Cultural appropriation, Gate keeping and Toxic positivity within the witchcraft community, due to social media has reached an all time high and as much as I love minding my F***** business, Mami and I are both feel we can no longer keep quiet about it nor ignore it. Regardless of how the world reacts, here we go, while the majority of readers coming to this blog may think they know our answer and what we're about to say, I assure you, you do not. As the witchcraft community continues to grow and expand, so does the issue of cultural appropriation, gate keeping and new age spirituality. Within the community, there is a wide variety of beliefs and traditions, whether it's centering on witchcrafts vs spirituality's, science vs magic, New age vs Ancestral; take your pick there is division in every direction you turn. Now, I know there's one thing North America does right, and that's stir shit up between thy neighbors. This country has a weird fetish for constantly creating division with one another, it's not just race and political division but spiritual as well. With Halloween being around the corner and Hocus Pocus 2" making its appearance after 30 years. It's seems like the perfect time to talk about the Salem witch trails and more specifically Tituba and the witch hunt that occurred due to spiritual judgment.
The witch trials of 1692 were a dark time in American history, when hysteria and paranoia led to the arrest and imprisonment of more than 200 people accused of practicing witchcraft. Of those arrested, 19 were found guilty and executed by hanging. Tituba was beaten by her owner Reverend Samuel Parris into confessing to witchcraft, after finding out she had made a witch cake for Betty and Abigail. The girls had been practicing Ovomancy, fortune telling through egg yolk in water and the shapes they make. They became frantic when they saw a coffin shape within their egg divination and quickly told Tituba.Tituba was brought to Salem Village by her owner, Reverend Samuel Parris, in 1689. She quickly became a part of the Parris household, acting as a servant and childcare provider for the family. However, she was Arawak-Guiana native of the South American tribe and was sold into salivary while in Barbados. In Tituba's culture, the devil didn't even exist. So when she was beaten into confessing, she told Parris exactly what she thought he wanted to hear-as any sane person being beaten would do.
Tituba was arrested and interrogated. Under pressure, she confessed to practicing witchcraft and claimed that several other people in the village were also witches. She named Sarah Good and Sarah Osborne as two of the witches, and they were also arrested. As the hysteria spread, more and more people were accused of being witches, and the trials began. Tituba was one of the first to be tried, and she was found guilty. However, she was not executed because she agreed to cooperate with the authorities and give them names of other witches. She later recanted her confession, but by then it was too late. The witch trials had begun, and they would continue for several months, leading to the executions of 19 people. Tituba's story is a tragic one, but her role in the witch trials highlights the unjust treatment of women of color, during that time and fear of different spiritualities. The Salem witch trials were a result of mass hysteria and religious intolerance, and Tituba was one of the many victims of those fears. Regardless of race or ethnicity, many people died over this misunderstanding of spiritual beliefs. Her story is a reminder of the need for tolerance and understanding, especially during this time when people are quick to cancel others.
So, what is cultural appropriation? Simply put, it's the act of taking elements from another culture without permission or understanding the cultural context. This can range from something as small as wearing a piece of traditional clothing to something as large as claiming to be a part of a culture that you're not actually from. Appropriation often happens when people are trying to cash in on the popularity of a certain culture, without any regard for the people who actually belong to that culture. That being said it can be very difficult to know where the line is between appreciation and appropriation. Furthermore, with the rise of social media, it's easier than ever for people to access information about other cultures. While this can be a powerful and positive thing, it also means that people are more likely to appropriating without even realizing it. Not all cultural appropriation is bad, of course. There's a big difference between, say, wearing a kimono to a Japanese festival and wearing one as a Halloween costume. The latter is much more likely to be offensive, while the former can be seen as a way of showing respect. Learning to practice a craft or be part of a spiritual community does not mean you have to be of a specific race because that my dear readers is racism.
Within the witchcraft community, cultural appropriation is an ongoing issue and seems to be an ever-growing monster looming over us, which has thus created our second issue: Gatekeeping. Gatekeeping is when someone tries to control who does or doesn't have access to certain knowledge or experiences. I remember the amount of times I was laughed at, bullied and ridiculed in high school because my mother was a psychic. Constantly told my mother was a scam artist because people simply weren't educated to understand this is an integral part of my culture and family. So you can imagine, how thrilled I was to see the rise of Witches on social media! Only to grow older and have people on social media telling me i'm not dark enough, or ethnic looking enough to practice my OWN culture. Many people who identify as witches are drawn to different practices; whether it offers a sense of connection to nature and the divine or a genetic association to it. Gatekeeping has arisen from others trying to learn from BIPOC spiritual crafts and the need for some to keep other races out. Again, I repeat dear readers this is racism. The literal definition of racism is "the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics, abilities, or qualities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races." It's up to you, as a human being, what you do or don't decide to share with another. No nation, race or other type of angry mob can tell you how to think or live, no person can tell you that you are or are not enough. I'm utterly exhausted of people reaching out demanding to know my ethnicity in order to police my life and page, when english isn't even my first language. There's always two sides to every story and I understand why both sides are upset. Trust me, #mycultureisnotyourtrend runs deep in my veins. However, there is great difference between cultural appreciation and appropriation. It's exhausting to see your culture belittled and ridiculed for years, only to be now appropriated by those same groups but that doesn't mean they are all doing so. We can choose to repeat history, continue the cycle or do better and figure out a solution to this situation once and for all. Learning about a craft and practicing it is very different than acting as if it is yours and gaining profit from it.
Some witches appropriating cultures that are not their own, without understanding or respecting the beliefs and traditions behind them, can cause unintentional harm. This can be particularly harmful for communities like Indigenous cultures, whose traditions have often been marginalized or outright stolen by colonizers. But again I repeat dear readers, we can continue in anger and hurt as they did to us or we can grow and love from it, racism goes both ways. Hurt people, hurt people, it sadly is as simple as that. My mother, although a generational witch, grew up as an orphan in the streets of the Dominican Republic after her mother died. Were it not for other witches helping and mentoring her along the way, her magic would never have grown and touched all the souls it has. Nor would I be in the position I currently am in. Many of incantari followers know me only because of the years they've spent learning from my mother. Where would you all be without her guiding magic, had someone decided to gatekeep her? What if her mentors had decided she wasn't Caribbean enough, "ethnic" looking enough? My best friend, whom I met through my mother is of Indian decent and I can't even fathom not sharing our magic and life with one another; I've learned just as much from her as she has from me. I can't possibly imagine hearing her pain and not providing a solution to her because she's of another race.
If you're a part of the witchcraft community, it's important to be mindful of the issue of cultural appropriation. To know the difference between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation, to be aware of harmful gatekeeping. In a nation that constantly drives division, it's up to our generations to stop that, it's up to our spirituality to do better. Gatekeeping can be a frustrating experience, especially for those who are trying to learn more about witchcraft. It is important to remember that everyone's path is different, and what works for one person may not work for another. It is possible to learn from someone without agreeing with everything they say. My own mother and I have spiritual debates all the time, that doesn't mean we can't co-exist and respect one another. This leads me to my final point, Mami & me had already planned to film a Self-care Witch show for all the guild members and center it on teaching people our magic and how to harness it as self care in their own spirituality... However, this seems to be taking precedence so, congratulations trolls, I give you the credit for our next play, if my content upsets you, can't wait to see you squirm over this show. Not only will we be doing all of the previously mentioned but we'll also be creating a free show for all the trolls where we go over cultural controversies within witchcrafts, we'll be working with different BIPOC witches from all different kinds of crafts, giving them an opportunity to discuss and show us their magic. We seek to find the similarities within each other and appreciate our differences. We seek to join forces with our witchy compatriots, regardless of nation, ethnicity, or race we choose love and celebration over hate and division.