Queer I Stand
The Indigeny Debate
So, when the attempt of some modern Pagans and polytheists to identify as "indigenous" in their practices goes on, I get very uneasy indeed, and I feel it's almost like cultural appropriation all over again. Many modern Pagans and polytheists are sensitive to this matter where Native Americans are concerned, as well as other cultures; but, it's not a sensitivity that is carried over into terminological choices in this regard. No, no one individual or culture "owns" the word "indigenous." But as a classification for a very real type of culture that is under very real threat in the modern world, it doesn't feel just or genuine to me to group ourselves under that term, with all its political baggage, no matter how similar many of our theological views might be.
I am a native of the place where I was born, and I live in that same general area now; nowhere else feels like home to me, and this is my psychic and cosmic landscape that I carried with me, whether I lived on the other side of the state, the other coast of the U.S., or on another island off the northwest coast of Europe. I don't happen to practice the religion nor belong to the culture of the people who have lived the longest on that piece of land where I was born, and whose culture was shaped by that land, and the gods within and upon it. I have done all I can to get to know the land where I live as much as possible, and to honor the gods, spirits and powers of it and within it, and to know the people who have lived here, and to study the history of the peoples and families from whom I have come. Greece, Rome, Egypt, the Near East, Ireland, Britain, Gaul and even India and Japan have had significant influences on my religious outlook and my spiritual practices, drawn from the indigenous traditions of those lands. Far-flung seeds from far-off soils have landed here and sprouted, putting down roots and sending out leaves in the form of my person and my practices.
But am I indigenous? No. Like the Scotch broom that has overrun many roadsides in my state, I'm an invasive species. I can do my best, however, to not become a noxious weed like the Scotch broom, not only by practicing my religion as virtuously as possible, but also by not ever having the illusion that though this land has nourished me and provided the very building blocks of my physical and spiritual being, that I am anything but a guest here. As much as this is my home, I know I'm not the one who holds the lease.
If you find yourself in a similar position, I'd invite you to critically consider your usage of the term "indigenous" in relation to your spiritual practice. No matter how much some of the luminaries of modern Paganism and polytheism may encourage you to "think in indigenous ways," remember that you're doing so from a diasporic perspective, which is always different from indigeny, as such.
P. Sufenas Virius Lupus is a metagender and a founding member of the Ekklesía Antínoou (a queer, Graeco-Roman-Egyptian syncretist reconstructionist polytheist religious group dedicated to Antinous, the deified lover of the Roman Emperor Hadrian and other related gods and divine figures). E is a contributing member of Neos Alexandria and a Celtic Reconstructionist pagan in the filidecht and gentlidecht traditions. Follow Lupus' work on the Aedicula Antinoi blog.