The examples of appropriation I shared in the previous post, along with the history of immense pain western culture has caused Indigenous people around the world, is just a portion of the reflections we must embrace when altering our spiritual practices in consideration of cultures we claim to ‘appreciate’.
On the path to ‘finding ourselves’ outside traditional religions, there is a portion of the journey we often miss. It is the thread that connects us to our own history, one mirrored by Indigenous spirituality.
We have been taught to pull our identity from carefully constructed history books about ‘our country’, to spend our lives in hot pursuit of power and money, and to find satisfaction in popularity and accolades.
The role of ‘pagan’ healers as medical practitioners gave them legitimacy as community leaders, threatening the Church’s authority. In response, an oppressive PR campaign was created in a bid for social control, deeming the use of herbs and medicines by ‘pagans’ as an unchristian manipulation of the supernatural. It enhanced the fear of ‘otherness’, a mentality which justified simultaneously occurring atrocities like the colonization of the Americas, the transatlantic slave trade, and witch trials. These acts of extreme violence were rationalized by the promise that anything done in the name of God and country would be dutifully repaid in the afterlife. A mentality which today, continues to thrive.
No sooner had the Americas been ‘conquered’ and claimed (1776-1867), the Industrial Revolution concurrently began (1750), directing the gaze of abuse to the natural world at levels never seen before. Swiftly securing the cycle of oppression for both nature and its protectors.
Despite violent persecution for the past 2,000 years, and still today, Indigenous spiritual practices are amongst the few to survive incessant invasions. Those of us drawn to Indigenous sacred plants and rituals act like moths to a flame, trying to find our way home again. We become blinded by the beautiful sense of belonging, taking no notice of the pains caused by our ceaseless fluttering.
Though most often intentions are pure, our own culture’s custom of seizing what we want, simply because we want it, perpetuates. We’re not used to giving up things we like, nor are we used to reflecting on our actions in consideration of other beings. Making it easy to justify our needs over another’s healing.
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“I think because we are so spiritually starved here in the West we find it very attractive to latch onto a ready-made and still vibrant culture. The intentions behind this are good, I feel, but for me personally, I always felt it was more powerful to connect with my own Ancestors – the ones still rooted deep inside the lands that I am from”, says Eddy Elsey, an English Shamanic Practitioner and creator of the Street Spirituality podcast.
“I have spoken with Indigenous Elders about this and most of them have the same opinion. They have come to share their medicine as a framework for us to rekindle ours. Drink Ayahuasca, sure, but lets look beyond the medicine for a minute – the people who traditionally use this medicine pray to the plant, they honour it, use it for divination and healing, they learn its songs – shall we travel to the Amazon and mimic this, or can we use this as a framework for our own teacher plants? We hear beautiful songs about the Condor the Jaguar, wow – they are incredible. What would happen if we did the same thing the owl and the fox? What about the animals that have their nests and burrows outside your window? Would you honour the icy rivers of Dartmoor with the same reverence as the Ganges? I think it is incredibly important to honour these amazing sacred practices, medicines, and customs of the different cultures that share them so generously. But, if you’re not honouring your land, your ancestors and your community at the same time – is it not all a bit hollow? We are the sons and daughters of Cunning Men and Wild Witches – their stories and their ways are still sealed inside the earth we walk on and the hundreds of Sacred Sites scattered across the Country. The Indigenous peoples have been incredibly generous to provide us with the keys – it is now up to us to find the locks they fit inside”.
The thing about depth and discovery is it’s not a bite-sized meme we can pin to our wall nor a series of objects we can buy. It’s an uncomfortable, awkward, painful, lifelong journey, which takes reflection and time. So wrapped are we in the darkness our ancestors laid out behind us, that we don’t trust the light at the end of the tunnel, which promises a brighter future for all. One which looks nothing like the recent past or present ‘perfect’.
It is only as we walk through the darkness of our collective history, balancing the energy of everyone’s our ancestors on the way by asking for forgiveness and making reparations, that we can begin to see the soulful glimmer which drew us this way.
No matter what spiritual practices you follow, or what rituals you’re drawn to, the light you fly towards stems from the truth all life shares, which is bound in Love of one another and our biosphere.
We must find ways of tapping into that truth without perpetuating the pains of the past because there is no spiritual solace to be found when you separate individual well-being from the health of the whole.
SPONSORED POST: This post ‘thought piece’ was sponsored by Kindom Shop, rather than advertising their ethical and sustainable story, they have chosen to support conversations intended to enhance our collective reality.
PLEASE NOTE: I want to be clear to any followers of Abrahamic faiths who are reading this that I by no means intend to disrespect your religions. This piece is a guide for those who are appropriating religion from oppressed communities, as well as anyone carrying white privilege, in facing the hard truths of our history so we might begin to repair the violence of our past as well as misconceptions of what surpassed.