At the request of so many followers, I have decided to mock up a little bit of information on Sea Magick and Sea Witchery. This is just a brief overview to give you some information when wanting to research or begin working with the ocean, storms, the tides, and the many creatures associated with the sea.
However, I will caution you that the many sea creatures (especially the Merfolk) are not very forgiving creatures, thus they can be pretty tough to handle for beginner, baby witches. It takes an experience sea hag to get them to cooperate properly, so keep this in mind when studying them.
Once again, this is a brief overview and introduction to my craft and path. if you have any questions, you can direct them to me via PM or ASK.
Let’s get started!
WHAT IS A SEA WITCH?
Traditionally, sea witches are witches who appear among sailors or others involved in the seafaring trade. Sea witches use witchcraft related to the moon, tides, and the weather, and are believed to have complete control over the seas. Many sailors fell prey to the sea witches curse on ships and were finally delivered to the one who rules all. In some folklore, sea witches are described as phantoms, ghosts,or in the form of a mermaid. These creatures would then have the power to control the fates of ships and seamen.
As the name implies, sea witches are believed to be able to control many aspects of nature relating to water, most commonly the ocean or sea. However, in more modern times, sea witches can also practice witchcraft on or near any source of water: lakes, rivers, bath tubs, or even simply a bowl of salt water.
In addition to their powers over water, sea witches could often control the wind. A common feature of many tales was a rope tied into three knots, which witches often sold to sailors to aid them on a voyage. Pulling the first knot could yield a gentle, southeasterly wind, while pulling two could generate a strong northerly wind.
Sea witches often improvise on what they have, rather than making purchases from a store or from another person. Common tools include clam, scallop, or oyster shells in place of bowls or cauldrons. Other items include seaweed, fishing net, shells, sea grass, driftwood, pieces of sea glass, and even sand.
Other types of titles they use are: sirens, water witches, storm witches, and sea hags.
DO SEA WITCHES HAVE CERTAIN PERSONALITY TRAITS?
Eh, there isn’t really a specific type of person the sea calls to, however I have met many sea witches that would be described as walking contradictions. Much like the sea, we can be quite flexible, but also forceful. Moods tend to fluctuate with the tides and lunar cycle. Hags both enjoy and love music and poetry; are quite expressive with their emotions, but also don’t easily award entry into their hearts; and can easily win the attention of a crowd, but then seek solitude in the comfort of their own homes. You would be hard-pressed to find a stagnant sea witch–they’ll always be on the move, searching and discovering. However, be warned: if you fall in love with one you must understand that a sea hag’s heart belongs to the Sea first and foremost, forever and always, and it calls to them over the span of lifetimes.
WHERE DOES THEIR POWER COME FROM?
For the most part, sea witches draw their power directly from the source: the Ocean. You’ll find that many of them, even landlocked sea hags, have trinkets from the shore and enjoy baths, storms, and the moonlight. Of course, there are many different kinds of sea witches all over the world and it really just depends on what seafaring folk culture they subscribe to that determines their power source.
DO SEA WITCHES HAVE SPECIFIC DEITIES THEY WORSHIP?
I am not even lying–there are HUNDREDS upon HUNDREDS of water and sea deities that sea witches call upon for aid and worship. Probably the most popular would be Poseidon, Neptune, Lir, Gong-Gong, Hapi, Sobek,
Agwé, Aegaeon, Delphin, the Gorgons, Samundra, Pariacaca, Watatsumi, Rongomai, Njord, Nix, and even Davey Jones.
One of the beauties of being a sea witch is that you can call on many ancient and powerful deities to aid you in your craft. However, I do advise that you make sure that these deities do not come from a culture/religion/belief system that is closed. You can check out a full list of water/sea/storm deities here.
WHAT ARE SOME TOOLS SEA WITCHES USE?
*TAKES A DEEP BREATH*
Water (salt, fresh, or storm), sand, sea shells and cockles, sea glass, driftwood, ship wood, compasses, maps, mirrors, bowls and chalices, sea weed, sea grass, fish and fish bones, coral, telescopes, sand dollars, pearls, bath salts/bombs/goodies, sea salt, linen, umbrellas and mops, windchimes, ropes, weather vanes, and blood are just some of the few tools we use in our practice.
TELL US ABOUT MERMAIDS!
The Mer or Merfolk are probably one of the more popular topics when it comes to sea witchery. I get questions all the time like “DO YOU TALK TO MERMAIDS?” or “HOW CAN I GET A MERMAID TO BEFRIEND ME?” or “AREN’T MERMAIDS JUST THE COOLEST?”
The Merfolk are an integral part of sea witch culture, but they aren’t the end all be all when it comes to water spirits/fae/demons/entities. There are so many to work with and all have interesting backstories. But let’s talk about the Merfolk for a moment…
Depending to what you school you subscribe to, the Merfolk (also known as mermaids) could be fae, demon, or simply water spirits. Some believe that the Merfolk are a species of kithain (also known as changeling or fae.) Ancient and unknowable, the Merfolk pose something of a problem to both fae and human alike. The arrogance of the mer is tempered only by their truly alien natures. The Merfolk claim that they are the sole legacy of the Tuatha De Danann, the oldest fae on Earth, dreamed long before any human ever set foot on land. When curious people ask how this could be, the merfolk are disconcertingly vague and ambiguous.
As I have stated before on the blog, the Merfolk are certainly an odd lot. The product of a totally alien mindset, the mer are simultaneously deadly, serious and playful, highly ritualized and completely free spirited, repressed and yet libidinous as a drunken prom date. The first thing one will notice about a mer is his incredible arrogance. Of course, as far as they are concerned, they have every right to be arrogant. After all, in their minds, they do rule the world.
Other mythologies tell us that mermaids are the bane of seamen. These half-fish, half-women lured countless sailors to their deaths. Breathtakingly beautiful humans from their torso-upwards, their lower bodies where those of fish, complete with scales. Men find their songs irresistible and follow them willingly into the sea. Mermaids can be caught and held in exchange for the wishes they grant. The males of the species, Mermen, are regarded as vicious creatures who raised storms for the purpose of sinking men’s ships. Occasionally they are successfully courted by human men. The offspring of such pairings are often granted great powers in healing by their mothers.
In short, mermaids are extremely beautiful, temperamental, powerful, and dangerous. They are not to be confused with Sirens, either, and find contempt at the very accusation. I will probably go into more detail about Merfolk magic in a different post.
WHAT ARE OTHER WATER SPIRITS THAT WE CAN WORK WITH?
Again, like the deities, there are so many different kinds of water spirits and this topic in of itself could be an entire article. So, here is a brief list and some traits about my favorites…
In Greek mythology, the Sirens (Greek singular: Σειρήν Seirēn; Greek plural: Σειρῆνες Seirēnes) were dangerous creatures, who lured nearby sailors with their enchanting music and voices to shipwreck on the rocky coast of their island. Roman poets placed them on some small islands called Sirenum scopuli. In some later, rationalized traditions, the literal geography of the “flowery” island of Anthemoessa was somewhere tucked in a cape, with rocky shores and cliffsides.
Sirens were believed to combine women and birds in various ways. In early Greek art, Sirens were represented as birds with large women’s heads, bird feathers and scaly feet. Later, they were represented as female figures with the legs of birds, with or without wings, playing a variety of musical instruments, especially harps.
These are the elemental spirits of water. Their magic centers upon this element, whose course and function they can control. Undines exist within the water itself and cannot be seen with normal human vision. Their homes are typically within the coral caves in lakes or upon the banks of rivers, though smaller undines may choose to live under lily pads. Their appearance is similar to human beings in most cases, with the exception of those living in smaller streams or ponds. Undine clothing is shimmery, reflecting all the colors of water though green is typically the predominant color.Every body of water is home to undines, from ocean waves, to rocky pools, to marshlands, to rivers, to lakes and ponds. Even waterfalls and fountains have an undine living in their midst.
The shapeshifting selkies, who are also known as silkies or roane (Gaelic for seal), occupy the seas surrounding the Orkney and Shetland isles. The exact nature of their undersea world is uncertain, though some believe it to be encased in giant air bubbles. Their true forms are those of faeries or humans, though they take the form of large seals when traveling the through the oceans. In particular: great seals and grey seals are said to take human forms. Older tales tell that selkies are only able to take on human forms on certain nights of the year, such as Midsummer’s Eve or All Hallows.
Occasionally they encounter humankind, sometimes becoming their mates. A human male may take a selkie female as his wife if he finds her seal skin on the beach and hides it from her. In the end she always recovers the skin and returns to the sea, though she may return occasionally to watch over her human family from the safety of the waves.
A human woman may bear the child of a selkie male if she weeps seven tears or seven drops of blood in the nighttime sea. Such relationships are rarely lasting. Seven years hence, the selkie would return for his child, offering the mother a fee for nursing her own babe.
One of the most dreaded and best known of the Irish faeries is the Banshee, properly named the Beansidhe literally, “woman fairy.” The Irish have many names for her (perhaps they feared invocation of her true name may invoke her presence?) They included: Washer of the Shrouds, Washer at the Banks, Washer at the Ford and the Little Washer of Sorrow. The Scottish called her Cointeach, literally “one who keens.” To the cornish she was Cyhiraeth and to the Welsh either Cyoerraeth or Gwrach y Rhibyn, which translates as “Hag of the Dribble” (to the Welsh she sometimes appear as a male). In Brittany her name is Eur-Cunnere Noe.
The Beansidhe is an extremely beautiful faery, possessing long, flowing hair, red eyes (due to continuous weeping) and light complexions. They typically donn green dresses with gray cloaks. Their wailing foretells of a death nearby, though it never causes such a death (which is why they are wrongly feared.)
As her other names might suggest, she frequently appears as a washerwoman at the banks of streams. In these cases, she is called the Bean Nighe (pronounced “ben-neeyah”). The clothing she washed takes different forms depending upon the legend. Sometimes it is burial shrouds, others it is the bloodstained clothing of those who will soon die. This particular version of the Bean Sidhe is Scottish in origin and unlike the Irish version, she is extremely ugly, sometimes described as having a single nostril, one large buck tooth, webbed feet and extremely long breasts, which she must throw over her shoulders to prevent them getting in the way of her washing . Her long stringy hair is partially covered with a hood and a white gown or shroud is her main wardrobe. The skin of the Beansidhe is often wet and slimy as if she had just been pulled from a moss covered lake. They are rumored to be the ghosts of women who died in childbirth and will continue to wash until the day they should have died. The keening music of Irish wakes, called caoine, is said to have been derived from the wails of the Beansidhe.
WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT LESSON TO TAKE AWAY FROM THIS?
The Sea giveth and the Sea taketh away. The sea is both mother and reaper, passionate and cold, serene and turbulent, loving and cruel, generous and vicious. And if you meet a sea witch, you’ll know this to be true:
Neither chains of steel, nor chains of love, can keep her from the Sea.
Lindworms are much like crocodiles in their behavior, but far more tolerant of cold winters due to their ability to hibernate. They grow slowly, but the largest species, commonly known as the knucker, can reach 15 feet over the course of decades. Lindworms are ambush predators, blending perfectly into their wetland environments and using their brightly colored tongue to lure fish and bird prey. True lindworms are venomous, delivering it with a special hinged “rat’s tooth”. They usually save it for larger prey, such as deer (or in later centuries, sheep and cows), allowing them to succumb over the course of about 12 hours. Females lay their eggs in the spring and bury them under a pile of rotting vegetation. They viciously guard the nest and the hatchlings for up to a year.
There is some debate over whether Slavic dragon lost the ability to fly independently from the ancestors of lindworms. They are heavily built beasts well adapted to the colder climates of northern Eurasia. Their bearded faces and deep, hollow cries have inspired countless tales of monstrous creatures over millennia. Males bellow and snort hot steam high into the sky as challenges to rivals. They fight with their forelimbs, lashing them out to deal devastating blows to the faces of opponents and intruders alike, which likely became basis for the supposed 3 headed dragons of mythology. However, their limited contact with humans have dwindled with their numbers over the years due to poaching and habitat destruction. Like bears, they are omnivores, but unlike bears, prefer to give a wide berth to human settlements, limiting their pool of resources even further.
Do you have any info on sirens? I was going to do some writing involving sirens. Doing research a lot of sites describe them as women who lure by song. Can they be male? do they lure people in other ways like maybe by simply talking?
Noekken, by Theodor S. Kittelsen, 1904
Sirens are a narrow category of a much wider genre of mythical beings, the water spirits.
As depicted by Theodor Kittelsen in the art above, the Neck, Noekken, or Nakki, is a water spirit that also lured unsuspecting humans into a watery grave, mainly through enchanting music. This wasn’t the only way of luring people into the water, though, as there are variants on this myth. The Brook Horse was a spirit that wandered around brooks and convinced people to get onto it’s back, once mounted, the horse plunged itself into the water of the brook, taking whoever was on it’s back with it. This usually targeted children, as these were mostly tales to scare children into behaving.
The German Nixie was an example of the generic mermaid, much like a siren of Greek mythology. The females took the form of a human, with the lower-half of a fish, and lured people into drowning with a haunting song. The males, however, could shapeshift into any form they like. (Shapeshifting was a recurring theme among water spirits, the Neck was capable of changing form as well.)
It is important to use these resources as guidelines. You don’t have to abide by tropes, you can use them in ways no others have. A merman who tricks people into the water with his silver tongue? So be it! There are no rules as to what is allowed to be written. By putting your own twist on otherwise generic fantasy tropes, your writing will be memorable and unique.
The history of the word nigger is often traced to the Latin word niger, meaning Black. This word became the noun, Negro (Black person) in English, and simply the color Black in Spanish and Portuguese. In early modern French, niger became negre and, later, negress (Black woman) was unmistakably a part of language history. One can compare to negre the derogatory nigger and earlier English substitutes such as negar, neegar, neger, and niggor that developed into its lexico-semantic true version in English. It is probable that nigger is a phonetic spelling of the White Southern mispronunciation of Negro.
No matter what its origins, by the early 1800s, it was firmly established as a derogative name. In the 21st century, it remains a principal term of White racism, regardless of who is using it. Social scientists agree that words like nigger, kike, spic, and wetback come from three categories: disparaging nicknames (chink, dago, nigger); explicit group devaluations (“Jew him down” or “niggering the land”); and irrelevant ethnic names used as a mild disparagement (“jewbird” for cuckoos having prominent beaks or “Irish confetti” for bricks thrown in a fight.)
Over time, racial slurs have victimized all racial and ethnic groups; but no American group has endured as many racial nicknames as Blacks: coon, tom, savage, pickaninny, mammy, buck, samba, jigaboo, and buckwheat are some. Many of these slurs became fully traditional pseudo-scientific, literary, cinematic, and everyday distortions of African Americans. These caricatures, whether spoken, written, or reproduced in media and material objects, reflect the extent, the vast network, of anti-Black prejudice.
The word, nigger, carries with it much of the hatred and disgust directed toward Black Africans and African Americans. Historically, nigger defined, limited, made fun of, and ridiculed all Blacks. It was a term of exclusion, a verbal reason for discrimination. Whether used as a noun, verb, or adjective, it strengthened the stereotype of the lazy, stupid, dirty, worthless nobody. No other American surname carries as much purposeful cruelty. The following shortlist is important information on the word’s use and meaning:
Naggers: Acting in a lazy and irresponsible manner. Niggerlipping: wetting the end of a cigarette while smoking it. Niggerlover: Derogatory term aimed at Whites lacking in the necessary loathing of Blacks. Nigger luck: Exceptionally, but undeserved good luck. Nigger-flicker: A small knife or razor with one side heavily taped to preserve the user’s fingers. Nigger heaven: Designated places, usually the balcony, where Blacks were forced to sit, for example, in an integrated movie theater or church. Nigger knocker: Axe handle or weapon made from an axe handle. Nigger rich: Deeply in debt but flamboyant. Nigger shooter: A slingshot. Nigger steak: A slice of liver or a cheap piece of meat. Nigger stick: Police officer’s baton. Nigger tip: Leaving a small tip or no tip in a restaurant. Nigger in the woodpile: A concealed motive or unknown factor affecting a situation in an adverse way. Nigger work: Demeaning, menial tasks.
Nigger (as a word) is also used to describe a dark shade of color (nigger-brown, nigger-Black), the status of Whites that mix together with Blacks (nigger-breaker, dealer, driver, killer, stealer, worshipper, and looking), and anything belonging to or linked to African Americans (nigger-baby, boy, girl, mouth, feet, preacher, job, love, culture, college, music, etc). Nigger is the ultimate American insult; it is used to offend other ethnic groups. Jews are called White-niggers; Arabs, sand-niggers; Japanese, yellow-niggers. Americans created a racial hierarchy with Whites at the top and Blacks at the bottom.
In biology, heredity refers to the transference of biological characteristics from a parent organism to offspring. The word, nigger, speaks to the human heredity of Black people. Defining which characteristics of a person are due to heredity and which are due to environmental influences is often a controversial discussion (the nature versus nurture debate), especially regarding intelligence and race.
The hierarchy was set up by an ideology that justified the use of deceit, exploitation, and intimidation to keep Blacks “in their place.” Every major societal establishment offered legitimacy to the racial hierarchy. Ministers preached that God was White and had condemned Blacks to be servants. Scientists measured Black skulls, brains, faces, and genitalia, seeking to prove that Whites were genetically superior to Blacks. White teachers, teaching only White students, taught that Blacks were less evolved cognitively, psychologically, and socially. The entertainment media, from vaudeville to television and film, portrayed Blacks as docile servants, happy-go-lucky idiots, and dangerous thugs, and they still do this today. The criminal justice system sanctioned a double standard of justice, including its unspoken approval of mob violence against Blacks and there is still a similar double standard today. Both American slavery and the Jim Crow laws which followed were saturated by anti-Black laws and images. The negative portrayals of Blacks were both reflected in and shaped by everyday material objects: toys, postcards, ashtrays, detergent boxes, fishing lures, and children’s books. These items, and countless others, portrayed Blacks with bulging, darting eyes, fire-red oversized lips, jet-Black skin, and either naked or poorly clothed.
In 1874, the McLoughlin Brothers of New York produced a puzzle game called “Chopped Up Niggers.” Beginning in 1878, the B. Leidersdory Company of Milwaukee, WI., produced NiggerHair Smoking Tobacco. Decades later, the name was changed to BiggerHair Smoking Tobacco. A 1916 magazine ad, copyrighted by Morris & Bendien, showed a Black child drinking ink. The caption read, “Nigger Milk” (shown). In 1917, the American Tobacco Company had a NiggerHair redemption promotion. NiggerHair coupons were redeemable for “cash, tobacco, S&H Green stamps, or presents.” The J. Millhoff Company of England produced a series of cards in the 1930s which were widely distributed in the United States. One of the cards shows ten small Black dogs with the caption: “Ten Little Nigger Boys Went Out To Dine.”
This is the first line from a popular children’s story called, “The Ten Little Niggers.” it reads like this. Ten Little Nigger Boys went out to dine; One choked his little self, and then there were nine. Nine Little Nigger Boys sat up very late; one overslept, and then there were eight. Eight Little Nigger Boys traveling in Devon; one said he’d stay there, and then there were seven. Seven Little Nigger Boys chopping up sticks; one chopped himself in halves, and then there were six. Six Little Nigger Boys playing with a hive; a Bumblebee stung one, and then there were five. Five Little Nigger Boys going in for Law; one got in Chancery, and then there were four. Four Little Nigger Boys going out to Sea; A Red Herring swallowed one, and then there were three. Three Little Nigger Boys walking in the Zoo; the big Bear hugged one, and then there were two; Two Little Nigger Boys sitting in the Sun; one got frizzled up, and then there was one. One Little Nigger Boy living all alone; He got married, and then there were none.
In 1939, writer Agatha Christie published a book called Ten Little Niggers. Later editions sometimes changed the name to Ten Little Indians, or And Then There Were None, but as late as 1978, copies of the book with the original title were being produced. It was not rare for sheet music produced in the first half of the 20th century to use the word nigger on the cover. The Howley, Haviland Company of New York produced sheet music for the songs “Hesitate Mr. Nigger, Hesitate,” and “You'se Just A Little Nigger, Still You'se Mine, All Mine.” This last example was promoted as a children’s lullaby. Some small towns used nigger in their names, for example, Nigger Run Fork, Virginia. Nigger was a common name for darkly colored pets, especially dogs, cats, and horses. So-called “Jolly Nigger Banks,” first made in the 1800s, were widely distributed as late as the 1960s. Another common piece with many variations, produced on posters, postcards, and prints is a picture of a dozen Black children rushing for a swimming hole. The caption reads, “Last One In’s A Nigger.”
The civil rights movement, Supreme Court decisions, the Black empowerment movement, broad civil rights legislation, and a general embracing of democracy by many American citizens have worn down America’s racial pecking order from slavery moving into Jim Crow period and today’s institutional racism. Yet, the word nigger has not left and its relationship with anti-Black prejudice remains symbiotic, interrelated, and interconnected. Ironically, it is co-dependent because a racist society created nigger and continues to feed and sustain it. But, the word no longer needs racism, or brutal and obvious forms, to survive. The word nigger today has its own existence.
Another interesting and confusing experience in American speech is the use of nigger by African Americans. Poetry by Blacks is instructive; one can often find the word nigger used in Black writings. Major and minor poets alike have used it with startling results: Imamu Amiri Baraka, contemporary poet, uses nigger in one of his angriest poems, “I Don’t Love You,” and what was the world to the words of slick nigger fathers too depressed to explain why they could not appear to be men. One wonders how readers are supposed to understand “nigger fathers.” Baraka’s use of this imagery, regardless of his purpose, reinforces the stereotype of the worthless, pleasure-seeking “coon” caricature. Ted Joans’s use of nigger in "The Nice Colored Man” is an example of explainable expression. Joans said he was asked to give a reading in London because he was a “nice colored man.” Infuriated by the labels “nice” and “colored,” Joan’s wrote a quintessential rebellious poem. While the poem should be read in its entirety, a few lines will do: Smart Black Nigger Smart Black Nigger Smart Black Nigger Smart Black Nigger Knife Carrying Nigger Gun Toting Nigger Military Nigger Clock Watching Nigger Poisoning Nigger Disgusting Nigger Black Ass Nigger. This piece uses adjective upon adjective attached to the word nigger.
The reality is that many of these uses can be heard in present-day African-American society. Herein lies part of the difficulty: The word, nigger, endures because it is used over and over again, even by the people it insults. Writer Devorah Major said, "It’s hard for me to say what someone can or can’t say, because I work with language all the time, and I don’t want to be limited.” Poet and professor Opal Palmer Adisa claims that the use of nigger or nigga is “the same as young people’s obsession with swearing. A lot of their use of such language is an internalization of negativity about themselves.” Rappers, themselves poets, rap about niggers before mostly White audiences, some of whom see themselves as wiggers (White niggers) and refer to one another as “my niggah.” Snoop Doggy Dogg’s single, “You Thought,” raps, “Wanna grab a skinny nigga like Snoop Dogg/Cause you like it tall/and work it baby doll.” Tupac Shakur’s “Crooked Ass Nigga” lyrics included, “Now I could be a crooked nigga too/When I’m rollin’ with my crew.” Also rap lyrics that degrade women and glamorize violence reinforce the historical Brute Caricature.
Erdman Palmore researched lexicons and said, The number of offensive words used correlates positively with the amount of out-group prejudice; and these express and support negative stereotypes about the most visible racial and cultural differences. When used by Blacks, nigger refers to, among other things, all Blacks (“A nigger can’t even get a break.”); Black men (“Sisters want niggers to work all day long.”); Blacks who behave in a stereotypical, and sometimes legendary, manner (“He’s a lazy, good-for-nothing nigger.”); things (“This piece-of-shit car is such a nigger.”); enemies (“I’m sick and tired of those niggers bothering me!”); and friends (“Me and my niggers are tight.”). This final habit, as a kind word, is particularly challenging. “Zup Niggah” has become an almost universal greeting among young urban Blacks. When asked, Blacks who use nigger or its variants argue that it has to be understood in its situation; repeated use of the word by Blacks will make it less offensive. It’s not really the same word because Whites are saying nigger (and niggers) but Blacks are saying niggah (and niggaz). Also it is just a word and Blacks should not be prisoners of the past or the ugly words that originated in the past.
These arguments may not be true to the real world. Brother (Brotha) and Sister (Sistha or Sista) are terms of endearment. Nigger was and still is a word of disrespect. More to the point, the artificial dichotomy between Blacks or African Americans (respectable and middle-class) and niggers (disrespectable and lower class) ought to be challenged. Black is a nigger, regardless of behavior, earnings, goals, clothing, skills, ethics, or skin color. Finally, if continued use of the word lessened its damage, then nigger would not hurt or cause pain now. Blacks, from slavery until today, have internalized many negative images that White society cultivated and broadcast about Black skin and Black people. This is mirrored in cycles of self- and same-race hatred. The use of the word,nigger by Blacks reflects this hatred, even when the user is unaware of the psychological forces involved. Nigger is the ultimate expression of White racism and White superiority no matter how it is pronounced. It is linguistic corruption, an attack on civility.
To a smaller scale, words other than Nigger also remain accepted public banter in White America. In 1988, on Martin Luther King’s birthday, sports commentator Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder said (on national television) that Black people were better at sports because of slave plantation breeding techniques. “During the slave period, the slave owner would breed his Black with his big woman so that he would have a big Black-kid. That’s were it all started.” Another sports announcer, Billy Packer, referred to pro-basketball player, Allan Iverson, as a “tough monkey.” Another announcer, Howard Cosell, referred to Alvin Garrett, a pro football player with the Washington Redskins as “little monkey” during a Monday Night Football game. The comments made by Cosell and Packer did not go without any punitive consequences.
Nigger is one of the most notorious words in American culture. Some words carry more weight than others. But without trying to exaggerate, is genocide just another word? Pedophilia? Clearly, no and neither is nigger.
After a period of relative dormancy, the word nigger has been reborn in popular culture. It is hard-edged, streetwise, and it has crossed over into movies like Pulp Fiction (1994) and Jackie Brown (1997), where it became a symbol of “street authenticity” and hipness. Denzel Washington’s character in Training Day (2001) uses nigger frequently and harshly. Richard Pryor long ago rejected the use of the word in his comedy act, but Chris Rock, Chris Tucker, and other Black male comedy kings use nigger regularly and not affectionately. Justin Driver, a social critic, makes a case that both Rock and Tucker are modern minstrels shucking, jiving, and grinning, in the tradition of Step ‘n Fetchit. White supremacists have found the Internet an indispensable tool for spreading their message of hate. An Internet search of nigger using Netscape or Alta Vista locates many anti-Black web pages: Niggers Must Die, Hang A Nigger for America, Nigger Joke Central, and many others. Web searchers find what most Blacks know from personal experience, that nigger is an expression of anti-Black hostility. Without question, nigger is the most commonly used racist slur during hate crimes.
No American minority group has been caricatured as often or in as many ways as Black people. These misrepresentations feature distorted physical descriptions and negative cultural and behavior stereotypes. The Coon caricature, for example, was a tall, skinny, loose-jointed, dark-skinned male, often bald, with oversized, ruby-red lips. His clothing was either ragged and dirty or extremely gaudy. His slow, exaggerated walk suggested laziness. He was a pauper, lacking ambition and the skills necessary for upward social mobility. He was a buffoon. When frightened, the Coon’s eyes bulged and darted. His speech was slurred, halted, and stuffed with malapropisms. His piercing, high-pitched voice made Whites laugh. The Coon caricature dehumanized Blacks, and served to justify social, economic, and political discrimination. Nigger may be viewed as an umbrella term, a way of saying that Blacks have the negative characteristics of the Coon, Buck, Tom, Mammy, Sambo, Pickaninny, and other anti-Black caricatures.
In 2003, the fight to correct the shameful availability of this word had positive results. Recently Kweisi Mfume, president and CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), gave a speech at Virginia Tech. There everyone was informed that a landmark decision was made with the people at Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Recognizing their error, beginning with the next edition, the word nigger will no longer be synonymous with African Americans in their publication.
Nigger, like the false impressions it incorporates and means, puts down Blacks, and rationalizes their abuse. The use of the word or its alternatives by Blacks has not lessened its hurt. This is not surprising in a racial hierarchy four centuries old, shaping the historical relationship between European Americans and African Americans. Anti-Black attitudes, motives, values, and behavior continue. Historically, nigger, more than any other word, captures the personal hatred and institutionalized racism directed toward Blacks. In 2013, incidences such as Atlanta born restaurant entrepreneur Paula Dean and Oklahoma football player Reilly Cooper’s comfortable reference to the word against Blacks shows that it is alive in the white vocabulary and it still does great harm.
Source: Phil Middleton and David Pilgrim, Department of Sociology, Ferris State University