This is my first post after the Afro-Punk festival, thank you everyone who said hi to me and recognized me! That was totally awesome! I’m very glad you guys like my writing, it’s very nice to know I have support. I had a great time, it was my first Afro-Punk. I missed P.O.S. and a couple other several acts on the next day because I was too broke for an overnight stay. I do plan on going next year and being more prepared. I really had fun nonetheless! I also had delicious okonomiyaki (they don’t have those in Baltimore) but I didn’t snap up a new cell charm – I am an avid collector of cell phone charms, especially when I’m outta town or at special events.
Black Witch: “How I became a Pagan Witch
Words Olivia Haynes
I hope everyone had fun at Afro-Punk like I did there! I took lots of pictures! It was nice meeting you all and putting faces to names. I really am happy to have gone and can’t wait for next year! Now, it took me a while to churn this piece out, it was harder than I thought. I haven’t had to tell my story in a while so please do bear with any possible weirdness.
What got me into Paganism? Music. P.O.D. (Payable On Death) was very instrumental to me going into a new religion – which is rather odd because they’re a fairly Christian group. When I started listening to P.O.D., it made me take a closer look at my own faith since that’s what they talked about most. They weren’t bopping me over the head with “Be Christian or your life is over,” but I did start looking more and more into Christianity until it just dawned on me finally that this wasn’t my bag. I didn’t think that Christianity was a stupid religion; it just wasn’t the religion for me. I felt it didn’t make any sense to stay in a religion I’m not happy in to appease a god. I’m supposed to be happy suffering? Erm, no. I think I could do a better job serving the divine if I were happier doing it. To be anything otherwise would just create a hateful complex that I don’t need.
When I was Christian, I never felt a thing besides depressed, angry, numb and really confused. Even then, the Christian faith seemed really foreign to me. I’ve read a decent amount of the Bible, been to church, been anointed, been saved about three times, chatted with others who were deep in the faith – I got nothing. It just didn’t fit for me and nothing was going to make that fact change. To be honest, I kinda was growing angry at God and Christ because it seemed like they never really cared for those who needed it most, just doing what they wanted to do at complete random. It just annoyed me more and more that everyone’s answer to my problems was putting my faith in some invisible guy that no one can call down, see, hear or talk to when they need him most. Whether their prayers would be answered and how much seemed the luck of the draw. I grew up quite poor and in one of the roughest parts of Baltimore so I saw a lot of faithful people but I also saw a lot of screwed over people all the same. These were people that were very much worthy of mercy, far more deserving than I ever could, still getting the shaft – what kind of faithfulness is that?
Also, during that time, my life was taking quite the spiral downward and I felt suicidal, among other very nasty feelings. I figured that if this guy in the sky hasn’t helped me then, He’s not going to help me now.
I guess all this would make me sound like I’m on the fast track to being an atheist but I don’t think I ever could. I’ve always believed in the metaphysical; spirits, deities and weird happenings included. I do believe in a god (and a goddess!), I just didn’t like how Christianity went about theirs. I never meshed well with the Christian religion or the Christian culture, it seemed humans were just hapless beings caught between the constant tug-o-war between God and the Devil.
One thing about Paganism that attracted me was the fact you have to take responsibility for yourself and your actions, no blaming a supernatural being such as a god or a devil driving you to do whatever it is you did. Paganism is fairly heavy on self-reliance and personal responsibility. It gives not so much of a lean on the divine – they’ll help but they won’t fix your problems for you – so there’s a better feeling of having a grasp on your own life rather than waiting for some invisible superman to come and save you from yourself or feeling helpless at the whims of a schizo god. I think that’s what I needed honestly, not to feel like I have to rely on someone upstairs for every little thing. That’s how I have seen it, another Pagan may disagree. Regardless of religion, using God as a crutch is pretty universal, and Paganism is pretty individualistic so some may use a deity often and some may not. I don’t.
As Paganism is a nature-based belief system (no, I don’t pray to trees), the face of divinity is actually up to the practitioner. That’s right, we can use the Christian pantheon just like we can use the Greek pantheon, the diverse African pantheons, Shinto pantheon, you name it, we can pray to it. The universe is a great force in itself, the many faces of divinity are what man created to better understand the world around him. Pagans see divinity as a great universal energy that is divided into a male/female duality and the different Gods and Goddesses are the various faces of that duality. I’m a total mythology nerd so it works in my favor. It’s considered good practice to pick a pantheon you best resonate with and to refrain from mixing Gods and Goddesses from different cultures – mainly in spellwork – because it could produce icky results since they don’t merge well.
I choose the Christian pantheon because it is what I am most comfortable with (remember, I didn’t like how Christianity went about working with their deity, not I didn’t like the deity itself – much. With less severe reliance on God, I felt better about Him) but I do refer to other Gods and Goddesses if the occasion calls for it like a thunder god or a goddess of mercy. I really like using the African and Shinto pantheons when I can. Or if I don’t feel like messing about with Gods, Goddesses – which I often don’t – and their rules of contact, I use spirits. I don’t pray to trees but I do believe they have a spiritual force, as does the air, fire, etc. More often than not I see myself using lower-tiered spirits such as elementals (spirits of the elements or nature) than Gods. I mostly use Gods for bigger things such as important spells or something that’s going to need a lot more power than from a sprite and those are far and few in between.
I didn’t get into Witchcraft with 100% noble means though. I actually wanted to jinx my bullies
. Yep, you read correctly, I wanted to jinx my bullies. I got tired of being picked on. I used to hang out in my local library all the time and I would see the books of Witchcraft but steer totally clear of them just like everyone else until one day I simply got sick of being messed with. I was scared of course but I thought the same thought everyone else had of Witchcraft: that it was full of hexing and jinxes. I went to the Young Adult section and picked up Where to Park your Broomstick
by Lauren Manoy
I thought it would be a book that would teach me to get back at my bullies but was I definitely wrong. It told me that wasn’t what being a Witch was about, harming people as an act of revenge or being spiteful. There’s the main rule of “An’ it harm none, do what thou will” and the Rule of Three: whatever you do comes back to you threefold. Nixes jinxing right there. She employs the idea that being a Witch is about being in tune with yourself and nature, not being some wicked and self-centered little thing. Also in being a Witch, you learn diplomacy since you’re really stepping outside of the norms and reacting constantly with venom gets you nowhere. I learned to deal with my bullies in other ways and I finally found something I could believe in.
I learned that to be Pagan and a Witch is to be open-minded and not hateful. I’m not saying people never piss me off but I am saying that it would be against my beliefs to be some terrible person. I’m not learning from my situation and to be honest, I’m not exactly deserving of peace and quiet if I’m going to act as bad as the person is to me without any initial attempt of remedy. However, I’m no doormat. One thing I like about my religion is that it’s very self-involved so you’re constantly improving yourself instead of waiting for someone else in unusual clothes to direct you. They can help, but they’re not the ones pulling the weight.
Though music helped expedited me into Paganism, I always had a pull to witchcraft, even when I was a young child. Growing up I could see spirits, predict the future, mess with electronics and communicate with the weather, to name a few talents. At first I just assumed everyone could do this so that’s why it never was brought up. But then I was starting to get the feeling I wasn’t like other kids and maybe I should keep my mouth shut about this. I was raised in the usual Black Christian family so I was taught that unless you were a prophet, any supernatural stuff a person could do automatically meant they were in league with Satan, no questions asked.
I never opened up to my family about my religion or what I can do. My mom thinks anyone who claims to be psychic as crazy or in league with the devil. I remember asking her about how she felt on psychics and it boiled down to this: She responded people like that could not possibly exist because they would be naturally evil basically. They would be hitting the lotto like mad with precognition, stealing luxury cars using telekinesis to get the keys, the world would simply look like the third X-Men movie.
Then she told me about the story of King Solomon, explaining how even if being psychic wasn’t possible, if it were, it would only be from having an allegiance with Satan. I asked about prophets and how come they weren’t bad but could do practically the same thing. I was given the ol’ story of how they were working for God so that’s why they couldn’t work with the Devil. Didn’t really make much sense then and still doesn’t now because there’s a lot of inconsistencies but I figured it would be best to simply keep all questions to myself and be scared witless for about ten years or so. For the rest of my family, it’s either they don’t know or just found out through my personal blog.
Y’see, I’m not really close to my family. Family is very important in Paganism but I’m just not close to mine. I’m way too different and my family’s not so I keep two personas about usually – one my family sees and one the world sees. Was bound to happen anyways, it doesn’t bother me that much anymore.
I am very happy to have changed my religion. It has made me a much chipper person and my life is much more fulfilling than when I was a Christian but it’s not like I don’t have any problems anymore. Firstly, life generally is rough no matter who you are. Secondly, I’m in a religion that’s none of the top three and often the scapegoat for anything crazy. We’re lumped in with the psycho killers, baby eaters (who does that?), Satanists and other folks who honestly lost their marbles a long while ago. Basically since 16 or 17 I’ve had to defend my religious views and the fact that I’m a Witch against a myriad of people from frightful nut jobs to the religiously (namely, Christian) concerned. I must say, it does leave me pretty cranky sometimes. It’s like I have to walk around with a dry erase board on some days. Then I have to explain that nooooo, I’m not a Wiccan. I’m a Witch. There’s a difference (that I covered in my first post). It does make me a bit more of a stickler but eh, there’s no way am I going to be super nice and without a bad side of any sort. I’m a nice person generally but I don’t wear halos for hats. I’m realistic, in other words.
I’ve been told that “I’m in a phase”, “I’ll be returning to Christianity”, one person even prayed right in front of me, wishing for Jesus to disturb my sleep and my waking moments until I would return to Christianity. I don’t think that’s what the Bible itself preaches but tell these people that. I have dealt with people practically dashing across the street, give backhanded complements about my faith, and try to use me as an example of what a person who has left Christianity looks like – constantly trying to depict my life in utter shambles (basically how my life looked when I was Christian) now that “I had abandoned Christ”. Jesus, what an annoyance.
I’m very happy being Pagan and I super doubt I’ll return back to Christianity but the hardest part of converting was I had to listen to myself first and forget everyone else. I learned that no matter what you do in life, let it mean something to you and you’ll have no regrets.
Alrighty then, now that I’ve shared a fair bit of my background story (outta the broom closet will have to be its own post) and am now a regular columnist, time for some mayhem! I just added a Twitter for my external blog so people can have up-to-date posting both here at Afro-Punk and there. I haven’t much of a clue of how to use it but I’m learning. It’s strictly for quick BW updates so if you wanna contact me, email or comment. If you really wanna keep up with me, go to my personal blog. Among the weekly posts will be two special monthly posts, “Ask a Witch” and “The Arts”.
“Ask a Witch” is where you can ask me whatever question you like (excluding divination of course, I’m just a columnist here – unless you have red bean mochi or okonomiyaki. Otherwise you’re gonna have to wait for special opportunities to arise), I’ll pick the three best and answer them here. You can ask anything about me, about yourself or whatever have you here in the comments, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you don’t want the question to be public just say so when you email me or fill out the form. I’ll try to answer all private questions as quickly as possible and within a week.