Yes, I am

I find it so restricting that Black culture pigeon holes us into roles and does not always allow for individuality and differences.  This is a challenging thing to say when thinking about all the many wonderful things about Black culture, it almost feels as if I am complaining.  It is not a complaint of the culture of Black people, but it is a realization that being Black does not always make sense to Wiccans and being Wiccan does not always make sense to Black people.

I am quite proud of being Black and being Wiccan.  I wish that I could talk more openly with others about that incredible combination but because of ignorance about what that means, I cannot always share who I am because there is such a lack of understanding within the Black community.  I remember telling my dad for the first time and his question in response.  He sincerely looked at me and asked, “you still go to church though, right?”  It took years for him to understand that I did not go to church and I am not sure that he totally understands now.

I also recall his wife having some conversation with him and a discussion we had later about how the bible indicates that I am going to hell.  I think he was trying to save me; that is what I would like to believe at least.  Today my dad is much better at understanding the concepts of my beliefs and for that I am grateful, but he is only one example of what I am talking about and I have a whole family down south without a understanding for what it means to be me spiritually.

When my mother died many of my family from her side flew to California to be here.  It was so great to have them around, especially since I needed to have a family presence to remind me that I still belonged somewhere now that she was gone.  What I found amazing was the amount of anxiety I felt in sharing with them, for the first time, that I was Wiccan and my mother respected (and often participated) in my religious choices.  I know they did not understand and thankfully we were dealing with so much, I didn’t have to explain a lot.  I pushed through that anxiety and (along with my covenmates) did a working at the memorial that was Wiccan.  I felt good for honoring her that way but conscious of the lack of understanding.

Today I have found myself skating the line between being myself and not having to tell too much.  Since I work in a professional counseling environment, it is acceptable practice not to share much about yourself.  I wear my pentacle though and it evokes questions.  To compound that, I work in a predominantly Black areas, at a 98% Black school.  It is inevitable that I have to answer some questions without answering too much.

I often wonder how many others of different cultures find this type of subtle judgmental or uncomfortable situations in their lives.   I think it says something for the lack of Black Wiccans that are “out” and even though that number is increasing, there are more in the closet than out.  Black people have had a history of self loathing and internal discrimination against one another; much of this dynamic goes back to the slave days where some qualities would dictate which slaves got better treatment than others.  Today it equates in trying to figure out what “being Black” is and who is blacker than others.  This type of internal discriminatory beliefs continue to divide our community and religion is just another characteristic that falls into this dynamic.

The more chances Black Wiccans have to share and let our voices be heard, the more we have a chance at cultivating understanding and tolerance within both our communities.  I look forward to the many possibilities that will allow me to just be who I am without explanation.  So, for today, I continue to stand up to those who ask and respectfully say “Yes, I am…. a Black Wiccan”.

  • Cree

    Crystal, I understand and absolutely accept that you are African American and practice Wiccan. I remember coming to visit you and Auntie Cora and I asked you about the religion so I could have an understanding of it. You did a great job of explaining Wiccan and sense that point I have felt closer to you than ever before. Growing up down south does not expose you to many beliefs and religions other than Christanity, so it’s not that our family rejects you or is not waiting with open arms to love on you, it’s just that they don’t know anything about Wiccan. Actually , I take that back, I did explain what you told me to a few cousins and my mother and they received it very well!!! Maybe you should come visit or we can have a conference call and you can enlighten the entire family on Wiccan. They want to know, trust me! Just like I asked you to enlighten me out of the blue when I came to visit, they want to know as well. This will bring us all closer together than ever before. Distance keeps us from seeing each other but it dosent have to keep us from loving each other and understanding each other. I’m somewhat as the black sheep or the different one when it comes to Christianity in our family, because I don’t consider myself to be a Christian, I am Spiritual and the family accepts me for me. The older I get the more I understand that it’s not important to be apart of a certain religious group or cult but it’s more important to have a spiritual connection with the CREATOR/DIVINE ONE/LOVE. Jesus was not a Christian but he had an strong spiritial connection with God, as a matter of fact he was a black sheep amongst the people in that era, very radical. Humans come up with all kinds of ways to separate themselves and that’s not a black thing, it’s a human thing. I don’t think God ever intended for there to be division when it comes to how we love and accept on another, but man made religions keep that far from the truth. I believe
    you are holding yourself back from being open and talking to the family down south and not the other way around. Our family and the African African community is more open to understand you than you think. I use the words African American instead of “black”, because we are not black. We are brown people with many different shades. I don’t even use the words “white people” because they are not white, they also have some type of color in their skin tone. All humans have some type of color and we all have red blood, but no one is the color black or white. I think brown/mocha OR taupe/tan would work better for me. LOL I love you cousin!!! Call me so we can talk more.

    Cree Davis

  • Nouvelle Noir Goddess

    “It is not a complaint of the culture of Black people, but it is a realization that being Black does not always make sense to Wiccans and being Wiccan does not always make sense to Black people.” ~ Beautifully written. I never really felt out of place when I’ve attended Wiccan circles. It maybe because I was raised in predominately Caucasian community in which the “black American” community felt “foreign” to me. The closest “community” I felt connection to was Latin America communities of 1st generation immigrants to immigrants and therefore my belief wasn’t seen as “odd”

    Since branching outside my childhood community I have made deep connection to black women who are Atheist. They understand the “struggle” of not believing in or following in the Christian path. Not once my “black Atheist sisters and brothers” looked “bizarrely” at my practices or necklaces or felt the need to “challenge” my belief. It helps that I am a theistic evolutionist [I believe in evolution and that it’s guided by divine forces-Through Chaos comes Order. Like the “Big Bang Theory”].

    I’ve held many discussions within “black women voices” [online sites] that there is really not any particular “black culture” Black of the north is different from black from the South. I have met wonderful “black sisters” who are Buddhist and others who are Vegans. I guess my closest “black friends” are also the “minority” within the “black community” that makes “life” a little bit easier: even my own spirituality and the desire to uphold my spirituality.

    As I’ve written in my first post, I was raised in what I perceive in a Henotheist society. So, my family is supportive with whatever belief for that is our culture. Being reared in an “accepting” family I was taught early on that only I can define myself and nobody else can for their defining of me is their perception/opinion of me that is not the total truth of me. I also learned when to “know and dare to be silent”

    Even the Christians in my family don’t speak of Christ so overtly for they realize that their relationship to god/gods/Christ/or what have you is intimate and personal and not everyone will experience the same exact intimacy.
    To Know, To Dare, To Will, and To Remain Silent is similar to the Christian belief of “Give not that which is holy to the dogs, neither cast you your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.” Matthew 7:6. My faith is Holy and will be revealed to the pure of heart at the right time. I realize we all speak similar languages just the words we choose to express ourselves is different: which I’ve found that certain words used in certain context-even though it is the accurate word, individuals don’t use such words in the context I use the words.

    A recent example is how women, not all but for the most part, tend to use the word intimacy more often then the word sex. Men in general [not all] use the word sex more so than intimacy. Example would be by a man, “I’ve not sex with my wife in weeks” Can be translated to mean, “I’ve not been intimate with my wife in weeks” Women tend to use the latter [intimacy for love making and sex for wham bam. While men use the word sex to express several of forms of the act]. Again… NOT ALL. Likewise with spirituality/non-belief in spirituality and various cultures [black cultures]— at times I feel it is more of a communication breakdown due to how we use and express the words that can be confusing for the most part. For the most part, I’ve had many African-American Christians welcome me and “understanding” for I often times must “speak their language” in order for them to understand my own. Yes, I’ve come across those with intent to convert or those who don’t want to listen—it is during those time I “know, dare, and will myself, to remain silent” for it is useless… I veer to another topic of common ground—such as being a “minority” in the U.S—with a follow up of, “Now, imagine how I feel because I am black and not a Christian” Most often I get well responses or a moment of pause to reflect…

    Thanks for sharing Crystal!

  • Crystal Blanton

    Thank you for the comments. Cree, I think it is more just dealing with the lack of understanding in the community and having to feel as if you will be judged because people don’t know what is means to be Wiccan. I understand that many people do not know what it means to be Wiccan. I don’t think that is personal to me, it is just a lot to always have to explain and I know that not everyone is open minded to what we do. It is a challenging.

    Novelle Noir Goddess, I always think it is great to meet other black women who are not into the traditionally passed down cultures of Christianity and are into paths like Buddhists. I love the diversity we are beginning to have and hope that more people start to talk about their paths openly so we can share in the diversity and knowledge.

    Blessed Be.

  • lynn

    How great to have a regular column written by a black Wiccan here at Patheos. I look forward to reading more from you, in particular how a black Wiccan’s practice might differ from other Wiccans’ practices. Like, do we use different music in our rituals? I hope that more of us come out and speak about our experiences. In a few weeks I will be starting a blog based on my own experiences as a black American pagan.~lynn

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  • Camille Guy

    It is wonderful to find I am not alone. It is hard sometimes explaining what I believe to other Black people. Explaining to my family is a little easier because of our Caribbean background . Some of the practices make sense…however people still look at me strangely if I light candles. They are convinced I am working some sort of devilish magic. LOL. I find it interesting that when someone is ill or believes they are cursed I am there first port of call. I am expected to be a curse remover and font of knowledge on the occult. Um hello I am a pagan. That does not mean I know every pathway. I have had issues in mainly Caucasian groups also. Not because of negative bias but because they somehow believe I have an innate understanding of metaphysics or my practices are more “authentic” because I have an accent.

    Still being pagan has opened my life up to so many new experiences. I feel more myself . More open to my own possibilities. I have not yet chosen a path and I may never chose a specific path. But that is OK. Here at least in the pagan community you are encouraged to journey rather than arrive.

  • Camille Guy

    It is wonderful to find I am not alone. It is hard sometimes explaining what I believe to other Black people. Explaining to my family is a little easier because of our Caribbean background . Some of the practices make sense…however people still look at me strangely if I light candles. They are convinced I am working some sort of devilish magic. LOL. I find it interesting that when someone is ill or believes they are cursed I am there first port of call. I am expected to be a curse remover and font of knowledge on the occult. Um hello I am a pagan. That does not mean I know every pathway. I have had issues in mainly Caucasian groups also. Not because of negative bias but because they somehow believe I have an innate understanding of metaphysics or my practices are more “authentic” because I have an accent.

    Still being pagan has opened my life up to so many new experiences. I feel more myself . More open to my own possibilities. I have not yet chosen a path and I may never chose a specific path. But that is OK. Here at least in the pagan community you are encouraged to journey rather than arrive.


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