July 7, 2022


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Religious hustlers are throughout social media. Don't allow them to rip-off you.

Whereas scrolling by Instagram, TikTok or Fb, chances are you’ll discover individuals who name themselves guides, healers, or coaches and boast that they’ll offer you immediate enlightenment and non secular steerage to boost your “vibration.” The tip outcome? A path to a greater you.

To be sincere, I am not criticizing anybody who seeks consolation by connecting to self-professed healers making these claims. As a matter of reality, I feel the vast majority of people who pursue an understanding of spirituality outdoors of our regular actuality are properly intentioned. Maybe they’re even searching for refuge from the violent legacy of organized religions, together with Christianity. As an Osage man, in addition to a Native educator, I’m very conversant in how the church has villainized Native spirituality, traditions, and ceremonies.

Persons are fed up with scandals and hypocrisy and readily search solace in other ways of non secular expression that may information them towards turning into higher human beings. They’ll discover that simply on social media, which is populated with a motley assortment of empaths, seers, psychics, shamans, and healers who seem to have found the secrets and techniques of the cosmos. These people will make exceptional claims relating to their skills to offer you non secular steerage. If they’re convincing sufficient, you simply could contact them for some perception — for a price after all.

Nothing sells spirituality to the spiritually hungry like the usage of feathers coupled with generic “Native American” paraphernalia.

Sadly, typically lurking on the opposite aspect of the transcendent veil are non secular hustlers who’ve little to no coaching within the practices they promote. As a substitute, they prey on probably the most weak to boost their checking account by charging lots of or hundreds of {dollars} for numerous companies, together with workshops, seminars, retreats, and non secular counseling periods.

I am notably involved by one advertising and marketing instrument that is widespread to many of those hustles: the exploitation of Native spirituality and tradition to spice up the hustler’s perceived credibility. Together with primary social media abilities and the most recent magnificence filter, nothing sells spirituality to the spiritually hungry like the usage of feathers coupled with generic “Native American” paraphernalia.

Social media accounts peddling Native-esque knowledge are saturated with imagery similar to feathers, sage bundles, abalone shells, dreamcatchers, flutes, and hand drums. Hyperlinks in these accounts’ bios invite you to take part in sweat lodges, soul therapeutic periods, medium readings, shamanic circles, and quantum therapeutic. Posts promote workshops for lots of of {dollars} that provide you with unique entry to privileged info meant to assist in your life’s journey. Hashtags like #medicineman and #medicinewoman supply glimpses of this at play.

Dangerous stereotypes about Native spirituality and other people

Because of this advertising and marketing, honest but gullible people are at risk of being scammed out of their cash. They might kind an essential connection to their information or so-called healer, nevertheless it’s unlikely they’re studying ceremonies, beliefs, or practices as they had been meant to be shared by Native communities. This issues as a result of non secular hustlers will not be solely degrading Native tradition by twisting it to swimsuit their monetary schemes, however they’re actively contributing to the perpetuation of dangerous stereotypes.

Native persons are a few of the most misunderstood folks within the nation. In actual fact, a major variety of non-Native respondents to at least one survey carried out by the Reclaiming Native Reality mission believed that Native folks now not existed. In the meantime, public colleges do a dismal job of instructing our historical past and modern points to youngsters and youngsters. We’re hardly ever depicted precisely in leisure as three-dimensional human beings dwelling in at present’s society. As a substitute, we’re predominantly relegated to the previous as both bloodthirsty savages or nature-loving youngsters of the forests crying on the sight of trash.

Hustlers will exploit the latter by carrying issues like turkey feathers made to seem like eagle feathers. The majestic birds are thought-about very sacred to tribal communities, and solely their members can legally possess eagle feathers. When these swindlers misrepresent our traditions in pursuit of cash, it creates confusion about who we’re, and what we imagine. With cash as a motivating issue, the non secular hustler can simply turn out to be (in the event that they aren’t already) the very supply of detrimental power they profess to smudge towards as their out-of-control ego and narcissism bleeds into, and even ruins, the lives of their followers.

Excessive circumstances of this non secular hucksterism in current historical past are properly documented. In 2009, earlier than the vast majority of People used social media, a person named James Arthur Ray, claimed to have realized Native American teachings, and carried out a pretend sweat lodge ceremony throughout his “Religious Warrior” retreat close to Sedona, Arizona. Ray made the lodge so scorching that most of the 50-plus members (who paid $10,000 {dollars} every to be there) started panicking and passing out.

The true function of a standard sweat lodge is to make prayers on behalf of our family members for good well being and therapeutic. In distinction, Ray’s “sweat lodge” was used to develop the consciousness of his followers in addition to his checking account. Ray’s monetary positive factors and the potential non secular positive factors hoped for by the members had been utterly self-serving and speaks to how a communal ceremony meant for the good thing about our relations was corrupted right into a energy take a look at steeped in Eurocentric beliefs of individualism.

The true function of a standard sweat lodge is to make prayers on behalf of our family members for good well being and therapeutic.

Contemplating Ray was abusing Native traditions and had no proper to carry out them, Native leaders made makes an attempt at telling him to cease to no avail. Ultimately, three folks died from heatstroke and Ray was charged with negligent murder. He spent almost two years in jail, was launched and now has an Instagram account (amongst different social media accounts) the place he continues to hawk non secular recommendation to a thousand followers.

It must be famous: if a non-Native individual desires to really be taught extra about Native tradition, there are alternatives to take action in a respectful method, relying on the neighborhood. In any other case, paying for companies and merchandise from non secular hustlers who exploit Native tradition can really damage Native communities and their members. It helps hustlers construct a enterprise round deceitful, and typically deplorable, techniques that perpetuate stereotypes about Native folks. In flip, that may breed mistrust in reputable medication people who find themselves sincerely offering therapeutic and steerage for his or her communities.

Social media rip-off: the crimson flags you need to know

It may be simple to get lured in by the filtered persona of an all-knowing guru staring mystically into your eyes on Instagram or TikTok. Based mostly on perception from my grandmother, Ina Micco, in addition to my very own experiences with pretend and bonafide medication folks, there are some things to think about earlier than inserting your religion in a feather-waving digital oracle utilizing Native themed props and imagery.

For one, ceremonial objects will not be alleged to be exhibited to elevate one’s standing. The accountability of ceremonial data brings with it humility. If somebody takes photos with sage, feathers, and dreamcatchers to advertise merchandise or a enterprise, take warning. Continually posting photos with this stuff is nothing greater than a gimmick to make the poster appear endowed with Native data.

Take into account asking such a person the place they realized their teachings. Religious issues are sometimes handed down by phrase of mouth from a mentor. The place is their neighborhood? Native healers and medication folks normally keep inside their very own tribal neighborhood. You will need to know to whom they’re accountable. A non secular hustler’s background tends to be obscure or full of flowery prose about private progress or dabbling in numerous cultural practices.

If somebody promotes themselves as a pupil of Native “teachings” and prices outrageous charges, requests luxurious objects, or desires intercourse in alternate for non secular assist, then they aren’t attempting that can assist you however use and abuse you. These requests are by no means practices related to conventional Native teachings.

The place to search for non secular steerage

Discovering a substitute for organized faith is a tough process. Luckily, many Native folks have maintained a connection to their conventional tradition and spirituality. Though some elements have modified, the intention is identical: We’re meant to know and acknowledge that we’re just one a part of a wider universe that wants stability. Our ceremonies assist restore that stability. In addition they request assist for therapeutic our relations, or supply thanks. It is comprehensible that many non-Natives need to be near this as they could really feel misplaced at instances.

We’re meant to know and acknowledge that we’re just one a part of a wider universe that wants stability.

Nonetheless, precise Native folks use social media to coach by sharing normal insights on the philosophy behind a few of our teachings and traditions. Even so, there stays an emphasis on safeguarding conventional data and never sharing an excessive amount of element. Religious hustlers usually lurk on social media, searching for info to bolster themselves. Once I use social media as an training instrument, as a Native educator, I solely communicate very typically about non secular issues and traditions I am conversant in.

The will to find out about Native tradition and traditions shouldn’t be totally problematic. However why do non-Native folks need to find out about our methods? Do they sincerely need to give again to our communities? Or do they hope to take with out providing something in return? The latter isn’t any option to turn out to be a greater individual. These questions could not come up to the individual casually scrolling by social media who stops to have interaction with content material from a non secular hustler, however they need to. Actually, it’s a matter of respect.

Jimmy Lee Beason II is a member of the Osage Nation and a professor within the Indigenous & American Indian Research division at Haskell Indian Nations College.

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