As the caretaker of sacred community, I am super committed to integrity, authenticity, kindness, and connection. I want there to be a space where WE can come together and rediscover sacred ways connected to what our culture collectively calls “SHAMANISM.” Is that the best word for the work? Not really. There are many opinions on this matter, and I have considered changing it in my work and my community many times. But I have kept it because in this western culture, this word calls together people who are looking for a particular kind of community. Animism might be a better word for what we are referring to, but in reality, few people know what that means.
As a woman of both Native *and* Settler/European ancestry, I have spent a great deal of time sitting with the conversation around “cultural appropriation” and “authenticity.” I have heard people called out for not being 100% blood authentic and claiming to be Native. I have heard people called out for not carrying a card ~ and yet there are MANY Native people who do not and WILL not carry a card, and believe this idea is total nonsense. I am also an Initiate into Andean traditions and Amazonian traditions, and am grateful to have beautiful teachers there who have shared their knowledge, and who I seek to learn from each time I make the journey to Peru. And the message I have gotten from my Andean teachers has been the same for over a decade: do the sacred work, make offerings, go forth and carry what you have learned!!! Because the world is sick and really fucked up, we need all the healing we can create.
I was *personally* told to carry Despacho Ceremony back to my communities in 2005 when I had but a single Despacho experience behind me, and little understanding of the overall tradition. Not by a tourist-centered crackerjack “shaman,” but by the real deal, along with his 99 year old Grandfather, a master in these ways. His Grandfather is the one who delivered the message, after he was carried piggy-back up the mountainside for our ritual. My Q’ero teachers today have told me the very same thing: MAKE MORE OFFERINGS, do this work, go out and carry it forward. And I will also say this: that first experience with Despacho and these beautiful teachers? They told me how much money I had to pay: for their services, for the use of the car, for the food for all our lunch, for firewood, etc. For the whole thing. And I paid it happily, because money is energy, and energy is required to sustain life.
There are some Native North American traditions that do not believe it is right to ask for money in the name of sacred work. Respect to that. But it is not universal. Why, in fact ~ I was just in a planning meeting for an upcoming Animal Spirit Dance, which is guided in planning by a respected and well known elder, and will draw elders from many tribes and traditions to dance together. And we talked about FUNDRAISING. Because money is needed to make things happen. The event itself will be cost-free, but the travel expenses, food needs, maintenance and sanitation costs, and other needs are not free, and must come from the support of those who would appreciate the continuity of such a wonderful ceremony.
I will also say this: the internet is FILLED with people who are sitting deep in their own opinions and beliefs, and who clearly don’t have enough to do, and who decide they’ll spend their time trolling and calling out people who are doing real good in this world. I will be the FIRST to acknowledge that a conversation around proper respect to Native traditions from all parts of the world is good, and that a respectful conversation around cultural appropriation is useful and welcome. But calling out people in a disrespectful way, and presuming that one’s own knowledge is supreme? That is not wisdom speaking, but arrogance. Beyond whatever ways and traditions we discuss, regarding authentic or appropriative or somewhere in between, the attitude of accusing people of being inauthentic or wrong in carrying sacred work is immensely harmful in itself. There are indeed folks who have made big business out of the sacred in ways that are questionable in terms of integrity and respect. And there are amazing people who have used money as a tool to not only sustain their own lives in doing sacred work, but to support those in need, including the carriers of the old ways.