The Establishment (Afro-Punk) Version

So, I’m doing some research for an English paper about the African American Wiccan experience. However, the deeper I dive the less I find about the subject (thank Goddess for the African American Wiccan Society). What gives? There must be more information and I know we exist!
1. How would you describe your experience as a black Witch?
2. What do you think about the almost nonexistent information describing our experiences and giving us advice?

– S.

Oooh, an English paper. I know how you feel about wanting to find extensive information about the Black Pagan experience, there seemed to be a complete drought when I was looking myself when I was starting out. I remember before Black Witch or even the Black Pagan group on Afro Punk, I found myself ultimately frustrated that there seemed to be nothing there for Black Pagans. Plenty for White Pagans but if you wanna talk about Africana stuff and Black culture, it seemed to be an empty place. I have looked endlessly on the web, in books, in stores, wherever you could for Black Pagan groups and it seems they’ve only just started to pop up recently. I believe African American Wiccans has been around for ten years but as a list proc on Yahoo since 2001 but I never happened upon them once until Black Witch came to be and a reader suggested me to them. I would search endlessly for “Black Pagan” on Google with just about nothing worth reading coming out of it. I think the issue is 50/50 in regards to the internet as a whole and the Black cyber culture.

1. My experience as a Black Witch? Well, it’s a pretty fulfilling experience for me. Despite my problems and issues that life likes chucking to any and everyone, I am definitely happier here than I was when I was Christian. I feel a better connection to what it is that I am doing, everything doesn’t seem so pointless and I feel more spiritual, in that I am practicing something I truly feel, not something I was told to do so religion doesn’t feel like a chore. That’s a lot more I’m getting out of it than I would have when I was Christian. When I was Christian, I was totally miserable no matter what I did to solve it. I went to church, got saved (three times), read the Bible, etc etc etc. Wasn’t cutting it for me. I wanted the same kind of faith that I saw my favorite band P.O.D. had: honest, sincere and fulfilling and I wasn’t getting that at all from Christianity. I’m happier as a Witch because Chrisitianity didn’t work out for me but Paganism sure did. Christianity is a nice religion (when not bogged down with stupidity as it commonly is) but not a religion for every soul on this earth.

2. I think there is a well of information but it’s like oil, gotta hit it first and it has to have worth or else it’s just another thing. Since Black Witch, like I said, I’ve been introduced to more Black Pagan groups than anything but that’s in part because readers will tell me “Hey, I’ve been interested in this stuff too, here’s the website I go to/book I read/metaphysical store I visit” but that’s mainly because they know I exist. I attribute the success of my column/blog to the fact there’s no easily accessible trove of information about Black Pagans (I use present tense and not past tense because it’s still hard and we have more of a force now than then) and the fact that this is one of the few very kinda easily accessable sites there are about the Black Pagan Experience on the net. I can promise you that there are more sites about this, spend some time on African American Wiccan society but they’re not really given a voice. There’s a multitude of reasons why:

Too small and exclusive:
When you look around the Important Links on Afr. Am. Wiccan Society, you’ll see lots of little pockets of Black Pagans getting together. That’s great we have so many but it can be a problem too because we have so many. Without the help of sites like AAWS, there would be just about nothing to reel them in (I certainly can’t always do it) and showcase them. Also another issue I noticed is that they don’t provide true glimpses into those communities, either register or leave. I understand wanting to keep the trolls out but everyone else should at least be able to see something that will give anyone that happens upon those sites something to chew on. I think they should have a way for people to lurk without being members, it would probably help.

Poorly advertised:
Black and Pagan with a site? It seems people are just waiting for BET or Black America Web to stroll by and pick them up – which is just about never going to happen without some forceful nudging or a terrible gimmick. Most people who run sites like these aren’t advertising them very well for the average Black Pagan to find them. The term Black Witch still does not return positive results for Black Pagans – actually, before the Afro-Punk group Black Pagans (which I started, yayz!), it was just as bad, no responses or hits for actual Black (as in African-Diaspora) Pagan…just tons for black magick, gimmicky hexes and other stuff that I really didn’t need to see, especially at a young age. Yes, there was the one page on Witchvox a Black Pagan wrote about her experience but no groups and no way to socialize. If someone has a site, they should advertise and well. Submit to Google, Yahoo, and other search engines. Plus sites like Black Witch and African American Wiccan Society, the fairly recognizable sites of the Black Pagan experience it seems, have started within a year ago basically. Thanks to sites like WordPress, Blogger, Twitter, Facebook and other sites, a more vibrant voice of the Black Pagan experience can come through and interconnect us to each other and to the rest of the world. I know the blog Black Pagan has just started up (I’ll feature it but first I need that site to exist for about two months with consistent posting before I slap it up here) and I’m sure there are more that are going on. These developments are pretty recent tho so there are projects and works, time just has to pass first.

Black America Online:
If I say “Black Faith blogs”, the average person is going to think either about Christianity or even Islam. (Wanna change the face of Black belief? Vote for me at Black Weblog Awards in the Faith Category) Black Pagans just get tossed off to the side as the “Voodoo lady” of faith systems. Through the lens of the Black faith, Black Pagans are supposed to not exist (because we’re all Christian![/sarcasm]) and if we do, we’re supposed to be weird, extremely Afro-Centric to the point of being extremist, backwards with our African backwater rituals and killin’ goats in our backyards where we make voodoo dolls to get back our neighbors for having a nice car and rattling a jar of bones just to talk to a tree for the answers to our problems. Basically, a Black Pagan is supposed to be Calypso from Pirates of the Carribbean and most likely really crazy. I have had hard times getting into writing guilds for Black writers and getting new readers sometimes because *gasp*, I’m not Christian and I practice Witchcraft. Zomgz, how am I not catching fire when I set foot in a church? We as Blacks have a looooooooooooooooooong way to go in showcasing all of the African Diaspora and to be truly Black publications instead of being sometimes only secondhand to mainstream (and pretty White) media. Not everyone who has money is a rapper and not every person who has African descent naturally knows how to greet people with a, “Sup son? Gotta be runnin’ papers fa’ real fa’ real, nahmean bwoy? Ya’know howz’be, mahn.” When Black America figures out that hood culture does not mean Black culture (but Black culture is within hood culture and that’s it, not the other way around) and showcases it online and offline, we’ll do better. Till then, Black Pagans just keep putting their names out there till someone picks up. Already having Black Witch on Afro-Punk is a big help (that’s actually where BW got started).

Trapped in the broom closet:
If you’re a Black Pagan, chances are stupidly good you probably know at least two to three scriptures (even if you don’t know where they are in the Bible), a few hymns and a Negro Spiritual passionate enough to pass for a Christian. Black Christianity is pretty strong, don’t doubt that. While it has its benefits such as being the cornerstone and starting place of Black leadership and a lynchpin to the Black community, it can also be a daunting force for anyone who isn’t Christian. Daunting enough to make actual Black Pagans learn a few hymns and fake it so not to get disowned, to keep the peace and not become an insta-pariah in their community. With very few resources and places to feel at ease to express true religious affiliation, most Black Pagans’ faiths are put through a limbo. Because a lot of Black Pagans are scared to talk about their faith openly (I have gotten plenty letters from people who used screenames, pseudonyms and other ways to cover up their identities to talk to me and this is actually why I allow physical mail too), it makes the pool of Black Pagans look smaller. That’s not fair and pretty bigoted if anyone thinks it is. If Black Pagans aren’t talking, nothing is happening. I can see why though, from my own experience pushing Black Witch I’ve been met with some pretty disheartening responses from Blacks who would much rather Black Witch just be another Black Christian blog. I got a backbone and thick skin for that but what about Black Pagans who aren’t so steeled against disdain? Nothing is wrong with being in the broom closet but not always and definitely not forever.

The online Pagan world:
The online Pagan world is mostly White. All, if not most mainstream Pagan magazines are White. Paganism as a whole still carries a White face. Since this is what is depicted as the face of Paganism and the authority of the how’s and what’s of the religion, they get mail from Black Pagans as well and are fairly stumped in answering beyond blanket answers (“go look around on the internet, you’ll find someone”). Since I don’t think those sites necessarily know that Black Pagan sites exist, they can’t really direct their Black Pagan readers around very well. Without well-known thresholds to connect us, we have a harder time finding each other and an easier time feeling like we’re the only one of our kind.

There’s a lot of empty spaces when it comes to info about the Black Pagan experience but with the advent of the internet and all that it comes with, it’s getting easier to make content and to find content. Also – shameless plug – to build a better vantage point for Pagan blogs, vote for mine in the Black Weblog Awards in the Faith category (#6)! More Black Pagan resources are popping up or simply being more visible which is a great thing for future Black Pagans and those curious.