The Whitewashing Of Witchcraft

[Visual Description: A portrait of a smiling person with curly black hair and colorful sequined flowers in it holding a flash of light between their hands.]
[Visual Description: A portrait of a smiling person with curly black hair and colorful sequined flowers in it holding a flash of light between their hands.]

As a person of multiple intersecting identities—many of them marginalized—I’ve often thought to myself that the key to survival lies within community. Not as in the people living in the same neighborhood as us, but the people of shared experiences and relationships to oppression. Me and many other witches, Pagans, and magickal practitioners of color have actively sought this for ourselves within our spiritual communities, but this can be hard to find when the spaces are predominantly or entirely White.

We are often left clueless and stranded if we witness situations of cultural appropriation, racism, and even acts of violence towards others like us. This trauma is exacerbated further when we try to retreat into isolation or solitary practices as the resources that fill our bookshelves, databases, and resource guides are littered with faces and experiences that look nothing like ours.

It was of no surprise to me that after I posed a question to witchy peers of mine asking what folx wanted to learn about queering witchcraft that a dear friend answered with, “Where do you start reading if you are a qtpoc (queer trans person of color) witch with few resources that aren’t Eurocentric or heteronormative?”

It’s a question I’ve often thought about myself. But I wasn’t prepared for the block I received when I tried to answer this question.

What now?

How can we, as people of color with a craving for knowledge, find a place for ourselves in a space that is heavily dominated by white folx? How can we find the resources that reflect images of us within them? 

I had to think long and hard about what we could do to navigate the mass whitewashing of witchcraft, and I found that much of the answers I could find lied within my own experiences as a biracial person.

Sadly, many mixed race youth experience the feeling of being torn between many worlds and not being able to fit into one category in the way mono-racial folx can, I was no different. I had always felt a connection to my Blackness, but I struggled to connect with my Japanese heritage due to leaving Japan at a young age and losing touch with the traditions and language along with my way to communicate with any of the people on that half of my family (my mother’s side). I couldn’t find a way to immerse myself in Japanese culture until just recently when I started practicing witchcraft. Tracking traditional Japanese spiritualities and forms of magick helped me to forge that connection. I had to ask myself questions that I think many other practitioners of color could benefit from asking themselves.

1. What do you wish to accomplish through studying witchcraft?

It seems like a fairly simple question, but I had a really hard time putting it in writing because I didn’t come into witchcraft with the intent of gaining anything from it. I just felt drawn to it for some reason, always have.

So I considered what I could accomplish through magick? Was I looking to become a healer so that I could help people? Was I looking to enact revenge on enemies? Was I looking to win the lottery? Make a list of the topics you want to know about like herbology and the application of medicinal plants, or hexing and cursing, or divination if you really want to win the lottery!

Narrowing down the goals you have for yourself will give you a foundation to start your research so you aren’t running around aimlessly. But remember to stay flexible—you can always add or remove things. The list is just a tool for you to utilize during research.

2. How can you separate these topics from the Eurocentric narrative?

Specifically search for works written on these topics but in relation to communities of color. Say you are looking to find information on divination, if you just search general divination techniques you’re bound to get the practices that center Norse, Celtic, or Irish spiritualities and religions. If you look for divinatory practices that originated from African spirituality, for example, you’ll be greeted with beautiful traditions ranging from all throughout the diaspora. You can apply this to every culture (though some are harder to find information on than others).

Beware of cultural appropriation! I cannot stress this enough. It’s one thing to read up on different practices and entirely another to actually incorporate them into your craft. Approach everything you learn with respect and figure out if they are closed or open religions or if there is an initiation ritual you must be involved in to practice. If something stemmed from the oppression of group that you do not belong to then STAY THE FUCK AWAY FROM IT, especially if you are a part of a group that has privilege over them.

3. Be Mindful Of Your Sources

Don’t just search for the specialty books written especially by witches for witches. Dig into anthropologic studies, student essays, textbooks, college databases, and the plethora of other sources out there. Statistics show that of the 3,400 children’s books received by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center in 2015, only 508 of them were about people of color (how many published books do you think are written by people of color that also happen to be witches, for any age level)! It’s definitely a process, that’s for sure, but we need to tap into as many resources as possible to compensate for the lack of visibility. Feel free to visit the Free Stuff section of the blog and browse through any of the literary databases listed there!


Key Search Terms:

I’ve found that my biggest roadblock in my research was my lack of vocabulary regarding the matter. I mean other than ‘Witchcraft,’ ‘Magick,’ and ‘Spirituality’ I knew just about as much as your average non-witch would (or wouldn’t to be more accurate). So here are a few terms and phrases you add to your search bar to get better results:

Esoteric Magic(k)

Occult Practices in (insert region here)

Spirituality (often preceded by the name of an ethnic group)

Divination or “Fortune Telling” in (insert region)

Rites

Invocation

Mysticism

Monotheism vs. Polytheism

Ancestral Practices

Folk Magick

Traditional Practices

Realms

Dimensions

Meditations

Folk Remedies


Peace, Love, and Spoons

Noah

☽ ♡ ☾

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