Welcome to the latest in our on-going column, ev0king the Question. Here, we invite regular ev0ke contributors and guests to share their thoughts on a particular question. Sometimes, it will be silly. Sometimes, it will be serious. Sometimes, a little bit of both.
Below, find this month’s question, and answers from Pagans and polytheists from a variety of backgrounds and traditions. Do you have thoughts of your own? If so, please feel free to share them below.
The Question: Marie Laveau gets a lot of press, but who else from the African Diaspora community or early modern Paganism deserves attention?
Laurelei Black is an American folkloric Witch, Aphrodite woman, and author. www.linktr.ee/laureleiblack
Being a student, as I am, of American folklore and culture, there are two groups of African Diaspora “Witches” who I think contemporary Craft practitioners should know more about.
The first group (chronologically) was composed of enslaved people of African descent in Cartagena, Columbia. The reach of the Spanish Inquisition squeezed this Spanish colony from half-way around the globe, where several hundred people were accused, tried, and almost universally found guilty of heresy and witchcraft. Enslaved African women were an especially targeted demographic for accusations of diabolism (pacting with the Devil) and maleficium (magickal acts of harm). In the trial records, it is clear that many had been legitimately practicing folkloric healing arts that were based on largely West African religious beliefs — some of which were blended with complementary Indigenous practices and beliefs. The two separate trials of Julia de Eguiluz, a formerly-enslaved woman, are a poignant example of this. She was accused and found guilty twice, returning to her work as a powerful healer both times. In fact, the Bishop himself requested her healing services.
The other group was composed of three enslaved women in Salem, Massachusetts — Tituba, Candy, and Mary Black. The trial records of both Tituba and Candy seem to demonstrate that they both practiced forms of magick and healing that were either Indigenous or West African in nature (or a blend of the two), while Mary Black vehemently denied all participation in witchcraft throughout her trial.
None of these people would likely have voluntarily identified as witches (or pagans or any of the other terms contemporary practitioners use freely today). For those who practiced some version of magick or healing, it is hard to know the context in which they themselves viewed that work. Was it religious, cultural, folkloric? Did they see it as a tool of the oppressed to lash out at their enslavers? Was it a vocation or profession of skill, talent, and interest offered in service to their communities? Indeed, it is impossible for us to know if any of these people actually practiced any form of healing, spell-casting, blessing, or blasting since their confessions were the product of torture and threat. All of them may have learned the confessional patterns and expected keywords that the Inquisitors wanted to hear as a product of their intensive and prolonged questions, thereby confessing to acts that they had no knowledge of at all.
I honor and acknowledge these groups of accused witches for what they endured, and I hope that more contemporary story arts shine a light on their experiences, bringing their names and stories forward into the public awareness.
Rebecca Buchanan is a regular contributor to ev0ke. She has published poetry and short fiction in a wide variety of venues, and recently released the occult romance adventure, The Secret of the Sunken Temple. A complete list of her publications can be found at Eternal Haunted Summer.
When I was still a baby Pagan and new to everything, my first stop was Goddess Spirituality. It was wonderful to discover that people honored, prayed to, and loved the Goddess or even multiple Goddesses. And one of the first authors I encountered was Luisah Teish. Her particular interest was (and still is) rediscovering, reclaiming, and reframing African spiritual beliefs and practices for black Americans, while simultaneously upholding the beauty and dignity of the beliefs and practices developed by black Americans whose ancestors had been forcibly removed from their homeland and enslaved in the West. Her discussion of ancestor devotion struck a particular chord with me, as did her synthesis of civil rights, women’s rights, and religious freedom.
And she’s still writing!
Go track down a copy of Jambalaya or Carnival of the Spirit or Weaving the Visions, and you’ll see why I consider her so important and why she had such a profound impact on my evolving spirituality.
Ashley Nicole Hunter is the founder of, and a contributing writer to, ev0ke.
I want to point to a fantastic living man as someone who deserves so much more love and attention from our community, and that’s Chiron Armand (find him on Twitter at @theoklotos). Every month he puts things out for free for people while also running a business, uplifting the gay community, and providing excellent commentary on the shenanigans we all get up to.
Another living legend is Iya Ehime Ora (@ehimeora on Twitter). She’s a priestess practicing a beautiful, authentic Ifa and Orisa tradition and puts out truly spiritually deep tweets. It doesn’t matter what path you follow, though, you will learn something from what she puts out and see the holiness of her ancestors shining through her.