“I need to get the words just right for the spell—yes?” Jessica, a new acquaintance, asked me.
I replied that precision with words will help her accomplish her goal with the spell.
You probably agree that words are important.
I’ve noticed that Wiccans pay close attention to the words “supernatural” and “natural.”
An important point is made in the 3rd Principle of The 13 Principles of Wiccan Belief as assembled by the American Council of Witches:
We acknowledge a depth of power far greater than that is apparent to the average person. Because it is far greater than ordinary it is sometimes called “supernatural”, but we see it as lying within that which is naturally potential to all. – 3rd Principle of The 13 Principles of Wiccan Belief
Wiccans pay attention to the meaning of “supernatural.” They do not feel that magick and spellwork are “supernatural.”
Here is another example of how a definition is important. Recently, Ms. Kennedy Mitchum, 22 and a recent college graduate in Iowa, wrote to the editors at Merriam-Webster to propose that their dictionary reference to “racism” be revised to reflect how systemic racism is in society. The editors have agreed to revise the definition, which had not been changed in decades.
Alex Chambers, an editor at the dictionary, replied and wrote, “…we have concluded that omitting any mention of the systemic aspects of racism promotes a certain viewpoint in itself. … It also does a disservice to readers of all races.”
We, witches, know that words have power. Our words can hurt or heal. It depends on how we use them.
Our words can combine for creating or observing meaning. Our words can be part of a solution.
One story shook me up. It was the updated results of the Doll Test. What is the Doll Test?
In the 1940’s, Drs. Kenneth and Mamie Clark gathered young children for a research study. They placed two dolls (one Caucasian and the other African-American) in front of each child. The researchers asked, “Which doll is the nicest?” [The only difference was skin color otherwise the dolls were identical.]
The startling results included African-American children choosing the white doll as “nicest.” They rejected the black doll as “bad” or “ugly.” 63% of the African-American children said that they would rather play with the white doll.
Many of us might dismiss this result as part of the “unenlightened 1940s.”
In 2009, ABC World News redid the experiment. 88% of the 19 children of color surveyed identified with the black doll.
However, still in 2009, with President Barack Obama in the White House, 47% of the black and brown girls said that the “pretty doll” was white.
This “doll test” process was repeated again in April 2014 and the brown and black girls were asked, “Which doll do you want to take home?”–and the girls got into a tug of war over a blond, white doll!
Since I’m Caucasian, I cannot know what it is like to live as a person of color. Still, I’m concerned. I believe that the Goddess comes in all shapes, shades and sizes. They are all beautiful.
For more insight, I asked my friend Crystal Blanton to share her thoughts:
“The influence of racism on black and brown people in this country does not just stop at adults, but also children who are influenced by the over culture without the adequate critical thinking skills or experience to process it. The conditioning that happens for those who are Black in this country goes back for generations, and continues to influence the way that Black culture is created, and how Black people see themselves in relation with the rest of the world. Standards of pale skin, long straight hair, and thin bodies as the definition of beauty are all around us and this influences us from the time that a child can formulate what it is to be a person. Not only is this trans-generational trauma passed on through the lineage, but we are also subjected to it within the media, and mainstream culture.
I am not sure what the Goddess would say to someone who feels less due to the color of their skin. I think this largely depends on the Goddess herself, and the depiction of the Goddess. Most of our mainstream Goddesses are also Caucasian, and do not reflect the black and brown either. If I were talking about the greater spirit of the Goddess, regardless of archetype and pantheon, I would say that she would be concerned with the implications that anyone feels inferior due to characteristics that they are born with. I also think though that she would encourage strength through the challenge and not to take that away. I believe that we, Black people, are often stronger in our resolve because of what we have walked through, and I think that is a part of the Goddess’s plan.
I don’t think that Wicca addresses racism. Some Wiccans and Pagans are doing a lot of work to bring racism into the conversation on a conscious level, so that we can use that awareness to combat it. But I think that the foundation and structure of Wicca itself was fashioned as a Eurocentric construct without the consideration that multicultural, or multifaceted individuals would be a part of this spiritual path. I think it is one of the roadblocks that we need to continue to discuss in our community as a whole.”
I agree with Crystal that having the conversation about supporting all of us—all of us beautiful people with various colors, sizes and characteristics—is important.
Frequently, in current news, there is a group of people who say that we are in a “post-racial” world in the United States. (By the way, those voicing the opinion are NOT people of color.) They imply that no consideration be shown for people dealing with inequities due to color and ethnicity.
However, when I talk with my friends and my sweetheart (who is a person of color), they say that they have all experienced different treatment due to their skin color. They disagree strongly that the United States is “completely enlightened” at this time.