Living now in the American Southwest I see a fair amount of white women appropriating native American culture for fashion. A moment after my judgment, I wonder, “Am I doing that, too? In any way?”
I am not at all a fashion person, so that’s out. But I do read and study many cultural myths, looking for the universal message in the story. I identify with the hero-women in myths from all over the world. I see messengers in the nature all around me here in the desert, more than I ever did when I lived in other parts of the world. That’s what my book, Exploring the Magic of Your Hero’s Journey, is all about!
While I reference many, varied cultural myths and symbols, I believe (hope) I have done so respectfully. I use those stories and heroes to teach.
I read an article that provided some questions that can help keep us honest when using other cultures’ attributes. A Guide to Understanding and Avoiding Cultural Appropriation asks:
Why are you “borrowing” this? Is it out of a genuine interest? Is it something you feel called to do? Or, does it simply look appealing and you’re following the trends?
What is the source? For material items such as artwork, was it made by someone from that culture? What does this item mean to them?
How respectful is this to the culture? What would someone from that group feel about it?
Today, I read one my posts from a couple of years ago, in which I described a hawk perched on my front step and the time a few months before that when hawks were “stalking” me. I did list some native american beliefs regarding the symbology of a hawk, but I also described the symbology I created for myself –that makes sense for me. To me seeing a hawk, especially one circling and riding the thermals in the sky, tells me to slow down and float for a bit, use the tools I’ve learned over the years. Get out of my head! Use my wings!
On our Hero’s Journey mentors and allies give us tools both mundane and magical. Some of these tools might not be “Western” and may even be sacred to others. Even if you’re not at a rest stop point on your Journey, stop for a while and do a self-audit. Respect for your tools will make them even more useful and you more powerful.