“black magic”

I grew up in a devout Christian family.  On my mother’s side, I have 8 uncles and aunts—4 of the 5 uncles are ministers (one’s a theologian, married to another preacher/theologian), and of my 3 aunts, two married ministers and one later divorced and trained to become a minister herself (then married another minister!).  I have one aunt (whom I love dearly) who to this day will not read the Harry Potter books.  When I asked her why, she said she had a strong, intuitive feeling that something wasn’t right.  Which led to a larger conversation about the occult and what we learned about “black magic” as children.  I remember my mother warning us away from ouija boards, and how I often wondered how we’d ever come across one—no one I knew played with that kind of power.  I believed in ghosts, and was certain a man in a top hat and high-collared cape used to emerge from my bedroom closet when the lights went out.  I couldn’t understand the danger in astrology, and continued to check my horoscope despite my mother’s assertion that it was some form of devilry.  And now I’m thinking about West African spiritual practices, and those religions practiced here in the US that have their roots in Africa.  I warned my aunt that she might not be able to read the sequel to Wish if she’s squeamish about so-called black magic.  And I wish I could more easily unlearn the things I was taught as a child—I went to a botanica the other day, and my heart was thudding in my chest as I pulled open the door and stepped into the tiny, cramped space.  I wanted to see statues of Erzulie Dantor, pictured above.  I want to write about how Genna might feel after discovering a shop like this, to know that she desperately needs help but can’t quite overcome the things her mother taught her about Voodoo.  I want to write about power and desire and *maybe* ritual…but I don’t want to be a voyeur, and I don’t want to satisfy whatever expectations of voyeurism my readers might have.  It’s hard, but I have to believe it can be done…


~ by elliottzetta on June 23, 2010.

4 Responses to ““black magic””

  1. You are so right in saying that it is hard to unlearn what we are taught as children. Rather than being seen as just another religion, voodoo and other spiritual practices are often portrayed simply as witchcraft. I was raised in a devout Christian family as well and I find that the more I read and learn about other religious, the more it opens my eyes to the truth and helps me to overcome my initial stereotypes.

    • Thanks, Amy–I’m glad I’m not the only one trying to shake off this strange heritage…

  2. I love your blog. I checked in this morning to find this beautiful picture and thought I ‘m supposed to be here today.

    I to come from a long line of theologians and ministers. And I can assure you can unlearn it. I certainly did or at least I don’t have that feeling anymore that I am a heathen. Ten year of research on African and African American spiritual traditions have helped me bring my novel to life. I’m sure that many in my family will not be inclined to read it because it will violate all their views of tradition Christianity . One of my aunts says she will sneak in the closet and read it (LOL),

    Writing my novel Act of Grace was all about learning that Hoodoo and Vodoo were and are a part of powerful spiritual and shamanic traditions created and nurtured by African Christian during slavery to fight and resist and struggle against their oppression. Like the blues and Jazz and many other African and African American traditions hoodoo /rootwork is an important part of our heritage. Right now I’m in the mist of developing a book list and information sheet for the “about the book section” of my blog and perhaps the back pages of the novel when it is published in Feb. My publisher and I wanted readers to understand where I the author and my character Grace are coming from. If you would like I will be glad to send you a copy of the book list and information sheet once I’m done next week. Perhaps it can supplement your research. Books I would recommend right off the top of my head are Flash of the Spirit. African & Afro-American Art & Philosophy. Written by Robert Farris Thompson, The Hero with an African Face: Mythic Wisdom of Traditional Africa By Clyde W. Ford. Sticks, Stones, Roots and Bones: Hoodoo, Mojo and Conjuring with Herbs by Stephanie Bird.

    Anyway I love your writing. I tell teachers and everyone I meet to buy your books all the time. I can’t wait to read your new one.

    • Hey, Karen! I feel like I neglect this blog since most of my original writing winds up on Fledgling, but I’m glad you stopped by and found something meaningful. I’ve had that image of Erzili Danto up on my wall for years now…first discovered her while teaching Breath, Eyes, Memory. But I still have a LOT to learn–and I’m relieved to know I have two of the titles on your list–will look for Ford–thanks! It’s tricky finding that balance–I find the more research I do, the greater the risk that all that info will overwhelm the story. So I dip a toe in, take a peek, then pull my nose out of a book and think about how that data can inform my novel…we should do an interview on Fledgling when your novel’s about to come out! it sounds amazing…

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