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Why Racism In Paganism Hurts Us All

Updated on April 29, 2016
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Nightcat is a practicing witch who loves to write about Wicca and many of the Gods and Goddesses she’s had the pleasure to encounter.

Guess The Culture

You might get it right...or not. Judging a person based on color is just as wrong as judging them based on culture or racial background. That owl actually honors my Polish mother who loved owls and belongs to La Santa.
You might get it right...or not. Judging a person based on color is just as wrong as judging them based on culture or racial background. That owl actually honors my Polish mother who loved owls and belongs to La Santa.

Racism Hurts Everyone, Not Just The Victims Of The Attacks

Pagans today are extraordinarily lucky. Now, more than ever, we have teachers from every culture who want to step forward and share their wonderful traditions and lore, and people from all over the world are being called by Gods, Goddesses and Spirits from other cultures. You’d think it would be peace on Earth, right? For most of us it is, we Wiccans after all, live by the idea that if it harms none, do as we will.

And if you are a wonderful Wiccan or globally-minded witch chances are you have had teachers of all kinds from all over the world. Unfortunately, there are always a few people who don’t like this one bit. They want us all to stay in our own cultures (as a Heinz 57 I don’t have one) or to practice based on the color of our skin.

And recently I’ve been getting vehement attacks based on one person’s perception. How do I put this kindly? Just because I’m Wiccan doesn’t mean I’m white. I’m actually olive skinned and I might be a lot of things, but white isn’t one of them. There, that felt pretty awesome to say, but this Hub will not be about those attacks, but about staying true to you.

And you will get to know a little more about me along the way, but I’m more worried about you. In my experience, attacks to keep you away from a culture or practice rarely come from inside that culture, although they can, this article is more about being attacked by people within your own culture playing the “like with like” game. I would never block anyone from practicing anything based on skin color or cultural background, and you shouldn’t let others do it to you.

If you are here to make racially charged comments? You will be blocked and HP members will be reported, and I mean that. I have had enough of enough, so do not test me. As always, this Hub reflects only my experiences and views, I do not speak for any other Wiccan or witch. Walk in peace and blessed be.

Let's Chill With My Favorite Totem Teacher

How Did I Get My African Spirits?

They have just always been here, orisha and lwa alike. I’m still not sure what they saw in me, but I remember vivid dreams of a spirit (Legba) telling me he came over on a slave ship. And you all know Baron has always been here. Now I’ve had teachers from parts of Haiti and America alike, and they all told me the same thing: our spirits choose us.

Trying to play the race card and bawling your eyes out to your Haitian or African American descent Mambo or Hougan will get you a slap upside the head. How dare you dishonor and disrespect the family and proud African lineage that has chosen you? African spirits aren't good enough for you? When your spirits choose you, that is it. You are theirs. And it is a wonderful thing to have this fine African family.

And that is it, you are family, it doesn’t matter what color your skin is, what language you speak or where you come from. Trust me, you do not want your family getting angry with you because people tell you to ‘send them back to Africa’ or any other nonsense.

And that applies to you too, it doesn’t matter what race you are or where your Gods, spirits, totems or Others come from. We really don’t get to choose our Gods in my view. And “in the blood” doesn’t mean you will work with a particular pantheon. When I look at the Gods and Goddesses of my blood we’re pretty meh on one another.

The Fox Who Caused a Fuss

I have yet to get a scolding from any Alaskan tribe, and he's actually one of Loki's altar foxes who appeared in the fox totem article. I never said where fox totem came from exactly as I don't rightly know.
I have yet to get a scolding from any Alaskan tribe, and he's actually one of Loki's altar foxes who appeared in the fox totem article. I never said where fox totem came from exactly as I don't rightly know.

Working With Totems

If one thing can freak out overly PC or racist people in a hurry it is a body working with totems that isn’t a full-blooded First Nations member. Well. First, most of us who write use the word totem because it is easily understood. Most global cultures had the same idea more or less, but our traditions died out or hid a mite too well. And again, many First Nations people willingly share this wisdom with others.

The problem with keeping teaching only within a culture is that should the culture die out or be absorbed by the culture surrounding it, there goes a lot of wisdom. I was lucky to have a teacher who had First Nations blood, and as far as I know, all the books I have were written by First Nations members who felt sharing this wisdom was a good thing. And folks who pay attention notice I have First Nations teachers in videos, and others from all over the world.

Will everyone agree? No, of course not. There may be First Nations people who get angry their culture is shared. My first teacher, and every first Nations writer I ever read got angry over the implication that we aren't all equal and can't share. My first teacher and best friend would have literally chased anyone labeling her a helpless victim who needed protecting and had to make me start working with my totems when I'd been taught I couldn't.

And I shared the Italian witchyness that had been passed down to me (my family being different, my grandmother relied on folk magic when the law would turn a blind eye to klan and other racially charged attacks) and we talked about our ancestors and lived in harmony, and life was good. As long as you are showing reverence for the culture, respect for the people, and know that everyone won't high five you, walk your path.

But I think it is pretty cool to be able to pop on You Tube and see teachers who share First Nation totem wisdom from all over the world. It’s something most of our cultures lost, and luckily First Nations teachers were kind enough to share with the world. Now it is global and that is pretty darn awesome.

My Lady And Queen

I love her to pieces but "I can't work with you because I'm ____" is not a phrase I'd advise you trying. Ever
I love her to pieces but "I can't work with you because I'm ____" is not a phrase I'd advise you trying. Ever

You Are Not The Color Of Your Skin

You, yes, you. You are not the color of your skin. When I pass on there will not be an olive colored spirit wandering around. Our spirits, the bits inside us that are eternal have no race, no nationality, no gender, no nothing really that we humans make such a fuss about. And, in my experience, all the Gods, spirits, and more from around the world see the real us, not the outside wrapping.

So don’t let anyone stop you from answering a true call. It doesn’t matter if your God/dess came from half a world away, or you suddenly have a totem wanting to work with you. I’m not a dragon, yet dragons happily work with me, and you don’t get much more different than that, right?

I know it hurts when people tell you you don’t belong. All my life I’ve been judged by the color of my skin and the dark skinned comments really hurt, they do. Because I don’t see it, but some people do and that is all they see. But we are not our skins, OK? We are us, and who we are inside has nothing to do with the color of our skin.

I don’t care if you just flew in from Jupiter, work with those who love you. Put your love and heart and feeling into them, not into people you will never be good enough for. Do I really think some unbalanced stalker who keeps leaving me racially charged comments is going to be friends with me if I change color overnight or live to please her? Um, I don’t want to be her friend. If all she sees is race and the color of my skin (which she got wrong, by the way) then she is not the kind of person I want to know.

I'm sharing the following video only to share the challenges my family faced. Worse still? There are family doubts about exactly where some people came from, a great shame at one time. I personally think we are all one race, the human race, and do not support racism in any form, but I do believe in sharing my history so you know where I'm coming from. We were not "white" but told to "act white" or "pass for Them".

To me, white is just a label and a silly one at that. I've yet to meet anyone the color of a white picket fence. Me, I'm sorta olive and copper and ashy grey if I'm ill. Um penny people? There you go, a race for all us mutts.

The Expanding Definition of Whiteness

How Does Racism Hurt Us All?

All cultures change with time. And the spiritual teachings can die out during that change. Or, they can be all around us and thus ignored. So it can only be a good thing to have people outside our culture adopt our teachings. It’s like choosing to plant all your seeds in one tiny area, or planting the garden with them. The further apart these seeds go, the more chances of the teachings flourishing and surviving.

To say that teachings must be kept insular may sound like a good thing at first. It “protects” the teachings, but honestly is often more aimed at protecting people, who may be labeled as helpless victims who can’t speak up in their own behalf. But the truth is, that is a great way for teachings to stagnate and die out.

If only “white” people, for example, were Wiccan, it would have died out a long time ago. Is it a religion exclusively meant only for a select group, or is it a religion that welcomes all? Now I’ve met racist Wiccans, trust me, I have, but there is nothing anywhere that says you must be of a certain country or ethnic origin, just like you don’t have to be Celtic to practice that brand of magic or any other you may think of.

I don’t think anyone who practices from outside of a culture is unaware of the hardships and triumphs that culture faced. You will, for example, be guided to a meditation with the Ibo, those who chose death overly slavery, for example, if you practice Vodoun, doesn’t matter what color you are. And here is the thing, it is a profoundly moving experience, and those are your ancestors too. If you enter a house the members who came before you are your ancestors as well.

The same goes for any culture. I’m sure you are aware of the cultural history surrounding your practice, right? No one who works totems, for example, whether Native American or European, or some other culture does so in total ignorance of their place in the culture, and those connections help us come together with the people of that culture.

It makes us want to spread that culture and give back where and when we can. Work with totems? Then by all means, shop authentic First Nations dealers. But don’t stop there, support the people themselves by fighting for equality for First Nations members and pass what you learn on to others.

Work with lwa or orisha? Don’t just support the country your spirits came from, but the regions in Africa sacred to them as well. Signing petitions, giving humanitarian aid, supporting other people as well is key to being a good family member. And share what your spirits say it is safe to share. If they didn’t want bothered they would not be global at this point and anyone who has ever had to calm an angry Spirit knows that.

So, no, there is no way to “steal” them from the African dispora. Anyone who doesn’t believe me is free to try stealing Ogou, any Ogou, and see what they get. Frankly, the implication that any lwa, God/dess or totem is a helpless infant capable of being stolen is racist and insulting.

Bonus question: Can you think of a global religion with countless members of all colors, races and countries that are in no way from the twelve tribes of Israel, yet serve that God? I knew you could! See? Not being choosy can work in a religion's favor.

My Adoptive Sister, Mom and Best Girlfriend

We ladies love to have our girls time and the only time race comes up is sharing global beauty secrets. Never has this lovely Lady shamed me for not being Egyptian.
We ladies love to have our girls time and the only time race comes up is sharing global beauty secrets. Never has this lovely Lady shamed me for not being Egyptian.

In Closing

There are always going to be people who judge you. Based on your skin color, where you come from, or any other reason they choose. Do not give them your power, do not give them headspace. You be you and be the best you possible. If you are Egyptian and want to be Wiccan, go for it. If you are First Nations and the Vodoun spirits call you, answer, if your are anything and called by anyone, answer. I cordially invite you to work with the Gods and Spirits of my bloodlines, whatever those may actually be.

Don’t worry about the color of your skin because your time in that skin is brief. Don’t worry about your nationality or where you come from, those don’t define you. Go where you all called to go, and ignore the people who say you have no place. I still get remarks about “my kind” that is the loss of the comment maker, not mine.

The color of our skin means diddly over squat to any God/dess worth working with. Last time I checked I’m not ancient Egyptian, yet Bastet and Anubis were my loving parents as I got my Wiccan legs many moons ago. Walk in peace, walk in love, and may your journey be a happy one filled with light and healing.

Does ""Like With Like" Have A Place In Wicca?

Well, does it? Other pagans may answer as well, naturally.

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