I am opposed to the neo-shamanic movement which suggest to anyone from anywhere that he or she is free to do whatever he or she likes. I am opposed to culture-theft, and I am opposed to the weekend workshopper going about with feathers, rattles and drums believing that they have the gods-given right to whatever knowledge. I am opposed to these things, but not for the reasons that many may think.
I am a seiðman. I am Ásatrú and have been Ásatrú
for almost a quarter of a century. I study people. Partially because of
my degree (MS in Communicative Disorders specializing in Hispanic and Native
American problems), partially because of where I live (in a small town
in New Mexico), and partially because I am one curious son-of-a-buck. I
have spent almost 21 years studying other cultures as well as my own. But
first and foremost I am American Ásatrú.
Why Ásatrú, then, and not Methodist or Catholic since
that is my heritage? In 1968 I ran across a book of northern Germanic mythology
in my junior high school library, and it struck a deep chord in me. For
years, I had known that few people (at least the farmers) in my home town
followed their religion like the preachers would have them do. After reading
this book, I knew why. Their cultural value system, their world view, was
not Methodist but Germanic. (Interestingly enough, my name, Linzie, is
Swedish, but we had been German for more than 2 centuries.) Now, I understood
some of the thinking process in community decision-making, and that there
was an underlying beauty to the whole thing. This was something as beautiful,
down-to-earth, and as welcoming as any Native American religion that many
of my friends were chasing after (including myself, I must admit), and
from that point, I was Ásatrú. I officially converted over
in 1972. I am and have been American Ásatrú for a quarter
of a century.
Like the rainbow-colored neo-shamans, I love to study other cultures. I do this for the same reason so eloquently explained by Edward T. Hall, the famous anthropologist, in his book Beyond Culture. The important thing about studying other cultures (I'm paraphrasing: check the book out for yourself.) is that by doing so, we learn more about our own. Any individual is at a great disadvantage when it comes to knowing his or her own culture because culture is an integral part of the individual. Only by studying cultures completely different from our own, and through occasional culture clashes or (sometimes) through grave misunderstandings do we learn about our own. It is as though foreign cultures act as a backdrop against which our own shows up with the greatest differences between the two showing up rather dramatically at times.
The rainbow-colored neo-shaman often falls into the trap of somehow believing
that their own culture is inferior (or sometimes superior) or (worse yet)
that all cultures are somehow the same. This is far from the truth. This
is as far from the truth as the NewAge-sewage line "Well, all Gods are just different
aspects of one another." What a bunch of fur-lined crap! If
all cultures are basically the same, then what are all the wars about?
Money? Natural resources? Think again. One culture doesn't like what another says or does or believes, and feels
itself superior. we might all be homo sapiens, but we sure
don't think alike.
There does not appear to be a right or wrong. Certainly, we will commit faux pas out of sheer unadulterated ignorance, usually, but we would most likely commit these anyway no matter how much we think we know. We will always see and hear through the eyes and ears of our own upbringing. We can expend large amounts of energy trying to be something we are not, or we can smile, apologize for our role in the error and get on with our lives. Doing the latter costs very little in terms of power and avoids energy expensive conflicts.
I enjoy going to Native American dances and Hispanic Catholic services (especially the secret ones like the Penitentes' estaciones). I love ethnic music and foods. To participate in a baile (Spanish traditional dance). But, I do not claim them as my own. It costs way too much in trying to keep up the phony front. I am Ásatrú, and I am a seiðman. I know my history and my starting point and cherish them. I don't need a fake history; mine is glamorous enough.
Rainbow-colored neo-shamans? No self-discipline, no history, no culture. Why bother?