shaman wheel

anonymous asked:

This might sound ignorant but I'm sort of uneducated and confused about the topic. I guess I don't understand Cultural Appropriation when it comes to spiritual belief because many religions borrow from other cultures. I use the Chakras daily and the "new age pagan" concept of them works for me. I believe that every human possesses these basic energy points so I don't feel that it is an exclusive thing. I don't know if that made sense but I'm honestly confused.

There’s a difference between borrowing from an open culture, where ideas are freely shared, and appropriating from a closed culture. Unfortunately, there is a lot of the latter that goes on in various forms of paganism due to leftover imperialist entitlement. Basically, a whole lot of folks think that if something is earthy or spiritual or exotic, it’s open for everyone to use. This is not always the case.

For instance, Hinduism is a closed culture, meaning it is not appropriate to be using Hindu concepts, symbols, or practices unless you have been inducted into that religious community. While vital energy and auras are a shared concepts, it’s not always appropriate to call energy points chakras. It’s a similar situation with Catholicism. If you’re not Catholic, it’s not appropriate to be using rosaries (different from prayer beads, mind you) or going to confession or taking the Eucharist.

Lots of New-Age pagan concepts are appealing, particularly to people trying to find deeper spiritual meaning in their own lives…which is a lot of us.. That’s why they’ve been so successful and have gotten so entrenched in popular language and culture. However, being popular doesn’t always mean it’s right.

Karma, chakras, the “Om” symbol, warbonnets, mass-produced dreamcatchers, smudging and smudgesticks, totems, “spirit animals,” medicine bags, medicine wheels, shamanism, vodou and hoodoo trappings (particularly voodoo dolls)…all of these things are from closed cultures or religions, and all of these things show up regularly in modern pagan literature and shops as if they’re free for everyone to use.

It doesn’t much matter if we feel that a concept is universal or that we have a right to do whatever we want with it. The fact remains that if a group of people have said, “Hey, this is ours, this is sacred, can you please not mass-produce it and dumb it down for popular consumption?” we need to respect that.

Often, there ARE shared practices and terminology that can be used (i.e. smoke-cleansing vs smudging, poppet vs voodoo doll, etc) and these are perfectly legitimate. We don’t need to steal from closed cultures and slap their labels on things to make our own practices sound more spiritual or exotic.

If you want to learn about chakras, you’re best served by seeking out someone who has studied and is a part of Hinduism or Buddhism and getting your information directly from that source, rather than from a New-Age author who might be feeding you the wrong information.