Moon Mountain Gathering
Alexandra Carelli is a spiritual activist. The founder of Moon Mountain Gathering, Carelli is bringing awareness to the cultural appropriation and lack of diversity into the “conscious” world, where tie-dyed dreamcatchers hang from the front mirrors of cars, palo santo perfumes yoga classes, and traditional tribal symbols adorn caucasian skin.
Carelli points out the hypocrisy of this cultural appropriation—and believes in a future in which we can gracefully appreciate other cultures, instead of claiming their rituals and practices as our own without context.
So, she created Moon Mountain Gathering, a three-day retreat, to help educate women on the differences between cultural appropriation versus appreciation, to celebrate all spiritual cultures, and to connect with like-minded souls. We sat down to learn more about Moon Mountain Gathering, and to get educated on how to appropriately engage in rituals from cultures that aren’t our own.
Where did the idea for Moon Mountain spring from?
Moon Mountain Gathering was seeded as a Women’s Ancestral Arts and Healing gathering in winter 2016 in Camptonville, California. However, right away it was easy to see the problems inherent in the work we were doing. Cultural appropriation, lack of diverse representation, and exclusivity were issues that rose to my attention. Throughout year two, we began to shift our focus towards creating more diversity and inclusivity at the gathering, but it was not enough to cultivate real change. From my perspective, the gathering had to be reborn.
Throughout winter 2017-2018, I dove deep into the topics of white privilege, social justice, indigenous rights and the intimate connection between these issues and the degradation of the natural environment around us. I began to see that our lack of connection to each other was fueling our deep disconnection from place. I saw how colonization was ravaging our planet and our spirits, and I saw that we needed to find a way out. So, I began listening. I had conversations with people from many walks of life and I listened to their stories. I joined a council to support the Tribe of the land I now call home, and I began to work alongside them in their struggle towards sovereignty. I allowed myself to learn and I allowed my worldview to change.
Throughout this process, Moon Mountain rebirthed itself. It began to weave together the original vision of ancestral arts and healing, with deeper cultural context for the work we are doing as womxn. I put out the call to create a diverse Visionary Council that would steer the project in a new direction and it slowly assembled. We created a movement that includes the voices of indigenous women, WOC, BIPOC, and gender non-binary folks alongside the voices of cis-gendered white women. We are learning how to engage language to build bridges between our worlds. Together, we are are re-envisioning what it means for womxn to gather.
We understand that we are all suffering from the trauma of colonization, the disconnection from ancestral homelands, and the loss of cultural tradition. We believe that through gathering together as womxn to share our unique traditions, we can heal the wounds of colonization and become indigenous to place again. We are inspired by our vision of reuniting with our purpose as stewards of this earth.
How can we honor indigenous traditions, healing modalities, and wisdom without appropriating it?
Context and respect are so important. If you don’t understand the context of a prayer, song, ceremony, or practice… then don’t do it. Educate yourself on how that practice is done, why it is done, and who can respectfully engage with it. So much culture has been stolen—or sold—through the process of colonization and it is our responsibility to take care and use discernment in this moment.
I do not feel that we are meant to never practice yoga, or thai massage, or work with plant medicines if that’s what calls to us. But, what is the context in which we are engaging those practices? Is the context actually appropriate? What place in ourselves are we feeding? Is it a desire to reconnect to culture and tradition? Can we go deeper? These are questions we really need to ask ourselves. Cultural Appropriation versus Cultural Appreciation is something that we will dive deep into at Moon Mountain Gathering this year.
How do you recommend we thoughtfully share these types of traditions and wisdom?
I am of primarily European descent, and for me it is all about unlearning my colonized ways and relearning the ways of my people. Learning the plants, foods and traditions of Italy, Ireland, and Eastern Europe. I am learning the magic of the pagan traditions and retracing the story that has brought us to this moment in history. Each person’s bloodline is so unique and the wisdom of the earth runs through each one of us. I strongly encourage us all to dig deeper into our personal mythology and share from a place of real authenticity.
I am an organizer and facilitator, so I tend to share through organizing events that put other wisdom keepers in the spotlight. I also love to facilitate conversations that center around storytelling and sharing personal experience.
What's something you wish more people knew about?
I wish more people understood that we are occupying colonized land. I wish they understood that the indigenous people of this land are still here, struggling for their sovereignty, and they have so much to teach us. I wish more people understood that we cannot progress as a collective if we do not focus on healing the trauma of colonization first. I wish more people understood that if we do not take responsibility now, our children will continue to suffer. I wish more people understood that the fight doesn’t have to be forever, and if we can all get onboard we can move through the difficult moments to a more harmonic future.
Learn who the indigenous people are to the land you now call home and listen to their experience. Learn about your own bloodline, listen to the stories of your family, and reawaken the hum of your own ancestral lineage. This is the real sharing. The listening, the learning, and the sharing from your own authentic heart.