Reclaiming Black Girl Magic Through Ancestral Spiritual Traditions
As more African descendants seek out non-traditional spiritual systems, Lakeesha Harris builds on the Black Witch University.
As more black folks, particularly black women, in the United States are becoming more interested in exploring non-Christian faith systems, the need for more spaces providing information are becoming more imperative. For those who are disenchanted with traditional Western religions, Lakeesha Harris is here to guide you.
Harris proudly proclaims the title of witch, a political decision on her part, with a careful consideration of how the word was used to cast stigma over marginalized women. "I was like, yeah, I'm going to call myself a Black witch. Calling myself a Black witch is to understand the political nature and the power that title holds for me—as a woman and as a witch and as someone taking ownership of her magic and her whole body," she tells Broadly.
She came to discovering her own magical power at an early age, particularly in the kitchen, with the usage of herbal roots. "The Black women in my family, we had a legacy of magic, but we never called it that," she recalls of her childhood in Kankakee, Illinois. A particularly poignant moment was watching her aunt endure abuse, yet still manage to take care of the family. "I would say to myself, how did Auntie Joyce do all of this?" she recalls with Broadly. "How did she work, take care of the family, take care of all of us, [and] provide space and home and love? How did she take care of herself and navigate through abuse?" It was the act of growing, maintaining herbs, and keeping ties to the earth that sustained her aunt's strength—a power that Harris inherited in her own uses of magic.
She is one-third of the Black Witch Chronicles, a collective that was initiated in New Orleans that, in the group's own words, "communicate from our collective wisdom as healers, artists, visionaries, and change makers connected to the ongoing story that sings to us from our ancestral roots and truths." The group regularly hosts webinars for young black witches-in-training about beginning their own spiritual paths, learning the ways of ancestral rituals and conjuring.
The program will also serve as a safe space for those who feel like they are alone in their journey of discovery and dealing with judgement from loved ones.
The knowledgeable witch first established a small coven in Chicago in 2015, in which young witches, healers, and diviners set out together to do powerful spiritual work, which included alter building, invoking black southern spiritual traditions, crystals and tarot readings. From that point on, public interest continued to grow. "A lot of young and older Black people were like, 'Look we're interested, where do we start? And we just kept getting all these emails, emails, emails. I was like OK, it's time to set up some system in which we can formalize the learning process."
Black Witch University began in September, aims to instruct those hungry for spiritual understanding of ancestral spiritual traditions. Harris desires to incorporate Àjé (dedicated to female divinity associated with Yorùbá tradition) and Lucumí practices into the university's courses. The conclusion of the program, states Broadly, is scheduled in March of 2o17, and will happen in time for the Spring Equinox.
Harris advocates people of African descent utilizing ancestral magic as a tool of healing, as well as a potent weapon against harrowing social injustices. The Chicago-based witch has conducted spells against relieving the city of police violence. "It would behoove us to use our own magic for the protection of ourselves and other people."
Read interview in full over at Broadly.