Cultural appropriation – being aware, respectful and open to change

We realise that some of you joining our circle are new to exploring different types of spirituality.  Something that many are becoming more aware of is something known as cultural appropriation.


My personal gnosis (personal belief that grows from the knowledge I gain but is also based on my own feelings) is that appropriation is taking parts of another culture without understanding the significance or using part of a culture that has been historically used to put others down but facing none of the same prejudices. Appreciation is taking part of a culture and understanding its significance in context.


An example of Cultural apportion would be the proliferation of Buddha statue heads that are sold as ornaments to put tea lights or oils in.


Buddha status have religious meanings, each statue, pose and shape have deep religious spiritual meanings for those who practise Buddhism.  An equivalent could be the disrespect a Christian would would feel by purchasing a head of Jesus with oils or tea lights in (something you can’t buy I did go and look!) 


The history behind Buddha heads is also upsetting for Buddhists, when people first came to their country many of their temples had the heads removed from the Buddha statues and taken out of the country as a souvenir.  


Having just the head of the Buddha would make the item purely decoration rather then a spiritual connection. Advice would be if you feel connected to Buddha and want to use icons from the faith is to spend some time finding out about the different statues. Try to find people from the Buddhist faith or country who are selling the statues  and how you should keep the statue when you bring it home.

Examples of Buddha heads that can be purchased via large online stores.

My clan tartan
Examples of silly tartan hats

A less spiritual one I get asked about, is the the Scottish Tartan question – can I wear it? With regards to appropriation the Tartan itself was not invented in Scotland although we are one of the only cultures to attach such a significance to the patterns. Many cultures have a repeating pattern in their cloth, So wearing a Tartan scarf or skirt is not an issue! Also a lot of what looks like Tartan will be plaid here is an explanation of the difference:


  • Plaids are any crisscross patterns of two or more colours;
  • Tartans are plaids with a name to identify a community;
  • Checks are plaids with a regular pattern, usually of only two colours”

Tartan has a special place in Scottish history, in 1746 amongst other ways of Scottish life – language, customs – Tartan was banned. Prior to this Tartan was just normal everyday highland dress afterwards it became a symbol for freedom of culture and adopted as the national dress in around 1782. 


The offensive Tartan stereotype is some of the costumes that are used to exacerbate the myths of the Scotsman as a bit silly, idiotic, horny or entertainment. Alot of our football fans for example wear the Tartan hats with ginger hair to Scottish football games, so why is that ok? Surely something that is offensive to many people should be banned. Mainly its been used by the Scots to reclaim the stereotypes, comedians use it to get points across etc.


Whilst I do know my clan Tartan (I could also use a few but you use the closest relatives) Clans are not a huge part in most Scots day to day lives, we don’t swear fealty or live in Clan groups. So please appreciate Tartan, if you have Scottish ancestors find out your Tartan ( here is a good place: but please think before donning a costume of Tartan that stereotypes us. 

Being fairly new in scene it took me a while to get my head around how many different practices there were, how everyone’s personal spiritual gnosis are valid, I am not in a position and would not tell you how to worship or take things away that you have been doing and connect too. But would just advise that when learning something new try to go directly to teachers from that culture so that you know the Why and the How and can carry on the tradition respectfully.