This week I'm very happy to present the Black Witch, aka Olivia, a 24-year-old librarian-in-training from Baltimore, MD. The original black pagan blogger, Olivia writes the popular Black Witch blog (also located at Afropunk.com) with corresponding Facebook, Twitter and Ustream Webcast. Ever busy, Black Witch is coming out with an anthology of her blog posts in Februray, so stay tuned to her site for upcoming details.
Olivia has been a practicing witch since her teen years and her blog contains a lot of insight and wisdom into the Craft. Her most recent post, The Invisibility Cloak: Race and the Pagan, was nothing short of brilliant so you should definitely check that out if you haven't already. Okay, no more delay, here we go:
How and when did you get started in the Craft?
It’s a very long and winding story that’s nearly fit for a B to C-rate movie but the nutshell version is that I started being interested in magick and psionics when I was in middle school, if not younger, and started pursuing the Craft in earnest at around 15 or 16.
What was your upbringing like in terms of religion?
Just like most Black kids: Christian. My parents weren’t Bible thumpers but they’re pretty firm in their beliefs, especially my mother’s side.
As a child, did you notice that you had psychic abilities? If so, was there any channel for them, a way you could develop and talk about them?
Did I ever! That’s also part of the long and winding story but a nutshell version of that is that I always had weird or odd things happening to me but once I was informed that, hey, this is devil worship, I got temporarily scared out of it until I came to my senses and slowly started practicing again, doing energy manipulation, telekinesis – that mention always cocks eyebrows – etc etc. I have gotten mad rusty, I can’t even move a pin without headache! I do want to get back into it though. I learned to do it, also kind of harness and learn more about myself as well, through meditation and study.
Plus, I found through some digging some message boards of people who practiced and felt the same that I did and I would say that did help a lot because mention psionics to the average person and they’ll think you watched too much X-Men growing up.
How would you label your path (are you Wiccan, eclectic, etc.?)
I’m a Pagan Witch, plain and simple. Although, I can bet good money someone will call me Wiccan after I thoroughly explain myself, has called me Black Wiccan and not Black Witch, or will simply assume that I am an active practitioner of Wicca. If not Voudon. I should know because all of the above has happened before and it’s a little vexing because it’s like, “literacy, do you understand it?”
I like your blog because it really focuses on the nuts and bolts of magick. So I find myself wondering, what are your spiritual beliefs, if any? Do you work with specific deities, do you observe the esbats, etc.?
I’m basic Pagan in that I believe in nature and that spirit moves throughout nature and the universe within itself and as an expression of a greater life-force, better known as deities and spirits. I don’t always work with deities unless it’s for something pretty important. Instead, I work with the elements themselves usually. When it comes to deities, I work within a male/female duality but I have also worked with the Christian pantheon and any gods that I have extensively researched to make sure I’m not screwing up.
How and when did you get started doing spiritual work for other people (tarot, dream interpretation)?
That started in 2004, so I was about 16 or 17-ish. I was doing divination for myself and then when I felt confident, I started doing it for others, I would do cartomancy – playing card divination – and expand to other forms such as dream interpretation and tarot because I noticed a lot of people sometimes need help and I figured that I could do that and not be some wicked person with a parlor out to take someone’s money. I also was convinced to do so because I would hang out in my neighborhood metaphysical shop and would watch my mentors do it and the good that they were doing so, y’know, monkey see, monkey do. I saw them helping people, I wanted to do it too.
What are some of the challenges of being a black witch in a culture where black folks are mostly identified with Christianity?
To be brief, dealing with Bible-thumping morons. It can be incredibly annoying dealing with people who don’t entirely understand it’s okay to be Black and practice a different religion. I am told, “You know that’s devil worship, right?” No, it’s not. “Christ will come and get you, He’s not happy.”
I’m sure there’s a very long line of Christians who are doing things far worse than practicing a different religion he’s going to have to get through first. It can be massively annoying. I understand that people fear what they don’t understand but that fear would make me careworn. I’m glad my column/blog exists because it cuts down my explanation time by a lot but if people are scared to even look at it, what good is that? I don’t feel that I should tone down my practices in my usual day-to-day life constantly if others feel a god-given right to actually impose their beliefs onto mine. I don’t mind working on Yule but ask a Christian to work on Christmas? Blasphemy!
Then there are people who will be sorta-friends with me for the handbag friend/glass menagerie feel. That being friends with me is their “totally not a bigot” badge or their “I’m so cool” badge, which leads them to be pretty insulting because they’re not friends with me because of me but because I say I cast spells and then their feelings are hurt when I bring that issue to light. I don’t exist as someone’s walking life-lesson, I like having a regular life just like everyone else.
It is funny though when people bash my beliefs but they’re the first person running to me for card readings and hexes – something I definitely don’t do – despite the general Christian consensus is to not be involved with those things. I was nominated for a Black Weblog Award and though I didn’t win, I do hope there will be some change. And change doesn’t happen if someone sits around and hope only for it, there has to be movement.
How do your family/friends/co-workers view your being a witch?
My family don’t know, my friends don’t care, my co-workers don’t mind.
What made you want to start a blog? Who is your readership?
Because there was a total and absolute lack of Black Pagan blogs to read and I got tired of waiting around and did something about it. I contacted Afro-Punk and after some fiddling about and e-pestering, I put up the Wordpress version up as well as my friend Erica suggested to me. Right around the time I launched the Wordpress version did Afro-Punk finally showcase my starting column so I’m technically an Afro-Punk columnist with the Wordpress serving as the external port but I think very few notice.
My readership is mostly Black and Pagan, ranging in age but it turns out I also have a fairly sizable Christian readership as well, in addition to a slew of international readers. So far, judging from my Black Witch fan page on Facebook, I have just about at least one member from each of the Divine Nine, Black readers from Ivy League, business owners and things of that sort. I’m basically getting the crème de la crème du noir here and that makes me happy. I also have a sizable bit of teen readers and that’s also a great thing because I know I would have wanted something like this growing up.
Congratulations on the upcoming Black Witch anthology! Can you talk about the book? What made you decide to publish your blog posts in book form?
Thank you! I have to say though, the anthology – it’s more like a conglomeration book, it composes of all the Black Witch entries from the past year. As I mentioned prior, the book consists of all the first year of Black Witch postings in book form and possibly will have extras but I’m not too sure. I just wanted to expand my blog’s reach to get to a wider audience.
I learned about magick and witchcraft through going to the library and reading books and not everyone has a computer so I figured that would be the best option to take. I would like to have it in e-book and audio book form as well, Braille too but that’s for the future. I plan to make these books come out yearly in volumes so this year is volume 1, next year is volume 2, so on and so forth. I really hope this will turn out well, publishing isn’t super easy!
Are you a part of any witch community (coven, circle), what have been your experiences (if any) with that?
Nope, I’m totally solitary. I’m pretty introverted so I never really seek out covens or circles to be a part of. Then there’s the fact I’m a pretty busy person so I like making my schedule to my liking rather than working my schedule around that of a group. Then there’s the potential of drama. I like to avoid drama the same way Fox News avoids genuine journalism. So I much rather keep to myself.
If there was an all-Black coven or circle, I’d think about it but still I’m introverted and can be pretty wack around people sometimes. So yeah, rather keep to myself and participate when spiffy.
What do you think of the representation of witches in popular culture (True Blood, the Craft, etc.)?
I don’t watch today’s shows about witches and such like True Blood – I thought that was vampires only? – and Supernatural because there’s no major Black characters and storylines that I can actually see and I don’t think I could sit and watch those shows without raving and foaming at the mouth first about how sucky those shows are race and gender-wise.
It was better when I was younger because I could balance shows like Charmed and Sabrina, the Teenage Witch with a slew of Black shows such as The Steve Harvey Show, The Wayans Brothers, and Living Single among others so less raving back then.
Back on topic, I think they shouldn’t be taken seriously…at all. The Craft is one of my all time favorite movies and I have a Harry Potter mug and may debate you on Hogwarts houses (Ravensclaw!) buuuuuut they’re movies and books. Granted, the people behind The Craft and J.K. Rowling of Harry Potter have done their research and made their media both very entertaining and something that doesn’t make me want to pour bleach on my eyes – something I can’t say for movies and books such as Twilight and any Vampire stuff they’re coming out with now to hop on the bandwagon – but they are, in the end, movies and books. They are something to watch or read with soda and snacks, not with pen and paper. I can’t tell you how many Hogwarts questions I get though, they are aplenty. That was one captivating series!
It’s lovely to see that nowadays media is kind of trying to depict witches a little better, but they’re in the same vein as when it comes to depicting minorities: Hollywood is terrified of letting go its stockpile of jokes and references but they’re trying, just very little or flying off into a brick wall at the speed of light. I don’t watch a lot of movies for the same reason I don’t watch a lot of television, too White, but I can tell you, due to misrepresentation, I will get some nitwit contacting me about Inception, The Matrix or Harry Potter. I saw all three and they weren’t bad but God, do they make people foam at the mouth.