The Thorny Path of the Public Witch: Stopping to Smell the Roses

Roses bleed thorns by Angelicscreams

Back in April of 2014, I was honored to lecture at Pitt Community College within two World Religion classes on the subject of neo-paganism and Modern Witchcraft. I’ve done this once or twice a semester for several professors in recent years. I also was privileged to be part of a discussion panel on the intersection of LGBT issues, gender identity, and religion at East Carolina University, my alma mater.

I was invited to do these things because I own the local Metaphysical store* through which I privately teach a year-round training course I call, Modern Witchcraft 366: The Art, Science and Psychology of Nature-based Spirituality. I’m currently learning from the 5th year of students who are turning this wheel with me. I love them all. They’ve helped me find the roses along the thorny path when I’ve needed them most.

Not everyone can be a public witch; not everyone should be, as this really is a very private and subtle path not suited to many. They don’t call these “mystery teachings” for nothing!  However, the Gods demanded this of me and, I believe, have groomed me for it since I was a child. They first called me to action as a young teenager and I tried to ignore that call for 15 years. (For that story, check out this blog.) Eventually, they removed every barrier to my work , took away every excuse I could think of to keep me from coming out of my broom closet, and shoved me out into plain view.

In many ways, on many days, I wish I didn’t have this cross to bear. Like Jesus in Gethsemane**, I often ask that I not have to drink from this particular cup–that this work not fall to me.  Alas, once you know, you cannot un-know; ignorance is a bliss I am not afforded in this lifetime.

However, despite the thorny path I’ve chosen to tread, there are still roses aplenty, and today I need to take some time to stop and smell those roses. Here are 10 things I love about my sacred work, which I see as the sharing with others of this “good news” when they seek me out; the good news of the Modern Witchcraft paradigm as I understand it.

In no particular order:
1) I love giving sacred permission to question everything, engage their minds, decide what is correct for themselves, discard what does not serve their highest good, no matter how old, nor how revered it may have been to someone else, nor what their parents think. The only blasphemy to the Divine Mind would be to stop thinking with yours.

Go back far enough and I promise you have pagan ancestors. What did they think?  EVERYONE has pagan ancestors; even Jesus; even Muhammad; even Siddhartha Gautama, no exceptions. They would be proud of you for having the courage to dig up those bones and roots, discover what they found to be sacred. You do them honor when you cease to be a mindless sheep.

2) I love the release of joy when I affirm that that they are sovereign beings worthy of dignity and respect, and I honor them as incarnate God/desses, no matter what their outer self looks like, nor who their inner self wants to be. I especially enjoy giving my LGBT listeners sacred permission to be themselves and love as they love, without hindrance.

3) I love the giggles, when I equate the Big Bang creation with the first cosmic orgasm between god/dess, and then quote “all acts of love and pleasure are my rituals” from the Charge of the Goddess by Doreen Valiente. Modern Witchcraft remains, at it’s heart, a fertility religion. Yes, we affirm the natural-ness, necessity, and sacredness of sex, and not just for procreation. Sensuality and union are a Divine expression of that ecstasy of Spirit within the flesh.  Please, go forth and get some, but for God/dess’ sake, be good at it (and responsible, harming none.)

4) I love watching their brains sorta melt, meld, and blow open wide, as I over-lay quantum mechanics and modern sciences, with ancient mystery school teachings. You can actually *hear* the pop, whirr and sigh as the connections sync up in their thinking. The collective WOAH creates cosmic eddies that tingle my spine. Yes, your thoughts create the world. Let’s think up a better one!

5) I especially love it when a college student who needs to attend a ceremony for their world religion class, and claims to be an atheist, attends one of my guided meditations just to get a grade. Yet, and it happens time and time again, these folks with the LEAST expectations are usually the ones who, no shit, travel to the heavens and meet GOD–like a specific god/dess, or an ARCHangel–and very definite, very profoundly REAL things happen that are in complete alignment with occult wisdom of which they knew nothing.  Lives have been changed. I love it when the lid of black/white thinking is blown off.

6) I love when they *feel* their own power for the first time. When they connect to the flow of the Universe, and the unseen becomes tangible. The need for “belief” or “faith” evaporates because the toe-curling wonder is right before them to see, touch, feel, smell, and KNOW. I love when this ceases to be a question of religion and becomes the IS-ness. It just IS. It becomes the thing that cannot be denied or ignored.

7) I love introducing my first two rules of Witchcraft:

1:  Don’t burn the Witch. You know, basic fire safety!  Then, be careful not to conjure up what you can’t handle. Followed more importantly by NOT attacking and denigrating yourself; stop burning yourself at the stake! Love yourself first.  Most importantly, in the name of all things holy, PLEASE, stop attacking your fellows within the pagan community.  I am appalled that the term “Witch War” was ever coined.  Good grief, we have a hard enough time not being “burned” by the rest of society, if we can’t treat each other with respect, what are we playing at?

2: Don’t be the asshole. First I enjoy it for the laughs, then I love it when the deep responsibility of Divine Being blooms within them; knowing what it means to live life as a benefit, and not a detriment..  I love seeing them become the warrior, stand in their truth, living authentically, out loud, and yet doing so with their ego properly aligned with Divine Will;  being gracious and beautiful even when they need to crack a few heads and defend the boundaries–because today I am loving you by saying NO, and YOU SHALL NOT PASS whatever boundary is being trespassed. (I call this going Gandalf on someone.)

Even better, I love seeing them step back in peace and “hold the space,” centered in compassion and love, honoring that wounds drive the harmful behavior of others.  This way we can dismiss the drama and not engage in histrionics that cannot serve any good. That sort of discernment takes heart and courage and is all too rare in the world.

8) I love expanding the idea of love, and exploring the difference between the battleground paradigm of Abrahamic religions (Good vs. Evil) and the honeymoon paradigm based on the polarity of Goddess loving God.  We explore how the polar opposite of love grows from the root of fearing a lack of love. When I ask, “What are you afraid of?” and there is that deep, mournful, resonant A-HA it spreads across the face in the most painful of ways, but the tension releases. I see the wounds; I feel them, then into those tender places I whisper of interconnection, of acceptance, of unconditional Divine love from which we can never be separated. We ARE love. We have everything we need at our fingertips. We are blessed in our nature.

9) I love standing up in a crowded lecture hall, or church sanctuary, and saying out loud, “I am a witch and a priestess” and the fact that those words no longer catch in my throat, nor cause tears to flow, because I’ve now been able to say them so many times that I can have that courage where others might not…yet.  Perhaps they can someday find their own courage because I opened the way.  I love it that no stones are thrown, no pitchforks raised, no blazing inferno ensues. I love it that room upon room of eastern North Carolina people now have had a moment when a reasonable person who defies the stereotypes***, claiming to be something they previously thought was malignant and terrifying, was actually just a decent neighbor of theirs, who made them feel good about themselves. I hope they all went out and told a few friends what they heard me say and that changed the world just a little bit for the better.

10) I love it when my customers preface a question with “This might sound crazy….” and I can honestly say that no questions are crazy, nor stupid or weird to me anymore. Chances are, they are probably just singing the song of our people. Its nice to find out you have “people.” I do enjoy making those introductions.

They ask me, “Is this all in my head?” I answer,  “Yes, but you have no idea how big your head is.”

* The Sojourner Whole Earth Provisions, 414 S. Evans Street, Greenville, NC 27858 www.thesojo.com

**Yes, I referenced Jesus the Nazarene. The shock that I cause by being well educated about the life of Jesus is my 11th favorite thing to do as a witch.

***Ok, I am owned by 2 black cats, named Mad Madam Mim and Nagira, and a grey, fluffy girl named Bellaluna (the witchiest three cats you’ve ever met) but other than that… IMG_7473

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