Is the word "shaman" cultural appropriation?

April 1, 2019

Yes is the answer- and I still use the word. Let me explain why I refer to myself as a “shaman”

 

I have seen a lot of posts recently suggesting that using the word “shaman” is cultural appropriation. I want to explain why I choose to use the word.

 

Basically it is the word most understood by the people I communicate with.

 

That’s it.  It is not my favoured word. It does not reflect my cultural roots, nor the heritage of my spiritual tradition. But if language is to communicate- then shaman is the word that is best understood. And that is why I use it.

 

My preferred words?

 

Volva

This more accurately reflects my spiritual path and training. It is a Norse word which is usually translated to mean “shaman or seer” which with the blend of shamanism & tarot I practice is about perfect. But what is the use of using a word in my advertising that is not particularly well understood?

 

It is a beautiful word. However words are for communicating so I although I may use it on occasion I don’t use it often.  (I think I will be using it more in general conversation though!)

 

Witch

Love this word. Powerful, earthy, British. Reflects me quite well.

 

But- I have been into shops with my Tarot flyers and asked to leave a few. I have seen shopkeepers shake their head and tsk at me. “Uhh no, not tarot thank you” I look at all the cards for reiki, angel cards, energy healing, yoga and the like and I despair. That is how judgemental our British culture still is. Mention Tarot or Witch at your peril. 

 

So much as I love the word Witch I am not sure it would help me express clearly what I do.  Even though witch craft is no longer illegal it is still seen by many as “evil”. I would love to use the word- but its connotations are too big for me to challenge right now.

 

Perhaps the fact that my personal Goddess is Hel doesn't really help with the whole witches are from the Devil idea either!

 

And so I use the word Shaman. Because it is the word that best reflects what I do, with out the negative cultural associations connected with “witch”. 

 

It is a culturally borrowed word until such a time as I can use the correct word from my culture and be accepted for using it.  It is on loan until my culture catches up with the importance of the interconnectedness of all. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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