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Commerce, Race, and Culture

To: alt.magick.tyagi,alt.magick,alt.paranormal.spells.hexes.magic,alt.magick.folk,talk.religion.misc,alt.pagan.magick
From: blackman99 
Subject: Commerce, Race, and Culture
Date: Fri, 30 Jul 2004 04:52:26 GMT

50031230 vii om

quoting sri catyananda (
# To learn hoodoo you have to learn about black social 
# customs. It is interwoven within the complex cultural 
# warp and weft of American black culture. 

it sounds like what you're saying is that those who study
in a course to be a conjure will need to become comfortable 
with consultation, with commercial transactions surrounding 
magic, and with any number of common cultural elements of 
hoodoo with which we may have difficulties because, in part, 
we're talking about serving real people with customs and 
preferences and beliefs that may in some measure differ 
from our own.

in some cases the best way to go about getting comfortable 
with things is to do them. that's what I had to do to lose my 
prejudices about some of the things in hoodoo when I decided
that I wanted to learn about it. this was as true about other 
communities' magic as it was about hoodoo. when I studied with 
their teachers, I understood that their customs and ideologies 
might differ, so I just asked as many questions as I could in 
as polite a manner as I was able, and tried to put myself in 
their place. sometimes I could, and sometimes I couldn't. 

when I studied with Wiccans I shifted my altar from the center 
of the room to the North and got acquainted with the gods and
symbols of the Faerie (the focus of the coven whom I engaged).

when I studied with Thelemites I participated in odd rituals
dreamed up by ceremonialist magicians in reflection of old
ecclesiastic and masonic standards. so when I started learning
about hoodoo I put down any difficulties with consulting and
commerciality and tried to understand how it fit into the whole.

I never had resistance to commercial transactions in hoodoo.
I'd been looking for "spells and potions" and all those things
I knew were being shoved aside by the others with whom I'd
previously studied and called 'Low Magic', and was delighted
to discover it. my main resistance was due to the complete
unfamiliarity I had with commercial *packaging* of the goods.
the formulae names struck me as hokey, odd, strange, and even
juvenile. I had difficulties believing anyone took it seriously.

catherine showed me the history of the products from old 
catalogues, explained how it had developed, how many of the
old dispensors of magical goods were jewish, pharmacists,
chemists or herbalists, and that the jewish and black 
cultures have a long history of mutual support in America
and beyond it, economically, politically, and magically. 
she explained to me how some later manufacturers constructed
the products without concern or regard for the Doctrine of
Signatures, left out the potent elements necessary for 
the effects of natural magic, and gave hoodoo a bad 
name amongst those who cared about such things.

after reeling from all the new information she was providing,
it became apparent to me that I was prejudiced against quite 
a bit of it (and since I knew that prejudice was wrong, I did
my best to restrain it within myself). it wasn't that I had some 
kind of bias against blacks or jews, per se, but as I continued 
trying to assimilate what I was being told (very foreign to me
from my white, middle-class background) it quickly became 
apparent that I was COMPLETELY CULTURE-BLIND. 

my first reaction was to wonder why the woman I'd pilgrimmaged
three times to finally meet up with was so focussed on "race".
my mother taught me that 'the human race is composed of many
different types of people' and she helped me to see PAST all
of these differences, by *pretending that they didn't exist*.
'we can all get along if we just stop worrying so much about
petty differences and just get done what we need to' was the
general philosophy. it fit well within the New Age community
that I worked within for so long, it even meshed to some
extent with the Neopagan and Thelemic communities from whom
I'd accepted instructed for many years. by and large, these 
were white communities with the occasional non-white passerby.

but when I studied hoodoo I had to admit that culture-blindness 
and start to understand what I was missing through adherence 
to my 'all one human race' approach (which effectively had me
blindering myself to everyone so that I could make a show of
being broad-minded). it helped me greatly that I was grounded
in philosophy and mysticism. I may not have had the temerity or 
endurance to sustain such a transformative change-of-headspace
had I not already sought far from my home in thought and deed. 

it helped me also that catherine was so patient and 
knowledgeable about where I was coming from. she could easily
have dismissed me as ignorant (which I was) *and* racist
(which she could see that I wasn't) merely because I had no
exposure to, with a practiced eye, the diversity and glory
which makes the human animal so beautiful and perfect. I'd
had those blinders installed for a good reason, and yet they
did *not* serve everyone as the intent had been laid out.

they served me and all those like me who would rather remain
blind to cultures other than globalized television-culture
and its ambiguous participants (many of whom displayed very
real tendences in genetic and cultural characteristics, and,
as I'd already seen through, promoted standards and values
with which I did *not* always agree).

so catherine introduced me to race as a genetic strain. 
like breeds of dogs or varieties of roses, humans are as yet
quite differentiated, and these differences are important
to acknowledge and respect in any education about our magic,
our religion, or other very personal facets of our lives.
we started slowly, by her pointing out the numerous 'half-
visible' jews whom I knew from the entertainment field but
whose background I'd not never really considered, and it
grew from there. 

an expanse of knowledge to which I had only occasionally had 
exposure (and that badly: where race entered racISM) became 
partly visible to me. ever since then I've taken initiative 
to become more aware of backgrounds to things in *general*:
from the numerous participants in the construction of art
(to which catherine paid a great deal of attention) to the
family history of those I just met or knew quite well
(somewhat reluctantly participating in catherine's 
extensive examination of my heritage and background).

in general, however, I learned that what I'd been taught
about the value of blinding myself to colour and bodies 
in the hope of being able to get along with others could
only serve me so long (while I was distanced from them).
paying greater attention to these differences was *not*,
contrary to my early education, itself prejudice. it was 
a kind of respect and attention that everyone needs and 
deserves. moreover, it was a *required focus* when I was
trying to understand and assimilate aspects of a deeply
personal nature to those about whom I knew so little.

peace and love,

blackman99 (
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