All Wrong: Religion, Culture and Country

August 13, 2014 at 3:24 am 6 comments

Wrong Country: It doesn’t matter if our ancestors didn’t all come to the United States (& various other colonies) for the specific purpose of enslaving and conquering people, but mostly were trying to escape poverty, famine, war or religious/political persecution. Or came here as slaves, prisoners or indentured servants. It doesn’t matter how long our families have lived here. We’re invaders. Or “settlers”, I guess that’s a little nicer. OK, we’ve realized that we messed up. Or someone else did, and we benefited from it. So we’re going to “decolonize” now. It sounds very enlightened and progressive. Wait, does this mean we need to move back to Europe? Black folks have to move back to Africa. (Tried that already, by the way) And so forth. Or is it OK that we stay here, so long as we admit that we have no right to be here? Just lose the sense of entitlement and gain some humility and be a good ally.  But wait, which Tumblr guide to “How to Be a Good White Ally” should I follow?

Wrong Culture: Sometimes I come across European pagans/polytheists (and non-pagans) who are baffled by Euro-American interest in their cultural heritage. But you’re Americans! You’re over there! Go do Indian stuff. Uh, no. Not touching the peace pipe. It hasn’t been offered. So be Wiccan! It’s sorta kinda generically European… Sprinkle with deities of your chosen ethnic identity. Some of us try to prove how Truly Serious & Sincere & Respectful we are. We study the languages, the customs. We become reconstructionists.  But…

Wrong Religion: We still get criticism- here’s a Scottish fellow complaining about how not Gaelic neo-paganism is. Most “Celtic” paganism isn’t very culturally Celtic, I agree to that. What I found baffling was that he specifically approved of the website Tairis, but complained about the CR FAQ. Celtic Reconstructionism was actually founded for the specific purpose of avoiding cultural appropriation that is rampant in the U.S.  Annie Gormlie, the author of Tairis is Scottish, basing her practice on Scottish folk customs. Very cool lady. The CR FAQ is pan-Celtic and written by Americans. Americans? Well in that case they must be evil cultural pillagers.  And because they talk about doing research about pre-Christian religion, they can’t care about modern culture at all, right? This is a false dichotomy Proper Scots are atheists, according to him. Another one I came across said True Scots are Presbyterians. Real Authentic Irish people are Catholic of course, no wait- atheists according to this guy. Another critic here.

Maybe we should stop arguing about which religion (or atheism) is superior and do our parts to learn & teach Celtic languages and customs? I’m in my Irish class, and there’s also a Wiccan in the class as well. No one cares what our religion is, we’re there to learn Irish. I don’t know how Pagan-friendly every nook and cranny of the Irish community is, so I don’t announce it to everyone. 

There seems to less of this among Germanic heathens- they don’t have the cultural colonization historical chip on their shoulder the way the Celts do. There are some Europeans who look down on American Heathens that get most of their info from book-learning rather than oral tradition.  But that goes both ways. 

Culture, religion, country. It would be nice if these things “matched” but life is messy and they don’t. Humans move around. They change religion and language. Deal with it. I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t care that much about other people’s approval. I try to do the Right Thing social justice-wise, or culture or religion-wise, but it’s always the Wrong Thing to someone else. It’s nice to get approval and affirmation when it comes but condemnation and condescension will always be coming from another direction. Once again, hey I’m an American. Guess I’ll throw caution to the wind. 


Entry filed under: Celtic/Druid, Christianity, Race/Ethnicity. Tags: , , , , , , , , , .

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6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Léithin Cluan/Naomi  |  August 13, 2014 at 1:11 pm

    No True Scotsman,,, 😀

    I can see how this is a problem for Americans doing CR-type stuff, or any Paganism really. I don’t know how to balance that understanding with my concern about the cultural appropriation of ‘Celtic’ cultural things that I see from some Americans (certainly not all). I will have to ponder. Thanks for the thought-fodder!

    • 2. caelesti  |  August 14, 2014 at 8:12 pm

      It seemed odd to me, because CR is intentionally supposed to be *not appropriative* but because we’re Americans we’re guilty no matter what it seems. I think cultural appropriation is a real problem, but in the States and online its thrown around so carelessly as an accusation (along with racist, cultural imperialist etc.) that it’s lost its meaning, and some people think it means any cultural borrowing and some people are getting way too paranoid I think. It’s taking away attention from systemic oppression and exploitation and focusing on random individuals who wear dreadlocks, bindis, have drum circles in their backyards etc.

      • 3. Léithin Cluan/Naomi  |  August 14, 2014 at 8:24 pm

        Hmm, fair enough, and you’re entitled to your opinion, but as you no doubt saw in my own blog post, I have a slightly different view.

  • 4. Léithin Cluan/Naomi  |  August 13, 2014 at 1:11 pm

    Reblogged this on Treasure in Barren Places and commented:
    Very interesting post on the problems that Americans have when they’re looking for Pagan paths and practices that fit them.

  • […] previous post has been well-received, though I still second-guess myself and wonder if it’s too “Oh, poor me, rootless, […]

  • […] All Wrong: Religion, Culture, Country– the whatever, I don’t care anymore, everything White Americans Do is Wrong post […]


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