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On Getting Perspective

I don’t have the time to waste in these arguments any longer. I can feel the clouds gathering on the horizon. The storm is coming, and when it does, there will be no time left for pointless arguments and accusations.

From Emma Kathryn

This week I’ve been gently reminded to be careful not to commit cultural appropriation. Twice. In talking about the loa, Papa Legba to be exact, I was told that I should be careful not to appropriate the African gods.

Now let me just make clear that this is not going to be yet another essay describing what is and what is not appropriation, but the whole incident got me thinking. I mean, the advice was offered in good faith, I’m sure it was meant well (and the person giving said advice wasn’t to know I’m an obeah woman, was she now?), and they seemed nice enough in all regards, but there was something that left me feeling a bit blah about the whole conversation after that remark.

I could have taken the time to reassure the person of my cultural heritage (though even to some that wouldn’t be good enough!), I could have expounded upon my experience and practise.

I did none of those things. Instead I left the conversation.

I don’t have the time to waste in these arguments any longer. I can feel the clouds gathering on the horizon. The storm is coming, and when it does, there will be no time left for pointless arguments and accusations. There never was any time for them really, it was a folly by us all, but I’m rambling.

There are plenty of folks who are nice, who don’t want to upset anyone and want to walk that middle ground, but it’s not enough. It’s not enough to just ignore the real wrongs that this world faces.

There are many real instances of racism and appropriation that the person could involve themselves with, if they really wanted to, but I guess it was much safer for them to confront me over my mention of the loa.

And that’s the real problem.

It’s like the Hollywood sex scandal, and the silent protest by many actors at the Golden Globes and their decision to wear black. It doesn’t achieve a single thing, except perhaps to get them more column inches, more TV coverage, keeps them relevant. These people, with their fortunes and with their platform could affect some real tangible change, that could help other survivors of abuse, others going through it, who don’t have the money or the platform.

But instead they chose to wear beautiful dresses that cost more than most women can even dream about.

And let’s not forget the precursor to this, the Me Too campaign. Regardless of whether or not you agree with it, what real change, for all women has it actually achieved? You barely hear about it now. Is it enough to highlight something most people, and certainly most women already know happens?

These campaigns rarely benefit all women, especially the ones undergoing abuse, the ones with no support, with no one and nothing. Yes, it must be such a comfort to know that these women, these celebrities are going to these extravagant awards shows looking fabulous whilst they are in their homes struggling to survive. A real help.

And this in turn highlights another problem, that often the people at the bottom, the poorest in society usually fall through the safety nets. Or perhaps the safety nets aren’t deep enough to begin with.

I can’t help but think that so much of what we argue over are very much middle class issues, and this is coming from a working class woman.

Only this week, a BBC presenter quit her role because of gender pay disparity. Now of course, obviously people doing the same job should be paid the same wage, it goes without saying, is so very obvious, isn’t it? But at the same time, to the poor, who can only ever hope for such sums of cash, it just seems so otherworldly. It doesn’t even compute. Added to that she still works for the BBC, but in a more junior position, well, what can I say?

When there are such distances between the classes, the haves and the have-nots, it can be difficult to see how we can move forward, I mean, I am always banging on about unity and the dangers of false divisions. Because of course racism, appropriation, sexism  and wealth are all false divisions used to separate people based on superficial differences.

So we need to get back to community, and that doesn’t mean we have to like everyone within that community, but it does mean that we don’t let our differences divide us. That’s part of the reason I like small town life ( when my little sister comes home for visits, back up north, she often says she’s coming back to the sticks!).

My little town was recently described in a BBC report as one of the most deprived places  and also the worst place to grow up poor in the UK, citing poor job security and prospects for the young, amongst other things. But to the poor, being poor is nothing new. It’s just life.

My estate is considered rough, but the people stick together. Whenever there’s something wrong with the car and no money for mechanics, you can guarantee that after a few minutes tinkering under the bonnet, there’ll be a couple of neighbours lending a hand. When kids go missing, the whole street will be out looking. Generally, the people are good, but life is hard for some, and sometimes people are forced to act in ways that are not always acceptable. Generally though, most of them are good people making the best of bad situations.

And it’s not just my street either, the whole town rally around in times of need. A few years back there was an explosion in someone’s house and they pretty much lost everything. The whole town pulled together, donating money, clothes, food shopping, utensils, furniture, all of the basics of living. People who didn’t have much to give gave anyway, for people they didn’t know.

We must pull together in times of need, with those who are closest to us, and also to others who are also in need, against those who would keep us down, keep us pitted against one another, blaming one another for real or perceived wrongs, even when the blame does not lay with any of them.

I also think we must remember the past, most particularly our ancestors, and we must learn whatever lessons there are to be learned.

One thing I will leave you with though, a little story of how a British Goddess became an African Loa. About pulling together in times of need to overcome the true threat, the one thing that united women, women who came from different worlds.

I have a particular fondness for the loa Maman Brigitte, often pictured with fair skin and red or brown straight hair..

What is not often known is that Maman Brigitte is the very same celtic Goddess Brigid, Brigantia, worshipped many centuries ago in my part of Britain. This ancient Goddess of the British isles was taken to the hearts of African slave women, introduced to them by white Irish and Scottish women, slaves themselves ( though it was called indentured service). These Irish and Scot women bought with them their beloved goddess, for solace and protection, and she offered aid and comfort to the African women too and was taken into the hearts of all women. The story of Maman Brigitte, her origins and how she was so loved by all women shows us that there is more that unites us than separates us.

Don’t get me wrong though.. Maman Brigitte is a fierce loa, protectress as well as a loa of death. This isn’t a story about forgiveness and acceptance, about being all loving , but rather a rally to those who also would overthrow the oppressors of us all.


Emma Kathryn

My name is Emma Kathryn, an eclectic witch, my path is a mixture of traditional European witchcraft, voodoo and obeah, a mixture representing my heritage. I live in the middle of England in a little town in Nottinghamshire, with my partner, two teenage sons and two crazy dogs, Boo and Dexter. When not working in a bookshop full time, I like to spend time with my family outdoors, with the dogs. And weaving magick, of course!

You can follow Emma on Facebook


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3 Comments »

  1. An interesting and thought-provoking piece. Even though I disagreed with some of the ideas here, it’s always good to be challenged. The central question – what are we actually achieving here? – is always worth asking.

    On the subject of #MeToo, my perception is that it achieved a lot, in the sense of building resilient communities: it allowed us to have more open and honest conversations with each other about what really happens, and how we can support each other better. Not just on the internet, with like-minded people, but with friends and acquaintances in the pub. If we want to build strong, supportive communities, we need these conversations. Sure, an empty gesture by a handful of privileged celebrities may not help women seeking shelter in refuges which are on the brink of being closed down, but playing on the contrast between these two extremes is not helpful either. There is a whole spectrum of experience between them, often hidden until we start talking to each other.

    I totally agree that community connections are the best way to weather the coming storm (and that there is a storm coming). And, just like you say, we don’t have to like everyone in the community; we just have to pull together when it matters. But I worry that class is another identity which is being manipulated to cause political division between people with similar backgrounds but different ideas. I’ve seen it happen in so many conversations: people attacked, not for the content of their ideas, but for (hilariously wrong) assumptions about who they are based on those ideas. I’m not going to play the game of setting out my working-class credentials before voicing my ideas here, because that’s exactly the point: people are focusing on identity rather than ideas. Right now, rather than arguing about who is working class and who is middle class, and which ideas belong to which, it’s probably more useful to ask how people with more resources can best support people with less.

    And as a fellow follower of Brigid, living in Brigantia, I hear you, and I add my flame to yours.

    Liked by 1 person

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