Once the initial sting from the incident with the Aboriginal man in Visitor Centre subsided the woman could see that the situation had its funny side. An question about glue making had led to her coming unstuck on all kinds of levels.
Beyond that wry humour though were some difficult realizations.
Googling cultural appropriation had bought up a lot of interesting articles written from an indigenous perspective. Reading them she could understand their anger. Of course Native Americans would be disturbed by the sight of fashion models wearing traditional War Bonnets on the catwalk. Of course Asians had the right to be offended when a pop star painted her face yellow and pretended she knew what it was like to be Asian in a predominately white country. Of course Aboriginal people were grieving over the loss of their country and the way their culture was constantly appropriated by others.
Online she searched for a definition of cultural appropriation. Opinions varied as to what it actually was but through careful reading she came up with her own understanding – cultural appropriation occurred when the ideas, beliefs and/or artifacts of a minority group were taken out of context and used for the material gain of others. In other words it was a kind of theft.
One thing that bothered many indigenous people was the way their ideas and sacred objects were taught in New Age workshops by people who had no cultural connection to those ideas and objects. Reading that the woman found herself in a very grey area – a place where some of the values and objects she cherished began to come unstuck. Did that mean she should dispense with them and cherish only values and objects that came from her own ancestral cultural heritage?
Alone in the light of the full moon she walked around the Medicine Wheel she had created in her garden. Was it wrong of to her to that? Sure she’d originally learnt the about the Four Directions from other white women in New Age workshops. Since creating the Wheel though she had spent time exploring the deeper significance of the ideas surrounding it. Then there was the time-out-of-time she spent sitting and standing in the Wheel holding her own private rituals where she acknowledged her connection to the Earth and the Cosmos. The experiential insights she had gained then about the sacred nature of all life could not be forgotten. They had become the cornerstone of her being.
The Medicine Wheel was just one example. There were the objects she made intuitively with natural materials – feathers, sticks, leather, string and gemstones. The private things she made in ceremony and rarely showed to others. Her own version of sacred objects.
Sometimes after the making she would discover in an old book or during some random online surfing that the objects she made were similar to sacred objects used by indigenous people, particularly the Lakota Indians. Attempting to understand herself she had come to think that maybe the desire to make these objects came to her because of past life connections with the Lakota. Alternatively her Western mind reflected on Jung’s ideas of the Universal Unconscious and Joseph Campbell’s ideas about sacred symbols and objects that endured across time, space and cultures.
It was the making of these objects that had led her to ask about making glue in the first place. For years she had thought that it would be better to use natural glues for the making rather than the chemical stuff that gave her headaches. All of that had been too much to try and explain to the angry Aboriginal man though. When he’d demanded to know why she had wanted to make the glue she’d stuttered out some vague response about making dream catchers. No doubt she’d come across as a ditz. The man may have thought she wanted to make them to sell. And to be honest there were times when she’d considered making more accessible objects like Dream Catchers and selling them at markets.
The desire to do anything like had utterly deserted her now though.
Looking around at the objects she had created or purchased from others she could easily see the ones that had some kind of spiritual and sacred resonance and those which were merely decorative objects. Those she had bought from others she bundled up and gave away a charity shop.
The ones she had made herself she dismantled systematically. As she worked she explored her ideas and intuitions surrounding them. It came to her that were two ways of making these things – two ways of being really.
One was grounded in the material world and often the reason for making the objects was the desire for material gain or simply to make a pretty object to hang on the wall. The other way was intuitive and spiritual – the world where Jung’s Universal Unconscious flowed through time, space and cultures – the Sacred Space of Ceremony and Ritual.
In that space Bunjil the Aboriginal Creator Being flew in his eagle form flew alongside the Sky Dakini of the Tibetan Buddhists and the Angels of the Christianity.
In that space the sticks and stones she glued together to make wands and prayer sticks had the same significance as similar objects made in a sacred way by indigenous people.
In that space the Black Madonna of her own cultural traditions walked alongside the Lakota White Buffalo Woman and the countless other manifestations of the Earth Goddess.
In that space the feeling of connection to life that she found in the Australian bush or on a mountain top in Ireland or in the silence of meditation was not something she appropriated from anyone. It was free for all to connect to. Maybe in fact it was that energy would eventually connect all who had eyes to see it, ears to hear it and a heart to feel it.