Mixed Roots.

9:18:00 AM

I was born in Los Angeles California, raised in Seattle Washington, my ancestry is Seminole, Santee, English, Scottish, Irish, French, West African, Afro Cuban, and various other bits.  However, I was raised primarily in the Mexican American community, attended  a coastal Northwest tribal school and spent my summers with my Swedish Norwegian descended grandparents who adopted my multiracial mother.  I am America.

I think it's the nature of American mysticism to be eclectic.  I'd wager that the majority of American practitioners of occult arts draw their practice from multiple, distinct cultures.  America was only ever a place of mixing, all of us; Canada, Mexico, the States, South and Central America- that is all a product of mixing.  Where I live, everywhere I look I see people embracing the multiple cultures from which they draw their heritage.  I see people embracing the cultures to which they've been exposed, not necessarily descended from.  I don't see appropriation everywhere I look, I see connections being formed, roots which all come from the same tree finally starting to connect.

I see people reaching out and embracing those who up until recently were always a set apart class of people- the mixed people, the people who couldn't pass for a single race and so occupy a murky territory between acceptance and displacement.  It's a hard line to walk; where is the distinction between embracing your culture and cultural appropriation?  Can a mixed American really appropriate other cultures if the American identity is by its very nature a mixed cultural identity?  How does blood quantum still play a roll in the way we view each other in the New World, and is there always room for syncretic religions as the lines of race and culture become ever more blurred?  I have to wonder...

I have to wonder because I am mixed, I do not belong to any single culture, I represent the whole of American society in a person, like all mixed Americans do. And so I fit in no where and am everywhere.  I was raised on folk religion and mysticism, and that's what I know to be legit and every culture to which I descend or lived among has contributed in an equal share to my animistic philosophies, to my practice.  This is the witchcraft of the New World, people, and we are finally embracing each other openly.

I'm personally thrilled by the rise of black femininity empowerment and black beauty empowerment, riding along the curve of the body acceptance movements, queer sacred spirituality and positive self esteem movements...  All of this is commonly embraced in the pagan community.  All of you who attend festivals and pride events are well aware of the accepting and body-positive nature of modern neopaganism.  Though the image of the skyclad fire dancers are largely not a common sight, the ability to be freely you and feel accepted is part of what really draws women and enlightened men towards esoteric, mystical, pagan and animistic paths; embracing the souls of things, seeing the connection, and the beauty therein.

Well, people are finally starting not only to see the beauty in blackness, but really starting to embrace black femininity and mysticism. The more our cultures integrate and mix and exchange knowledge, the wider the embrace gets, the more people start to change their perceptions of what it means to be empowered, beautiful, woke.  There's a voice, a chorus caroling in the new world of mysticism and esotericism and it's young mixed black women reclaiming their place and identity among the occult and pagan communities.  We're empowering ourselves and each other by joining the call to embrace the earthly beauty of being women, mixed, black.  That's not to say I'm suddenly dancing with the Orishas; I am just what I am, not suddenly a practitioner of any Afro-mystic spiritualities, not any more of less than I ever was.  I'm just finally learning to see the value in those roots of myself and it feels good.

I've been lucky in that I've always been able to embrace my Native, Mixed-European and Latin roots, and have only ever been most familiar with mysticism from these cultural lenses.  I was raised to see the world through the eyes of medicine, Latin-American spiritism and Western European superstition- but I always felt hesitant around the hoodoo of my Southern black roots.  The whole idea of Afro-American syncretic witchcraft was familiar and yet foreign to me.   I didn't feel embraced by black culture or community or friends or family so I never felt too inclined to embrace black American mystic spirituality, or even get too deep into the Yoruba roots of the Latin American witchcraft to which I'd become familiar.  There was a dissonance in the chord of my spirituality that I couldn't ignore as I got older.  When I started to find my voice as a black woman and embrace that part equally to the rest of my roots, I felt a bit more whole, more powerful, far more deeply connected to the spirits than ever before.

Acceptance from the self and the people around you opens doors, crushes boundaries, destroys arbitrary walls.  Maybe I just don't see what's so wrong about respectfully embracing the cultures around you as an American in their spiritual aspects.  It's bound to happen eventually, there are more mixed kids now than ever and WE are the face of  the Americas, WE are the identities of the Americas and WE are the culmination of war, bloodshed, rape, destruction, hatred, justice, love, abolition, freedom, sacrifice, struggle.  We carry the scars of black slaves, indigenous peoples slaughtered in genocide, Irish indentured, English persecuted, immigrants of every shade and variety come to suffer and thrive.  Together.  We are the children of oppressors and oppressed, we are the bloody but tough roots of this land- made strong by winding together the human threads that span the world.  There's some deep magic in those mixed, bloody roots.  Who am I not to embrace that power?

The more we accept not just the roots of our people's spirituality, but the roots of all people to whom we share a broader culture, the stronger this tree gets.  This family tree is all we've got, and us tearing at each other constantly has only ever frayed our collective beauty.  All this hate, all this rhetoric, all these echo chambers filled with voices all trying to sound the same, look the same, be the same.  All these people who want to see us separate into some fruit salad instead of a melting pot, they want to see a world where mixed kids like me don't get to belong anywhere because there are no bridges for us to cross over.

There's nothing beautiful about that to me, the idea of everyone coagulating back into their silly defined lines.  I don't get the luxury, the privilege, of being one race or one culture or one spirituality.  Those of us who are mixed cultured and similarly racially ambiguous don't get the privilege of being accepted everywhere because we can never pass for anything.   I'm around a lot of people these days both melanated and white who want to see us separate things a bit more, they think they're safe because everyone will look like them.  Looks are deceiving. I can see the romance in the idea of unity through homogeneity and sometimes it's nice to be around people you can share some very sensitive cultural and racial touchstones with, but the thing is that isn't the reality mixed raced kids occupy, and we deserve to walk this liminal space between worlds without feeling shut out.   Locking people into boxes and categories; it's not realistic, not in this world.  Those fools have no idea that separation, segregation, isolation- these are the illusions.   They can't see the forest for the trees.

Go embrace your roots, embrace someone else's roots.  I've embraced mine and damn, it feels good in the shade of this broad tree of life.  Especially with things getting heated between us all.

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  1. Beautifully said! As a mixed race person, it's baffling to see ideas of segregation, and cultural exclusivity being passed as progressive thought these days. People so often forget we are ALL the intertwined "bloody roots" of the same tree. Those of us who are mixed are on the outside of that illusion.

    1. Word. It's strange to see the progressive side of the atmosphere take on race in such a backwards way.