Archive for June, 2018


Firstly, before we get started! Sorry that there wasn’t a The Arts! for last week. I still am working on a separate project and sometimes the project goes into overtime!

Also, I just joined Instagram (despite the fact that I hate it). It will mainly show the 3D printing that I do, shill for my store, the BW Shoppe and bookbinding stuff. I prefer FB live over Insta so don’t expect live videos on Instagram. I’m @thisblackwitch on Instagram

And some cute art: Meowtallica! (It counts, someone had to be creative to cobble this up)

Moving on to the questions!

I know this is a question with a varying response depending on who you ask, which is why I’m curious to hear your opinions on the matter – what would you say are the limits of magickal practise?

After reading through your posts, I understand you get asked many questions relating to Hollywood-esque tricks and abilities (body swapping comes to mind), and I wonder to what extent, if at all, you believe these abilities are even possible, even with years of training and effort. As such, imagining someone asked one of such questions about weird or strange abilities, but worded it in a non-beggar, eloquent way that implied they were willing to work for it, and somehow proved they had done some research into the subject, what would be your general response? I would presume you would urge them to reconsider under most circumstances (seeing that taking part in something like body swapping is unethical at best in most circumstances) but I’m curious to hear your insight on the hypothetical.

Liam L.

Honestly, there are very few limits of magickal practice. If any at all. However, nothing comes easy, which is what gets a lot of people. Many have applied the thinking “If I can’t do it and I don’t know anyone who has, it can’t not possibly be done.” It’s self-limiting.

If someone asked in a non-gimme-gimmie way, I would suggest that they hit the books and to expect to put a lot of effort. Here’s the thing: most people who ask me are nowhere near the level where it should cross their mind. It’s pretty difficult stuff to learn – and for things like body-switching, we haven’t even gotten into the “another person is involved” part. I still stand firm on the fact that this site doesn’t do spell requests or anything of that nature so all I’m going to do is direct people to books, dense books that are not light reading.

My son and I have recently had a conversation about his childhood and things he never told me but I wish he had. He told me that he would see things… dark figures that were shaped with human forms. Some disfigured, scary creatures as well.
The thing is, I have had many simular experiences as a child and as an adult. Many people who know this know it about me, but I have never been able to find a way to understand whats going on with me. My dreams my thoughts.
I know that my son An I have been gifted with something, however I dont know what. Can you help is figure this out or just tell us that we’re two weirdos?

 

– Krystal

A lot of kids see things when they are younger – doesn’t mean what they see don’t exist, I’m just pointing that fact out. When we get older, we kind of will these images we see away because they are “not normal” in our current culture. Doesn’t mean that your kid is from The Shining, it is more normal than you think.

The best way to go about it is keep a dream journal and stay faaaaaaaaaaaar away from sites that cite Indigo Children, Eastern Star, etc etc because they are going to be less helpful and more likely to make you feel a lot more fantastical than you actually are. They’re mostly fluff marginally held together with little not-so-sticky bits of truth tape. Avoid and avoid! You don’t want to scare yourself, either, these sites are good at that.

Also, please remember that not everything in the universe is cute and cuddly Casper the Ghost. I would say the vast majority leans towards Pan’s Labyrinth than anything. Also, there is such thing as the mind tricking itself when it gets too wound up – hence why I said stay away from the fluff sites.

Oh, and meditate. That can really help get your mind right and make sure you get a better grip on yourself. You don’t want to be one of the many “I am the Anti-Christ” people that are walking around.

It’s no surprise that I get a lot of dabbling questions. We should revisit this and why it’s not a good thing.

Dabbling is the act of having a cursory interest in magick, witchcraft and the occult. And it staying cursory: you just want to cast a spell or raise a spirit just to see if it will work.

Now, while nothing is wrong with curiosity, dabbling is more “let’s see if this parlour trick works” versus “I have questions and I wonder…”. That and people seemed to want to work with dangerous magick, difficult magick or entities that even I would not work with. I have no idea why people want to raise Beelzebub for kicks but they do. Then they wind up in my inbox expecting a one-step solution to making such an entity go away. (There isn’t one.) This gets annoying. Fast.

Dabblers are a little different from fluffy bunnies but with omega overlap. The overlap is both are fairly gullible and know nothing. Dabblers don’t care they know nothing. Fluffy bunnies think they know plenty while knowing nothing. A lot of Pagans and Witches started as fluffy bunnies. Some fluffy bunnies slide back into Dabbler territory. Some fluffy bunnies actually go on to becoming real practitioners. Then you got your select few that are always in the middle: The know enough to not count as a fluffy bunny but they don’t care enough or have the patience or brains enough to be a real practitioner.

Here’s the thing: I’m not of the “if you don’t believe it, it won’t happen” crowd. I’m more of the “you mess about enough, something bad will happen out of your aimlessness”. Whether you believe or not I don’t think needs to be too much of a factor but what you put together does. However, I have gotten letters from people who just bought a Baphomet shirt to be edgy and after something inane happens, they write to me thinking they mistakenly summoned the devil. It’s a mix. Either way, I tend to get letters from people who are very much the “let’s see if this works” and find out that, oh wow, it does.

It’s better for people to do one of several things:

a) don’t dabble (seriously, don’t)
b) do at least some research before dabbling. Outside of watching The Craft and Harry Potter
c) if you summon something, get rid of it yourself. Don’t bug other people. Can’t get rid of them? Congrats, you have a roommate until you can figure it out.
d) if you’re going to dabble, don’t call yourself a witch – you’re a dabbler

Pretty simple, no?

Another issue with Dabblers is that they spread their misinformation everywhere. They don’t know what they’re doing but they talk about it as if they do and it becomes a case of the blind leading the blind. They cite spell recipes that make honestly no sense, they slap at least three different cultures together, no care or concern to as what happens. And some make their way to my inbox because somehow, the search bar on my website magically doesn’t work or appear to them (I’m being snarky here, dabblers, use the search bar). Watching a television show and burning a stick of sage (dabblers don’t even know the history behind that! Or the different variations!) doesn’t make you an expert on anything. Not even close. It’s just absolute nonsense.

Frankly, I would suggest to not dabble. Do your homework. Know that burning sage over everything is pointless and borderline cultural appropriation (*koff*hint: indigenous people*koff*). Be smart and don’t bother others pointlessly. And most of all, do some off-line research.

8 Years of Black Witch

Yesterday was the 8th anniversary of Black Witch. I am super surprised at how much time has passed. This past year was a few changes for me personally but the blog has remained mostly the same.

I still try to post on time. Black Witch is supposed to update every Friday but sometimes I get too tuckered to do Fridays. But still! That’s the goal.

Today is the last day of the BW Shoppe Anniversary sale. So far it seems that bookbinders have really been taking use of it the most! All my 3d printed bookbinding equipment (sewing cradles, awl guides, etc) have been flying off the racks. Still working on those prints as we speak.

In this past year, Black Witch has been on Vero but I am considering an Instagram (despite the fact I hate the app enough to not want to use it for its ads and algorithms) but that’s so I can keep up with people that I like and care for. It still might be awhile.

Either way, thank you so much for sticking about and reading Black Witch.

Before getting started, please note! There is going to be an FB livestream chat for the 8th Black Witch anniversary on June 9 at 2 PM EST. In the Black Witch Shoppe, there is free shipping from today to June 10. Huzzah, get 3D printed things, Black superhero icons and hand stitched journals.

Moving on to our regularly scheduled program:

Ahh, I know a problem is a big problem in music when it is from a genre I don’t really listen to and it still floats to me. I am couched firmly in the world of Rock, living my life. When something from a different music world floats its way to me, it’s notable.

Earlier this week, rapper Pusha T had shown a photo of rapper Drake in Blackface during a beef. It caused discord. I wanna talk about it because it seems this is pretty superficial and ridiculous, even when discussing Blackface.

Where to begin, where to begin.

Well, here is the picture in question:

It is Drake here in his younger years wearing classic Blackface while wearing a Jim Crow shirt from Too Black Guys. It’s from a line called “Jim Crow Couture”.

It’s actually a dual picture:

We will unpack this later. But first, let’s consider the source, Pusha T – a rapper that honestly could easily hit on all pins of stereotype without the burnt cork. But we’ll unpack that as we go along as well also.

Actually, we shouldn’t first consider the source (though it is very, very important), we should first talk about what and who Jim Crow is and the same about Blackface. And how you don’t have to smear grease paint on your face to emulate what it is trying to portray, unfortunately.

Alrightie, before beginning, I gotta say this post is going to be depressing so expect kitties.

Let’s get this started, with the assistance of the digital Jim Crow Museum of Ferris State University A great go-to for understanding anti-Blackness in all it’s depressing, humanity-crushing, non-glory!

The Start of Jim Crow, From Character to De Facto & De Jure Laws

Jim Crow was a character created by Thomas Dartmouth “Daddy” Rice. At the start, he was a struggling sort-of actor – he only did solo skits between play scenes at Park Theatre in New York, nothing big. He happened upon a Black person singing a song:

“Come listen all you galls and boys,
I’m going to sing a little song,
My name is Jim Crow.
Weel about and turn about and do jis so,
Eb’ry time I weel about I jump Jim Crow.”

“Inspired” by this, Rice decided to darken his skin with burnt cork and hop on stage in 1828 as “Jim Crow”. His act was a hit with crowds that he started traveling all over the United States and even in the United Kingdom and Ireland. By 1832, Jim Crow was a stock character in minstrel shows, as well as the counterparts Jim Dandy and Zip Coon. He would act like a simple fool, spoke with a very exaggerated and distorted crude imitation of African American Vernacular English (look at SNL or youtubers like Shane Dawson, Jeffree Star or Lily Singh if you want to hear the modern version of it). Rice sang “Negro ditties” such as “Jump Jim Crow” and the character became a very popular one to mimic among White comedians.

The reason the show was such a smash was because White audiences were really receptive to the portrayal of Black people as singing, dancing, grinning fools, regardless what they’re doing. Just like now. This is part of why psychological horror movie Get Out was considered a comedy (and nominated as such!) by White audiences. Which was extremely horrifying to Black people.

By 1838, the shows helped “Jim Crow” became more of a household word as a slur but that was only roughly half a century. By the end of the 19th century, it was less used as a term to describe Black people and more of a term to describe laws and customs specifically designed to oppress and harm Black people.

This section on the museum website puts this part well:

“Rice and his imitators, by their stereotypical depictions of blacks, helped to popularize the belief that blacks were lazy, stupid, inherently less human, and unworthy of integration. During the years that blacks were being victimized by lynch mobs, they were also victimized by the racist caricatures propagated through novels, sheet music, theatrical plays, and minstrel shows. Ironically, years later when blacks replaced white minstrels, the blacks also “blackened” their faces, thereby pretending to be whites pretending to be blacks. They, too, performed the Coon Shows which dehumanized blacks and helped establish the desirability of racial segregation.”

History website, Black-Face, expresses a similar sentiment:

“White America’s conceptions of Black entertainers were shaped by minstrelsy’s mocking caricatures and for over one hundred years the belief that Blacks were racially and socially inferior was fostered by legions of both white and black performers in blackface.”

Now, I’m sure someone read the fact that Black folks did Blackface, think about Drake and want to screech “Pusha was riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight!” I’mma need you to pump your brakes. And put on the Emergency Brake because it is not that simple. We got a lot more to go through. Note that we are still on the first kitty picture.

It didn’t turn out all shiny for Rice. He did become rich and famous because of his minstrelsy but because of his avarice, he died a poor man in New York, 1860.

And nooow, the kitty picture

Drake, His Point, and the Problem of Blackface in Media

The picture was explained by Drake:

He actually has a point. Explained by Black-Face: “White audiences in the 19th Century wouldn’t accept real black entertainers on stage unless they performed in blackface makeup.” It’s like that, even today. They don’t have to have the makeup on, but they certainly have to play the stereotype. Ask Kenan Thompson of SNL. When he was younger and on All That, he had more, varied roles to play that weren’t captured in stereotype such as Pierre Escargot and SuperDude. There was even the show “Kenan and Kel”. Once he got on SNL, they weren’t exactly big on doing the same, which was strongly emphasized in practically all of their “Black Panther” skits. Why, SNL actually had used Blackface on Fred Armisen when they would lampoon Obama in the president’s early years. Their justification? They didn’t have enough or the “right” Black actors to do the job. By the way, this was 2008, not 1888. That was ten years ago.

Black-Face mentions that one of the first Black people to perform in Blackface for White audiences was the man who invented tap dancing, William Henry Lane, also known as Master Juba. He was born a free Black man and a talented and intelligent performer but he was deeply restricted to depicting Blackness the only way his audience wanted: a Jim Crow. A dumb Black person happy to be foolish, enslaved and inferior. Charles Dickens wrote about his experience of seeing one of Lane’s shows:

“…Marshalled by a lively young negro, who is the wit of the assembly, and the greatest dancer known. …In what walk of life, or dance of life, does man ever get such stimulating applause as thunders about him, when, having danced his partner off her feet, and himself too, he finishes by leaping gloriously on the bar-counter, and calling for something to drink, with the chuckle of a million of counterfeit Jim Crows, in one inimitable sound!”

Though a freed man, he had to take on a stage name that implied bondage. “Juba” was a popular name for Blacks in enslavement, a life Lane never knew. But it was a life he had to emulate if he wanted any popularity and stage time. While later in Lane’s career could he perform in his own skin, no blackface needed, it was short lived – Lane died at the age of 27 in 1852. He worked himself to death, literally. He worked night and day, his diet consisted mainly of fried eels and ale, hardly took breaks, it pretty much broke him. This was the norm for Black performers, just to depict themselves. But for White performers such as Rice, they could live in the lap of luxury. (Remember, it was living an over-extravagant life to the point he spent himself poor that killed Rice. And he lived far longer than Lane, who basically died from overexertion.) It still is quite a bit of the norm for Black actors. Spike Lee’s film Bamboozled explores that deeply. Oh, if you’re going to watch the film, just gear up Black Panther behind it. You’re goooooonna need to. Also, Kitten Break!

Things are a teensy bit better but not by much. And it can always slide back.

Let’s talk about the clothes Drake wore, created by Too Black Guys

The picture was not taken for Too Black Guys lookbook but it did feature one of their shirts. It was from the Jim Crow Couture line.

The line started in 2008 and there was a photo shoot featured in HypeBeast about it when it was first released. The current picture on TBG for the line is just Yasin Bey/Mos Def (he’s just wearing the Jim Crow hat, no blackface).

The line was created [reason of why line was created, prolly in HypeBeast] because Too Black Guys wanted to make a statement. Thing is, while these images are hurtful, they are part of the Black identity (more like “brutally attached” but you get my point). They’re Black, they can tackle the concept of minstrelsy and Blackness because it is something that affects them and the Black people around them deeply.

The shirt served a good purpose and focal point in Drake’s picture because that’s pretty much how Hollywood wants to exactly see Black performers. Over-saturated with Whiteness, Hollywood, and theatre in general, doesn’t want dynamic Black actors, they want more, modernized Master Jubas. You could study at Julliard and still, the casting director will try to fit you for a stereotypical, feeble-minded role.

The Problem of Pusha T or “You Are What You Eat”

Ahhhhh, Pusha T. A person who probably never heard of the phrase “he who lives in a glass house should never throw stones”. Because he loaded a ball machine, selected “a million fungoes” and blasted away.

Pusha T being a rapper is not the inherent problem here. Being a rapper doesn’t make you minstrel automatically. Not at all. To assume such would be – you guessed it – racist because of origins of Hip Hop and Rap.

The problem lives in how he depicts himself and his lyrics. Drake was in Blackface for one picture and for artistic commentary about how you have to be stereotypical to be considered if you’re Black in acting (hence the Blackface). Pusha T turned the concept into a career and his reputation. Black-Face puts it best:

“Blackface is more than just burnt cork applied as makeup. It is a style of entertainment based on racist Black stereotypes that began in minstrel shows and continues today.”

This is why I said at the start “consider the source”. Blackface is a whole lot more than having distasteful grease paint on your face. It’s a concept and an entertainment style based on a prejudiced belief about a group of people. Drake is getting static for a picture. But the person saying it, not the same but basically espouses the same thing, just in a more, long form way.

This isn’t to say that Drake is a mindful, rhyming Malcolm X. That dude has miles to go to be even remotely declared as such. But the picture he took shouldn’t be that shocking to Pusha’s general audience – it is a snapshot of the kind of exact media they are used to consuming from Pusha, but the literal Blackface created a knee-jerk response in them. I guess it should have been a tad bit more subvert.

Here’s the thing about Black media, especially media that wades super deep in profiting and continually displaying Black stereotypes: I’m sure if someone brought this up to Pusha T, that he also engages in modern minstrel, he would say, “Hey, I’m just talking about my life. This is real life in the streets.” Because we all know that the hood is where literally everyone is destined to be a dealer, gang banger, thug, or some other type criminal that lives a bleak and gritty life as they harm and/or poison the very community they claim they “care” about.

Believe it or not, it’s not 100% Pusha T’s fault to as why he thinks this way (more like 73%). Black-Face expresses:

“The American minstrel show was effectively dead by WW1, yet some old-timers continued to peddle the same blackface stereotypes later in vaudeville, films and television. It’s one of the interesting twists of history that in the first half of the twentieth century, the main purveyors of the old-fashioned blackface minstrel tradition were Black performers, who’d began in show business wearing the blackface mask — either literally or figuratively — and were reluctant to give it up.

But they also had little choice in the roles they were offered. Until well into the 1950s, Black male actors were limited to stereotypical roles: Coons,… and Toms….Likewise, the only film roles for Black women were maids and mammys….”

It wasn’t because these performers internalized effectively that Black people were the identities they performed on stage, it was because they knew the crowd they were working with and to change and try to be dynamic may very well ice them out of jobs. All they had were the walking stereotype roles. It may not have been fun to do but it was better than doing nothing. Minstrelsy was dead but the racist ideas, audience, and desires that fueled them were definitely still around.

The problem with this is that it also inadvertently created a dunk chamber for future Black generations to come. Because this was the media they saw of themselves, it subconsciously steered them into thinking, “This is Blackness, this is a reflection of the Black identity”. Internalized racism is very much a thing. Think about how many things that are believed to be “Black”/”Not Black” are based in these media depictions. The idea that Black people don’t swim or surf is a good one.

This was depicted in media that Black people are water-adverse (because of our hair, we don’t know how to swim (pulls from the “stupid negro” trope), etc) However, the reality is that Black people were banned a lot from pools out of Jim Crow laws (ahhh, he shows up again). There were even instances of acid being poured on them for being in the pool. But it’s a lot neater to display in White media that Black people don’t swim or surf because they just don’t like water. Instead of “they don’t like water we constantly put acid in so they won’t swim.” The former sounds more “normal” to a White audience, the latter sounds like you’re trying to accuse them of racism, which would be dead accurate.

Kitten Break!

Applying this to Pusha T, he is a product of that dunk chamber. He raps about stereotypical subjects, doing stereotypical things, so on and so forth. Since the targeted listener of modern day hip hop is not Black people but White people, preferably suburbanites, Pusha has a ready audience. He’s not really deriving from what is expected of him, socially, so there’s money there. He can project an effective image of the “Other” in Arabian Nights fashion (To the White suburban listener, Pusha T depicts a tale of an oft-distant land of fast living, fast women and lawlessness with the right amount of griminess.) It honestly would not be a very hard argument at all to say he’s performing modern minstrelsy.

This is why I said earlier to “consider the source”. Yes, the visual display of Blackface is jarring. (I had to see a crap ton of it just to write this post) However, if only the visual display of Blackface is the problem but the performed depiction of it is fine then that’s a major problem in and of itself. It’s a knee-jerk response that thoroughly misses the point. Especially since the use of visual Blackface was an artistic expression of the severe limitations Black people have in entertainment. Blackface, whether presented or performed, is problematic no matter what. It shouldn’t take an application of black grease paint to be the dividing line because it’s far too past where that line should be if the media-displayed denigration of Black people is hurtful or a problem.

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