Sunday, October 23, 2016

Soft Pantheism and Hard Pantheism: What's the Difference? Does it Matter?

We often hear the phrase, “All gods are one god,” but what does that really mean?  Is it an acknowledgment of monotheism? Is it truly how we see our gods? What does that mean?  This is, in essence, soft pantheism.  It is the belief that the deific energies of our universe manifest themselves in the way we, as individual human beings, can best interpret them. Hard pantheism is, by its very nature, the opposite.  All gods live and exist in their own right. Does the difference really matter?  I tend to say probably not, in the grand scheme, but in my own practice, I do make the distinction.

For many of the soft pantheists I have known, any god form from any pantheon can be interchanged with a ‘corresponding’ god form.  I have heard soft pantheists (and I love this example!!) do their best to equate Isis with Hekate.  Is it doable?  With some stretching and pulling, yes.  With this same stretching and pulling, I have heard these same people try to convince other that Hekate came into being as a deity because the worship of Isis spread north from Egypt.  Is it possible?  Sure, but pigs could also fly out of my butt.  Sarcasm aside, archeology has made the tenuous suggestion that they may have occurred, based on a small amount of evidence.  As a reasonable and rational person, I do not ignore evidence, however, as a hard pantheist, I believe that Isis is Isis and Hekate is Hekate.  (I don’t even like the Latin spelling of Hekate, despite the fact that it literally makes zero difference in anything but the aesthetics of the name on paper.)  One may have evolved from the other, but just as Athena sprouted from the head of Zeus, once there was a separation they ended up taking on independent lives, therefore are not the same.

As a hard pantheist, I believe that all paths lead to god, but which god is up to the one walking the path.  I see the gods, all 5,000 plus worshiped on this planet today, as individuals.  Some may be similar in our understanding of them, but they are all different entities.  For several reasons, I am a hard pantheist.  First, I believe that no finite thing can fully comprehend the infinite.  The concept of ‘god’ is an infinite being or source.  The mind is a finite thing.  Therefore, we as finite beings can not even begin to fathom the infinite.  We can only fathom other finite things, which is why it is easy to rationalize ‘one god, many faces.’

However, we live in a reality where everything is also energy.  If that is the case, our thoughts are also energy and therefore real.  So, as each god came into the collective consciousness as a thought, how did they become real?  Well, how do we manifest a thought? Action.  Our actions: prayers, ritual, hymns, and all manner of worship brought them into being.  It sustained them and gave them form.  Our myths and tales gave them form, personality, and history.  Our cultures bred them in all of their forms.

I am a hard pantheist because I do not want to cheapen or water down my own worship or the worship of those around me by assuming or claiming specific gods are equivalent or the same.  Your Sun god, while similar to mine, isn’t the same.  Your War god, while having many of the same representations as mine, isn’t the same.  When we, as pagans, generalize our worship to a concept instead of a specific deity it can scatter the energy of our worship between the vast numbers of gods that the concept represents. (That said, there are times when this practice is absolutely appropriate, make no mistake.)  Scattered energy tends to have little focus so it doesn’t have much sustenance, much in the same way that building a weak or scattered cone of power in ritual just doesn’t pack the same punch as a focused one.

I am a hard pantheist, mostly, because my gods demand it.  There was a time when I was, absolutely, a soft pantheist, but my gods do not like it when I scatter my energies.  They do not like sharing the offerings I give to them with other gods of similar concepts.  They do not like sharing me.  I have many gods with whom I share myself, not just Hekate and Mars.  They come to me as they will, not as concepts but as individuals.

Praise be to the gods!  Blessings upon those who sustain them!

Brightest blessings, Friends.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Being Different: Acceptance and Embracing Our Different-ness

Today I sat a talked with a co-worker who has been having a difficult time.  She has two pre-teen girls and, honestly, a life full of chaos.  This has transferred into and negatively affected her work life over the past year.  So, she is suffering disciplinary action and she doesn't understand why.  In her heart, she believes that she is being picked on.  In reality, she isn't following the rules that everyone else has to follow, so she's being disciplined.

She and I talked today.  Simply put, she believes that, in being an integral part of our team at work, that we are all equal.  In a perfect world, she would be right.  However, we do not live in a perfect world and we do not work in a perfect world.  We work in the medical field.  We work in a place of structure, hierarchy, and often times, silly rules that make sense to no one.

Our former supervisor was a champion at making everyone feel equal... At least on the surface.  Our new supervisor is also very good at this (in a genuine and compassionate way).  However, my co-worker chooses not to see this because she isn't being afforded the same 'protections' that our former supervisor gave her.  My co-worker is being treated just like any of us and she doesn't understand why.

So, I sat down with my co-worker today and we had a chat about how we are different from our nursing co-workers.  I learned many years ago that, no matter what field you are in when you are 'low man on the totem pole', you are held to a different standard than those 'above' you.  She did not understand why, as a secretary, she is required to stay her full eight hours, even if there is nothing to do when the nurses can finish with their daily work and go home.

She didn't understand that in our positions, it is perceived that there is always something to do.  Today, we were completely finished with our work by a little over an hour before she had to leave.  She didn't understand that it is her job to sit and answer the phones until it is time for her to leave.  Her rationale was that she could roll the phones over to our call center.  That is a perfectly good rationale, but it still means that she isn't doing her job, and she doesn't understand that.

Many times over the last year, she has left early because she 'didn't have anything to do' and there were charts to be filed and new patient appointments to be made, on top of any phone calls that came through, typically from patients.  She left early because those things could wait, instead of doing them and getting them out of the way.

As people, we look at each other and we hold each other to standards that may or may not apply.  We do this in our relationships.  We do this at work.  We do this in the groups that we work with.  We often see people in regards to how we want them to be, not how they actually are.  As pagans, specifically those of the Wiccan path, this thinking and behavior, directly applies to the phrase "Perfect love and perfect trust."

We are all different, but at any point in the day, we can almost all guarantee that we are going to be working in a group of some kind, either face to face or via phone, Skype, or social media.  We can apply perfect love and trust to every situation and person in our life when we love that person for who they are and trust that they will act within their very nature.  Your nature may be different from mine.  I may be content to twiddle my thumbs for the last hour of my work day when everything is complete whereas, you may not be as content.  I may do my best to be all things to all people in my day whereas, you may need to focus on one task at a time.  Neither are inherently bad, yet if I expect you to do seven things at once when you are only capable of one thing at a time, then I am going to be irritated and disappointed.  I am not trusting your inherent nature.

It takes a lot of personal reflection to recognize that our different-ness isn't bad.  It takes even more reflection to recognize our inherent nature and the difference in the nature of another.  We can not compare ourselves with another and then wonder why they get more or we get less.  When working in a field with clear hierarchal boundaries, it is even more important to accept that one's status outside of work has no bearing on one's status while working.  Even more importantly, embracing that status (within reason and not allowing one's self to be abused) leads to a greater understanding of one's self and one's role within the bigger picture.

Being different isn't bad.  I like being different.  I don't want to be 'more' or different than I am by my very nature.  I see my Self and where it needs to change and improve.  I see myself in others and recognize their nature as being different from mine.  I do my best to work with it, not against it, even when I really want to stomp my foot and scream.  So, when you find yourself in a situation where you are being treated differently, or being accused of treating another differently, step back and examine that different-ness.  Are you acting according to your nature or are you reacting according to their nature?

Brightest Blessings, Friends!!

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Left-Handed Path? Right-Handed Path? Walking the Middle Road.

For many months now, I have entertained the idea of writing a blog on this topic.  There seems to be an upsurge in the number of people who walk the Left-Handed Path (well, say they do, anyway) or are, at the very least, interested in it.  According to Wikipedia (because we know how trusted it is) the Left-Handed and Right-Handed paths are defined as:

In Western esotericism the terms Left-Hand Path and Right-Hand Path refer to a dichotomy between two opposing approaches to magic. This terminology is used in various groups involved in the occult and ceremonial magic. In some definitions, the Left-Hand Path is equated with malicious black magic and the Right-Hand Path with benevolent white magic. Other occultists have criticised this definition, believing that the Left-Right dichotomy refers merely to different kinds of working, and does not necessarily connote good or bad magical actions.

So, even Occultists can't decide the exact definitions of these paths.  I see these paths in slightly simpler terms than 'black' or 'white' magic.  My own views are as follows:   LHP leans toward a more destructive nature while RHP leans toward a more creative nature.  Either way, there is a cost to these paths.

Another thing with LHP practices that I have witnessed is an enthusiastic need to take any personal slight and immediately retaliate from one's deepest pit of anger.  There is a viciousness that the other person must pay more than for the cost of their actions.  Honestly, that is not something that I understand.  I've watched people who walk a destructive path for years (both muggle and magical) and most of them do not see the cost of their actions.  One person in particular tragically lost his mother and his home, along with everything he owned.  Within 6 hours, he lost his mother and his entire life (including the inventory of his entire business).  Think about that for a moment.  A karmic debt was created that took his mother and every earthly possession in a single day.  That's a huge debt to pay.  Those things said all magic has its price, whether it is creative or destructive.  As the practitioner, we have to decide if we are willing to pay that price and we have to decide if we are willing to let the gods decide what the price is.

So, if LHP is the destructive path and it leads to more destruction, what about the RHP?  Surely the consequences for the creative path aren't more creation?  No.  Unfortunately, the consequences for the RHP are also destructive, at least in a way.  But, why?  It's the circle of life, the wheel of the year.  If something is created, something must be destroyed or killed so the new thing can take its place.  Imagine if nothing ever died or withered.  The world would be jam packed with creation.  The ocean would be packed with life.  Both places would be crowded to the point of everything and everyone wishing for death.  That. Would. Be. Bad.

If too much negativity and too much positivity are too much, what is just enough?  Maybe more importantly, how do we know?  Do we know?  I don't think we can know for sure since we all have our own paths to walk.  In my mind, that is the essence of the middle road path.  Sometimes, I have to knowingly and willingly be the destroyer.  (I eat meat that isn't always organic.  Do you know what factory farming does?  It's not nice.  I expect to have to pay that price one day.)  Sometimes I get to be the creatrix and I get to grow my own food.  I get to be kinder to the things living around me and I get to eat the free range organic insert-animal-here.  This is a practical example of Middle Road thinking.

Rarely do I go out of my way to 'make someone pay'.  Honestly, I have to care more than I usually do.  Have I gone out of my way to 'make someone pay'?  You're damn skippy I have!  Oh, you want to threaten to rape me?  If you'll threaten to rape me, then I'm certain you'll go after another woman who is much more accessible than I am.  Sorry, you piece of shit, but you don't get to ever use your dick again... except, maybe, to pee.  Yes, I've magically castrated a man before.  More importantly, I'd do it again.  How do I know it worked?  I paid the price.  Gladly.

In this particular instance, I didn't worry about the price of the magic.  And, there's always a price, remember?  I looked ahead and decided that no woman should have to worry about this particular man again and his need to control women. I also made sure that the only way he would be able to get an erection was through the use of shots. Directly into his penis.  Turns out, needles always made him nauseous. (Gentlemen, are you holding yourselves and whimpering yet?) This is a very personal example of stepping onto the LHP, recognizing and accepting that I am taking the free will of another away, and doing it anyway, regardless of the price.

So, I've written about the price of magic above a couple of times, but I haven't really defined it.  While I don't know that there is a standard definition of the price of magic, for me, the price of magic is defined as 'the price one must pay to bring the universe back into balance after manifestation of the will.'  In practical terms, what does this mean?  Well, it really depends on what the gods or the universe need it to mean.  For some people, it means losing their good looks or reputation.  For others, it means no longer being trustworthy (even if they are, at their core, a trustworthy person).  Occasionally, it means losing a very personal thing or special person.  The price is different for everyone and, sometimes, the price a person has to pay is so great that even years later, the magical act has been forgotten, and the person is still paying the price.

The price of magic is not something we, as practitioners, can bargain.  As such, we have to weigh the decision to use our magic wisely and accept the consequences thereof.  Whether we are manifesting something for the greater good or something quite selfish, it doesn't matter.  There will always be a price and there will always be a price attached to how we manifest these things.

For those who label themselves as walking a Left-handed path, are you walking a path that is more destructive than creative or are you bullshitting yourself into believing that you don't have to pay the same price for your magic that others do?  For those who label themselves as walking a Right-handed path, do you walk a more constructive path that utilizes the cycle of life, death, and rebirth or do you bullshit yourself into believing that because you are doing only good that no bad can come out of it? Do you walk the middle road with the understanding that both the light and the darkness are needed to be whole?

Of course, none of this may actually mean anything to anyone.  I may be full of shit.  I mean, no matter how much good or bad we do while we are here, we all end up worm food, right?

Blessings, Friends!!

Friday, February 12, 2016

Building Up and Tearing Down: Finding Our Part in Daily Creation and Destruction

This new year has been a tough one for the Muse.  It has been fraught with changes and with people being people.  It has found me fighting to keep a positive attitude, specifically in the work place.  This fight has not been because where I work is bad, hostile, or otherwise not productive, but because with the changes we have had, others attitudes have changed.

My work place used to be like a well-oiled machine.  We all knew our jobs and we did them.  Sure, there were a couple of people who just had to stick their spoon in the pot and stir, but everyone knew who they were and no one paid them any attention.  Now, we have new people in management, multiple new employees, and people who have rolled over from part time to full time.  With the 'help' of some outside influences (I suspect), this particular combination has created a great deal of chaos and many are feeling the stress.  Because of this stress, people are shorter tempered (obviously), and those who would tear people down are taking advantage.

Just this week, I have been the subject of (at least) one person complaining about my work and my work ethic.  If I were a lesser person, I'd be very upset about this.  I'm not.  This particular person is 'low man' on the professional totem pole, with only my position and our secretaries 'below' them (we aren't below said person, nor is this person anyone's supervisor).  This particular person is also a control freak.  So, said person always has something to say about the people 'under' her and how they are 'lazy' and 'don't do anything'.

Then, our other resident control freak and pot stirrer likes to make a big deal out of the smallest thing.  Someone acted unprofessional, well, they must be racist.  No, they were frustrated and *gasp* human.  They had to blow a little bit of steam off and did it at the wrong time.  You, dearest pot stirrer, are looking for a reason to be offended.  You always do.  It's what you live for.

So, I got to thinking about all of this.  People have, over the past 3 months decided that it was okay to start tearing people down.  Now, if I had fucks to give about these people, I might be able to see where they are coming from, but I don't.  They aren't being helpful.  They aren't being constructive and, quite frankly, if they have time to observe and comment on the work and behaviors of others, then they don't have enough to do. I, on the other hand, have more than I can possibly accomplish in a day, so I don't have time to debate the job quality someone is or isn't doing.  And, frankly, I don't care.  I don't have the energy to give a shit if someone is doing their job right because I am, very likely, putting out fires that affect our unit due to screw ups in other departments.

This chain of events really started the hamster in my brain running.  I'm one person.  I'm one nobody of a person in my workplace.  What can I do when I hear people tearing each other down instead of helping?  What can I do?  I can build them up.  How?  Well, aside from positive affirmations and physically helping them if they are struggling, I have decided to invest in some cards, just generic 'be happy' kind of cards.

I figure that I can give them to both the person tearing down people and those who are being torn.  Will anyone do this for me? HA!! But, I don't expect them to, either.  I thought about taking sage oil and just sprinkling that shit everywhere and clearing the whole unit. (How fucking funny would that be?!?!)  Then, I decided that I didn't want to watch people lose their shit when they came upon the oil and it knocked the fuck out of their aura.  So, cards.  I'm going to put things like, "I see you are having a tough time. Hope this makes you smile" and "Yesterday looked like a struggle.  I hope today is better and if it isn't, I will find you some chocolate".

What I want to do is be passive-aggressive, though.  I mean, I am human.  I want to put things like, "I hope you aren't as grumpy today as you were yesterday.  No, really, smile!!" Or "We all have grumpy days.  I hope today is better than yesterday."  And then add glitter so when they pull it out they get glitter bombed.  I mean, bitches need glitter, right?

I told a co-worker what I was going to do and she laughed and told me that I was the nicest bitch she knew.  She didn't realize that she's going to be getting one of those cards, too, because her attitude has been crap of late.

I digress (and I'm losing the sarcasm).  I have come to the conclusion that I can not be part of the solution if I participate in the problem.  I know that people always tell you what they need, their insecurities and pet peeves, and often project those things onto other people.  So, when I hear people saying "X person is lazy because *insert reason here*", what I really hear is "This person is constantly doing *the opposite of given reason* and it makes me uncomfortable."  When I hear "X person doesn't do anything", what I hear is "This person is so busy they aren't reading my mind/doing what I think they should be doing and it makes me uncomfortable."

My work day often flies by.  I stay busy and can always find things to get into.  Others don't.  I think it's time to be more observant and, maybe even conspire with my supervisor, to start trying to build people up.  I often forget how much it takes for me to become truly intimidated by another person, so when these supposed insults about work ethic happen, I have to wonder what the person making them thinks of themselves.  I have to wonder what this person is saying about their own mindset.  Then, I wonder if they are having a moment of weakness or if they are just a small, scared child stuck in a body too big for them.  (Don't we all get that way sometimes?)

Well, Friends, there's this weeks food for thought.  When someone is trying to insult you, ask yourself, are they really talking about you or are they flailing about and looking for purchase because they are simply insecure?

Brightest Blessings!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Journey of the Fool

I see that it has been a great, long while since I last had anything to say of import.  The days have gone from long and hot to short and cold.  There has even been snow.  A great deal has happened in that time, including splitting from my partner of nearly 4 years.  I have rediscovered old friends, made new ones, and maybe found a spot somewhere in community.  That's still unfolding and for another day, though.

At Samhain, I got to help facilitate a ritual that was, literally, a fool's journey through the tarot.  I was one of the Fools.  I found being a guide for others through the underworld acutely appropriate, being a priestess of Hekate, but I also found my own message, even as I laughed and pranced to each of the stations with the participants.

As a practitioner most comfortable within the shadows, I tend to walk a very fine line between the darkness and light.  I recognize that need to retreat into the shadows to heal and, maybe, wonder.  I often find myself retreating back into my own safe places when the world becomes overwhelming, whether it is in a good or bad way.

With the splitting from my partner, I find myself upon my own fools journey.  I have come to a place where I am looking at where I am, where I have been, and where I want to be and making the changes necessary to reach my goal.  I know that there are some things that are going to happen in the mean time and, as the Fool in this journey, I know that some of them aren't going to be easy.

Through this dark part of the year, what are some of the things you are going to work on?  Are you going to work on getting rid of dead weight?  Maybe you are going to move toward a job that is better paying or maybe a better environment?  Maybe you are going to move toward happiness?  Maybe you are simply going to start over?  What things in life are you going to focus on?

My own focus is shifting back toward taking care of myself.  I need to make sure that I can stand on my own before taking care of others.  I need to make decisions that I feel may be risky.  In doing so, I am moving toward a great many illuminations that I have been ignoring.

When we take on the archetype of the Fool, we embody adventure and a carefree nature.  We accept our challenges with an open heart.  When we stumble or fall, we have to remember that it is not the fault of another or circumstance.  Instead of lamenting our bad luck or railing at the gods over our pain, we must remember to look inward or, if we just can't do that, look upward to the sky.  The stars and the clouds and the moon remind us of the grand scheme and that the universe is larger than we can even begin to fathom.  Are our worries really that overwhelming by the light of the moon?  Are the shadows really that heavy and oppressive once we forget to be afraid of them?

Brightest blessings, Friends!!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Letters Not Sent: Seeing and Hearing

My Dear,

It has been so very long since I have spoken to you.  It has been so very long since I have looked into your eyes and heard your words.  I can't say that it makes me sad, though.  I have grown in that time.  I realize now, that you are an expert at a great many things: telling people what they want to hear, being mysterious for no reason, taking advantage of folks, manipulation, but not being honest, unless it serves your purpose of manipulation.

You see the game coming to an end and it terrifies you. You look around at your crumbling little fiefdom and wonder what happened.  You wonder at all of the work you have done.  You gaze out, into the world, at what used to be and you want it back, but there is no going back.  Kali, The Great Destroyer, comes knocking.  She is no longer Mother Kali.  No, She comes forth in Her garland of skulls and skirt of human
 arms, dancing Her terrifying dance.  For some time now She has been working toward this.  You have ignored Her, even tried to work against Her.  Nothing can stop Her from destroying the illusions you have created, not even you.  Like all things in their due time, She will destroy everything without guilt and without prejudice.  You just see that your time has come due and you are scared.

Fear is a rational response, though.  We all want to believe that we have made a difference with our lives.  We all want to believe that we have done something everlasting.  Some people do, some don't, however, the brutal truth is, our own immortality depends solely upon how many lives we touch.  Whether we are the hero or villain in our immortality depends upon whether we helped or hurt those lives we touched.  We, as the liver of that life, don't get to decide our own hero or villain status after we are gone.  We are simply tasked with living and doing as our gods bid.

I learned a great many things from watching and actually hearing you.  You say all of the right words, but your actions speak a different story.  There was a time when that made me angry.  Now, though, it makes sense.  You say you choose some form of altruism.  Your actions speak the opposite.  Your entire life has been about Power.  It has been about Power over, now Power from within.  Now you are learning that you have no power.  Now you are learning that you never have had power and that's okay.

Mostly, I want to say this:  I have seen the road you are on.  I have watched it through to its culmination, which you will not get to see.  You will move on before it is done.  It will be what is best for you.  You do not want to see this.  It's kind of like the scene in Harry Potter where he meets Fawks for the first time just before he bursts into flames and Dumbledore remarks that he's sorry Harry met his phoenix on a burning day.

Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, all will ultimately be well, but getting past that burning day and being reborn is going to hurt like hell and you don't want to see it.  I want you to know that we will all be alright and some of us will even flourish after you leave.  Some of us will embody your best and carry that with us.  Some will carry that shadow and work from it, too, but so it is with Humanity.

For now, go on doing what it is that you do.  I watch your manipulations and shake my head.  You surround yourself with those who would boost your ego and tell you what you want to hear.  If that gives you the peace you need, then may the rest of your life be full of peace.


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Cultural Appropriation in America or Oh! The Butthurt!

I don't often write on topics so inflammatory as something like this simply because it's rarely worth the energy to write about it and then deal with flamers and the, in general, butthurt, however, the notion of cultural appropriation in America (and, to an extent, the Western world) is something that sticks in my proverbial craw.  Why?  Because it is something we all do in one way or another, whether or not we realize it.  This is a topic that goes beyond being pagan, too, and is something that happens in regular life.  It's part of our *gasp* culture, as Americans.

If you don't believe me, here is a prime example:

Side-by-side, we have white Jesus and we have black Jesus.  If we are to believe what we read in the Bible, this was a man born in the middle east during Roman occupation.  He was neither black, nor was he white.  So, this means that not only did Europeans, but also Africans appropriated the image of a neither white, nor black, but olive skinned man who may or may not have existed in the latter part of pre-history and remade him in each culture's own image.  And they did so using the same book.

Want more cultural appropriation?  Yoga.  Have you seen the YouTube of Ghandi in the yoga studio?  If you haven't, it's here.  It's pretty funny, but it also shows the really generic white chick not even remotely recognizing that she's taken Ghandi's religion and, essentially, blasphemed it.  Here, yoga is simply breathing and exercise to most people.

Want another appropriation?  Bellydance.  All these cute white women doing bellydance, but where did it originate?  Oh, that's right, the middle east.  How about everything Michael Harner wrote about shamanism?  That's appropriating another spiritual practice from... Well, from native peoples all around the world.  What about that Chinese chick with dreadlocks?  Well, you know, Rastafarians? Yep!  Even farther back than that, though, yogis.  Why? Because they renounced all of their worldly possessions, including the comb. (Despite the name 'dreadlock' coming from Jamaica.)  Oh, one more bit of cultural appropriation!  That white woman who is a Voudon priestess.  It's not a 'white' religion, is it?  No.  It's Afro-Caribbean.  What about Cinco de Mayo?  Did you get fucked up in remembrance of the Battle of Puebla?  Are you even Mexican?!?!

I'm sure that by now I have listed something to offend everyone.  I bet that if we all don't do at least one of these things, then we know people who do.  The point is, we are becoming a global community with each passing year.  Many Americans, like myself, have had family on this continent for centuries, no matter where they may have come from and no matter what their genetic makeup may be now.  My own heritage in America began somewhere around a century before the founding of the nation.  I have documented family in the Revolutionary War and family that fought on both sides of the Civil War.  I have documented Cherokee and, on my mother's side of the family, undocumented Ojibway or, maybe Apache or, maybe something else.  It was not told to my grandmother that she was 1/4 Native until her sister was on her deathbed.

Society borrows from other societies.  It claims and discards traditions to suit the times.  Christmas?  Taken from the pagans by the Christians.  Halloween?  Taken from the pagans and made secular.  Dancing and chanting to induce trance? Taken from various indigenous cultures around the world and still used by them today, as well as by modern pagans.

The point I make with all of this over-the-top 'everyone is a thief' is that if someone takes something that is culturally 'yours' and makes it 'theirs', it's not the end of the world.  It doesn't make your own practice or tradition 'less pure'.  It makes what they are doing 'theirs'.  Do you really think that the sages and yogis of India are upset that Sally Mae in BFE, America is using yoga as a way to stay in shape and to stay strong?  Probably not.  Another point I want to make is, in modern day America, unless you live in Little China, Little Italy, or a pure Jewish neighborhood, whatever traditions you may practice have probably been taken from another time and place, stripped of their meaning (because life 100 years ago was different than life today is), and has been rewritten in a whole new context now.  So, don't be so butthurt.  Remember that everything you do had to be taken from someone, somewhere.  Maybe it was taken from people who were, culturally, the same as you, but maybe it wasn't.

Brightest Blessings, Friends!