Monday, February 8, 2016

Two Black Witches and the unbearable lightness of Unapologetic Blackness

Beyonce Knowles dropped the silverware on the floor, the broom fell, and the dog barked in the figurative Houses of Witchy Blackness this weekend when she gave all the nods in the world to the Diaspora with a goodly dose of recognizing the Conjure in the blood and the magic in the collective diasporic experience of Black Girl Magic on the REAL that is our heritage.  The fallout among those who do not share this Heritage of the Bones has been so real and uncut and vicious that it has sparked a whirlwind of incredible ignorance that threatens to rival a certain Orisha’s fury in intensity.  Perhaps open mouths seek to get fed.  So today, join two of us who put pen to paper, and Dragon’s Blood Ink to Petition paper as we serve us a feast of tea and NON sympathy in the wake of the outraged tears shed at the release of Formation and the backlash among Pagan allies.

Today we are joined by Phoenix Nightshade in our salon.  The good china set is laid, and the charging plates are anointed and etched with pentacles, and veve, randomly.  You may help yourself to the tea.  Be careful, it is hot today.

Pardon this writer a moment as I light my candle to set the intention of the space.  There, that is better.  Not even a member of the Beyhive, yet the sound of the Ancestors speaking through this child today, as they “rode” this video on the sly just set my blood on fire.  Now let’s just have a moment to repeat the affirmation, shall we?


My Sister Witch, if you could be so kind as to take a moment to introduce yourself, it would be much appreciated.  Many may not have seen you presenting at the various events, last one being Pagan Pride Day Detroit 2015, so this is a good space to sound your drums.  Take the floor if you will, the parlor is quite airy and allows for much movement into “position and formation”.

Phoenix Nightshade: I am known better to the general public as The Phoenix in The Butterfly & The Phoenix. You can call me Phoenix or Phoenix Nightshade. I create and resell interesting pieces of jewelry, as well as assist when called to educate and help our community as called. Catch me mostly sitting in a nice corner or on the wall quietly observing and taking in the energy of events, as well as heeding the shade thrown by the Spirits that be; I even play medium sometimes.😏 Now,  in the spirit of Full disclosure and consideration, please note that my comments are mine and mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of my business partners.

Now that the formalities are out the way, we're going to need some of the members of our illustrious community to come to the front of the congregation; we need to have a word with y’all. Yes I said “y'all”; deal with it.

Mistress Belladonna:  Firstly, though it is understood that the football game that occurs every year around this time is lauded as this monumental moment for many who see it as a time to celebrate the triumph of athleticism as a form of reflected Godhood, not unlike certain ancient peoples, it is also a time when artists of the musical forms come to dazzle, and express, their talents to the masses.  This stage has seen all sorts.  This year, the mere fact that during a time when Black History Month, (the shortest of the Gregorian calendar that the Powers That Be could bear to begrudgingly give concession to for this observance) a Black Woman decided to celebrate part of her cultural heritage and her status as a popular bard to give Honor to those who have come before while still celebrating the fierceness of her generation in microbit micro-moments as song and dance on the stage before her public.  The video that heralded this performance mere days before this event gave LIFE to many who had been waiting for that nod to not only our societal cultural Traditions by this generation in popular culture, but also to the Magical Traditions as well.

Now, this should not have been an issue.  But lo and behold, Missy Anne and Massa Charlie are in a tizzy.  And the Pagan Brethren and Sistren of our so called “allies” are revealing their true persuasions and prejudices as they derail, in detail, in every spurious way the Conversant Celebrations taking place in spaces for Black Pagans of Color over the thing.  It was a video, and yet it meant so much that in those moments of joy, it was too much to bear to let that space be held and not commented on by the Butt Hurt Brigade.  Please have all the seats that are available on the theoretical head of a pin as they are vacated by the Angels of the Talk to the Hand Choir.

These are the same Pagans who dance and drum and go into ecstatic trance at every opportune moment when ATR (African Traditional Religions for anyone who didn't know the acronym)is offered in communal spaces.  And yet, there is an undercurrent of sludge that still seems to cling to their sandals, like rancid patchouli in the heat of summer after a rain.  It is the smell of the privileged tourist in the face of the native spaces that they resent and appropriate with wild abandon without thought to the cultural realities of those they sample like a dark berry wine.  Something to be tasted, enjoyed, yet not thought of insofar as the work that produced the body.  And in these moments, the resentment of Black bodies , while hidden, was glaring through loud and clear.

Phoenix Nightshade: Firstly I want to address the sore feelings over Beyonce’s video. If you are a person who is not of African descent, and your feelings were hurt or feathers riled by her message,  I need to tell you something :


If we would bother to use the comprehensive skills of context and awareness,  there would be no hurt feelings.  Beyonce was directly addressing insults, controversy and calls for action made to and about her and her family by the BLACK COMMUNITY.  Yeah sometimes we use our platforms to talk to our own; everything isn't always about everyone, or as has been the color-blind rallying call “All Lives matter.”

Look at any great musician or performer with a worldwide platform and you will find a song in their catalog addressed specifically to their community of heritage.  Michael Jackson did it, Earth, Wind and Fire did it, Jennifer Lopez,Selena Quintanilla, J. Cole, Stevie Wonder,  Billie Holiday, the list goes on. Beyonce continued this tradition with “Formation.” This work is basically Bey’s way of saying to her people, this is who I am, I hear your concerns,  I see your pain and at the same time I see your Bullshit, rumors, accusations, and nasty comments you make about my family and I. Here are my feelings,  my reality and fuck who all has anything negative to say.

She had to come through and shut down her detractors that said that she and Shawn Carter b.k.a. Jay Z were part of something our community calls “The New Blacks” (samples include Don Lemon, Stacey Dash, and Common *sigh*) which are out of touch and uncaring towards the issues facing the majority of the Diaspora. Also it was addressing accusations that Bey was in denial about her heritage and race, that her and her husband are members of “the Illuminati”( it's something most successful Black performers are accused of being a part of by the “Black Church”; it's not a correct understanding of the Illuminati, trust me), she only married Mr. Carter for money and urban appeal, and that she neglects her daughter’s appearance.

This was an A&B conversation and White America just jumped in the fucking middle! Now some of y’all are mad because your edges are missing and you got tea burns from getting in the middle of wig snatching and tea spillage that you weren't invited to!

Like some of you love to tell us as People of Color: “we didn't mean to offend you so get over it.”

My next issue deals with people wanting the cake but not putting in on the supplies, or as I like to call it, Little Red Hen Syndrome. With what I’ve observed on several occasions in public space where the needs, concerns, and issues facing People of Color( this term is inclusive of any person of a non Caucasian or Anglo-Saxon heritage or culture, including First Nations) have been openly ignored or classified as “non interesting”, but the Magickal practices of these same people being deemed irresistible, packing out classes and workshops.
So our skills and practices are desirable, but not the struggles and needs that gave birth to them?!?

Mistress Belladonna:  *sips tea and sprinkles Alaga on the biscuits with my rice*  


How many folks have gotten to the point where it is almost impossible to find a Conjure Doctor or Hoodoo that looks like them giving workshops in their areas sponsored by major organizations?  Shucks, how many times have we rallied for inclusion of Non Persons of Color to have the right to practice these Traditions without discrimination only to find ourselves locked out of our own heritage?  Come on now, really?  REALLY?  You can only SUPPORT two folk magicians, and Conjure people, and neither can be of color, yet you are in MICHIGAN?

People can NOT spit without hitting a magician here.  There is so much spellwork going on in the local church meetings, so many Seals of Moses in purses on the bus, and so many folks buying candles by the case on the 1st and 15th of the month, you REALLY could not find A SINGLE SOLITARY WITCH OF COLOR to present?  Ssssssh, we wanted to tell you, your slip is showing.  

There are celebrations here that feature more religions of the African diaspora than you can fit on my lovely strand of outraged pearl, jet, amber, and obsidian necklace I am commissioning Phoenix to make (yeah, I did that), than there are beads in said jewelry.  Presenting years worth of workshops that feature elements, and sometimes wholesale transplants, of the practices of a people with NO representation, “WHERE DO THEY DO THAT?”

To be blunt, the popular music is as much a part of our magics as is the liturgies and devotion songs.  The music of our Urban Bardic Tradition gives life to the continuance of the presence of the Ancestors whose hips, the eyes and lips are all the living embodiments that the blood and bones of those who are in the Companies of Dead that lend their Powers and Blessings to their descendants.   It is ok, it will not hurt you if we celebrate this.  It is not going to make us not be your friends to acknowledge that we are part of a living continuum of culture and Craft that may not be readily accessible to Harper Collins or Llewellyn.  It is ok to be as authentic as Jacki Smith without having to use her name to try to pry bar your way into EVERY conversation in the Pagan Communities in Michigan about African American and Black Folk Magical Practices in spaces where we appear.  


But I digress.  You see, there is a real problem right now.  That problem is evident by the fact that so many in the ATRs will not cross 8 Mile Road, literally or in philosophy.   If the reader does not understand the significance of this, watch an Eminem movie.  To put it concisely for the uninformed, it was an arbitrary border line used to enforce segregation and redlining practices in Southeast Michigan.   Here is a nice glue backed star to put on your Black Michigan History Ration Book.  Now keep up, please.

*Pours some tea into Phoenix’s cup to warm it up*

Shall we discuss the Scandal of Papa Legba in Southeast Michigan for a bit?

*tea pot falls over*

Once upon a time, the Between the Waters Society, and Andrieh Vitimus, both did rituals involving Papa Legba.  They are actual initiates and accepted practitioners.  You know, folks who do not think he appears in Chicken and Biscuit restaurants on Wednesdays.  But then, something strange happened.  Papa Legba suddenly became EVERYONE’S personal Jesus, as it were.  It was like an Appropriationist Depeche Mode parody.  And EVERYONE suddenly had this mysterious connection with Him.  Really?  Really now?  

It is a wonder that Yvette from Motown Witch did not buy out Purdue with the massive cry for chicken feet that seemed to come from nowhere in this “authentic” movement toward the “quaint folkways” of the ATR.  The same folks that set those keyboards on fire on the Covenant of the Goddess page about All Lives Mattering, and how Black Lives Matter is so racist, were beating those djembes and casting that cornmeal with the best of them in public ritual spaces.

This is not to discredit or make less of anyone’s true unverifiable personal gnosis.  No, this is a neck rolling, eye rolling finger snapping, hip cocking, side eyeing, side smirking gaze upon the unmitigated gall and audacity of people to exploit a set of  magical cultures with the same regard as they would call gas station rice and seaweed authentic sushi.  This is the SHADE and LIGHT upon the reality that when it comes to supporting the cultures, and subcultures, of the African diaspora, it seems that there is a dearth of fu**ks about what matters to those peoples.  It is all about exploitation and spiritual tourism in general.  

This writer has watched a certain well beloved local Big Name Pagan in her journey over the last decade as she has embraced her Callings and Paths.  Those Paths now include ATR, a calling that she was actually hesitant to heed for years.  And now, all of us celebrate her joy in it, and the happiness she has found as she takes us all along with her in her journey, as a community and as friends and well wishers.

What is not celebrated is the disposable douchebaggery that is attempting to profit off this.  What is not respected is the proliferation of two book educated experts giving class series in the guise of “reconstructionist visionary allies”.  You have all this passion, but cannot be bothered to have conversations with folks about what is going on in your own state beyond your pocketbook.  You run your happy butt to Discount Candle, use the Anna Riva book at the counter (not as a memory jog, but as an actual needed manual) and then peddle your blends to your students as a handed down recipe from your “mixed” grandma.  OH, and now you are also Irish, since that is coming into vogue as a historical marker of authenticity in some circles as well.

As my tea companion and I had discussed in a previous conversation, it would not be a surprise to see, and I am paraphrasing, people teaching Vodoun and playing Lou Bega’s - Mambo No. 5
as a because it has the word Mambo in it.  Yeah, you read that correctly.

Come Through Phoenix.

Phoenix Nightshade: Yes, we do love and acknowledge those of any and all backgrounds who have felt the callings, had the dreams, got the readings to make sure it wasn't their own delusions of grandeur, found a mentor whose background can be vetted, and did the work. This is not for you so you all can have a seat at the table; y'all have earned it and no one can tell you anything different. Biscuits, greens and candied yams are next to the black eyed peas.

See, the thing that you may not understand, is that you one can not “reconstruct” what was never destroyed. All the other great Pantheons have reconstructionist movements. Why? Because at one point or another, their original means of Worship and religion was destroyed and their veneration stopped. Even Kemetic. But the more “popular” ones, the ones everyone wants to partake in: Voudun,Ifa,Lucumi, Palo, Quimbanda, Voodoo, Hoodoo, 21 Division, and the other African Diaspora traditions that came over during the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade,  these Traditions never died out or discontinued.

You can not play cut copy and paste with things that have a living tradition. That is the equivalent of me coming in your house tracking mud,rearranging your altar, and bringing something that I know offends you or you're allergic to as a gift, then asking you for a favor and expecting you to do what I asked.

That feeling of offense you're feeling? That is what the Orishas and Lwa feel when you try to “align” them with your Wiccan and Neo-Pagan concepts of Deity. That indignation is the same that  Our Ancestors and Orishas
When you try to align Obba, Yemoja, and Oshun as triple Goddesses(don't. Just please. Do Not).

*Tea runs across floor as ethereal daughters and sons from the Divine Nine who have passed on nod*

Mistress Belladonna:  As I lift my slip so that it does not become soiled at the hem, I cannot help but notice the foolishness that many of my online Sistren have had to endure today in regard to the charges of reverse racism because of the dancers on the Beyonce line not having a non Black face in this Moment of Blackness and veneration of our Dead.  Maybe this moment may have been better spent SEEING the truth of the little boy repping the spirit of our murdered children in that critical imagery when he danced in front of the wall that said “Stop Killing Us”.

Souls, people, we are speaking of souls.  The souls of Black Folk, (see what I did there?), the souls of our magicks, and the souls of our messages.  And yet, my feed is exploding with negative commentary about the “bad energy and negative racial messages of the Panthers being so bad for the energy of the day”.  There is this thing, it is called a book.  Read one.

The Black Panther Party for Self Defense, the original one, was the starting point in time for one of the greatest frameworks for self empowerment and harmony and protection there has been, with a militant bent that was suitable for the times.  They started the Summer Breakfast Program, which later was the catalyst and model for the beginning of the Head Start Program, one of the few remaining Great Society programs still running.  And yes, it is FULL of magicians.  How else do you think it keeps surviving, prayer and conjure, babies.  Real talk, this writer WAS ONE of the resident Witches in the Family Service Worker trenches.

The same folks riding the Bernie Train online are the same ones popping off against the Panther’s legacy.  Not the fake one, the real one.  And they are the same ones who want to play in the shoes of a Witch, Mambo, or Two Head Woman until it is time to pay the cost to be the boss.  You cannot practice ATR and Black Magical Traditions while keeping one foot back in the world of privilege.  You unbalance, you fall, and you knocked over the damned altar lights.

*Retucks machete under lace table cloth*

Crystal Blanton, I see you.  Elizabeth Ruth, I see you.  We see you and have two chairs out, pinkies up, and honey in the jar.  Please feel at home to rest your selves, the cushion patterns are indeed true indigo ink dyed embroidery fibers from the Gullah.  Why yes, we do know they have been being preyed upon in particular lately, it is the new “discovery of the hour” you know.

It is still a mystery how so many who are SO drawn by the “mysteries” of the African magical and spiritual diaspora seem so INVISIBLE when there are rituals and workings for the people who are the blood of those Traditions.  Where are they when it is time for a ceremony for the missing and dead in Nigeria, Sudan, Syria, etc.?  Many of those who are counted as those I respect do not fall into the Army of the Unseen Ally.  To them, this is NOT FOR YOU.  No, we are referring to the drum beating, ghele envying, purveyor of Seven African Powers Candles who has no idea who the hell the powers are, but are at every public event ready to be possessed by their own damn minds.  There is just not enough to express the distaste in this space.

Phoenix Nightshade: let's not forget Janet Herzberg Callahan, Asan Fossett, Hija De Yemayá, & Micoláii-Yomaris Fuentes-Dayton who have been educating and snatching wigs all over Facebook when it comes to issues concerning POC. Salute.

*observes moment of silence for catastrophically damaged follicles everywhere*

Just a moment while we change the music.  Yes, while Dixieland is lively, and Delta is soulful, the mood seems to call for some Chaka.  If that woman did not make the Two Head Woman empowerment anthem years ago, I don’t know who did.  You feel me?  Yes, I do like a little Straight Line Stitch now and then, but this is a moment when I need to stay in a non mosh state of mind.

Now hold on just a second, someone is at the door.  Must have seen the lights through the windows….. I will replace the lamp with a new one.  Please pass the oil.

Had to send them down the street.  They seem to be looking for the Denial of African Roots of Obeah Society of Detroit.  Yes, it is across the street from the House of Pretending There Are No Black Faces in Santeria in Michigan and Corn Bread.  Girl, yes, no one is buying your cookies right now, Tink Tink.  Please move on with the $5 caftan and your Barnes and Nobles Nook to the next block.  Watch out for the Hotepstafarians.

*closes door firmly*

Quote of the day regarding the foolishness that seems to be everywhere:

Everybody suddenly gonna be invoking shit at drum circles, calling Obba and Oshun in rituals, setting up Oya, Yemaya, and Oshun as triple Goddesses.

Thank you, Phoenix Nightshade.  I shall place this upon my Altar of Asshattery Prevention.  

Phoenix Nightshade: Thanks for having me. Best discussion I've got to have in a while.  

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