Abandoning Expectations and Remembering Your Roots
Article ID: 15743
Age Group: Adult
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Posted: October 5th. 2014
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The community of Pagans, Witches, and Occultists in America is a diverse one and by diverse, I’m referring especially to individual paths. Typically when we talk about paths, the first thing that often comes to mind is this belief system vs. that belief system, traditional vs. eclectic, ceremonial vs. folk, etc. But if we adopt a more holistic view of path we see that it includes the “getting there” aspect of the journey. We all “got here” in different ways. Our path includes the individual narratives of how we came to this way of life to begin with and the foundation on which our magical lives are built. It includes our roots.
Unfortunately, I’ve noticed that this aspect of the path, “the roots” is something commonly forgotten among Witches of color. As we move further along the path, the scope of our interests narrows and we define our purpose and goals a lot more clearly. But for some reason, the more we do this, the more our expectations increase. Specifically, our expectations of others who we believe are on the same or similar paths as us increases. Because the next step after determining what system, practice, or philosophy best suits our individual needs is to find a community which shares our interests and from which we can learn from and exchange experiences with.
The problem there is, however, that oftentimes the joy and excitement of finally having this breakthrough in one’s spiritual journey often leads to very dreamy imaginings of what the situation will actually be like once we engage with that community. Many have the impression that it will be somewhat of a ‘homecoming’ and that they’ll finally have found a place where their identities as Witches/Pagans/Occultists can be understood and appreciated, perhaps in a way that it would not within the context of the cultural group they belong to. And maybe it will. But it’s a mistake, and unfortunately an all too common one, to think that the social problems (namely racism) that affect American society at large somehow won’t or couldn’t exist in the Pagan community.
And I think this is a lesson that has hit Witches/Pagans of color who follow traditions or systems that are not connected with their own culture/background (like Wicca for example) the hardest. It is one thing to go to a pan-Pagan event and deal with a hostile encounter or social snubbing in passing, then be on your way (even that leaves a mark) , but to be immersed in a way of life which you feel truly called to participate in and yet deal with being marginalized by people in that community, racial or ethnic jabs, slighting, and prejudice is just really sad. My heart breaks for anyone going through this.
Still, I’m offering a little bit of tough love when I tell you that it’s a huge mistake. The mistake is in not realizing that not every Pagan or Witch is an enlightened being who has somehow purged themselves of all “isms” (racism, sexism, heterosexism, etc.) and stereotypical ways of thinking. To put it bluntly, it ain’t all love and light. In fact, I’m of the opinion that you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who’s managed to do all that, even among the ones who are making a sincere effort to do so. Because most of us have been subjected to some deep but elusive social training from the time we were born and it will take many years to undo it all. Embracing a Pagan path (or ANY path) is not a fast track to this undoing.
Now, I’m addressing Witches of color because I am a Witch of color but I think it’s important to point out that this experience of being othered extends to those who are not Black, Latin@, Asian, or Native as well. I have definitely witnessed racially offensive attitudes and behaviors within Pagan spaces against people who many might say were “visibly” white. I had an amazing discussion with a woman who, I admit I’d initially perceived to be white, but very openly let me know that she was a Gypsy and did not actually identify with the social concept of “whiteness”. She shared with me her experience of being othered by both whites and non-whites (who viewed her as white) alike. Where I found common ground with her was not just in our shared experience of being discriminated against but also in our resolve to continue to walk in the world as Witches. Why? Because neither of us have lost sight of our purpose on this path. And that’s most important.
My heritage/culture/background is a major influence on my perspective and practice as a Witch but it is not the single, defining factor. So, I do empathize with Witches of color who are on a path that has developed within a different cultural framework in at least one regard: we don’t want to be seen as just “that Black/Brown/'Other' Witch”. But in addition to approaching the tradition itself and the community of that tradition’s practitioners with respect and understanding, one should also abandon any and all expectations. Expectations lead to disappointment and discouragement. Do not expect to be embraced, do not expect to be rejected. Do not expect anything except that people will be people.
Most importantly, remember your roots. I’m not talking about ethnic roots (although yes, personally that’s an important thread in the tapestry of me) , but your magical and spiritual roots. Remember how you got here. I’m at the point I am now because it was my goal to learn to harness the power to heal, to perceive realities seen and unseen at deeper levels, and to live according to the rhythms and mysteries of nature. It has always been about those things for me. What’s it about for you?
Remember it. And if you find that where you are now doesn’t give you the tools you need to be the Witch you want to be then move on. But don’t allow other people’s xenophobia, misconceptions, and prejudices make you doubt your place in this world. Abandon expectations of others. Not of yourself.
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