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Syncretism and Cultural Appropriation

To: alt.magick.tyagi,alt.lucky.w,alt.religion.orisha,alt.pagan.magick,talk.religion.misc,alt.pagan,talk.religion.newage
From: (lorax666)
Subject: Syncretism and Cultural Appropriation (was Religiomagical Terminology ...)
Date: Sat, 14 Oct 2000 17:19:49 GMT

50001014 Vom (E. C. Ballard) writes of Mexican Buddhas:
> ...No, they know nothing of Gautauma nor the entertaining 19th 
> century fictions about Christ visiting India. 

yes, that is what I understood, and therefore to claim that these
people "integrate Buddha into their religion" is fallacious. as
you say so well below, we're talking about appropriations of
imagery for a fit on what already existed in the culture doing
the appropriating.

> When the Chinese laborors came to Cuba like most regular people 
> (they were not the educated priviledged classes) they brought 
> the images and statues and the practices they used in their 
> everyday lives. So, when Afro-Cubans encountered an image of 
> chinese deities such as Sang Fan Kang they saw the image and 
> heard the name and associated him for function and appearance
> with Kimbambula and Orula (themselves earlier associated in 
> the same manner). When they saw Kun Kang, they associated that 
> chinese deity with Chango and Nsasi.

this kind of appropriation is going on all the time and is
something of a deliberate practice in Hermetic/Neopagan and
New Age subcultures. I feel that these people should be treated 
the same way for the personal usage they wish to make of the 
iconography and religious fragments they absorb from cultures
not their own (or to which they are born but from which they
pick and choose to create their own spiritual path).

I've heard a good deal of criticism of Neopagans and New Agers
for their "religious smorgasboard" by more conventional 
religious, and it is valuable to compare and contrast the
variety of syncretism and appropriation which does occur so
as not to observe it out of the context of global religious
cultural borrowing that actually does go on.

> This is a process of loose alignment of varying cultures. 
> Consider it a method of shorthand which ascribes equivalencies 
> to those things it encounters when it can or when such 
> asociations serve a functional purpose at the time. It does 
> not work in the linear and literature focused manner
> of our society.

here we agree strongly and I'm glad to hear you say this, thanks.

FREE HOODOO CATALOGUE! send street address to: ; ; ; 
emailed replies may be posted; cc replies if response desired

From: (E. C. Ballard)
Newsgroups: alt.magick.tyagi,alt.lucky.w,alt.religion.orisha,alt.pagan.magick,talk.religion.misc,alt.pagan,talk.religion.newage
Subject: Re: Syncretism and Cultural Appropriation (was Religiomagical Terminology ...)
Date: Sat, 14 Oct 2000 19:32:46 -0400
Organization: University of Pennsylvania
Lines: 33
References:  <8s65jd$> <> <8s9695$>  <8sa4re$>
Xref: alt.magick.tyagi:25719 alt.lucky.w:8416 alt.religion.orisha:7713 alt.pagan.magick:25078 talk.religion.misc:325980 alt.pagan:272368 talk.religion.newage:132684

Well, the difference is the people who are doing this sort of parallelism,
and it really isn't the same at all as what newagers and neopagans are
doing as I will explain, are for the most part also the decendants of the
same chinese who came to Cuba.

For that reason and because there has been a gradual incorporation of both
those people and their beliefs into a mainstream tradition in Cuba, it is
far different than the rather more hegemonic practice you so aptly
describe as spiritual smorgasboarding. 

The difference is that first these changes took place organically over a
period of time as people from the new culture (the Chinese) intermarried
and assimilated into the existing creole culture of the island. These were
traditions and the remnants of traditions that were a part of family life
and their own cultural history. This is a far cry from some neopagan or
new ager sitting in an apartment or dorm room in San francisco or New
york, or where ever, getting things out of Bullfinches mythology or
Campbell's books or worse yet, something published by llewellyn and then
deciding to throw it on the altar and take off with a magic spell.

To equate them is to totally misunderstand the context in which such
practices developed. My godfather in Cuba is known by the nickname "el
Chino". To look at him you would think he was only Afro-Cuban. However,
his mother's photo which hangs in a place of respect in his parlor is that
of a woman who would have looked at home in Beijing. 


E. C. Ballard

Debajo del Laurel yo tengo mi confianza

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