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September 16th. 2015 ...
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Thoughts on Cultural and Spiritual Appropriation
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NOTE: For a complete list of articles related to this chapter... Visit the Main Index FOR this section.
My Gods and Yours Are Not The Same
Article ID: 14152
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In A Wrinkle In Time, author Madeleine L’Engle gave us fantastical “beasts” without eyes or ears, creatures with soft muted fur and long waving tentacles, beings almost too horrible to look upon. Yet these beings possessed a characteristic that the humans in the book, and I feel humans in general, are sorely lacking. These beasts are able to “feel” they way things truly are, the essence of what makes an object that object, a plant a plant, the soul of things.
In the story, one of the main characters, Meg, is asked by Aunt Beast to describe the sun and light and color. Meg tries, but realizes that to describe what we sense to something lacking those senses is impossibility, and a limitation on how we interact with the universe. While Meg, and humans in general, can describe what we see or touch, we very rarely can grasp the way things truly are, what makes the individual an individual, and not just something that fits into a scientific sort of classification system where we are merely defined by our physical characteristics. The ability that the beasts had allowed them to interact on a deeper level with the cosmos, moving past the physical, which is how we are, into the soul, which is who we are.
You’re probably wondering what this has to do with our different Gods. For many Pagans, we view our Gods as existing on a more spiritual than physical level, and developing a sense that allows us to interact with the spiritual is one of the more important ways we connect to our Gods, let alone any other spiritual, magical, or mythical being one may believe in. It is a sense many of us seek to discover within ourselves, a journey that may take us weeks or years. In developing this sense, we come to know the world in a completely different way. And we come to know our Gods.
You would not believe how many times during a conversation about deities on a personal level, I’ve heard something along the lines of, “We both worship (deity) , just different aspects of (deity) , ” or, “Well, that’s how the enemies of (culture) portrayed (deity) . All that bad is really only propaganda; I can’t believe you fell for it, ” even, “That’s how (deity) used to be. He/She really isn’t that way anymore.”
No, no, no! Statements like this just make me want to bash my head against the wall. I realize that we all believe in our Gods in very different ways, and I completely respect that, but when I am being told in no uncertain terms that I am wrong, that I am falling for centuries old propaganda, or that somehow the person I am speaking to has a relationship with a God that is more valid and correct than my own, I tend to get fairly annoyed. And that is why I’m writing this. Because I’m tired of people assuming things about my beliefs, when I’ve usually stated how and what it is I believe. I work hard to develop and maintain relationships, with people and Gods, and since there is no human that has the inherent ability of the beasts to sense the true nature of things, I am resentful when I am told ‘we worship the same Gods’.
I am a fairly strict polytheist, so anything somewhat resembling pantheism or duotheism has no place in my belief system. It’s usually one of the first things people will find out about me when beginning some sort of religious conversation: yes, I believe in lots of Gods, and They are all different. I feel that there could be two separate deities that share the same name, and the same cultural context, and still be different entities. This is what I feel happens when the God I am worshipping and the God someone else is worshipping have completely different personas and traits.
And I am fine with this belief; it makes sense to me. I do not force the other person to follow my view that we are worshipping different Gods. I will explain to them that is what I believe about it, and move forward in the conversation. This usually works, and no hard feelings. But sometimes there is that one person who doesn’t accept a point of view different from his or her own.
You find this with any spirituality; Christianity, Hinduism, Wicca… it’s a human characteristic, not a religious one, this need to be correct and have others acknowledge our correctness. I try quite hard to respect that others view the Gods in different ways than I, and I realize others do too, but sometimes it’s just so hard to deal with those people who are so sure of their rightness, that no other way is recognized, let alone accepted. Acceptance doesn’t mean agreement; I disagree with pantheism, but I accept that many view it as the most rational way.
Obviously I view my way as correct, otherwise I wouldn’t be following it, but just because it’s right and rational to me doesn’t make it so for another. This attitude seems to upset many Pagans, who view it as intolerance, but I would disagree. I am tolerant. I just feel that it would dishonor my Gods for me to treat Them with any less respect than They deserve as the individuals They have revealed Themselves to be.
We humans are limited in our senses, our eyes do not always see well or far enough, our ears don’t always hear like they should, and our ability to “feel” the world around us is dormant nigh unto dying. Yet this feeling is so important to our spiritual selves in connecting to and defining those things and beings that we cannot, or rarely, sense with our physical senses.
If we possessed the inherent sense of Aunt Beast and her kind, we would be able to better know and understand our Gods, and those Gods that aren’t ours, and Gods who we have never even heard of. Because this sense is one that lets us see the reality of the world around us, on a deeper level than what we use right now. Instead, it seems we are merely stumbling along through the darkness and very rarely seeing the stars.
A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L'Engle
Location: New Philadelphia, Ohio
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