Can you recommend a tarot deck for a black pagan newbie? I cannot relate to the ones I see in the metaphysical bookstores where I live, as they are full of white images.

– Lynn

I personally use the Revelations Tarot made by Zack Wong and it’s perfect for me because it reflects the reversals, has amazing art and it’s fairly diverse (kinda) but it isn’t a Black deck. The best deck I can recommend to you is the African-American Tarot but it seems more of an African deck than African-American to me because the symbolism is greatly African. I’ve never used the deck but it’s worth a shot, the imagery seems very strong and well done. If this doesn’t suit you well, I would have to suggest you might have to learn cartomancy (playing card divination) which is a wonderful alternative to tarot cards. If you choose to try cartomancy, get Playing Card Divination for Beginners by Richard Webster. You may have to look high and low for that book at a reasonable price because I think it may be out of print, judging by the price hike for even a used book. As of this moment, I have not found another deck that reflects our race but if someone knows one, shout it out.

Okay, on the Black Witch Fan Page, I have received alternative tarot card suggestions from Renee D.: “I have the African American deck , and thought the art is nice , it doesn’t do anything for me as far as reading it. I agree with you BW, the images are more African , but then the images of famous AA’s in the background of some of the card…s don’t have any relation that I could figure out to the meaning of the card or the main image on it. I read with the New Orleans Voodoo tarot, but I’d like to recommend the “Tarot of the Ages ” as a nicely done deck that has a people of many different races in it. Aztec Indians are on the suit of cups, Northern Europeans are swords, Africans are wands, and East Indians are coins, while the major arcana has a mixture of ethnicities.” Good mention.

1. How do Black Pagans who aren’t doing vodun/candomble/ife, etc… dealing with the fact that lots of modern Paganism comes out of European beliefs and cosmologies, i.e. Norse/Greek/etc… or dallies with ideas constructed by Euro-Americans (Summerland?). Apologies in advance if this question has a lot of ignorance in it.
2. Do you ever feel that modern events and phenomenon (massive, i.e. 1M+ massacres, electromagnetic radiation, destruction of entire forests, poisoning/extermination of living areas, sheer population density, etc…) changes or mediates the way humans can engage the forces and bodies in the natural world? Thank you.

– Wesley

Well, I’m not vodun (Voodoo), Candomble or Ife but because I never really felt I clicked with the European pantheons for kinda obvious reasons (I’m Black) so instead I don’t believe in the Summerland (the Wiccan version of Heaven with a reincarnation twist) and even take a step back from the pantheons that honor Yule, Beltane or any Pagan/Wiccan holiday that’s actually Euro-Pagan rather than all-inclusive. Being Black and in Paganism, you don’t see much of yourself and your culture so you have to take a step back often and wonder what is in it for you. I like Yule not for the pantheon but because of what it represents, the winter solstice. I don’t really get into European deities much because they’re not my deities personally. Instead I would be more nature-focused rather than theist-focused with my beliefs because Paganism is way more than about Gods and Goddesses. Yeah I cringe (and rage a little) every time I see a White Isis with a ski-slope nose but Paganism is pretty Euro-centric without saying and because people perceive that to be “normal” Black Pagans often have to sit back and think a little more about their faiths and what is that really than their White counterparts. There’s no ignorance in the question, trust me. All you can do is make what you can from Paganism, it’s a very diverse belief system.

Do I ever feel that modern events & phenomenon change or mediates how humans can engage the forces and bodies of the natural world? Yeeeeeeees. We’re part of nature, very hard to say we play a separate and detached role when we humans are right in the thick of it. However, I think part of the issue is people (including Pagans) believing that our interaction with nature should stay on the surface, with happy feelings and “Green is the new black” bumper stickers, stuff that makes humans feel we’re affecting nature but to be honest, saying “Ohm” over and over doesn’t magically remove the oil from the BP spill and bring back the wildlife it has (and still is and will for a very long time) destroyed.

There’s this awesome word I learned back in an  Environmental Science class in college – Anthropocentric, bringing the human element into the environmental discussion because we are indeed part of the world, may as well act like it. It now is mentioned more and more with every natural disaster, natural benefit and little in-betweens that happen because just like nature moves with its own force, we’re also part of nature and affect or are affected by that force. I think people were originally pretty in tuned with nature (that’s kinda how Paganism came about, the personification of nature by man as he tried to understand this big ol’ scary world (in a very small nutshell)) but as technology got better and industry became stronger, that connection was kinda lost. Work with the earth? Hippie talk – let’s strip mine this globe till there’s nothing left behind! People do want what they want, after all. Even now you can’t really talk about environmentalism without people thinking you’re some barefoot airhead still thinking it’s Woodstock or some stuck up yuppie with an iphone and an app on it that measures their (and somehow your and the city behind you) global footprint. Personally, I believe that there needs to be some serious changes in governments around the world and global perception towards environmental problems and to be active in that is going to affect nature a lot more than doing a yoga pose on a 100% organic mat. Since nature has a way of balancing itself out (humans included), we should be fine but not by sitting about and waiting for the world to shake itself back in place (for us humans, of course, because what might be right for man may not be right for nature and vice versa). We can’t sit, wait and be fairly passive when nature can’t change itself or won’t be able to change itself well if we people simply resort to tactics that make us feel like we’re doing something but in reality, doing nothing.

To best work with the forces and bodies in the natural world in these changing times, work with the natural world. Learn about how the natural world works (that means staying awake in biology, chemistry, physics and environmental science classes or taking some of these classes) and the problems that impact it (ocean acidification, global warming, changes in biomes, etc etc) as well the political issues that are wrapped up in it (Monsanto, BP, Live Earth, Genetically Modified Organisms and Food (GMO & GMF) and how it affects nations). Actual awareness and knowledge is a lot more worth than just lighting incense and thinking happy thoughts – though incense and happy thoughts are nice for the stressful times, as well as the yoga and the “ohms”. Modern events and phenomenon are going to happen one way or another and how people will interact with nature is going to consistently change no matter what but there’s an option to either attempt to still maintain some sort of relationship with nature or treat it continually like a force to fight against. I would opt for the former, personally.

That’s all the Ask Black Witch for this month. Please do submit questions either through twitter, the Facebook fan page, Ask Black Witch submission form, email or even just in the comments.

This is the very last day of 2010 and I would like to say that I am very astonished at the success of this column (although I would like more Ask Black Witch submissions). This column has been seen over 2,000 times within nearly 8 months (on the WordPress side alone, more on AfroPunk), the Facebook fan page for Black Witch has grown incredibly in its very short existence and I have met a lot of different people and perspectives I would have not otherwise seen. I honestly didn’t expect this much success on the WordPress or AfroPunk side, I’m very pleased. I am very happy that I have Black teen readers most of all because I remember when I was roughly 15 or 16 (It wasn’t that long ago, I’m only 23) and figuring out what I believed with very limited but potentially bountiful resources. It’s already not easy being Black and a kid, being Pagan simply complicates things; I aim for Black Witch to simplify some of those complicated things and to give a hub of resources that they (and everyone else) can use to not feel so alone and to be more informed. So far it has worked, my site has added new links to the “Links of Interest” such as Greater Than AIDS, African-American Wiccan Society and God Checker but also there is the The Arts!: Samhain Edition post that is chock full of valuable information. I want for Black Witch to be a staple in the Black Pagan community and useful for any and everyone, even if they aren’t Black or Pagan.

What I would like to see for Black Witch in 2011, besides more Ask Black Witch submissions, is to expand it just a liiiiiittle more. BW is still in its first year so I still have a little more time to move and modify things about. I’ve been meaning to get to it sooner but I will be introducing occasional month-long series that may or may not be involved with the Black Pagan experience but relevant nonetheless. The will have guest writers, features and interviews. The first series will regard music culture, titled “Fandom and the Fan”, and showcase in March. Besides series, I will be having more contests and giveaways and Ustream chats throughout 2011. Not every month will be contests, giveaways and Ustream chats though, don’t confuse the two (you’d be surprised how often that confusion has happened) but I’m making sure these will be set as tradition. There’s already Samhain Pickers, the Halloween divination giveaway, but I would like to add a few more, just enough to give Black Witch a set motion for the years to come. Black Witch is currently in very good shape so the most that I hope for is Black Witch remaining useful as it goes through its first anniversary and beyond.

Happy New Year!