The Establishment (AfroPunk) Version
Every religion has them and every religion would like to deny they got them. Psychos. Nutjobs. Need to be locked up in the wacko shack. Coo coo in the coconut. Nutters. Completely mental. Off their rocker. Basket cases. Extremists. Crazies.
Usually these people are considered to be literalists of their faith and fairly misunderstanding of that faith at well. As a Pagan, I usually come in contact with the Christian version. They are the Jesus freaks, bible thumpers, whatever you want to call it, they are far too overly faithful and equally close-minded. Now, not all Christians are close-minded but these guys are. Generally, I don’t mind talking about my faith and even answering a few questions – hey, it’s why I have this column and what the Ask Black Witch installments are for – but in my years as a Pagan, I could usually tell if someone was ready to jump out their skin over my faith because it wasn’t theirs, I was a fiendish heathen or a poor, misguided youth that strayed from the Christian flock.
Whenever I tell a mental Christian that I’m Pagan, they jump either at the shoulders or with their eyebrows. I can sense their impending defensiveness on the horizon and my day is about to get a lot more… interesting, to be kind. It’s one thing to be spooked that I’m Pagan yet still try to treat me like a human being perfectly capable of proper judgment and ask about my religion (which I prefer) but it’s another entirely to drop nothing but scripture after scripture on my head. I was raised Christian prior my switch to Paganism, I know the rules but that knowledge falls on deaf ears, regardless how many times I say it. They assume I never heard of this guy called Jesus (despite being Black, American, surrounded by at least five churches and not living under a rock) and tell me of all the wonders of Christianity as if I never heard of the religion a day in my life before. I try to tell them that Christianity simply wasn’t my cup of tea, thus why I left but usually I am told without fail and without pause that God will turn his back on me and curse my being because I decided to practice a different religion. Oh geez.
Now, since I was raised originally as a Christian, I know for fact that Christians have to preach the word of God but there isn’t a single scripture in the entire book that says “Thou shalt act as if a total jerk and force thy word unto others through vexation, threat of mortal or divine harm or death”. I’m pret-ty sure I would have noticed that. In dealing with the crazy Christians, I have gotten a multitude of ignorance thrown my way. Everyone is ignorant of something – for example, I am entirely ignorant of nearly all Russian social customs and Russian grammar rules – but it is the will to want to learn or continually shun potentially new information is what sets people apart. While stupid questions about my religion makes me bristle, I know I have asked them myself and they are generally harmless so I don’t mind too much in answering them. When I’m asked those very same questions just to be attacked for my answers or have them crudely picked apart, needless to say, it does annoy me.
Case in point:
There was a show this past summer called the Summer Spirit Festival at the Merriweather Post Pavilion. The show bill consisted of Erykah Badu, Janelle Monae, The Roots, Common, Chuck Brown and B.O.B.. Read this column (or just take a gander at The Arts), you’ll know I love Janelle Monae. If she’s in the area, I’m there. Also I’m friends with one of the members in her band, Kellindo, her guitarist, so I was planning to hang out with him after their set…first, I gotta find him.
Because communication can be such a wack thing, it was hard to keep in touch and find each other so I was wandering about a bit to see if I could spot him. I wasn’t very hard to miss because of my red and white multi-media hairfalls and rocking horse shoes, he on the other hand could possibly blend.
Kinda hard to miss
While looking about for Kellindo or anyone from Wondaland that could point me in his general direction, this lady walked up to me and said something along the lines of: “What would you say if I told you I could make you someone?”
I was a little confused but in being raised in Black culture, I knew the talk. She was dressed normally but a slick talker. The type that would tell me they could sell me the moon but I would probably get shafted on empty promises in the end. I was a bit busy but meh, I could spare some talk. Besides, she might not be a slick talker after all, just someone with the intro like one. That was until she continued, “I can tell God has a plan for you.” Oh god/dess, my spidey senses were tingling and all of a sudden I really started to look around her. Where is he?
The lady asked why I was so fidgety and I explained, “I’m here to see Janelle Monae, I’m friends with one of the members and trying to spot him. I’m sorry that I’m distracted. It’s very nice of you but I’m not Christian.”
I know, bad move it seems but I figured, Hey, I could get a new reader for Black Witch. It’s not written for just Black Pagans. As almost expected, her face twisted into confusion and concern. She asked what religion was I and I answered while looking beyond her shoulders, “I’m Pagan.” It had shocked her, she started to ask the basic questions such as what is it, when did I become Pagan and a question I found quite memorable: “Who hurt you?”
She asked who had hurt me so bad I decided to change religions since it’s a totally outlandish idea that I could possibly convert with sound mind. I had answered, “No one hurt me. I left Christianity because it didn’t work well with me. Paganism suited me far better,” but she wasn’t buying. I had to be abused, molested, raped, something to justify leaving Christianity. And I wasn’t.
I tried to explain my religion as best and as simply as I could but she kept saying, “So you believe that the Lord Jesus Christ is your savior and was God’s only begotten son” or something along those lines. I told her that as Pagans, we are very open to many different pantheons, including the Christian pantheon but aren’t necessarily apart of them. She responded, “Oh, but you haven’t said that you believe that the Lord Jesus Christ is your savior and God’s only begotten son.” There I attempted to explain that Paganism is not a denomination of Christianity so I don’t have to repeat after her because I’m not Christian. Fairly simple concept, yes? Throughout our conversation she kept trying to get me to say that phrase, to feel normal in her own skin but that simply wasn’t happening. Instead, I tried to give her my Black Witch business card and referred her to my column, giving my spiel: “I work for AfroPunk and run a column named Black Witch. It’s about Black Pagans so you can learn more about us and there’s even a section called Ask a Witch* where you can ask your questions and I answer them at the end of the month.” As she took my business card, I could tell what I said caught her attention, my column’s name and the name of the installment. She asked, looking at my card, “Why do you call yourself ‘Black Witch’?”
I answered, “Because that’s what I am. I practice… witchcraft. I’m… a Witch, thus the column’s name is ‘Black Witch’.” Oh hey! I think I spotted George 2. – oh wait, it’s some random concert goer. Crap. This lady was about to go on Bible overdrive and I could tell. She was talking to a witch. And so it began:
“So do you cast spells and potions?”
“Do you do any…black magic or any –“
“No, I don’t jinx or put fixes on people, it’s against my ethical standards.” Where is Kellindo and what is he doing? When did my falls become a wacko magnet? “Spells are a lot like prayers but with bells and whistles.”
After playing a round of twenty questions including another return of “who hurt you” and why was I at the Summer Spirit Festival, the lady gave me her business card and said, “Now, you know why I gave you my business card instead of just take myself and run? Because I’m protected by the blood of Jesus Christ. Whatever voodoo you do can’t harm me.”
I was totally calm, if not my face a little twisted but in my head, this is what I felt like:
Me:…*completely freaked out*… Kellindoooooo!
Some passerby: “Ah, yeah ‘Cold War’ was dope. That guitar solo was amazing.” *totally continues walking*
Me: Wut? I wasn’t singing – I can’t find – Somebody get me outta this situation! This lady’s nuts!
I was checking my email and twitter on my consistently dying phone, hoping for any sign of life from the Wondaland side, anything. Nada. The lady asked me again why I was at the concert, as if my musical preference could somehow determine my religious background better or the performer’s religious background. No, my religion has nothing to do with me being here. No, Janelle Monae isn’t Pagan or a Witch, she’s clearly Christian, I am perfectly happy with that and if I could spot somebody from her crew, that would be totally peaches. At least Monae, unlike the lady standing before me, is Christian but hasn’t lost her marbles and thus I find her quite amiable and adorable. So long she and the rest (or at least vast majority) of Wondaland were fine with me being Pagan, we’re spiffy.
The lady had received my card and I thought that would be the end of it but instead, she scratched out the ‘Witch’ in Black Witch. She said, “I don’t see you as a Witch. You’re not a Witch, you’re just misguided. I will pray for you and hope you’ll one day feel better.” I was a little agitated from that because it was code for: “I don’t accept your religion. It is not Christian and thus not valid. You are confused and must return. You’re making a big mistake.” Isn’t the first time I’ve heard it and definitely not the last but it doesn’t make me feel any better each time I hear it. All I wanted was to leave this lady, find Kellindo and forget this whole charade ever happened. When she had finally walked off, I began to ask about for where I could find the performer entrance and got some very helpful answers. From there I found the entrances to the tour buses and stayed put, praying that no one else would be “attracted” to my falls while trying to get in touch with him. I’ve gotten a few people, including drunkies and chain smokers but no one who topped that lady. When I finally found Kellindo walking out with George 2.0, I had ran up and wrapped my arms around him like I haven’t seen him in years. I was happy because we don’t get to meet up much but also because he and George 2.0 were the sanest people I’ve met that night.
Later in the evening, I recanted a brief version of my day with the lady to George 2.0 while giving him my business contacts and getting his. Though I told the story anyways, I was a little worried that he would become just like that lady at the mention of my religion and make me feel like I was in a horror movie: out in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by a bunch of potentially raving Christians, nearly dead phone, not in parkour-friendly shoes. I’m completely fine if someone is Christian but only when levelheaded, not Twilight Zone psychotic. Instead, George 2.0 had laughed at the story, saying, “Oh, she was one of those people” as he took the Black Witch business card I had handed to him. I already knew Kellindo was fine with my religion but for a long while I was concerned that he was just the exception rather than the definition. A lot of the members of W.A.S. are very deep in their Christian faith so I often wondered, How do I know they won’t react the same? Usually when dealing with Christians – Black Christians primarily – I often find that the deeper the faith the more closed-off the Christian and the more closed-off the Christian, the more mental they appear to me and any other non-Christians. Wondaland means a lot to me and I’ve got faith in them but I do have to be careful, I’ve had terrible discoveries before. Taking a chance, I told George 2.0 my concerns about the rest of Wondaland. He looked at me and said with a dismissive wave of the hand, “Oh, we don’t mind.”
Sweet, I knew I found the sanest people in the park.
When dealing with others from different faiths, it’s usually a good rule of thumb to hear that person out, especially if you have not met anyone from that religion before. What you know about that religion may be incorrect so don’t entirely assume, get it from the horse’s mouth if you can. I as a Pagan and my Muslim friends can definitely vouch for this, it’s never fun being on the receiving end of misconception which turns into intolerance. Even if you don’t agree with that religion or their tenets, at least respect and understand that not every religion on this planet is a carbon copy of yours. I don’t 100% agree with Christianity but I won’t shove my religion down their throat because it isn’t right. I didn’t like it, neither would anyone else. It’s okay to be firm in the faith but don’t let it blind you from the world.
That was a lovely story, wasn’t it? Good way to kick off October. Another good way to kick off October? A nice divination giveaway I’m naming “Samhain Pickers”. Alright peoples, the prize of “Samhain Pickers” is a divination reading from me in the form of dream interpretation, tarot, cartomancy (playing card divination), or natal chart astrology. What you have to do is send me an email (look at my About me/Contact me page) with your name, email, selection and “Samhain Pickers” in the subject line. Your entry is my number to pick you by; if you’re the first entry, you’re no. 1, if you’re the 13th entry, you’re no. 13, understood? I’m picking three winners at total random (via random.org) so if my number generator says 8, I pick no. 8, the eighth entry in my Black Witch inbox. Understood? I won’t take any tweets or comments, you must email for your entry to be valid and all winners will be announced in “The Arts!: Samhain Edition”. If you win, it’s your choice what form of divination you would like to have done but please note that if you choose the natal chart selection, you must have your birth time ready. Good luck, everyone!
And one more thing! I’ll be back in Philly and NYC. Philly on Oct 9 and NYC sometime in Oct. If you wanna hang, say so! And “Hi” to the Phandroid guy and his wife!
*Now “Ask Black Witch”