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Keep your bullshit art off of my religion.

There is a particular breed of practitioner who, whilst appropriating the spiritual practices of another culture, fail so fundamentally to unify with the tradition that they insult it and it's initiates in jaw-droppingly offensive ways. One of these I've been disgusted with of late involves disrespectful manipulation of that tradition's imagery.
I'm not saying that its not possible to Use said imagery in a respectful fashion, or that one should never engage directly with another traditions symbols. Not at all. The problem is when the user has no sense of the symbols as sacred. That's when they get themselves into trouble.....on the mildly offensive end you get syncretism of the inorganic variety. Not the gentle melding of traditions you get when cultures interact, but the jarring and unpleasant shoehorning of entities and forces into dissonant paradigms unnatural to them. People doing LBRP's with random Celtic gods they have no relationship with, that kind of thing. Not meant to disrespect at all by the operator, although still perhaps offensive to folks dedicated to those same gods.
On the other end you get the fucked up shit--people drawing images of Yeshua fellating people, or faux-devotees shitting on Veve's and calling it "modern art".

These people are assholes, and are invariably not initiated into the tradition they are literally shitting on.

*quick note on Yeshua. I love a good Raptor Jesus comic as much as the next's easy to enjoy when that isn't your particular Patron. Lot of pagans and anti-Christians make fun of Jesus with impunity, but would absolutely lose their shit if the same jokes where made of their Gods. Jesus being the current religious big man on campus in the Western world doesn't exempt him from the respect due to the sacred. Even  if many of his followers are dickbags. They're no worse than the rest of us, they just happen to enjoy more societal power. Thems the breaks.*

These people are a poison to the many respectful and genuine practitioners who honor and work with a tradition and might not have had the opportunity for initiation. Non-initiate practitioners get painted with a broad brush precisely because of the actions of the ignorant and offensive minority. How a person truly feels about the spiritual tradition they work is reflected in how they treat her.

Anyway.... nothing wrong with Art that is respectful of other traditions. If it is disrespectful, then the artist should be held to account. Like free speech here in the US; you can Say whatever you want....that is perfectly legal. You just have to be ready to deal with the sometimes supra-legal consequences. Like a vicious ass-beating.

Tata Sima Ngango


  1. Blasphemy is so effing easy it's never funny. Well ... almost never.

  2. Why not simply let the spirits fend for themselves? It seems tricky as humans determining what is an isn't an acceptable way to interact with a spirit through art. Yeshua fellating someone might be a healing and sacred image for one person, and a disrespectful and blasphemous image for another. Obviously, in addition to the intent of the artist, the intention and nature of the spirit/tradition involved matters as well, and the artist will answer to the consequences of their actions and if their smart, learn and grow from the response. I'm not sure what art you are referencing, and I might have a similar reaction to you if I saw it, but I think it's worth examining what response the art evoked in you and not assuming that because the artist made the image they intended it as an attack. To paraphrase Anna Deveare Smith, one of the gifts art gives the world is the negative imagination, making visible the energies and thoughts in the world we would rather pretend didn't exist. To decry art as blasphemous is sometimes like shooting the messenger. Aside from that, if you can't poke and prod and shit all over the boundaries society and religion hold dear in the space of art and in magic, then where can you?

  3. @ VH Fra Peregrin,
    Thank you!:-)

    @Heyoka Thanks for the interesting comment. I think one who is a participant in the religion can create meaningful art that dances near blasphemy without being offensive. People who are not a part of a tradition doing the same thing lack personal connection and perspective, both of which are necessary in my opinion to make that sort of statement in art and imagination meaningful. It is especially so when persons raised in a culture that has had colonial and oppressive history to a particular religion debase the rites and imagery of that religion. Again, they have the right to do so if they wish, but I contend that in this situation what they are making can only be considered art by persons with an equally blind to privilege perspective. Not saying that is you, of course, I mean in general.
    The thing I saw claiming to be art was a woman who is uninitiated in the tradition of Quimbanda defecating on the sacred firmas of that tradition as part of her "performance art". She does this and then calls herself a devotee. Disgusting, offensive, and unacceptable.

  4. Thanks for the response. That does sound really awful. To me, however, it's still art, but incredibly disrespectful for the artist to call herself a devotee, and the greater sin is that it seems like boring art, with very little it's actually contributing to any sort of conversation, probably because of a lack of any genuine knowledge of or connection to the subject, in the case Quimbanda, like you said.

    I'm not sure that declaring something art always is an issue of privilege. She is certainly appropriating the image of a tradition she is not a part of from people who don't have much access to a way to protest, but it seems far more often, the people who have the authority to declare what isn't art and then have it removed from public view have far more privilege. One can't help but think of the Piss Christ case with the NEA:

  5. Very well said care Frater. I am all in favor for changing rituals so they fit to your personal path of Magic (unless you have chosen some tradition where you should not really change things or else it is not that tradition any longer - not that there is anythign wrong with that..;)). However, you cannot just exchange a God or Godform because you prefer that ones name or fancy shirt. The balance of powers and energies has to be maintained or else the ritual has little to no effect - if all goes well. Same can be said regarding the so well known rituals. If you have no understanding of their elements, you should not use them. Anything else is abusive.


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