On Darkness & Shadow: A Message to White Witches
Photo by Kiki Robinson
As white person, I hold a responsibility to evolve and develop my racial sensitivity. As an artist and witch, it is especially my duty to actively fight racism in the spiritual community and participate in conversations regarding race. With this in mind, I have a story to share:
On “White” Witchcraft
About a year ago, while I was working a shift at a restaurant, a (white) co-worker approached me and let me know that she had seen my Tarot cards and was interested in dabbling in “white witchcraft”. I cringed. I knew what she meant: magic that doesn’t harm; magic that isn’t too scary or too powerful.
Her statement was wrought with deeper undertones that degrade darkness and witchcraft. I took the statement personally. To my ears, the phrase “white witchcraft” carries a distinct racial charge that frankly offends me and makes me feel uncomfortable. I can’t imagine what this wording must sound like to a witch of color.
There are many types of magic and many types of witchcraft. Many forms of magic stem from white-dominated traditions and many were born with people of color. Some forms of magic are heavy on the rainbow/pastel spectrum and others on the deeper tones. In our world, however, which is super-charged with racism and racial insensitivity (not to mention discrimination against witches), it’s archaic and dangerous to refer to any magical practice as “white” or “black”.
Unfortunately, I breezed over her comment as though it were commonplace to me, in the initial hopes that I wouldn’t scare her away from something wonderful (the craft). If I had it all do to over again, I would have explained to her the distastefulness of her word choice and why. I would have done this instead of cradling her ignorance, and thus cradling myself and my white privilege.
On “Shadow Work”
I embraced magic and witchcraft specifically for the tradition’s ability to wholly and equally include darkness in its healing philosophy and universal understanding.
The phrase “shadow work” is seeing some heavy usage in the woo world, and I’ve noticed that it’s commonly attached to negative connotations. This phrase seems to imply dealing with difficulty, being isolated and managing our lurking inner selves. I find these negative connotations to be as harmful as negative references to darkness. I ask you: why do we refer to difficulty as “dark”?
Darkness as a Healing Modality
My understanding of “shadow work” has everything to do with reflection and recovery. With the moon’s rhythm as my guide, I use moon shadow days (i.e. the dark days of the lunar cycle) to heal and restore. I love seeing the earth’s shadow fall over her shimmering body because it means I get to take a break. The dark days of the lunar cycle call to us to rest and restore. They offer us energetic opportunities to find fresh understanding and personal agency.
Darkness–as in the absence of light–heightens the senses and trains the intuition. It is a fabulous environment for meditation, making love, deep sleeping and sprouting seeds. In space, darkness is simply the absence of light/nothingness, i.e. ultimate potential. In life, darkness allows a tuning in of sorts. Guidance is offered from within as opposed to without.
More to the point: darkness in general is to be celebrated and revelled in, not feared or made taboo.
A Message to White Witches
If you are a white witch in any part of the world and you are using the word “white” to describe your witchcraft, I urge you to take notice of any insecurities surrounding your magic.
I get it: it can be rough to identify as a witch. No matter how trendy or mainstream it becomes, witchcraft will always carry the memories of centuries of persecution and execution. But, attaching the color white to magic is to comply with a world that devalues and vilifies darkness in general, and there is no valid excuse for cultural whitewashing.
I invite white witches to use careful language when referring to the hues black and white–and darkness or lightness in general–out of respect for people of color and for the sake of the wholeness of your magic. Metaphysically, value darkness and shadow as equally good and valuable as light.
Part of being called to witchcraft is being called to live in line with the forces of nature. In a colonized world, nature and darkness are things to be dominated. In the natural world, nature is our home and darkness is a welcome part of our existence.
Take full responsibility for your words, for each one is a spell unto itself.