Don’t we humans and demigods have the power to make things sacred – especially together? Isn’t that what our magic is all about?

In this manifesto, Sankofa Backwards-Looking Prophetess encourages us to think multi-dimensionally about madness. According to Sankofa, to move beyond invalidation toward genuine understanding, we must bring together decolonial, trauma-informed, biological, and spiritual lenses. Rather than discounting either the usefulness of medication as a tool or the value of spiritual experiences, Sankofa argues for a holistic approach, alchemizing insights from social science, psychiatry, neuroscience, Indigenous ways of knowing, and Sankofa’s own experiences with the otherworldly. Sankofa keeps the reader on their toes with cheeky humour and no shortage of good-natured zeal in this lively exploration of body, politics and magic.

You can read more about Mad Pride and reclaiming words like “crazy” and “mad” here. You can read more about neurodivergence here. As always, different people will have different feelings about the terms and concepts they prefer to use to talk about their experiences.

About the author: Sankofa is a Black and mixed poly, queer, trans and gender-transcending possessed and shapeshifting survivor and prophet who writes from traditional, ancestral and stolen lands of the Blackfoot Confederacy (Siksika, Kainai, Piikani); the Tsuut’ina; the Îyâxe Nakoda Nations (including the Chiniki, Bearspaw, and Wesley First Nations); and the Métis Nation (Region 3), where Sankofa resides. Sankofa is eager to join the fight to democratize the arts and obsolesce prescriptivism. Sankofa believes that making art is an inalienable part of being human. Further, Sankofa knows that art is key to decolonization and a better world. Sankofa is a proud and unapologetic schizo witch-bitch. Sankofa’s pronouns are Sankofa/Sankofa/Sankofa’s/Sankofaself.

Holism, Not Invalidation: A Schizo/Crazy/Neurodivergent1 Witch-Bitch Manifesto 

Dec. 21st, 2021
By Sankofa Backwards-Looking Prophetess
Instagram: @sankofa_blp

Content note: The following includes evocations – but not details – of child abuse and traumas of colonization; as well as the persecution of witches; diabolization; colonialist, patriarchal, ableist and chauvinistically Christian demonization; disease as an agent of colonialism, violence and evil (Billy-Ray Belcourt’s CTV interview helped to bring me to this understanding of disease); and so-called “messianic complexes.” Also included is a discussion of the supernatural, including gifts, curses, states of possession, mediumship, so-called “Satan” and White Man God. Some of the impacts of racism and colonialism on biology are also pointed to. Gaslighting, invalidation, pathologization and over-pathologization, as well as some flawed antipsychiatry assumptions are unpacked in detail, which involves pushing back against some spiritual and psychiatric ideas. A citation dealing with sexualized racism in the form of sexual abuse is included in the recommended educational resources listed at the end of the article.

Composed on traditional, ancestral and stolen lands of the Blackfoot Confederacy (Siksika, Kainai, Piikani); the Tsuut’ina; the Îyâxe Nakoda Nations (including the Chiniki, Bearspaw, and Wesley First Nations); and the Métis Nation (Region 3), where Sankofa resides.

My name is Sankofa, which is a bird flying forward with its head turned backwards to tell us that knowledge from our past must guide us in our futures. I am Sankofa the Backwards-Looking Prophetess, I look backwards and carry my knowledge forwards. Some might say I’m a Harbinger of Hope, and yet I have been named, The Prophet of Doom. My pronouns are Sankofa, Sankofa, Sankofa’s and Sankofaself. I have schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, coming together to make a schizoaffective disorder. 

Anyway, this reflection is a response to the interconnected and interlocking ways in which society is failing those from whom it has so much to learn. Us schizo/crazy/neurodivergent witch-bitches are finding ourselves at a crossroads between gaslighters and invalidators.  

“What is a schizo/crazy/neurodivergent witch-bitch?” you might ask.  

There are three things that make a schizo/crazy/neurodivergent witch-bitch: neurodiversity; magic; and the third: trauma rooted in oppressive systems and interpersonal violence. Schizo/crazy/neurodivergent witch-bitch is a category of self-identification for people who are schiz or live in or have inhabited a marginalized reality or marginalized realities;2 witches or spiritually attuned people; and the scapegoats of society, or underdogs, if you will – to translate the last base, “bitch,” of the compound moniker “witch-bitch.” Another sense of “bitch” here is a person who self-consciously resists oppression through strategic aggression and unpleasantries, or badassery and rebellion in general. 

Ok. Well then, who are these gaslighters and invalidators?  

Basically everyone – but most disappointingly of all, the vast majority of psychiatrists and mainstream spiritually attuned voices. 

And some spiritual folks may be like, “Psychiatrists? What are you looking for from psychiatrists? Isn’t their whole job basically prescribing meds to people whom they deem mentally ill and trying to convince those particular people that they’re unwell while ignoring anyone and anything else that doesn’t fit into their particular criteria for certifiable crisis? What they have is a confoundingly precise way of pissing everyone off. Not only are they essentially insupportably pompous piss-off artists – but ones whose shenanigans have real consequences for people’s actual lives. What do you want from them? They aren’t going to validate your spiritual experiences! How utterly preposterous.” 

Well, yes, “Psychiatrists are bewilderingly precise professional piss-off artists who aren’t going to validate your spiritual experiences” does seem to be a substantiable claim, but spiritual antipsychiatry people – you’re missing something crucial here: it is the case for many of us schizo/crazy/neurodivergent people – and particularly for us schizophrenic, bipolar and schizoaffective people – that OUR BRAINS ARE UNDER ATTACK, and though psychiatrists may not have all the answers that we need, they certainly have some indispensable tools – I’m talking really essential necessities that some folks, such as myself, require just to get through the day and fucking survive in general.   

Then a skeptical spiritual person might reply, “So your brain is under attack and you require pharmacological treatment developed for secular use, but you call your perceptions and ideas ‘received’ under said brain attack ‘magical’…? Hmmm… How does that make sense?” (This particular level of skeptical spiritual person undoubtably would be sure to punctuate “‘received’” and “‘magical’” with air quotation marks of incredulity, but not “brain attack.”) 

Well, to respond to such a formidable logician (😉), I would have this to say: schizo witch-bitch realities, in which biological and spiritual experiences come together, make sense because, if you really believe in spiritual protectors, you will understand that they’re going to jump into action when they see that one of their charges is under siege, which is what happens when too much dopamine is being taken up in the brain. 

The skeptic may continue to ask, “If psychosis has a biological basis, then why would it involve such direct access to the spirit realm and such overt manifestations of spirits, when other biological illnesses don’t?” 

Well, in cases where it is true that psychosis involves overt contact with the spirit realm, we’re talking about psychosis that is the result of the body’s physiological response to evil. Spirits come to the direct assistance of those with this particular kind of psychosis because such psychosis is an illness or phenomenon borne of evil and is a vehicle that evil uses to get our attention very explicitly. (Keep in mind, only the person with the psychosis can identify whether the psychosis is a spiritual or nonspiritual phenomenon and an illness or a state, through their own epiphanies and other forms of prophetic knowledge.) 

Essentially, the illness or phenomenon that is spiritual psychosis is caused by people in one’s life – or even society in general – sacrificing the now-schizo/mad person and their wellbeing in the name of their own misidentified interests (“misidentified,” because said scapegoaters are not thinking eternally or pantheistically – for a more accurate assessment of what “self-interest” really means, see my essay, “A Glossary of Reportedly Ineffective Tactics for Motivating Oppressors to Change Their Ways in White Supremacy”). There’s a reason why so many of us schizo/crazy/neurodivergent folk identify with the messianic tradition: our lives belong to that category of experience.  

I said that this illness or condition that is the spiritual psychosis is caused by people in one’s life or even society in general sacrificing a becoming-schizo/-mad witch-bitch and their wellbeing in the name of the sacrifices’ own misidentified interests, but how are we schizo/crazy/neurodivergent witch-bitches sacrificed? 

When I talk about sacrifice, I’m talking about violence committed in the name of misidentified self-interest: I’m talking about trauma, oppression and abuse in general – the kinds of various and sustained experiences that cause inflammation in the brain. Let me quote from an article published on the Dana Foundation website by Kayt Sukel. The article is called, “Following the Threads: The Link Between Childhood Trauma and Psychosis.” The article quotes Bruce McEwen, “a neurobiologist at the Rockefeller University who studies the effects of chronic stress on the brain” (“Following”). He explains, 

“One of the key elements in normal brain development is balance[…] When stress leads to an inflammatory response, we now understand that these chemicals can go into the brain as well, and there may be even an equivalent of an inflammatory response in the brain that may disrupt development in such a way that leads to neuropsychiatric disease.” (“Following”; bolding added)

Thinking about how we schizo witch-bitches are constituted through sacrifice, to speak of trauma and biology intersectionally – because that’s crucial to understanding the needs of some of society’s most failed – I would like to bring in some research on race and psychosis, which I cited in my own Honours thesis on Akwaeke Emezi’s Freshwater. Emezi resists identifying their novel’s autobiographical main character’s experiences using the pathologizing, secular frameworks of hegemonic psychiatry, by the way. Here’s an excerpt from my thesis: 

[…]Simon Dein and Kamaldeep Singh Bhui as well as Tanya Luhrmann show in their respective reviews of psychological, epidemiological and anthropological research that schizophrenia disproportionately affects people of African and Caribbean descent. Dein and Singh Bhui’s analysis shows that people with African and Caribbean ancestry are 3-12 times more likely to develop schizophrenia than their white counterparts, and that “[t]his phenomenon may be more extreme for those children born in the UK of first-generation migrants than for their parents” (774). Luhrmann asserts that “[d]ark-skinned migrants to Europe, mostly from the Caribbean or sub-Saharan Africa, are at risk of developing schizophrenia at rates as much as 10 times higher than those of white Europeans” (“Beyond the Brain”). After positing a questionable climatological interpretation that a vitamin-D deficiency might be in part responsible she adds, “One of the more disconcerting findings is that if you have dark skin, your risk of falling victim to schizophrenia increases as your neighborhood whitens” (“Beyond the Brain”). (44; bolding added)

I should add that Dein and Bhui’s review of scholarly literature is focused on the British context and that they also cite research finding increased incident rate ratios for other psychoses among Black folks as well as modestly increased incident rate ratios for schizophrenia, manic psychosis, depressive psychosis and other psychoses in “all minority groups” (“At the Crossroads” 774; bolding added). 

And so, we see that the evil of racism can cause a spiritual and biological crisis – no surprise there. I want to think with Billy-Ray Belcourt, who identified Indigenous peoples’ own bodies as doing some of the “work” of colonialism against said Indigenous folks in a CTV interview, shortly after he won the Rutherford Scholarship (“Overcome”). In a similar vein, I see biology as conduit for violence in Its afterlife. When the brain becomes afflicted by biological entities that have been hijacked by evil, it is my belief that our spiritual protectors – our ancestors and the spirits we were born to – and even those we create – spring into action. (See “Genesis of a Mad Person” for my prophesying regarding the multidirectional, often back-and-forth nature of creation.) Essentially, we mad folks are at the nexus of a battle between nonevil spiritual forces and evil,3 which is why we make so much sense and so little sense. 

But psychiatrists aren’t reaching us BIPOC and white pagan schizo/crazy/neurodivergent witch-bitches because they’ve excluded so much subaltern and pagan knowledge. They’ve effectively separated out white from subaltern, and within whiteness, they’ve separated out brain from spirit, and then they tried to erase everything that they’ve left out in these processes of separation. Their failure to connect with so many of us is a real shame that has serious consequences, because psychiatrists hold one of the most powerful tools for combating a psychospiritual attack and that is: medication.4 I wouldn’t have the courage to be writing about my struggles for a public audience; the self awareness to even call myself mad or a schizo/crazy/neurodivergent witch-bitch; and I wouldn’t have been able to get through a whole article by Tanya Luhrmann or Kayt Sukel – let alone finish my Honours essay – without my medication. Many of us schizo/crazy/neurodivergent witch-bitches need our medications so that we can take a step back from the good and evil messages we are getting and untangle them, process them, unpack them, analyze them and share the jewels in these divine messages with our communities. That isn’t possible if you think you’re doomed 24/7 and/or can’t eat or sleep, as is the case for many of us schizo/crazy/neurodivergent witch-bitches when we are in the throes of spiritual battle – or the pirouettes of spiritual ballet, for that matter. 

The truth is that many schizo – and some other crazy – witch-bitches are thinking at the god-level while inhabiting human flesh – self-recognition being authoritative – and to my understanding, that’s a dangerous state to be in in a racial capitalist society. Unfortunately, it seems that most humans cannot process purely spiritual knowledge on their own. We need medication to help us think in a “rational” human language. Only when we are thinking in this human language can we unpack and put to effective use the knowledge that we have gained at the god-level in our own idiosyncratic mystical languages, which are specially designed for us, and with us, by divinities. (I explore the ways in which one can learn to translate between human and spiritual languages and navigate the world as a spiritual polyglot in UBC English Honours essay, “Skeleton Magic in Freshwater.”) 

Ok, so I have reflected on how psychiatry is failing us schizo/crazy/neurodivergent witch-bitches. Now I’m coming for the spiritually knowledgeable invalidators. Schizo/crazy/neurodivergent witch-bitches may be expecting invalidation from hegemonic medicine; but what hurts the most is not being seen by the seers.

For example, I have seen those who want to protect and honour the traditional medicines of their cultures saying that this is what a spiritual calling looks like, and it is distinct from a chemical imbalance. I’ve already addressed with sincerity and care – despite not wanting for cheekiness – the spiritually knowledgeable invalidators who don’t believe in spiritual psychoses. But what about the spiritually knowledgeable folks who do believe in spiritual psychoses – where have many of them been going wrong?

My answer to that question would be, in the arrogance that necessarily informs the exclusivity that they subscribe to as they separate the “mentally ill” from “the gifted.” While in some cases, it may be true that a given psychosis is a nonspiritual illness, we diviners must accept that the afflicted is the authority here in recognizing their illness or condition for what it is, spiritually. I think that a prescriptive set of criteria for what is a spiritual psychosis is a very dangerous and exclusionary way of framing spirituality and madness (albeit clearly based primarily in the intentions of honouring and protecting traditional culture). 

Why do I say this?  

Spiritual teachers who are telling some people, “You’re crazy,” and others, “You’re spiritually gifted,” are not helping anyone. They’re just creating an elite class of Chosen Ones and influencing people to stop taking their medication when their brains are spiritually and biologically under attack. So, this person who is schizoaffective is a schizo witch-bitch and now, they think that because they hear the voices of divinities and see spirits, that they should go off their medication. Or this person is a schizo witch-bitch whose spiritual insights take the form of voices, visions and messages about aliens, secret societies and shady government organizations – this person is mad, not a healer: their voices, visions and messages are devoid of overtly spiritual content.5 

But to subscribe to this kind of dichotomy is to fail to appreciate the fact that spirits and ancestors communicate with us in individualized languages that are personally resonant with us as individuals. So, aliens could well be metaphorical for angels and demons, and a shady government agency could be metaphorical for The Evil Force. Secret societies? The alliance between humans in the schizo/crazy/neurodivergent witch-bitch’s life and evil forces, of which most humans are typically unconscious. There is clearly more than one spiritual language and pantheon out there – otherwise how do we explain the diversity and inconsistency of spiritual messaging among honest devotees across and within cultures and across different walks of life? 

Ancestors and spirits are present with us and are as quirky as we are: they do not have some universally understandable language, that is frozen in a primordial, precolonial era, with which to speak to us. We feed them pizza and offer them second-hand stilettos (because fuck fast fashion!) and they gossip to us about the FBI. We are all different, and our ancestors and guardian spirits can appreciate that.  

As I’ve said, I chalk up most of the cold shoulders mad folk receive from established6 spiritual knowers and the silences of said knowers on the overflowing self-acknowledged gifts of many of the mad – even in this era of deadly persecution and marginalization of those labeled as mentally ill – to the imperative of preserving the respective heritages of the communities to which knowers belong. The awkwardness and precarity of practicing – or even existing – under the conditions of white supremacy, exemplified in the danger of clashing with established systems of might7 and pretenders to authority, is another, understandable – but not entirely excusable – motivator for this shirkage of duty toward some of society’s most failed on the part of many established spiritual voices. Feeling overwhelmed by current duties and responsibilities and not having time to analyze every seeker’s dreams, visions and received signs, by contrast, is highly excusable in my opinion. And yet, I can’t shake this sense that there is a still another, less noble and understandable factor which has led to the neglect of people like me by spiritual knowers. And my suspicion is that even diviners are not insusceptible to the thorough racial capitalist conditioning that teaches us all the following lies: Everything is a competition; There is such a thing as “The Greatest” and there can only be one; Love is a limited resource; Scarcity begets demand – and therefore value!; Fuck others over as you have been fucked over, and, For the love of your life, gatekeep, gatekeep, gatekeep! 

~ But maybe that’s just the schizo in me. ~ 

I have a suggestion for those who have become too overwhelmed with their duties to hear the stories of the laity, and those folks may not like this, but, if you have become the way to spiritual knowing, but are too overwhelmed to minister to the spiritual needs of some of society’s most failed, then perhaps you need to liberate the keys to the throne room and disseminate the ethically supplied, artisanal furnisher’s business cards appropriately (because fuck fast furniture!). 

Think about it this way, o selectively validating knowledgeable ones with capacity to take on highly important additional duties: if I’m wrong and the schizo/crazy/neurodivergent people who are talking about aliens and secret societies really aren’t onto anything divinely received – according to their own medically induced later realizations – then what’s the harm in entertaining the idea that they might be speaking spiritual realities while encouraging them to take their meds, if they happen to reach out for spiritual guidance in a time of crisis before the meds kick in? Reputational damage to the diviner for associating themself with the mad? Keep in mind that psychiatrists and selectively validating spiritual knowers claim that only medication – and not spiritual therapy or counsel – is capable of untangling a purely biologically driven psychosis.  

So, o spiritual knower, you ministered to the spiritual needs of a self-identified false prophet? So what? The meds have kicked in, and they’ve renounced themself. But you know what? They are probably deeply touched by the care you showed them at such a trying point in their life, even if they are also a little embarrassed for seeking you out and claiming to be something when it didn’t turn out to be the case that they were that thing, according to their own realizations at which they have arrived on medications. Crucially you didn’t say or do anything with a dishonest heart – for aren’t we all spiritual beings anyway? And weren’t their self-demoted false preachings coming from sincerity and a deeply sacred place (the human heart and one’s love for creation)?8 Doesn’t that make them sacred anyway? And further, don’t we humans and demigods have the power to make things sacred – especially together? Isn’t that what our magic9 is all about?  

If we recognize that the most powerful human and demigod magic is collaboratively created and shaped, you can’t really go wrong by recognizing the spiritual truths of the concerns of the mad. No divinity can undermine the magic of collaborative humanoid creativity. 

The real imperative becomes clear when we think of the converse situation to the one I have explored above: I am right and those who are having intergalactic experiences and Orwellian intuitions of the belief-stretching variety are tuning into something deeper as a result of sacrificing that is often prolonged or repeated. How many brilliant minds and tender, honest hearts are being pushed to the very edge of society – the edge of the world – the edge of existence – because no one is listening – because their truest, deepest, most sacred knowledge has been pathologized?  

They are coming to term and the long awaited one can’t be born. Their trials are without purpose; their knowledge is false. They know nothing, are no one. And no one will get it. 

This kind of unfulfillment and erasure is of a deeply painful and lonely variety – I have been there before.  

But thankfully, I’ve come back, with community and renewed belief. 

Of course, I would never try to detract from the truth that sincere and honest established spiritual voices have knowledge that is divinely unique to them, just as schizo/crazy/neurodivergent witch-bitches have our own idiosyncratic spiritual languages – plus established diviners have learned to refine their spiritual knowings by viewing them through the overlapping lenses of the knowings transmitted through tradition and by ancestors as well as other community members, human and other-than-human, whereas many schizo/crazy/neurodivergent witch-bitches do not have the opportunity to accordingly refine their own spiritual knowings by such means. 

In the end, it comes down to spiritual sages to prioritize working with those among society’s most failed, who are reaching out to said sages for help and coming into their own spiritual gifts and curses, to help people like me process our divine knowledge and make sense out of it – helping people to decode divine signs, messages and other forms of communication or otherworldly visitations as well as encouraging them to take their medications, advocating for them and working as a bridge between psychiatrists and schizo/crazy/neurodivergent witch-bitches – all of  this should be in the job description of spiritual healers – it is what is needed to promote healing and wellness, not only of schizo witch-bitches, but of our societies in general. Sadly, this work is largely being neglected in the current day. 

Of course, I am not including appropriators in the group that I’m advocating for and I want to acknowledge, protect and celebrate the inter-cultural boundaries which colonized Peoples and persons draw to protect ourselves from colonizers. Sacred is our pursuit of self-protection! 

Ultimately, I think that we schizo/crazy/neurodivergent witch-bitches cannot force our way into spiritual gazes of recognition that refuse to see us. That is why we schizo/crazy/neurodivergent witch-bitches – and especially BIPOC ones – must reclaim the identity of “witch.”  

Witches are, for the most part, vilified by everyone, including many spiritually awakened folks in our own BIPOC communities. Alicia Elliott writes about the historic demonization and persecution of mentally ill folks as witches by Europeans in the titular piece of her marvellous essay collection, A Mind Spread Out on the Ground. Witches are those of us who worship Satan – or rather the False Devil – the False Devil being created by White Man God to represent all that which is Black; feminine, genderless or of a different marginalized gender; queer; shamelessly self-loving; pleasure-seeking; blasphemous (read: truthteller); and “fetishistic” (read: reverent of nature and bonded to her gods and spirits by a West African tradition) or “idolatrous”; many of the god/desses of our subaltern spiritualities have historically been, and are often still contemporarily, diabolized – or cast as devils and demons – by Christian colonizers.  

Those of us who are possessed or inhabited by otherworldly beings understand the special relationship between the twin injustices of demonization and pathologization or over-pathologization and may even feel a deep solidarity with White Man God’s False Devil, Satan, because of our understanding of that twinned pain. So-called “Satan” is everything which threatens to undermine White Man God and His oppressive rule and order of things, as per the meaning of the God-given (😉) name of “Satan” – a verb meaning, to obstruct or oppose. Self-consciously channeling the various powers of Satan (to which our intersections give us respective access), we are a formidable force: the ultimate in badassery! 

Rise, my siblings! And unite! 


  1. I include all of these terms as suggestions for what adherents might call themselves. Not all of these terms need to be used. I for example, call myself a schizo witch bitch. However, it is valid if one also wants to use all of these terms and more in identifying with the movement.
  2. I learned the term “marginalized realities” from an interview with Akwaeke Emezi, author of Freshwater, by interviewer Matthew Whitehouse (“Akwaeke Emezi”). In the interview, Emezi elaborates on the term, associating it with people who inhabit “other worlds,” “see[] the future in their dreams” and “experienc[e] things that people don’t consider real,” (“Akwaeke Emezi”). Further, as I evidence in my thesis, Emezi seems to be speaking about inhabitants of marginalized realities in subaltern contexts. Certainly, being victim and/or survivor of colonialism speaks to another degree of oppression faced by BIPOC inhabitants of marginalized realities and hence the attractiveness of the term “marginalized” in describing said folks, who are certainly not marginal.  
  3. I do not believe that good and evil exist in a binary. Spiritual entities that resist evil’s invasion of the witch-bitch’s psyche at the spiritual plane of consciousness, at which gods communicate, are not necessarily perfect defenders, and some are in fact tricksters and demons who get pulled into their own spiritual battles, especially through evil’s invading. However, while good forces are imperfect, I believe that that there is a perfectly evil, intelligent force out there that is only invested in the good so long as it serves its own sustenance. This force has made itself known to me as, “B0B” (H3/H1M/H1S).
  4. By “medication” and “meds” I mean purely chemical treatments prescribed according to assessments informed by hegemonic medicine, as opposed to the more holistic notions of medicine found outside of hegemonic medicine. (These holistic notions of medicine are not devoid of hegemonic pharmacology, by the way; medication is merely a subcategory of medicine. After all, I wouldn’t be a holist if I excluded science, a crucial form of magic.) Add love, care and administer medications while honouring and invoking histories, heritages, communities and stories; that is how medication becomes medicine. It is only because of colonialist violence, including colonialism’s divide-and-conquer strategies when it comes to knowledge, that some of us BIPOC folks have come to mistrust the magic of the most ground-breaking fruits of hegemonic science. (In my English Honours essay, I identify white supremacy’s divide-and-conquer approach to reality with “a factional interest of decontextualization for white supremacist colonial control” (41). I write:  

[A divide-and-conquer approach to reality] can be found in individualism, biological reductionism, which too often ignores trauma and the presence that is the past, divide-and-conquer politics, white co-optations of intersectionality which view identities as “a bunch of little” separate “cubby holes stuffed respectively with intellect, race, sex, class, vocation, gender” rather than the “flow[ing]” “river” that it is (Gloria Anzaldúa, “To(o) Queer” 166), the construct of the political spectrum which decontextualizes party politics from identity politics and white supremacy, as well as white historical narratives that identify African political corruption as the source of manufactured poverty in Africa, rather than policies and actions perpetrated by colonizers from the beginning of colonial contact, including contemporary and recent forms of structural violence/theft/coercion and assassinations of African leaders. [41])

  1. Madness might even come to be viewed as an enviable experience by the so-called “sane,” if it were recognized for powerful spiritual channel that it can be.
  2. I don’t only mean “established” in the more common sense – in terms of status, reach or even material wealth; I am also thinking about other ways in which many established spiritual voices are high (see Endnote 6) and wealthy, such as being rooted in self-awareness, refined power (although refinement is often named always incomplete), and knowledges carried in traditional teachings.
  3. I think it’s important to distinguish between “might” and “power” wherever possible. Whereas one arises from, and is sustained by, a desire to control, dominate and exploit, the other is gods-given, ancestrally maintained and lies in the beauty and power of love, collaboration and recognition of our shared humanity. (Alternatively, “high” is a slippery term that can encompass both power and might or exclude either on a whim.)
  4. In my Honours essay, I write about the spiritually generative powers of various combinations and singular practices of naming, loving and belief, informed by Emezi’s prophetic Freshwater. I believe that these practices can transform, nurture, strengthen and even create beings, worlds and powers.
  5. At this time, I view magic as that category of spirituality that is humanly conjured without explicit direction for the divine necessarily guiding it, while certainly all good magic is in our destiny.


The work of Rory Neirin Higgs is driven by similar questions and knowledge to my own. I am deeply inspired by their work and grateful for their friendship.  

Thank you to Dr. Robin Wall Kimmerer for writing Braiding Sweetgrass and spelling out the Potawatomi inclusion of the other-than-human as community members in their traditional cosmos. I like the way that she formulates this truth and therefore I choose to borrow from her phrasing as I think about Indigenous spiritualities – while appreciating the diversity among and within them – as a person of Indigenous African descent. 

Thank you to Dr. Daniel Heath Justice for teaching his class, of which I was part, not to view science as a monolith. 

August 31, 2022: This essay has been amended to fix a previous error in the quoting of Billy-Ray Belcourt’s CTV interview.

Further Reading and Viewing 

“A Glossary of Reportedly Ineffective Tactics for Motivating Oppressors to Change Their Ways in White Supremacy.” Sankofa Future-Past (a pen name of Sankofa Backwards-Looking Prophetess). Medium. Jan. 7, 2021. Accessed on Mar. 31, 2021. 

“Akwaeke Emezi: The ‘Freshwater’ Author Standing on the Edge and Claiming It as Central.” Matthew Whitehouse. in Vice. Dec. 26, 2018. Accessed on April 3, 2021.  

A Mind Spread Out on the A Mind Spread Out on the Ground. Alicia Elliott. Doubleday, a division of Penguin, 2019. 

“At the Crossroads of Anthropology and Epidemiology: Current Research in Cultural Psychiatry in the UK.” Simon Dein and Kamaldeep S. Bhui. Transcultural Psychiatry. Vol. 50, No. 6, pages 769-791. 2013. Sage Journals. doi:10.1177/1363461513498618. Accessed on Mar. 30, 2021. 

“Beyond the Brain.” Tanya Marie Luhrmann. in Wilson Quarterly. Summer 2012. Vol. 36, No. 3, pages 28-34. 2012. Accessed on Mar. 30, 2021. 

Braiding Sweetgrass. Robin Wall Kimmerer. Milkweed Editions, 2013. 

“Child Abuse and Psychosis: A Literature Review and Implications for Professional Practice.”  John Read. in Professional Psychology: Research and Practice. Vol. 8, No. 5. Pages 448-456. 1997. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice. doi: 10.1037/0735-7028.28.5.448. Accessed on Mar. 31, 2021. 

“Episode #18: People of Colour and Sexual Assault – Engage by Uplift.” Uplift – Online Communities Against Sexual Violence. YouTube. Nov. 11, 2015. Accessed on Jan. 14, 2021.  

“Following the Threads: The Link Between Childhood Trauma and Psychosis.” Kayt Sukel.  Dana Foundation. Feb. 13, 2019. Accessed on Mar. 30, 2021. 

Freshwater. Akwaeke Emezi. New York, Faber & Faber, 2018. 

“Genesis of a Mad Person.” Sankofa Backwards-Looking Prophetess. BC Hearing Voices Network. Feb. 19, 2021. Accessed on Mar. 31, 2021. 

“‘Overcome with Emotion’: First Nations Student Named Rhodes Scholar.” CTV News. Nov. 27, 2015. Accessed Mar. 29, 2021. 

“Psychosis and Personal Mythology.” Rory Neirin Higgs. BC Hearing Voices Network. May 21, 2019. Accessed on 24 Feb. 2020. 

“Satan.” Online Etymology Dictionary. 2001-2021. Accessed on Mar. 30, 2021. 

Skeleton Magic in Freshwater. Sankofa Backwards-Looking Prophetess. Honours essay. UBC. 2020. Updated 2021. 

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