Thoughts of an African witch on ethnocentrism
It is an increasing source of frustration, this belittlement of African witchcraft when describing the different kinds of pagan practices throughout the world.
Frankly the only mention that ever alludes to it is the practice of Voodoo and Hoodoo, both immensely important and powerful forms of practice which I include in my own… but they are never retraced back to their sources, only to their most recent forms found in the Western parts of the world.
It started by a conversation with a French friend the other day, during which I was trying to explain the difference between Vodun and Hoodoo. I was appalled at her ethnocentrism. Western witchcraft was “legitimate” whereas “African “traditions were only backward and superstitious mumbo jumbo”.
I did not change her words unfortunately.
This sort of rebuttal is something I experience very often, and I’m not alone in this. Hence this slightly long and concerned rant.
I wonder if the source of said frustration stems from the ties it has to colonisation in not so faraway times, or the neo-colonisation that still steeps in anything tied to my continent. Our traditions (whether animist, polytheist, etc.) have been beaten, shot, rended from us in order to embrace whichever new monotheistic God came to tread on our soil. In order to survive, and to keep our traditions alive, we needed to conceal them. Cloak them under psalms and surats and give them a new name. Merge them with what we have never known to keep them safe.
I wish I had the time to start an in depth study about African religions, by an African for once. Something that has yet to be understood by folks from another part of the world, is that no matter how much you can read about or experience a culture, there will always be a lens through which you will be experiencing it. A simple ritual will never have the full meaning and significance that it holds to someone who has been living this experience since birth.
The point of this entire thought is simple: for the love of everything that still remains sacred on this planet, please don’t invalidate someone’s traditions when they don’t align with your own, especially when it’s so very obscure to you. And on the flip side, if you are going to build an interest in said traditions, respect their origins and understand the limits you will find in them for yourself.
When you write or talk about paganism or witchcraft throughout the world, please don’t ignore more than half of the population of the world. And by that, I mean African, Asian, Latin American and South American, Pacific, Mediterranean and other forms of paganism. I don’t mean you should document each and every one of them, hell I don’t know them all. I am eclectic in my practice, so it would be hypocritical of me to confine everyone in their own culture and shun the amazing possibility of sharing and adapting to each other’s paths.
But keep an open mind and invite discussion and education about what you don’t know. We are all just trying to make our own way after all.
P.S. If anyone is interested in a further discussion on the subject, I am more than happy to converse.