Decolonization as a Spiritual Path
Updated: Jan 29, 2021
I don't usually post so close together but after my blog post on my personal journey of decolonization garnered so much discussion I wanted to address the #1 question I was getting:
How do you actively weave decolonization into your spiritual practice?
Decolonization isn’t just something I engage with in my life, it is a core part of my spiritual path. As I said in my acticle My Spiritual Journey of Decolonization:
...As a child “I noticed that our family’s traditions and practices often conflicted with what I was being taught in church and I realized that Christianity (the largely dominant religion in Jamaica) had been forced on my ancestors by colonization and slavery. This led me on a spiritual quest that resulted in me leaving Christianity and converting to Wicca. Wicca works for me because it provides a stable container where I can blend my mixed spiritual heritage harmoniously.”
In Wicca, I found a space where I could blend my black, indigenous and celtic backgrounds together into a cohesive path. It helped that the first formal training in Wicca was in the Odyssean tradition at the Wiccan Church of Canada, that emphasises the journey of self-discovery. The work of Christopher Penczak and the Temple of Witchcraft had a huge impact on my practice. It is through the TOW that I learned about the Shamanic Witchcraft path and recognized a lot of what I had been doing, and trying to do, in my personal practice.
Wicca can be seen as a decolonizing effort itself. It’s an effort of resurgence to revitalize pre-Christian traditions in Europe, (in the UK in particular) that they followed before they were colonized by Rome and the Church. It “fills in the blanks” and innovates these traditions by looking at and incorporating teachings from other traditions. It looks to nature to inform its structure and development. This is a process of decolonization and culture design, two concepts that I work with a lot in academia. It allows for crafting a personal path that works for each individual, especially in more eclectic traditions, while providing structure and core theology for guidance. Decolonization is a core part of my theology.
The shamanic witchcraft tradition that I founded, the Rose and Thorn Tradition, seeks to provide a witchcraft tradition that centers a decolonial, multi-ethnic perspective. Here are some basic ways in which I weave decolonization into into my witchcraft practice:
Focusing on decolonizing myself in my shadow work and weaving that theme into my rituals. It's a process of deep self-reflection, deprogramming and healing.
Focusing on healing ancestral and community trauma in my healing work, both for myself and my communities.
Connecting and building ‘right’ relationships with the spirits of the land I'm on: the Genius Loci or “spirit of the place”, the spirits of nature, and the ancestors of the people who are indigenous to the land that I am on.
Casting circle with territorial acknowledgements. For example, a Tiohtià:ke/Montréal territorial acknowledgement is: “I/We would like to begin by acknowledging that I/we am/are located on unceded Indigenous lands. The Kanien’kehá:ka Nation is recognized as the custodians of the lands and waters on which I/we stand today. Tiohtià:ke/Montréal is historically known as a gathering place for many First Nations. Today, it is home to a diverse population of Indigenous and other peoples. I/We respect the continued connections with the past, present and future in my/our ongoing relationships with Indigenous and other peoples within the Montreal community.” I start my circle casting with the territorial acknowledgement, after centering and grounding, and end my casting with inviting the genius loci into my circle after the goddess, god and guardians/ancestors.
Ancestor work. Being a shaman means actively walking between the worlds and working with the spirits. Building relationship with one’s own ancestors and the ancestors of the traditions you follow is a big part of that work. When I am dealing with traditions in my culture that have been stolen, lost or watered down, I go straight to my ancestors who lived those traditions and ask them directly about it. I ask them for clarification and direction and their wisdom and knowledge is invaluable.
Doing the work of tracing where the traditions we practice in our spirituality, in Contemporary Paganism and Wicca, are from, and acknowledging and honouring those roots. Many of the teachings in Wicca and Contemporary Paganism are taken from indigenous, eastern, and African religions. This isn’t acknowledged enough. We can look to other traditions to inform and enrich our own spiritual journeys but we should only do so with respect and give credit where credit is due.
Activism as sacred duty and an expression of the warrior path. “Social justice warrior” is such a maligned term but I believe that we must approach justice through the warrior’s code. Standing up for what’s right, commitment to justice, living with honour, protecting those that cannot protect themselves, maintaining balance, cultivating discipline, treating others and yourself with respect and compassion, having integrity and self -control; these are the guiding principles of the warrior path, and often the witch’s path as well. It is how I approach my activism.
If decolonization is something that you wish to make a part of your spiritual path, these are ideas that can help you get started. I urge you to research decolonization and resurgence, to find out who’s indigenous territory you are on and connect with them (if possible), to learn about the practices and teachings of the traditions you are drawn to from the people from those traditions themselves, and make sure to include BIPOC and other minority/underserved voices in your reading, learning and research. How can/do you include these concepts into your practice? You can refer to my post on Decolonization Resources as a starting point!