I was raised pretty woo woo, if you will. My mother, an animal acupuncturist, raised me and my siblings in Ojai, California, known as a spiritual hub with a never-ending shortage of metaphysical activities. Some of my earliest memories are of my mother saging the house before a furry, four-legged client would come to her home office, Enya humming in the background. She’d soothe my bad days with astrology reports, and remind me Mercury was in retrograde when I would get a poor test grade. She would take me to meditation circles and poetry readings. I was always the youngest and, due to the demographics of our town, the only black person in the room. And although these experiences were normal for me, I felt uncomfortable in these spaces. The overpowering smell of sage would give me headaches, and my brown skin, curly hair, youthfulness, and low income made me feel othered. I felt awkward and lonely in these rooms full of adult white women, chanting and dissecting their spiritual experiences. I wanted to connect, but I didn’t feel it was for me. How could I trust these women and connect to the most divine when we couldn’t be more different?
As my comfort with spirituality grew, my recognition of the schism between mainstream spiritual spaces and my experience as a black woman grew.
As I got older, my resistance slowly started to wain. I began to reminisce about my mom’s rituals. That cleansing your space is important, astrology reports are real, sage smells wonderful (just crack a window before you light up), and magic can happen in meditation circles. Slowly, I dipping my toe back into the world I was raised in. I started with guided meditations and, this time, it felt wonderful. Whether it be much-needed peace of mind or an answer to a dilemma I was moving through, I began to learn that deep within myself were the answers I needed. There was an untapped vessel of wisdom awaiting within me. And yet — there was another part of myself that felt repressed. I hadn’t incorporating my identity and the trauma of my ancestral lineage as a black woman into this connection to a higher power. As my comfort with spirituality grew, my recognition of the schism between mainstream spiritual spaces and my experience as a black woman grew.
And then a close friend invited me to join a moon circle. A moon circle is an event that is usually for female-identifying people and designed to tap into the powerful energy of the moon at different phases of the moon’s cycle. Would I feel alienated again? Like a five-year-old black girl in a room full of white adults? But this circle, she told me, would be unlike one I had heard of before. This circle was a quiet, invitation-only, private gathering for black women to gather under a full moon. In the heat of July, we’d nestle in an airy, light-filled haven in Leimert Park, a historic black arts district in Los Angeles. There was much emphasis on privacy and a note that space was limited, which was both enticing and a relief. It wasn’t that I was drawn to the concept of exclusivity, but rather, I was comforted by the intimacy.
I walked into the space and was greeted by an array of natural hair and dewy brown skin. The space was freshly cleansed, the sage smoke comforting me as it wrapped around me in ribbons, weaving through my hair before evaporating into the air. It felt as if I was reliving my experiences as a child, except this time, these women looked like me. There is something to be said for the beauty of a spiritual experience with women who are the same hue as you.
There was instant intimacy, the same intimacy that exists in the black community at large. I felt at home.
Cross-legged in loose black pants and wrapped in a linen shawl, I sat amongst midwives and doulas, artists and healers. There was a relaxing between my shoulder blades, a feeling of shared trust between us. This was a space for us, a space where we could be the full sum of ourselves, where we could call out the importance of ancestral awareness while reckoning the full moment of our current existence. There was instant intimacy, the same intimacy that exists in the black community at large. I felt at home.
I shared with the group that I felt a sense of healing, and setting intention amongst a group of black women specifically gave me hope for collective healing. I was met with hopeful agreement, tears, and laughter. There was understanding and holding space for one another. But what was most moving, what felt different from any other spiritual experience before, what could never be compared to the spaces I navigated growing up, was the ability to heal amongst others who were also experiencing life as a black woman in America. It was divine to feel seen and to see others. It was divine to participate in collective healing.
So often I was the only black person in guided meditations and moon circle; sometimes I was the only person of color. When entering a spiritual space of healing as the only black woman felt like a denial of who I am and what I need to heal in this lifetime. Being three generations from slavery means I am still learning what freedom means for me. Entering a spiritual space of healing amongst black woman means I can state my intention to heal race-based trauma not only for myself, but for my ancestors who never had the opportunity to heal in their physical bodies. I could have never stated this intention if I were the only woman of color in the room.
The moon circle ran late into the night, each of us holding our farewell embraces for an extended period of time, not wanting to accept that what we’d just shared was ending. I came home, the scent of sage heavy in my thick, curly hair, lingering like a reminder of all I had just experienced. I slept ten hours and upon waking, I wrote for hours. I felt full, inspired, seen, and heard. I suddenly had a new standard set for my spiritual quest: community building. For so long, my spirituality was a private and, at times, lonely journey. This experience reminded me that there is room for community, that a divine sisterhood laid within these spiritual spaces, and that I wasn’t alone.