“My witchery is hood. I don’t have an expensively decorated, Instagram-ready altar; I don’t worship some appropriated feminine divinity or semi-European Paganism. When I talk about being a witch, my spirituality, or any combination thereof, I’m not talking dark aesthetics or visual trappings of occultism. My witchcraft is carved out of a history rife with appropriation, misrepresentation, and invisibility. I am the witch I’ve made myself.” (READ MORE HERE)
Since the Neo Pagan movement began in Western countries, it’s no surprise that it involves many European deities. However, for those in the West who are interested in connecting with their African roots, or even marshmallows like me who are just interested in African spirituality, sometimes the resources out there can seem sparse and underwhelming. The colonization of African spirituality has also added a negative connotation to things that aren’t negative.
For instance, the portrayal of Voodoo in many movies is often scary, when it doesn’t need to be.
Back in the day, many people with African heritage (such as the people of Haiti) looked to their African spiritual traditions to give them strength and power. Their white colonizers didn’t like this, so they often regarded these traditions as a kind of Satanic or dark magic.
And yet the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans, Marie Laveau, healed numerous people. She was such a skilled healer that many Catholic Churches allowed her to offer her services within their walls.
The truth is that African spiritual traditions, like Yoruba, go back thousands of years and even predate Christianity.
To learn more, check out the resources below:
RESOURCES FOR SPIRITUALITY WITH AFRICAN ROOTS
Child marriage is a problem in the developed world. When girls as young as 11 and 12 (or even younger) are getting married, this increases their risk of complications in pregnancy, and limits their own futures (in terms of education).
A Malawi tribal chief has taken a stand. Theresa Kachindamoto, senior chief in the Dedza District in Central Malawi, made 50 of her sub-chiefs sign an agreement to end child marriage in her area of authority.
“I told them: ‘Whether you like it or not, I want these marriages to be terminated,’” Kachindamoto told the news outlet.
She also made a rule to annul any current child marriages, which resulted in the break up of 850 marriages.
“First it was difficult, but now people are understanding,” she said to the outlet.
This has protected against girls getting pulled out of school.
“I don’t want youthful marriages,” Chief Kachindamoto told U.N. Women. “They must go to school. No child should be found at home or doing household chores during school time.”
In poor, rural regions like the Dedza District, rates of child marriage are particularly high, according to Unicef, and it can be hard to convince parents not to marry off their daughters in exchange for a dowry. Especially parents who feel like they have no other way to escape poverty.
But this is where Chief Kachindamoto comes in.
“I talk to the parents,” she said to U.N. Women last year. “I tell them: if you educate your girls you will have everything in the future.”
“History has it that the colonial masters came with the Bible and the gun, gave the Bible to the Africans, as they pointed their guns at their heads.” — Azizaa
“They took away our spirituality and gave us religion; they banned us from gathering under a tree by the fireside and herded us into churches.”—Wanlov
According to a 2012 Gallup International Survey about religiousity around the world, Ghana is one of the most religious countries in the world. Indeed its the kind of country with a church on every street corner (or maybe four or five). Many of these churches are places where rich pastors prey on the poor. A quick google search of pastors in Ghana will pull up a list of the richest pastors. This expresses a clear message: Christianity is a big business in Ghana (as well as elsewhere in Africa). A fundamental part of this business is poor people going to mass and giving away a substantial part of their income to rich pastors.
These churches also demand that the African people abandon their ancient spiritual practices in favor of the new religion put in place by Western, colonial forces.Yet many people in Ghana still invoke the ancient juju when nothing else works.
In the video a woman is being harassed by two Christian missionaries. When these missionaries run after her, they are confronted by the forces of an ancient and powerful magic.
Egyptian Handbook of Spells Deciphered (Live Science)
How did the Egyptians in the 8th century A.D. cast a love spell, exorcise a demon or subjugate their enemies? A recently translated codex reveals 27 different spells that were combined for form a “single instrument of religious power.” The book was written in the Coptic language, an adaptation of Greek script, at a time when many Egyptians were Christians. In fact, the book contains many invocations that refer to Jesus Christ.
What is interesting is that several of the invocations seem to originate from a group who called themselves “Sethians.” This was a group that flourished in Egypt during the early centuries of Christianity. They held Seth, who they believed to be the third son of Adam and Eve, in high regard. One invocation refers to Seth as the living Christ.
What is interesting is that before Christianity came to Egypt, Seth was one of the chief Gods of Upper Egypt. He was a desert God of war and strength. (He was also demonized in other parts of Egypt).
This Sethian Cult eventually died out, but it is interesting to see how Pagan ideas and Christianity were blended together in the early days of Christianity.
I think some of the articles about this topic are misleading however, because they call the book an “Ancient Egyptian” book of spells. Since this codex was written in the Christian and Islamic Era, I would hardly say that it was “Ancient History.” I’d be more likely to call it Medieval History.
“Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere”
A great note to end the week with, some spiritual brilliance from this internationally known New Orleans poet.
According to her bio, Sunni’s mission is to aid in the awakening, the revival, and the remembrance of our gifts and voices, enabling us to move to a greater space of self empowerment, creativity and actualization.
I noticed the African words in the middle of the poem are names of the West African, Yoruba Gods. I think it’s interesting that she chose to put them in the middle of the poem deliberately. On my blog you can also read more about Yoruba or the Gods of Yoruba.
TEXT OF POEM:
We have not always found comfort in killers.
We have not always found solace being rocked
in the bosoms of those who silently pray
and openly destroy.
No, not always have we mistaken mimicry for mastery
or pretending for knowing
or enslavement for freedom.
But across my memory —-
across my memory marches millions -—
bold, regal, resilient, confident —-
unshackled feet stumping up spirits
to guide us through this fickle material world.
We like sun and moon folk,
universal souls praying our prayers,
singing our songs.
Eshu, Ogoun, Shango, Yemaja, Oshun, Obatala, Oya,
Damballah, Ayida Wedo, Loa, Nkongo, Olodumare and Yami.
We know all of you by name.
We are people of beginnings, of culture, of strength.
Not always have we given into the empty threats
and scare tactics of the powerless ones.
Not always have we allowed the blood of our sons and daughters
to color the streets while we’re walking asleep,
marching to the beat of that siren song.
They’re still wearing their sheets,
with nooses in reach,
showing their teeth and smiling, it seems.
But I hear in the breeze
in the rustle of the trees
and the dangling of the feet,
they say, please, don’t let them ever forget.
You see, not always have we suffered from amnesia.
Not always have we forgotten how to conjure up spirits,
fix up a mixture,
We, like magicians,
god-like vision, we -—
we are people of sight.
So, no, not always have we fallen
for this okie doke
or inhaled the hazardous smoke of the manipulators
or been satisfied with crumbs for meals
our hands have prepared.
Hughes said life for us ain’t been no crystal stair,
but at least the steps are there
to push us up higher,
teach us how to go beyond the destroyer’s disguises,
look them in the eyes and be able to see.
Because what’s surprising when you know the nature of a beast
and especially when they’ve shown the same face for centuries?
So you tell me,
what’s the difference between two sisters in New Orleans
shot point-blank in the back of the head,
and two women bound in their car in Baghdad?
Or government-sanctioned killings in Kenya,
and a sister held hostage in a house in Virginia?
Or poverty in Haiti, poverty in Jamaica,
rape in Rwanda or rape in Somalia?
A sweatshop in China or one in Guatemala?
Or small pox and blankets, syphilis and Tuskegee,
formaldehyde and FEMA, ethnic cleansing and Katrina?
I recall within a speech Dr. King made us aware,
he said injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere.
So they can spare us their drama, huh?
We got the heart of them field working mamas.
We carry the torch of that ancestor fire.
So with every fiber that flutters in our being,
with every find that comes from our seeking,
with every hearing that comes from our listening,
and every sight that comes from our seeing,
we must be faithful, strategic, victorious and free.
Today, when we think of “The Holy Trinity,” we instantly think of “The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit” as found in Catholicism. Yet it is possible that this trinity influenced by another that came a thousand years before. We’re talking about the Egyptian trinity of The Father Osiris, The Mother Isis and The Son Horus. In this blog, I will not say that the Osiris/Isis cult is the same thing as Christianity, but it is very probable that a lot of the ideas from this early trinity later had an influence on the development of Christian ideas.
A BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE OSIRIS/ISIS/HORUS MYTH
I will give you a very brief summary of the Osiris/Isis/Horus myth so that you will understand what is going on in the rest of this article. Osiris was the first son of the Gods. He married his sister Isis and the two became queen and king over Egypt. This was at a time when mankind was corrupt and was in need of justice. It is said that men even practiced cannibalism and human sacrifice before the advent of Osiris and Isis. Perhaps this is an Egyptian metaphor for the depraved state of mankind before civilization.
Osiris’s brother Set was jealous of his power. As a result, he had Osiris chopped up into several pieces and had these pieces of his body scattered throughout the land. Osiris’s wife Isis went on a quest to find the lost pieces of her husband, used her magic to put him back together and then Osiris got his revenge on Set. In later versions of the story, it was their son Horus who avenged his father by killing Set.
A MERCIFUL GOD OF REPENTANCE AND ETERNAL LIFE
I’m going to tell you about a God who was referred to as the “king of kings” and the “Lord of Lords.” He died, but then was resurrected from the dead. With his resurrection he brought humanity the promise of eternal life. This God was referred to as a “Merciful Judge of the Dead.” Am I talking about Jesus? No, I’m talking about a Deity much older, I’m talking about Osiris.
Here are some quotes about Osiris.
Osiris as Lord of Eternity
Hail to thee, Osiris, lord of eternity, king of the gods (Hymn to Osiris)
Lord of Heaven and Earth
O thou lord to whom commemorations are made, both in heaven and in earth. (Hymn to Osiris)
Similarities Between The Pyramid Text and The New Testament: (The birth of Osiris and Jesus)
PT — This is my son, . . . my beloved, . . . with whom I am pleased.
NT — This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.
Osiris takes on a human form.
Here we see that the condition of Osiris has changed; he has taken on the clothes of human form. His spirit was among the gods, but now it has changed to earth. He is exhorted to be careful in his earthly habiliments, that he not exceed the boundary of the earthly form. He could, as God, exceed the limits of the human form he took on voluntarily. Hymn 224:
More on the Merciful Judge of The Dead
Osiris was the God of the Afterlife who humans would confess their sins to in death. When a human died, they would come to the hall of Ma’at (justice) and make the 42 negative confessions, a list of things that they did not do in their mortal life. If the human lived a pure life, they would get to reside in heaven for eternity, and if not, they were eaten by Ammit, a gruesome part lion, part crocodile, part hippo creature. Some legends even say that Ammit would cast the heads of sinners into a Lake of Fire.
Did Egypt Influence Christian Ideas About Heaven and Hell?
If you read The Old Testament, you will find that there is very little mention of Heaven, Hell or The Afterlife. This is a concept that is more elaborated upon in The New Testament. The Christian Lake of Eternal fire certainly relates a lot to the Egyptian Lake of Fire. Heaven, as an eternal paradise for those who are pure of heart is also very similar in both ideologies.
Osiris was referred to as “Chrestos”
Among the days of the early Christian fathers, Jesus was referred to as Jesus the Chrēst. This is an epithet that closely resembles “Chrēstos,” which was also applied to Osiris. It often meant “anointed” or “good.” This was a term that was applied to several deities in Ancient Times.
SIMILARITIES BETWEEN JESUS AND HORUS?
Egyptian myths changed over time, as any myth would over more than a thousand years. Over time, Horus, the son of Osiris, took on many of the characteristics of his father. Where Osiris was originally the one who defeated the evil Set and restored balance to Egypt, Horus eventually took over this role. Horus is the falcon headed son of Osiris and Isis. He was a God of The Sky, Warfare and Hunting.
There have been attempts to say that Jesus was a direct rip off of Horus. However, it has been later found that many of these claims are exaggerated.
Horus was not the result of a virgin birth, he was not crucified and he did not have 12 disciples. However, one thing to note is that depictions of Isis suckling her son Horus were very popular in Rome at the time that Christianity first came about.
A MURAL IN THE ROMAN ERA OF ISIS AND HORUS
THE “REGINA CAELI LAETARE”
This was the early Roman “Madonna” with her son so to speak.
SIMILARITIES BETWEEN THE CULT OF ISIS AND EARLY CHRISTIANITY?
Isis was originally worshiped in Egypt as Queen alongside her brother Osiris. Her name literally means “Throne.” She was the mother of magic, life giver and the one who used her magic to bring Osiris back from the dead. In other words, she was a Goddess of Resurrection. Through the process of Hellenization her worship eventually spread to the Greco-Roman world where her Cult became tremendously popular, especially among women and members of the lower class. The other appeal of the Isis Cult is that it was a universal religion, meaning anyone could join regardless of class or gender.
The Roman emperors were originally afraid of this “Eastern Cult.” Augustus called it “pornographic” and tried to stop it. This is probably because of his antagonistic relations with Antony in Egypt at the time. However, the later emperor Caligula embraced the religion. Temples to Isis were permitted and Isiac festivals became a part of the public and civil calendar.
The Cult of Isis satisfied many concepts that were missing in the Greek and Roman religion. It brought ideas of freeing oneself from moral pollution, reconciliation, equality of the sexes and equality among the rich and poor.
When Christianity later came to the Roman World, it had a similar appeal among women and members of the lower classes. Many of the statues to The Mother Mary were even built upon places where statues to Isis once were. However, in this new Christian Cult, the role of The Goddess was diminished. In the Roman Cult of Isis, The Goddess was arguably the most powerful member of The Trio, since she is the one who had the power of resurrection. Yet as the Romans constructed their official version of Christianity, they replaced The Cult of Isis with Patriarchal ideas that were more fitting to the Roman Public.
Some say that The Cult of Isis was destroyed by the arrival of Christianity, others say that it was absorbed by the new Religion. However, it can’t be denied that The Cult of Isis was an incredibly popular religion in Rome at the time that Christianity arrived. There is no doubt that Christianity wasn’t at least influenced by this very popular Egyptian Cult.
(Update: I recently gave permission to the Gay Life Newsletter to publish this article here)
Radicalization of violence and hatred towards homosexuals is getting worse in Africa. Today it is outlawed in 41 out of 53 African Common Wealth countries. In Sudan and Somalia, one can receive the death penalty for homosexuality. Law makers tried to pass a “Kill the Gays” – or rather a Death Penalty for homosexuality in Uganda as well, but the act was eventually changed to life in prison. Gays are also increasingly under fire in Nigeria. Same sex unions are punished by 14 years in prison.
Lawmakers in Nigeria are calling gays “Un-African” and state that homosexuality is a decadent import from the west.
Anti-Gay Laws: A Western Import
Yet the ultimate irony is that Laws Banning homosexuality are the Western Import – not homosexuality itself. The current Anti-Gay Laws are actually a remnant of British Colonialism, the laws were designed to punish what the British authorities saw as unnatural sex among the natives. Even today, much of the political push towards Anti-Gay laws in Uganda have received massive funding from Christian Evangelicals in America. A documentary published by The New York Times highlights how money from American Missionaries is funding some very dangerous ideology that demonizes members of the LGBT community (Gospels of Intolerance). According to Mother Jones, Uganda has been a hotbed of activity for Evangelicals who have failed to demonize the Gays in their own country (Mother Jones).
Ancient Homosexual Traditions in Africa
Before European Imperialism in the continent, there was a varying degree of Gay Acceptance in Africa depending on the tribe and culture. It is important to remember that there are numerous tribes and cultures in Africa, so we can’t lump them all together as if they were one big country.
For example, there is the Mevengu tradition carried out by the Beti people in Cameroon. Women would gather together and have rituals to celebrate erotic power and the clitoris.
In northern Nigeria, there are the Yan Daudu – men who dress as women, like to braid hair, do make-up and are famed for their playfulness and sexual ambiguity. The phrase “Yan Daudu” itself means sons of Daudu – who is a fun loving, gambling spirit that is worshipped in the Muslim Bori practice. For more than a century, Yan Daudu were tolerated in the Muslim North. Their trance and dancing rituals were associated with poor, marginalized women, sex workers and the disabled. They even sometimes accompanied politicians in their campaigns. Yet now there is a religious revival sweeping the area, and more Yan Daudu’s are findings themselves under attack for their lifestyle.
Further west, in Senegal, there is a minority group of men known as Gor Digen, which means “man-woman” in the native language. These men dress like women and sometimes work as prostitutes. Even back in colonial times, Senegal’s metropolis was famous for its open and tolerant homosexual prostitution market. In the 1930’s a traveler named Geoffery Gorer reported that these “man-women” were a common sight and suffered no form of cultural oppression – other than the fact that they were refused a religious burial. Yet now homosexuality is punishable in Senegal by up to five years in prison.
The Rain Queen
There is a fascinating custom among the Balobedu people of the Limpopo Province of South Africa called “The Rain Queen.” The Rain Queen is a woman who is believed to have special powers, including the ability to control the clouds and the rainfall. She is not supposed to marry a male, but instead has several wives. However, it is not clear whether she has sexual relations with these women or if they are merely her ladies in waiting. Regardless of the technicalities of the situation, this is a custom of same sex marriage that has existed for 400 years and is very obviously not a modern western import.
The Key to Tolerance? Perhaps It’s Time to Embrace Ancient Cultural Wisdom
I think a key to restoring the tolerance and acceptance that homosexuals once experienced in various tribes is for these cultures to embrace their ancient practices and beliefs. While Ethiopia was technically one of the first places to embrace Christianity (a few centuries before the Europeans did I might add) I will say that much of the variants of Christianity imposed in Africa these days are colonial in nature and intent. Evangelical Christianity itself is a very fundamentalist, American bred outlook that is foiling attempts to deal with the AIDS crisis in a sane manner and is throwing gasoline on the fire in terms of demonizing homosexuals.
However, South Africa shines as a beacon of hope, since it is the only country in Africa where Gay Marriage is legal. On April 9th of 2013, two men tied the knot in South Africa’s first official gay wedding. They had a traditional African wedding as well as a Western Wedding. The grooms dressed in their respective ancestral attire – Zulu and Tswana. You can read more about the wedding here.
A documentary in which a Gay British DJ investigates what life is like for gays in Uganda