Monday, July 6, 2020

Decolonizing Witchcraft: Racism, Whitewashing, and Cultural Appropriation in Witchcraft and How to Decolonize Your Practice

cultural appropriation, witchcraft, decolonizing, whitewashing, racism, witch, witchy, witch life, wicca, wiccan, pagan, neopagan

Updated: July 27, 2022

When it comes to racism, whitewashing, and cultural appropriation, modern witchcraft and paganism are not exempt. It's unfortunate, especially because we generally think of ourselves as more openminded and accepting than that other practices and religions. However, when a reader asked me for suggestions a couple of weeks ago on beginner witchcraft books that were decolonized so they could start off on the right foot, I was at a complete loss of what to suggest. The more I started thinking about it and digging, the more I realized there was a significant lack of resources available to witches wishing to practice in a way that did not include racism, whitewashing, and cultural appropriation. It's time that we not only address these issues (which is being done by a number of witches and pagans), but also offer practical suggestions on how to decolonize your practice.

I'd like to start off by talking a bit about myself. I am a white, heterosexual, cis-woman. I have never hidden this fact or pretended to be anything other than what I am. But because I am a white, heterosexual, cis-woman, this has tremendously influenced my practice and my experiences within witchcraft. I am the "target demographic" for companies, especially publishers, which means that I can easily relate to the information and experiences presented by major leaders within the pagan community and I have access to a variety of sources "catered to my needs." This last part isn't necessarily true, but it's what companies believe. And because I am the "target demographic" I often forget to check myself and my privilege, at least I did in the beginning. 

I have been practicing witchcraft for roughly 16 years. I started with Silver Ravenwolf's Teen Witch and moved on to Scott Cunningham's books. At first, I didn't really question the validity, history, practices, or viewpoints presented by these authors. I was just happy to have something that wasn't Christianity that I felt more connected to. During my 16 years of practicing witchcraft, I started this blog. July 2014 was the beginning of what I thought was just going to be a small blip in the blogging universe. I had no idea that it would grow to be what it is today. Needless to say, I have made a number of mistakes, mistakes that were racist, whitewashed, or appropriated from others. I have called smoke cleansing smudging, and I have encouraged the practice here on Flying the Hedge. I have used the terms black and white magic to describe magical practices that were bad versus good. I have called a person or a thing my "spirit animal." I have used the term g*psy, and I have meditated on my chakras. I am not proud of these things, but I mention them because I want my white readers to know that I have sat where they are sitting now, sometimes angry; sometimes threatened because I couldn't possibly be racist and how dare someone tell me otherwise; sometimes saddened because I didn't realize that I had done something wrong that could potentially be harmful to someone else; sometimes confused and a little fearful because I couldn't relate or didn't know where to start. I mention these mistakes so that my Black, indigenous, and other people of color (BIPOC) readers see that I am recognizing my mistakes and making an effort to do be better. I mention them because I want everyone to hold me accountable, and call me out when I use language or practices that are not intersectional. It's hard to admit when we are wrong, and even harder to change. This is a long, difficult road to travel, but one I am happy to take. So let's put our emotions aside and get started.

Racism in Witchcraft: Black vs White Magic

Unfortunately, racism is alive and well in the witch community, some of it extremely obvious while other forms are more subtle, lurking in otherwise well-meaning practices. The obvious, overt racism has been heavily covered by the witch community and is most commonly presented in the form of white supremacy. The Atlantic wrote a wonderful article on this in 2017 in case you are unfamiliar with this particular issue. As such, this is not the particular type of racism I want to confront because I think we can all agree the obvious racism is easy to spot and confront head-on; its the subtle racism that goes unchecked because it's often hard to spot and even harder to combat. The greatest example of this is black and white magic.

When we talk about magic, we often classify the type of magic by the intent of it. Are we healing and protecting or hexing and cursing? In general, when we say "magic" the "white" is often assumed because that's the norm. It's only when we approach "bad" magic that we place the word "black" in front because the ideas of "black" and "evil" in modern terminology are so closely linked that we just go along with it. But why? Why not use baneful, negative, or harmful instead of black? Historically, this wasn't always the case. In fact, its a combination of imperialism, slavery, and science that initiated the shift.

Modern witchcraft and Wicca derive most of their practices from European occult thought which was heavily influenced by Graeco-Roman and Egyptian magical practices with a bit of Celtic flair. Within these practices, the color of "goodness" and "purity" was originally gold as this was the color of the Sun. Ancient texts confirm that our ancestors viewed the Sun as yellow or gold, and used yellow and gold to symbolize purity, not the color white. But what about black? For the Egyptians black was seen as the color of life and nourishment, as black soils were rich and fertile, bringing forth bountiful crops to feed the peoples. It was actually the color red that was believed to be "bad" as it was associated with the god Seth who ruled over the desert, an unforgiving god in an unforgiving landscape. Some of this connotation continues today, with red being associated with war, anger, and the devil, but even so red is also associated with life, lust, and love. When Europeans, specifically Greek and Roman, began heavily visiting Egypt, Kemetic practices infiltrated Graeco-Roman esoteric thought, reaffirming the association of gold and black with purity and nourishment. For a long time, these color correspondences remained unchallenged. It wasn't until the rise of Christianity and the persecution of occult practices and witchcraft that we begin to see a shift.

With the adoption of Christianity, we see a shift in the relationship between Europeans and Africans and therefore a shift in esoteric thought. As Europeans began invading civilizations around the world and working to convert the "heathens," slavery in Africa was born. It was partially through the slavery of the African peoples that black suddenly became evil, less than, and negative. I'm not going to sit here and explain how Europeans justified slavery based on skin color, but they used every method they could to say that the color of one's skin was a reflection of their worth, intelligence, and inherent goodness. As such, the traditions and religions of the African people became evil as well. By the nineteenth century, Kemetic practices were removed and replaced with the narrative that Greek and Roman civilizations rose to greatness on their own, without outside influence. When this narrative didn't stick, northern Africa, specifically Egypt, was assimilated and reclassified as part of the Mediterranean and the Egyptians were no longer viewed as black. It was during this time that witchcraft too was targetted as being evil and that any individual that believed such "nonsense" was uneducated.

In 1871, we see the first documented English use of "black magic" published in E.B. Tylor's book Primitive Culture where Tylor describes the progress of civilization in terms of spiritual beliefs. Tylor very specifically connects race and progress with the belief in magic versus religion (specifically Christianity) and states that the savages believe in magic while the advanced civilizations combat it. At one point he blames "black magic" for the hardships faced by the Wakhutu and then goes on to say, "In the 13th century, when the spirit of religious persecution had begun to possess all of Europe with a dark and cruel madness, the doctrine of witchcraft revived with all its barbaric vigour...the guilt of this bringing down Europe intellectually and morally to the level of negro Africa lies in the main upon the Roman church.." In other words, practicing witchcraft was equivalent to being as intellectually and morally inferior as being African (black). But it wasn't just inherent racism that led to this shift in color correspondences. Science too played a role, specifically in the classification of light. 

As I mentioned, gold and yellow were long associated with the Sun and light in general. In fact, when we draw light or the Sun today we still use the color yellow to do so. So why is it that we call light white instead of yellow when we perceive the color to be yellow? Because the scientist Robert Boyle, along with Sir Issac Newton, said so. Through a series of experiments, Boyle and Newton discovered that light was "white" meaning it reflected all colors while black absorbed all colors. There is a host of other amazing things these two scientists did in relation to optics and light, but this isn't the place to get into those. I am not, as a scientist, saying that Boyle and Newton were wrong. They aren't, but because of their classification of light as white and the emphasis on white as the "chief" color, we see a shift in how we view light. You don't see very many modern witches and pagans asking you to cleanse yourself with yellow or gold light. There are witches that do; I'm one of them, but most often we pick white because that's what we were told was the color of light and this shift in thought brought a shift in correspondences as well. White was now the color of purity and goodness, of healing and life. Unfortunately, Boyle used his scientific findings to justify slavery and blackness as being bad and devoid. And needless to say, the thought that black was somehow bad, less than, or wrong while white was rational, good, and right infiltrated most, if not all, of esoteric thought.

To set themselves apart from "black" and "evil" magics, The Golden Dawn adopted the term "white magic" to mean good magic. They called themselves The White Brotherhood and labeled those who dissented or practiced "selfish," "negative," or "harmful" magic as Black Brothers. I don't think I need to explain the racist undertones associated with these terms. They weren't necessarily a reference to the color of one's skin, but I can tell you there weren't any BIPOC members in those days. And don't even get me started on the racist man that is Aleister Crowley...But the problem was and is that the idea that black and darkness as bad and white and lightness as good is extremely problematic and has negative effects on BIPOC witches. 

In her article Black Magic, Black Skin: Decolonizing White Witchcraft, Shannon Barber discusses the impact these beliefs and practices had on her own identity and craft, specifically how those bits of Afro-diasporic practices she clung to couldn't be integrated into her practice because of the "rules" laid down by Europeans that darkness was bad. She isn't the only one to feel this way.

I recognize that some of you may scream that white and black magic or light has nothing to do with race, but I implore you to understand the history behind such terminology and the damning evidence that suggests otherwise. These meanings were not created in a vacuum, and while you may not be harmed by their use, it doesn't mean that others aren't. The inherent belief that white is good and black is bad subconsciously affects how we treat others and view their practices. It's work to shift away from these terms and thought processes, but doing so will create a more inclusive practice for everyone. A note: Some cultures, such as Dominican and Haitian voudou, use the terms black and white magic and this is acceptable per their culture. However, my fellow white, European witches, I would steer clear of using this terminology due to the historical connotations of the words.

Whitewashing in Witchcraft: How Colonizers Control the Narrative

Whitewashing is the tendency toward information being presented through a Eurocentric, white lens. This is easiest to spot in situations where there are visuals, such as in movies and TV shows, but it's harder to spot in literature, especially nonfiction.

Now I am not saying there is anything inherently wrong with a Eurocentric viewpoint, but when all information you receive is filtered through this lens, you develop a very narrowminded view of the world that is not shared by the majority of it. Unfortunately, the vast majority of people in the United States, Canada, Europe, New Zealand, and Australia (places where almost all of my readers are from) have a Eurocentric viewpoint, and this view of the world has become institutionalized in the way our schools are run. In history class, we learn about Africa as if its one large country, except for Egypt because they are "white enough." In English, we focus almost entirely on European authors. Guess how many non-white English classes my college offered when I attended. That's right...none. But I could take Brit Lit I, Brit Lit II, Shakespearean Lit, Victorian Lit, Romantic Lit, and I did. We offer AP European History, AP American History, and AP World History, but there is no AP African History. In fact, AP World almost entirely focuses on Europe and the United States. Yeah, they recently added more history on India and cover China and Japan fairly well, but if you look at the content, it's still Eurocentric. But it's not just in our schools that we see this trend, it's in all of the books published in the United States, including books from our top pagan publishers. And unfortunately, our Eurocentric education makes it nearly impossible to spot the flaws because we were taught to have a Eurocentric view.

While working on this post, Fire Lyte beat me to the punch on pagan publishers in their amazing post Yes, This is Our Paganism: Llewellyn, Weiser, and White Supremacy. As such, I am only going to briefly touch on this subject because Fire Lyte did such a good job on what I was already working on, but I want to make something very clear: I support the work these publishers have done for our community overall. They have made witchcraft accessible to everyone through their work and have published books written by amazing people on amazing topics. I want to be published by one of them one day! This isn't to bash them, but to point out flaws in the system and what we can do to overcome them.

The witchcraft narrative is controlled by a few publishers, almost entirely Llewellyn. In fact, if you were to walk into any bookstore right now and pick up a book in the New Age section, you're most likely going to be picking up a book published by Llewellyn. The next largest is Weiser Books, followed by a number of smaller New Age publishers such as Troy Books, Moon Books, and Three Hands Press. If you do any research on these publishers, you will find one thing they all have in common: their editing staff and acquisition departments are almost entirely white. This means that every single potential book on witchcraft and paganism is passed through a white, Eurocentric lens before being published, if the book even gets that far. There are a number of reports that many BIPOC authors have given up trying to publish with large New Age publishers because it's too difficult. This is extremely sad, and honestly, infuriating. To add salt to the wound, Llewellyn and Weiser have books on BIPOC practices such as Santaria, Voudou, Hawaiian spiritualism, Hinduism, and Native American spiritual practices, that are written by white people who are not part of the closed culture. This is obviously problematic and again, filters the practice through a Eurocentric lens. As such, the colonizers aka white people, are controlling the witchcraft narrative. 

In recent years, only a handful of books from Llewellyn and Weiser have been published on topics that are not European witchcraft and Wicca. Now I get it, Wicca sells. European witchcraft sells. These are often the same forms of witchcraft presented in a positive light on TV (this is another loaded topic) so everyone comes running to it, at least at first. If you are BIPOC, this can be extremely frustrating, discouraging, and uninviting, and if you are not, it's hindering your world view of magic and its history.

You see, by filtering these books through mostly white people and writing about Eurocentric witchcraft practices, our books on witchcraft become heavily whitewashed, from the history to the practices themselves. The entire Love and Light movement and the Three-Fold Law are practices started by white people to set their witchcraft apart from the "bad" magics such as Voudou and Santaria. They inherently discredit practices such as cursing, hexing, and animal sacrifice, which were a large part of how the slaves fought back at their white oppressors and how modern BIPOC witches are still fighting against oppression and racism. Furthermore, the history of witchcraft in every beginner book covers the same two major topics: the Witch Trials and Greek/Roman/Celtic spiritualism. There is often no mention of magical practices from other cultures and their influence on modern witchcraft. The colonizers begged, borrowed, and stole a lot of occult practices so many modern witches turn to and we don't even question it. We don't even look at where these practices arose and whether or not we should be doing them. And the biggest reason for this is because we weren't taught otherwise. We were raised in school systems that still teach us what to think not how to think and present everything through that same Eurocentric lens, meaning we don't see the other side. We were the victors, right? So our version has to be correct! Wrong. And unfortunately, this whitewashing has led to another major problem: cultural appropriation.

Cultural Appropriation in Witchcraft: Smudging, Chakras, and Spirit Animals, Oh My!

Cultural appropriation is "taking or using from a culture that is not your own, especially without showing you understand or respect this culture." However, in order for something to be considered cultural appropriation, at least one of three things must occur: the person using from another culture is in a position of power; the appropriation is done without the consent of the culture being appropriated; the appropriation harms the group in some way. Ultimately, cultural appropriation is about picking things from cultures that aren't yours and utilizing them because you can. This is very different from cultural diffusion which is the natural flow of ideas between cultures without one culture exercising dominance over the other. Chinese food in the United States is cultural diffusion. Dressing up as a Native American on Halloween is cultural appropriation.

There are a number of practices in witchcraft that are the result of cultural diffusion, such as the use of crystals for healing and the following the moon phases and cycles of the year. However, there are several practices that have made it into the witchcraft community that are blatant cultural appropriation. I am going to break down each of these, briefly explain why it's cultural appropriation, and suggest alternatives to the practices. One thing must be made clear, however: white people do not get to determine what is cultural appropriation and what isn't. This list is composed of only items that have been designated by those BIPOC cultures as cultural appropriation. At the end of this reading is a list of articles supporting each of these.

Smudging/White Sage
This has been a pretty hot topic in the witch/pagan community, so if you haven't heard it yet I am going to assume you have been living under a rock. Smudging is a Native American ceremony involving very specific rituals and herbs, the likes of which are a secret to those outside the culture. It's not simply lighting up some sage and walking around your house as most witches do. Furthermore, the appropriation of white sage for "smudging" and smoke cleansing has resulted in a depletion of wild white sage. No, white sage is not endangered, but the commercial use of white sage has caused wild white sage, which many tribes rely on, to diminish in a number of areas.

It was illegal for Native Americans to practice their religion/spiritualism until 1978. Prior to 1978, many were jailed or killed for attempting to keep their heritage and practices alive. So you can see where colonizers taking the practices, including spirit animals mentioned below, is a slap in the face to indigenous peoples. It wasn't okay for them to do it, but because we suddenly find it cool, mystical, or witchy, it's okay. That's not how this works, and I am guilty of this one and still have white sage I have been using to cleanse. To be honest, though, I have never bought white sage myself. It has always been given to me as a gift or in subscription boxes. I believe it would be more disrespectful to throw the sage away than to use what has been given to me.

However, this doesn't mean you can't smoke cleanse in other ways. Heck, you don't even need smoke to cleanse a space. Check out my 13 Smoke-Free Ways to Cleanse for some ideas that don't use smoke. If you continue to choose to use smoke to cleanse, try using a different type of sage such as black sage or culinary sage, or another herb such as rosemary, lavender, pine, cedar, juniper, mugwort, or cinnamon, paying attention to the effects on animals if you have pets. Some people argue that the use of cedar also falls under cultural appropriation, but cedar was also used in the British Isles for smoke cleansing so it is generally regarded as safe.

Spirit Animal
This is another super hot topic in the witch community. A spirit animal is another Native American practice of select groups that has been appropriated. In these select indigenous groups that have spirit animals, it is an animal spirit that watches over an individual, family, or entire group. They are not an animal one identifies with and most often they are not discussed openly, as personal spirit animals are scared.

There are many people that claim the Celts, Vikings, and other groups have spirit animals, but this is not true. Yes, the Celts, Vikings, Finnish, and other cultures around the world have animal spirits that guide them, protect them, or that one associates with. Totemism is found in lots of cultures but is not the same thing as Native American spirit animals. Furthermore, if you are using this argument in favor of using the term "spirit animal" you need to check your privilege. I refer to my guides that take an animal form as my animal guide, but there are a host of other terms you can use including fylgjur (Norse/Germanic), familiar (English), animal companion, or voimaeläin (Finnish). Some people have suggested the Celtic/Irish term fetch, but this historically referred to a spirit double and is usually seen as an omen of death. However, the meanings of words change, and therefore if you wish to use the term fetch, I encourage you to do so over using a term appropriated by indigenous cultures.

Again, this belongs to Native Americans. If you are looking for an alternative, create a nightmare charm or place some amethyst next to your bed or under your pillow. There is some debate about buying them from indigenous peoples, but from what I have seen, even then indigenous peoples are saying you shouldn't. 

Palo Santo
Palo Santo, like white sage, is used by indigenous peoples in Central and South America in purification rituals. The word "palo santo" means "holy" or "sacred," meaning the tree itself is sacred and holy and therefore the smoke as well when the wood is burned. The tree is also used for medicinal and healing purposes, but to get the full benefits, both medicinally and spiritually, the tree must first die naturally and be allowed to rest on the forest floor for four to ten years. The commodification of palo santo has not only taken away this sacred tree from indigenous peoples, but also caused it to become endangered. There are roughly 250 adult palo santo trees left in the wild and its continued use in popular neopagan practices will continue to lead to decreased numbers and the eventual extinction of this sacred tree if we are not careful.

As with white sage, use a smoke-less method or pick a different herb.

Hindu traditions, including deities, chakras, karma, and bindis, are part of closed or semi-closed in that they require initiation. In most cases, initiation also requires cultural heritage, usually through ancestry. Needless to say, these practices are not open to everyone and therefore should not be used. The Westernized version of karma is a bastardization of what karma actually is, which is related to your spiritual transcendence, caste, and reincarnation. It is not a non-Wiccan version of the Three-Fold Law. Yoga is also often argued as cultural appropriation as there is much more to yoga than just mindful movements. How White Yoga Harms Hindu People & Culture is a great article addressing this topic in greater detail. Needless to say, all of these practices marginalize Hindus, treats them as something exotic, and capitalizes monetarily on Hindu practices without giving credit where credit is due.

Stick to deities and practices from open cultures and religions. If you are looking to replace chakras, think about the major centers of the body. I work with my head, third eye, heart, stomach, loins, and feet. These are major areas of the body and the colors I see do not align with traditional chakras. Spend time getting to know your body and where energy centers within you. You will likely notice they have different colors or no color at all. When mine are not functioning correctly, I often see them covered in a thick oil-like goo. I "clean" them by envisioning a golden orb washing away the goo.

This is a closed religion of Afro-Cuban origins which requires ancestry and initiation. Again, avoid closed religions.

These are also closed religions and practices with ties to slavery and require ancestry and invitation. Without the understanding of ancestral slavery, these Western versions of these religions and practices do not hold the same meaning. While there are traditions willing to initiate non-black people, but in general, I would avoid these practices. Many forms of voudou are also still practiced throughout Africa and are not open to people outside the culture.

Again, avoid closed religions and practices. Conjure (not all forms are closed, so use your best judgment), rootwork (again not all are closed, so use your best judgment), voodoo dolls, voodoo/hoodoo bone throwing (different from bone divination used in other cultures), and hoodoo/voodoo spells are off-limits to those outside the culture. There are plenty of alternatives to each of these. Use the alternatives instead.

You may notice there are things I did not discuss in this post that may or may not be cultural appropriation. One of these is Brujeria. After reading and hearing from multiple brujos and brujas addressing this issue, I realized that many of them find it offensive that we think what they are doing is witchcraft or mystical or pagan. For that reason, and because I could not find articles from the Latinx community addressing this issue, I left it off the list. However, you shouldn't appropriate from them either. There are tons of practices that are off-limits to those outside the culture, especially white people. When in doubt, research.

Decolonizing Your Practice

Decolonization is...
"the process of deconstructing colonial ideologies of the superiority and privilege of Western thought and approaches. On the one hand, decolonization involves dismantling structures that perpetuate the status quo and addressing unbalanced power dynamics. On the other hand, decolonization involves valuing and revitalizing Indigenous knowledge and approaches and weeding out settler biases or assumptions that have impacted Indigenous ways of being. For non-Indigenous people, decolonization is the process of examining your beliefs about Indigenous Peoples and culture by learning about yourself in relationship to the communities where you live and the people with whom you interact." (source)
In simpler terms, it is moving away from colonialist language, like black and white magic, and cultural appropriation and returning back to our "roots." For me, that means focusing on my family's heritage and their religious and spiritual practices instead of practices I may like from other religions. I am certainly fascinated by other cultures and talk about them here on my blog, but those practices are not available for me or many of my readers to use. I only mention them to show my readers the diversity of ideas around the world.

So what should we do? 

First, it's time to retire the terms black and white magic, plain and simple. Magic is magic is magic. It has no color and therefore should not be associated with either black or white. It just is. If you must classify good versus bad magic, call them as such. Use the terms positive, negative, baneful, selfish, good, or bad if you absolutely must ascribe morality to the magic being practiced. Otherwise, let's just call it magic. A note: Some cultures, such as Dominican and Haitian voudou, use the terms black and white magic and this is acceptable per their culture. However, my fellow white, European witches, I would steer clear of using this terminology due to the historical connotations of the words.

Second, we need to move away from thinking of darkness as bad and light as good. Neither is better than the other, and we need both to live whole, healthy lives. It is in darkness that our bodies are nourished with rest and healing can begin. It is in darkness that our mind's problem-solve and receive divine messages through dreams. Both black and white light can be used to purify, cleanse, and heal. Of course, golden and yellow can as well. Work toward consciously changing your thoughts and checking yourself when you want to associate darkness with bad.

Read critically. This is the biggest defense against misinformation, one-sided stories, and cultural appropriation. I always gloss over the history in most introductory witchcraft books because its a repeat of the same, often flawed, information. The Burning Times was not a mass witch genocide. Easter is not Ostara. Wicca has not been around for thousands or even hundreds of years. There was not some huge Goddess cult in Europe. Read through spell ingredients and double-check their uses with scientific evidence and whether or not it's safe to bury them, throw them in water, or otherwise leave them in Mother Nature. Marietta, from Witchy Words, has an excellent post on how to read pagan literature critically called 13 Critical Readings Tips for Pagans, Wiccans, and Witches.

Research authors. What is their background? What is their experience? Look them up online and do a little digging. I always dig into the authors of the books I read as I like learning a bit about the person before reading their book. This also gives me some great insights into what to expect from their writing and also gives me some clues about potential problematic language and practices I may need to look out for. I am not condemning my fellow witches for such things as we all make mistakes, but knowing a bit about the authors allows me to check the author's bias.

Avoid using practices from closed cultures or that are harming indigenous peoples and our Earth. You don't need white sage or palo santo. You don't need chakras, voodoo dolls, or spirit animals to be a witch. Find practices from open cultures and "dead" religions to use, such as Greek, Roman, or Mesopotamian. There are so many other options available for us to use that appropriation shouldn't be occurring. Furthermore, the best way to avoid this is to stick to your ancestry. I am Scottish, Irish, and Swedish, with a bit of Viking on my dad's side. I identify heavily with Celtic and Norse traditions, as well as English because this is the religion of my ancestors, which should be pretty evident from this blog. These also feel natural to me. If I tried to practice something different, such as voudou or Santaria, I know I would be forcing it; that I would feel out of place. I don't understand how a white person can feel welcome and natural in such a setting because we don't have the historical trauma to fully comprehend the magic and customs in these cultures. They aren't ours. As India Jaggon so eloquently put it "delve into your own whiteness, backgrounds and histories to find the richness in your own culture..."

Stop calling all magical or occult practices witchcraft. As mentioned earlier, many practices outside of European witchcraft do not believe what they are doing is magical, occult, or pagan. Labeling them as witchcraft is colonial thinking, Eurocentric, and harmful to those communities. Furthermore, even hinting that their practices venture into the realm of witchcraft or magic can result in those people being targeted and potentially murdered as witchcraft and magic are still illegal in many parts of the world. Witchcraft is a term mostly used to describe European magical practices. However, not all modern witches identify with English witchcraft or are Eurocentric in nature. Even still, Europe has always been marked by plurality, meaning witchcraft is not inherently white either. There are many Europeans who are not white and overlooking or dismissing this fact does not accurately represent what witchcraft is. Recognizing and respecting different terminologies, ranges, and ancestral roots is important to decolonizing your practice.

If you are white, recognize that you practice witchcraft from a place of privilege. Yes, witches have historically been persecuted and in some countries, they still are to this day, but by and large, American and European witches experience little to no real persecution because of their spiritual beliefs. Furthermore, as a white person, you are less likely to be harmed for openly practicing your spirituality. The BIPOC community does not have such privilege. A quick glance at BIPOC spiritual representation in modern media is enough to attest to this. Their practices are demonized, bastardized, and otherwise looked down upon, even by white witches, and in some cases stolen, outlawed, or forbidden. This leads me to my next point: cursing, hexing, and animal sacrifice.

Marginalized groups have long used magical means to fight their oppressors through cursing and hexing. Wicca is an extremely privileged and colonized version of magic and occult practices, and they implemented the Three Fold Law in an attempt to make magic and witchcraft more appealing while demonizing the practices of the BIPOC community, especially practices such as Hoodoo and Voodoo. It was white people trying to set themselves apart from "bad" magic to make themselves look better to the general community. This practice has caused lots of harm to the BIPOC community and witches continue to use Wicca's Three Fold Law or even a bastardized version of karma to shame cursing and hexing. This has got to stop. In order to fully decolonize your practice, you have to stop looking at other practices through a white, European lens of morality. This includes changing your views on cursing, hexing, and animal sacrifice. These are not terrible, wrong, or "savage" (a colonial, racially-motivated term used to demean and harm the indigenous community.) practices. They just are.

Finally, colonialism in witchcraft also presents itself as commercialization, consumerism, and overuse of the natural world. These practices are inherently harmful to all of us and our planet. When you are sourcing tools, ingredients, and other resources for your craft, be mindful of the impact that item is having on the planet and its people. Is it ethically sourced? Does the company support hate groups, child labor, sweatshops, or environmental destruction? Is the item harming marginalized groups? Is this item something I can make or source myself? I am abiding by local laws when gathering or harvesting natural resources? I am only taking what I need? Am I paying proper respect to the Earth and the spirit of the resource I am taking? Colonialism has taught us that the land and its resources are for us and us alone, that we are entitled to it. You are not. Just because you can does not mean that you should.

Whew...That was a lot to say and I by no means covered everything or listed all the possible ways to deconstruct and decolonize your practice. As a white. heterosexual, able-bodied witch, it is important that I check my privilege and practices and it's important that I use my platform to elevate the voices of the BIPOC community and other marginalized groups. If you are a member of the BIPOC community and I have missed something you feel is important or misrepresented something, please let me know. Reach out to me in the comments, send me an email, or message me on Facebook or Instagram.

I fully expect this to ruffle some feathers and if you are white, this article should make you uncomfortable. Sit with those uncomfortable feelings and try and figure out where they are coming from. Recognizing your own bias is part of the learning process. In the end, you don't get a say in this. I don't get a say in this. It isn't about my feelings or yours; it's about theirs. End of story.

I hope that at the end of the day this will be a valuable resource to all. I have included a vast number of articles supporting everything here and encourage you to read them as well. This list is by no means complete, but it's pretty comprehensive enough to get you started.

Further Reading:

Racism & Whitewashing in Witchcraft
Are You Afraid of the Dark? by Rashunda Tramble 

Cultural Appropriation 
Saining Not Smudging by Cailleach's Herbarium
Not Your Spirit Animal by Donyae Coles
Totemism by Daniel McCoy
Is There An Inoffensive Way For Non-Natives To Own A Dream Catcher? by How Not To Travel Like A Basic Bitch (ha!)

Decolonization of Witchcraft
My Decolonization by Northwoods Witch

If you or someone you know has been a victim of racism, I strongly encourage you to check out Black Health Matters from Sunshine Behavioral Health. Racism is a public mental health crisis, and by starting the conversation we can reduce the shame and stigma associated with mental illness and mental health treatment.

If you liked this post and would like to support future content, please consider leaving a small tip in the jar. 


  1. Fantastic post! This right here is another reason for why I follow you. Thank you for writing this.

    1. Thank you! I was really anxious about posting this and delayed finishing it because of it. But I knew I needed to deep down, no matter how difficult it may be to do. Thank you so much for your kind words and for following me. <3

    2. Whitewashing is a term that was created by someone with ill intent. You are trying to segregate people by birthright. Yet you want to group magic together as a whole. Live freely with an open mind and never let anyone tell you that something was not meant for you. The greatest thing about having the internet is the opportunity to learn from other cultures. That should be embraced not frowned upon. Learn as much as you can from others. Share your knowledge and leave the world better than you found it. Christianity views God as coming from light and the Devil as coming from darkness. Light and Darkness have nothing to do with a skintone. It is about a person's spirit. You see that in the world of martial arts people study all different forms, same thing with an artist, musician etc.. It is honing your skills to make you better at what you do. I feel like your viewpoint is very closed minded.

    3. You have very clearly missed the entire point of this article. The BIPOC community is specifically telling white people to stop stealing for their culture, yet here you are suggesting we continue to steal from them. That is the issue here. Closed practices are closed and not open to those who are not born into that culture or initiated. Just because you can find information online, does not mean it is yours to steal from. That is a colonialist mindset, which is what we are trying to prevent from continuing.

      You are ill-informed about light and dark magic not being related to skin tone. The history of the use of these terms in magical practices have been specifically tied to skin tone and used by white colonists to dismiss the magical practices of BIPOC groups.

      Finally, whitewashing is when white, colonizers write about practices that do not belong to them, specifically indigenous cultures. Also, if you look at the majority of authors of witchcraft books, they are significantly white. The industry is dominated by a colonist presence.

      You clearly didn't read or you didn't understand my post. I have a feeling you only looked at the title, commented, and felt like you were contributing to the conversation. That is a disappointment. I strongly encourage you to read what I wrote and the articles written by the BIPOC community I suggest at the end of the post. When you refuse to listen to a entire cultures telling you what you are doing wrong, you become part of the problem and not the solution. I hope that one day you stop wrapping up your ego in your magical practice so your soul can grow. Best of luck on your journey.

  2. Thank you so much for this; so often I want to honour those who made such strides before me, but sometimes it can be hard to recognise when something has become so unlike its original INTENTIONAL meaning. It's so important to look beyond the face of an idea, because it may not be the true face...

    1. You are so correct! Thank you you reading and commenting. I am glad you enjoyed the article. :)

  3. Been a while since I commented (been taking a much-needed social media break) but I had to chime in with the others and commend you on this article. Saying the right thing isn't always the popular thing to do, so I understand your anxiousness about posting.

    Time to catch up on a few past posts.

    1. Hey! I've missed you! I wish I could take a break from social media, but you and stuff. Haha!

    2. Haha, yes, definitely hard to run a blog when stepping away from social media. We appreciate all your hard work!

  4. Powerfully, impassionately, thoughtfully, articulately, and insightfully written post.

    This deserves to be as standard and widely disseminated a reading for today's witches as Silverwolf and Cunningham's books were right out of the gate for those 20 - 30+ years ago.

    Autumn Zenith 🧡 Witchcrafted Life

  5. This has given me a lot to think about! Thank you for all the resources for further reading. I've made a lot of the same mistakes and have been learning and adjusting too. I'm curious about white sage if I grow it in my own garden - is that okay since it doesn't harm sage in the wild and in indigenous areas or is it more that that particular type of sage should only be used by native people? Thank you again!

    1. I'm so glad you found the article helpful! This is a bit of a gray area. On one hand, you aren't harming the environment, but on the other, white sage largely belongs to the smudging rituals of indigenous peoples. I would say avoid it and grow a different sage. Heck, I haven't even seen white sage at my local nursery. But besides, there are SOOOOOO many other options available when it comes to cleansing herbs. I'd go with something else and that way you can't be accused of appropriating. I wish you the best of luck on your journey and I am super proud that you are asking questions and are willing to learn from your past mistakes. That is a trait of a truly gifted witch. Keep learning and questioning my friend!

  6. Hey! This is a great article with lots of additional resources, I appreciate the time you put into this and using your platform to speak on the matter! I'm assuming you probably have Facebook, I thought I might suggest a really informative and helpful group called "Seems like your Spirituality is just Cultural Appropriation: The Religion (tm)". I've been actively trying to decolonize my own practice, and it's been super helpful. One thing that has been weighing on my rather heavily is that I've seen several Romani people come forward stating that Tarot is a closed practice. That's not the consensus among them, some believe it's certain decks/spreads/practices, some say they don't care as long as you're not making money, while others completely reject any claim to Tarot. I've been trying to do some of my own research on the topic to educate myself, and I understand that Antoine Court de Gébelin made the false claim that Tarot was a form of arcane Egyptian knowledge, which further resulted in Aleister Crowley basically taking it and calling in the Book of Thoth. There is a lot of question as to whether the Roma have any right to "claim it" as closed, as the more canon understanding of the history of Tarot is it's origin in Italy as a playing card game around the 14th Century, and later evolving into what we see Tarot as today around the 18th Century. There is entirely a chance the Roma have been left uncredited through history because it was in the 14th-18th centuries they were enslaved by the Noble Aristocracy that is credited with Tarot's beginnings. As an avid tarot reader, this was quite disheartening, and I'm still unpacking what all of that means for me and my practice, I have mixed ancestry being Canadian (British, Irish) and Indigenous Latine. Playing cards were brought over to the Americas by the Spaniards, as well as their Roma slaves. Cartomancy is still a popular method of divination in Latin America. I guess I'm reaching out in part to see if you'd be willing to join that group, but maybe you would be interested in collaborating with me in a decolonized history of tarot? There is a Roma woman on youtube that has been running classes on the "Comprehensive History of Tarot", her channel is Sanctum of the Craft, and she cites historical documents and dates, starting with the playing card in China, and has worked up to the 15th century so far. I'm just trying to piece all this information together, and I've always liked your blog

    1. Hey! Thank you for sharing the group with me. I just put in an application to join on my personal account. I hadn't actually heard about tarot being possibly culturally appropriated, but I am definitely open to learning more, researching the topic in greater detail, and what not. I'd be happy to collaborate with you. Shoot me an email and we can talk more about it.

    2. Well, nevermind on that group. I was apparently ban at some point today and I have no idea why. But I appreciate the suggestion and when I have some time I'll look more into the tarot thing. For now I am going to go through a label the posts about tarot as potentially problematic. I don't like to pull or delete posts because I truly believe that people can learn from my past mistakes and I like being honest and open about my journey. Thank you again! If you would like to collaborate, please reach out.

  7. I Honestly and respectfully hear what your saying and agree with a few things...but I just think its turning a religion thats supposed to be mainly guided by intuition and feelings into a very restricted and untrue to yourself experience...your drawing all these lines in the sand when in my experience as long as you respectfully and with good intentions and a good heart go with rituals/spells that are used in other cultures no ones offended...usually people are honored to pass on or teach what they know....and if they do have a problem then in my experience the there's something deeper going on is this helping anyone heal and come together when you're whole blog seems to go against the grain of wicca,witchcraft, ect....of course everyone should respect Everyone..but I just feel like you're taking this whole white privilege thing to a walk on eggshells way way too far not authentic religion...should I hate myself because I'm white? I've never treated another human being any different i don't care about the past for 1 reason..thats because we as a people are never going to be able to move forward unless we stop living in the past,only learn from it and move forward

    1. Thank you for reading and adding to the discourse. I appreciate your comment and your opinion and I understand where you are coming from. Unfortunately it isn't about you or what you believe to be respectful. These practices and religions are closed, meaning that unless you are initiated or born into them, the practices are not open to you, no matter what the color of your skin is. Some of these religions and practices are open to teaching outsiders and if you have taken the time to be initiated by the culture with which you are interested, then it becomes open to you, but reading a book or seeing information online is not an initiation. Everything I have discussed in this article is backed up by peoples of said cultures asking white people to stop because we are harming their culture. Because they have specifically asked us to stop, I am. It doesn't require much from any of us to switch the herbs that we use for cleansing or avoid chakras or racial slurs. We absolutely MUST care about the past because it shapes the current lives and futures of so many people. We cannot ignore the fact that the BIPOC community experiences a very different reality than us.

      Witchcraft is not a religion; its a practice. Our practices should be a reflection of ourselves and our heritage, not a complication of practices stolen from the BIPOC community. Decolonzing witchcraft is something we, as white people, must do. Its the right thing to do. Its the respectful thing to do and honestly, its not hard at all to do. Usually when I find people are upset or offended when they are told to stop doing something, the problem is with the person getting angry, not the people trying desperately to exist in a world that wishes to overwrite their history and culture. I encourage you to read and listen to what the BIPOC community is asking of us. It isn't privilege to listen and change. Its not walking on eggshells to listen and change.

      Thank you again for the comment and adding to the discourse!

  8. im not a witch or nothing...just a black dude who finds this very interesting and deep....great article

    1. I'm so glad you found it interesting! Thank you for reading and commenting. :)

  9. Great read! I have been trying to figure out my path and have been trying to do research to find out what I'm drawn to. I don't want to appropirate anything, but I can't stop being pulled toward the beliefs of the Ancient Egyptians. I have had a profound fascination with the culture since a fairly young age. I'm just not sure my previous study is what is drawing me to this, or if it is a legitimate draw. I would hate to take up beliefs or customs that I shouldn't be doing as a white person.

    1. Well I have some good news! Egyptian beliefs and customs are an open practice because they are "dead." So if you feel drawn to Egyptian practices, by all means, go for it!

  10. I just wanted to add that I commend you for taking an enormous amount of time and energy to research and produce such a well thought out article. As someone who has blended ancestry I don’t think you took any part of your article too far (as someone commented above). We all really need to think about why we are choosing to use culturally appropriated practices. Anyway, I love your blog and I love the thought you put into it, it shows.

    1. Thank you so, so much for your comment! It means the world to me that you enjoyed the article. Its a shame others are so hostile to the idea that they may need to change to their practice because they are harming someone else. I hope you and yours have a most wonderful holiday.

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  12. Thankyou for this post. I have spent hours reading through articles and threads about what I CAN'T do, and noone else has thought to offer alternatives of what I can. I have almost no knowledge of my own lineage and ancestry and have felt very "shut out" of comfortably claiming any practice or knowing if its appropriate or not. I received a beautiful tarot deck for my birthday this month only to be told that the practice should be closed to Romani and cried at the thought of parting with something I've spent so many hours building my connection with..
    I will definitely be spending more time going through all the links you've provided here to continue to educate myself of what I should or shouldn't include in my practice.

    1. Not knowing where your family comes from definitely makes things more difficult, but when it doubt, there are tons of open practices available to everyone! I hate when articles and lists constantly tell us what we can't do without telling us what we can. There are so many great alternatives out there and if I am going to be a witch teacher its important that teach my readers the best practices moving forward. I'm glad you enjoyed the article and I wish you the best of luck on your journey.

  13. This is so well done and exactly what I was looking for. I've just begun working to decolonize my practices, and it's very challenging. My only known heritage is Scottish, so I'm trying to stick to that, but I haven't found as much as I'd like.

  14. For 54 years I have called myself a Green Witch...because I respect and honour the plant medicines.

  15. This is an amazing and enlightening article I am appreciative to have happened upon. One "correction", however. Hoodoo, Rootwork, and Conjure are not an initiation based religion, and are not interchangeable with Vodou (Haittan), Vodun (African), Voodoo (Louisiana), or Santeria (Cuba). It's more a "hodge-podge" of magickal practices that combines some elements of African Traditional Religions (ATR) and Christianity. Otherwise, you are right on the money with your perspective and presentation. Thank you for this.

    1. Hey! Thank you for your comment. I recognize they are not interchangeable and do not suggest so in this article. However, after speaking with and hearing from many people who practice these forms of magic, it was made abundantly clear that those that are not born into the practice are to be initiated and even those born into often go through some sort of initiation where they prove their abilities. Is this true of every single group? No. However, out of an abundance of caution, it is best to respect the wishes of the BIPOC community, which is what this article is all about. I'm glad you enjoyed the article! Thank you for reading and commenting. :)

  16. Hi there, love the article and your blog in general. I'm curious about the section on Hinduism, particularly Hindu deities, as a non-Hindu and non-Indian person. I've been told by people in Hindu communities that the practices and deities are indeed open, and some people have even used quotes from religious texts like the Bhagavad Gita to explain why. This was told to me when I approached a Hindu community in order to ask if it would be acceptable to incorporate a Hindu deity in my practice. I was told that it would be perfectly acceptable as long as I can learn how to perform puja properly. I'm not sure who I should trust more on this issue, especially if different Hindu people feel differently about it.

    1. So there is a difference between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation. While some Hindus may be perfectly fine with those outside of their culture participating in their rituals, customs, and deities, not all do. Based upon your comment, it looks like "learn[ing] how to perform puja properly" likely entails a sort of initiation and should be learned from a non-white Hindu teacher, one you should pay to teach you. If you have officially entered that religion, then you are more than welcome to practice it. If you decide to practice without being taught by a Hindu teacher, that is your choice. What you do behind closed doors and entirely up to you, but recognize that such practices often hurt the culture you are using, especially if you are purchasing items from non-Hindu sellers, profiting from your own practice, etc.

      There are three articles I listed above that deal specifically with Hinduism and cultural appropriation. I encourage you to read through them.

      How White Yoga Harms Hindu People & Culture
      When Is Indian Culture Being Appropriated (Used and Abused)? by Amita Roy Shah
      Cultural Appropriation: Analysing the use of Hindu symbols within consumerism by Rina Arya

  17. Having just gotten booted from a witch Facebook group for daring to object to willy nilly cultural appropriation by white witches and offering articles written by BIPOC folx stating very clearly how and why it's harmful, it's refreshing to see others on board with decolonization of our practices. There are SO MANY herbs and plants in our own back yards we can use. There are so many open practices we can draw upon. We don't have to know our lineage to call on our ancestors to guide us, THEY know who we are, and will answer our call. If you are truly meant to be involved in closed practices, you will be invited in, initiated, and welcome to practice. If not, find your own.

    1. People don't like to be called out on their bullshit. It ruffles feathers to be sure! I completely agree with you and I am seeing more and more witches call out cultural appropriation and offer alternatives. Hopefully this trend will continue and we can leave the world a better place than we found it. Don't let the naysayers get you down. There are some pretty nasty groups out there, especially on Facebook. I have left a fair few over the years when they failed to call out cultural appropriation, racism, homophobia, etc. I don't have time for that bullshit.

  18. I really agree with this post. As someone who has left groups because they tout the benefits of including multiple traditions in their path, I don't like the thought of appropriating a specific groups practice. While I have done general studies of information that is available on practices like Santaria, Voodoo, and Chakra and Reiki, I don't include them in my practice. I just wanted a general knowledge so that if someone talked to me about them, I would at least know what they were talking about.

    Now, I do have a dreamcatcher that has been in my family for generations. It's kept in its own box in a velvet bag that I keep with my witchy supplies. This thing is old. It's been in my family for generations, and was given to me by my Grandfather, who got it from his Great-Grandmother. I use the dreamcatcher once a month to clear my bedroom of negative energy generated by bad dreams. Afterwards, I always cleanse the dreamcatcher and thank my ancestor who made it. She was 1/2 Kaskaskian Native American and made it herself. Then I put it back in its box and put it away. Now, my family doesn't look Native, and we can't really claim Native blood anymore, but having the dreamcatcher and using it in this way helps me feel closer to a relative that I may not know the name of, but who gave me something precious.

    1. Thank you for sharing your story with me! What an amazing ancestral gift your dreamcatcher must be! I'm jealous really because my family doesn't have any heirlooms that have survived multiple generations other than a glass display cabinet that my mother recently inherited from her mother who got it from her aunt who got it from her mother, etc. It will be mine when my mother passes and I hope I end up with a niece one day to pass it to too because right now children in my immediate family is looking bleak...But I digress. I am 100% on board with learning about other cultures. I do it constantly because despite it not being open to me, there are lessons to learn all the same. Chakras and Reiki teach energy focus, direction, cleansing, and healing, the basics of which are used by pretty much every practice around the world in some way, shape, or form. I sincerely hope more people come to realize that they can love something and appreciate it without appropriating and bastardizing it. Thank you so much for your comment!

  19. Hello, I read your article and I appreciate this introduction on how to keep my practice from culturally appropriating that of others. I am a novice witch and read up about white sage a bit but clearly not enough, I thought by understanding it's origins and how it's used I wouldn't be culturally appropriating Native American practices. Obviously you aren't part of this culture and can't tell me how they would prefer I use the sage I already have (as I too think throwing it away would be more disrespectful), but you are more knowledgable. Therefore, do you have any suggestions on what I should do with it before using alternatives?

    1. Welcome to the Craft and thank you for your wonderful question. So yeah, I am obviously not part of North American indigenous culture so I can't speak to for them but here is what I did with mine. All of the white sage I have ever owned was gifted to me by others who did not know any better. I used some of it to cleanse my home respectfully, using a method more similar to that of my ancestors than that of indigenous cultures and made a donation to the Crazy Horse Memorial, which is funded completely by donations. This was my way of paying tribute to indigenous culture. What remained, I gave back to the Earth by burying it. It turned it into a bit of a ritual. I actually did this again recently when a subscription box sent me a white sage bundle. As much as I love the smell of white sage, it is not appropriate for me to use. And that's okay! I hope that helps you decide what to do with yours.

  20. Thank you for writing this. It’s given me a lot to think about with fact checking terminology and practices. I’ve been curious about how to approach the folk and cultural practices from my roots. I’d only ever paid attention to what my grandparents did, but never looked into the “why”? Or the “what else?” They were Filipino Catholics but still had some folk practices from their homeland that they exposed us to (leaving food out for the unano /dwende or don’t let family of the deceased follow a guest leavung a funeral) but trying to deconstruct what is an influence of Spanish traditions vs Chinese traditions vs Filipino folk traditions can be confusing to get to the source. It also doesn’t help that biologically one grandfather is from Spain and my great grandfather was from China. So navigating through what is original, mixed, and appropriate for ancestral honouring has been leaving me scratching my head since the 90s. It’s especially weird trying to figure out where the tradition of “patron saints” that are attached to a particular family liniage factors into practices. I’m lucky enough to have memoirs written by ancestors in my family to understand the traditions they used, but the hard part is figuring out things from “surprise biology” that people kept secret. Ha ha, yikes… I’m actually a little more at ease now knowing that I’m not alone in the hunt for personal roots. There’s so much to dissect from a single culture that has a history of being continuously colonized by other European and Asian ccountries. Hopefully the discussion continues so we can all learn to appreciate our backgrounds instead of confusing it with another’s.

  21. I agree with some things on this article, but one thing that really bugged me is your claiming that we should only stick with practices based on our ancestry. I'm a mix of Native Hawaiian, German, and Irish yet as a witch I do not relate to the traditional practices of any of these cultures because like many Americans I've pretty much lost touch with my roots. And I'm pretty sure there are people who would argue that even taking practices from so called dead cultures is still a form of culture appropriation.

    I think exploiting cultures that have been oppressed for centuries by colonists is wrong though, but I don't feel like I should be limited to only practicing magic based on my ancestry which I have no real interest in. I could possibly develop an interest in Hawaiian culture practices but I'm simply a mixed hapa who was abandoned by my Polynesian father and his family and was never even given a chance to visit Hawaii. So frankly despite that being my heritage I personally would feel like I was committing cultural appropriation against Hawaiian culture for not having been raised in that culture.

    And since I am an American I would feel the same way about embracing German and Irish paganism. I have never been to either of those countries and know next to nothing about them...

    I hope this post does not sound idiotic but that is how I honestly feel.

    1. My question to you then is what DO you practice? If you practice witchcraft you are inherently practicing a European magical tradition, thus 'sticking to your roots.' Not all magical and occult customs and ideologies are witchcraft and I think this is what a lot of people fail to remember. Modern Wicca, which has infiltrated witchcraft but are not the same thing, has begged, borrowed, and stole from other traditions in order to make itself appear more legitimate and authentic, is part of the reason for this. Heck, the 'founders' were notorious for making things up as well and running with it, such as those ideologies founds in Graves' The White Goddess or the witch-cult hypothesis. This has resulted in many modern witches doing the same things, and has created a rift in understanding the history of such customs, including the history of witchcraft itself. I think that if you spent time tracing the history of the customs and practices you partake in, you may be surprised by how much of your practice originates from Germanic and Irish culture. Its been eye opening for me too and I find the more I study, the more I am drawn to the things my ancestors practiced. Part of this may also be because I engage in ancestor veneration. I encourage you to do the same.

      Lastly, I would like to mention that by definition, dead cultures cannot be culturally appropriated because there is not a people to exploit. Most dead cultures that people do use were also colonizers, so that's something to keep in mind too. Its also important to note that paganism and witchcraft are not the same thing.

      Thank you for your comment and engaging in the discussion! I'm sorry it took me so long to reply. I needed time to process what you had to say and formulate a response. Have a wonderful new year!

  22. This is an old post but still incredibly important! I'm surprised just how many white witches disagree on these topics. I've seen so many say that smudging, chakras, white sage, spirit animals, dream catchers, etc isn't cultural appropriation when so many people who come from cultures with those practices say it IS cultural appropriation. I thought that I knew pretty much everything that was considered cultural appropriation (which is pretty arrogant thinking...) I realized that I was wrong about that. I learned a few new things today and I'm going to be reading through all the links on this post over the next few weeks. So thank you so much for posting this! This is incredibly helpful!

    1. I'm glad you found the post helpful! I strongly believe spiritual growth includes admitting when we were wrong and learning from our mistakes. It literally costs nothing to be a decent human being, am I right? Thank you for your comment and support. I wish you the best of luck on your journey!

  23. Would you mind suggesting places or books to read on Celtic/Irish/England witchcraft? I have ancestors from there and I would like to know more. But the information I am finding somehow?

    1. Of course! So there are a couple resources mentioned under the 'Resources' tab that cover Celtic/Irish/English witchcraft, but I'll also list them here. Some of these books I have read, others are highly recommended.

      Cunning-Folk and Familiar Spirits: Shamanistic Visionary Traditions in Early Modern British Witchcraft and Magic
      The Witches' Sabbath: An Exploration of History, Folklore, & Modern Practice by Kelden
      Liber Nox: A Traditional Witch's Gramarye by Michael Howard and Gemma Gary
      Silent as the Trees: Devonshire Witchcraft, Folklore, and Magic by Gemma Gary
      Traditional Witchcraft: A Cornish Book of Ways by Gemma Gary
      The Black Toad: West Country Witchcraft and Magic by Gemma Gary
      The Crooked Path: An Introduction to Traditional Witchcraft by Kelden and Gemma Gary
      The Devil's Dozen: Thirteen Craft Rites of the Old One by Gemma Gary
      Element Encyclopedia of Celts
      The Mabinogi
      The Four Cycles of Irish Mythology
      Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry by WB Yeats
      The Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries by W. Y. Evans Wentz
      Carmina Gadelica
      Fire in the Head by Tom Cowan
      By Oak, Ash and Thorn by DJ Conway
      A Practical Guide to Irish Spirituality: Sli Aon Dhraoi by Lora O’Brien
      The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns and Fairies by reverend Robert Kirk
      The Gaelic Otherworld by John Campbell

      Now this is not a comprehensive list, but it will certainly get you started! Check what books these ones reference (if they are modern) and go from there. Good luck to you on your journey!

  24. Quick question, why is meditating on your chakras considered wrong?

    1. So chakras are apart of Hinduism, which is a semi-closed religion. The Western, new age version of chakras is a severe and disrespectful bastardization of what chakras actually are. Numerous other open cultures have energy centers though that you can use.

  25. Excellent article. I've had a different type of prejudice expressed toward me. As a member of our town's Multicultural Committee, I was told that 'white' people have no culture. Never mind that my father's people are Scottish-Irish and we have always participated in events specific to that culture or that my mother, whose parents emigrated from Hungary, was ostracized as somehow inferior to Western Europeans in her hometown. It's not surprising to me that so many witches of European ethnicity have adopted the practices of other cultures. They've been systematically separated over generations from their own cultures and told to become part of the 'melting pot' of America. It saddens me that some of my friends have no idea who their people were/are. I am fortunate that my mother passed down traditions, especially in the area of food, despite being ashamed of her ethnicity and embarrassed by what my daughter calls my 'ethnic features'. I would advise everyone to first try to make a connection with their own culture. See what resonates with you there. Then find out from people of other cultures what they feel is acceptable for you to use in your practice - keeping in mind that not everyone within even a 'closed' community will agree!

    1. The idea that 'white people have no culture' is an idea unique to the United States and groups who are disconnected from their home country of origin. You usually don't hear that sort of talk in European countries as they are living in their culture. The United States is particularly unique in that we have this melting pot ideal that everyone should come together and share, and its resulting in those descended from European colonists losing their connection to their ancestral home and culture. Its why so many Americans feel a sense of loss living here. I know I have a deep ache in my soul to return to Scotland. Like...I can't even begin to explain how much I want to pack everything up right this instance and leave the US behind. My ancestors are calling and there is nothing I can do at this moment in time to move there. I think this also perpetuates some of the ancestral trauma that many white people have in the United States. Many of our families were fleeing tyranny, injustice, and famine, only to come to this country to do the same to others. That sort of trauma leaves a mark, and those of us that have turned to witchcraft looking for answers see that mark and are trying to heal those wounds as best we can. We most certainly have culture. We just have to work a little to find it.

  26. How times have changed! Brandy Williams and I were called out in the early 1980's when we noted in the Georgian Newsletter that using the word and concept "shaman" for Craft or any Western practice were not just inappropriate and inaccurate, but harmful, especially in an era when the few remaining shaman in Siberia and Central Asia were being persecuted or neutralized by turning them into pop singers who made airline commercials as in the case of Kola Beldy.
    The magical community in the West went whole hog in for the term but none of the juice when Mike Harner's core shamanism was adopted with no questions.

    The Greek and Roman cultures are very much alive and well in the practices of their descendants, the Greek and Italian communities. Though they may be covered in a thin veneer of Christianity, many of the core elements live on, with saints concealing a deity underneath. Some of the materials from Sumer survive today in Yezidi practices.

  27. I am very new to paganism and witchcraft (less than a month), and have been really uncertain about where to find reliable information that also upholds my values...and this post was exactly what I was looking for. I have been actively working of unlearning my internalized racism, and found myself at a point where I could either hate my whiteness OR dive into my cultural heritage and family background to find what I CAN be proud of. Basically that quote you include from India Jaggon.

    Thank you for writing this post. I'm going to check out a bunch of the links at the end, as well as the rest of your blog. I love where your heart is at, and that's the spirit I want to cultivate more of in my own life and practice.

  28. beautifully written, thank you so much for taking the time to explain this.


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