Kansas City’s Black Witches fight misconceptions and explore roots
On the porch of Nicolette Paige’s East Side home is an altar, a stone centerpiece laden with candles and eagle feathers. Surrounding it from above, animal skulls and bones hang from the ceiling.
Paige performs a ritual in honor of the new moon. She prays to the spirits of her ancestors, joined by her fiancé, Darrian Davis, and her friend Shae Bradley, hand in hand, head bowed.
Women are witches. And they know full well that their ritual and the very word “witch” can paint a grim picture for those unfamiliar with what they do. They are used to ignorance and misconceptions.
It is no secret that white Christian landowners snatched religious practices from enslaved African peoples. Out of fear, intimidation and ignorance, spiritual practices based outside of European Christianity have mostly been associated with the sinister or demonic.
“I don’t want to utter the word ‘brainwashed’, but we’ve been in Western culture for so long that we’ve been stripped of that innate spirituality and demonized. There are just a lot of black people who are afraid of African spirituality,” says Paige.
The 32-year-old mother of four identifies as a bruja (pronounced brew-ha), the Spanish word for witch. The label originated with Latin American slaves and is becoming increasingly important today. This emergence of black witches, Paige says, comes as more women of color seek to reconnect with their heritage and rediscover their power.
She sees herself first and foremost as a healer. She and others believe they possess the gift of healing physically, spiritually, and emotionally through the manipulation of energies.
“It’s my connection to my ancestors that guides me,” she says. “They are the ones who speak through me through my intuition. I don’t dive into the world of what people might consider black magic.
Paige uses her spiritual practices as a form of extra income for her family. She offers a variety of services, from tarot readings and spell consultations, costing $25-$50, to home blessings/cleansings or spiritual counseling, which cost $150-$200.
Many can nullify practices such as snake oil dealers akin to psychics seeking to cash in on unsuspecting rubies, but Paige’s clients support her practices and their results.
For Damon Patterson, spiritual counseling with Paige had profound ramifications on his life.
“I’ve been seeing her for about a year now. I had major drinking problems and was trying to quit drinking. I’ve been sober for 10 months now,” Patterson says. The 39-year-old Kansas City native says his sessions with Paige have given him insight and comfort.
“She helped me find my inner peace and my voice,” he says. “Helping me reflect on my own thoughts. It helped me to strengthen myself. I think great practitioners help you find what you are looking for in yourself.
“There are so many definitions of what a witch is,” she says. “I think he’s someone who can tap into energies on a deeper level while being in tune with the earth.”
“We are all spiritual beings”
For other black women seeking alternatives to traditional religious beliefs, witchcraft has become a bridge to experience different cultures. Twenty-nine-year-old Taylor Pond thinks she’s always been a witch. She remembers the allure growing up in the 90s.
“Pop culture has a lot to do with people like me who grew up in my time. I grew up on ‘Buffy’, ‘Charmed’, ‘Sabrina, the Teenage Witch’ and ‘The Craft’,” Pond says.
Pond, who is a writer, yoga teacher and energy healer using the Japanese practice of Reiki, realized that her path was not tied to any faith or teaching.
“We are all spiritual beings,” she says. “Some of our souls are called to learn. I went to church when I was a child. I go there again. I love Christianity, but I also love the Hare Krishna movement,” she says.
Pond believes that many women identify as witches but choose not to broadcast the fact.
“I feel like the number hasn’t increased, you just hear more about people who identify as witches. I don’t advertise because I don’t like the attention,” says Pond.
She bonds with other witches by making broomsticks for them, she says.
Some use them for decoration, but most use them in magical practices, such as blessing unions.
She says her creations are imbued with her own magics and energies, so other witches who possess them “join her coven in some way,” she says.
Witches, herbalists, healers
A few years ago, Pond partnered with 7th Heaven, a Kansas City music and head store, to create an Underground Art Market, a vendor event bringing together small businesses selling holistic, all-natural products. .
Rosierra Warren-Thomas (known as Rosie the Herbalist), owner of Nature made mewas only too happy to not only find an outlet to sell her products, but also to connect with another believer in the mystical.
Warren-Thomas, a black woman who was raised in a strict religious home, began to question aspects of her Christianity and embarked on her own journey of self-discovery. She explored witchcraft, which, unsurprisingly to her, did not sit well with her friends and family.
“I came out as a witch on social media when I was 20. My mom told me to take the post down. She was heartbroken for a while. I really had to talk to her and let him know I’m not evil or working with the devil,” says Warren-Thomas.
She, like many young black people, faced a sense of isolation for wanting to distance herself from traditional Christian beliefs handed down from slavery without question of deviation.
During her journey, Warren-Thomas discovered a love of plants and was captivated by the forgotten uses of herbs. Herbalists have long been a facet of black culture, dating back to planting, where the lack of adequate medical care prompted black healers to concoct remedies and tonics using herbs, roots and wildflowers. with medicinal properties.
Warren-Thomas, an Army veteran and mother of two, grew her business not only through word of mouth and social media, but also through her consistent presence at black vendor fairs and one of the few people of color at local mystical fairs.
Warren-Thomas finds himself in a wave of black entrepreneurs seeking to reintroduce the public to these forgotten, all-natural alternatives. Since starting her business seven years ago, she has developed a catalog of teas, oils, syrups and body butters, to name a few.
Warren-Thomas no longer considers herself a witch and considers herself an herbalist.
But like the witches, she hopes the black community can overcome years of stigma and judgment. “I don’t need labels to affix my magic to,” she said. “My ability to manipulate and control my life with my energies is what matters.”