Exploring Wicca As An African-American
Getting Over The Fear
Let's face it: as an African American you are only allowed to be either Christian...or Christian. Jesus Christ needs to be your Lord and Savior and you do everything through Him or else you may have a fiery albeit, unpleasant, afterlife waiting for you. Oh, and in some African American communities, after September 11th dare not you say you're Muslim or you could possibly be the pariah of your entire neighborhood and family. Even if you weren't raised in the church, you were warned against witchcraft, sorcery, and other "Satanic" beliefs and practices. Basically, you were scared into believing Christianity was the only religion you should ever have faith in.
I feel your fear. Even now as I type this, I wonder what my friends and family would think if they knew I delved into Wicca, cast spells, and attempted to become my own High Priestess? How they would feel if I told them the blessings and prayers I bespoke over them in times of strife weren't always in the name of the Father, The Son, and the Holy Ghost, but rather in the name of the God and Goddess? How do you get over this fear? For one, remember that when it is you crying out in the night-alone in the dark, asking for divine help, there is only you. There are no family or friends. Your relationship with whatever deity you choose, if any, is a personal one.
Moreover, forget everything you've ever read about Witchcraft, witches or magic, because I guarantee you know only the scary Hollywood version and not the peaceful, environment-embracing polytheistic religion it actually is. And to quell that last question on your mind implanted from many years of Bible study, no- Witchcraft or Wicca is not Satanism. Witches don't even believe in Satan.
Are There Really African-American Witches?
Well, they probably refer to themselves as Wiccans, but yes, there are quite a few African American Wiccans. Even when I was a kid spending hours in the 'New Age' section of Barnes and Noble reading everything Scott Cunningham (Wicca: A Guide For The Solitary Practitioner; 1989) had to offer, I was surprised to find people with skin colors ranging in varying shades of brown camping out in the same section, reading the same books I was reading.
Also, if you Google "African-American Wiccans", you'll be surprised to find a plethora of sites and blogs created by and dedicated to people who look just like you.
How Does Paganism Relate To Me As An African American?
Now don't bring this argument up with your Aunty else you may suffer some missing teeth, but Pagan religions-the principles of Wicca being one of them, existed way before Christianity. In fact, it existed way before any of the three major world religions (Christianity, Judaism, Islam), although due to social stigmas, Wiccans are somewhat forced to practice in secret in the United States. So much for that freedom of religion thing, huh?
At some point in your life you've heard of the great Kingdoms our African ancestors ran, but did you know back then there were no Pastors or Preachers nor Imams? You didn't need a medium to connect you and God(s). Way before Christ, we had our own indigenous religions that had carried us since the dawn of time. Even without being the head of the hierarchy in his village/community, a Black/African man could commune with the Gods and ask for whatever his heart desired for either himself or on behalf of his community. He could put up offerings, anoint himself or others around him, or sing and dance in praise and worship for whatever good the Gods had brought upon him and his family (sound familiar?).
Even today, there are those in Nigeria and those in the African diaspora who still pray to and ask favor from Yoruba Orishas (minor Gods), despite identifying as Christian or Muslim-both monotheistic (belief in one God) religions. It is embedded in us as a people to not just ask "why me?", but to initiate change around us. That's why pagan religions relate to you as an African American. Wicca doesn't ask "why me?", it asks what can you do to initiate change.
The Seven Orishas
Coming Home to Paganism & Nature Based Spirituality
Key Principles of Wicca
So you're over the word "witch" and now you want to know more about the Wiccan religion itself. Well, like Malcolm X's response to the well-meaning but uninformed young man Benjamin who wanted to become a Muslim in Spike Lee's epic film, "You shouldn't join any organization unless you know what it's about." So kudos to you for starting off on the right foot!
Wicca itself is not an ancient religion. Like Mormonism, Jehovah's Witnesses, and even the Nation of Islam, Wicca is a religion that was founded right on the shores of our great country. Like the aforementioned religions, Wicca draws from ancient beliefs and practices to bring certain principles to life.
1. Wicca is a polytheistic religion. There is the God and the Goddess, representing both the masculine and feminine duality of everything around us, even in the Spirit world.
2. If you've ever seen that outrageous yet entertaining movie, The Craft, you probably heard of the Law of Three. That was one of the few truths in the film. Wiccans believe that whatever you put out into the universe, you will get back threefold. If you put positivity into the universe, you will get that back threefold. Alternatively, if you put negative energy into the universe, you will get negative energy back threefold. This especially becomes important during spellcasting.
3. Yes, if he or she so chooses, a Wiccan may cast spells. Put aside the Hollywood version of hocus pocus and flying brooms and you're left with rituals that are somewhat similar to those you may have been raised with. From wearing home-made amulets for protection (ala' wearing a Jesus-piece around your neck for the same reason), to visualizing and focusing on an outcome through rigorous prayer and meditation within a spiritual circle you created or join in fellowship with others (a coven). Yes there are physical things such as herbs, oils, candles and altars that can be used in these spells, but they are no different than the physical things used in church to create an outcome-oil anointing, baptismal water, crosses, prayer circles, and to all the Catholics out there, lighting a candle in adoration of a Saint. Although I love the word magick, I also like to think of it as Prayer 2.0.
4. There is no "right" way to be a practitioner of Wicca. As free-spirited as it is accepting, you can incorporate your own beliefs into your solitary practice, or find a coven that has beliefs similar to your own. There are several African American covens who incorporate ancient African Orishas into their daily rituals and prayer. I myself still view my Patron God as Jesus. It's my own little way of keeping true to the beliefs I came to know as a child, while still doing what feels right to me.
Where Can I Find More Information on Wicca?
Obviously, Google searches are your best friend. In fact, a great place to start is http://www.aawiccan.org/. But in case you're old fashioned like me, here's a few good books to start with:
1) Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner, Paperback – January 1, 1989, by Scott Cunningham
2) Solitary Witch: The Ultimate Book of Shadows for the New Generation Paperback – February 8, 2003, by Silver RavenWolf
3) Portal Into the Light of Truth: The first Book of Wicca for African Americans and All Seekers Paperback – April 15, 2002, by Jeanine De Oya
You will not become a High Priest or Priestess overnight. Just like any true theologian, you will need to take time to self-teach or absorb what you can from others. Your first incantations, prayers or spells will probably be awkward or even a little scary. Don't worry, it takes a long time to unlearn what you've been taught and embrace something entirely new and exciting. We all went through it. Until then, Merry Meet and Blessed Be!
How Likely Are You To Look Into Wicca After Reading This Article?
What Say You?
Please share your thoughts and comments! I read every last one of them and I appreciate everyone who reads my articles!