“What are the words you do not yet have? What do you need to say? What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you will sicken and die of them, still in silence?”Audre Lorde
We walk a strange road together, you and I. Healers and witches and spiritual seekers, we are united in our journey and our quest: to find the deepest expression of our authentic selves. We seek the truest relation with the Universe, and all the wonders it contains. We have stood at the bounds and edges of what is acceptable in society and culture, glanced over our shoulders, and stepped out into a strange land without a map.
That’s what it felt like when I first considered becoming a witch. The longer I explore these lands, the more maps I find, but each of them was made with a different compass than my own. For too many years, I lived by the maps I was given that I had not made.
The path I crave is my own. Here is my hand, extended to you- Will you walk with me? Not down a road of my making! Will you join me in the radical act of laying our own paths, together?
This is no small feat, my loves. We are surrounded by voices telling us that “you are all you need” and we need to do what feels right to us. And in many ways this is true. What these folks will not tell you is we have been indoctrinated by cultures with their own ancestral trauma. And we have inherited this trauma.
It sounds so simple – “I am all I need.” But what do I mean when I say “I”? How many generations of ancestry, and how many kinds of ancestry are expressed in me?
There is the blood and bones of me – physical histories distilled into muscle and movement, the pumping of my heart and the ebb of breath in my lungs. Generations, hundreds and thousands of hearts pumping blood in rhythm, their future hopes distilled into each life born until I stand before you, carrying them within me.
And there is the history of familial culture – the values and lore that are integral to our concepts of belonging. Our family, our early caretakers, were our models for community – for good or for harm. This, my beloved, is the root of our shadow work. I carry the stories of triumphs and losses as a manual for survival. Conscious or not, I am the fruit that holds the seeds from my family’s best attempts at existence.
I contain the stories our culture infuses into all of us, the narratives of power and love and worth that are embedded in the media we consume, and in the conversations we have with friends and lovers and family. We have been seeded with cultural values, and they are watered and fed within us so that we become a garden, and we harvest what we did not choose to plant.
I am all I need. I need to find what feels right for me. But what if my choices exist in a body and mind that has been colonized? The breaking/turning point after the setup.
It’s strange to begin the path of trusting your intuition, isn’t it? We read about established psychics and witches, we see them in fiction and media, and we never really see them question themselves. How do I know what I know without knowing how I know it? Before I can trust my intuition, I must first learn to know its voice inside me, along with all the other voices.
Colonialism, in order to be successful, must destroy the connections to land and ancestors to replace them with the invader’s values. Indigenous culture is connected through belonging to the land, through intimate relating over generations. All of us, in our lineages, were once indigenous.
There is an interpersonal manifestation of colonialism, the fruit of supremacy’s roots: gaslighting. From parent to child, and lover to lover, from those in power to their subordinates, the most effective means of supremacist power structures is that of gaslighting. Denying someone’s internal reality to assert one’s own interpretation is colonization of the relational structure, the colonization of our minds.
Before we can truly trust our own intuition, we must ask ourselves: How have each of us experienced the severing of our connection to ourselves, and by what means?
“It’s not the world that was my oppressor, because what the world does to you, if the world does it to you long enough and effectively enough, you begin to do to yourself.”James Baldwin
As a child, I saw spirits. In my memories, they are slightly transparent, but in full color, and I could describe them in detail. My caregivers’ responses to me were dismissive, and as empathic as I was, I understood that these adults who enabled my belonging and survival were deeply uncomfortable with my accounts. I learned not only that telling adults I saw spirits was a problem, but seeing them at all was a problem. So I did what a deeply sensitive child does: I put away that which upset my caregivers.
In social settings, we, the seekers and intuitives, are faced with a special kind of gaslighting. Do I share what I know, without knowing how I know it, and risk becoming an outcast? By the time I was nine, I had learned to be silent about my knowing. When I was sixteen, I worried that I was crazy. But my knowings always came true – sometimes a few months later, or a few years, but I could no longer worry I was crazy. I worried that I would be Cassandra, the prophet driven mad because she could see what was coming but no one would believe her. I was not afraid I was inherently insane, but that the severance of myself from my community would make me so.
For some of us, some rare and lucky few, we were encouraged by the adults in our lives, but most of us learned early on that our gifts were not gifts at all. They became the tools of alienation – first used against us by others, and then by ourselves. This is the gaslighting of the intuition, when gifts become weapons and we bear the weight of them within ourselves.
We must meet again our muzzled intuition. We learn to recognize it, and doing this requires a level of trust that colonial society has actively destroyed in us. By constantly supplying us with the messages of “needing more resources” we learn that we are not enough. We are taught that happiness and contentment comes from whatever our society dictates – and what society tells us we need is what will benefit the powerful.
Until I find the roots and the bones of a practice, I will not know how it will come to fruition in my life. As we step out into the wild places, as you and I leave the edges of our accepted societal beliefs, we must do a very special kind of shadow work: decolonization. When we began our path towards deep authentic connection with Spirit and the Universe, we began the work of becoming, again, indigenous to ourselves. To come home into ourselves, into true, authentic, full humanity.
We choose to embody the spiritual realities around us, and by doing so reject the assertions of colonial society- that the powerful have the authority to dictate what reality is for us all. But there is the personal colonization that we may unconsciously enact; the burden of supremacist values which implicitly colonized us. I must reject those values and embody the belief in my own sovereignty.
Maybe we didn’t set out to become revolutionaries, but the path of authenticity is nothing less. In the face of generations of power structures that enshrine domination and extraction, we, the witches and healers, consciously reject this trauma. Here is the beginning of our work.
Thich Nhat Hanh said “If the practice is correct, if the practice is good, you do not need five or ten years, just a few hours may be enough to produce transformation and healing.” This principle is applicable to the practice of colonization, in which case the outcome is not healing, but the deep severance from ourselves. But it is also applicable to re-indigenization to ourselves: if we consciously address the places where we carry colonialism and supremacy, healing and transformation can occur swiftly. Trust, my loves, that your heart and soul are wired for authentic humanity, even if we have not seen this embodied in our communities.
“Until we make the Unconscious conscious, it will direct our lives and we will call it Fate.”Carl Jung
This is my goal, as we walk together through this column: To name the undercurrents of colonization within us, and within modern witchcraft. To make the unconscious, conscious. Modern witchcraft has prioritized the narratives of supremacy, and I understand and accept this. But I refuse to embody the values of my oppressors, no matter how well-meaning they may have been. I am a witch, and my fullest manifestation is beyond the systems that rejected us. I do not need to carry their values, nor ask for legitimacy in their eyes.
What practices and traditions of magic have we been denied, because they were practiced by those who were deemed unacceptable by supremacist standards? What practices and traditions have been appropriated by colonization, because the folk who practice them are not deemed sovereign? What power and what wisdom lies beyond the boundaries of colonial supremacy? We may have left society’s accepted values behind, but they have been carried with us. We have inherited them from our teachers and predecessors who unknowingly embedded them into our practices. We will carry this as ancestral trauma, until you and I consciously reject it.
Naming is an act of sovereignty. It is energy work, and oh, my loves, it is magic. Come with me- into an act of transmutation and alchemy that has the power to heal our hearts and reveal a path of our fullest manifestation. Together, we can explore the depths of our practices, and the foundations we have built them upon.
Begin by listening to the voices of doubt in your head – what do they say? There is a distance between listening to them and believing them, but this distance must be slowly pried open. Begin by intentionally breathing, when you have doubts. Choose to listen to all the voices within you, one at a time. Affirm yourself. “I trust my intuition. I trust my heart. My body is a sacred gift.” Build your own chant of affirmation and trust, because you are sovereign within yourself.
Observe the sensations that register your emotions and your intuition. All of us perceive our deep knowing differently, and the only way into authenticity is to explore and observe ourselves. Coming home to our bodies, just as we are, is its own act of revolution.
All of these, as first steps, sound simple. But it is the beginning of awareness that will be the foundation of our work. Our practice carries within it the stories that built it, and if our practice is good, a few hours can bring about transformation.
As we walk together, I invite you into a space of communal sovereignty and authenticity. I am a seeker like you, and I crave only one thing: our freedom from all that has held us back. I set the intention that this is a space of love and transformation, and that the work we do here belongs to each of us. May we walk together, you and I.