth because they were ashamed of where they came from.

We can try celebrate our own national holidays in uniquely Pagan ways, but so many of our holidays have legacies of colonialism and slavery behind them. But really, enough self-pity. Enough guilt. We need to acknowledge the negatives of our history, but we need to move on. We can’t change the past but we can learn from of it, and listen to voices who don’t usually get to tell the their side of history. We can take a step back and look clearly at how it’s impacted us and our cultures. We can claim our European roots without posturing at phoniness and explore other cultures with sensitivity- on their terms. And we can figure out what is our culture now? How am I uniquely American, Canadian, Australian? How do I celebrate Imbolc/Lunasa (or whatever your next holiday is) in a way that is relevant to my heritage (ancestral or not) and my place and time?

How do I work to make my country a more just place for all people?

Here is some “homework” reading material but it is just the beginning to understand what cultural appropriation is and how to avoid it.


Talking About the Elephant: Neo-Pagan Perspectives on Cultural Appropriation ed. Lupa Megallithica Press

Hinduism, Indo-Paganism and Cultural Appropriation  From the Wild Hunt blog Positive suggestions for non-Hindu Pagans with an interest in Hinduism

Cultural Appropriation: Gaels and Other Natives by Michael Newton 

How the Irish Became White by Noel Ignatiev

This post is part of the Pagan Blog Project 2014. 


January 17, 2014 at 12:47 am 2 comments


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