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What is Cultural Appropriation?

By Patti Wigington

Cultural appropriation is a term you may see referenced in many discussions of modern Pagan religion. It refers to, quite simply, the appropriation of one culture’s practice and belief system by another, but without the true cultural context. For example, NeoWiccans who integrate totem animals, vision quests, and sweat lodge sessions as an homage to Native Americans – but who are not Native Americans themselves, and do not understand the usage of those practices on a cultural level because of it – could arguably be accused of cultural appropriation.

Be aware that different people view cultural appropriation in different ways. Some see it as homage – a way to pay tribute to another group by adoption their music, dress, or religion as one’s own. Others find it insulting, and say that if a person from Group A is going to borrow things from Group B, it’s no more than blatant theft and disrespect – particularly if Group B is a marginalized or minority group, and Group A is in the majority.

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