lemurling (lemurling) wrote in secularspirit,

Spiritual Appropriation - Home Wardings

I very recently made a gift to my mom of something I called a "pagan mezuzah" and now I am feeling slightly conflicted about it. A couple years ago or more I was really made aware of the idea of cultural theft when religious and cultural beliefs/rituals/celebrations/objects are appropriated and recontextualized in other forms. A certain amount of constant cultural appropriation occurs simply as the byproduct of a globalized world. My transformation of Christmas into Gifting is an appropriation, just as Christmas has roots of appropriation of pre-Christian traditions. When is appropriation harmful rather than complimentary? When is it theft as opposed to inspiration? This is a subject I really need to delve into further, and maybe I'll find time to do that soon, but my current dilemma surrounds this pagan mezuzah.

A year and a half ago I saw the work of a Judaica artist, who worked in metal and stained glass and gemstones. I was very drawn to these ritual implements, but especially his mezuzahs, small cases meant to be fastened to a doorpost, containing a fragment of scripture. Now I didn't do a lot of research, about them, I just got the basic idea that these were sort of protective things, and that was where my imagination took off. I thought it was a shame that non-Jewish people didn't have something like that, and starting thinking about what a non-Jewish version would be like, and I came up with a case to be placed near the entrance of the house, that contains a blessing.

When I made one for my mom, I used colors of clay that I thought she would like, and symbols of the goddess (because she's into goddess-worship, not an atheist like me), and I used sections of glass and bits of copper and wire as well as semi-precious stones and beads, to make something that really came out rather lovely. Then I asked a friend who is a "pagan priestess" (I'm not sure if she really appreciates being called that, but I don't really know what the right phrase to use is) to put a blessing on a scroll that fits into a spiral cage inside the open-backed box. When I was building it, I tried to think about the sort of energy that I hoped would be drawn to the house, and I told my friend my desires so that the scroll could be filled with that intention too, and overall when it was all put together, it really felt nice. My mom loved it, and loved my explanation of it. For my own atheist sake, I felt like I needed to tell her what it meant and what energy it was supposed to bring, and how it was supposed to create a boundary around her home which she could use to bring into her home only what she wanted to bring in... all of this being groundwork for psychological triggers, since I don't really believe in magic, though I do believe in positive energy.

I felt pretty happy about the gift, but then I started wondering if I'd crossed the line. The idea of protective objects isn't unique to Judaism of course, in fact the mezuzah is far more about Jews remembering the scripture, and god and stuff, not protection of their home. But I haven't done any research into what other things like the mezuzah exist, whether specifically a container of a secret blessing adorned with significant symbols is universal enough for it to be culturally inoffensive to create a variation of it, or not. I can't deny that my direct inspiration was another culture's ritual implement, and I proceeded to remove it from it's context and use only the outward trappings of it. Is that really different from other ritual appropriations? Did I change things enough, or too much? Would a Jewish person object to going to my mom's house and seeing this box hanging on the wall next to her door (and not on the doorpost, where a mezuzah belongs)? And if some Jewish people would care, and other's wouldn't, whose permission is relevant?

I feel bad that I didn't ask anyone, so I guess I'm writing in the hopes of soothing my conscience. Maybe if I find other examples of this sort of ritual object, I can feel more secure about the gift and what it means, and why I made it, and where it falls in my ritual life. I really did love how it looked, and felt, and I want to make one for my own house that will remind me of the energy I allow into my home, and which can become a focus of other ritual gestures. A very long time ago a friend gave me a piece of snowflake obsidian, which he said would ward my door, and ever since I have placed this kind of stone over my main doorway, and when I do big cleanings I remove the stone and sweep out all the bad energy (ritually and psychologically, my relationship to anything more supernatural remains problematic), and then when I am done, I put the stone back, and it caps the experience. This simple warding seems clearly generic enough to be culturally inoffensive, but the blessing box does not, and I need to think more about that ritual object before I create another one.

Do any of you have ritual objects that ward your home? What form do they take, and where did your use of them arise from? Are they your own invention, part of a specific culture, or a combination? If they are part of a culture, is it a culture you belong to, and if so, by birth or by choice?
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