You cannot separate magic from politics

I’ve been quieter than usual here and on social media this week and last, but not absent. I’ve been rage-scrolling Twitter, reading post after post, watching video after video.

Thousands of them.

I’ve also been talking to people. I’m sharing information that’s crossed my timeline with family and friends, and discussing things like mutual aid, parallel structures, and community organization.

People in my social circles are increasingly-motivated by the news to try a new way of living, because what we have now is not only not working for everyone’s benefit, it’s fundamentally disastrous for far too many.

And the headlines are helping for once! I’m seeing major news outlets print words I never thought I’d live to see.

“American police shoot, kill and imprison more people than other developed countries. Here’s the data”

“Minneapolis lawmakers vow to disband police department in historic move”

“Defund the Police”

That these ideas are being discussed by the general public at all is surprising. That action is actually being taken to implement them is nothing short of mind-blowing.

It isn’t exactly unprecedented, though.

Look to the Haitian Revolution if you want an example which isn’t as well-known to white people in the United States as the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s.

I became aware of it a few years ago, when I exhausted my local library’s small collection of books on the history of New Orleans and Louisana Voodoo. I wasn’t “trolling for tech,” but rather looking to get a “ten-thousand-foot view” of how religion and magic evolved in colonial America. I had no illusions that I’d do more than scratch the surface with the titles available to me, but I didn’t really intend on a deep dive anyway.

But you can’t look too hard at Louisiana Voodoo without looking at Haitian Vodou, and you can’t look at Haitian Vodou without looking at Haiti and its history.

I won’t present any of that history here. Look up Professor Bayyinah Bello and listen to what she has to say on the topic. It’s not my wheelhouse.

None of this is, save that some of my ancestors built this sinking ship, and it’s going to take all hands to build a bigger, better boat for everyone.

But this is a blog about magic, and I can’t close out this post without mentioning something that many (though fortunately not all) of my fellow white, magical practitioners sometimes forget.

You cannot separate magic from politics.

But for the thin, white thread stretching from the Solomonic tradition, to the Golden Dawn and beyond, magic has most commonly been a tool of resistance. It has been performed in the shadows not because of shame, but because of oppression. It has been oppressed not out of some vague notion of righteousness, but because it directly challenged authority. And it has challenged authority because it offers freedom from the “manifest destiny” imposed upon those who practice it.

From the revolutionary metaphysics implied in the working of a spell to change the world, to the use of fortune telling by the otherwise-unemployable to earn a living, magic can almost be described as power for the powerless.

It’s more than this, though.

Magic is culture. It’s how we see the world, the words we use to describe it, and the actions we take within it. It’s what we do, and what we don’t do. It’s what we set aside, and what we bring with us. It’s what we silence, and what we listen to. It’s what we put down, and what we uplift.

Anyone who practices magic in the “West” shares a common history of resistance in the face of oppression. In some traditions, this history is far more tragic and cruel than it is in others.

As a white person who practices magic, it’s not my place to play sorting hat, arranging people according to their suffering. Nor is it my place to offer my own thoughts and feelings about that suffering. Rather, it’s my responsibility to stand in solidarity with the people crying out for change, and my duty to help affect that change in any way I can.

Sometimes magic is candles and conjuration.

Sometimes it’s donating money in support of black lives and communities of color.

Sometimes it’s supporting black-owned, small businesses instead of multi-national corporations with a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.

Sometimes it’s working with others to dismantle the oppressive systems that allow, if not outright create, the injustices that the mainstream is finally talking about.

And sometimes, this time, it’s all of the above.

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