My uncle liked a video on Facebook yesterday about a woman who wanted to re-create a picture of her great-great(?) grandfather. It's a really simple picture, of him, sitting in a ceremonial headdress, as chief of her tribe, as though intently listening to another person speak. It's a beautiful, yet powerful image.
In the video, this woman details the importance of the headdress and what it symbolizes; in that it's not something to be taken lightly...that it has so many responsibilities attached to it; that not only is this item physically heavy, but emotionally and spiritually.
I feel its important for as many people, not just the average person, but especially Pagans to watch this video. It shows how, when you take this item lightly, you're not just appropriating, you're insulting the symbol itself, as well as the culture from which it came. It's not just something you make out of paper and dollar-store feathers, and parade around in at Coachella. It has REAL spiritual and leadership significance.
I got into a debate with someone in a post about someone wanting to wear the Bindi. My view is that if someone understands the true nature of the Bindi, what it represents and its actual purpose, then it's ok to adorn yourself with it, so long as you are respectful about it. Someone else chimed in that I can't tell them what to do, quote "If it means something to you [...] then [wear] it. You do not have to be of that culture or religion to feel a personal connection. Find your own meaning [...] and go with it" This is what's wrong with the Pagan community. You don't have to understand something, if you like it, just apply a new meaning to it and wear it. Who cares if someone is offended because now it's your symbol and no one can say two-boo's about it.
Pagans find it so easy to be offended by Christians telling them they're "Devil worshipers" and that their symbol of the pentacle is the devil's star and by using it they proclaim their honor to the devil. But when someone legitimately is offended by something a Pagan does, "oh, well, you can't tell me what to do or wear as its my spirituality and I can do what I want".
Uh, no...you need to first understand the significance of a symbol BEFORE you adopt it. You need to understand its meaning, its use and why it's so important to that culture. You can't simply wear the Bindi as a fashion statement, as it has cultural significance. If you wear it and don't understand its cultural significance, then you are insulting the culture from which the Bindi comes from.
The same goes for the native Headdress. It's not something you just make and put on because it looks cool, made of large beads and feathers with bits of fur and hide draping down it. While your spirituality IS yours, I'm sorry to say, you CAN'T just go around doing whatever you want or wearing whatever you want, especially if you think by doing so you won't get any backlash.
Imagine if someone saw something you, as a Pagan took very seriously, had made by hand through painstaking hours of thought and work, and applied it to your spirituality and only use in your spiritual work. Now that someone goes and cheaply recreates that item, and parades it around at your local music festival or fair. Would you not be offended? They stole your item and are now parading it around as a gitchy fashion item. This is what its like for so many native symbols. People think that because they think Paganism "closely resembles" that of traditional native spirituality, they can adopt their symbols without education on them, and it be perfectly ok. I say its not. I don't use native symbols lightly, but when I do, I do so with full education on those symbols, as taught to be by my native family members and elders. I don't own a headdress, either as decoration or as literal head wear. I am not a chief, nor a leader of a tribe, nor have I EARNED THE RIGHT to wear it. There is a LOT of responsibility that goes along with wearing a headdress and I don't see the majority of Pagans (or average Joe's) who wear them accepting that responsibility.
So please, I ask ANYONE considering wearing or adopting something from another culture to PLEASE do some research and educate yourself on that symbol. You'll save a lot of headache later on.