Yule is approaching fast in the Northern Hemisphere (I don't know if that needs to be capitalized, but, oh well) and you know what that means! Pagans are talking about Christians "stealing" Yule and people are discussing appropriation. Someone I follow on tumblr said they'd been seeing a lot of those "Christians stole Yule" posts on their dash, so I reblogged with a link to a video I made two years ago on Yule:
After this, I received a question in the Ask box of my tumblr, and my answer was pretty long. It's posted on my tumblr, but I wanted to re-post it here with a little extra.
There is a lot going on in this discussion, as you can see! I really do have many other questions surrounding this topic, as I alluded to above. One other thing I find interesting is that many of the Pagans saying "Christians stole XYZ" may very well be the same Pagans who incorporate practices from other religions and aren't bothered by that. The difference probably has to do with what people think of as respectful or disrespectful use. It also has to do with the ideas of permission I mentioned here, and who we trust to grant permission, or to revoke it. As I mention in the video linked toward the start of this post, it absolutely does bother me when people refuse to learn about the origins of a practice they use in their own faith, and especially when people derogate my views and practices while at the same time using those practices themselves. This, to me, is a disrespectful use. I am not bothered by those who acknowledge the origins of practices (and even enjoy the occasional discussion about what the heck it has to do with their religion anyway) and simply keep them because they resonate with them, whether it be due to religion or just to a family connection. Similarly, I am not bothered when people of other faiths want to talk about the use of practices from their culture in Paganism, and often want to provide more accurate information for use. I am bothered when anyone assumes that no one knows anything about the origins, could not possibly be respecting them, and believes we should not be allowed to use them even if they do, in fact, resonate with us, because of who we are in this lifetime.
This, I realize, is a VERY touchy subject. It is for this reason that I generally prefer not to discuss it online. At the same time, I take every opportunity I am able to learn about what individuals personally feel about this matter when I meet them, always knowing that--again, as I mentioned above in my response--whole groups will not agree on any question. I could go on for hours on this subject and the various ways it expresses itself in the life of an eclectic Pagan, especially one who has even a remote online presence as such a Pagan. Instead, I'll wrap this up for now and hopefully bring us to some place of action.
Do I understand where the "Christians stole Yule" feeling comes from? Absolutely. Did I feel this way at one time, myself? I did! Do I think it's an appropriate or necessary response at this point in my path? No, I do not. I don't believe we benefit from it in the long run at all. It is helpful only in the sense that it allows us to feel a bit righteous, and other than that, it is just negativity. I'm not saying don't be angry about it if you have to for a bit--as I said, I was, at one point, especially when I was just learning about all this. I felt like I should have known! Why didn't I know this before now?! If someone had taught me about it earlier, maybe I wouldn't have been as shocked and angry when I learned about it myself (often from the exact people saying "Christians stole Yule!" on the internet). It's important to acknowledge feelings like this in order to work through them, in any situation. Believe me, after one particular year of my life, I KNOW that to be true, and I fully believe it. You can't just ignore feelings and expect them to go away.
But why do so many Pagans hold onto this, year after year? Why do I meet Pagans at local events who, from start to finish, talk only about how they dislike other faiths for derogating us, and then when they've finished, start telling the story again? What do we gain from these negative feelings? And what about those of us who are so angry about this, but have no understanding of how some people from other cultures feel about us? It's not all people, it's not all of us, it's not all of the others. But it's people. This happens. Why? When? How long? What could we do to change this?
What could we do to change this, and for the better? I have some ideas. We could take any opportunity we have to educate, in a respectful manner. We could live by example. We could enter into discussions with people, always respectfully, and learn more about their point of view, as well (even if you don't really get a chance to put forth your/"our" point of view, learning about other viewpoints can help a lot, too. For one example of that in my life, you may choose to check out this video). We could also spend some time thinking about our own reasons for these feelings. Sometimes just understanding why we feel a certain way helps to start breaking it down, seeing where we feel it's justified and necessary and where we can do without it.
What do you think? Why does this happen, and how can we make it better for everyone?
Thank you for reading,
A little while after I posted the "On 'Stealing' Traditions" video, I wrote this blog, stemming from a comment someone left about how we can't be happy that we "still have" Yule because unless we're reconstructionists, it isn't ours to "still have" in the first place. Please read Neos & Recons.
If you liked this post, you may also want to check out these other blog posts of mine, some of which link to the videos that accompany them:
- The Hand of Protection (My Hamsa hand shirt, and why I wear it.)
- Doesn't It Drive You Crazy?! (that people are under-informed all the time)
- Inversion Aversion (About the inverted pentacle)
- Belief in a Bookstore (When a woman tried to "save" me. Accompanying blog to the video linked above)
- Atheists and Me (about learning from Atheists' questions)
- Reaffirmation & Relativism (about reaffirming faith by experiencing others)
- Rights to Terms (Wiccan) (on being "allowed" to call myself a Wiccan)
- Dear Fox News (blog) or go direct to video (about that time Fox News said Wiccans have 20 holidays and stuff)
- Spirit Animals -- Racist? (One of my most popular blog posts. Links to video toward the end.)
- Briefly Bristled (Hey, this is a good example of when I do get pretty angry about ignorance!)
- LABELS (video) or read the blog (About attempting to clear up labeling misconceptions because some people don't want some people to use certain terms)
- What's SO Wrong With It? (An earlier blog of mine, in response to people on tumblr being very upset about a certain graphic)
And here is the search result when you look up "appropriation" as a keyword on Pagan Perspective, so you may see some of the other videos the other hosts and I have done on the subject!
EDIT: 22 Dec. 2014
I wanted to share this Huffington Post article that describes a few winter solstice celebrations: