The Great Work: Holding the Space

Gouache on paper by Heron Michelle

Gouache on paper by Heron Michelle

As part of my spiritual practice each year I choose an area of study or devotion to which I will dedicate myself for the course of that turning of the wheel. I call this year-long working, that is furthered through 8 sabbats and many esbats, the Great Work.

Beginning sometime after Samhain, which is the end of the cycle, and beginning in earnest during the Yule rites, which is the beginning of the cycle, I use various means of meditation and divination, to open my heart, mind and eyes to the Awen (divine inspiration) about what that next Great Work should be. Then I make the dedication at Imbolc like the planting of the seeds. Throughout the remaining year the work is fertilized at Ostara, empowered at Beltane, cultivated at Litha, harvested at Lammas, and the fruits of those labors applied and integrated at Mabon, before laying to rest at Samhain what aspects of my life and process no longer serve my highest good, in light of the new development.

That time of rest between Samhain and Imbolc becomes a very wide open, reflective and intuitive time. Without fail, once I broadcast to the Universe that I seek their guidance and I am open to their messages, the synchronicity, signs, symbols, and omens blaze and sizzle into my awareness like fireworks. It becomes almost comically clear what threads I’m meant to begin weaving into the tapestry of my evolving consciousness through the next cycle of the Great Work.

The way that I utilize the energies of the solar cycle that we call “The Wheel of the Year”  allows for a time to “hold the space” during that dark time of late fall, early winter, when we celebrate the mythos of the God/dess descending into the underworld and arriving at Samhain. For me, the waning Samhaintides, are a time of rest and reflection. It is a time when the lessons of the previous harvest are taken into account with gratitude, and in the silence I find conclusion to what the year taught me. Then I turn my eyes to the future, into the birth of the new cycle, to begin a new vision.

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Gouache on paper by Heron Michelle

It takes this time of metaphorical “darkness,” to refocus one’s inner vision.  Just as when one sits in the dark back yard, when there is no moon, nor glare of artificial light, and your eyes can relax into the low light. Perception expands, deepens, and points of starlight previously imperceptible, now come into our view; the patterns of the stars take on new clarity and meaning.

“Hold the Space” is the term I use more frequently than “be silent” when referring to the active principle of the elemental earth mysteries of the Witches’ Pyramid of Power, the foundation principles of my magickal practice.  To hold the space means that I hold open the void of potential, like playing midwife to a birth, and deliver into the world whatever my Divine Will deems appropriate for me at that time. Meanwhile, I withhold any sort of critical analysis, judgement, or action.  I merely PAY ATTENTION, gather the strands of data, and SHUT UP for a while (that is the be silent part.)

“Speak ye little, listen much.” ~The Wiccan Rede.

As Imbolc approaches and  I begin to formulate the new dedication, all those strands of data begin forming a pattern, like a big arrow pointing in a direction, that I can discern.  But its for the best that I still withhold judgement and just begin that journey with the first step, since there are no guarantees to be had, anyway. Truth be told, even if I think I have an idea where Spirit is leading me, I’m always amazed by the journey. I may THINK I have a map, but I’m not going where I’ve been before, that is behind me, and every person’s journey is unique, so other people’s maps would do me no good anyway. You know what is said about the difference between Religion and Spirituality, don’t you?

“Religion is belief in someone else’s experience.
Spirituality is having your own experience.”
-Deepak Chopra

I’ve been consciously traveling this river of Wyrd, this flow of Spirit, or my fate or personal destiny, as my Anglo-Saxon ancestors may have called it, now for over a decade. I can trust that the boat I’ve made for myself is well-crafted and strong, because I built it myself, one bit of praxis at a time. I can trust that my Wyrd is flowing in accordance to Divine Will, and that the wisdom, skills and experience I’ve gained through my spiritual practice will be sufficient to navigate whatever rocks, eddies and rapids may lie ahead. I also know that as a sovereign being with free-will, I have choices:

  1. Do I cling to the edge in terror of the unknown before me; paralyzed by my fear? Am I so powerless and dependent on anything or anyone else to allow my personal destiny to unfold? I’m no sheep.
  2. Do I turn my boat around and paddle feverishly and pointlessly against the current, attempting to cling to the past or to old ideas, and outmoded ways?  We know that is an exhausting, frustrating, pointless endeavor at best, and is seething fundamentalism at worst, getting you no where; I am no fool.
  3. Do I allow myself to become diverted and mired in some murky bog of avoidance, self-loathing, addictions, heart-break, disillusionment, or entrapment in old ideas, or systems that no longer serve me? I’m no slave.
  4. Or might I have the courage and open mindedness to take responsibility for my own evolution by pointing the prow of my boat into the future, flowing with the current of wyrd, my Divine Will, and using all the tools I’ve honed and wisdom I’ve mapped for myself, to tackle what new vistas and lessons are out there waiting for me? Yes. I am the Witch; I am the Magickian.
Gouache on Paper by Heron Michelle

Gouache on Paper by Heron Michelle

With gratitude to the mystery teachings and techniques I weave through the Wheel of the Year, I have a praxis through which I can build the strong boat, map the wyrd through my own wisdom, and learn the skills of navigation through magick.  I will not let fear paralyze me, nor will I waste my energy on the pointless avoidance of change. I will not be blinded by personal ego, misdirected by personal will, nor will I let despair nor hatred bind me.

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.” ― Frank Herbert, Dune

Unbroken Circle

Broadway, Danny, Heritages Fine Art heritagesart.com The Circle Unbroken – Danny Broadway. $350.00

Today I offer you the lyrics to a song I wrote many moons ago. This is my idea of a pagan funeral song, speaking of how I would like my remains to be given to the 4 elements. Also, how I felt after my mother died, seeing that she lived on through me, and my daughter. We sang the christian hymn version at my Mother’s funeral. You guys can sing this version at mine. 🙂

Sung to the tune of “Will the Circle be Unbroken”

We were gathered in a meadow
on a cold and mournful day
There to watch those flames a burning,
flames to carry my mother away.

Oh will the circle be unbroken?
By and by, oh, by and by
For this fire’s been a’ burning
burning since the dawn of time.

I took some ashes to the river
my soul burdened and in pain.
As those sweet waters cleansed my sorrow
the river carried her ashes away.

Oh will the circle be unbroken?
by and by, oh, by and by
For this water’s been a’ flowing,
flowing since the dawn of time.

I gave some ashes to the east wind
as the sun sent down His rays
I felt the heartache, slip from my body
as that wind carried her ashes away.

Oh will the circle be unbroken?
by and by, oh, by and by
For this wind has been a’ blowing
blowing since the dawn of time.

I buried the rest ‘neath an old oak tree
as the moon beamed down Her light.
and Mother Earth then did receive her
with her blessings joyous and bright.

Oh will the circle be unbroken?
by and by, oh, by and by
for this old earth has been a’ turning,
turning since the dawn of time.

I watch my daughter as she’s playing
her hair shining in the sun
and in her smile I see my mother
and I know that she lives on.

I know the circle is unbroken
by and by, oh, by and by
that wheel of life just keeps a turning,
turning since the dawn of time.

Glamour: When the Mighty Fall

Zeus casting Hephaestus from Olympus with Hera unable to stop him.

A few years ago, there was a time when a “pagan leader” I’d once admired for his accomplishments as a teacher, witch, priest, and esteemed writer, fell from grace in a most horrible manner. I think it was fair to even call him a “Big Name Pagan,” but now it is fair to call him an infamous pagan. Oh how the mighty have fallen.

While he has yet to come to trial for his alleged crimes, in the court of public opinion, he is forever damned, and good riddance. When a priest of the old gods is suddenly, devastatingly, and absolutely ruined on all levels, I don’t need jurisprudence to inform me of his wrong-doing. Karma is a bitch, but only it you are.

This person that once deigned to teach me lessons of ethics and human decency, of personal responsibility to become a caretaker of this middle world in service to the Gods… was discovered to be grievously lacking in the same. He taught me that once you make vows to the gods, they are irrevocable. “Live by your vows and you will be abundant in their care; break your vows, and you will suffer.” He claimed he was a “real” Wiccan; old-school, lineaged back to Sanders, or so he loved to gloat.  Among the ethics he taught, Do as you will, but Harm None was non-negotiable.  His gods took him down, so I assume he broke his vows.

Sadly, the malevolent, selfish tarnish of his harm sullied the reputation of all the good people in association with him. Every good thing he ever wrote will never again be printed, or so his publishers have said.  The beautiful people he helped to guide toward the taking of their own vows of service to the gods felt this sting most bitterly, and my spirit wept for them because the witches and priestesses he made are skilled, amazing and doing The Work with great respectability. We are all interconnected; he was the weak link, and he let down everyone in his chain.

I think it was the lie and scandal of the thing that upset me the most. When the horrors of his arrest were first revealed across the national stage, and I was reeling in shock and confusion, I wrote this poem. That was years ago, but for the last several weeks, since Mercury, Mars and Saturn, and every other damned heavenly body, went retrograde, there is one line that keeps repeating in the back of my mind. This is how my guides whisper to me.

“Eyes wide; there are things of which we did not speak.”  Its as though there was a new message being delivered to me, asking me to pay attention to what else may need to be seen and spoken. When the mighty are viewed through the hazy, veiled glamour of fame, it can obscure what most needs to be understood. Let’s all pay better attention for a while, ok?

Glamour

by Heron Michelle

The veils fall, twisted and torn,
no silken glamour now to guise
unsavory truths.
Eyes wide;
there are things of which we did not speak.
Jaws slack;
illusions finally become clear.

Knowings, sharp as scalpels,
cut into our deeps,
dragging out such precious innocence,
birthed awake into this raw light.
The way we came is closed;
no dreams would have us now.
We are all exposed, ripped,
bloody and wailing of our discontent,
howls slice the chill of this new viewing.
Smacked hard to gasping,
we crave so desperately the teat and swaddle,
familiar succor of long-loved delusion
that is no more.

Sins of the father damn all his children.
Bastards now, left to die by the road,
exposed for their mutation and
heinous illegitimacy.
No gods will save them now,
no charm, no fame enough
to shield the unholy shame
carved now so deeply into his name.
Cries of the mourners are all that remain,
forlorn echoes of crimes
that should not be buried,
nor forgotten.

I Am: A Memoir

Long ago,  in 2006, I think, I was asked to submit an article for a webzine column entitled “I am” wherein folks would share the story of how they found their pagan path, and how they define themselves within their practice.

For the launching of this new blog, I’ve been rethinking those questions and how the subsequent 8 years continued that story, for better and for worse.  At the time of the first writing I had only *just* finished my formal year and a day of studies, but had not yet approached the gates of initiation. Now that I peek into the viewpoint of my 2006 self I can honestly say that I was a wide-eyed infant lost in the woods with absolutely no clue what I was getting myself into.

Today, I remain…a Pisces, a daughter, a sovereign woman, and a single mother of two precocious and vibrant children. Since 2006, I have reestablished my independence (otherwise known as divorce); become a witch, priestess, teacher, clairvoyant, Reiki master,  mehndi artist and a business owner.  I am Divine!  I have identified as a pagan-seeker since 1992 at the age of 18.  I continue to recover from a Christian upbringing, but after many years of study and walking the spiral path I can now define myself as who I AM instead of who I am NOT–without apology.

My journey toward witchcraft started much like anyone else in the southeast US.  I was raised in the ordinary, middle-class, suburban, Southern Baptist sort of way in Taylors, South Carolina.   My childhood was fabulous; full of freedom and adventure, including a few years living in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.  However, my mom suffered a massive hemorrhage and near-death experience two weeks after the birth of my little sister.  She called out to Jesus to save her so that she could raise her children.  She would dedicate her life to his service if she lived, and live she did. That vow changed a lot of things…

Mom’s number one agenda became raising us in the “fear and admonition of the Lord.”  We were at the church for every class, service and event.  Thinking about the fine points of theology was hardly encouraged, but I had this annoying habit of resolutely disagreeing with our minister.  Picture a 7 year old actually *listening* to a fire and brimstone sermon and just knowing he had it all wrong, then arguing about it.  Despite being a small child I had a different truth, a stone foundation that was ancient, upon which my brand-new childlike house was sitting.

My whole life I’ve been “differently aware.”  When I first learned of reincarnation I had a eureka experience. I’d always remembered flashes and bits like another person’s memories.  I knew that somehow, just around that last bend in the road, I was an adult man. Occasionally, when going into public restrooms, I had to be reminded that I was a little girl.  There were times when I wouldn’t answer to my name as if it wasn’t mine at all and times when I’d catch my reflection and be startled. The deja-vu was so constant and over-powering that I’d lose track of whether it was past, present or future.

You can imagine the gender identity issues this would cause. I intimately understood being a man, a soldier in WWI. I remembered the fear, and adrenaline of warfare, reacting with PTSD-like behavior when triggered.  I had erotic dreams, that I now recognize as past-life recollection, about being with women. Yet, I liked being a little girl just fine, and had crushes on the boys. In the eighth grade, I confessed to a friend that I was afraid I might be a lesbian. She asked, “Do you like girls?” Well, no, not specifically.  “Then what makes you a lesbian?”  Good question!

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Almost 3 years old, and pretty happy about becoming a little girl.

Now that I have a clairvoyant practice of retrieving past-life information for others, I know that gender is a very temporal and fluctuating thing that can be explored flexibly; however, being raised in a church that tried to “pray away the gay,” you can imagine the sense of crises in which I was raised. Today I prefer the term, “heteroflexible” and I take a namaste approach; the Spirit in me, is attracted to (or not, as the case may be) the Spirit within you. Personally, I think the style of meat-suit people happen to be wearing should be of of far less consequence in matters of love. (1)

I also could see the material world as energy if I shifted focus. I see flashing, multicolored particles flowing and swirling and would lie in bed at night and practice moving the flow with my mind as a way to get to sleep at night.  I’ve also perceived the thoughts of those around me (telepathy), and I usually know who is on the phone just before it rings.  I see auras when someone is very emotional.  As a kid, I called them halos  and boy could our minister work up a bright “halo” when he was preaching that hellfire and damnation!

Starting in the 5th grade and going through early adolescence I suffered some very deep depression.  I was in existential turmoil, having rejected the hatefulness, bigotry and isolation taught me by my mother’s church.  But, if I wasn’t a christian, was I doomed?  In that black/white world of “with us or against us” I thought I had only two options: Christian or Atheist (Atheism=Devil, in that small world).  Yet, if there was no higher purpose to life, why bother?

At around thirteen years old, I lie in bed wide-awake one night when the room seemed particularly moonlit.  Clearly in my mind’s inner dialogue I admitted my worst adolescent fear: “There is no God. I am a freak. I am absolutely alone and this is all pointless.”  Immediately, my senses were arrested. I lost control of my body and was pressed into the bed as though the gravity of god-almighty was in the room. I was unable to move, heart beating like crazy; flooded with adrenaline, I became hyper-aware.  The room became 10 times brighter, filled with bluish moonlight, the silence screamed and my mind rang with the surety that I was NOT alone and I DID have a purpose to fulfill.  This did not come as a voice or in words and gave no clues to its identity, or gender.   I struggled against this force until I gave in and admitted, “OK, OK–Maybe there is a God!”

A quickly as it began, it was gone. I was released and all returned to normal.  Still panting and tingling, I looked around at the ordinary room with the ordinary darkness.  I moved my fingers and stretched. My rational mind kicked-in, skeptical. I thought, “That was weird. I’m losing it. God did NOT just speak to me.”

I am here to tell you that the whole thing repeated itself again twice as strong; I was taken hostage by my own body!  The moon light intensified once again and this time a voiceless scream was in my head.  I thought, “OK, OK, I believe!”  And it was all over, never to be repeated since.  Today I believe that the greatness of the Universe quickened within me, and spoke through my body and Spirit.   At the time, I thought I’d been “called” to christian ministry.  I was horror-struck.  I started running from that fate by way of binge drinking, partying, and non-christian behavior of all self-defeating kinds.  I do not regret those free-thinking, free-living days, but they were hardly pious.

I have this theory that I was being groomed for something specific: I modeled for years, learning poise and grace. I majored in creative writing at The Fine Arts Center, a special high school. In college, I extensively studied religion, anthropology, psychology, history, and writing for several years, before transferring to ECU for a BS in Interior Design, cognate in business, and a specialty in sustainable design. For the next 5 years I worked as a NCIDQ certified, professional Interior Designer, designing healthcare facilities for architecture firms in Raleigh and Houston.

But I digress…back when I’d been eighteen years old, I read Marion Zimmer Bradley’s, The Mists of Avalon.  In this fictional Avalon, I found the goddess-centered lifestyle and spirituality that felt like home, but I assumed those ways were dead and trapped in a distant past.  Shortly thereafter I became friends with a Wiccan priest in my hometown.  He opened my world to neo-paganism.  He shared books with me and we talked in generalities, but despite my expressed interest, he remained very private about Wicca. A deep, familial love and spiritual intimacy  developed between us, but I was never invited to train with him or his coven and I still don’t know why, for sure…Perhaps it was the old Wiccan requirement that the seeker must ask for training 3 times and be denied, before being accepted. I didn’t know that.  That experience gave me to believe (wrongly) that Wiccan Witchcraft was a private club, and that I somehow did not qualify.

So, for the next 10 years I considered myself pagan, by philosophy only, and remained locked tightly in my broom closet with a stack of books.  I married a scientist who had no need for spirituality, nor a belief in spirit at all.  I was successful in a my career as an Interior Designer, while lurking on message boards for the pagan communities in Raleigh, Houston, and Charlotte.  Fear of what my family would think, or that I might be disregarded professionally, kept me mute. I once worked a block away from a metaphysical store that I walked past longingly every day, and yet not once stepped inside.

My daughter is born; A mother emerges2002Then in 2002, I gave birth to my daughter, just after my 28th birthday, just after my Saturn return began.  I’d spent weeks of bed rest cloistered with my books, Raven Grimassi’s Wiccan Mysteries, and Spiral Dance, by Starhawk. During the labor a recurring vision of the goddess pushing open the portal at the end of a long tunnel guided me.  I came face to face to the Mother of us all, and she looked me right in the eyes, turned as though to invite me to pass her, said “you are ready, come through,” then guided me through the rites of birth. I wanted an all-natural, right of passage to motherhood and I got it!  As I gave life to that baby, I called on strength within myself I’d never dreamed possible.  I was surrounded by all the ancestors of my line before me to one side, and after me to the other side. I knew that it was already done, therefore I could do it!  It was ecstatic!  It was a proving ground, and I emerged victorious!  I had a sense of belonging in the great creation of the Universe where I could be so small, but equally divine and powerful. I named my daughter from a word that means Victory!

After her birth, I overcame my fear and through Witchvox.com found a family coven in Charlotte.  As a seeker, I joined them for my first Midsummer Sabbat celebration.  Shortly afterward my husband and I relocated yet again.  I was devastated to arrive here in Greenville, NC, and find that (at the time) there were no pagan groups in town, very few individuals listed on-line, and certainly no training circles.  Well, no one who meant to be found, anyway.   A few days prior to Samhain, I grabbed the bull by the horns and started my own yahoo group called East NC Pagans and invited every local pagan who had a listing on witchvox within 100 miles.

I began to realize how different my spiritual needs were when I was eighteen compared to thirty years old.  My beliefs about deity ranged from wanting an ancient, monotheistic Goddess, to a godless Scientific Pantheism with many stops in between, but there was one defining moment that brought my spiritual journey full circle.

Again, I gave birth naturally to a huge and beautiful baby boy.  His birth was quick and perfect, but medical complications afterward caused an uncontrollable hemorrhage. This sent me on a panicked ER-style ride to a D&C procedure.  I signed consents for possible hysterectomy and parted from my stricken husband with a “take good care of my babies for me.”

I really thought my time in this life was over.  My blood pressure was so low it wouldn’t register on the automatic cuff. As they strapped me, still painfully conscious, to the table in crucifixion position, yelling for the physician to get in there NOW! I could FEEL the panic in the nurses’ voices shouted over me as they rushed to save my life. I stared up at the ceiling and thought to myself,   Here I am just like Mom was when she almost died with a toddler and new infant waiting for her.  Is there a higher power to call on?  Am I alone here?  Hellooo??”     I opened my heart to the void and listened…to silence…  I let go and put my fate in the hands of the medical team.

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My son is born, and I live to raise him!

Coming back from that was tough. I briefly handed over the moderator job of East NC Pagans to someone else and walked away from everything. But, I found that ignoring my own spirit wasn’t possible.   During the very slow beginnings of that group I renewed my study and visited open circles out of town. It took over a year before I could convince anyone on that board to meet me in public for coffee and conversation, then suddenly it was a break through, thanks to the good folks at the local Unitarian Universalist church. The community building  took off like wild fire! Over the next years the membership of East NC Pagans grew to almost 200 people with large monthly meet-ups, classes, and affiliated groups forming in different cities.
From East NC Pagans a circle of friends coalesced who were all seeking, as I was, and hungry for more.  Over beers one night, while bemoaning the lack of teachers in our areas, my dear friend Alice quoted the old Chinese proverb, “‘Tis better to light a candle, than to curse the darkness.”

*CLICK*

Profound gnosis hit me. The great cosmic “Clue by Four” knocked me for a loop. If we were going to grow, we had to take responsibility for ourselves.

By Yule of 2005, we’d formed a study group called Wisecraft Circle. It was a non-traditional, eclectic and egalitarian circle that used the published training guides by Christopher Penczak (2) and Timothy Roderick (3) as our curriculum (among a bunch of other reading we all liked.) We turned the wheel together one full cycle and began again at Imbolc with new friends, this time holding a covening and formalizing our organizational structure.  That was February 1(ish). March 9th my mother passed from this world, kicking off a period of intense awakening for me, guided directly by the Spirit of my mother.

Unfortunately, the “F” word, fundamentalism, reared its ugly head. Questions of legitimacy, authority, ego, and sexual tension killed that circle before it’s second summer solstice. I learned a lot about who I was and who I was NOT, and what NOT to do within group practice.

Midsummer night, the first ritual I'd written and lead for Wisecraft Study Circle.

Midsummer night, the first ritual I’d written and lead for Wisecraft Study Circle.

Nevertheless, I’d dedicated to a year and a day of study in Witchcraft and had some amazing things open up for me.  My awareness expanded, I called and felt the presence of the Divine; become the conduit for Reiki healing energy; inadvertently began astral projecting in my sleep; and the bloom of my psychic ability opened. I experienced spiritual ecstasy that brought me to my knees, and learned to write and lead rituals for the community that expanded that transformative opportunity to others.

The second turning with Wisecraft, I’d dedicated to working with the element of Fire. Nothing touched by fire stays the same and all you can do is surrender to that tempering power. What did not serve my highest good, all that hindered my growth, was burned away: abusive relationships reached their pique so that I was forced to confront them; my mother passed away; the circle disintegrated with all manner of pyrotechnic, ego-spanking emotion; my marriage hit the skids; I had my heart broken by the dashing of old dreams…all by August. However, as I emerged from those fires, my resolve to live authentically outside the broom closet, and with the dignity and self-respect my mother had instilled within me, was honed to a razors edge.

Let me repeat: with the guidance of my fundamentalist, evangelical, ultra-conservative mother’s spirit, I realized the lessons she’d taught me to be the “peculiar people;” to let my “little light shine, not hide it under a bush,” to be a WITNESS for the Divine light within me, and that I deserved to be treated with love and respect by my partner. (4)  By November, I announced my decision to open The Sojourner and the wheels of business development went into high gear.

The SojournerAfter much betrayal, an emotional gauntlet through the burning wreckage of my marriage, the sale of two pieces of real estate in a depressed market, two families moving, the collection of life insurance money from my mother’s estate, false starts, re-imaginings at the last hour, and over a year to secure a location, The Sojourner Whole Earth Provisions was opened to the public on March 28th, 2009. It took immense effort, sacrifice, generous investment by our families, and hard work by many dear friends and partners without any appreciable form of monetary compensation for years. That first day we were open, pagans and muggles alike arrived by the car-load from great distances and damn near cleaned us out!  Lady Sojo is an entity in her own right, and I’m honored to be her care-taker.

As of 2014, we’ve now been open for 5 years, hanging in there despite a lousy economy, and I am now teaching the 5th full year of Modern Witchcraft students, in a program I created based on the books and experiences born of my time with Wisecraft Circle.  From those who’ve completed the training and taken self-initiation, The Sojo Circle formed, and is still a wondrous tribe of beautiful, loving Witches.  A second affiliated training circle now operates out of the Raleigh area concurrently, using this same curriculum.

I’ve passed through many more gates of initiation and taken service to Spirit as Their priestess. My sacred commission, given to me directly through another of my “burning bush” moments, was to be the light-house, shining brightly so that all people may know where to have their spiritual understandings validated; where seekers of enlightenment find an open, safe, welcoming, and responsible training ground on Main Street USA, not a “private club” shrouded in secrecy and bigotry in some hidden basement.

2014It is my belief that I was chosen and groomed by Spirit through a wandering path, to become a public face and voice, (hopefully a respectable and trustworthy one) with the resources, poise, skills, and wherewithal to build a beneficial environment for all followers of the less-traveled paths to flourish in eastern NC.  So, here I find myself today in 2014.

*pause*

As I reread the above I realize how much Personal Ego seems laced within these revelations. I put that pride in the scales of balance, and on the other side, I place the pant-wetting fear, the loss of some of my dearest relationships, the humiliation and heart-break, not to mention the repeated ego-spankings from those I loved the most, that it took to bring me to this re-balanced place.

Nope, I’m OK.

I am grateful, now, for this balance, though I’ve been the brat who wanted to break all the toys and storm home. I did learn from the losses, and am quite proud to report that I am NOT an alcoholic, NOT waned to nonexistence from grief, NOT bankrupt, and NOT in an abusive relationship, but it was a pretty slim victory over those forces of fear. I’ve come a long way, baby.

Here was the prayer I first uttered as my dedication back in 2005:

Spirit! Great Weaver of all things, I seek to know your nature. Ignite within me your fires; wash me clean of doubt; blow my mind. I dance to your rhythms with earthen shoes and the starry heavens tangled in my hair. Show me the way! As I will, it is so. Blessed be.

(1) Hindu scripture recognizes this emergence of a LGBT “third gender” as an evolutionary progression that is sacred. Native Americans revered homosexuals as shamans, calling them “Two-Spirit.”

(2) The Inner Temple of Witchcraft by Christopher Penczak

(3) Wicca: A Year and a Day in the Craft of the Wise by Timothy Roderick

(4) No doubt the subject of an upcoming blog

Wiccan answers to the Question of “Evil”

A Barton College student in an Intro to Religious Studies class is writing a paper on the evil side of religion. He chose to write his paper on Wicca.  He contacted me to ask if he could attend a ritual or class for some immersion in real Wicca. As he learned more he realized there was NO evil side of the Wiccan religion! I was very glad that he’d already reached that conclusion before he got to my class!

His professor then urged him to write the paper debunking that stereotype and revealing the truth that Wicca was not, in fact, evil.  He did attend one of my classes and ritual.  He then sent me these thoughtful questions, which I’ve answered to the best of my ability.  I post them here.

From the Student:

1) How does Wicca justify or explain evil, suffering, fear, pain and misfortune of the innocent in the world when the basic premise is karma?

Me:

This question must be answered by backing up to look at our paradigm and view of god/dess.  The core principle that I hope you will learn through your studies is that, god/dess = love. Some folks who aren’t deists use the word interchangeably.  Love is the polar opposite of fear. (and I would argue that the Abrahamic Divine polarity of Yahweh and Satan, are a manifestations of fear locked in the battle of good versus evil.)

Most folks consider hate to be the opposite of love, but I argue that hate proceeds from fear.   “The enemy is fear. We think it is hate; but, it is fear.” (Gandhi) We hate what we fear, and that fear, on some level, comes from a lack of love. (But that is an entire paper in itself, so I won’t digress further….)

I  take a panentheistic view of god.  Our paradigm is based on the polarity of goddess loving god and from their union, all creation flows. This is a honeymoon paradigm instead of a battleground paradigm.  Panentheism means that we see god/dess as imminent in all of nature as well as transcendent.  Immanence means that every speck of matter and all the energy of the universe are essentially the “body” of god/dess; that god/dess manifests itself as the entirety of the seen and unseen worlds.  Transcendence means that there is an over-arching consciousness to the entire being of the universe/god/dess. This consciousness synergistically transcends the sum of all the parts of the universe. God/dess can be everything, yet appealed to, and worked with, as an entity in itself through ritual, prayer and magick. Ritual is a Wiccan’s devotional expression of that Divine interrelationship.

Which brings us to the two basic principles consistent across paganism: Blessedness and Interconnectedness.  Blessedness: If everything is god/dess, if everything is Divine, including me and you, then all are blessed in our nature. We have all the empowerment and abilities to live a good and beneficial life. There is nothing inherently evil in any of it, or any person; the universe is inherently blessed, benevolent and neutral.  Since we are all this interconnected web of existence, this Divine tapestry, we can never be separate from god/dess and have within our reach everything that we need, all knowledge, all resources we need. The path of Wicca is the mystery tradition of figuring out the mechanics of living our lives in balance, and tapped into the flow of nature, which is our Divine source.

Now, extrapolate from there. If god/dess is everything, and essentially neutral, then they are both sides of every coin, every polarity. They are darkness and light, happiness and sadness, birth and death. They are pleasure and they are suffering.  They are hunger and satiety. They are all levels of consciousness and all possible aspects of existence.  The point of our many lives is to grow in love and evolve through the learning of all these lessons. We evolve through all levels of consciousness by learning the lessons from challenges presented in our lives.  It isn’t punitive in the same way one might think of a judgmental god doling out reward and punishment.  Think of it more like an instinct; an automatic system in the mechanics of the divine universe.  Sometimes the most transformational lessons hurt. Just like a parent letting hurtful lessons be learned by the child, doesn’t mean they don’t love you. Tough love, you know? It is all part of the universal experience; which is the divine experience and the human experience.  You can’t appreciate one side without the other.

It happens on a universal level as well. Stars are born, go super-nova and explode, and then new stars and systems are born of that wreckage. Same with galaxies. Same with the seasons of the earth and our own lives. Everything is born, grows, matures, reproduces, declines, dies, to rest and then be reborn again in some way. (We celebrate this cycle in our “wheel of the year” sabbats.)  Energy cannot be created nor destroyed; it merely changes form, yes?  Matter and energy are the same thing (matter is just a denser, lower vibration of energy.)  As it is in the material world, it is also the same in the spiritual world.  Spring follows the winter….that is the metaphor to describe the cycle of it all. Our very universe is not linear, it is cyclical. I personally do not believe that our universe exists in a straight line back to the big bang, but that was one “spring” in an eternal cycle of bangs, growth, contractions, to rest and then bang again…. As it is, as it has always been, as it always shall be….

Our version of karma is slightly different from those in Hinduism, though many borrow their word.  We have the law of three-fold return. It is like instant karma, as well as long-term karma. Consider this: you kick the dog, the dog bites you, now the dog will forever fear you, acting defensively and you should now fear the dog in return and you will continue to feel the negative effect of that kick every time you meet that dog.   Flip that; You love on the dog, scratching it behind the ears and caring for him.  The dog leaps into your lap and kisses your face and adores you, and will loyally defend and care of you in return the rest of his life, inspiring further love in you as well.

We believe that the three-fold law returns back to you whatever you put out into the universe amplified three times, but also effecting you on three levels, emotional, physical and spiritual. Put blessings into the world and you are greatly blessed.  Put harm into the world and you are greatly harmed…. both in this life and in your following lives. Love begets love; fear begets fear.

“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” (Yoda, Star Wars.)

Your original question:  How does Wicca justify or explain evil, suffering, fear, pain and misfortune of the innocent in the world when the basic premise is karma?  I believe that we are all born innocent. If the divine flow of the universe is basically neutral or benevolent, and we are born with the ability to be a beneficial person,  tapped into that flow, because we are all interconnected, then the potential for “good” and “evil” reside in our intentions.  Good and Evil are decisions we make on what sort of energy/actions we put out into the world.  This divine energy is a lot like electricity. Electricity can be used by a skilled electrician to power a toaster, life-support systems, or an electric chair.  The Power can be used by a skilled Witch to manifest benefits, to heal or to harm. That is why the one major operating instruction of this faith is “If it harms none, do as you will.” Harms NONE, including yourself, and anything else in the universe.  The big question to interpret becomes, what is harm? Based on our view of the cycle of life, death is not necessarily harm; death can be merciful. Suffering is harm. Causing fear in others is harm. Hate and hateful action are harm.  A BIGGIE in Wicca is to never interfere with the free-will of another. That is a BIG form of harm. So, love spells to coerce someone to love you is harm.  “Curses” or malevolent intentions through magick and thought are harm as much as murder, rape, domestic abuse are harm.  Littering is harm to the environment! Dictating to someone who they can or cannot love would be harm in its own way because it imposes your will on another.  You see how such a simple phrase could take a lifetime and a volume of “what if” scenarios to fully explore? But it is paramount that the Witch him/herself fully explore this Rede (which means guideline) and how they can best do no harm in their lives.

The Student:

2) If someone does approach Wicca with evil intentions and they violate the Wiccan Reed, are they still technically considered Wiccan?

This is a complex question; therefore, I can only give you my own interpretation.  In every religion there are the good, faithful folks who “get it” and do their best to live up to their standards of good conduct, occasionally falling short, and then learning from their mistakes. I would call that “human.”  On the other hand, there are those suffering from imbalance who just don’t “get it” are falsely in a religion for the wrong reasons, be it control or power or ego.  I can think of all sorts of public-faced Christians who are down right malevolent and not good Christians in any sense of my understanding of it. Are they not Christians at all? Or are they merely bad Christians?

So to try and answer your question, I think that if someone is claiming to be Wiccan, and walking that path actively, there is only one hard, fast, requirement: The Wiccan Rede. If they are just not interpreting that Rede the way another would, then there is nothing anyone can do about that. It is the beauty, the danger and the risk of a self-regulating religion. The universe will take care of that indiscretion eventually through karma. However, if that “Wiccan” says they do not choose to follow the Rede, as if it does not apply to them, and they do harm as a form of their religion, then they are NOT Wiccan; they are some other path of their own making. They can call themselves a Wiccan, but they are no more so than, for example, Hitler was a good Christian as he tortured and murdered millions of Jesus the Christ’s own race.

The Student:

3) If Wicca spells and incarnations do produce results, how do you know the power behind the results is good or not?

Me:

I may have answered this already. The Divine flow of the universe, the power behind magickal workings, is neutral, benevolent even, and ruled by my own intent. If I do a spell intended to be beneficial, or perform a ritual with the best intentions, and do so by tapping into the benevolent Divine flow of nature to co-create that intention, then how could it be anything but “good?”   I always add this caveat to the intentions of my rituals and workings: “May this be for the highest good of all involved, harming none.” This way, even if I cannot anticipate a potential harm, Divine guidance will neutralize my working, or change it to be a benefit. Because of this, magick is never guaranteed any more than prayer it guaranteed. Spells are a form of multi-sensorial prayer. Sometimes the answer to that prayer is “no.”

The Student:

4) If a Wicca caters or constructs their religion according to their own desires, is it recognized by other Wiccan?

This is also the beauty, the danger and the risk of a self-regulating religion. It is also an inherent difficulty in being a part of the founding first century of a new religion. We are all muddling through and co-creating it as we go along. We are evolving together, but it is more like herding cats!  All of us are independent thinkers and we are encouraged to be so. With that comes the difficulty of accepting others who may be doing things vastly differently than you do yourself. Witch wars have erupted in our community over these differences in perspective, style, form, etc. The short answer is that we SHOULD accept each other.  I hope we can maintain our flexibility as we evolve and not fall into the pitfall of dogma and stricture that have twisted and derailed other faith traditions.

The Student:

5) If your tradition contradicts the tradition of another Wiccan, can they both be objectively true?

Me:

What is truth? There is a saying, “One mountain; many paths.”  There are many paths to the ultimate reality that drives and creates this universe. I would ask, does it matter if anyone else has the same truth as my own? From my paradigm, I derive that the point of my existence is to enjoy life, to grow, evolve, and celebrate the wonder of union with the Divine in all it’s forms. What delights and gives pleasure and fulfillment to an individual is subjective. Therefore, there may as well be as many spiritual expressions of that Divinity as there are spirits in the world! More power to them!

The Student:

6) How has the history of Wicca and how it is perceived by outsiders influenced the way modern Wicca operates? IE discretionary meetings, secrecy, fear of persecution.

Me:

Yes. There is a great deal of old lore and “etiquette” in traditional Wicca concerning secrecy and privacy that is finally falling away as we emerge out of our broom closets into the light of day and a new era of pluralism.  For example, most Witches take a magickal name to use in the community so that their legal name is not used by others and they can celebrate without fear of being inadvertently “outed.”  For years I was only known as Sorcha, (Gaelic for Sarah) or the Lunachic in the wider community.  I have fully come out of the broom closet as my sacred mission to live openly, so now I use my legal name. Though I’ve lost a lot from making that decision… and gained far more!

In the old days of Europe, legend holds that covens went to extreme lengths to hide their identities and work secretly.   As the Wiccan movement came to the US in the 1960‘s, the secrecy began to fall away as it merged with the feminist and environmentalist movements, and merged with the radical social changes of that time period.

Living openly isn’t a possibility for most Wiccans yet, because even in NC today, state employees, teachers and folks living in the more rural or backwards nooks and crannies of the state are still in danger from those who are so handicapped by their ignorance and fear that hate crimes happen to anyone outside the mainstream.  I once lost a job waiting tables in a restaurant because the wrong person overheard me say that I was studying Witchcraft!  A customer of ours now is attempting to relocate to Greenville, because a hateful neighbor outed her as a Wiccan to the school board for whom she worked. The harrassment began in the community and her boss told her she’d have to leave because they couldn’t control the parents insistence that a Witch not teach their children English Literature.  Persecution happens regularly!

The Spanish Inquisition by the catholic church murdered millions and the energetic waves are still in effect. Salem Witch trials are still remembered in the US.  Anti-witchcraft laws in England were not repealed until 1952.  Right this minute there are discriminatory laws against “gypsies” and those doing “divination” in Pitt county, with the purpose being to keep us from working in Pitt county. Preachers today preach hate for pagans and Wiccans, telling their congregation that we worship Satan. We have nothing to do with Satan, as that is a part of Christian mythology and we simply are apart from Christianity.  They fear what they do not understand, and from their fear comes hate and intolerance. They are falling to the “dark side” of their own religion as they descend into seething, controlling, coercive politics and social stricture.

I feel that a great change is happening in our culture. We call it the awakening and it is happening across the board in all faith traditions. People are awakening to the love of the universe and they are growing up from the child-like, slave-like divine relationship with a vengeful god of the Abrahamic traditions to a more mature, co-creating relationship with their loving, divine parents. I think this is what Jesus was trying to say to his people 2000 years ago, and yet they were obviously not ready to hear it yet.  We are awakening to own inner divinity, which I think is what all the Avatars (like Jesus) were heralding, and now the time has come. There is a reason that Wicca/paganism is the fastest growing religion in America today.  Maybe the Mayan calendar that predicted the end of the age in 2012 was correct, and we are just entering into a new cycle of our human evolution. These are exciting times!

Blessed Be!

Salvation of a Southern Witch

I am one of those people who goes way over-the-top celebrating just about anything. I throw themed parties, decorate with lavish holiday displays, and go all-out creating hand-made Halloween costumes.  I sing, dance, and laugh too loudly, and both divulge and indulge too much.  If ever there are shenanigans to be had, you can be sure that I will attend to them directly.

a woman in a fancy hat

Heron in her Ostara Bonnet / Heron Michelle

I’m 41 years old now, and I look back at decades of thoroughly enjoyed antics and I will admit to you right now, in front of the Gods and the entire internet, that I can appear to be completely ridiculous… compared to a muggle. I’m not everyone’s preferred cup-of-tea, but I am SO OK with that.

You see, some time ago a secret came busting out of my broom closet, to the shock and dismay of my conservative family and neighbors.  That pointy-hatted truth just refused to stay politely tucked away.  It was a wild, unfettered and jubilant truth…my raison d’etre…so why should it stay hidden?

Even though many fine and respectable people thought I’d lost my mind, people for whom I’d so long bent and subverted my truth in exchange for their acceptance; even though it meant that I’d leave broken-hearted from my long marriage, and cherished stay-at-home-mom gig; even though I’d choose not to use my college degree, and leave my well-paying profession behind, I eventually took my fundamentalist Christian mother’s advice and let my “little light shine” freely for all to see.  She used to say that we, as Christians, were a “peculiar people” and we should be proud of that. As it happens, I was even more peculiar than she would have appreciated. That, and witchery is an unstoppable force. Go figure.

Heron Michelle

Heron Michelle

Today, I am a public Witch in a deep-fried southern town, and as a matter of course, I do many of the things my mother said were “of the devil.”   I own a witchy store in our downtown in full view of my conservative neighbors. I teach openly about neo-paganism in religion classes at local colleges. (So far, no lynch mobs have formed, fingers crossed.) I am a priestess within a coven I’ve helped to found, teaching the occult mysteries year-round  to all responsible seekers.

On weekends, I offer past-life retrievals, magickal consultations and tarot card readings to clients.  I drum until my hands are numb, bellydance around bonfires, adorn beautiful people with mehndi body art at pagan festivals and have a fabulous, sovereign life of love and happiness.  Most days I will tell you that by taking the less-traveled path, it made all the difference, but that is the happy ending.

Gather ’round, my lovelies, and let Mama Heron tell you a story, the back-story, a Witch’s Come to Goddess tale…or as they say in the Southern Baptist church, let me !TESTIFY! about my “burning bush” moment, how I was “saved,” and accepted my sacred mission to be an agent of Divine Love.

The Witchling Awakens…and Completely Misses the Point

I now serve Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love, but I was raised in “the fear and admonition of the Lord,” as my evangelical mother would regularly say.  It never felt right to be terrified of god like that, but when you are a child, what mama says is the gospel truth. What she preached to me was very upsetting, to say the least. I had my own truth, things I just knew, but mama would squash any of that talk. I remembered when I was a man in a past life, dying in WW1, but there was no room for reincarnation in her paradigm. This was very confusing, so I’d suffered through some childhood depression.  The adults in my life didn’t know what to do about it so it went untreated and not talked about. What does a middle-class, white kid in a loving family have to worry about anyway? I know now that this is pretty common for a young girl just awakening to the witch blood.

Eventually, I rejected both the religious teachings of my childhood, and any authority my mother held over my soul. Not to mention any respect I may have held for her. That sent me into a tailspin. I’d rejected the hatefulness, bigotry and isolation taught me by our church, but what else was there?  If I wasn’t a Christian, was I doomed?  In that black and white world of “with us or against us,” I thought I had only two options: Christian or Atheist. To them, atheism was on par with dancing with the Devil.  Yet, if there was no higher purpose to life, why bother?

Around that pivotal time of menarche, I lie in bed wide-awake one night when the room seemed particularly moonlit.  Clearly in my mind’s inner dialogue I admitted my worst adolescent fear: “There is no God. I am a freak. I am absolutely alone and this is all pointless.”  I pronounced it with petulant finality, anger and self-loathing.

That is when everything went haywire. Immediately, my senses were arrested. I lost control of my body and was pressed into the bed as though the gravity of God Almighty was in the room. I was unable to move, heart beating like crazy; flooded with adrenaline, I became hyper-aware.  The room became ten times brighter, filled with bluish moonlight. The silence screamed and my mind rang with the surety that I was NOT alone and I DID have a purpose to fulfill.  This did not come as a voice or in words and gave no clues to its identity, or gender.   I struggled against this force but I could not move, and it wouldn’t stop until I’d acknowledged it directly.  I gave in and admitted, “OK, I hear you! Maybe there is a god!”

As quickly as it began, it was gone. I was released and all returned to normal.  Still panting and tingling, adrenaline rushing, I looked around at the ordinary room.  I moved my fingers and stretched. I sat up and craned around to look out the window with it’s ordinary darkness. My rational mind kicked-in, skeptical. I thought, “I’m losing it. God did NOT just speak to me.” And I laid back down.

I am here to tell you that the whole thing repeated itself again twice as strong. I was taken hostage by my own body, pushed back into the bed.  The moon light intensified once again, as though a floodlight was at the window, and this time a voiceless chorus screamed through my….everything.  I was a budding clairvoyant, and I had a vision of what my sacred mission would entail many years in the future–the message was basically that I had to prepare myself. Just a glimpse and a knowing that there was a specific purpose for me in the future. I surrendered with, “OK, OK, I believe you!”  And it was all over.

“Hello, I’m Aphrodite” might have made the interpretation easier, but no, that is too easy, and it was not any one particular deity.  What I got was that it/he/she/they were BIG, INEFFABLE, and POWERFUL. What I heard was, “Shut up and listen, kid: THE UNIVERSE is ALIVE.”

Today I believe that the greatness of Spirit quickened within me, to give me just the right nudge so I didn’t give up in despair.  At the time, I thought I’d been “called to Christian ministry.”  My whole life I’d listened in church as preachers and missionaries took to the pulpit and testified about how God spoke to them and they knew they had to serve Him.

I was horror-struck.  I assumed the message was that I had to preach the gospel of Jesus. I started running from that fatby exploring just about any forbidden thing my mother warned me about. I read the banned books; I tried all the verboten things. I didn’t want the job and so I answered HELL NO.  In true, rebellious, teenager form, I struck out to find just about any other way of being, come hell or high water.

…but I digress…

From Existential Crises to Personal Gnosis

This story is about a night years later when I was 19. It was May of 1993, as I drove back from a freshman year at Marlboro College in Vermont, to my home town of Greenville, South Carolina. It was a hard first year out on my own. My parents separated just as I left for school, and moved away. To escape the drama, I’d chosen to go as far from home as my father would finance and lived through six months of snow-entrapped winter for the first time in my life…in a liberal arts school.

I’d crawled out from under my mother’s protective rock in the bible belt, and into progressive New England.  It was like being released from captivity in a dark room…onto a foreign planet.  I thought I was there for the creative writing program, but I’d mostly studied religion, history and anthropology. I was exposed to the WHOLE story of the bible, ALL the major religions, the ways of indigenous people and their plight under the spread of Christianity. I asked the question: what did my ancestors believe before they were forcibly converted? I’m an Anglo-Saxon-Celtic genetic blend. I resonated with what I found among neo-pagan beliefs based in these cultures; it was like coming home!

By this time, I’d met a few actual Witches and began an obsessive study of Goddess religion and Wicca.  As the rite of passage for all witches of the nineties, I’d read Spiral Dance, Drawing Down the Moon, A Witches’ Bible,  but I was still in a confused, reactionary state, and so had laid that aside in frustration as well.

My problem was that I was trying to replace the patriarchal form of we are the only right way with an even older matriarchal form of we are the only right way.  Of course, Witchcraft doesn’t play that game. It’s metaphors, and non-dogmatic, seek the truth from within approach, would not give me the same comfort of absolutism in which I’d been raised.  I was still too much the sheep to take the needed responsibility for my own path. What if my mother found out? What if I were wrong?

I couldn’t wait to get back home to South Carolina, where I at least knew the lay of the land, but with my parent’s 25 year marriage falling apart, and each of us now cast to the four winds, I had no real home left.  That year, I’d also fallen deeply into an unhealthy romance, and after six months barely pried myself out of the black hole of partying to which my lover was already lost. I cried “uncle” on the harshness of New England and went into full retreat from my long-held dreams. This wasn’t my first heart-break and it wouldn’t be the last, but in that moment, it felt like the end of the world. I was in deepest mourning and I didn’t have a clue who I was anymore.

Road-Side Salvation via Giant Glowing Peach

(No, I wasn’t on drugs.)

As I drove down Interstate 85 that starry night, just past Charlotte, my mind churned in an anguished, lost pleading for answers.  Why even bother to keep living; to keep opening myself up to loss and anguish?  Was this just one long monotonous parade of day following day, months repeating themselves, the grinding of seasons, suffering the relentlessness of staying alive until at last I would succumb to nonexistence?

For what purpose? Why not skip all the bother and just go ahead and snuff out? I was young and I thought I was faced with a life of nothing more than constantly battling the inherent forces of entropy and decay for no other reason than to make another generation who would just continue the struggle. In short, I was deathly afraid of meaninglessness. My hands shook on the wheel as I seriously considered taking a hard left into a concrete embankment. In another moment of existential crises, I was hyper-aware once more, wide open and pinging the Universe for any kind of clue what to do.

Beside that black highway, I passed by this peach shaped water tower in Gaffney, South Carolina, that looks like an enormous ass glowing in the night. It is a ridiculous spectacle, totally unnecessary for the purpose of being a water tower. It is also fantastic in it’s over-the-top expression of pride in that being peach country.

*click*

The moment of gnosis that bloomed within me was like a fourth of July grand finale.  The point, I realized, was that we decide to give life meaning beyond the mundane. WE DECIDE to celebrate, to make art, and to live beautifully, not just functionally. We CHOOSE to throw fabulous parties, and to revel in the sumptuous delights of existence along the way, not just exist.  We make wild, juicy, orgasmic love, not just procreate. We gather the tribe and share feasts on the holidays, not just sustenance.  We eat birthday cake.  Why? Why not?!  We make the key points along the never-ending cycle sacred.  Why waste energy struggling against the cycle when you can celebrate it, flow with it, glory in the sureness of the dawn and the spring and the new babe?

Heron and her Larger-Than-Strictly-Neccessary, Jack-the-Fabulous-Lantern, ready to welcome friends to her Halloween Party

Heron and her Larger-Than-Strictly-Neccessary, Jack-the-Fabulous-Lantern, ready to welcome friends to her Halloween Party

To Live a Life of Love

It occurred to me that life truly was in the details.  The efforts we put into making life grand and enjoying it are worship.  We decide that it is meaningful, then we back that up with effort and trappings and it has meaning. The struggle balances the reward; the gain balances the loss; the love balances the fear.

Religion shouldn’t be about being “right”, or worshiping “god” or duty, or heritage, or fear of a distant doom.  It should be about fulfillment, growth and love.  I choose if this is heaven, hell or purgatory.  Do I focus on suffering, sacrifice and atonement? OR do I focus on love, balance and attainment?  These were choices.  I opened my eyes and saw that it is *ALL* Divine and the Divine is LOVE. I changed my mind, and the world around me changed;  I emerged from fear into wonder and “god” was everywhere, saturating the world in delight.

I choose to live a life of love; I make cake and decorate for the holidays; I throw parties, carve enormous jack-o-lanterns and wear crazy costumes; I dance, make love, and howl at the moon, all as worship. What I sought, I found it within, and I was saved from fear.

My answer to the age-old existential question?

I love; therefore, I am.

Blessed be,

~Heron

Panentheism in a Nutshell

I’m a panentheist, so that is the foundation of my paradigm. Meaning: Deity is both imminent in nature, AND Transcendent. Nature IS Deity and within this Pagan paradigm that is how I view “God” with a big G. Nature just *IS*–regardless of any human viewing it, debating it, choosing it, and regardless of any faith. Nature has it’s own mechanics, and we grow into understanding of it through scientific observation…physics, biology, ecology, etc. However, we grow into *relationship* with Nature/Deity through a study of metaphysics, first hand spiritual experience, and getting in tune with the cycles and rhythms of our little patch of the universe.

So to me, “God,” or Great Spirit *IS* EVERY particle, EVERY Wave, all the energy that binds them into manifestation, keeps evolving AND is also GREATER than the sum of it’s parts, taking on an identity and energy of its own–the same way that a human being has both a body AND a Spirit that transcends our matter.

So the Universe, per this view, is like a huge woven tapestry of energy, Spirit and matter and we are all interconnected, all powerful creators, all blessed in our nature because we ARE divine. This weaving together, this bonding and impetus to continue on could be called LOVE. In Wicca we see the ineffable Great Spirit as having polarity–of Goddess and God–and through their LOVE all creation flows. And why not? Just about everything we can observe in nature is created through the union of male and female. The Great Spirit/Goddess/God is continually dreaming new patterns of the tapestry, and humans, as sentient manifestations of Them contribute to this dream.

Per this view there can be no separation from “God,” no original sin or inherent flaw to be saved from, no judgment by an outside entity, no *better place* to strive to be nor anywhere worse to which you could be banished, however; we are inspired to work together to make *this* place, this tapestry the most beautiful, creative, loving place possible. The choice of our free will is to flow freely, or to struggle vainly against nature–and that is the root of “evil.” We exercise our “free will” in a choice to be beneficial or harmful.

In Wicca there is only one hard, fast rule: Do what you will, but harm none, and why would you? If everything is interconnected, then you will be equally effected by whatever harm you create. Personal responsibility is the key.

Can anyone else see the awe-inspiring, inclusive, society-changing, evil-defeating, peace-engendering, fundamentalist-diffusing, confidence-boosting, religion-overcoming, super-hero-creating possibilities to this paradigm that I see? And why this work might be worth doing for me? This is some GOOD NEWS!