Some Black Women Are Turning To Spirituality To Reclaim Traditions

More and more Black women are turning towards spiritual practices in modern times. Not only are they having magical meetings and reading the stars, but they're creating media about the mystic while tying in their cultural and artistic heritage, according to NBC News.

The percentage of Black people who identify as spiritual but not religious rose from 19 percent in 2012 to 26 percent in 2017, according to Pew Research Center. That's roughly the same percentage of Americans overall who also identify this way.

But why are some Black women turning to the spirituality? Yvonne P. Chireau, the chair of the religion department at Swarthmore College, said it's the desire to heal themselves and their communities. NBC News said second-wave feminism and the New Age movement faced criticism for "sidelining and appropriating women of color."

“Black women seem to have more of what I would call an orientation to the therapeutic, and that has been consistent,” Chireau said. “It’s not just about women’s power and witchcraft, and all these wonderful things that the white feminists were about. For almost every Black woman that I know who’s involved in any of these traditions, it comes down to the purpose of this work is ultimately about healing — and not just bodies but healing spirits.”

As noted earlier, there is also an appeal with becoming closer to one's heritage. Black Americans historically weaved in aspects of African spirituality with Christianity, creating new traditions in the community. Movies, TV shows and other popular media have painted traditional African religions in a bad light, however. NBC News argued that it was "a reflection of the way these spiritual practices were regarded in larger society."

“We didn’t know anything about African religions, which is where it all starts, right?” Chireau said. "Those who practiced these faiths were often shown as 'awful, pagan, idol-worshipping heathens who happen to be Black, and so you can rationalize enslaving them.'"

Now, Black women are connecting with tarot cards, voodoo, folk magic, astrology, Goth culture and more to find different meaning in life. Take actress Rachel True's new tarot deck and guidebook, True Heart Intuitive Tarot. The set was released last month with a multicultural angle to it. True said she studied tarot most of her life and wanted her recent work to reflect the diversity of New York City.

“I wanted it to be representative of the world around us,” she said. “I just wanted to have as many skin tones and flavors as we could possibly get in there, and I’m happy about that because I know, for me, when I was reading books and looking at decks, they were all very homogenous.”

Tarot cards gained popularity in the 15th century, but are used today for divination and to reflect on life. "Most established tarot decks have a European aesthetic, making it difficult for people of color to connect with them," according to NBC News. Fans of True's collection even said this is the first time they purchased a metaphysical product by a Black person.

Then there's Mya Spalter, who was born to a Black Catholic mother and a white Jewish father. She said that neither of her parents emphasized religion in her life, making her free to explore spirituality and her love of nature. She also worked at New York's oldest occult shop.

Spalter's experience culminated into her 2018 book about the experience and basics of witchcraft, Enchantments: A Modern Witch’s Guide to Self-Possession. "Spalter’s book not only demystifies witchcraft but also sends the message that one can be a practicing pagan using common household ingredients such as salt, lemon and olive oil—a contrast to the Instagram witch aesthetic where photos of altars with expensive crystals, feathers and stones get thousands of likes," NBC News wrote.

Nowadays, more scholarly and commercial works are being published about Black American healing traditions and spiritual customs. Chireau also noted that she even sees Black women blending these aspects with other mystical elements, like someone probably practicing both astrology and a West African religion called Ifá.

Photos: Getty Images

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