Someone in a group discussion the other day claimed that when modern Witches use concepts and practices from Gardnerian Wicca, they are engaging in the “cultural appropriation” of a tradition that is British.
“Cultural appropriation” is being wildly over-used (and misused) by folks in modern Paganism and Witchcraft. I agree that cultural appropriation *is* a problem in modern times, but it isn’t a widespread global crisis. And when I hear it in reference to Wicca, I definitely think that it is being grossly misunderstood.
Many times when someone “cultural appropriation”, they are really referring to “cultural borrowing”. ”Cultural borrowing” is simply an organic human process that occurs when you put two human cultures side-by-side. There are thousands of examples of this occurring throughout history, because it is a natural human process. It is a simple human tendency to borrow ‘what works’ and use it. That is what has made us successful as a species for hundreds of thousands of years. We are resourceful! We identify what works, and we use it.
If you look at cultural borrowing throughout history, there are quite a few examples where it actually enabled a minor culture to survive in ways that would not otherwise be possible. And in other instances, it created new cultures that were stronger and more robust. The Angles and Saxons for example. One could argue that each culture was at a point weak… but combined, they created a much stronger culture that was able to survive and prosper.
Without cultural borrowing, we have languages that are at risk of extinction. The Gaelic languages are dying, and the folks trying to save it aren’t always Gaelic. In fact, the Gaelic youth have shown no interest in their own culture and it is those of other cultures and ethnic groups that are revitalizing that group of languages. Should those languages die if there are no Gaels who wish to carry on the tradition? I hope not.
Now, it *is* problematic when someone outside of a culture claims to be in the culture, and uses that deception to sell products and services. If I all of a sudden claim to be a voodoo priest, and start charging for ‘exorcisms’. Or if I claim to be a Native American medicine man, and start selling courses to teach Native American spirituality. That is real cultural appropriation. And when we mis-label things as ‘cultural appropriation’ that are not cultural appropriation, we belittle the thing when it actually happens. Thus the need to accept ‘cultural borrowing’ when that is what it is.
Anyway. Let’s label things what they really are, and let’s not belittle the problem of cultural appropriation by using the term where it doesn’t apply. How about we all stop fighting like third graders and finally grow up… into a mature, modern faith that demands the respect it deserves.