This is What Frustration Looks Like

Okay. This is going to be more of a disjointed rant than a highly polished essay, so bear with me.

I try really, really, really, really, really, really hard to be aware of issues of cultural appropriation when it comes to shamanism, and paganism in general. I do my best to address them both in theory and practice. And yet I still feel like no matter what I do, it’s still treading on someone’s toes somewhere. Not that I need to please everyone, but as a member of the dominant culture drawn to work with certain spirits in a particular neoshamanic paradigm, I like to at least think I’m putting forth effort to address the issues of racism, appropriation, and oppression in non-indigenous shamanic practices. And I’m open to more suggestions on how I can do better. I do my best to listen.

But sometimes even I get confused as to what’s supposed to be the best practice. Here are all the messages I’ve gotten from different people on what we should be doing to “do it right”:

–That’s not what shamans do! You actually need to know what indigenous shamans do, so find out more about them.
–Actually, don’t find out about indigenous non-European traditions if you’re not part of them because they’re not yours to use. Look to your European ancestors’ traditions instead.
–Don’t look to your European ancestors’ traditions because you’re an American, not German/Celtic/Slavic/etc. in culture. Create your own traditions.
–Wait! Stop creating your own shamanic tradition from your own cultural perspective! You’re appropriating by looking at general concepts from other cultures and you can’t do that! Go make something of your own without any inspiration from any other culture.
–You’re creating a tradition from scratch? How n00bish. Quit pretending and go find out what real shamans do.
–Don’t call yourself a shaman. Call yourself a witch. Except that’s not really what witches do.
–Actually, call yourself a druid. Druids are European, right? And they like trees, too!
–Or here, how about this other non-shaman term whose commonly understood connotation really doesn’t quite fit what you do and may still piss someone off?

And so forth. Do you see how this can get frustrating? Yes, these are all coming from different people; the critics of neoshamanism are not a monolithic group. And I am exaggerating and generalizing those statements above somewhat, but I’m also trying to make the point that in all the criticism of non-indigenous shamanisms, there’s never really been one good, solid answer on how to address the known issues, to include from the critics both within and outside of neoshamanic practice.

I guess I just don’t want to see non-indigenous shamanic practitioners get so frustrated with being constantly told what they’re doing wrong that they end up ignoring all the criticisms entirely, and go their own way without even considering the potential negative effects they could have. Let me say this, to be clear–I am in complete agreement that there’s plenty of fucked-uped-ness in neoshamanism. There are still a lot of people who are utterly racist and may not even know it, who romanticize indigenous cultures, and even those who knowingly misrepresent themselves for profit. I think there are good reasons for the criticism. Where my frustration is isn’t even that we’re not getting special acknowledgement cookies for trying harder to not be racist and appropriative. And while the experience of Minority A is not the same as the experience of Minority B, I’ve tried thinking about my own experiences as a woman trying to explain misogyny to people and how frustrating that can be, and wonder if indigenous people get the same sort of frustration trying to explain appropriation to others. So this isn’t just “It’s all YOUR fault for not telling me what to do!” I know the answer is to listen to the people who are oppressed, and I’m trying my very best to have my ears open to what they’re saying, to voices that have too often been silenced.

But I’m also at my wit’s end today, having watched yet another attempt to create a conceptual shamanism for a culture that never had it get torn down as racist and appropriative. There has to be some answer in between “Just ignore the critics because they don’t have anything useful to say” and “if you don’t already have a shamanic tradition in your culture then you don’t get to practice shamanism ever”. I just don’t know where that is right this moment, beyond my own personal solution that I’ve been sharing here for years.

So. What do you all think?

35 thoughts on “This is What Frustration Looks Like

  1. I think I’m very much in the same boat, Lupa. I’ve been struggling with a ” title” of what it is that I do, and I’ve also run that big, frustrating wall. While Shaman seems to be the closest to describe it, I don’t feel right using the term and just shrug when people ask me,” So what do you do?”

    I’ve been roiling this around for several years now, and I just feel stuck. I’ve been reading your stuff for a long time and I think one of things that keeps me lopping along is the fact that I really get so much of what you’re saying, and what you struggle through. I just don’t feel that I can voice it as articulately as you have.

  2. Hmm. Honestly, this is a hard choice. As neopagans and neoshamans, we get a lot of flac from a lot of different directions – even those who claim to agree with us will hurl hurtful remarks for one reason or another.

    I suppose my response is to think about what the person has said and try to formulate an intelligent response. If I continue to be attacked and flamed, I might write the person off as a troll or bigot. But I have had some of these attacks turn into thoughtful discussions on the topics at hand before. To me, it’s always worth the time to respond once, just in an attempt to educate or help the person leaving the comments.

    However, I agree with your frustration level as well. >.< Having it happen far more often than I ever have, I imagine, it must be seriously annoying to have to deal with it on a daily or weekly basis.

  3. I consider what I do loosely shamanistic, but definitely not communal in the ordinary sense. I am mostly of Northern European stock, with a dash of Romany and Comanche Indian. I frankly don’t give a damn what others think of what I do or how I do it anymore. I do what works, what gets the “job” as I perceive it done, period.

    My “community” is not one of living people at all, tho’ occasionally the living ask me for help. My community is made of the dead, I work for THEM and therefore, the living have no business telling me how to DO my business.

  4. Hm. I’m trying to help you out here, but my eloquence is not exactly top-notch. . . So, here I go.
    I personally think that critics can give helpful advice at times. Sure, there are obnoxious people and trolls out there, but to an extent, they’re right. You’re not a shaman by blood, and that gives you a somewhat different view of the culture (in my opinion — don’t take my word on it). On the other end of the spectrum (kinda), there is the concept that one is not born with the blood of a shaman, but rather with a shaman’s soul, and naturally, souls do not get passed down from parent to child. Therefore, anyone who feels spiritually connected to shamanism, neopaganism, etc. should be allowed to practice whatever he or she is drawn to. In the end, no one is right or wrong. I know that taking criticism is hard for anyone, and no matter how stupid the context is, it tears us down. But you just have to remember that in your heart, you’re probably right — as long as you follow that heart of yours 🙂

  5. I always figured you were traversing the middle ground in the most useful way possible, Lupa – you acknowledge your critics, cite your sources, explain your reasons, and sometimes you have to say “I respect your opinion but I disagree.”

    I’m not sure it’s possible to have a middle ground beyond that, since it would hinge on getting possible critics to agree on what’s “acceptable” and clearly that’s impossible.

  6. I haven’t seen you try to step on the toes of traditional shamans or make pretense of telling their secrets for a xenophobic audience, and don’t see you claiming to be something you aren’t to get followers, and particularly follower money.
    You aren’t doing that, so who (which person) is being hurt? “Appropriating” something assumes someone else is having a loss. In your case – who?
    Though there are some who think even showing interest outside of what you were “raised in” is wrong and that the majority ethnicity of a group should determine them someone’s proper religion. How they making what someone else “should” practice? Changes made from the heart among groups welcoming them in return I don’t see as being wrong or “appropriation”. That’s “conversion” or “adoption”.
    Not everybody fits or is so lucky, but it happens.

  7. Well, IMHO part of the answer is in the way you described the problem. You are trying to be aware of the voices of the oppressed whose cultures you might be stepping into – which is admirable. So…how many of the complaints you listed are *from* those people, as opposed to random easily offended neopagans? There’s lots of people out there who are more than happy to go off half-cocked about being offended on someone else’s behalf, regardless of whether they actually understand the issues at hand themselves. I don’t think you are required to give their voices any weight.

  8. That, in a nutshell, is why I coined the term Guttershaman – a purely urban form, raised on bad TV & comics & whatever you can grab – and went to some lengths to say I Am A Stupid Fucking White Man and doing my best with spare parts. Thankfully it’s not brought the same level of inspection, this far. (Or, perhaps more likely, nobody’s noticed me to comment!)

  9. Dear Lupa, I have been following you for some times, and I commented on a previous post about cultural appropriation in both art and such things.

    I can think of only one answer to give to you, that I hope you are willing to at the least give a shot to, I know It is what I do when I get frustrated about things like this.

    stop listening to people for once, and listen to the gods and spirits, they know better than a greater majority of living people, so i would tend to say they know what is best for you to do in a situation like this. When i got this calling, I had an image and a foggy path, but in the end the only thing I could do was shut up and listen to my gods and guides and here I am, not worrying about titles or names, but using something people can generally get a notion of (yes, I call myself shaman, and not just cause i work with northern European traditions, but because my guides said it is the easiest thing for people to understand) and as far as whatever I have appropriated or misappropriated into my work, it is because I was either shown, led or discovered that it works right for my work, and to hell with someone if they have an issue with it, cause i don’t answer to other people, I answer to the beings who can make my life a real living hell.

    I hope this helps a little, but like i said in there, what works for me as a shaman, may not work for you as one.

  10. When you are very public about what you do in magic, you will recieve critique, judgement and heckling. You cannot make everyone happy. Stop trying. Fact, shaman is an appropriated word, is that unethical? Does using a word from another language harm the speakers of that language? Probably not. Does the evolution of the meaning of that word in the new langauge change what the original culture practices? Probably not much.Are you representing yourself as Saami or Lapland shaman? No you aren’t. Have you had contact with spirits in an ecstastic manner consistent with shamanism? Have you done so for the health of the land around you and your community? Yes. Listen to critique, not heckling, and obviously not everyone will be happy. But perhaps you will do some good in this world 🙂

  11. One of the reasons why I joined the Unitarian Universalist congregation in my city is that its absence of a set in stone creed and message of love, acceptance, and respect for all living beings (including people) has given me the freedom to explore my spirituality and to discover that which brings me closer to the sacred. I do not see myself as a “thief” of someone elses’ culture or faith, nor do I see myself as doing harm or dishonor to rituals and practices of faith cultures around the world. They all have deep meaning for me, and I do NOT approach them lightly as the “religious fad of the moment.” I’m drawn particularly strongly to earth and animal spirituality, I would think that my willingness to practice and claim this religion deeply in my heart as a person of western European descent would be taken as a measure of respect by those cultures. This is the essence of the Sacred, not some game.

  12. Hi Lupa, it’s Mrs. S. here. I thought I would like to make a comment. I think it is an especially hard road you are traveling, though I have the highest respect for what you are doing and the way you present yourself. You are always completely up front with who you are and where you come from in your practice. i think what is hard today is trying to follow a shamanic path without the support and acknowledgment of a community that has grown up with shamanism as a way of life. Usually shamans (in my tribal culture) were recognized in childhood by elders in the community and other shamans. They would watch the child for signs, and when they found a kid who showed promise, that child was taught what they needed to know and given the “stamp of approval” by their teachers, and were recognized by the community. Most neopagan shamans are self-identified and are not supported by the acceptance of a wider community. I’m not saying this is good or bad- our last tribal shaman died some years ago, and had not found anyone to follow in her footsteps. So our tribe does not have a shaman now, and when people step up and try to claim the title there is always a lot of dissension. So who knows if we will ever have another spiritual leader come forward? Is it better to have someone who feels the pull of the spirit do their heartfelt best, or go without? i don’t know the answers to these questions. Just my perspective as a Native person and tribal member.
    Mrs. S.

  13. I understand your frustration in this. And that list doesn’t even include some of the First Nations people who seem to think they’re the only ones who can even use the word shaman. At some point, no matter who you are, there is a level past which you have to please the gods/spirits and yourself first and the rest of the world’s contradictory cries have to be ignored. You study, you label, you respect and you work. Beyond that, haters gonna hate.

  14. Yup. All the time. The most recent run-in I had was some guy saying I can’t be a shaman because women aren’t shamans, they are shamanka. *blink* Just when you think you know the argument, it rice krispies.

    • Ehh, shaman and shamanka are the same word, except with a different gender suffix attached. Shaman is a male shaman, shamanka is a female shaman. Like actor and actress.

  15. Yup. All the time. My most recent run-in was a guy telling me that I can’t be a shaman because women aren’t shamans, they are shamanka. *blink* Just when you think you know the argument, it rice krispies.

  16. It seems to me that if one looks back far enough, all of our ancestors practiced some sort of Shamanistic religion. Some cultures still practice it, some have up until fairly recently, some gave it up long ago. True, the word originates from a particular practice of the indigenous Siberian people (who, last time I checked are European), the definition has been broadened in more recent times. You are simply tapping into that which is deep in our collective psyche. I say f*ck the haters, you know you are not disrespecting anyone, and even more important, the Spirits know as well.

  17. Many people get torn up, critical, hostile, and or just plain rude over the actions of others that are really none of their concern. Thats not to say there isnt cause at times…for an extreme example if someone calls themself a wiccan and runs about drawing pentagrams in parks and leaving murdered cats in them, then yes its time for the local practitioners to stand forth and proclaim said idiot has no idea what they’re doing and in no way represents that faith…otherwise it seems generally best to let folk follow whatever path they feel drawn to. The shamanic debate is a complicated matter, and one Ive been thinking about a great deal lately due to my own workings. It is likely that sticking with the shamanic path of ones bloodline probably gives a firmer base, but many americans are thorough mongrels like myself where it would take a genealogical expert to determine exactly what blood runs the thickest in my veins. One thing I will say is just saying Germanic, or Celtic, or Slavic is about as generally useful as saying Native American…I mean each term covers a hundred groups with broad ranges both in belief and geography. Now -that- is what should be noted as a key matter in shamanism. Geography…practices vary sooo much from place to place because of the ecosystems of the place. Desert folk don’t deal much with fish-related craft and oceanfront folk don’t have many charms against scorpions. This is the reason I believe that to be complete in ones work it is essential to take up parts of indigenous practices. Its common sense….you cannot transplant a system across the ocean letter per letter just because your ancestors came from there and limit your practice ONLY to what they practiced. Think about it people….we’re tied to nature, folk like us, and there’s a great whopping lot of flora and fauna here that don’t exist in europe…and vice versa. Shamans have to adapt their ways to their environment…doing the opposite is an exercise in futility. As for the purists, good for you, and its fin you take pride in your craft….but remember that everyone has to start somewhere and try to be patient or even helpful to those who are trying to grow spiritually…even if they’re a bit clumsy at it. And for those set on the racist line…eh…piss off. I don’t have the time or patience for it and I doubt the gods do either.

  18. This is YOUR path, if it doesn’t sing for you, it doesn’t serve. I have never understood the hesitation some people have with Unverified Personal Gnosis. It isn’t UNVERIFIED if someone has verified it! You are doing what I call “shamaning to the local community.” It is our FUCTION as shamans to serve in this role. The neopagan comunity as a whole is belaboring under the misaprehension that there is some underlying single thing we should all be doing. And there is, we should all be doing our own damn evolving, and not looking for somebody else to do it for us. Discomfort should not be avoided, it should be examined like any other tool.

  19. I want to say “well, you can’t please everybody all the time,” throw my hands in the air, and call myself whatever I want. I think a lot of us end up at that point. But, as you say, to do this avoids the real issues here. Words mean things. I couldn’t just start practicing Judaism all on my own and loudly pronounce myself Jewish and expect actual Jewish people to accept me as such or approve my choice. But, then, if I felt a serious calling to that path I could work with a synagogue and take classes and eventually convert. There’s no such path laid out in our culture.
    There must be an alternative term that won’t offend people, but none of them fit. What are we? I’ve pretty much settled on “witch” since that seems closest, but what I do is a lot more like what people mean when they say “shaman.”

  20. Labels… words… language… even culture… they are all borrowed and built upon. They grow and flex as we do. Simply use love and intelligence to guide how you use these tools and indeed guide all choice/action and that is the best that any of us can do. Life is art… there will always be some who do not like the way you color things but try not to conform so much that you loose your own internal expression of beauty. If you call yourself a shaman… so be it. If you call yourself a clown, a witch, an alien, a rock star, or a nun, who am I to argue? I may define those words differently but I can still appreciate how you use the word and what you mean by the label. We don’t singly posses words any more than we can singly possess anything in our world. We must share these things and in turn also share ourselves. But that’s just my take. Blessings to you. 🙂

  21. I’m probably going to get zinged by someone for one or more of the comments I’m about to make, but like you, I’m SO tired of defending everything I do and say because I’m of European ancestry, so what the hell… It’s actually a relief to finally be able to say this “out loud”, so to speak. Sorry for the length.

    1. Those of us who are of European ancestry are going to be accused of appropriation, racism, and/or oppression by SOMEONE, regardless of what we do/say or don’t do/say. This has been my experience. I still TRY not to be guilty of any of them as best I can, but if I am doing my best, that’s the best I can do. If someone else doesn’t think it’s good enough, tough on them.

    2. If the Appropriation Police were doing their jobs correctly, EVERYONE in the world should be living culturally as their ancestors did, regardless of where they live today. That means, for example, that those of African and American Indian descent should all be living tribally, even if they live in urban areas of Europe, Asia, Africa, or the USA, and those of Mongolian descent should all be nomadic herders living in portable yurts, even if they live in Boston or Paris or Tokyo. You get the idea. Why? Because if they are living like Europeans, they are appropriating OUR culture. And no one should ever change their culture; it should be carved in stone, just like an ancient Egyptian tomb.

    3. And saying that no culture that didn’t have shamanism in it from the beginning (and who knows for sure that we didn’t?) should ever practice it is like saying that since Christianity was created by Semitic people in Israel, no one else should be allowed to practice it. Ever.

    See how stupid those last two sound?

    I’ve been trying to follow your lead with my own shamanic practice, and I think you’ve been doing a damn good job. You don’t claim to be anything or anyone you’re not, you don’t just randomly use what other cultures do without adjusting it to fit YOUR culture’s needs, and you don’t push your way as “the only right way” for neoshamans or anyone else.

    I’ve read a fair amount about shamanism from various other cultures, and frankly, I think many of those ancient shamans (and quite a few modern ones) would very much appreciate the way you do things, Lupa. A few years ago I was honored to exchange a few e-mails with an indigenous shaman in Greenland, and his belief is that ALL who honor and serve the spirits and their community and are accepted by the spirits are worthy, regardless of their ancestry or how or where they practice. If the spirits are happy with you, you’re doing it right, whatever way you’re doing it.

    • I realize this is an old thread, but I couldn’t let this go by. The idea that if the “cultural appropriation police were doing their job correctly” people of African or Mongolian descent living in Boston wouldn’t speak English, or that only Semitic peoples would practice Christianity, ignores that English speakers bought people of African descent to their English speaking countries and forced them to speak English (and to become Christian). It ignores that Christianity evangelizes and proselytizes, while the Lakota, or the Jivaro, or any other indigenous people you care to name, do not. If you offer or force your language or religion to others, and they learn and practice it, they and their descendants are not guilty of cultural appropriation. If you borrow or steal the ceremonies of a culture that does not share them with outsiders, then you have culturally appropriated. Failure to recognize this crucial difference is one of the things that pisses off indigenous cultures.

  22. What if you consider this circumstance as a puzzle that we cannot solve because the solution exists only outside the universe in which the circumstance poses a puzzle?

    Or maybe: Cultures interact with one another. Cultural appropriation insists that we can actually control the manner in which cultures interact. Except that the sum of the interactions is bigger than us, and tends to go its own way.

    Using fire is probably cultural appropriation. But who’s giving it back?

    • “Cultures interact with one another. Cultural appropriation insists that we can actually control the manner in which cultures interact. Except that the sum of the interactions is bigger than us, and tends to go its own way.

      Using fire is probably cultural appropriation. But who’s giving it back?”

      (applauseclapclapwhistle) Permission to use this quote with credit? And if so, is there a link you’d like included with it?

  23. Lupa, your personal solution seems to me to be right on. Part of this whole “debate” seems to revolve around the definition of a shaman, and the use of that particular term. One thing I think people need to keep in mind is that language is constantly evolving, and a commerce-based language like English is entirely a conglomeration of various languages, and has incorporated words from other languages from the beginning. The use of the word “shaman” that is originally from a particular culture does not in and of itself constitute cultural appropriation, particularly now that it has been adopted into the English language to refer to something that English has no other word for – what matters is HOW the word is used.

    The way I define “shaman” – basically as someone who has a relationship with spirits, travels to the spirit world, and practices spiritual (not just psychological) skills throughout life – is something that is not based on cultural traditions at all, and in fact describes a way of being that is the natural birthright of every human on the planet. Sure, the particular skills, helping spirits, cosmology, etc that a shaman uses may be particular to various cultures, but those cultural characteristics do not equate to being a shaman.

    In the course of training, a shaman may learn things from particular cultural lineages, and this is where it is important to be mindful to not culturally appropriate. But shamans also learn directly from helping spirits, and it is totally possible for a shaman’s training to come entirely from spirit. The symbol for the shamanic path used by the lineage that I am training in describes it as the “path of purity” that all other cultural/religious traditions lead to – in other words, the fundamental essence underlying all spiritual paths. Using the analogy of “all roads lead to the top of the mountain”, shamanism would be the mountain itself.

    Therefore, the way I define shamanism, it is totally possible to be a shaman without culturally appropriating. Now, in practice (creating artwork, doing ceremonies, etc) it can get trickier, since many shamans do practice specific cultural traditions. And I’m sure that people often assume that said art or ceremony is from xyz culture, due to ignorance (thinking that anything that looks primitive/indigenous is American Indian, for example) and the apparent similarity of many cultural traditions. Regarding that, all we can do is be clear and up front about the lineage of said art, ceremony, etc, and educate those who speak from ignorance.

  24. Having studied wildlife and invasive species, including peer debates on what an invasive species is verses an indigenous one. The conclusion was drawn that an invasive species is one that has been viewed as one strictly on the premise of being unwanted/undesired due to being destructive of a desired resource, yet not necessarily damaging the ecosystem, just altering in a way that is viewed as undesired. How an indigenous species is determined is merely based on it being first documented there as a well established population. This documentation had occurred only recently and hasn’t been challenged since. Archeology and paleontology plainly reveals that all current populations were “invasive” at one point or another via migrating to new territories where they never were previously. Considering our biological heritage and therefore relation to everything around us, it seems rather silly to say anybody is not indigenous. The only line one can draw to establish where one is indigenous encircles the world. That’s is the only hard line anybody can draw. All other lines are very ‘wazzy’ lines

    In the study of cultures, all cultures adapted surrounding cultures into their own, which is a completely natural process that enables the survival of the most successful of them. The cultures there are there because they are successful for one reason or another. To adapt these cultures into your own is one of the greatest compliments at is in itself an expression of its own success. It is a very positive thing that is somehow been looked at as negative, which it only is if these cultures are used in a negative way (to justify abusing human rights for example). Which in your case is far from it.

    This concern for ‘respect’ toward these cultures is really unfounded as there is nothing disrespectful in your practices as they are all done in a positive way. It may be helpful to ask yourself whenever you encounter such a challenge/criticism to ask “what harm does this cause?” If it causes harm then the criticism is valid, if it doesn’t then it is not worth your concern, there are more important things to worry about.

    Hope this helps.

  25. I’ve heard all of the “input” you mention and then some. Some people whinge than I can’t study or use anything Western European because I live in America and have native American ancestry, and should stick to only indigenous practice. Some wanna tell me I can’t mess with Native American practice because I have the English, Scottish, and Irish “blood of the invaders”, and should stick to some era of the island’s lore (totally ignoring that that’s been a gumbo all along). A few have instructed me that my very existence as an ethnic mutt is an affront to the gods of both, and I can’t do either.

    I decided that the gods, ancestors, and spirits all have their Big Kid panties on and can let me know just fine what they want and don’t want from me, and tell these twits to screw off. If some yo-yo insists that I MUST declare a one or two word definition of practice, I tell them I’m a Snoozeist before I implement the aforementioned protocol. Rock on.

  26. Apologies if this double posts; I timed out the first time and didn’t see the comment, so I’m guessing it ditched.

    I’ve heard all of the “input” you mention and then some. Some people whinge than I can’t study or use anything Western European because I live in America and have native American ancestry, and should stick to only indigenous practice. Some wanna tell me I can’t mess with Native American practice because I have the English, Scottish, and Irish “blood of the invaders”, and should stick to some era of the island’s lore (totally ignoring that that’s been a gumbo all along). A few have instructed me that my very existence as an ethnic mutt is an affront to the gods of both, and I can’t do either.

    I decided that the gods, ancestors, and spirits all have their Big Kid panties on and can let me know just fine what they want and don’t want from me, and tell these twits to screw off. If some yo-yo insists that I MUST declare a one or two word definition of practice, I tell them I’m a Snoozeist before I implement the aforementioned protocol. Rock on.

  27. Here’s the criteria I use: (1) are you doing your best, in whatever way you know it, to be respectful? (2) do you have a good relationship with the Spirits? (3) are you bringing insight/healing/resolution/clearing/ or any other Nouns of Goodness to whoever or whatever needs it that Spirit brings your way?

    If the answers to these questions are “yes,” then you are fine. This world is a better place because you are doing what you are doing, and maybe the Otherworld, too. It may be other people’s roles to bring issues of cultural appropriation to the world’s attention, and good for them. But I notice something with people whose jobs it is to be critical: it’s easy for them to get out of balance with the criticism and lapse into dogmatism. But bless them, anyway.

  28. Lupa,

    I understand your frustration and being pushed to one’s end, but I also know what a strong warrior and guide you are. Not everyone you, or any of us following your writings, come across is going to like the way you say things, the motions you go through, the things you wear, what you eat, the way you act… Personally, it sounds like high school all over again! The people who are targeting you in these things are probably doing so because they have been targeted in some similar manner before themselves. The only way to stop all of this is to help others as they are growing and discovering themselves without judgement.

    I would like to take the time to note that this is already something you do and am sure you are trying to do with each instance that you come across.

    Hun, trust in yourself to keep going on and know that, in the end, no one can tell you what is right or wrong except for yourself. If there is one thing I have learned over the years of following your work, it is to trust in myself and to accept what people throw at me with grace and understanding because a lot of people won’t like what I say, do, act, wear, keep in my home, etc. Times might be rough right now, but I assure you that you are doing the right thing by your actions. People have commented before me about the way you approach a situation; it is the choice of others to lower themselves to a standard where the best they can do is pull your hair and call you names. If they can not have a civil, educated conversation over various topics, then why give them the time of day to bring you down? I say keep up the amazing work, call what you do what ever the hell you want, and try to take what they say with a grain of salt.

    Oh and thanks for the rant. It makes you seem more human. 😛


  29. I used to get stuck in this paradoxical loop, too, and I think it’s what initially shied me away from shamanic practices. But pretty much every culture has had shamans in one sense or another, even the early Europeans. The word might be different, but the idea is the same – spiritual persons who travel the spaces between/beyond for purposes such as healing, soul retrieval, personal growth, etc.

    I also try to think about the issue of cultural appropriation in another way- most of the time, the deities/spirits I work with have chosen me, not the other way around. So am I appropriating them (and their originating cultures)? or are they appropriating me and my culture?

  30. First, I applaud the standing out on this… However, for me personally

    This line……
    “I guess I just don’t want to see non-indigenous shamanic practitioners get so frustrated with being constantly told what they’re doing wrong that they end up ignoring all the criticisms entirely” is in fact the solution.

    While I agree that there are many people doing somewhat dangerous practices, there is very little recourse within the pagan or occult culture to call them on that. Simply put, haters going to hate no matter what you do and engaging critics only fuels more critics. People who love your work will continue to love your work, regardless of the critiques around this. Believe me, I know, as in Initiated Vodou priest, I know about both of these 3rd rails. While its great to research and learn as best you can, simply put you can not satisfy nor appease most people… but you can ignore it concentrating on your core constituency ( your readers ) and have the personal integrity ( which I am sure you do), to develop your skills with the best personal effort using the resources you have available to you.

    The fact is that any public commentary in most public internet forums will be met with a similar reaction regardless of the topic in pagan or occult matters. This topic touches apon 2 3rd rails of animal sacrifice and indigenous shamanic practices. A cursory search of Ceremonial Magic arguments, Wiccan arguments, Hoodoo arguments, and really any occult topic will reveal the same pattern of frustrating commentary and depreciating the … Its just more frustrating when your involved in it, or at least if used correctly, it can be a publicity bonus….

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