I have recently had experiences that left me feeling unsettled about spiritual cultural and intellectual appropriation and reflecting deeply on what aspects are ok or not to draw on as they aren't from our lands or rooted in our recent culture. This blog has sat for a few months with me unsure of posting it but found it yesterday after writing another blog and had a feeling to update it and post it authentically.
I am aware much of our culture and lives is via appropriation of some kind at some point throughout history and I understand it has its place and is incredible at times. Especially in today's modern fragmented society.
I have been intensely reflecting on the importance of honouring the earth by looking to our own traditions, our own lost heritage, our own plants in our local treasure chest of an abundant herbs and plants that would love to work with us.
It is a question I often pondered on but felt perhaps it was good to share, that western Europe and many other societies were so lost in our somewhat fragmented spiritual and material culture that looking to others is often good too as it rebalances us. As despite being from different lands we are all of the same spirit, we have the same bodies just different ways of looking after them and honouring life.
I do believe this,
In November last year I met a beautiful indigenous lady from Ecuador, a beautiful soul. I wanted to learn postnatal healing from her directly because I felt after learning aspects of this amazing postnatal healing from a western woman, I didn't understand the culture it came from and it left me feeling that something was missing. Having been a 'healer' and interested in shamanism, knowing how to feel and see energies, I had felt the aspects of the training i was missing were of this nature and due to the cultural life long learning not being present.
I learned this lady was upset by the use of her long line of ancestors wisdom being taught in the way it was lacked deeper understanding. What i'd felt became real, seeing this indigenous healer hurt for her ancestors knowledge being potentially mistaught really touched my heart and soul.
I really began looking around me with my heart, at religion and spirituality in our western world, seeing that spirituality has always spread accross the world being a daughter, fresh to new people and needing to adapt to it's people when it lands in each country.
With people's spirituality and consciousness opening in the modern world we are looking to natural indigenous sources once more to aid our spiritual and healing tool kits, and in doing so even this is stripping the land and not always honouring it.
Herbs and crystals are two big examples.
The big two biggest known smudging/ clearing herbs are endangered, they are over used, demand is so high the local people don't have enough for themselves (It's the same with the tools, rebozo and manta!!! ).
Palo Santo and White Sage, both sacred native plants to north America and South America are endangered.
Whilst I believe these plants consciously in a collective plant consciousness are aware of their need globally to help their earth, we aren't helping them by stripping them so heavily.
Local uk herbs that offer a good a job for cleansing, clearing and changing the energy of a space are Lavender, Mugwort, Juniper. Rosemary, common sage, thyme, bay, Melissa...just to name a few!
These are just a few I have used, writing this off the top of my head.
Be careful always to check contraindications though!!
To create your own smudge stick all you have to do is find the plant you'd like to use, ask the plant if they mind, (It may sound silly but you'll get a feeling, you'll know).
I'm very drawn to a druidic path, with druid belief many of us leave a gift in return, I like to give the plant extra nutients, and I offer strands of my hair (sounds nuts but is an exchange, imagine someone cutting you 😉), a drink of water, and nutrients. People in the past used blood as it's from you, so a fair exchange. Once you have your cutting of 6 to 8 inches, bundle them together into a bunch and tie string around the bundle tightly.
Then hang it up to dry. It will take a few days, but once dry you can light it and use it to smudge your space.
It's so easy to do. Often with some herbs i don't even make bundles I just light the dried leave in a dish or shell. Especially if I'm just smudging myself, one other person, or my work space.
We can honour our land and the land around the world by looking to our own.
Then the world of crystals is just as big. Look at the mines we have created for mining them! Many crystals have a sad story if you look into it.
I believe crystals can't hold their spiritual value after being removed in the way they are, then transported from shop to shop, polished, sometimes dyed, by the time they reach us I wonder if energetically they are dead. Maybe I'm wrong but the process feels so wrong.
A stone, or shell off the beach can hold as much energy in its own way, raw, alive and cleansed by the sea.
As a culture western people seem to have a feeling of 'I need this, I'll take it', there is a lack feeling of empathy for the world, even if we feel we have care and empathy for the world, do we really? We are lost in a material white privilege world (myself included although I like to think not). I hate to say white privilege as it make me feel racist simply using that word but I can't help but see it that way. Perhaps 'western privilege' is a better word for it.
I see this in the spiritual world too, I'll be shot down for saying it but there are certain things I feel are prime examples of using a spiritual gift from another culture without deeper understanding, and have become an accepted cultural appropriation.
'Healing' is an example, as is yoga sadly. Often we can learn healing over a handful of weekends, some trainings offer mentoring and case studies but often in they don't.
Then people go out into the world offering their 'skill', and often without experience of what they may face without derper knowledge and understanding.
Don't get me wrong I'm not dishonouring people's experiences as I'm aware many will disagree with me, and each experience of healing and learning has its place in our lives, but I do feel most people won't have the experience for things that can arise with spiritual healing from very little training/ experience. Im using spiritual healing because its what i know. I feel depth it really takes a lifetime or more to learn, I feel the more I learn the less I know when it comes to healing.
In the western world we dip in and out take what we need without full cultural understanding of what we are using. For many forms of spiritual teachings, healing or yoga taken from other cultures the original teacher is many people removed from the person offering the knowledge or healing in a long linaege which can leave much room for missing out vital information the original teacher would have taught or felt important in the teachings .
Im no expert, i have experienced healing in different treatments as a client and sat various trainings learning it since I was 22 (spiritualist churches, Reiki 1 twice, and shamanic practitioner healing trainings). I feel like I'm digging a hole here, its hard to express this without touching nerves for others as we all feel honest in our training and that's perfect for that person.
Perhaps the world is asking us to spread indigenous forms of healing in this quick manner to save itself? That's a thought to ponder on. As many of us believe things happen for a reason this is no different.
Perhaps there's deeper universal workings going on that none of us understand.
If you've read this far thank you for putting up with my heart felt waffling. All I'm trying to really get across is that we need to be mindful when we learn something what the bigger picture is, if it's from another culture lets learn more about the culture, go there, meet people from there and learn from them. People want to teach when they know something is amazing and will help the world, it is of course natural, and amazing, but let's learn and teach with integrity, love, authenticity and with an understanding that we are always learning.
This land I'm living on in the UK has so much to offer us too, we have our heritage, a deeper culture too among the modern fragments. Humans have inhabited these lands for 60,000 years.
In fact we are all indigenous really! We all have ancestors that were immigrants to the land too. Native Americans crossed over continents in the beginning too.
Plants growing around us want to heal, and share, our ancestors want to teach, our traditions want to be found.
I watched an amazing film and series called 'Time of The Sixth Sun' this week, I'll leave you with something I took from it that resonated deeply with me. It's not a full quote but residual of my understanding from it.
Every person, every creature, every being on earth has a purpose for the earth, all with an ability to work together - this includes humans, it includes you!