FOR PART 1 of this THREE PART series, click HERE
This 'thought piece' was sponsored by KINDOM SHOP

The examples of appropriation I shared in the previous post, along with the history of immense pain western culture has caused Indigenous people around the world, is just a portion of the reflections we must embrace when altering our spiritual practices in consideration of cultures we claim to 'appreciate'.

A CALL TO NATURE
The Draw To Indigenous Spiritual Practices

On the path to 'finding ourselves' outside traditional religions, there is a portion of the journey we often miss. It is the thread that connects us to our own history, one mirrored by Indigenous spirituality.

We have been taught to pull our identity from carefully constructed history books about 'our country', to spend our lives in hot pursuit of power and money, and to find satisfaction in popularity and accolades.

But in truth, our spirit is tied to none of those things. We are children of the earth, and no matter where our bloodlines stem from, or what religious group(s) we subscribe to, all our ancestors once practised an earth-centred faith. 
Today, we identify religions who worship the divinity of nature as 'pagan' or 'heathen'; derogatory umbrella terms essentially meaning 'peasant' and implying inferiority, used to identify those who did not follow the three main Abrahamic faiths:
- Judaism which started when God revealed himself to Abraham in 1812 BC (over 3,800 years ago)
- Christianity which started when Jesus died in 1 AD (2,019 years ago)
- Islam which was revealed to humanity during the life of the Prophet Muhammad around 632AD (1,387 years ago).

Before these three faiths were found(ed), as well as during their reigns, earth-centred spirituality continued to be practised. Though the specific rituals and beliefs vary depending on culture, most 'pagan' religions share threads of similarity. They're polytheistic (worshipping several gods or goddesses), pantheistic (considering all living things to be godly), and animistic (believing objects, places, and creatures all hold spiritual essence). 

It is no surprise, that in this day and age when so many of us feel disconnected from nature and from ourselves, that we would be drawn to spiritual paths which bridge that connection.

EMBRACING EMPATHY BY FACING HISTORY
We Are The Children Of the Witches They Couldn't Burn

As the few surviving 'pagans' on this once green planet, the wisdom Indigenous people have gathered through multiple millennia of spiritual alliance with the earth are now being 'proven to be valid and true' by scientists; trees talk, plants heal, animals are sentient, resources are finite, and our words and actions affect our surroundings.

The multifaceted depth of Indigenous intelligence has long been lost by dominant society who busied themselves instead with suppressing sagacity. 'Witches', 'pagans', and 'heathens', were not a broom-riding sects of 'savages' driven by mal-intention (In Indo-European languages, 'Witch' actually means wise or wisdom). They were the healers, wisdom keepers, and storytellers. People who offered medicine, medical help, spiritual guidance, and emotional support to their communities.

At the beginning of the 15th century, 'pagan' practices fell in direct competition with Christianity. The Church needed to secure its power, but realized it could not reign in the way it wished to without the support from the desperately impoverished who made up the bulk of the population.

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The role of 'pagan' healers as medical practitioners gave them legitimacy as community leaders, threatening the Church's authority. In response, an oppressive PR campaign was created in a bid for social control, deeming the use of herbs and medicines by 'pagans' as an unchristian manipulation of the supernatural. It enhanced the fear of 'otherness', a mentality which justified simultaneously occurring atrocities like the colonization of the Americas, the transatlantic slave trade, and witch trials. These acts of extreme violence were rationalized by the promise that anything done in the name of God and country would be dutifully repaid in the afterlife. A mentality which today, continues to thrive.

While witch-hunts in Europe and the Americas lead to the torture and death of at least 200,000 people, 80-85 percent of whom were women over the age of 40, they were only the tip of the iceberg in terms of damnation and suppression of nature's wisdom keepers. The persecution of indigenous groups in the Americas, Australia, Africa, and Asia resulted in such genocide of culture and human life, that it wiped out entire ethnic groups, killing over 90% of Indigenous people of the Americas. Simultaneously, the African slave trade dumped bodies in such great numbers on route to 'America', that even today sharks still follow the routes taken by slave ships.

No sooner had the Americas been 'conquered' and claimed (1776-1867), the Industrial Revolution concurrently began (1750), directing the gaze of abuse to the natural world at levels never seen before. Swiftly securing the cycle of oppression for both nature and its protectors.

THE CALL OF YOUR ANCESTORS
Finding The Path To Your Ancestral Rituals

Despite violent persecution for the past 2,000 years, and still today, Indigenous spiritual practices are amongst the few to survive incessant invasions. Those of us drawn to Indigenous sacred plants and rituals act like moths to a flame, trying to find our way home again. We become blinded by the beautiful sense of belonging, taking no notice of the pains caused by our ceaseless fluttering.

Though most often intentions are pure, our own culture's custom of seizing what we want, simply because we want it, perpetuates. We're not used to giving up things we like, nor are we used to reflecting on our actions in consideration of other beings. Making it easy to justify our needs over another's healing.
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"I think because we are so spiritually starved here in the West we find it very attractive to latch onto a ready-made and still vibrant culture. The intentions behind this are good, I feel, but for me personally, I always felt it was more powerful to connect with my own Ancestors - the ones still rooted deep inside the lands that I am from", says Eddy Elsey, an English Shamanic Practitioner and creator of the Street Spirituality podcast.

"I have spoken with Indigenous Elders about this and most of them have the same opinion. They have come to share their medicine as a framework for us to rekindle ours. Drink Ayahuasca, sure, but lets look beyond the medicine for a minute - the people who traditionally use this medicine pray to the plant, they honour it, use it for divination and healing, they learn its songs - shall we travel to the Amazon and mimic this, or can we use this as a framework for our own teacher plants? We hear beautiful songs about the Condor the Jaguar, wow - they are incredible. What would happen if we did the same thing the owl and the fox? What about the animals that have their nests and burrows outside your window? Would you honour the icy rivers of Dartmoor with the same reverence as the Ganges? I think it is incredibly important to honour these amazing sacred practices, medicines, and customs of the different cultures that share them so generously. But, if you’re not honouring your land, your ancestors and your community at the same time - is it not all a bit hollow? We are the sons and daughters of Cunning Men and Wild Witches - their stories and their ways are still sealed inside the earth we walk on and the hundreds of Sacred Sites scattered across the Country. The Indigenous peoples have been incredibly generous to provide us with the keys - it is now up to us to find the locks they fit inside".

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The thing about depth and discovery is it's not a bite-sized meme we can pin to our wall nor a series of objects we can buy. It's an uncomfortable, awkward, painful, lifelong journey, which takes reflection and time. So wrapped are we in the darkness our ancestors laid out behind us, that we don't trust the light at the end of the tunnel, which promises a brighter future for all. One which looks nothing like the recent past or present 'perfect'.

It is only as we walk through the darkness of our collective history, balancing the energy of everyone's our ancestors on the way by asking for forgiveness and making reparations, that we can begin to see the soulful glimmer which drew us this way.

No matter what spiritual practices you follow, or what rituals you're drawn to, the light you fly towards stems from the truth all life shares, which is bound in Love of one another and our biosphere.

We must find ways of tapping into that truth without perpetuating the pains of the past because there is no spiritual solace to be found when you separate individual well-being from the health of the whole.

We are the children of the witches they couldn't burn. We are children of the earth, the daughters and sons of healers, wisdom keepers, storytellers, and protectors of the natural world. Be in communication with the living planet and all that lives on it, rather than leaping towards the transcendent. Dedicate yourself to harmony with nature and fellow beings, so our collective conscience can be synonymous with social cohesion.

In PART 3, coming up in a few weeks time, I will share a list of books, Indo-European spiritual leaders and resources, as a toolkit for the path back to ourselves and each other, allowing us to honour our ancestors and the plants native to where our spirits stem from, as well as the plants and people native to where we live now. 

This was PART 2 in the three-part series on decolonizing your spiritual practices. STEP 1: Arrete, Acknowledge and Apologise showcases four tales of appropriation, a brief (and incomplete) history of colonization, and a list of Indigenous resources, which you can read



** This post 'thought piece' was sponsored by KINDOM SHOP, rather than advertising their ethical and sustainable story, they have chosen to support conversations intended to enhance our collective reality. 

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SPONSORED POST: This post 'thought piece' was sponsored by Kindom Shop, rather than advertising their ethical and sustainable story, they have chosen to support conversations intended to enhance our collective reality. 
PLEASE NOTE: I want to be clear to any followers of Abrahamic faiths who are reading this that I by no means intend to disrespect your religions. This piece is a guide for those who are appropriating religion from oppressed communities, as well as anyone carrying white privilege, in facing the hard truths of our history so we might begin to repair the violence of our past as well as misconceptions of what surpassed.