Archive for July, 2010


The Establishment (AfroPunk) Version

Alright, this is the first Ask a Witch installment for the Black Witch column. Basically, you guys ask me questions throughout the month either in the comments or using the “Ask a Witch” form here in the right hand column. I’ll pick out the three best to answer from the queue and answer them here! You can ask me anything so long it’s not a divination reading or something stupid (I will take silly questions, just not stupid questions).

Because I started asking for Ask a Witch questions kinda midway into July, I’ll be keeping this entry to one question. But ‘tis a good question! I like those.

Question:

“One question i would like to ask you, Olivia, is have you ever been threatened, be it physically/otherwise, or descriminated against based on your Pagan adherence? Was there ever a case where you felt you had to take legal action, seek protection, etc.? Curious…” – Darkness Unlimited*

I haven’t been physically threatened for being a Pagan Witch (tho some of my friends have) but I have come across people who have threatened to do wacked out things like say I’ll jinx everyone or that they’ll sic Jesus on me for leaving Christianity. It really doesn’t bother me too much now, I even find it a bit funny at how flustered they are but back then it did worry me because I didn’t want people to think I was an evil and terrible person or something. I still don’t but I’m pretty well-respected for being me and it’s nothing I can’t clear the air with.

I have been discriminated against because I’m Pagan. Some people don’t want to talk to me, they think I’ll ruin their lives, harm their children (I’m not a real fan of kids but that’s not religion-related, I just don’t like kids) or associating with me will have their God turn His back on them. Basically people don’t dig me because apparently I’m the embodiment of what they fear? I dunno.

There’s one eatery I would go to where the wife/owner didn’t mind my religion, she really enjoyed my company but her husband/cook thought I was a walking jinx machine. At first it was funny but that humor faded quick when he thought that even my slightest movements were acts of bad magick against him and he could not get through his head that I’m. not. a. Satanist. If he tripped on a step, he thought it was my fault. It’s a little better now that the wife had a chat with him but stereotypical accusations like that did grate my nerves.

Then there are some places like colleges that are terrified of offending me because they think I have the ACLU on speed dial (next to the NAACP since I’m Black. Geez, White culture). That can get old fast because I feel like I’m being patronized and it’s not like I can’t tell when someone has a personal issue against my religion but trying to fake it with a business smile. Character glows in the dark and I’ve seen this kind of nonsense for years now. I think people should be just upfront with their paranoia instead of pretending and very poorly at that, I would be less annoyed in the long run. While I have been discriminated against for being a Pagan Witch, I’d have to rank it behind racial and gender bigotry. It sucks being prejudiced against as a Pagan but it’s worse for me being Black and female. Yay for being a triple threat…I think.

I’ve never in my life had to take legal action to make any berating of my religion come to a stop. I didn’t really have to because I’m pretty witty with insults and taking apart someone’s faulty logic. Plus I always like joking around, “Oh the ACLU looooves Pagans. We’re open and shut cases. All they have to do is come in, read the first amendment, walk out and we collect money like Monopoly.”  Of course it isn’t that simple but it is a good reminder that since Paganism is a religion, any discrimination against me would be a violation of my constitutional right to freely practice any religion I choose. (I like reading law occasionally in my free time and I have two good friends who happen to be lawyers.)

While I’ve never had to take legal action to protect my right to practice freely, there was the one time I think I felt the most threatened of my safety. My apartment complex is owned by a church on the end of our street. It’s a really nice church with wonderful parishioners that have seen me grow up from when my family moved around there when I was about 11 or 12 to now. Now, the parishioners are nice and even accepting of my beliefs (I still have to explain myself from time to time but no brimstone and craziness here) but there was a retreat we went one a couple years ago. It was to some spot in Pennsylvania that was out in nature and I think two miles or so away from civilization. I would have passed up but one of the parishioners who also were a very nice neighbor of mine had already paid for me. I didn’t wanna feel like I was wasting his hard-earned money because it was a really nice gesture. Plus it was nothing but drama and problems at home so the trip was a golden opportunity and I took it. I really did feel bad initially because I felt that my neighbor did this because he figured I was a shut-in Christian when really I’m Pagan so I told him and the youth minister the truth. The reactions were a lot better than I expected, honestly.

Now while the church I went with was really nice, I was A) going to be hanging with my peers B) this trip was the conglomeration of three churches and mainly their youth groups. The main rule of the trip was no electronics – if it beeped, whirred or blinked, it had to stay home. That included cell phones too so I wouldn’t have any contact with the outside world for about three days. I thought I could manage that – the outside world was who I was trying to escape. I would be out in nature and all would be spiffy, the only thing I would have to do is tote a bible. I actually borrowed my bible from the library. (I don’t know what translation; I was just baffled at the wide selection. I thought, Don’t they all say the same thing?) In addition I got a copy of the Apocrypha because I thought that would solidify my “I swear I’m Christian”-ness, and a book called Pagans and Christians because I figured it would give me a good idea of what to say and not to say and where the differences are. I also dragged along my travel B.O.S. (Book of Shadows) with me to journal my experience since I wasn’t gonna have much else to do and I write pretty much everything down in that book, especially if I’m without access to my personal blog on livejournal.

The older parishioners were nice, the area was pretty, it’s those kids I had to hang with. They were mental. Throwing rocks, swearing, being evil, my goodness they were spawns of Satan. I had a feeling that I really should lay very low about my religious and moral beliefs in a spot of 300+ overzealous Christian teens that really didn’t know their own religion very much themselves. How could I tell? One night’s activity was “Showtime at the Apollo” talent show and I sang “Why Wait?” by P.O.D. since I thought it would be a nice song. How wrong I was, people started laughing quick because the song was Caribbean sounding, not a usual boring hymn, and they didn’t know that “Jah” meant “God” so I was pretty defused about everyone after that. I don’t usually mind being a bit open but there were a lot of trees, a combine tractor, some rope, rocks, a big pool of water and close-minded teens on a religious lean. Me no likee pain or death.

The trip wasn’t all bad because I befriended the adults quickly (and they were not crazy, this one lady minister was actually really open minded) but there was this one activity sermon going on that I couldn’t weasel my way out of. The counselor was asking how Christians should treat people from different religions. My hand went up in the back of the room, this should be a cakewalk right? I answered, “We should treat people of different religions with the same equality that we treat ourselves and other Christians as was taught by Jesus Christ.” I thought that was a good answer and so did the teacher. Classmates didn’t, I got a couple looks.

Everyone had to be bunked together in fours so I was lumped with three other girls that were from other churches and plus our chaperone. One of the other girls weren’t bad, she was really nice and from the church I was with, I didn’t really know the other two since they were from other churches. It was the last night so everyone was pooling up together in rooms to spend together. I took this as an opportunity to get to my empty room early, shower, pack up and even get in a rotation of my Wing Chun forms in peace and quiet. Around midnight, I was getting ready for bed, when my roommates and a couple extras were coming in to grab hair supplies before heading into the one room over. Catching me on the byways in our small room, one of the girls had said, “About what you said today…”

I thought, Yeah, it was a pretty awesome answer. All correct and such.

“I don’t think that I should love anyone that hasn’t accepted Jesus into their heart.” The other girls agreed.

Say what? Ain’t that what the whole freaking book is about? Aw, man, this could only mean trouble for me.

Apparently to these girls, I was a bit radical in my thinking (and I was spending the whole weekend thinking I was being super low key. I had a bible, a couple remembered scriptures and everything! And I didn’t really talk a lot either.) so they asked how I felt about the Bible. I didn’t want to outright lie but I also wanted to be asleep and preferably not in a body of water or up a tree. So I just sugarcoated what I could and not mention the rest. I told them, “Well, I don’t really agree with everything the Bible says or how it’s implemented.” They really didn’t like that answer so they decided to pry deeper. They asked what did I not like about the Bible. I just responded about how it’s been cut, reedited, added to, subtracted from, watered down, played up and everything. It’s not a perfect book that dropped from the sky and bopped someone on the head, somebody(-ies) had sat down and wrote all of that, they could have inserted something jacked up in but who’s going to call against it since it’s supposed to be inside the “flawless” Bible. That just doesn’t sit well with me, political uses aside. I tried to keep that as low key an answer as possible but the girls weren’t happy. Neither was I, I was sleepy and I had to explain the difference between an atheist and agnostic to them. It made me miss the people I usually debate about my religion with because at least they were pretty knowledgeable of the world outside them or were learned scholars.

So instead of sleeping, I had to answer a bunch of rapid fire questions with as watered down an answer as possible. These girls I don’t think ever really had to go up against people from different religions before, especially people who didn’t agree with them. They asked me how I felt about homosexuality and how the earth came to be. For homosexuality I said I couldn’t care less, not an issue with me. I got the “It’s Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve” response. For what started the earth, I believe in creationism-evolutionism (I think it’s called “intelligent design” now? I believe God supplied the spirit and the ball just started rolling from there). I hoped they would focus on the “creationism” – nope, they focused on the “evolutionism” and heavy. One of them said, “I am not descendant of an ape!” Oh geez. I would have debated with her about that but I think I could be speaking in German for all they cared, I just really wanted to go to bed instead of argue. Now, the girls weren’t mean, just really wack and pretty sheltered in their beliefs. Annnnnd I’m on a Christian camp, I did see this coming – that’s why I tried to be low key and blend. I really just was there for the nature since I’m, y’know, Pagan and wanted to get away for a bit. Ain’t no rest for the wicked, I guess.

Apparently not since what got me noticed was that no one knew me at all. None of the three churches’ youth groups knew who I was and wanted to figure me out. That’s totally understandable but I just wanted to sleep. They left when I was about to take a walk myself because they felt they were chasing me out of my own room (good to know they picked up on that). Only one girl remained, the nice one who was from the same church I traveled with. I don’t ever really remember her saying much the whole trip but she was really a polite and decent girl. She felt kinda bad for me so she told me, “Sorry they put you on the spot back there. They just thought you were atheist –“

“’Atheist’?!” I exclaimed. “I’m Pagan!” Whoops.

My roomie was really baffled but a listener. And I could tell that whatever I say to her was going to be repeated directly back to those girls next door so I might as well keep my answers honest, short and fairly memorable. I told her that it’s a nature-based belief system, we do believe in a god, we’re polytheistic but can utilize the Christian divinity if that’s what we choose, and it’s got nothing to do with atheism or Satanism. Hopefully that’s what she told them.

The whole night I slept alone in the room (with exception to the conked-out chaperone that arrived later) and completely facing the door. Well, it wasn’t really “sleep” since I got up to lock the door, checked the locks, pack my bags, contemplate putting a chair under the knob – it really does work! – before thinking it would be too suspicious looking, remembered where all the emergency phones were, figured how fast I could run two miles straight and watched the window next to the door for any movement. I think I just slept a total of two to three hours the whole night until 7 AM when it was time to leave. I knew that a bunch of sleepy teens wouldn’t be up at 7 AM on a weekend when breakfast was supposed to be at 8-8:30 so the second they finished knocking at my door was the same second I was out with a hat on my head and my bags perfectly packed in tow. I shoved them in the coach bus’ loading area, went back to the breakfast area to eat quickly and was on the first seat of the bus waiting for everyone else to get on and go home.

Were all the Christians in my story raving lunatics out to get me? No, the adults were fairly sane and the one lady minister was actually interested in knowing about different religions. She was the only one I told that I was Pagan. I really wish I got to meet her again, she was really great. It was the teens that worried me because they didn’t know Christianity in their hearts, just what was stamped into their heads. The nature sights were beautiful but if I had to go on that again, I’m totally sneaking in a cell phone with Google maps on it and teaching my friends at home what S.O.S. is in Morse code (if you heard the loop for Live Earth, you know it). I don’t generally worry for my safety but when it comes to a big group of nutters and I’m stuck with them, I grow a bit concerned. If these kids totally dismissed Christianity ideals of acceptance, what else would they dismiss?

I’m used to dealing with some friction for my religion, though it isn’t always fun. I do occasionally worry how will people knowing my religion affect how they’ll treat me but since I’m always ready to explain myself and my beliefs – tho not everyone is and they don’t have to, keep that in mind – it usually works out. I have a good personality and fairly down-to-earth so people aren’t so scared to be around me usually. Or if they do, I have fun with it. Like when I met my university’s president of the Jewish Student Union and he was terrified to touch me when he found out I was a Witch. The rabbi, who was on very good terms with the Pagan Student Union (I was the president), let me chase the Jewish pres around a little until he shook my hand.

Discrimination does suck but for now, that comes with the territory. People generally fear what is outside the norm and what they don’t understand. That doesn’t make being a prejudiced prick any more justified, however. When people do make scathing remarks about my religion, I pick apart their beliefs and as well as them. I don’t say anything jacked up about their religion, they shouldn’t be saying anything jacked up about mine. I may poke fun at the denser and literalist followers but never anything too strongly about the religion itself. I know I have served as a very good mirror to those who believe that no one should be close-minded to them but they have a holy blank check to be a total jerk to everyone else.

Whenever people ask me, “Why won’t you return to Christianity?” I tell them exactly how the Christians I run into on average act: Intolerant, biased, hypocritical, could use a refresher on the Bible themselves. If what I meet constantly is the face of Christianity, then I’m staying firmly in Paganism. Pagans aren’t perfect either but at least we know it. Should people in Christian groups me grief about my religion and treat it as a joke, I just tell them, “So this is the face of Christianity. This is what your lord Christ preaches? Doesn’t seem like such a welcoming religion. Lemme leave before I get strapped to a stake in the name of ‘righteousness’.” Generally shuts people up because it reminds them that they are walking examples of their religion and its teachings and if I get graded hard for mine, I will grade very hard for them. The truest Christians I have met in my life are accepting and decent like the people who own my apartment complex but I believe the rest are completely self-righteous and heavily hypocritical dicks. If they actually followed what they were taught, I’d have a cheerier opinion but many don’t. Christianity is not a perfect religion, it’s not a one-size-fits-all. No religion (or lack thereof) is. More people – not just Christians – should remember that.

Usually, I would like to answer three questions for every Ask a Witch but since this Ask a Witch only had one question, I’ma catch up with the next month by doubling up! So instead of me answering three questions, I’m answering six. If they’re reeeeeeally burning questions you want answered, give me a usagi cell charm – nah, I’m just kiddin, just say so and I’ll try my hardest to get back to you. I check my Black Witch email everyday so needn’t worry. Or PM me, I respond to those too. If it’s a burning dumb question tho, it’s getting ignored. And if your question didn’t get picked for that Ask a Witch, feel free to ask again. I may notice your persistence and pick up the question.

And remember, you can ask me anything. About me, about what’s going on with y’all, anything really. Just keep the questions sensible and remember, I will answer silly questions but not stupid questions.

The Arts!

AfroPunk Version

Oh yay! My first Black Witch’s The Arts post! I’m so excited! This is so awesome! Now, The Arts is gonna be a monthly post highlighting anyone or anything in the arts (i.e. Fine Arts, Literary Arts) that I find noteworthy. This will not be restricted to genre and I expect this to grow into something ever expansive. Let’s get started!
Alright, some music, music, music. This is the first post so I’ll name top favorites of mine.

P.O.D. I started listening to back when I was 14 or 15. They really revived my love for music, helped me get through my more complicated years and actually kinda were the kick off to me being Pagan – which is a bit of an odd story given they’re a pretty Christian band. They were my starting glimpse into the music industry and if I never heard them, I probably wouldn’t be the person that I am today. If I had to graph the history of my musical tastes, it would be a tree and P.O.D. would be the roots because without them, I would have never expanded like I have. It’s been wonderful for me to work with them on their promotion crew and to meet them many times. The fans of P.O.D. are spectacular, very much like a family and I love them dearly. They’re like extended family to me.

What got me into P.O.D. was a chance showing of their “Sleeping Awake” music video on a Circuit City travel bus showing off its wares during the annual Artscape Festival. This video here:

The awesomeness of the video convinced me to look the guys up and pretty much start a new chapter in my life. It was in them did I start looking at my own faith more and actually convert to Paganism from Christianity because I learned from P.O.D. to be true to yourself always and to always be open to God and to walk the path that you should instead of the path others want you to is the true way to happiness and divine fulfillment. Y’know, I couldn’t agree more. Usually songs with Christian overtones send me packing but these guys weren’t talking about being a happy Christian and that’s it, they talked about their lives and their struggles being raised poor and challenges in their faith, things I could relate to. I really owe plenty to them, it was real fate that I experienced their music and how it has guided me, from then when I was 14 to now that I’m 23. They really mean the world to me.

Payable on Death

Next up on the list… Fort Minor.

I left hip hop years ago because to be frank, I hate drugs, guns and misogyny. I was raised around it, why would I willingly listen to it? I was fairly convinced that the average rapper had the IQ of a can of paint and were just a bunch of proud convicts, rapists and murderers. The only good they served was just to make a White kid in the suburbs smile and make it that much harder for a Black kid in the hood to get out. It took Linkin Park’s emcee Mike Shinoda to prove me pretty wrong. (Say what you will about the band, they would have to be the trunk of my tree of music because they helped branch me out to other things besides P.O.D.)

 

Shinoda helped me get back into hip hop with his album Fort Minor: The Rising Tied. He’s really a great wordsmith and had some excellent people on the record, some of which will be featured in future music posts such as Lupe Fiasco and Styles of Beyond. From Fort Minor I was able to get my hands on the Green Lantern mixtape Fort Minor: We Major and hear a plethora of artists I never knew existed. Originally, all a person would have to say is they do hip hop and I would be disgusted immediately because I thought hip hop was now the cesspool of music but there still are some crafty individuals, it’s just the music industry that’s the cesspool by pushing worthless talent over the better ones, especially in hip hop. Now, I’m more willing to give it a chance. I remember even writing Lupe Fiasco off as another stereotypical minstrel rapper until I heard “Be Somebody” and “Spraypaint and Ink Pens”. That and one of my friends completely downloaded all of whatever the man ever spat into a microphone onto my mp3 player and told me to listen to it because he couldn’t believe I didn’t like Lupe Fiasco – and I was gonna be cut off from free Jamaican beef patties and ginger beer until otherwise. He also gave me Mos Def Black On Both Sides. Now my music selection is extremely half and half between hip hop and rock. I appreciate hip hop more now and it’s mainly thanks to Fort Minor. Oh sure, I was raised with Missy Elliot and DMX but they were like background sounds until now. Now, they’re with meaning. Plus if I had missed the boat completely on hip hop, I would have missed something as cute as this:

D’awwwww. A Lupe Fiasco and KRS-One christmas battle. Ain’t it cute?

No FM links here folks, FortMinor.com has been taken down and what’s left is a FM ning network much like the one on AfroPunk.

Following up…

She’s new to the list since I’m mainly putting down the music that has influenced me most but I have a feeling she’ll be sticking around long time. If you known me even for a very recent or brief time, you know I love her. I’m talking about our favorite android, Janelle Monae.

I love this little ‘droid to bits and pieces, I’m tellin’ you. As much as I love P.O.D. and the men of Fort Minor, it’s like having a bunch of brothers – they’re sweet (though they can get on your last nerves from time to time) but sometimes it’s nice to have a sister around. All these guys are creative but to see a Black girl do it and with her imagination it’s really amazing and something I only wished I could have grown up with. It’s great seeing a girl with oodles of talent and not taking off her clothes. She’s really an important figure to me because it’s very hard wanting to be yourself when there’s almost no good examples around. Plus I’m a writer, the story of Cindy Mayweather is exactly what I needed when I thought my creativity pipe was running very dry from being at such a stifling university and all was growing dull around me.

She’s also the only one on this here list that simply caught my attention without sound. Yep, you read correct – I liked her before I ever sampled her stuff. What got me? The album cover of The Chase Suite. I saw it in off distance while being a pesky pest to some of my friends working in the Barnes & Noble’s music section in downtown Baltimore. I actually remember mistaking it for A Ghost in a Shell until I thought, “Waaaaaait a second. She looks Black. And a cyborg or android. Unusual hairstyle – it’s Black, definitely Black. Hmm, Black + sci-fi theme + girl + this girl is Black, doing a sci-fi theme and she’s a girl…. HOLY CRAP I MUST LISTEN TO HER.” I did just that and read her bio. I just heard “March of the Wolfmasters” automatically grabbed my wallet … to find no money in it. Then I did the next best thing and pestered my friends who were working behind the counter to learn more about everything. I think they were willing to let me walk off with it if that would shut me up and stifle my five million and two questions about her but the cameras were watching so they suffered my questions and pint-sized me pretty much hijacking their system computer. I hang around there a lot so I learned how to operate the database, heh heh. They got up a page on her and noticed that was the only thing keeping me quiet so they let me stare at it for as long as it meant I wasn’t bugging them. Once it was closing time, I pretty much went home with the album cover burned into my memory and looked up her website when it was just an invitation to be a citizen of Metropolis and ticking numbers. I found the “Many Moons” video and that was the start of that. I actually have two copies of The Chase Suite that I bought, one digital and one physical.

Monae also is a person I deeply appreciate for my lolita fashion, too. I felt that, “Well, she’s Black and a girl doing what she’s doing, I guess I can dress how I like too.” I love her style and the lolita side of me simply died with joy with her outfit in “Open Happiness”. Like I said, I love her to bits and pieces.

Janelle Monae
Wondaland Arts Society

Now heading up north…

K-OS kinda picked up for me where Fort Minor left off in musical creativity. I heard “Flypaper” from a fan video on YouTube by chance (which is how a lot of interesting stuff happens in my life, by complete and utter chance) and I was hooked, really. It’s such a cool song and with interesting perspective. “Sunday Morning” is totally wicked too. K-OS is a definition of a true emcee in my opinion, far more than just a mere rapper. No matter what he did, I could dig it. I got Atlantis and man was that mind blowing, I’m tellin’ you. I loved how he melded hip hop with rockabilly in “Equalizer” and he opened my exposure to hip hop up in Canada because through him I found Sweatshop Union and other Canadian emcees. His latest album Yes! is really amazing and pushes new boundaries, exactly what I always want to hear. Check out “4321”!

Amazing ain’t it? I’m so happy he was picked to perform at this year’s AfroPunk festival. Hopefully everyone liked his music as much as I do. And if you get Yes! you must must must listen to “Mr. Telephone Man”, “W.H.I.P. Cream” and “Astronaut”. If you can’t get the album now, you can listen to it on his site, just click his name below. I’m telling you, listen to “Mr. Telephone Man” if nothing else! The beat is killer.

K-OS

These artists are influential to me by really just opening my eyes – and ears. They pioneered my travels in music, brought me to places I never thought I would be before, challenged my thinking and really stood out just by being themselves. I was sick of the radio, sick of sex, glamourized misery and complete lack of imagination, just tired with hearing the same old crap all the time. If the radio even started playing more of the likes of these people, I would listen to it again but it is what it is. It is sad that some truly gifted individuals may be barred from the radio because they don’t play to what the execs want and radio, along with the music industry itself, shall suffer for that. Commercial appeal isn’t everything and in the end it is quality, not quantity that wins out. Too bad the execs are too blind (or at least too greedy) for that.

Since these artists are not really heard on the radio or simply not heard frequently enough, it is one reason of many I’m doing The Arts posts. There’s soooo much out there that people don’t know about and this is something I do on my own personal blog, so I’m doing it here. I’ve got tons to recommend and you’re gonna hear ‘em here monthly. But remember, The Arts is for more than just music – I may recommend books, short films, festivals, anything to do with the arts, whether that’s the fine arts, literary arts or whatever have you, it all goes here.

Next week is “Ask a Witch”! Use the “Ask a Witch” form here on the right hand side to ask me whatever question you like. Ask about me, ask about yourself, whatever, I don’t mind. I will be answering the best three questions from here and AfroPunk so send ’em in! And I can be found on Twitter too saying completely witless things @thisblackwitch. But please don’t send your questions via that, I am still learning Twitter so I wouldn’t have a single clue if you did. Use the form, it’s so accessible.

Baby, the Stars Shine Bright!

Alright, an astrology post, how bangin’ is this? It’s one of my better divinatory subjects so I really do like discussing it. Yet I do like to study astrology, I really don’t like horoscopes. They’re so inaccurate and uber general. To think you can dictate anything just on sun sign (the sign everyone asks for) alone is absurd. That’s like saying “If your favorite color is blue, your day will be…”. It’s very silly to judge a person strongly on their sun sign because that doesn’t capture everything, just like the horoscopes you read in magazines and newspapers. To do an accurate horoscope, one would need the aid of their natal chart and some transcendent/transit chart astrology because it is the comparison your birth chart with the current astrological forecast using an ephemeris and seeing what you get. No two horoscopes should look exactly alike because no two people are exactly alike. I mean, Darwin and Lincoln were born the very same day but turned out to be two different men. You’re more than just your sun sign.

Natal charts – also known as birth charts – are like the blueprint of your life. With an exact birthtime, birthplace and birthdate, everything is laid out from the cradle to the grave. Marriage, family, career, mindset, it’s all there. They’re very intriguing to me because there are many facets that construct a person into who they are (or were. Or will be). For those that don’t know what a natal chart looks like: (If the picture looks crappy, just click on it to see the clear version)

 My Natal Chart

Now, tho astrology is totally my kit, I still mess up. Mainly with sun signs, man, I mix ’em all up. I mainly measure with Jupiter signs (Jup stays in a zodiac sign for 12 months roughly) so when it comes to sun signs, it’s like the alphabet. We all know the alphabet like the back of our hands, there’s even a song to help us out but if I said, “Pop quiz! What letter is three paces to the left of T? You have five seconds,” I’d get a lot of stuttering people. That’s me with sun signs. Oi.

One thing about talking astrology in depth, I get so many glazed-over looks. Everyone is fine when we stay on sun signs but the second something like moon signs, retrogrades, aspects or ascendants gets brought up, the person I’m talking to usually grows very quiet, may start to nod blindly in agreement and their eyes go blank like the dead.

Oh geez, I have got to talk about this, mainly because this totally stands out and I love sharing this mini story! At total and complete random, I ran into a couple members of the Wondaland Arts Society at an Erykah Badu concert back in May! Namely, the guitarist Kellindo and backup vocalist Isis Valentino. Long story quite short, when I was meeting the rest of the band (sans Janelle Monae. Dang.), I was chatting with Kellindo about astrology. I forgot how that came up but meh, I’m sure it’ll hit me later. Either way, I was making my usual flub of sun signs. This time with Gemini and Cancer, I was a month ahead, he was on point with the signs. Now feeling like a dimwit because I never can get it right (Seriously, I can’t. That’s why I have an astrologer’s datebook with a three year ephemeris and all.) I was about to chat a bit about Gemini because I think he or someone he knows is a Gem. I stopped myself short because I had a feeling I’d go over his head with what I probably was gonna say:

Me: Oh, Gemini? Ah yes, that’s ruled by mercury, planet of communication. Totally awesome planet and quick too, has the shortest rotation in the solar system of eighty-eight days. It rules Virgo too! Both are very good zodiacs for music. I wonder if merc is retrograde right now – that’s when the planet looks like it’s going backwards in the sky but it’s not! – I’m a Venus in Gemini, tenth house, so I really like communication and writing, music too! What kinda Gemini did you say you were again?

Kellindo would probably have donned a “Save me, please” look on his face towards his bandmates. Ha ha, I don’t know what it was that night but I was really coming close to nerding out hardcore around them. I nearly chattered Isis’s ear away about the wonderful world of French verbal conjugations and I had to stop myself short yammering incessantly about Android smartphones with the drummer as I kept full eye contact with the aviation goggles on his head. (I love goggles, retro or futuristic, and his were awesome.) Ah, sometimes no one is spared by my unwarranted tsunami of knowledge until something distracts me or I’m told I’m yapping too much – again. Anywhoodle! That moment fairly captured how absentminded I am with sun signs but I’m still smart about astrology, just ditzy about the very piece of astrology everyone else is familiar with. At least I didn’t turn super random and go, “I do palmistry!”

One thing I am very proud of is my database, over a hundred names. I have some composites (charts without exact times) and tons of normal natal charts. I even have the natal charts of a couple famous folks such as Kanye West and Palin. I had gotten those after Kanye had another ego attack and my curiosity got the best of me. I found his chart through a Google search that landed me at a celebrity astrology site. I don’t know if the times are accurate so they could very well be composite charts but I was incredibly surprised by the lack of fire (fire signs, planets in houses ruled by fire signs; fire refers to passion, energy, spontaneity and fury) in his chart. On this site I also got Palin’s chart just because it was there and I thought, “Eh.” Nothing new I could tell you in her chart. I even have President Obama’s exact chart – actually, what astrologer doesn’t have his natal chart? It’s the only good that came from those annoying birth certificate people. I don’t have many celebrities in my database because what’s the use in collecting them? The vast majority of my charts I have were done on request. Hmm, Mike Shinoda and Chester Bennington of Linkin Park are the only ones in my database who are famous and I have interpreted their natal charts – but not on request because I thought they would be nice gifts back when I was 17.

Ah, the charts of Mike Shinoda and Chester Bennington. They really gave a jump to my increase of astrology knowledge but I do feel really bad that the copies they got back in 2006 were really terrible rush jobs. I didn’t check them as thoroughly as I originally thought, I only could dedicate 5 hours a day for a couple months to each chart balanced with school and life and in addition, the charts had to be kept limited. Y’see, the average natal chart interpretation is at least thirty pages. I didn’t want Shinoda and Bennington reading a tome each so I thought I could keep the interpretations to about ten or so pages. Yeaaaaaah, didn’t work out. I was so tired when I finally finished them, I forgot to do a spell, grammar and fact check – I just handed them over as is. They were so bad I kinda hope Shinoda lost them, he’s who I gave them to back at a Fort Minor concert. I still hope they were never read, especially when I finally had gone home after the concert, got some sleep, read my personal copies and broke into a cold sweat from how dreary they were. Mon dieu, I could have passed out. They were such rubbish and completely wrong in some parts! It even nearly spooked me into not wanting to meet Shinoda again or Bennington in fear they’d be ultra pissed. I’m still a little worried and I’m 23.

Because I was so floored at my miserable writing and really embarrassed, I re-did both charts. I ran their information through two natal chart programs, double checked their aspects (the lines in the middle of the chart) for false positives, pulled out some additional books to better the interpretations, tightened up the transitional parts of the interpretation (the part where I talk about returning planets, upcoming personal retrogrades, things like that) and fine tuned everything. I still tried to stay under the 30 page limit however and with that got 15 pages for Shinoda, 20 pages for Bennington. That was back in ‘06/’07 although, the interpretations are nearly useless now because all the predicted transit times have already passed, I would simply have to start anew.

I’m a perfectionist so I guess that’s why I would love to work on Shinoda and Bennington’s charts again but only with the guys present. I’d much rather work with them and construct it that way than do the all-nighter method where I have open three or more books, reading two identical charts printed out from two different astrology programs, a pen, a notepad of paper, a calculator, a box of mochi and a thing of soda. I can crack books and be psychic all I like but there’s nothing like having the person you’re doing the reading on actually there or in contact because they know themselves more than I ever will and people can always surprise you. I do need some time to work on the natal chart alone but I do like getting my facts straight too whenever possible. Eh, little dreams of mine. Maybe they’ll come true but I kinda doubt it.

One thing tho about me doing natal charts for other people: I’m not a walking computer. A person cannot just saunter up to me, give me their info and I just spit out a bunch of information. That’s a lot of math! And I still would need an ephemeris from the person’s birth year. I screw up with sun signs, I don’t think can do much else without the aid of my favorite natal chart site, alabe.com. That, I can do on my phone so if you see me and would like a nice overview at least, feel free to ask. (What program you see in this entry is astrodienst, another site I use but not primarily.) The most astrology I can do without my books and ephemeris is tell you what’s retrograde (for the first half of the solar system) and ask if you would rather a chat on ascendants and Saturn returns.

With natal charts am I strictest with my confidentiality rule. My confidentiality rule, “Whatever we discuss stays between us.” The only situation where the rule change is if the person is discovered to be unstable (or very potentially unstable) to the point they may harm or kill themselves or others. There, I inform their loved ones or close friends. This is for anyone from big names to normal people. I don’t believe in going “I did so-and-so’s chart! Oooooo, look at what’s here!” No one would ever trust me again and rightfully so. Now, I could throw up any random natal chart here and not many would be able to accurately decipher it but that doesn’t mean no one will try. Natal charts have very sensitive info and if read properly, they can be like diaries. I rather not chance the determination of a crazy fan or a crazy person trying to get to that.

There’s a lot to astrology and natal charts that I didn’t mention. That’s ok, there’s always next time but for now … I’m feelin’ super random and silly, let’s have a mini-contest!

The title is a reference to something. Tell me what is it, the primary style (or sub-style) it adheres to, and the name of five different series it has. The first two people to send me all the correct answers via email (thisblackwitch@hotmail.com) with “BTSSB Contest” gets a card reading of their choice (tarot or cartomancy (playing card)) or dream interpretation. The mini-contest ends Wed and winners will be mentioned in the next BW post – and don’t forget! Next week starts the monthly installments. Fill out the Ask a Witch form in the sidebar, comment or email me a question, I’m picking the three best to answer.

EDITOR’S NOTE: It turns out I met Isis Valentino and not Nastassia Davis with Kellindo that night. The appropriate changes have been made and I apologize deeply for the erroneous oversight. Thanks Kellindo for correcting me.

The Establishment (AfroPunk) Version

This is my first post after the AfroPunk festival, thank you everyone who said hi to me and recognized me! That was totally awesome! I’m very glad you guys like my writing, it’s very nice to know I have support from jump street. I had a great time, it was my first Afro Punk. I missed P.O.S. and a couple other several acts on the next day because I was too broke for an overnight stay tho. I do plan on going next year and being more prepared. I really had fun nonetheless! I also had delicious okonomiyaki (they don’t have those in Baltimore) but I didn’t snap up a new cell charm – I am an avid collector of cell phone charms, especially when I’m outta town or at special events. I hope everyone had fun at AfroPunk like I did there! I took maaad pictures! It was nice meeting you all and putting faces to names. I really am happy to have gone and can’t wait for next year! Now, it took me a while to churn this piece out, it was harder than I thought. I haven’t had to tell my story in a while so please do bear with any possible weirdness.

What got me into Paganism? Music. P.O.D. (Payable On Death) was very instrumental to me going into a new religion – which is rather odd because they’re a fairly Christian group. When I started listening to P.O.D., it made me take a closer look at my own faith since that’s what they talked about most. They weren’t bopping me over the head with “Be Christian or your life is over”, but I did start looking more and more into Christianity until it just dawned on me finally that this wasn’t my bag. I didn’t think that Christianity was a stupid religion; it just wasn’t the religion for me. I felt it didn’t make any sense to stay in a religion I’m not happy in to appease a god. I’m supposed to be happy suffering? Erm, no. I think I could do a better job serving the divine if I were happier doing it. To be anything otherwise would just create a hateful complex that I don’t need.

When I was Christian, I never felt a thing besides depressed, angry, numb and really confused. Even then, the Christian faith seemed really foreign to me. I’ve read a decent amount of the Bible, been to church, been anointed, been saved about three times, chatted with others who were deep in the faith – I got nothing. It just didn’t fit for me and nothing was going to make that fact change. To be honest, I kinda was growing angry at God and Christ because it seemed like they never really cared for those who needed it most, just doing what they wanted to do at complete random. It just annoyed me more and more that everyone’s answer to my problems was putting my faith in some invisible guy that no one can call down, see, hear or talk to when they need him most. Whether their prayers would be answered and how much seemed the luck of the draw. I grew up quite poor and in one of the roughest parts of Baltimore so I saw a lot of faithful people but I also saw a lot of screwed over people all the same. These were people that were very much worthy of mercy, far more deserving than I ever could, still getting the shaft – what kind of faithfulness is that? Also, during that time, my life was taking quite the spiral downward and I felt suicidal, among other very nasty feelings. I figured that if this guy in the sky hasn’t helped me then, He’s not going to help me now.

I guess all this would make me sound like I’m on the fast track to being an atheist but I don’t think I ever could. I’ve always believed in the metaphysical; spirits, deities and weird happenings included. I do believe in a god (and a goddess!), I just didn’t like how Christianity went about theirs. I never meshed well with the Christian religion or the Christian culture, it seemed humans were just hapless beings caught between the constant tug-o-war between God and the Devil. One thing about Paganism that attracted me was the fact you have to take responsibility for yourself and your actions, no blaming a supernatural being such as a god or a devil driving you to do whatever it is you did. Paganism is fairly heavy on self-reliance and personal responsibility. It gives not so much of a lean on the divine – they’ll help but they won’t fix your problems for you – so there’s a better feeling of having a grasp on your own life rather than waiting for some invisible superman to come and save you from yourself or feeling helpless at the whims of a schizo god. I think that’s what I needed honestly, not to feel like I have to rely on someone upstairs for every little thing. That’s how I have seen it, another Pagan may disagree. Regardless of religion, using God as a crutch is pretty universal, and Paganism is pretty individualistic so some may use a deity often and some may not. I don’t.

As Paganism is a nature-based belief system (no, I don’t pray to trees), the face of divinity is actually up to the practitioner. That’s right, we can use the Christian pantheon just like we can use the Greek pantheon, the diverse African pantheons, Shinto pantheon, you name it, we can pray to it. The universe is a great force in itself, the many faces of divinity are what man created to better understand the world around him. Pagans see divinity as a great universal energy that is divided into a male/female duality and the different Gods and Goddesses are the various faces of that duality. I’m a total mythology nerd so it works in my favor. It’s considered good practice to pick a pantheon you best resonate with and to refrain from mixing Gods and Goddesses from different cultures – mainly in spellwork – because it could produce icky results since they don’t merge well. I choose the Christian pantheon because it is what I am most comfortable with (remember, I didn’t like how Christianity went about working with their deity, not I didn’t like the deity itself – much. With less severe reliance on God, I felt better about Him) but I do refer to other Gods and Goddesses if the occasion calls for it like a thunder god or a goddess of mercy. I really like using the African and Shinto pantheons when I can. Or if I don’t feel like messing about with Gods, Goddesses – which I often don’t – and their rules of contact, I use spirits. I don’t pray to trees but I do believe they have a spiritual force, as does the air, fire, etc. More often than not I see myself using lower-tiered spirits such as elementals (spirits of the elements or nature) than Gods. I mostly use Gods for bigger things such as important spells or something that’s going to need a lot more power than from a sprite and those are far and few in between.

I didn’t get into Witchcraft with 100% noble means tho. I actually wanted to jinx my bullies. Yep, you read correctly, I wanted to jinx my bullies. I got tired of being picked on. I used to hang out in my local library all the time and I would see the books of Witchcraft but steer totally clear of them just like everyone else until one day I simply got sick of being messed with. I was scared of course but I thought the same thought everyone else had of Witchcraft: that it was full of hexing and jinxes. I went to the Young Adult section and picked up Where to Park your Broomstick by Lauren Manoy.

I thought it would be a book that would teach me to get back at my bullies but was I definitely wrong. It told me that wasn’t what being a Witch was about, harming people as an act of revenge or being spiteful. There’s the main rule of “An’ it harm none, do what thou will” and the Rule of Three: whatever you do comes back to you threefold. Nixes jinxing right there. She employs the idea that being a Witch is about being in tune with yourself and nature, not being some wicked and self-centered little thing. Also in being a Witch, you learn diplomacy since you’re really stepping outside of the norms and reacting constantly with venom gets you nowhere. I learned to deal with my bullies in other ways and I finally found something I could believe in.

I learned that to be Pagan and a Witch is to be open-minded and not hateful. I’m not saying people never piss me off but I am saying that it would be against my beliefs to be some terrible person. I’m not learning from my situation and to be honest, I’m not exactly deserving of peace and quiet if I’m going to act as bad as the person is to me without any initial attempt of remedy. However, I’m no doormat. One thing I like about my religion is that it’s very self-involved so you’re constantly improving yourself instead of waiting for someone else in unusual clothes to direct you. They can help, but they’re not the ones pulling the weight.

Though music helped expedited me into Paganism, I always had a pull to witchcraft, even when I was a young child. Growing up I could see spirits, predict the future, mess with electronics and communicate with the weather, to name a few talents. At first I just assumed everyone could do this so that’s why it never was brought up. But then I was starting to get the feeling I wasn’t like other kids and maybe I should keep my mouth shut about this. I was raised in the usual Black Christian family so I was taught that unless you were a prophet, any supernatural stuff a person could do automatically meant they were in league with Satan, no questions asked.

Meep.

I never opened up to my family about my religion or what I can do. My mom thinks anyone who claims to be psychic as crazy or in league with the devil. I remember asking her about how she felt on psychics and it boiled down to this: She responded people like that could not possibly exist because they would be naturally evil basically. They would be hitting the lotto like mad with precognition, stealing luxury cars using telekinesis to get the keys, the world would simply look like the third X-Men movie.
Then she told me about the story of King Solomon, explaining how even if being psychic wasn’t possible, if it were, it would only be from having an allegiance with Satan. I asked about prophets and how come they weren’t bad but could do practically the same thing. I was given the ol’ story of how they were working for God so that’s why they couldn’t work with the Devil. Didn’t really make much sense then and still doesn’t now because there’s a lot of inconsistencies but I figured it would be best to simply keep all questions to myself and be scared witless for about ten years or so. For the rest of my family, it’s either they don’t know or just found out through my personal blog.

Y’see, I’m not really close to my family. Family is very important in Paganism but I’m just not close to mine. I’m way too different and my family’s not so I keep two personas about usually – one my family sees and one the world sees. Was bound to happen anyways, it doesn’t bother me that much anymore.

I am very happy to have changed my religion. It has made me a much chipper person and my life is much more fulfilling than when I was a Christian but it’s not like I don’t have any problems anymore. Firstly, life generally is rough no matter who you are. Secondly, I’m in a religion that’s none of the top three and often the scapegoat for anything crazy. We’re lumped in with the psycho killers, baby eaters (who does that?), Satanists and other folks who honestly lost their marbles a long while ago. Basically since 16 or 17 I’ve had to defend my religious views and the fact that I’m a Witch against a myriad of people from frightful nut jobs to the religiously (namely, Christian) concerned. I must say, it does leave me pretty cranky sometimes. It’s like I have to walk around with a dry erase board on some days. Then I have to explain that nooooo, I’m not a Wiccan. I’m a Witch. There’s a difference (that I covered in my first post). It does make me a bit more of a stickler but eh, there’s no way am I going to be super nice and without a bad side of any sort. I’m a nice person generally but I don’t wear halos for hats. I’m realistic, in other words.

I’ve been told that “I’m in a phase”, “I’ll be returning to Christianity”, one person even prayed right in front of me, wishing for Jesus to disturb my sleep and my waking moments until I would return to Christianity. I don’t think that’s what the Bible itself preaches but tell these people that. I have dealt with people practically dashing across the street, give backhanded complements about my faith, and try to use me as an example of what a person who has left Christianity looks like – constantly trying to depict my life in utter shambles (basically how my life looked when I was Christian) now that “I had abandoned Christ”. Jesus, what an annoyance.

I’m very happy being Pagan and I super doubt I’ll return back to Christianity but the hardest part of converting was I had to listen to myself first and forget everyone else. I learned that no matter what you do in life, let it mean something to you and you’ll have no regrets.

Alrighty then, now that I’ve shared a fair bit of my background story (outta the broom closet will have to be its own post) and am now a regular columnist, time for some mayhem! I plan to have weekly posts so you can either keep up with me here or with my wordpress version of Black Witch, which has an RSS feed and email subscriber. I just added a Twitter for my external blog so people can have up-to-date posting both here at AfroPunk and there. I haven’t much of a clue of how to use it but I’m learning. It’s strictly for quick BW updates so if you wanna contact me, email or comment. If you really wanna keep up with me, go to my personal blog. And don’t worry AfroPunk maintainers, I’m not stealing folks, just putting the external blog to good use, AP’ers ain’t the only ones lookin at it. Among the weekly posts will be two special monthly posts, “Ask a Witch” and “The Arts”.

“Ask a Witch” is where you can ask me whatever question you like (excluding divination of course, I’m just a columnist here – unless you have red bean mochi or okonomiyaki. Otherwise you’re gonna have to wait for special opportunities to arise), I’ll pick the three best and answer them here. You can ask anything about me, about yourself or whatever have you here in the comments, email me or use the “Ask a Witch” form that’s on this site, just scroll down a little and keep your eye on the right column. If you don’t want the question to be public just say so when you email me or fill out the form. I’ll try to answer all private questions as quickly as possible and within a week.

“The Arts” posts are about mainly music and books. These posts will talk about musical talent that I think could use a bit of boasting and books I think are pretty spiffy reads. If there is anything else that are part of the fine arts or the literary arts such as festivals or concerts, I will be putting them here too.

See you next week! I’ll be updating every Friday and the installments are at the end of the month.

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