If you didn’t know, yes, there is a “hater” problem. No, I’m not imagining it. No, I’m not wrong.
I have a couple of things I regularly have to contend with. I have to be strategic in practically every religious situation I encounter. I have to fight the whole racial black vs white dichotomy relentlessly, with which also comes questioning and second guessing my worth as an intelligent black woman. Speaking of woman, let’s not forget the fact that I’m a woman who has to balance expectations to look a certain way as both a black woman within the black community, and a black woman operating within white society. The response to everything I cultivate can be summed up in some kind of statement like this: “You arrogant (black) woman/witch! Know your place! You can’t do that while looking the way you do! You’re making problems where no problems exist!”
This narrative plays out sadly in both my personal and impersonal relationships.
For example, one day I and my family were visiting my grandmother, and as usual, I was updating her on things that were going on in my life. I had told her about some of the annoyances I was experiencing in city life, but explained how I tempered the insecurity with the confidence I gained in belly dancing. I asked if she wanted to see, and I got a quick and curt “No, thank you” from her, and from across the room a mild look of disgust with a strain to hide amusement from my brother. No, I’m not Barbie doll thin. I’m a bit on the curvaceous side with a bit of extra weight to spare, so clearly I defy what is associated with a “normal” dancer of any sort. It wasn’t until weeks later when she was visiting and my mother vouched for my belly dancing that she saw me dance.
Here’s another interesting example involving a stranger:
On day three of Ramadan 2017, I got into a terrible argument with a black Muslim man who tried to convert me into Islam under spiritually castrating terms. Of course, I also caught hell for being a woman, refusing to submit under his authority, AND for being a magical practitioner. What I found ironic was that because he perceived me as being blasphemous, he tried to use powerful names of Allah against me, which actually, little did he know, actually feels really pleasant to me. He told me to recite the phrase which translates to “There is no God but God,” assuming that I didn’t already believe in a unity of all, and also assuming that this would somehow paralyze me. Meanwhile, during Ramadan, even though its not perfect, I did get into a prayer habit. I followed the rules of the season to the best of my ability I fasted from sunrise to sunset. I stopped fasting when my period came. I avoided excess travelling during the day. I abstained from sex and masturbation. I steadily began to learn to read Arabic. I have memorized Al Faatiha in Arabic, using it in my ritual baths (of which I’ve blended wudhu, ablution, practices with my own bathing rituals). I was being taught Arabic words by spirits when I first woke up in the morning. Clearly, his assumption about me was incorrect. In the end, because of his volatility, saying “You have the spirit of a man and are as stubborn as a mule,” among other things that were actually pretty arrogant and demeaning, I chose to cease communication with him entirely.
Though, little did he know, part of the reason behind my choosing to participate in Ramadan was to mute myself and address the very projective, Yang, masculine nature that I have. I was much more intimately aware of what I had perceived as a problem. Here’s a snapshot of the thoughts swirling through my head daily:
Maybe I am too assertive and that is why I can’t find a partner who operates within the mundane world but is compatible with me,” or “Am I not feminine enough? Do I not wear enough dresses? Is it bad that I find myself beautiful without make up?” I even thought “Maybe the issue is that I don’t allow myself to follow the ‘woman needs her man’ script, allowing men to take care of me as is expected…” and then I went back to the thoughts “Maybe I’m just not woman enough…”
I thought the solution to the problem would reveal itself if I allowed myself to be dependent for my needs, and instead focus on self development through God and his angels. Thus, I chose to delve in to the currents of the religion centered on submission, a religion that I discovered to be intimately tied to the lunar aspects of God: Islam. One Ramadan Tuesday afternoon I spoke with Kammael, an angel of Geburah, and he was quite abrupt with his message to me about my plans. “There’s nothing wrong with you. Actually more people need to do what you do and abandon the script and labels they use to define themselves.”
Even though divine message after divine message affirms this, I’m still coming to terms of who I am apart from the expectations of other people. I am indecisive and afraid to approach certain spiritual matters even though I have proven my spiritual authority time after time. I am afraid to dance and am afraid of other’s gaze upon my body, even though I like the way I look and feel as I move. In the end, the issue is confidence. For many, the confidence, potentials, and authority I have intimidates others. It threaten’s their world view. It threaten’s their creed and scripts which they hold dear.
I’m sure you’ve also been asked “Who are you to…?” or hear the criticism “You can’t do that, that isn’t…!” What is really being said is “Why can’t I do that?” “How come you can do x but I cannot?” People like me, and probably like you who are reading, act a lot like a window. We offer an opportunity for fresh air in a stale home for whoever is willing to open it, just by setting the example and being ourselves. As my apprentice says, “You give second chances and new opportunities for anyone worth a damn who is able to see it and pursue it.” That which is natural and that which is cultivated isn’t meant to be muted and locked in a jail cell. Neither I nor you don’t need to sacrifice the divine attributes given for a gross humility expected by peers; instead, just to cultivate confidence and temper it with love and respect for others.