Appropriation is looking at something from somewhere else, going, “ooh, shiny!”, and taking it to use yourself.
Appropriation happens all over the place – among musical styles, among art styles, between cultures and religions, from the past to the present.
Appropriation has ethical implications, especially when a more powerful group are taking things from a less powerful group.
Appropriation can deal with concrete things – artifacts, practices – but it also happens with words, styles, concepts, ideas, which are harder to identify.
Appropriation can hurt people: it can take away culture, make mock of religion, and support many forms of oppression.
Appropriation of the harmful kind is done by white Western Neo-Pagans like me, as the Lakota have made clear.
Appropriation is often done thoughtlessly, without realising the harm or the insult caused.
Appropriation is often defended as an expression of respect, or a form of learning from others, or just something that happens.
I don’t think it’s wrong to learn from others.
I don’t think it’s wrong to admire what is good and beautiful in other traditions.
I don’t think it’s always wrong to share what you have learned.
But it is wrong to pretend to be what you are not, or to know what you don’t,
and it is wrong to use other’s ideas without acknowledgement,
and it is wrong to perpetuate historical forms of oppression.
It is right to learn first, and with respect, and only what is freely taught.
It is right to be clear about your sources, and acknowledge them publicly.
It is right to continue to struggle with this issue.