Interestingly, I am a Black Wiccan. I have heard of others talk of being asked why they are Wiccan instead of a path “from their ancestry”. I have a lot I could say about this but that would side track this particular conversation. I have not had people ask me this directly but I know that I am not the stereotype of a Pagan. I am ok with that, really, but there is some pressure associated with being a bit different than the norm. Often times this pressure comes from all sides; the Pagan community, the Black community and society itself.
I have mentioned before that I was raised in California, away from my southern roots and family. There were many advantages to this, being in the West, but it also meant that I lost a lot of cultural context in the distance from my family and from the culture. Again, I am ok with this, but I know that I played a lot of catch up inorder to relate to who I was and the culture of my family. Being raised in the Bay Area, in a racially integrated area (well mostly white when I was younger), and with a attitude of diversity; my experience in relating to who I was has been very different than others and I have been spoiled by the freedoms I have had.
Knowing my limitations, I have been able to recognize many chances to expand myself when it comes to embracing my own culture and learning about my ancestors. I had one of those chances the other day and it was very humbling.
I had the chance to have lunch with Luisah Teish, Ifa/Orisha elder, priestess and author, this week to celebrate the release of the Shades of Faith; Minority Voices in Paganism anthology.. To say we had lunch is misleading, it turned into a 4 hour discussion among three priestesses (Teish, Lelani and I) that was funny, enlightening, bonding and special. I remember moments of feeling my ancestors so strongly in her presence and knowing that I have so much to learn as I continue to grow in my path.
It made me really wonder, how did I find my way to the Wiccan path and not in the practice of the African Diaspora? I don’t know the definitive answer but I think a large part of this was in my upbringing and environment. It was not strange for me to be Wiccan and circle with mostly non-Black people. It was a reflection of how I was raised and yet I sometimes wonder what I have missed out on. I have never felt a desire to connect with my African culture, and identified more with being from California. To some smaller extent this has changed and I attribute that a lot to the work I have done with Yemaya.
My experience of my race has been in knowing the history of us here in the United States, my families experiences, my experiences and seeing the disparity among my race in society at large. I have no correlations of race in Africa that I feel relates to me as a Black person. I know that there are many, don’t get me wrong, I am more saying that in my soul I do not always connect to Africa as my homeland.
In listening and feeling the voice of Luisah Teish, face to face, I wondered if this would change and if there was some unknown information that would one day change my spirits connection with Wiccan beliefs and transform them to that of the African spiritual practice. If you asked me right now I would say, “I don’t think so” but I know that growth is about evolution and in some ways this is intimidating and scary. The one thing that many of us want to have control over is the one thing we don’t have control over…. growth and the process of evolving.
As Samhain approaches, I know that I will be honoring ancestors that I have yet to connect with. I don’t just want to honor those ancestors that I have known but also those whom I don’t know. I want to honor those ancestors that I connected to while staring into Teish’s eyes and seeing my own reflection looking back. I may not know who they were, but I know who they are because I see them inside of myself.
And today I will continue to allow myself the chance to continue to learn, identify my lineage and culture, ponder over my history, hold onto the acceptance that I am Wiccan and always remember that my practice does not categorize me as a non-Black. Instead, my practice connects me to all practices throughout the world and allows me to practice the Gods in many different ways.
While I know that labels do not define me, I still continue to wonder how I became the Black Wiccan.