Why is it that many black Americans seem to have such an aversion to African spiritual concepts and religions? You tell someone that you sage your house, collect crystals, or are a daughter of Oshun and they’re saying you need Jesus or they will pray to get the devil out of you. What caused many of us to turn our backs on our ancestor’s beliefs and ways of life?
One reason is that when Africans were brought to America for slavery, many were forced to convert to Christianity and were forbidden to practice their native religions. The Africans were told their beliefs in a variety of lesser gods, ancestor worship, possession, and many other aspects familiar to them were primitive and wrong. The Africans slaves forced into Christianity were taught that Jesus is the only god and to worship anyone or anything else was of the devil. Not all of the slaves were forced into Christianity however: some of them chose to do so on their own because the religion resonated with them or they believed converting to Christianity would please their slave masters and help make life easier for them (though that didn’t work out too well most of the time).
A second reason is that in the Bible, the main text of the Christian religion, the use of magick or anything that could be considered witchcraft is said to be evil devil worship. For example, Micah 5:12 states “And I will cut off witchcrafts out of thine hand; and thou shalt have no more soothsayers,” or Leviticus 20:27 says “A man that hath a familiar spirit, or that is a wizard, shall surely be put to death…” (The Original African Heritage Study Bible, 2007). Many Christians take these words to heart and believe that any person who does divination or what they believe to be a form of witchcraft is going against God and shall be punished. However, the last time I checked, didn’t in the Bible a man part the Red Sea (magick), another man saw the future of crops through a dream (prophesy), and the greatest man to come from Christianity turned water into wine (magick again)? I don’t know about ya’ll but if I saw some shit like that I’d think either “Damn I hit the blunt too many times,” or “That’s some magickal shit.” Granted most would say it’s a miracle or God is working through them, but who’s to say someone doing a tarot reading or has a vision didn’t seek God’s help, or that God wasn’t working through them.
As a black woman who grew up in the church and who still goes to church occasionally, I understand that I can learn something from anyone no matter what their religious affiliation is or their beliefs. In my own studies, I have found that many spiritual systems and religions share similar concepts and beliefs. Belief in one supreme being, having a set of laws or commandments, and treating others with respect and kindness are just some of the similarities that religions and some spiritualists share.
I have for a while, and even now at times been reluctant to share my beliefs with others due to previous responses I have received. Personally, I believe that everyone is a god or goddess who is here to remember who they truly are and spread the knowledge they learn and receive with others. I believe that we all have spiritual gifts and power, such as being psychic, prophetic, telepathic, etc. I feel like even if they are not strong at first, like body muscles, we can build them. I have had a number of visions and dreams that have come to fruition since I was a child and now that I know that I can enhance and control them, I have been doing my best to hone the craft. I study, read, meditate, and most importantly, practice. We are all here to grow and develop into the person that we are meant to be, and for me, occult studies and metaphysics are my way of doing so. Learning about African spiritual concepts, such as the Orishas, ancestor worship, possession, Vodou/Voodoo and other forms of African based concepts are a passion of mine. I love to learn about anything that I feel connects me to my roots. I don’t affiliate with any religion or particular group. I just consider myself spiritual.
Unfortunately, I haven’t had the best reactions when I have told others my beliefs. I have been told I do black magick or the works of the devil, and it hurts especially when it comes from other black people. I feel like an outcast in my own community sometimes. However, when I ask these people what they know about the occult or metaphysics, I mainly just get “the Bible says it’s wrong” and “God doesn’t want you doing that blah, blah, blah.” They have done no research on their own and to me how can you condemn something you refuse to learn about.
At the end of the day I understand everyone is not going to be down with exploring other spiritual concepts and religions even if does come from their ancestors. Some people are comfortable with their particular religion because they were brought up in it and that is all they know. Others have no desire to dabble into what they feel would be going against their God and what they consider to be wrong. Luckily, there are some people who though affiliate with a particular religion, are open to learning about other religions and spiritual concepts and sharing their thoughts and experiences with others (my favorite kind of people!). I also realize that not every black person is a Christian and I am in no way shape or form belittling or downing the Christian faith. It’s just the majority of the encounters I have are with Christians and according to The Pew Research Center, about eight-in-ten blacks in America identify as Christian, which is 79% (https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/02/07/5-facts-about-the-religious-lives-of-african-americans/).
I also realize that some of what I talked about, such as psychic powers, telepathy, and dream work can be considered New Age concepts. However, I don’t agree with something being considered new age when it’s been around for thousands of years.
If you are interested in learning more about African based spiritual and religious concepts, I would recommend reading books such as Jambalaya by Luisah Teish, Spiritual Warriors are Healers by Mfundushi Jhutyms Ka N Heru El-Salim, The Handbook of Yoruba Religious Concepts by Baba Ifa Karade, and Seven African Powers: The Orishas by Monique Joiner Siedlak. This is just a short list of books and in later posts I will provide book recommendations with summaries and my opinions of them.