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15 Dec

Black Witches Debunk The Biggest Myths About The Occult

Black Witches Debunk The Biggest Myths About The Occult

Black Witches Debunk The Biggest

Black Witches Debunk The Biggest  An old, common misconception of witches is that they’re all white. One other is that they’re related to the devil. African and Black American culture has long included non-traditional spirituality that’s been misunderstood by white communities, in addition to our own.

“The devil’s a Christian thing. You guys [Christians] got here up with that. That doesn’t actually play into witchcraft as I understand it,” says Mya Spalter, a Black witch and the creator of Enchantments:

A Modern Witches Guide to Self-Possession, to ESSENCE. “It’s just a completely different thing.” Practicing witchcraft is commonly portrayed as the alternative of Christianity, which is just unfaithful, she also notes.

While her book received generally positive reviews, Spalter says how her book will truly impact the conversation about Black witches continues to be up for debate. She does consider there’s been an explosion of young adult books featuring diverse stories within the years since her book was published.

“I find it incredibly exciting that ‘queer brown witch’ books are an entire section at my local bookstore. I like being an element of that cultural shift,” Spalter says.

The shift of Black witches and witches of color being respected and included in history is overdue.

Read ESSENCE’s 2022 story on religiosity and respecting other’s spiritual practices here. 

Popular lore surrounding the notorious Salem witch trials brings to mind images of white women and girls being burned on the stake, which is true. Nonetheless, of the 100 people persecuted and killed through the trial, which lasted from the spring of 1692 until May 1693,

majority of them were Black. This has directly impacted how Black witches have been perceived in America and has contributed to misunderstandings about non-white spiritual practices.

Black Witches Debunk The Biggest Myths About The Occult

An accused witch going through the judgement trial, where she is dunked in water to prove her guilt of practicing witchcraft.

“Considered one of the earliest stories of the trials non-white witches in America face is that of Tituba, an enslaved indigenous woman commonly known as ‘the Black Witch of Salem.’”

A report in academic journal The North Star reveals that through the 1620s and even before, throughout the Americas and Europe, Black witches were depicted as dark, evil beings, with strong ties to the devil.

“Early modern Europe already had long-standing discourses that associated Africans peoples and the devil, and lots of Spanish traditions, each elite and popular, linked dark skin with the devil,” writes Heather R White.

“Witches tried in Logroño, Spain, testified that the devil appeared as “a dark-skinned man with wide, glaring horrible eyes.” The tradition of representing evil with the colour black developed with the frequent portrayal of the devil as a [B]lack man in Spanish medieval art.”

Black women often had been convicted for crimes like arson or murder, and faced much harsher punishment that their white couterparts accused of the identical crimes. Nearly 87 percent of the ladies executed from 1608 to 2002, were Black, in line with the Espy File on U.S. executions.

Considered one of the earliest stories of the trials non-white witches in America face is that of Tituba, an enslaved indigenous woman commonly known as “the Black Witch of Salem.” Early drawings depict her as a dark, terrifying creature.

She would later be accused of constructing a bunch of young girls, including her slave owner Samuel Parris’ daughter, Betty, and his niece, Abigail, bark like dogs and contort their bodies.

Learn more about Tituba’s story here. 

While it has not been made clear if these allegations were true, we do know that anytime a girl, particularly a girl of color, chooses to live out the framework of Christianity, she is labeled as an agent of the devil and should be destroyed.

Hollywood only exacerbated these tropes by showing constant barrages of unattractive, evil, green (or otherwise dark skinned) women with broomsticks just like the Wicked Witch of the East character from the Wizard of Oz. 

Throughout the film, she was juxtaposed against Glenda the Good Witch, a pretty, blond-haired, blue-eyed white woman who was revered for her kindness and wisdom.

Glenda’s treatment appears to be the established order for white women in shows like Bewitched, Sabrina The Teenage Witch, Charmed and other media centered on white womanhood.

They were allowed a certain quantity of humanity and vulnerability inaccessible to Black women, in the true world. Not surprisingly, together with being wildly popular, the shows clearly lacked representation of Black characters, even when explicitly referring to Salem witch trials.

Considered one of the expectations was 1996’s The Craft, with Rachel True’s character Rochelle, but True would later admit she faced discrimination each on and off screen.

Black Witches Debunk The Biggest Myths About The Occult

Rachel True in a scene from the film ‘The Craft’, 1996. (Photo by Columbia Pictures/Getty Images)

Still, Spalter notes while Hollywood has gotten many things flawed, there are a couple of things that it has gotten right. Lately, there was an influx of diverse characters on popular television shows like American Horror Story: Coven and The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and the conversation is starting to alter.

“I feel that has lots to do with people doing significantly better research once they write their fictional witches,” Spalter says.

Thee media normally portrays witchcraft as this dark power often harnessed to exact revenge on those that harmed you, but in actual fact, most craft isn’t used for hexes but for self-improvement, money magic, finding direction in life, and more, in line with Paula Alexis, one other witch and wellness program coordinator based in Canada.

Traditionally (and before the Salem witch trials), Black witches served as healers, midwives, cooks, and more.

“If anything bad happened to those enslavers, they’d blame the Black or Indigenous witch and send her to be “judged,” but often just killed,” Alexis says.

“White women not protecting these women from being killed for being an evil witch hunt found themselves next in line when white men expanded their misogynist crusade. Many believed they’d be secure due to their skin color, but that didn’t go well.”

“They were overlooked of the history books because servants and slaves only get to be in history books when pivital to the victor.”

Fellow practitioner, author, and ancestral healer JuJu Bae agrees that while the media is slowly changing, there are lots of widespread, false tropes For one,

Hollywood often portrays the practice of Wicca because the core of witchcraft, when in point of fact, the pagan religion is just considered one of the numerous offshoots of witchcraft. It has typically been performed by white women.

“The media has gotten plenty of things flawed with regards to spirituality, particularly the spiritual systems of Black people who are outside of the Abrahamic traditions,” Bae says.

Bae also notes that Black witches, particularly those that study traditional African practices like Hoodoo and Vodun, experience rampant anti-Blackness even inside their respective communities.

“I feel it’s really interesting while you see individuals who practice, particularly Black individuals who practice conjure or a craft. It’s all the time demonic and evil. But that’s not a recent concept,” she says.

Black Witches Debunk The Biggest Myths About The Occult

voodoo priestess portrait. benin, west africa.

All three women highlighted that the history of Black witches is commonly forgotten because many enslaved women who practiced witchcraft were unfortunately merely stepping stones for a lot of white witches and crusaders.

“They were overlooked of the history books because servants and slaves only get to be in history books when pivotal to the victor,” Alexis says. For a long time, rampant anti-Blackness and misogynoir made it nearly unattainable for Black witches to receive not only accurate, but sympathetic, representation on screen.

Today, with the assistance of more Black showrunners and creators being given power to create more diverse stories, the narrative is beginning to shift, resulting in the creation of television shows like Juju (which is paying homage to Charmed), which debuted in 2019 via Amazon Prime.

The online series thrives on writing authentic Black characters in real ways in which resonate more with Black people tuning in and fewer with caring concerning the idea of white acceptance.

“It’s so Black. Even within the little roles, like being an additional within the restaurant or the work best friend like Jama in Episode 2,” creator Moon Ferguson told Variety. “She’s the work best friend, nevertheless it’s not like she’s the token Black girl, best friend to spice up and uplift her white coworker. It’s literally only a sisterhood inside the workplace.”

While Hollywood is recuperating, there continues to be much work that should be done by society at large. The misconceptions about Black witches directly result from the white patriarchal religious indoctrination that has slowly seeped into the cultural zeitgeist,

showing up within the representation that we see on screen. For the narrative to actually change, the thought of juxtaposing witchcraft, particularly witchcraft performed by Black women, with evilness and the devil can have to be completely unrooted. Black witches should be portrayed for exactly what they’re—human beings.

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