Even though I was brought up as a young Southern Baptist Christian, I always felt “agnostic.” I didn’t believe we’d officially know anything about what happens after we die — until we die. I felt like all religions were made up to cope. I felt that if there was any meter of truth to any religion, people still decided to act only on the bits that serve them best, no matter what it does to others. I’m not sure, but I think I still believe parts of this idea to some extent.
Something I do know for sure is that I don’t want to put any time or effort into doing anything other than supporting a worldly expansion in growth, peace, and unity. This is a challenge because I am an angry person.
I’m angry because I’m Black, and to many, that means I’m dangerous. I’m angry because I’m a Black woman, and to many, that means I’m either a dominatrix or their caretaker. I’m angry because I’m a fat Black woman, and to many, that means I’m a pathetic joke. I’m angry because I’m a queer, fat Black woman and to many, that means I’m a waste of space or a corrupter.
After years of stressing over how I could best conform and meet impossible standards that would require a complete erasing of myself, I decided to take control of my energy and to live my life out loud.
People — Black people especially — thrive in community and uplifting one another. God is greater than we could ever comprehend (though I don’t agree that I should fear “him” or that God has a gender). And as isolating as the lyrics can be, I still find Gospel music to be a warming unification of voices, and I sing it anyway. Music is magic.
It’s no secret that Christian churches are losing Black youth en masse due to their inherent corruption, abuse, pro-patriarchy, and preaching of anti-everything sentiments. So, at some point in my formative years, I looked to queer-friendly religious sects, and I happened upon conjure — also known as witchcraft.
Christianity’s gatekeeping kicked my queer ass right out and into the metaphysical. I’m thankful, because the journey to becoming a witch saved me. To have complete control over your body, mind, and soul? Where do they do that at? Where can a woman grow and speak without a hand on her neck? Where does she not have to fear life itself and often look death in the eyes? Where can she look up to the person she is willingly becoming? The answer: In queer Black feminist witchcraft.
If that answer makes you cringe, laugh or sneer, ask yourself just what part of that notion you fear: the freedom she has or the freedom you lack?
I compare self-labeling as a witch to a brief experience I had on the way to my alma mater for the first time.
I was in the transportation van, making small talk with other prospective students when we got on the subject of feminism — as we were headed to a historically women’s college — and the girl seated next to me asked me if I was a feminist.
I began to talk in circles, trying to find the easiest way to say “Yes, but also I don’t actually connect to the mainstream feminist movement.” She bristled. With the limited vocabulary of someone who had self-taught womanist theories, all I could say was, “Not really, because that word doesn’t feel right.”
She then said something along the lines of, “You think women are people, right?” I said yes. She said, “Well, then you’re a feminist. There’s no need to sugar coat it.”
I didn’t say anything else on the subject because I didn’t have the words to. The term technically defined me, but at the same time, most of its members didn’t include me in their brand of feminism, so I couldn’t relate.
At first, all I could see were white women, usually pagans or Wiccans. Many of them subscribe to the idea that their practice is older than anything else in the country. They simultaneously discount and pick apart non-Christian spiritual traditions of people of color, especially that of Black and Indigenous people. Some of them also approach the craft with only “love and light,” which leaves plenty of room for casual racism.
At the time of my approach to the label, there were very few Black witches, few queer witches, and even fewer Black queer witches whom you could find if you searched on the internet. Now, you just need an Instagram or a Tumblr.
If you can’t tell, we are in the midst of a spiritual awakening. Whatever connotation you decide to assign to it, a shift in how we perceive ourselves and how others perceive us is here. I believe that settling into a single order is what got us into our current social, environmental, and political mess. That stagnation is being disrupted.
This all being said, it doesn’t mean witchcraft can’t, won’t, or hasn’t been corrupted and polarized. I feel, though, that many young, queer Black people are making the opposite true. In fact, the activism you are seeing now is conjuring up a new reality right before your very eyes.
Is the Black Power fist drawn on signs not a sigil? Aren’t the chants simply spells done by the collective? Do we not honor our ancestors and community by invoking their names on the spot? We are manifesting the world we desire through our actions in real-time. You can’t tell me magic isn’t real.