Yes, This is Our Paganism: Llewellyn, Weiser, & White Supremacy
last month a blog post went around from Jason Mankey titled "That's Not Our Paganism". Its theme centered on stating unequivocally that homophobia - and other forms of bigotry such as racism, xenophobia, etc - has no place in the modern Pagan community. It celebrated the strides we've made towards inclusivity, and I agree with it to a large extent, at least...I agree with the spirit in which it was written. Our community should certainly continue to strive towards being an outspoken group who welcome all people with open arms and squash hate in all its forms. However, I would like to posit a radical idea we need to confront and accept: bigotry very much is our Paganism.
What I mean to say is that the more we buy in to the idea that our Pagan umbrella is void of homophobia, racism, xenophobia, classism and other bigoted ideas, the more we disarm our ability to reflect thoughtfully on all the ways, macro and micro, that we unconsciously promote bigotry within our community. Whether we state that sexual predators are not part of our Paganism, or pedophiles trafficking in child pornography, or openly racist hatemongers, we are practicing a fairly dangerous kind of cognitive dissonance. We are unable to determine the ways in which our power structures are continuing to contribute to cisgender, heterosexual (cishet) white supremacy, and that's dangerous because it does not allow for the possibility that the way we've always done things is broken and need to change.
Let me put it another way.
My mom doesn't think she's a racist.
My mom is a Nice White Lady™️ who lives in a small Texas town. She goes to church. She teaches kids how to play the cello. She was a school secretary for many, many years, and she was beloved by the students there as well. Everyone thinks of her as kind and generous. As she puts it she "has no hate in her heart" for anyone. Which is why she's spent the last few weeks confused, upset, angry, and unable to understand why she received such pushback from her friends, former students, and others connected to her on social media when she posted the following meme:
My mother lost friends over this meme. So many people tried to come out and tell her that this meme was wrong, that it echoed racist All Lives Matter sentiments which seek to silence Black Lives Matter protesters. That saying "Black Lives Matter" doesn't negate the fact that all life is precious, but that right now we are focusing on racial injustice and the disproportionate killing of black people at the hands of police and the broader issues of racial inequality and disenfranchisement in this country. This wasn't something my mother was prepared to hear. Remember, she has no hate in her heart for anyone. She couldn't possibly be racist. She said she posted this because she believes that Jesus Christ died for all of us and that all life is precious. She even called me crying and...ranting?...about how she's not allowed to love Jesus anymore because that makes her racist. See, in my mom's mind, the only kind of person that is a racist is someone who is actively harming BIPOC. Screaming racial slurs, kneeling on their necks, burning crosses, wearing a white hood. Those things are being racist. Racism couldn't possibly look like her, because she's a Nice White Lady™️.
She's the kind of person that thinks racism doesn't look like firing Colin Kaepernick because he kneeled during the national anthem. She's the kind of person that believes most people killed by the cops wouldn't have been killed if they had just done what the officer told them to do. She voted for Donald Trump, but doesn't think that means anything about her personal views on immigration or foreign relations or LGBTQ rights - despite the fact that she pretty much aligns with him on all of those. The thing she doesn't seem to get about racism, homophobia, xenophobia, islamophobia, etc. is that it isn't relegated to Big Racism. It's not just Obvious Racism. It's the subtle ways we build our society to support and maintain cishet white supremacy.
What does that mean? It means that everything from our film studios to our publishing houses to the people running our businesses to our financial industry and government representation is cisgender, heterosexual, and white. It means that even when stories about minorities are told, they're told from the perspective of a white savior or the actors, writers, directors, etc are not from the community whose story they're telling. (Seriously, go watch Disclosure on Netflix for a brilliant example of the importance of authentic representation on screen by and from the culture being represented.)
What does this have to do with Paganism?
The Pagan community is a fairly unique religious community in that it has almost no centralized authority. While this is controversial depending on what brand of Pagan you practice, by and large people can call themselves practically anything they want - Priest, Priestess, High Mugwump, Grand Poobah, etc - and there's really nobody that can come along and invalidate those titles. We have no grand governing body. We have no Bible or recognized holy text, though there are many books floating around the various Pagan communities that many might consider liturgical. Who do Pagans new and old alike turn to for guidance, scholarship, or leadership?
Pagan celebrities, if you will. The folks whose names come to mind when you think of popular Pagan leaders. The people who are on the panels at Pagan events like Pantheacon or headlining your local Pagan Pride Day. If you're an older millennial, when you think of BNPs you might think of Silver Ravenwolf, Scott Cunningham, Dorothy Morrison, Judika Illes, Raymond Buckland, Aleister Crowley, Gerald Gardner, or Janet and Stewart Farrar. The list goes on. What do all of these people have in common? They wrote books on Paganism. Those books helped increase their visibility. Publishing helped to give them credibility and establish them as leaders amongst occult practitioners. A lot has been written about how each of these figures have been the center of controversy over their careers - some are still quite controversial long after their respective deaths. I'm less interested, today, in the singular controversies created by these authors, and more interested in unpacking the people who conferred celebrity status and legitimacy upon each of these people.
Pagan publishers are not often discussed in the specific. Sure, we mention them when we talk about an upcoming book, but we rarely, if ever, think of them critically. Why is that, I wonder? We spend a lot of time discussing problematic authors, but seem to forget that the reason many of us even know they exist is because they were plucked from the obscurity of Pagan blogs, podcasts, or social media and given a book contract, which raised their profile exponentially. Who decides which authors get a contract? Why are some books published and others aren't? Furthermore, as the people who decide what the face of Paganism looks like to the public, what are they doing to ensure that face is diverse and representative?
Llewellyn and Weiser
It is impossible to discuss Pagan publishing without centering the discussion on the two largest publishers of Pagan books: Llewellyn and Weiser and the ways in which they, specifically, have contributed to cishet white supremacy in the Pagan community. Now, what does that look like? I would argue it should be examined through the following criteria.
- The general diversity of their topics
- The general diversity of their authors
- The authentic representation amongst their authors writing about topics derived from colonized, oppressed, or enslaved groups
As far as topical diversity, we know that polling tells us the largest Pagan religion is Wicca, so it makes some kind of sense that when you look at the upcoming releases section of either of these publishing houses you see a lot of Wicca and general Intro to Paganism books. Wicca was founded by white people and is generally made up of white people, so the white faces behind the writing of those books isn't shocking. It's a bit sad that publishing houses as large as them can't seek out diverse writers in this area, but that isn't my main concern. My main concern is their white-washing of the spiritual traditions of colonized, oppressed, or enslaved communities.
What are these Pagan publishers doing to promote the spiritual traditions of BIPOC - Black / Indigenous / People of Color? Traditions such as Hoodoo, Voodoo/Vodou, Curanderismo, Brujeria, Native American or Indigenous spirituality? Both publishers carry books on these topics, but who is writing about them? While both publishers have problems in this area, I'd like to dig in to Llewellyn's for 2 reasons:
- They are far and away the largest Pagan publisher, with a larger market share of selling Pagan books than any other publisher, and therefore set the tone for what the rest of the industry looks like.
- (One person I spoke with in publishing while researching this article estimated that if you went into a bookstore looking for a book about Paganism, you had a 7 in 10 chance of walking away with a Llewellyn title.)
- They are a much older publisher than Weiser or some of the smaller, less-known presses and therefore we can see the arc of Pagan publishing through their body of work.
Llewellyn's Brujería Problem
I'd like to start by examining one of Llewellyn's new releases they've been promoting: The Sacred Art of Brujeria by Katrina Rasbold. Brujería is a specific witchcraft tradition hailing from Latin America and non-Afro-Caribbean diaspora. Like its sister religions of Haitian Vodou, Candomblé, and Santería, it has a long history wrapped up in the slave trade between the 16th and 18th centuries, as slaves were forced to convert to Christianity. During the 1800s and 1900s, white Americans attempted to disrupt the legitimacy of Brujería through concerted attacks.
Rasbold is up front that she is not Mexican, nor from any of the cultures that gave birth to Brujería, yet she is the face of Brujería at Llewellyn in 2020. Rasbold even attempts to combine multiple cultures, such as Hinduism - of which she is also not a part - in her book. Not only that, the book tells you how you too can make a business off of becoming a Bruja/Brujo. I think it is important to criticize the idea that a white person saw enough profit in taking from the culture of Latinx and enslaved people that they repackaged it, sold it, and want to teach Llewellyn’s largely white audience to do the same.
So, I thought to myself...gosh...Surely Llewellyn has some books by people of color in their Brujería section, right? Surely, at some point, they've done that. To find the answer, I scoured Llewellyn's products trying to find the Brujería section. There isn't one. What they do have is a section called Santería, where they...seem to lump all books related to Latin American and Non-African Diasporic traditions. This is their selection dating from 2020 to 2002:
In 18 years they have published 6 books on the topic. (I will not bore you with the details of how many books they have released on, say, Wicca in that time. Please know that it's a lot more than 6.) Of those 6 books, there are 5 authors: Katrina Rasbold with 2 books, Tomás Prower (3 books by Llewellyn), Frank Baba Eyiogbe, Rev. Ray T Malbrough, and Migene González-Wippler. Of those, 3 are people of color: Eyiogbe, Prower, and González-Wippler.
(Edit: In previous edits, I mistakenly labeled Tomás Prower as non-Latinx when he is, indeed, Latinx.)
The issue isn't just the lack of books, it's with white authors overwhelmingly being chosen to write about and profit from the cultures of People of Color. As I mentioned above, there are a number of traditions created through the forced colonization of indigenous and enslaved people. Now, you might not think that Hoodoo or Voodoo/Vodou are hot topics at Llewellyn or Weiser, but that's because they don't directly label their books as being about Hoodoo or Voodoo/Vodou. They use the word "conjure" in most titles, because it strips the information of its cultural heritage and allows it to be repackaged for a white audience, void of any perceived stigma associated with the proper terms. If you search the word "conjure", suddenly you'll find books like The Secret Keys of Conjure by Chas Bogan who is described on Llewellyn's website as a "sought after conjure doctor".
Search for topics like "hoodoo" and "voodoo" on Llewellyn's or Weiser's websites. Look at the full scope of their author lineup on all topics. Look at their new releases and their back catalogue. The overwhelming number of white faces…feels like a choice.
Native American Erasure
I would like to ensure that we don't forget about the I in BIPOC, which stands for Indigenous. The mystique surrounding Native Americans and other indigenous populations is one pervading many areas of modern Paganism. Books about Wicca almost always include the recommendation of burning white sage, which was illegal for Native Americans until 1978, without much discussion of ethical sourcing, the history behind the practice, or any mention of the people from which the practice is derived. It doesn't end there. An incredible number of books include or devote themselves entirely to vaguely related Native American or indigenous practices without once crediting the cultures from which they come or acknowledging the deeply racist and violent history still being perpetrated against the indigenous people of the United States.
And if you're curious about looking up a Llewellyn book about Native American or indigenous practices, don't go looking for a section titled "Indigenous Cultures". You need to look in their section called Shamanism, which lumps together books on Native American practices written by white authors, the deeply problematic idea of having a "spirit animal", birds, and oracle decks created by Italian author/artist Lo Scarabeo.
Their two most recent works specifically providing insight on Native American spirituality are written by Eagle Skyfire of Philadelphia, PA, otherwise known by her actual name of Annabelle Butterworth.(which I found by googling "Eagle Skyfire" and going to the second page of Google results, which, again, I assume Llewellyn could do as well) Annabelle's Eagle Skyfire's next book is due out November 2020 from Llewellyn. As part of their description of the book, they specifically state she is a Native American shaman.
Multi-Classing as a Pagan Author
What I find most interesting when searching through these authors is that, for most of the white authors writing about the cultures of oppressed, colonized, and/or enslaved groups of people, they are not writing as singular devotees of the subject. In fact, most of their biographies have them claiming expertise in various traditions of Wicca, BIPOC cultures, East Asian spiritual traditions and praxis, and more. Like most of us who found our way to Paganism, we learned about it through books, the internet, or maybe we were lucky enough to find some in-person teachers, so it is understandable how one can be interested in so many esoteric subjects, but to be a master in each? To be so experienced and learned that you can become their public face through the aisles of Barnes & Noble? These authors seem to multi-class as though they were a wizard in a role-playing game and the goal is to rack up as many different types of occult titles as possible. While their intentions might very well be pure, there is a serious check of privilege that needs to occur.
The problem with this is that these traditions came from a place of pain, servitude, death, oppression, and forced colonization that the BIPOC who created these traditions do not get to separate themselves from. However, the privilege of being a white author in these spaces is that you get the fame and notoriety and financial profit from these traditions, without bearing any of the societal burden of looking like the culture itself. Your land was not stolen. Your children are not locked in cages. You do not experience housing or economic or legal inequity. You are not killed in larger numbers by police. You get to try on oppression like a mask, cherry pick that which serves you best (or will make you the most money), and leave the rest.
In my recent interview with 7 Black Pagan spiritual leaders from across the continent, the topic of white Hoodooists was brought up with much ire by the panel. Black Hoodooist Tiffany Newson referenced the podcaster and Hoodoo practitioner Juju Bae who decried use of St. John the Conqueror root (also known as High John the Conqueror) by white Hoodooists on her podcast last year. According to Juju Bae, the root is specifically derived from the need for slaves to break their chains, which isn't exactly something white practitioners could relate to. Much backlash from white Hoodooists ensued, which...likely proved her point.
What is Paganism?
One of the toughest questions to answer when I'm asked is "What is Paganism?". The term is a broad umbrella for so many modern magical practices that, oftentimes, seem completely unrelated if not at all-out war with one another. What I don't think has ever been mentioned is that the actual definition of Paganism is whatever Llewellyn decides it is. Or, more specifically, whatever Elysia Gallo decides it is. Who is Elysia Gallo?
According to Jason Mankey's 25 Most Influential Living Pagans list (and echoed by some Llewellyn authors I talked to in researching this article) she is possibly the most influential Pagan you've never heard of. Gallo is the Sr. Acquisitions Editor at Llewellyn Worldwide, meaning she is directly responsible for deciding what books (and other media) are selected by Llewellyn for publication. She has been with the company since August 2005, and in the head role since 2010. So, for an entire generation of Pagans, Elysia Gallo has decided what you will find in the metaphysical section at your local bookstore. (It’s all very…Miranda Priestly selecting a cerulean sweater.)
It should be remembered, too, that publishing houses like Llewellyn or Weiser can seek out new authors. If they don’t like the manuscripts they’re being presented, they can go out and find individuals with untapped potential and offer those people book contracts. If diversity is an important issue at these publishing houses, why are they not trying harder to find and elevate new voices? In my research for this article, that answer got complicated. I asked some Black Pagan writers if they had ever attempted to publish with Llewellyn and if they’d be willing to share those interactions. One told me they were afraid to share the response from Llewellyn, because of concern they might never get the chance to publish again. Another told me they were aggressively approached, but chose not to unless they had more control over the editing of their prospective book. (You may recall that the reason Dorothy Morrison told me that Llewellyn has their authors edit other authors, which contributes to the homogenization of their work among other problematic issues.) Still more told me they were so discouraged by the current white landscape in Pagan publishing that they gave up.
Let's think about it this way. You're curious. You're seeking more knowledge about Wicca, Witchcraft, Paganism, or possibly even one of the BIPOC spiritual traditions mentioned above. You start your search in a bookstore or on Amazon's various witchcraft related book charts. You're likely to find a largely Llewellyn-laden selection of books, all of which were chosen by Gallo to represent that facet of Paganism to the public. That's quite a lot of power. To the newcomer, or perhaps even to the experienced Pagan looking for new information, if the higher ups at Llewellyn decide not to publish it, you'd better be able to successfully navigate the miasma of blogs, YouTube channels, and podcasts to discern what is and isn't worthwhile information.
Black Lives Matter
The spring and early summer of 2020 have been rife with protests in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. While in quarantine due to COVID-19, I'd begun, like many, to become more introspective of myself, the ways I interact with the world, and the ways our institutions interact with the public. At the beginning of May 2020 I published an interview with Anthropologist, Voodoo Priestess, and author Lilith Dorsey who was quite open about the fact that not only has it been difficult as a Black Pagan author to get her book published, but that she has to watch as white faces continue to occupy spaces regarding topics of BIPOC spirituality and tradition in panels, book publication, public events, and more. She mentioned a conversation with her friend Witchdoctor Utu, a white Voodoo practitioner, in which he affirmed that white practitioners are often prioritized over BIPOC on these topics, and have historically been given more bookings, book deals, and headliner placement than their Black and Brown counterparts.
It was in this headspace that I wanted to know why, and perhaps unpack the ways our Pagan institutions contribute to the problem. So, on May 21 of this year, I emailed Llewellyn and Weiser and asked for an interview. They never responded.
Weeks went by, and the death of George Floyd sparked international outrage and an urgent call to tear down institutions that have contributed to the culture of white supremacy. Companies everywhere were having immediate meetings to dismantle their internal policies, change their company names, give a voice to Black people, and otherwise publicly state Black Lives Matter. The event "Blackout Tuesday" was created so that companies and those with social media accounts would "black out" self-promotion for one day and instead focus on promoting Black voices and organization specifically benefiting the needs of Black people. Llewellyn and Weiser abstained from any public statement during this time and continued to promote white authors during Blackout Tuesday. On June 8th, I posted to social media that I was attempting to get in touch with anyone at either Llewellyn or Weiser who could perhaps speak to their problematic publishing history and their lack of public statement of support for Black Lives Matter.
Suddenly, there was an outpouring of support all over social media, calling on Llewellyn and Weiser to do something. Since this time I have been contacted by 8 authors from Llewellyn's catalogue who have all told me that they have directly reached out to Llewellyn asking them to agree to an interview, and to express that their inaction was unacceptable. These authors told me they would be more vocal, but they are legally bound from speaking about this issue due to their contracts with Llewellyn. The author Melanie Marquis publicly tagged Elysia Gallo in that June 8th post, who provided me with her email address and stated she would attempt to respond within a week:
She mentioned Kat. That's Kat Sanborn, Llewellyn's Sr. Publicist. I was told to email both Kat and Elysia, as well as Bill Krause, the publisher, and that someone would agree to some kind of statement, interview, or response. I took them up on that offer and sent another email on June 9th. That email also never received a response.
However, what did happen was that on June 11th, Llewellyn released this statement that they call a "Dedication to Diversity". It never mentions Black people, Black Lives Matter, or any marginalized group for that matter. It states that they are providing financial support to organizations looking to rebuild Minneapolis, without ever once acknowledging why Minneapolis needs to be rebuilt. It states that they have had a 100 year commitment to "elevating a diversity of voices", which, as I've shown above, is exceedingly questionable.
On June 15th Weiser released their statement, which actually did specifically state Black Lives Matter, and further stated that they planned on publishing more BIPOC authors, examining their publishing practices, and working with their publishing partners. Additionally, Weiser's donations went directly to Black Lives Matter and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. Weiser, it seems, at least on the surface, is attempting to use this as a learning opportunity. However, some of their Black authors have told me privately that they noticed that Weiser suddenly started promoting their books after my public posts and that it made them feel tokenized rather than genuinely supported. Time will, of course, be the judge of whether Weiser's change in policy and publication will match their current sentiments.
Fast forward to this writing, June 24th, and despite Llewellyn telling their authors that they would speak with me, or at least provide a written response, I have yet to receive anything further from either publisher. What is interesting is that this morning I posted publicly about this once again, and 1 hour later Llewellyn published a blog written by "Anna" titled "Some Amazing Books & Decks by Black, Indigenous, People of Color to Add to Your TBR List".
Honestly, that's up to you. I don't think we need a boycott of Llewellyn or Weiser, because that is neither productive nor likely. These companies hold a monopoly on what it means to be Pagan in 2020, and that's a lot of power that could be put to good use. We can critique our institutions without tearing them down or putting people out of work. Being a niche publisher is already a difficult thing to be in the time of coronavirus.
But, you can be a good ally. You can be watchful of those who take up space and speak for cultures of which they are not part. You can give your money to those cultures directly. You can show these companies that Black authors like Lilith Dorsey and Najah Lightfoot and Stephanie Rose Bird are profitable by buying their books. You can request that your Pagan Pride organizers stop booking white faces to teach BIPOC spirituality and instead ask that they join the "Amplify Melanated Voices" movement to center BIPOC people especially in the Pagan community in regards to teaching from their own culture.
Something else you can do is to own up to your mistakes, accept being called out if/when it happens, try not to get defensive, and use it as an opportunity to unpack your privilege and be a better ally. I've certainly had to do this.
Cisgender heterosexual white people have had a very long history of colonizing, demonizing, and criminalizing BIPOC bodies, religions, practices, and culture before appropriating it for profit. The Pagan community likes to think of itself as an inclusive group whose arms are open wide. We don't get to erase black / indigenous / people of color from their own spiritual ancestry and being centered on topics derived from their culture and then not do the work to unpack the ways in which we are sending a dog whistle to white supremacists.
My mother doesn't think she's a racist. I'm sure not a single person at Llewellyn or Weiser thinks they're a racist. I'm sure none of those people think that they have hate in their hearts, and I'm sure they don't. But...and it's a big but...it doesn't absolve any of them from needing to admit that, despite their best efforts to the contrary, they are racist and have contributed to white supremacy in the community at large.
Wow. This is an amazing piece of investigative journalism right here. And saying the things that need to be said. This is exactly why I stepped down from my public platform and chose to stop the publication of a book I was working on. Thank you for this.ReplyDelete
Thank you. This is amazing work and it's much needed. <3ReplyDelete
Say it again for those in the back!ReplyDelete
Thank you for your clarity and thoughtfulness in delivering this important message. Thank you for doing all the work to give us solid and transparent research that backs up your points and gives this message deep credibility. I'm so grateful to those in the tarot community who pointed me to this article, because I want to know about this and I want to help improve this situation, even in my small way as a consumer of these companies's products. I'm grateful to those who are amplifying this message so that we may all be more informed and smarter consumers so that collectively all of our individual purchase decisions aimed at shifting this problematic behavior may have a larger and hopefully a more lasting impact.ReplyDelete
This a great piece, just one FYI is that "conjure" is a legit well documented synonym used by Black people to refer to hoodoo in some regions. I don't have the primary sources immediately to hand but if you reach out to historian Cat Yronwode of Lucky Mojo Curio Co., I have no doubt she can point you in the proper direction. So using that term is not intended as a misdirection from where hoodoo comes from. I think I recall Zora Neale Hurston using it but not 100% certain on that.ReplyDelete
lucky mojo is a white monopoly on a black magic system and should be driven out of existence.Delete
I agree that the best custodians of Black magical traditions would be Black people themselves. Lucky Mojo's influence is certainly up for debate. Anyone who thinks Cat Yronwode is flatly profiting off of Black people without having done her research or engaging with the Black hoodoo community directly has not done much research on her or her methods as an instructor. Some of her book resources have been recommended to me by Black hoodoo guides and instructors, and I know her materials are sometimes used in their work or sold in their shops. Ideally, as I think Cat is trying to retire at some point in the near future, she would pass the business on to a Black spiritual leader in the community who could continue the work with even greater authenticity.Delete
I'm Haitian and am proud of the work Cat has done.She has been incredibly supportive of the Haitian community. Anyone who thinks otherwise has done their research, as Jasmine wrote.Delete
TheSpiralMom You might want to do some research as how Cat feels about ADRs. She has always spoken badly about ADRs. She once stated that people who get into ADRs are mentally ill.Delete
This is a good read on an important topic. Thank you!ReplyDelete
Yes! So yes. We all like to think we're Nice People™ but we've all been indoctrinated. (And don't get me started on "spirit animals".)ReplyDelete
JMK there's quite a few issues in that short one and a half generalisation you've just made. Answering to you is one of many with no interest whatsoever in being thought of as Nice People. I'm white, non-Christian, born and bred in Europe. Unlike many fellow neo-pagans my interest in POC traditions goes as far as looking in as an observer from the outside. Fascinating to learn about if I come into contact with them, open and grateful if there's any exchange but it stops at that. Not my people. Not my ways. That works both ways and to be honest, I've never got a fraction of the nonsense from POC that I regularly get by white 'experts' indoctrinated in white guilt and progressive ideology or the so called 'allies'. So when you talk about indoctrination and wanting to think we're Nice People, first of all speak for yourself. Clearly you and I have not had the same upbringing, probably we're not from the same 'white' ethnic group and likely grew up in very different geographical environments with different histories. Just because our colour of the skin might be the same, it doesn't make you an expert of my white culture. When you say don't get me started on "spirit animals", you can smell it from behind a computer screen that all you know on the subject likely comes from some person who read about it in book then went off to write a book of their own. Do you really think spirit animals are exclusive to some people and not others? Maybe not in your case but don’t you go tarring everyone with your own brush.Delete
JMK I understood what you were simply saying. There's a whole lot of defense being played above, and I'm wondering if readingWhite Fragility would help.Delete
I'm sensing a lot of white fragility too.Delete
Thanks, Unknown and Max. I tend to agree. I hadn't actually seen Anonymous'... reaction... until now. And yes, Anonymous, I do really think Spirit Animals are exclusive to some people and not others. They are earned, not simply claimed.Delete
Love this piece. Thank you so much for the work you did to bring this information to light.ReplyDelete
Worth noting (with irony): The terms "mugwump" and "poobah" are not just nonsense words one should throw around to describe spiritual leaders giving themselves made-up titles. Their histories are very real and, depending on the usage, racist. "Mugwump" is an anglicized Algonquin word describing a tribal chief; "poobah" comes from a character named "Pooh-Bah" in a comic opera from the late 19th century called "The Mikado" that engaged in yellow-face (both in its casting/costuming and its libretto, including the fairly obvious mockeries of Japanese names chosen for its characters) and made many a joke satirizing British society at the expense of Japanese culture -- something I imagine Gilbert and Sullivan, two white dudes, felt very entitled to do at the time.
1. "Brujeria" isn't a closed system like an ADR. Anyone can do it. Black, white, brown, anyone, literally because it just means "witchcraft". There is no super secret "Sociadad de Brujeria" where only people of Indio-African decent can join and practice. If any of us go anywhere in Latin America they would say we do "brujeria".ReplyDelete
2. Brujeria in Latin America pre-dates the slave trade and colonization because... GASP! there were people already there! I know the "white knight" bloggers like to make everything as focused on colonization as they can to point out the "huge injustices" of whatever they are talking about. The Native populations all across the continent had their form of "witchcraft" if we are going to put it into these contexts. So no... brujeria isn't like hoodoo in the US which has its roots in the slave trade. Someone has been watching too many Netfix shows. LOL!
3. If he wants to point out culture specific traditions that are rooted in Native practices, he is talking about shamanism often referred to as "curanderismo" because to Latin Americans "brujeria" is often tied to GASP! European imagery of witches and Devil worship! And even curanderismo isn't closed. White folks have been learning it for decades so I have no idea where that concept is even coming from.
4. Most Latin American cultures are melting pots where you can find influences from every race in traditions up to and including witchcraft. When you look at the practices of witchcraft in Latin America it really isn't that different than what we do anyways, it just uses a lot more home grown ingredients.
5. Now getting into the subject of publishers and authors. I am sure publishers like Llewellyn and Weiser would love to have POC writing more books but they can't force them to. They approached my very Latino husband to write a book and he said no. What are they suppose to do? If a white author has experience in a subject and the information is valid, there is absolutely zero problem. Would it be great to have more POC representing their traditions? Of course! But again, they cannot profile people and ask them to write books.
6. Lastly, the author is doing exactly what he claims the pagan community and its publishers are doing. He is colonizing the voice of actual POC, inventing an issue from a NON issue during a time of social unrest for clicks. Don't fall for it. Let the people speak for themselves. If they have a problem they are more than capable of letting us know. We don't need a Disney white knight to swoop in and save us.
POC authors, if you want to write a book on a subject all you have to do is pitch it to a publisher like Llewellyn or Weiser. It is super easy.
He should have actually interviewed POC (outside his circle to prevent bias) rather than play white savior.Delete
He did... Listen to his podcast...Delete
Thank you, Hellfurian. I agree with you.Delete
Thank you Hellfurian, points 5 and 6 should be emblazoned in bold red characters. Particularly because I found this article on the page of a new popular author with her own publishing company who has created a whole new system by picking and mixing from every single tradition, order and witchcraft practitioner she's been bashing before getting straight back in bed with every single one of them, once she got the acceptance she was after. The hypocrisy of these progressives of the pagan revolution taking advantage of the current socio-political climate to influence the new generations is simply beyond the pale! You're just jumping from the fire to the frying pan with the lure of a few free peanuts.Delete
Hellfurian, brujeria may not be a closed system like a religion, but there are culture specific practices that differ from country to country and even within different regions of those countries. For example, in indigenous communities the ideas and practices around brujeria and curanderismo will differ from the ideas and practices found in mestizo communities and will contain more elements of what we think of as shamanism. And some of these types of curanderismo/brujeria are closed practices taught/passed from teacher to student. Magic in Latin America is indeed a melting pot of folk Catholic , Indigenous and African practices but when you take into account regional folk Catholicism, and the fact that not all Indigenous and African communities are the same, maybe Latin American magic is not as homogeneous as you think.Delete
Just because brujeria has European influence, doesn't mean that it's okay for a white American to appropriate and make money off that tradition. And even if they did approached your husband, that doesn't prove that they made an effort to diversify, clearly they haven't. The main problem about lack of diversity in publishing isn't that not enough BIPOC writers are available, the main problem is that not enough BIPOC writers are hired. And I don't think the author of this post has a white savior complex. He is speaking as a white person to other white people about issues on race and inclusion, issues that should be discussed by white people. He is doing what white allies are supposed to be doing, listening to BIPOC and educating other white people. And other than the white washing and appropriation can we also discuss the fact that most of these publishers and their authors have been fabricating fake-lore and pseudo-history since the beginning of neo-paganism.
I am with all of this and thankful for it, the only part I object to is I think we can and should boycott the companies as we demand change. We can all survive without buying new books for a while, there's countless endless resources for practice online, and we could in fact organize and distribute PDF versions as a direct action tactic if they ignore demands.ReplyDelete
This is a simple terrific analysis. THANK YOU for researching, writing and publishing it.ReplyDelete
As a latina living in Mexico, FUCK YOU. We don't want you speaking for us about what is or isn't an issue. Brujería is oral tradition, if I translate this to a local bruja she would just frown, why on Earth would brujos identify as pagan. Just shut up and speak about what you do know.ReplyDelete
Thank you Sofia! No sé por qué a esta gente le gusta escribir sobre nuestras prácticas fuera de contexto. No saben de qué están hablando.Delete
Well said Sofia!Delete
Not only is Llewellyn NOT a racist company, but they were founded and built and continue to grow on a foundation that is the polar opposite of racism! I’m speaking from my experience as an author for Llewellyn, and also as the biographer of Carl Llewellyn Weschcke, who bought Llewellyn Publications in 1961 and grew it into what it is today. His family continues to carry on his legacy since his passing in 2015. Carl believed passionately that each person should have the opportunity to achieve their full potential--and to expand that potential. Publishing metaphysical and occult books was just one of the many vehicles he utilized to carry out that work. In the course of writing Carl’s biography, I had the opportunity to research in depth the whole timeline of Llewellyn history. My absolute certainty is that Llewellyn is a company that absolutely stands for civil rights and equal opportunity. A few things I learned: Carl Llewellyn Weschcke was a lifetime member of the NAACP and ACLU, and served as president of the Minnesota NAACP and served as vice president for the Minnesota ACLU. During the heart of the civil rights era, for over a decade, Carl devoted countless hours and tremendous efforts to the struggle against racism and discrimination. Among other efforts, Carl did a ton of work in support of the NAACP’s efforts to end housing discrimination in Minnesota and beyond. In his years of active service with the ACLU, one of the many efforts Carl was involved with was the establishment and implementation of anti-discrimination training to the Minneapolis police department. He also worked on other civil rights protections for indigenous people, freedom of speech protections, and many other worthy causes. Carl was even honored with a Lifetime Achievement award from the NAACP. He was DEEPLY involved with the civil rights movement for many, many years while also actively building up his publishing company from scratch. In fact, his civil rights works was so extensive that it warranted an entire rather lengthy chapter in my book, Carl Llewellyn Weschcke: Pioneer and Publisher of Body, Mind, and Spirit. While Carl eventually pulled back on his more active involvement as his business and family grew, he remained a supporting lifetime member of the ACLU and NAACP and remained passionate about civil rights throughout his life. Llewellyn Publications has always been dedicated to the causes of social justice, equal opportunit,y and equal rights, and Llewellyn has always employed minorities in their workforce. Even in the early days when Carl’s publishing business was still new and not making any real money yet, Carl was offering jobs to friends and colleagues that found it difficult to find employment elsewhere due to discrimination. While researching for the biography of Carl’s long life, I had the pleasure of exploring boxes and boxes of notes, speeches, and strategies that Carl had personally written during his work with the NAACP and ACLU. His speeches were moving and heartfelt, and his work absolutely helped to counter housing discrimination and many other forms of racism in Minnesota and beyond.ReplyDelete
Today, Llewellyn publishes many wonderful authors of diverse racial identities and backgrounds. They do indeed do a lot to seek new authors--having an open submissions policy, offering how to get published advice and information at conventions, even offering people a chance to pitch ideas for books at some of these events. They also decide on manuscripts as a team made up of individuals from various departments within Llewellyn. There is no one person there that sets the tone or that makes the sole decision about whether or not a book will be published. Llewellyn has a culture of fairness, progressiveness, equality, and opportunity, and I am proud to be a part of that legacy as an author published under their brand.
Thanks for reading!
-Melanie Marquis, author of Carl Llewellyn Weschcke: Pioneer and Publisher of Body, Mind and Spirit and other titles
It's really quite simple. If there were more authors with well-edited books from what are labeled 'People of Color', then those books would get published. More people just need to write in general. And I guarantee that if the books were good, they would get published by either of the two major publishers. To call them racist because they are publishing books that are written, regardless of by whom, is pretty absurd and just falls in line with group think. Instead of drawing parallels to white supremacy, it would do a lot more good to support 'People of Color' [I hate that term as much as I hate being labeled as 'white' because NOBODY should be defined by the color of their skin] to write more about their indigenous traditions. That would actually solve the problem - calling the publishers racist or discriminatory or insinuating that there is some undercurrent of white supremacy does nothing but make outrageous allegations.ReplyDelete
Here's my issue with all of this.ReplyDelete
I am part of the Latino community and I can tell you that most of us won't write a book about our practices. Why? Because we are not outsiders. It is usually outsiders that write books about other subjects because it interests them. When we do write books, we write them in Spanish because we want to reach our community. I assume first generation Latinos might write something in English but they would have already been influenced by European witchcraft.
"Brujeria" is my practice (again, 'brujeria' is just 'witchcraft' in Spanish) why would I say "oooh, this is interesting, let me write about it". Nope. Til this day I hear my mom tell me stories of things she has done, and I get surprised as to why she didn't tell me that before. That is because she didn't know that what she was doing is considered witchcraft. We usually don't know the difference between witchcraft, superstition and religion. I have been exposed to the American mentality of labeling everything and putting them into boxes so I can tell what I witchcraft and what is not thus I recognize when my mom is doing witchcraft.
Witchcraft in Latin America is NOT like European witchcraft, specifically Wicca, it is not organized, it varies from region to region. In Peru, 'brujeria' is straight up 'devil's work'. So we don't talk about it, you don't even say the word because you are going to end up conjuring the Devil, unlike Central America in which the term has less of a stigma as it does in South America. Hell! You can even ask a saint to hex someone, but we still wouldn't call it witchcraft, that just part of the 'religion'.
Another example is Haitian Vodou, a system I am initiated in and I can tell you that Haitians won't write a book in English about Vodou. Even if an African American wrote a book about Vodou, they are still considered to be an outsider to the system. Besides, Vodou is an oral tradition, like most traditions are.
Again, it is outsiders that will write books about other cultures and if it done with respect towards the tradition, skin tone shouldn't be an issue. I, for one, love when outsiders write books about Peruvian practices because they see things people within the practice can't. Sometimes I get surprised and say to myself "wait, that was witchcraft?"
Be glad white people are writing about outside cultures, otherwise, a lot of traditions would have been lost and most of you wouldn't know crap about them.
Very nice piece! I am learning new things every day, and every day I learn how much I don't know. Thank you for writing this article!Delete
Just so you know, Wieser just published a book from an insider who is initiated in both Dominican and Haitian Voudou. The book is mostly about Dominican voudou, but he discusses Haitian voudou as well. Its called The 21 Divisions.Delete
I still have issues with outsiders writing books about other people's practices. If insiders don't want to, or don't feel the need to, make this information available to all and sundry, so be it. Outsiders may see things people inside the practice can't, but they assuredly don't see, or have the background to understand, a lot of things that people within the practice do. And the books? As anthropological case studies I would probably find them fascinating. But too often they amount to "[insert sacred tradition] For Dummies". I don't want these practices to die out, so I hope the people to whom they belong will keep them alive. What they surely don't need is a bunch of interested outsiders grabbing the ball and running with it.Delete
All promoted by authors such as Michael M. Hughes with Magic for the Resistance published by huh???....Llewelyn.ReplyDelete
This book which espouses the same ideology of the author of this blog is supported by Gary Lachman, David Salisbury, Fiona Horne, Leonard George.
M. Hughes credits Elysia Gallo and Josephine McCarthy among the people who given him support.
So, this blogger slags off Elysia Gallo who's in cahoots with Josephine McCarthy who slags off just about everyone she smooches with but then promotes this blogger's article on her Quareia website.
I can just see her storming in here effing and blinding with demands to know who's calling her out on her duplicitous loyalties.
And this is the score my dear readers: you are being gaslighted, made to feel guilty of deeds you haven't done and pitched against one another by phoney individuals whose only interest is to monopolise what is essentially a market of beliefs.
My advice? Turn a deaf ear, stay clear of propagandistic drama and carry on doing your own thing the way you've always done.
The people who doth protest too much have a chip on their shoulder because they tried esoteric practices, got their fingers burned and were ejected from it like projectiles.
Because they can't handle rejection and the consequences of being in the wrong place, they want to drag everyone in their own misery...and who better to marshal their plan than some naïve 20 something activist?
Thank you so much Fire Lyte for this in-depth survey on how white supremacy and racism are deeply embedded in modern Paganism today, and how this bias continue to show up in publishing. Just because a movement considers itself "alternative" doesn't mean it receives a passcard from doing the hard work of uncovered white supremacy and racism. Arguments that individuals and companies are somehow "exempt" are not useful either, as the entire dominant society in the Americas is white supremacist and racist, so of course these deeply embedded patterns will continue to show up. I wrote a similar piece for God&Radicals recently entitled "[Un]conscious Colonialism - Why is Native Spirituality a Pagan Genre?" that identifies and unpacks outright racist material and cultural appropriation in the very first Pagan books, contemporary authors, and publishers of the magazines Magical Blend, PanGaia and Circle Magazine (Circle Sanctuary). Thank you again for taking on this important work. Pegi Eyers, author of "Ancient Spirit Rising."ReplyDelete
This is spot-on and just the tip of the iceberg. One of my dearest friends is an honest to G-d actual First Nations shaman and we love poking fun at and educating others on what Llewellyn seems to have no issues with putting on the market, regardless of what is being stolen or by who. I am a Yemenite-Mexican descendant of Spanish Kabbalists (it's a long story but to make it short, I'll just say "Spanish Inquisition" and move on) and having to see what they think Kabbalah is - and Jewish practices and traditions in general - is nothing short of inaccurate, mortifying, and gross AF. Don't get me started on the brujeria - my great grandmother is the real deal and seeing what Llewellyn peddles as 'authentic' in any category, especially from the practices of POC cultures, is disgusting and laughable. Not to mention their continued propping up of known appropriative racists like Aleister Crowley and the racist, antisemetic Thelema and Heremtic Order of the Golden Dawn. Or even H.P. Lovecraft, whose cat was named...just Google it. I'll wait.ReplyDelete
It's thanks to these publishing companies who continue to sell this nonsense that I'm constantly having to re-educate people - and even endure verbal harassment from individuals in the various pagan denominations - on the racist practice of stealing cultures and their magical traditions on a weekly basis. It's exhausting. Especially having to explain to entitled white girls that my ancestors died for the aesthetics they like and that I'm "gate-keeping" my culture because it's my gate to keep. Trying to protect my heritage and tell people about the real stuff and white folks think they already have my language and culture because another white person who can't even speak Hebrew is doing everyone involved in this a massive disservice.
Check out the new https://conjuresouth.com/conjure-south-publications/ for authentic books by practitioners of color/brought up in the culture and traditions about which they write.ReplyDelete