This article originally appeared on All the Pretty Birds (June 2020)
Astrology, divination and “new age” practices are having more than just a moment, with more people than ever using esoteric tools to determine their love life, career and overall guidance. According to The Atlantic, “Astrology is perfectly suited for the internet age. There’s a low barrier to entry, and nearly endless depths to plumb if you feel like falling down a Google research hole.” The generational interest in tarot, astrology and spirituality spans across age groups, from Gen Z to millennials.
But one thing is glaringly obvious – the esoteric community is whitewashed and trying to find a Black or brown esoteric worker is not easy.
Why is it so whitewashed?
Google astrology, tarot and any other ”mystical” content and you’ll find mostly white practitioners recommended to you. Just like the ancient practice of yoga that dates back centuries to India, that now has come to resemble perky white women in leggings, the esoteric community has a very particular face and aesthetic.
In the light of the global awareness of the Black Lives Matter movement, social media feeds turned into resources for Black businesses and how to support the Black community. Founder of Lilith Astrology, Adama Sesay says, “Subconscious bias and systemic racism permeates through every facet of our lives, and the esoteric space.”
Another Black esoteric worker, Bakang Akoonyatse shared similar sentiments. Bakang is based in Botswana, Southern Africa and sheds light on the experiences that Black women face in the esoteric space and says, “I don’t think they’re honestly any different from the ones everyday intelligent Black women face. It’s the same aggression any woman considered “gifted” in different capacities by society would face; envy, jealousy, there’s a lot of emotional abuse and manipulation that people often try.”
It starts with visibility and putting a spotlight on Black people in the industry. Adama mentions that mainstream media websites rarely feature black Astrologers or spiritualists.
She explains, “An overwhelming majority of the faces are white on their contributors page. I didn’t let that deter me but I wasn’t noticed at first when I started reaching out for Astrology writing and work.”
Major publications need to commit to diversifying their content beyond a trending hashtag.
Creating inclusive spaces
Inclusivity and visibility work hand in hand. The more we know, the better we can do.
But this often means that Black people are building the space with no assistance or boosting from others.
Thankfully, the internet offers space to change that. If you’re on Instagram, chances are you’ve seen The Hoodwitch, a community for the everyday modern mystic. The business was started by Bri Luna, a woman of color and bruja who learnt about witchcraft through the cultural practices in her family.
Bakang mentions that she read cards for herself for about a year before doing readings for others. She explains, “My intuition developed from there, I’ve nurtured it, truly, and now I offer healing services as well that fall within my jurisdiction and capabilities.”
Adama explains the meaning behind the name of her practice, “In astrology, Lilith is a placement in your birthchart where through life’s challenges you can harness your true power. Essentially through live experience, I discovered my path as a healer and spiritual teacher that can use Astrology to empower women in a society that has been built to disempower them.”
Online community support
Social media has some noticeable cons but the pros definitely include being able to find like minded people around the world. We’re more connected than ever and able to share our experiences. In this case, social media can offer a necessary platform for marginalised esoteric workers who can build a loyal following, business and get some visibility.
Bakang talks about the support that online communities can provide and shares, “I’ve been fortunate to have people in my life, predominantly queer Black women, who are also deeply curious, and great thinkers who colour the lives they touch.”
The reality is, dealing with systemic racism and other ongoing bigotry takes its toll on marginalised communities and they are in need of esoteric services like energy healing, divination practices and more
Adama explains, “I have found a wonderful community that is diverse, kind and gifted! Fellow Astrologers who have referred me for work and I couldn’t be more grateful. That is the power of Black people is that even though it may be more challenging for us. We always find a way forward.”
So how can we help?
Open your purse! If you’re wanting to help Black esoteric workers, start supporting them with money, sharing their content on social media or commenting on their posts. In an algorithm-driven world, the more visibility and engagement the better. Actively do your research to find Black and brown spiritualists. Use this time to follow more astrologers, tarot readers and find their platforms. If you’re an individual with a fair amount of privilege, use your voice.
I find it a lot easier to chat to someone who understands my background with spirituality, astrology and can use that context to better interpret my reading.
As Adama explains, “Start featuring our work, faces and voices more regularly. I direct this to mainstream media, brands, corporations that tap into influencers like Astrologers and feature esoteric content.”
This also means we need to ask publications about why they don’t have a diverse roster of esoteric professionals and don’t offer insight into other spiritual communities.
Adama says, “Being anti-racist means actively reaching out of your network to bring in black voices and stories.”
Interested in supporting Black esoteric work?
You can book a reading with Esoteric Abby via the official site.