BALTIMORE — In a year’s time, our collective Pagan, Heathen and polytheist communities are offered countless opportunities to come together in person in order to celebrate, educate, worship or just to connect. These eclectic and wide-spread events consist of everything from indoor weekend conferences, day-long symposiums, and seven-day camping festivals to picnics, concerts, and small community gatherings. Some of these events provide a space for a vast diversity of programming, such as Pagan Spirit Gathering, Paganicon, or PantheaCon. Others are more focused in their theme, mission and service, such as Trothmoot, Merry Meet or HexFest. One of the newest such events, which was just announced in May, is the day-long gathering called Dawtas of the Moon.“Dawtas of the Moon is a collective of seven women who have joined together to send out the call to all women of color who are witches, shamans, priestesses, oracles, diviners or healers to convene and uphold the indigenous ways of our foremothers,” explained the organizers in an email interview. (Click here for the full unedited interview.)
The Event Brite page reads, “The time has come to make sure our voices are heard. The time has come to step out of the back room. The time has come for us to connect, grow, learn, heal, and share our knowledge and sisterhood energy.”
The seven organizers are An L. Kenion, Ayanna Barmore, Shirleta McKann, Omitola Yejide Ogunsina, and the three women that make up Magic Moja: Bree Hall, Lola Hall and Selissa Brown. Kenion, also known as MoonLight Star, describes herself as a shaman and healer among other things. She said that she was born from “a long line of spiritual workers: seers, sages, medicine women, oracles, diviners, hoodoo practitioners.” Barmore describes herself as a “free spirit,” saying that she “greets the world with an open heart.” She is an ancestral-led healer and doula specializing in ritual practices. McKann is a holistic sensual healer whose mission is to bring women back in balance with their feminine energy.
Omi Yejide Ogunsina, known as Mama Omi, is listed on the event site as the primary organizer. She is a an “aborisha on the path to priesthood in the Ifa Spiritual tradition of the Yoruba people (Isese Agbaye).” Among her multitude of experiences and roles, Mama Omi describes herself as a “womb shaman, reiki master, meditation teacher, womb yoga instructor, psychic and medium.”
The final three organizers make up a group called “Magic Moja,” which is an “initiative created […] through the guidance of [their] ancestors.” Moja (pronounced Moy-ya) is Swahili for “one.” As the three women explain, “We are here to assist in the reawakening of the Divine Feminine in melanated women. By doing so this also helps to heal and uplift our melanated men to the Divine Masculine.” Magic Moja “wants [their] people to be balanced on an emotional, mental, social, physical and spiritual level through the restoration and practice of ancient African principles. We don’t want to just merely survive. In this world it is our birthright to thrive.”The seven women came together to create the Dawtas of the Moon event after Mama Omi had a vision of a “Black Witches Convention” in a meditation. MoonLight Star said that, in this meditation, Mama Omi was “surrounded by generations of women, some she knew and others she didn’t. The only words she heard was ‘It’s time!’ From there, she approached other sisters who are now working with her to plan the convention. They fell in love with the idea.”
That phrase, “it is time,” was repeated in the interview multiple times, as it is on the website. When asked what that means exactly and why “it is time,” Mama Omi said, “Each of us involved in this project have women coming to us who are ready to learn. We have more women of color who are moving away from traditional religion and want to heal mind, body, and spirit. More women are also coming out and boldly using the word Witch, Wise Woman, Shaman, Healer. Many women want to learn from other women of color.”
MoonLight Star said, “We are being guided by Gaia, Mama Earth however you want to call her. She is demanding the harmony to be returned to this planet. The energy shifting demands the respect of those who inhabit this earth to adhere to the Universal Laws which this planet is governed under. Everyone needs to hear the call, however women of color are the first mothers and hold the keys to ensure the harmony is being brought forth.”
Barmore agreed, but added, “The time was actually generations ago. I feel that the inter generational wounds are being healed and it is time to come together. It has been time. We’re late.”
In the interview, the women emphasized that the goal is to demonstrate that there is a sisterhood of like-minds and that “woman of color are not alone in their [spiritual] journey.”
MoonLight Star said, “When An and Omi do their weekly blog shows with Divine Wisdom Radio, [they] often hear our sisters speak on the fact that they don’t have other sisters in their area to connect with and they feel alone. By coming together, we hope to create a time for sisters to create lasting connections with sisters so they no longer have to feel alone.”
Like many practitioners of minority religions that have communities spread out around the country and even the globe, the organizers agree that social media has been very beneficial. However, they also said that “there is nothing like actually coming together and holding each other and being able to see someone’s eyes.” Dawtas of the Moon is an attempt to create that opportunity for a “coming together” in real time and real space.The women are calling this coming together a ‘coven,’ which is a term typically reserved for small groups of Witches. We asked about the reason behind the use of the term. They said, “While the word coven may be generally applied to a small group, to Mama Omi it also implies a group that comes together as a community and even in some cases with a sense of family. […] Since we are focusing on sisterhood and those who embrace the term “Witch” it only seemed appropriate to use that word.”
Despite the focus on the word ‘Witch’, the event is not limited to practitioners of a specific type of Witchcraft or those who identify as such. The organizers said, “Some [attendees] will come from the African Traditional Religions such as Ifa, Akan, Kemetic, Vodun. Others will may not be part of those particular traditions and work with Hoodoo and other earth based religions.” They said that the purpose is simply to come together. Both the seasoned practitioner and the newbie are welcome.
When asked whether the event was conceived as a private event limited only to women of color, Mama Omi said, “Yes, the event does focus on women of color. This was intentional.” She added, “We are not banning white women; it is a public facility. However, we do ask anyone who is not a person of color to understand that these are women who are Africans living in diaspora, indigenous Native Americans, and we identify as such.”
Mama Omi went on to explain, “There is not much out there for women of color to be able to come together in a safe space and discuss their spiritual journey especially when it is not connected to Christianity or Islam. Because women of color are not able to connect openly, it causes great distress, depression, loneliness, and a lack of sisterhood.
“All of the women involved are spiritual healers and some are womb healers. The one thing we constantly see are women who are not connected to their own feminine energy due to a variety of trauma. […] By bringing black women together, you are creating a community of shared experiences, healing, awareness, and sisterhood. While a lot of us have attended events with white women, there is still nothing like gathering with your sisters and feeling free to be yourself and hearing each other’s experiences and fully relating to them.”
Barmore added, “My upbringing was in the AME Church. When my spirit was calling for something more, it was my childhood friends of non-color that understood my need for more. As I have grown into accepting myself for who I am and what I do, I feel that I was able to heal because of the people in my community that looked like me, acted like me, understood what it is to be tossed aside by your family because of your Truths. Women of Color have very few safe and sacred spaces… there are now many sacred spaces for women, Native American women, etc… but very few for women of color.”
As for men, the organizers said that they are also welcome to attend, but they must also show respect for the event’s mission. The women added, “We hope that the men [who attend] gain an even deeper awareness of the value of the embodiment of the goddesses they have living in their home.”
Dawtas of the Moon aims to give women of color a chance to gather with those of like mind and like experience, and to afford these women the freedom of voice. This idea was another underlying current in the interview. As they explained, not only do women of color, specifically Witches, have few chances to meet together, but they also have fewer opportunities to be heard beyond their own small circles. When asked what they might say if given a global microphone, here is what three of the women said:
Mama Omi: We are not sinners, we are not Satan worshipers. We are women who have chosen to return to our traditional indigenous way of life. We have chosen to honor the Divine Feminine and honor our connection to nature.
Barmore: It is time for you to listen to us, and to take heed. To my sisters, within you is everything that you have prayed for. You are your own manifestation. It is time to do the work.
MoonLight Star: The world needs to hear, feel and truly understand that we are present regardless of our battered history. We have been denied the right to be powerful due to lack of understanding and misplaced fear. We as women or color or indigenous women only want peace to be free.
Dawtas of the Moon is scheduled to take place Saturday, October 29 as many Witches and others are preparing for religious and cultural ancestral festivals, such as Samhain. When asked if this timing was happenstance or purposeful, MoonLight Star said, “The time seemed right. It was in alignment with so many things […] the new moon, Samhain, hallows eve, all souls day; it felt more than right to have a gathering of this magnitude. We will being doing a lot of ancestral work to bring in harmony.”
They aren’t concerned that the holiday weekend will lower attendance. MoonLight Star said, “Within the community a lot are solitary. We have no coven or are informally practicing. This is a chance for all of us to come together and share in the energy and create new practices and rituals.”
Dawtas of the Moon is conceived as an annual event that will grow in size and give strength, support and connection to community year after year. The inaugural gathering will take place October 29 in Gwynn Oak, Maryland at the Wisdom Book Center. Current speakers include Iyalosa Osunyemi Akalatunde, Queen Mother Imakhu, and Iyanifa Alase Olori Oyadele. A luncheon will be catered by the Grind House Juice Bar and Market, a vegan restaurant in Baltimore. More presenters and workshop facilitators will be added over the coming months.
After all is said and done, Mama Omi would like attending women to take away this message: “Be you authentic self and be bold with it. ” Barmore added, “I would hope that my sisters understand that they are no longer alone. That I am here for the conversations, the rants, the healing, the loving and growth. To know that after the convention that we are family, and that I am here for you if and when you may need me. We are all that we need.” And MoonLight Star agreed, saying “They are being welcomed back to the beginning. We have always held space for them.”
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[Correction 6-29 11:34 am: The original article was adjusted from its original form to replace a three sentence summary of the statements of inclusion with the exact quotes as found in the original interview. We have also included the full unedited interview.]