This first bit is going to be cross-posted from something I just put on my tumblr, where this originated. Then I'll add on.
Someone sent this anonymously to someone I follow on tumblr:
Using the term spirit animal is cultural appropriation and perpetuates racism. I didn’t know until someone told me, so I thought I’d pass the information along. Better terms can be “patronus,” “daemon,” or something similar.
It is, of course, referring to the trend of calling someone or something, especially in the media (Honey Boo Boo, Doritos, that lady who isn’t a model, etc.), your spirit animal.
I was wondering what those of you who also believe in and work with spirit animals think about this. Personally, I never had a problem with it or thought it was racist. Admittedly, this could be because I don’t think spirit animals and similar concepts are specific only to certain cultures and races, so it would be difficult to say exactly whom you are appropriating. I think Native Americans/American Indians are probably the big one people in the States think of, but other cultures use these concepts, as well.
Patronus and daemon actually have more direct cultural connections (they’re not just things made up in books, although the Harry Potter patronus makes more sense with this trend than the Roman patronus) (and daemons are Greek), so I really don’t think they’re any better if you want to avoid something that could potentially be making fun of a culture.
So anyway, I put pagans in the title of this just because there’s a higher chance of finding people who work with these concepts there, but of course non-pagans do, too. So this is just for anyone who believes in and works with these types of guides, or whatever you personally call them. What do you think?
So, here is my add-on section:
mikothecat replied to my post saying "I never thought of it as being racist either. Much like you said, I never considered the idea of having spirit animals limited to a certain group of people or culture."
Someone else suggested the word "Eomkin" which translates to "I am kin." When I looked this up online, the only result I found was a link to the tumblr post wherein someone suggested that word as an alternative, non-offensive term for "spirit animal."
On that post, further up, was where someone suggested "daemon" and "patronus" saying that the only person you're appropriating with "daemon" is Pullman and only Harry Potter with "patronus." However, as I said in my original post, daemon and patronus DO also have cultural meaning. A daemon is a Greek nature spirit. Pullman was certainly not the first to use this term. So you could easily be offending a Hellenist or other followers of Greek religion. And patronus does make more sense in the Harry Potter definition, but the word means "patron" in Roman culture which is where I think Rowling probably got the idea to use that word for a spirit who protects someone. Several of the words she uses in the books for magic spells are actual words, so I wouldn't be surprised if she chose patronus knowing its Roman origin.
Anyway, point being, some people are taking this "racism" thing pretty far when they seek to replace their "offensive" terms with thing that have even more direct history. I do believe that spirit animals are a concept that spans several cultures, whereas these other terms definitely only stem from one.
If you're going to call something racist, at least look up the things you want to start saying instead.
Further edit! I have received a reply on tumblr from a Native American, saying theirs is the culture being appropriated because that is where said terms originated, and as outsiders, we cannot know what spirit animals are about, etc. and we can't use them. Furthermore, I was also being offensive by asking pagans their opinion on this, because they are not pagans' concepts to have opinions on. I explained in the post, as you can see above, that I addressed pagans just because I know pagans use similar concepts, so I was hoping to reach an audience that would have an opinion about it that way. But basically, I'm an eclectic practitioner. Everything I do is probably deemed offensive by someone, no matter how well I look into it and how respectful I am of it--it is racist simply because it's not from my culture. It doesn't matter if a Native American taught me these concepts, or if a Native American wrote the books society reads to learn about these concepts. It doesn't matter what we do, in some cases. And I am still confused about the fact that cultures other than Native Americans do use these concepts. But I've asked the person who wrote to me about that, and I hope to gain some more understanding. Also, I will definitely make it a point to ask my Native American friends about this, now that I know theirs is the culture we're talking about.