Column: Conjured Bodies, Transgressive Witchcraft, and the Politics of Resistance

Guest Contributor —  February 11, 2017 — 20 Comments

[This month’s featured guest columnist is Lou Florez-Tanti. Also known as Awo Ifadunsin Sangobiyi, Florez-Tanti is an internationally known Spirit worker, medicine maker, priest, activist, and artist who has studied with indigenous communities and elders throughout the globe. Florez-Tanti grounds his teachings and practice in the idea that connectedness to ourselves and our physical, emotional, spiritual, and environmental landscapes is a fundamental necessity for any long lasting change to occur. He holds that through creating these living, dynamic relationships we become conscious of the inherent power available to us in every second of our lives.]

befunky-design2

Finding a movie for a group of leftist, working class, gender queer, Latin American witches is a challenging task on a good day, but with five bucks between us and no working transportation, it meant that we were sneaking into the UC Boulder student union while trying not to get caught. The choices were limited to either Mona Lisa Smile (2003or The Examined Life (2008) [i], which is a documentary by Astra Taylor comprised of interviews of eight current philosophers and the central concepts that inspire and animate their work. Needless to say, The Examined Life was the best fit and gave us endless hours of discussions and debates over a plate of french fries at the twenty-four hour IHOP next door.

610ICop67mL._SY445_

Judith Butler, who is one of those eight philosophers interviewed, has been at times both an intellectual crush and an unhealthy obsession. Her work challenges the essentialized notions of gender and sexuality, as well as gesturing toward a methodology for the interrogation of cultural signs and symbols that are taken as innate reality when unquestioned.

As a witch, rootworker, priest, and diviner my world is the semiotic, the study and uses of signs and symbols, and their interpretation. Magic as a practice and discipline is, at its most fundamental, a vehicle through which semiosis occurs. It offers a multitude of tangible, elegant possibilities that unfold through the subtle construction of relationships between interdependent entities and energies – signs and symbols that when aligned become a new manifested reality.

On screen, Butler paraphrases another philosopher, Deleuze, who has asked “what can a body do?”[ii]. This concept has been an ongoing theme in my own work and practice over the last decade. It throws into question not only what is a body, in terms of the intersectional and multidimensional nature of identity, identity politics, and the physical boundaries between the self and “others,” but also how these numerous bodies, which we have within our singular selves, enact their existence in the worlds we inhabit.

Since the election and its after math, the question of “what can a body do?” has been at the forefront of my thoughts; not only in terms of accessibility and privilege within the current political climate, but also in what roles our magical bodies play in resisting the normative discourse of who we are as American peoples. The roots of earth-based spirituality and specifically Pagan and Neo-Pagan teachings center themselves in the practices of our individual and collective ancestors, and how they engaged these worlds within their lifetimes.

After looking at historical ethnographies and interviews within Hoodoo and Rootworking communities of the South, It becomes apparent that these forms of magic were tied to the power dynamics inherently at play within the practioners lives. The magical workings necessitated not only addressing and remedying the specific issue at hand but also contextualizing the problem within the larger systems of power, privilege, and oppression.

An example of these multivalent approaches comes from Harry Middleton Hyatt’s Hoodoo, Conjuration, Witchcraft, & Rootwork [iii].  In this text, he Hyatt is interviewing an informant, who speaks of a working used to stop police interference and brutality in New Orleans:

“Yo’ walk in de woods an’ find yo’ a poplar tree an’ yo’ don’t want it tuh be – well, it couldn’t be all de way no larger den [a] chair post [leg], an’ de end would have to be smaller de time de day yo’ cut it down, three feet long. Turn de big end down an’ yo’d walk along wit it as ’twas a walkin’ stick. Yo’ git home an’ yo’ bo’ yo’ a hole in de ground up unto dat knot dere [demonstrates]. —- (Up to the big bone in the wrist.) • nat dere.

Yo’ apply dat stick in dat hole an’ yo’ name dat stick whatevah laws [policemen] dat dere wus in de city, “Dis is Mr. So,-an’-So, an’-So.” An’ yo’ drive it an’, “Dis is Mr. So,-an’-So, an’-So.” An’ drive it. Call de names of de city, ah mean de laws, until yo’ drive dat stick down in de ground, clear down in de ground. An’ aftah yo’ git dat stick down in de ground, den yo’ would read de 35th Psalms of David, “Plead mah cause, 0 God, to dem dat’s drivin’ me. Please fight against dem dat fight against me.”

An’ jes ‘ plant it out whare no one could tell whare it wus, but chew want it tuh be on de outside of de gate, not de inside. Let ’em go downtown and 24 hours aftah it is in de ground – let ’em go downtown or wherevah dey wanta, an’ put de laws behin’ ’em. De law will come to yore gate an’ call yo’, if yo’ not standin’ out dere, an’ ast yo’ did yo’ sell any whiskey. ”No suh.”

Reversing Candle against immigration policies [Photo Credit: L. Florez]

Reversing Candle against immigration policies [Photo Credit: L. Florez]

As we stand at the threshold of a presidency that seeks to “make America great again” by reverting society and our liberties to a McCarthy era world view in which narcissistic nationalism and unchecked power was used to subvert, silence, and destroy difference, it is time to reawaken and remember the voices of our transgressive ancestors. Our magical bodies and our political bodies are inexorable linked in as much as every magical act grants us an inherent opportunity for the transformation of ourselves and our environments in its most poignant form.

Magical action requires us to first recognize the world as it truly is without illusion, artifice, or self-deception and then to call into existence a new vision, or way of being which is divorced from restriction and all forms of domination. Political engagement becomes the form through which magical action manifests to not only resist the imperialist, white supremacist, capitalist, patriarchy, but to also become liberated from it. It becomes our duty as medicine holders and Witches to interrogate the government-employed signs and symbols that seek to normalize oppressions and to work our spirits and magics in order to enact new visions and possibilities for our world and the worlds that are yet to be birthed.

NOTES:
[i] The Examined Life. Dir. Astra Taylor. Sphynx Productions: 2008.
[ii]  Deleuze, Gilles “What Can a Body Do?” Expressionism in Philosophy: Spinoza. Zone Books: New York, 1990.  pp. 217-235.
[iii] Hyatt, Harry. Hoodoo, Conjuration, Witchcraft, & Rootwork. First Edition. Self-published, 1935. pp.1253-1254.

*   *   *
The views and opinions expressed by our diverse panel of columnists and guest writers represent the many diverging perspectives held within the global Pagan, Heathen and polytheist communities, but do not necessarily reflect the views of The Wild Hunt Inc. or its management.

Guest Contributor

Posts

  • Hecate_Demetersdatter

    Thank you for this well-written and very interesting discussion. Reawakening and remembering our ancestors seems especially important to me in this work.

  • My ancestors came from Germany, England and Ireland. When you speak of using black magic and evil intent to “resist White supremacy” what exactly do you mean by that? White folk are a fast shrinking, and much hated world minority. Many leftists equate any White person who refuses to swallow the progressive leftist agenda as “nazi or White supremacist”. Many leftists truly believe that the only good White person is a self hating White person. So what exactly is your agenda here? I say this with an open heart and full sincerity.

    A separate issue is the ethics of using black magic to attack what you perceive as enemies. Use of negative thought forms and rituals to attack “enemies” is a fact of life in the spiritual world, but are you ready for the blow back that will happen if/when your evil intent comes back at you? Is this not “Witchcraft 101”? Whatever you send out comes back at you magnified three fold.

    • Not all witches adhere to the Threefold Law. My own religion has no such ideology. Kemeticism has cursing as part of its history as well.

      • Thinking that “not adhering” to a particular practice or belief shields you from the effects of your actions is spiritual immaturity. As I said in my post, casting evil intent or as you call it, cursing, is not unusual. But the deeper mysteries make it clear that those who take such actions pay a price.

        • Baruch Dreamstalker

          You are simply asserting that your spiritual understanding is superior to Revika’s. We don’t generally do that here, and when someone does they usually get called on it.

          • If I have offended or been rude, I offer sincere apologies. But there is no such thing as equality when it comes to spiritual mastership. She replied to me. I entered into a conversation with her. This is the very essence of mastery. We learn that way. I am learning some things from you and her. Perhaps someone reading this might be learning something from my comments. It is all good.
            PS – I notice you have me blocked. Why are you entering into this exchange with me if you have me blocked?

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            I don’t have you blocked. A few days ago I dropped out of a conversation with you when you kept changing the subject.Your claims of spiritual mastery would be far more compelling if you didn’t deal so often in spiritually narrow race-specific spiritual memes.

          • I am open to any compelling vision of spiritual wisdom that does not involve spreading antiWhite bigotry, because indigenous European people are currently being invaded by millions of fighting aged Muslim and African men in their own homelands. As a compassionate leftist, I am sure you have compassion for the indigenous people of Europe.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            If googling the references you offer and pondering the figures you provide supported that invasion meme, I might have. But they don’t. They paint a picture of sadly typical bad behavior at ethnic interfaces, some foolishly PC police practices now being corrected, and some hate crime laws too stringent to be constitutional in America but it isn’t America, it’s Europe. The simple magnitude isn’t there to validate a clash-of-civilizations interpretation. Dealing as I must with a fact-free, post-evidentiary federal administration, I don’t propose to put up with the same thing on TWH.

          • You have me at a disadvantage, Baruch. You keep posting comments at me, but I am unable to click on your Disqus name. You claim that you do not have me blocked but we both know that is not true. Either unblock me or stop interacting. This is a polite request.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            I have not registered my name with Disqus, in keeping with my habit of minimizing my Internet entanglements and my interest in potentially using my legal name to comment on other sites that also use Disqus. Obviously you have no difficulty in replying to my posted comments or in reading my replies to yours, and that is the level of communication I maintain with everyone on The Wild Hunt, my absolutely favorite site.

        • Your deeper mysteries has nothing to do with me, my beliefs, my indigenous tradition nor my ancestors. If it hasn’t affected my ancestors and me, then it has nothing to do with me. It also is simply nonexistent in my tradition. So no, it has nothing to do with “spiritual immaturity”. It’s a different tradition you have nothing to do with. Why would, for example, Christianity’s Hell be for me when I’m not Christian? Same thing applies.

          • OK. Let’s unpack that. You said your religion is Kemeticism, the study and practice of ancient Egyptian rituals. But then you started talking about your Korean ancestry. So when you talk about your tradition, what tradition are you speaking of? The ancient Egyptian religion or your ancestral Korean religion? Please explain. Thanks.

  • Sophonisba

    Whatever inspired ideas you may have presented here, they are invalidated by your admission of theft in your opening paragraph. And it wasn’t even theft for an understandably ethical reason — for food, for shelter, for medicine. It was theft simply for entertainment.

    I value the words of a thief as much as the thief values what he has stolen.

  • This topic is so important and so many witches forget what the root of our lineage comes from – fighting oppression and our oppressors.

    • Is the root of our lineage “fighting oppression and oppressors”? Really? I know my lineage. My spiritual lineage is my genetic ancestral lineage. I honor my indigenous European ancestors by resisting those who undermine and attack my people.

      • Well in my tradition, yes. MY lineage is spiritual, MY lineage is ancestral and inherently connected to my culture and roots. I honor my indigenous Korean ancestors by resisting those who undermine and attack my people, e.g. the racist bigots in America like Trump and his cabinet.

        • OK. Let’s unpack that.
          I assume you are a person of Korean ancestry living in America? Please provide evidence & proof of Trump and his “racist bigots” attacking Korean Americans. I find your comment odd because Asian Americans are consistently in the highest income groups and highest academic achievement in America. Asians immigrants are doing astoundingly well in America! But perhaps I am ignorant of some facts. If so, please enlighten me.

          • Crystal Hope Kendrick

            I’ve read several posts here recently with you making the same antiquated arguments. So now, actual honest questions: Why are you so afraid of people who don’t share your skin color? How do immigrants fleeing their home countries affect you negatively? Do you not understand that race is socially constructed and the definition of race, historically, has changed multiple times? Do you not understand that, historically, people traveled frequently and intermixed regularly?- that if you were to take a genetic swab you’d most likely find that you have some unexpected heritages? How does equal treatment of people of color diminish or threaten you as a person?

  • Revika, are we arguing politics now? I thought we were discussing spiritual issues. What does the Jewish museum have to do with the fact that Asians are doing exceptionally well in America? Please google “American Median Incomes By Race Since 1967 [CHART]”. This is objective, factual data proving that Asians are the highest paid in the US. Sorry, but the facts undermine your leftist victim narrative.