To Whom It May Concern, a Discussion about Race: Closed Practices

By Zoe DeFazio, Asst. Arts and Entertainment Editor

To whom it may concern, 

Tik Tok, the video-based sharing social media network has taken the world by storm these past few years after the death of the beloved app Vine. Tik Tok is an app most of us are accustomed to. Maybe it’s because of the short attention span we could have or maybe it’s because it’s so unique. 

The beauty of Tik Tok is the infinite amount of videos you can see pertaining to a specific topic. You can see people talking about the latest fashion trends, great restaurants, comedy and much more. As great as that may be, Tik Tok could be dangerous when talking about spirituality and religion.

With spirituality and witchcraft taking over Tik Tok it can feel exciting. You can learn the mysteries of life and indulge yourself in the very practices and techniques these Tik Tok creators can offer. But something that is not discussed enough are closed practices. 

Spirituality is the sense or feeling that there is something greater than the means of life. Spirituality is about not being concerned with materialism but being with your mind, body and soul. It’s about taking account of the elements of the earth and venturing out to find the secrets of the universe. Spiritual practices can coincide with religious beliefs involving polytheism and cultural beliefs.

 Because some spiritual practices have to do with cultural background it’s important to know what you can and can’t partake in. 

Closed practices are spiritual ways enclosed with a certain ethnic or racial background. In order to practice it, you must be part of it, either by birth or through initiation. Some practices don’t allow initiation though so it can be tricky.

Spirituality and the witch’s life have always been a part of my upbringing. My father’s side was more Wiccan, an open polytheistic practice that originated in Europe. On my mother’s side, however, they were a part of a closed practice. 

A predominant civilization in ancient African culture, originally called Yorubaland that now consists of modern-day Nigeria, Togo and Benin believed in the Orishas. These were many powerful deities, but the practice mainly focused on the seven major powers. These seven consisted of Yemaya the goddess of the sea, Shango the god of fire, Oya the goddess of storms, Oshun the goddess of beauty, Eshu Elegbara the trickster god, Ogun the god of war and Obatala the god of the sky. 

When the African diaspora came and enslaved the individuals who harbored the belief in these deities the religion traveled to the new world. As time progressed the religion modernized but still had the same principles. This became the basic foundation of Voodoo culture. 

Voodoo has many branches like the government. Those who are Haitian take part in Haitian Vodou who believe in the Lwa. The Lwa are intermediaries between the human world and the spirit world with the creator.

Those who are American and whose family lines go all the way to old Louisiana you can partake in New Orleans Voodoo who shares the majority of the same principles and beliefs as Haitian Vodou. They follow the rules and paths of Marie Laveau, Voodoo queen, herbalist and midwife from the 1800’s.

If you’re Cuban, you may take part in Santeria where Yoruba deities are identified with Roman Catholic saints. 

Those who are Afro-Brazilian quite like myself may take part in Candomble, a form of Yoruba in which all Orishas are recognized. 

Unlike the Disney movie “The Princess and The Frog” where the Voodoo shadow man was evil, Voodoo is not much of the sort. Voodoo is just like any other spiritual practice. It takes account of the earth’s elements and people and can be something that’s really beautiful. 

Hoodoo, on the other hand, is along the lines of voodoo but also not really. Hoodoo is a broad spiritual practice designated to those who are Black. So it doesn’t matter if you’re Haitian, Cuban, Brazilian, Caribbean or even American, just as long as you hold African roots. Basically, if you’re black you can partake in this practice.

Hoodoo and Voodoo are not the same things. Hoodoo is more spiritual and a way of mindfulness and superstition with folklore such as throwing salt over your shoulder and never placing your purse on the floor, while Voodoo is more religious and more polytheistic.

These two practices are incredibly important because of their meaning. When the African Diaspora came it stripped all those who were captured and sold of their dignity and freedom. The only things they had were each other and their beliefs. This went so far as to people jumping off the boat because they had faith that their goddess of the sea would protect them. As time went on and new generations began it became important to pass down these traditions and beliefs in order to hold a sense of self and to remember where we all came from. 

Now that spirituality has become increasingly popular the lines of appropriation and appreciation can get murky. 

Cultural appropriation is when cultural beliefs or traditions are stolen and slightly altered to be someone else’s idea in the name of a trend. When we as a society adopt practices from outside of our own culture it’s important to be mindful and conscious about where they came from. Appreciation doesn’t hurt anyone but appropriation does. 

Tik Tok has the habit of sharing misinformation about practices, especially Hoodoo and Voodoo. It’s always important to do an extensive amount of research before indulging yourself in spiritual practices. But keep in mind that if it doesn’t suit your cultural background then it probably isn’t meant for you. So be mindful but also be curious. But not too curious.

Thank you, 

Zoe DeFazio

A Black woman