BIPOC & LGBTQ BIPOC+ witches are just trying to heal
Emma Mendez // Contributor
Andrea Alcaraz // Illustrator
Too many people think they know what being a witch is, what they look and act like, who is a “good” witch or a “bad” witch, but trust me when I say that most people don’t know. Although witchcraft and spirituality are experiencing a strong resurgence into the public eye due to feminism, the persecution, demonization, and stigma of witches is far from over. Some witches in parts of the world experience this more severely than others, and privilege dictates how this impacts us. But BIPOC witches, especially those that are also LGBTQ+, are still continuously demonized by mainstream media and the public, are underrepresented, and face racism, queerphobia, and transphobia both outside and within the witchcraft and spiritual community. Not quite welcome or accepted within any community but the one we create for ourselves, and even then, things aren’t perfect.
As a Queer, mixed-Indigenous “mestiza,” “Latinx,” and Mexican-Canadian, growing up in my Catholic household was strange to me. For twelve years, I recited my nightly prayers, went to church here and in so-called Mexico, visited the Basilica of La Virgen de Guadalupe, prepared for and did my first communion, etc. I followed the imposed tradition of being Catholic. My experience isn’t exactly that different, so why am I and so many other BIPOC people, especially women and femmes, witches?
Witchcraft, spirituality, and Brujeria to me and many other BIPOC and BIPOC LGBTQ+ witches, has always been about reclaiming our power, healing ourselves and our ancestors, as well as extending that to our communities. While some of us are taught our traditions from parents and elders, a lot of us have to go the extra mile to reconnect and reclaim; for me, it was the latter. I felt no connection to Catholicism or organized religion. I felt hollow, as if I had lost something. As I grew older, I learned the reality of my history and that my family was Catholic because of the violence of Spanish colonialism. As I learned that my Indigenous ancestors were persecuted for their spiritual practices and converted to survive, I knew that I needed to honour and connect to my ancestors so our lineage could begin to heal from the centuries of colonial trauma.
It’s been almost four years since I really started walking this path, and still, I haven’t been able to find a community in so-called BC. I’ve tried and tried again, joining local Facebook groups, seeking out local events, all in hopes of becoming a part of an in-person community eventually, but nothing. All I’ve been able to come across is white Wiccan-centered witch spaces, riddled with blatant cultural appropriation and failure to recognize the damaging narratives and actions perpetuated by “enlightened” people. It’s the first thing I see when I enter these spaces. I’ve had to look outside the local community to find my safe space, and although it’s virtual, I feel incredibly blessed to have come across the powerful and kind witches I have. They may be thousands of miles away, but they give me hope, love, empowerment, and a reminder that I’m not alone.
BIPOC witches—especially LGBTQ+ BIPOC witches—and spiritual practitioners have historically been severely persecuted, demonized, and in many ways still are. We are only deemed “acceptable” (in theory) within the witchcraft and spiritual community if we practice European (or heavily European influenced) spirituality and witchcraft, like Wiccan practices. Yet even then, we are pushed out, told we don’t belong. But when we choose to reclaim our ancestral practices, to come back to our roots, our power, we are portrayed as exotic, evil, “savage,” “uncivilized,” the list goes on. Only to then find our practices, our traditions, being exploited, twisted, used and claimed by the very white people who demonize us. Our traditions and practices are whitewashed, stolen, then sold right back to us. And to someone like me, who doesn’t have access to much knowledge on my own ancestral practices, sometimes it’s all I can find. To say it’s a slap to the face is an understatement. We deserve to be able to reclaim our practices in peace, without judgement, and without fear.