Help us establish a safe, well stocked Inter-Faith Pagan Library in South Africa where all Pagan paths can be studied in a nurturing environment.
First I want to say congratulations to the campaign on reaching their goal. Providing books to communities in need is an awesome, worthy cause. So a tip of our hats to you guys. :D
But of course, my co-contributor wouldn’t have suggested I look at this if there wasn’t something worthy of pointing out for this blog. There is one teeny, tiny line that stuck out to us: “ In many areas of Africa being named a witch is life threatening.”
“What is wrong with this?”, you might ask. It is true after all. Accusations of witchcraft, demonic possession, and black magic are a major issue in Africa that contributes to the deaths of countless children. The problem lies not in the veracity of this sentence, but rather in the risk of conflation between Africa’s particular issues and modern paganism.
I don’t bring this up as a purely hypothetical problem. I bring it up from firsthand experience… such as local pagans using the death of a Papa New Guinean woman as justification for their bigotry toward Christians. So let’s just set a few things straight.
When people in Africa and other developing nations accuse their neighbors of witchcraft, it has nothing to do with Wicca or other modern pagan religions. No one is dying for wearing a pentacle and saying “blessed be.”
People are dying because they’re gay, they’re albino, they have a mental health issue, they’re poor, they’re wealthy, or they just plain look funny and pissed off their neighbor. People are dying because of Christian pastors inciting fear… and people are dying because of tribal witchdoctors inciting fear. (Note how it’s OK to practice magick as long as you occupy the proper societal role. These issues are more complex than a mere anti-witch stance.)
These aren’t purely problems that came about with the introduction of Christianity into the culture… these are age old superstitions and practices, jealousies, and socioeconomic issues that were there long before, and perhaps exacerbated by recent cultural shifts.
“It was previously believed that these beliefs and socio‐cultural practices would disappear over time, but the current situation indicates the contrary. Far from fading away, these social and cultural representations have been maintained and transformed in order to adapt to contemporary contexts.” [read more]
We do not have a monopoly on the word “witch”, nor do we have one on the concepts of “magick” and “evil”. And while these “witch” killings do share a commonality with European and American witch hunts, such as issues of economic crisis and societal instability mired deep in ancient superstition, we do these cultures an injustice by whitewashing these struggles into something interchangeable with the struggles of Western paganism.