Crafting Sovereignty at the Grand Sabbat

May 10, 2016 This article was posted in it’s entirety at The Agora Blog on Patheos Pagan Channel.


A hearty HAIL and WELCOME to you all, my lovelies!  I’ve just returned exhausted, aching, filthy, sun-kissed and exhilarated from a weekend spent at the most sacred of crossroads. In a time out of time, we made a temple between the worlds, as our coven hosted a Witches’ Grand Sabbat of Beltane, over a 3-day camping celebration.

MayKing Jupiter, Lord of the Greenwood, looking out over our encampment as the wedding feast is prepared. Photo used with permission

MayKing Jupiter, Lord of the Greenwood, looking out over our encampment as the wedding feast is prepared. Photo used with permission

What can I say? I am really proud of what we all accomplished. The Sojourner Tribe came together in style and brought both the pomp and ceremony of High Witchcraft with the May Court, plus the nitty-gritty, bare feet, howling at the moon, fire dancing and drumming into the night, of old-fashioned, tree-hugging, dirt-worshipping paganism.  This group does nothing by halves, and I can tell you that we rose to this occasion, rang the bell at the apex of Spring so loudly and proudly that there are Genus Loci all over eastern North Carolina still tingling with twitterpation, and looking for a smoke. Shazam, I tell you. SHAZAM!

Crafting New Traditions

 Our MayQueen Joy Leaf, and May King Jupiter as they sit at feast in their courtly hall with their attendants. Photo by Heron Michelle

Our MayQueen Joy Leaf, and May King Jupiter as they sit at feast in their courtly hall with their attendants. Photo by Heron Michelle

This is the first time we’ve gathered for a Sabbat camp-out on our own, rather than attending larger pagan festivals. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE a pagan festival. They have a unique mission of bringing diverse people together for sharing and camaraderie, but a larger gathering of relative strangers comes with its own pros, cons and compromises.

For example, paganism is diverse in it’s approach to ritual etiquette, ethics and standards of behavior. From my point of view, what is sacrosanct and non-negotiable, is to never impose your own religious ethos onto people of other religions. I’m a Witch, but I can’t expect everyone at a pagan gathering to even be aware of the concept of Perfect Love and Trust, let alone promise at athame-point to uphold an ideal that is foreign to their practice. By the same token, I’m not enthusiastic about entering into a Witchcraft-style magickal circle with the unprepared, or anyone who would refuse to pledge reciprocity of loving intention and trustworthiness.

Understandably, a great many compromises are necessary so that all in attendance will find some common ground. Namely, don’t even try to foist witchcraft ceremonies onto non-witches. Inclusive pagan festivals can be a good thing for a great many people; however, the larger and more diverse the festival becomes, the more watered down and problematic it inevitably becomes as well.

During this 7th (crowning) year of our coven’s evolution, we’ve taken on an even deeper level of commitment to one another, and our Craft. The Great Work intention our group set for the year was to grow into our own Sovereignty, and to forge a new tradition of Witchcraft in service to building the community. This year, we felt it was the right time to create additional opportunities to celebrate the Sabbat as Witches here in Eastern NC, thus the Sojo Tribe Grand Witches Sabbat of Beltane was conceived.

 Crowns worn by the MayQueen (center) the Cauldronkeeper (right) and the Besomkeeper (left.) Our women's mysteries group, Sisters of the Cauldron, crafted these together. Photo by Heron Michelle

Crowns worn by the MayQueen (center) the Cauldronkeeper (right) and the Besomkeeper (left.) Our women’s mysteries group, Sisters of the Cauldron, crafted these together. Photo by Heron Michelle

For years I’ve dreamed of what we could create within a smaller, intensive gathering if held among those who DO SHARE a desire for Witchcraft-specific ceremony and DO SHARE a common vow of Perfect Love and Trust.  What could we create if we all take the responsibility to actively contribute, and build that event together?

Perhaps your group has considered kicking things up a notch and doing something similar? Here are a few of my favorite new things we tried and they worked for us. Plus, I’d like to share some of the beautifully and magickally made sacred objects that our talented members created for this inaugural event.

Re-vision, Re-organize, Re-Tool

 Antler crown (center) was created by our Fire Priest Coyote, of deer antlers, brass, tigers eye stone and sun stone. Crowns for the Staffbearer and Swordbearer were made by Phoenix Echelon. This altar was within the temple of the Sons of Herne, as they prepared the men for the Beltane rites. Photo by Phoenix Echelon, used with permission.

Antler crown (center) was created by our Fire Priest Coyote, of deer antlers, brass, tigers eye stone and sun stone. Crowns for the Staffbearer and Swordbearer were made by Phoenix Echelon. This altar was within the temple of the Sons of Herne, as they prepared the men for the Beltane rites. Photo by Phoenix Echelon, used with permission.

By striking off on our own, we were afforded the opportunity to radically rethink how we approached this sabbat, and even the concepts by which we communally gather.  We went “back to the drawing board,” and as a group, decided how our uniquely emerging style of witchcraft wanted to create sacred space and then enact the mysteries.

You’d think that with Mercury, Mars and Saturn all being retrograde at the moment that we were doomed for disaster. On the contrary, we’ve been presented with an opportunity for rethinking everything, starting with WHO we intend to become, and WHAT we stand for.  We’ve decided which battles we were no longer going to fight, and which fetters we’d outgrown and could now throw off.

For example, I own a witchcraft shop, and usually at the festivals, I’m working my ass off vending, and I miss out on the spiritual nature of the event. This time, it was important to me that there was no commerce in our temple. There was no competition among vendors, and no commercial sponsors. Just the freely traded divination, Reiki and artistry among family, and everyone contributing equally for our expenses.

A Vow Against “Chur-cle”

We wanted to perform the sorts of magick that are best manifested within a larger group, while modifying the Wiccan-style praxis that was always meant for 13 people or less. We vowed to never again endure the tedium of Chur-cle…you know, the “Church in a Circle” that sometimes happens when 200 people wait for each other to get through a challenge at the gate, or to pass the chalice and cakes.

Bottom line: if our witches are so far away from the altar that they can’t hear or see what is going on, or are bored to tears and aching from standing still too long in our ritual, we did it wrong.

A Temple between the Worlds

We also wanted for the entire campsite to be considered sacred space, and all that we did within that temple for the entire three days to be offerings; the preparations, the meals, the ceremonies, the laughing and goofing off, the children at play, the artistry, singing, dancing, the sleeping, the making of love, were ALL our offerings to the Gods.

So at our opening rites on Friday night, we consecrated and created a temple over the entire (large) site by first meeting at the central balefire that was our “Spirit” flame, kept burning all weekend. Here we agreed to the rules of engagement:

  1. Don’t burn the Witch: be careful, preserve your precious life and help to protect everyone else on site, too. Don’t drink yourself into oblivion. Love yourself and be kind to yourself and all others. Enter in Perfect love.
  2. Don’t be the Asshole: in all that you do, be the constructive solution, not the destructive problem. Do as you will, but harm none. Enter in Perfect trustworthiness.
  3. Don’t be the Weak link:  we are all in this together, there was no one there whose job it was to throw you a festival, nor to boss you around, so we all do the Work to create beauty and strength, honor and humility, reverence and mirth, power and compassion. Keep pure your highest ideal, strive ever towards it. (Charge of the Goddess by Doreen Valiente)
  4. Must be present to Win: everyone on site was there to fully participate in our rituals, there would be no observers, no armchair critics, no mere visitors, no free-loaders. If you entered our temple you were there fully prepared to do the Work of Witchcraft of your own free will.

To begin, our Fire Priest, acting as summoner, brandishing our coven sword, challenged us all with the seriousness of what it means to enter between the worlds. HOW DO YOU ENTER? And we all answered in a big cheering shout, IN PERFECT LOVE AND PERFECT TRUST! After that point, anyone who broke the rules would be asked to leave the site. (And we did it, too.)


To continue reading this article, and see many more pictures, click on over to Witch on Fire, on the Agora Blog.

Beltane Lovers – Once You Go Witch, You’ll Never Switch

When Beltane draws hot and bothered to the fore, we witches celebrate a Greater Sabbat that is certainly the most juicy and delicious of them all. This year the solar date of Beltane falls on May 5th, 2016. That is when we reach 15 degrees Taurus on our journey around the sun.

We call Beltane a “Greater” Sabbat because it is the apex of the spring season. This is high tide of the season of fertility, and everyone is twitterpated, bursting with lusty motivation, passion and burning desire to do…something or someone.  Most of the witches I know are ravenously plowing the fields of their gardens…others ravenously, well…you know.  <winks>

a wreath, chalice, and blade placed on the ground outside

Courtesy of Heron Michelle

This is our celebration of union, the sacred marriage of Goddess and God, and the heiros gamos that creates the Universe. Beltane is the wedding, and in my Wheel of the Year thealogy, I recognize how it rests in the balance across from Samhain, and is the happy, joyous moment that keeps the mournful dearth of the funeral in equal measure.

In my post: Samhain – The Poison and the Antidote, I wrote:

“Consider the Wheel of the Year as a system of teaching a balance between the polarities. Each Sabbat has aspects that are medicine to cure what ails us, and other aspects that can feel like the poisoned pill, so hard to swallow. Yet, the antidote to cure us at one sabbat can be distilled from the poison of the sabbat on the opposite side of the wheel. One Samhain/Beltane polarity can be described as reverence and mirth.”

 

Beltane is a Party…with Healthy Boundaries

They say there is a time and a place for everything, and the Wheel of the Year covers all the bases.  On the face of it, you could say that Beltane, like college, is the “party” of the sabbat cycle. Bring on the cavorting, flirtation, tipsy indulgence and scantily-clad dancing around the balefires. I don’t know about y’all, but I’m a big fan of parties, which is a very good reason why I’ve set the clocks of my life to the rhythms celebrated through Wiccan-style rites.

In our sacred poetry, we are asked to: “Drink the good wine to the old gods, and sing and make love in their praise.” ¹ “…and you shall dance, sing, feast, make music and love, all in my praise.” ²

Alrighty then! Give me some of that old time religion! Beltane is so much fun to me, but I also recognize that seeking balance is the key to both a healthy practice of witchcraft, and to a healthy life. Never forget the first and most important rule of witchcraft is Don’t burn the Witch.

While intoxication and sex are two of my favorite options from Gardner’s Eight Paths of Power, we all must make sure to be safe and responsible while we dance ’round those fires. Don’t forget to pack the prophylactics, arrange for a designated driver or crash space, eat a solid meal, take your B12 vitamins, and drink twice as much water as the poison…because we all know alcohol is basically a poison, and nothing else quite taints a pagan party like the 4 am barfing out of your tent flap. <cough>don’t ask me how I know<cough>

Click here to read the rest of this article at The Agora Blog on the Patheos Pagan Channel.

Hermes Gongs the Cosmic School Bell

At the Imbolc altar last year, before the gods and my fellow witches, I spoke these words: “Hermes! Messenger between the worlds! God of eloquence and mediumship, I offer you my voice and my service…guide my studies, guide my words, open the channels of beneficial communication…”

On the 15th degree of Aquarius, 2015, he did accept my vow and thus began a journey of mythological proportions…or, at least that’s how I’m going to tell the story; writer’s prerogative, and all…

Lo! As the first moon of my service waned into darkness, I began my quest, embarking upon a pilgrimage to the sacred crossroads of PantheaCon, flying far from my home, to the distant lands of San Jose, California.  In time did I find the Doubletree, approaching to face the dread guardian at the gates of registration. The beast demanded both coin and a vow upon my good name, which I did surrender.  Accepting both, she gave to me a badge of admission, and bade me pass into those hallowed halls.

Click here to keep reading…

This blog was first published at Witch on Fire, on the Patheos Pagan Channel’s “Agora Blog,” January 12, 2015.

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Celebrating Samhain: The Poison and the Antidote

<Originally posted October 13th, 2015. Reblogged from my column Witch on Fire at Patheos.com on the Pagan Channel. To read the full article click here.>

The winds have shifted, my lovelies. The surge into darkness, the peak of receding draws nearer and the mists part between the worlds. There are whispers on that wind, and glintings from the corners of the third-eye…slipping betwixt and between to commune with the living. The Mighty Dead walk among us for this liminal time between times, so we light the lanterns, and set them a place of honor at our feast tables.

It is Samhain-tides again, the final harvest;  a time of acceptance that death comes for everyone in it’s own correct time. In reverence we embrace the sacred dark. Yet, in mirthful paradox, we affirm the deliciousness of life, staring death in the eye, raising our glasses to toast that today we LIVE, and live large to honor our beloved dead.

Continue here to keep reading…

a tarot card featuring a dancing skeleton labeled "Death"

 

 

Announcing: Witch on Fire

Hello, my lovelies. Long time; no post. Sorry ’bout that.

Back at Imbolc, I dedicated to writing more, possibly a book, being the willing channel for Hermes and Aphrodite to make widely known Her Thealogy of Divine Love. I even asked for opportunities to travel for speaking/teaching engagements in other communities.

In April, I was privileged to enact the second degree initiation within The Sojo Circle, making vows to the Gods and my community to serve as their priestess. Expect a future blog on how deeply meaningful and powerful that process was for me.

But I digress. Almost immediately after the Imbolc dedication, I traveled to Pantheacon, and the message from Hermes was an undeniable, “Shut up; pay attention.”  That is why I haven’t posted anything here in months. Heck, I couldn’t even find my favorite journaling pen until last week.

That message shifted and changed after Litha’s fires were extinguished. There is a story to tell here, but I’m saving that for a special post on my new column at The Patheos Pagan Channel, on the Agora blog, July 30th.

That’s the big announcement: Jason Mankey wrote to invite me to become a columnist for the Agora, which kinda freaked me out. I mean, I consider that to be both a great honor and a great responsibility. I revere so many of the Authors there. I confess to suffering a panic attack of self-doubt.  Nevertheless, I accepted. 🙂 So, starting officially in August, I will be the contributing columnist on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month.

But what to call the column? Meditation and divination happened. There were a few long, sleepless nights.  The undeniable guidance from my patrons was to call it Witch on Fire.  Way to go, Heron, always bludgening the squishy places with the blunt-force irony.

But I’m a pisces! I have almost no fire in my birth chart, whatsoever. I’m afraid I’ll evaporate and lose myself. What If I can’t keep my ego in check? Witch on Fire DivinationTarot Messages:

Art:  Alchemy, catalyst, union of fire and water; melting of contradictions. “I surrender to the transforming powers of The divine. I am an open channel of creative energy.”

Queen of Wands: Watery aspect of Fire, Mastery of self-knowledge, transformation. Time to learn how to share that with others. “I am a radiant being filled with light and love.”

Knight of Disks: Sacred mission brings in the harvest. Now is the time to set your abilities to service, the tasks are large and demand the full use of your powers. “With every task that needs doing, comes also the energy needed to accomplish the task.”

I’m looking back over the journey of the last 10 years, that brought me from the fearful, lonely depths of the broom closet, to this out-and-proud, public witch, priestess and shop-keeper that I am today.  It all started when I first heard the catalyzing proverbs:

“‘Tis better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.”

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Shining a light; being a light; creating change in accordance with my WILL; rising up to be the warrior witch, staring down the Balrog, defending the boundaries….

So many metaphors to choose from, but its all been about fire….un-shuttering the flame of my own, inner truths so that others can find their own way out of the broom closet…Being the lighthouse keeper for Spirit, helping others find their way into safe harbor, avoiding the treacherous rocks of fear and despair. I’ve willingly become a catalyst of change within the Craft, so that it could evolve with the modern world. That’s what I do.

Plus, I can’t pass up a chance to transmute the horrors of the burning time, to reclaim that power.

I am grateful for this opportunity with Patheos Pagan channel to extend the visible range of that light. I’m just going to keep on doing what I do, and hope it is a benefit in the world. Stay tuned for my upcoming article: “Witch on Fire: Lammas Sacrifice and the Sacred Mission.”

Blessings,

~Heron Michelle

From Samhain Fires to Thanksgiving Feasts

IMG_8289The wheel of this year turns on, and I realize I haven’t properly blogged since the turning of Samhain-tides. Here we are a month past, as the seasons click forward to the American holiday of Thanksgiving. If you’ve been keeping up with this great work of mine, you will remember that this year I dedicated my spiritual pursuits to understanding better the meaning of “unconditional Divine love.”  What does “perfect love and trust” really mean? How do we practically apply that wisdom to human unions? I gave my service to Aphrodite/Venus and asked to be Her agent of love, beauty and grace in the world.

That is when everything went to shit.

To recap: I turned 40 and suddenly my health crapped out, as though the warranty suddenly ran out on this meat-suit, mostly concerning issues that challenged my sense of safety, beauty, sexiness, fertility–all the domains of Aphrodite were in an uproar. My hand-fasting was canceled and that relationships ended. For months I felt the thorns of what love is NOT, then as Litha turned, I was given the roses of what love SHOULD BE.

I’ve felt very strongly the loving presence of my maternal grandparents, Frances and Elmore, whose spirits visited me via a medium around Beltane, just as my former relationship was ending.  They were an amazing Pisces/Cancer couple, an inspiration to all who knew them. They were married as teenagers, and became a shining example of partnership until death they did part, over 50 years later. My grandma Frances only just crossed the veil to rejoin Elmore in May, and I couldn’t be happier for them now that they are reunited. I feel closer to them now more than ever!

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At Lammas, I participated in the Morrison Ritual, and finally remembered that “all acts of love and pleasure are Her rituals.” I was reminded that the point of life is to enjoy it and that is how we witches show devotion–how we worship–by making love to the world through our every word, thought and deed. I rededicated to life, and returned from mourning back into the land of the loving.

As Lammas turned to Mabon, in a mystical, magickal, synchronistic turn of fate, I reconnected with someone who, as it turns out, is the man of my dreams. And he was right here in my hometown THE WHOLE TIME. Go figure. This beautiful human being is a catalyst for a profound shift in my thinking, and my perspective on, well, everything. I’d known him as a distant acquaintance, and have been a fan of his music for years.   I have this *thing* for musicians <sigh.> We easily fell into time and step with each other, and so simply, so astonishingly, fell in love.  Despite everything, I will honestly say that I did not see that coming!  Yes, my dearies, it is true; I’ve enjoyed three life-changing months with the most nurturing, interesting, exciting, enlightening, inspiring, and encouraging man I’ve ever known–nay– that I’ve even dared to hope existed since my Grandad left this earth.  I am so proud of him I could just burst. 🙂 Did I mention that we, too, are a Pisces/Cancer couple, just like Frances and Elmore? Uh huh. Good stuff!

Moral of the story: when you dedicate your service to Aphrodite, when you ask to know what Divine Love it all about, she will deliver. First, she strips you bare of all detriment to Divine Love, then she shows you what is beneficial. Viva la difference!

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At Samhain, I released to the funeral fires many misconceptions I had about Love and some links to old relationships and old dreams, and a few old masks I’d allowed myself to wear but no longer served my highest good. I realized that I’d worn these masks crafted to cover the wounds of my previous heartbreaks, to shield fears of betrayal. There were masks I’d worn to appease others in hopes that they’d return my love and masks I’d worn to conform to societal norms, masks to obscure the horrors of my inner struggle from my children.

When I think about this “mask” metaphor, the images that come to mind are pretty amusing, like old fashioned theater masks. I have quite the collection, perhaps you have them, too, as they are all the rage this season: sarcastically happy face, sad but not beaten face, strong in the face of adversity face, still youthfully attractive despite her age face, got my shit together face, fearless business woman in denial about how she is clueless how to proceed face…not terrified about how to pay the bills face…proud to be out of the broom closet and not hurt by how people point and whisper in public face… OK with being single and alone in this life face. All of them obscure the squishy truth of who I truly am, and while masks are necessary to a certain degree, if I’m not aware of how I use these “tools” they begin to use me, and that is when I lose my power.

I was recently interviewed by a student for a religion class project and she asked me what was the ultimate point of my Witchcraft practice? I pulled out the canned “teacher” answer, “Salvation from the illusion of separateness from the Divine, to liberate me from fear, and equip me with the tools and skills to live beneficially, and with sovereignty, as a co-creator of my own experience.”

It was then that  I finally remembered that I’ve been neglecting those skills and tools, and that I could co-create, to don or not to don, the masks of my choosing, and many of them had to go. This blog I share with you, this story of my great work this year, is part of that stripping away, and choosing to reveal the inner truth–to shine brightly what is beneficial, rather than mask or obscure that light because it makes me feel vulnerable. Boy oh boy, do I feel vulnerable. So much so that after I first posted this thing yesterday, I became physically ill–root chakra kinds of ill. This morning, I began editing it, and I choose to reveal more, rather than obscure my meanings in poetry.

theater masks

Which brings me to this Thanksgiving, and my year to have my children at home for the long holiday.  I chose to make space for a “miracle.”  You see, being a divorced person with a custody agreement, these holidays alternate from year to year. What they say is true, time heals many wounds, and we are in our 6th year of amicable shared custody.  In recent years, my children’s immediate family expanded with their father’s re-marriage, and then with the birth of a new baby brother.

So I asked myself, what better expression of Divine love, beauty and grace than to share a meal around a Thanksgiving table, in triumphant victory over past heartbreak and selfishness? I needed to redefine a few traditions, to cook a meal for the people I love, to share what I have with family and friends, old and new. I can’t think of a better expression of gratitude, than by opening my home and heart to the people who share in the nurturing of my children.  I needed to completely FORGIVE, and live on.

What I’ve learned from the great work this year is that the only heart prepared to receive love, is the heart already opened from the sharing of love.

So, despite all previous odds, I invited my ex, his wife, their baby son, and my new boyfriend all over to dinner with us, and they accepted. Then, in a meaningful, magical twist, one of my oldest friends, a woman who’s known me since the dark days of my previous marriage, all the days of my divorce, and the rebuilding of our lives since then, who is, herself, currently living through the FIRST difficult Thanksgiving since her separation, accepted my invitation to join us with her two children. How perfect is that? I hope we were able to show that a glimmer of light at the end of a long, dark tunnel is possible.

10815612_1519641408286393_799907865_oIt was a smashing success, if I do say so myself. There was much feasting, laughing, bouncing of babies, and playing of music together that night (a handy benefit of my penchant for musicians. 🙂

As the wheel turns toward Yule, and I look back over the great work of this year to process and understand the lessons, to integrate what I’ve learned, I am struck by how I’ve arrived in a place vastly distant from where I thought I was going when I dedicated at Imbolc. Hell, I thought I was headed toward the hand-fasting altar in May, so that left turn at Albuquerque really got me lost for a while.

I’ve questioned my spiritual path, my sanity, my raison d’etre, even my desire to keep living.  But, I set my magickal intention, then allowed the flow of this life of love to move me, accepting that what was both leaving and entering my life were both in alignment with my Divine Will, because that was what I’d asked for, and I do have some say over what happens to me!  That is “grace” to me.  Grace allowed the relatively undramatic stripping away of what did not serve my life, and then grace delivered me back into love with myself, into a love of life. Through finding my way back to enjoying life again, I was able to rediscover what is beautiful, and it wasn’t the obvious things. The beautiful partnership I’m looking for is one where we can grow “ugly” together.  There is loveliness in the colors, smells and dimming light of the decays of autumn, as nature declines into the dearth and wisdom of winter. So to I feel that slow, steady pull into the dark night, and hibernation…to dream in the arms of the bear, and be healed of last season’s woundings.

Mysterious? Seek within yourselves, and ye shall find, my dearies. I do hope the road rises up to meet you the way it did for me. Happy Thanksgiving!

Heron’s Rules of Modern Witchcraft

[Heron’s note: following is the continuation of Aphrodite’s Thealogy of Perfection that developed into our “Four Rules.” This is the story of how the last two were revealed to me as a visionary message back on September 23rd, 2014.]

Allow me to take you back to a time not so long ago…It was a warm and shining Autumn Equinox day here in North Carolina, and we’d just returned from vending at the Pagan Pride Festival in Raleigh the previous day, so I was considerably exhausted.

By USFWS Mountain-Prairie ("And the Raven Still is Sitting ...") [CC BY 2.0] Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

By Lori Iverson, USFWS Mountain-Prairie (“And the Raven Still is Sitting …”) [CC BY 2.0] Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

We’d spent a lovely weekend in the company of 3000+ fine pagans . It was also a family reunion, as we got to see many from our Sojo Tribe who live in that area. I love my tribe; they are the most mature, civilized and responsible group of witches I’ve ever known. It is a rare thing to have a teaching coven last so long without strain from diva-drama.

The Mabon Day Revelations

That crisp afternoon, I was cruising Facebook and see a posting by Raven Grimassi lamenting how within the witching communities, many are quick to stoop to pitiful levels of back-stabbing each other in public forums.  He implored us to become the kind of people who seek out the best in each other, rather than constantly harping on the worst in each other.

I read this sad message just as I was laying down for a nap. As my three kitties snuggled in around me, I thought about all the times folks I’d trusted had betrayed me, and the “Rules” that developed as we tried to learn a better way to coven together. They started as a comedic way to illustrate thealogical concepts (3). Until this fateful Mabon day, we only had two: Don’t burn the Witch and Don’t be the Asshole. As I descended into sleep, I knew this is basically what Raven was asking of us.

"Burning at the stake. An illustration from an mid 19th century book" By mullica [CC BY 2.0] via Wikimedia Commons

By mullica [CC BY 2.0] public domain via Wikimedia Commons

1.  Don’t burn the Witch.

The obvious: If you are going to work with the element of Fire, respect its potential, then avoid accidents.
 The less obvious: Be careful not to conjure up what you don’t know how to safely send back.

Heal thyself: All things vibrate, and like vibrations attract more of the same. (Hermetic Principle of Vibration, also called the Law of Attraction.) If you remain a pulsing magnet of self-loathing, no matter what intention your mouth speaks, you are doomed to repeat your past suffering. If you continue to harbor your wounds, you cannot evolve beyond “wounded consciousness” and all your magick will ever cause is a good ol’ fashioned witch burning of YOURSELF.

“If that which you seek you find not within, you will never find it without.” Charge of the Goddess, Doreen Valiente

Empowerment starts with YOU. Wisdom starts with YOU. Healing starts with YOU. YOU ARE THE MAGICK, so make it effective, harmonious, kick-ass magick sourced by Divine Love. The FIRST step on the path of the Witch is to learn to recognize these wounds for what they are, release all lingering connection to them, and heal from the inside out. Love yourself first. THEN, and only then, can you begin to break the cycle of woundings and don the crown of personal sovereignty.

Perfect Love and Perfect Trust: In the name of all things holy, STOP burning your fellow Witches!  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?

Heron Gets Her Groove Back

mabonHappy Mabon-tides, my witches! I know I’m a little late, but I’ve been out in those fields of metaphor, harvesting all kinds of existential goodies, and getting into Aphrodite’s favorite shenanigans. Oh yes, my dearies, and it was about damned time this dedication to a Goddess of LOVE and PASSION became a joyous good time again.

BEHOLD! The fields of my Great Work finally bore fruit and I’ve been drunk on her sweet nectar for months.  In the dance of this Wheel of the Year, as the lamenting music that led to Lammas waned, and the last sorrowful notes of heartbreak faded into solo acceptance, I turned my view and my feet from the past faltering steps, into the present moment, did a little do-si-do with a bow and a nod to Her harsh lessons, then plunged onward into the reel.

IMG_7880The next steps involved a visit from writer and lecturer Jason “Pan” Mankey of Raise the Horns, who came out from California to teach through The Sojourner. In addition to 4 excellent seminars, he offered us a chance to initiate into the Morrison Clan, the Jim Morrison Clan, with a ritual of music, ecstatic hedonism and an unleashing.  Jason was just the Priest this circle needed to shake things up.  Into our temple he called in Jim as a modern incarnation of Dionysus, Pan, Aphrodite, and Eris Discordia, because if you don’t, she shows up anyway, and we’d rather not have hang-overs, thank you so much.

I know what you are thinking, and you aren’t entirely wrong, but this was some serious business. The ritual was set to the music and the spoken word of Jim Morrison and The Doors, and there was dancing, singing, wine, whiskey, and an excavation of that feral part of ourselves too often buried under layers of reservation, prudence, and socially respectable facades. We let our hair down, unwound, and Spirit moved.

We pledged to enjoy life, to let inspiration flow, to have hedonistic fun, to “drink the good wine to the old Gods,” to let “all acts of love and pleasure be her rituals,” in full-throttle engagement with the ecstasy of the flesh.  All this within healthy balance, dontchaknow, so that we do not flame-out prematurely as Jim did. I mean, good gods, y’all. Gimme some of THAT old time religion!

IMG_8120We each received a strand of mardi gras beads, and a clan name. I was dubbed “Story Morrison,” because I have stories to tell, and I’m often caught retelling them. Um, guilty as charged. But more than that, I think this was the opening salvo for the next phase of story-telling ahead of me, one that I hope is a bit more formalized, and will someday find its way into print. But that is a harvest for another blog….

*This* blog is about how Heron Got Her Groove Back. Note the swiftness of this magick:

Saturday night: Initiation in the Morrison Clan with a re-dedication to enjoying life again.

Monday: Deliver Jason back to the airport with so much gratitude and a genuine shift of perspective, thanks to his insights.

Tuesday: I get the familiar twitchy feeling, that deep longing to go forth into the night and make merry mischief. Basically, the sexy Heron beast within me awoke, stretched her wings and began to preen. I posted this to Facebook: “My kids are out of town with their dad for the rest of the week and I’m seeking shenanigans. I would like to attend to them directly.”

Back to my altar, I renewed the work, I thanked her for the lessons in heartbreak, in ugliness and loss, and I asked that at this time I be given the lessons of healthy love, of beauty and grace with the person correct and good for me at this time.  Oh, and could it be with a playmate who actually lives in my town this time, pretty please?

HAIL Aphrodite, of sensuous pleasure,
who restores my heart in full measure.
I give myself in reverent mirth,
hands, hips, and lips in holy rebirth.
Each little death, sweet sacrifice,
I am your willing acolyte.
As worship, let there be romance,
deep longing met in sacred dance,
to sing in divine duet once more,
I call forth the ideal paramour.
In perfect trust, in perfect love,
No harm to cause, to all involved,
I call the highest good for me,
As I do will, SO MOTE IT BE.

Wednesday: I receive a message in reply to my FB post from the most fabulous, interesting, compatible man I know in this town, asking me to meet him on Friday.  He was once a Gentleman of Interest, that long ago I’d set my sights upon, until I learned he was in a relationship, and had therefore retreated and been effectively avoiding for almost two years. Whaddaya know, he is newly single…imagine that!  As it happens, his previous relationship had been dismantling for just about the same time frame as mine had been…how very…fortuitous!

Since that fateful Friday: Well, let’s just say that since that auspicious beginning, I’ve learned a lot about living in the bliss of the moment, and being grateful for what is unfolding, without putting too much concern into what it might “mean” or where it might be “going.” I’m just too darned thankful to taint this gift with second-guesses. I feel like my wings are fully outstretched in rapturous flight, and I’m just enjoying how this new breeze lifts and inspires me to soar to new heights.

Isn’t the Universe grand in it’s poetry? So long now I’ve danced with Spirit in the Great Work, and even still I sometimes get twisted around and forget how I can trust absolutely Their lead; that all will come to fruition eventually; that all will work out for my highest good in the end, and in alignment with my Divine life purpose. Regardless of what happens from this point onward, I stand in deepest gratitude for that simple reminder.

I celebrated this Mabon with my faith restored, and I am once more fat, happy, grateful and satisfied with the fruits of my labor.

Blessed be.

Divine Love: The Thealogy of Perfection

venusThealogy (a neologism coined by Isaac Bonewits in 1974) is a discourse that reflects upon the meaning of Goddess and Her relationship to life forms. It is a discourse that critically engages the past and contemporary Goddess community’s beliefs, wisdom, embodied practices, questions, and values.”

Now that we’ve cleared up the issue of my spelling of “Thealogy,” back to the topic at hand.  What is “Divine” Love? What do we mean by “Perfection?”

If you begin to see the world as a divine tapestry, woven with the love of the Goddess and God, “Love” begins to take on a different definition. If it is EVERYTHING, it is also “Whole” and “Complete” in that there are no parts missing or excluded, and that is healthy thing.

Consider the word, “Wholesome.”  It is both sides of every polarity, all states of matter, all types of energy, all four seasons, all types of life-forms, all genders, all sexual preferences, all social strata, all areas of consciousness, crests/troughs, good hair days and bad hair days, red votes and blue votes, sinners and saints, etcetera and so on. Think of a “Perfect” circle; its all “god/dess.”perfect circle

Well then, that stirs up the hornets nest of all kinds of controversy in today’s societal discourse, doesn’t it? Wanna piss off fundie members of the family at the next reunion? There you go; try that topic of dinner conversation.

As I choose to focus my paradigm on the polarity of Goddess LOVING God, rather than the Abrahamic paradigm of God VERSUS Satan, I find myself not in the battlefield paradigm of destruction, but in the Honeymoon Suite of creation, and that leads me to this question: Where would “evil” fit into this equation? (Check out that discourse in this blog.)  More importantly, What is the polar opposite of love?

Hate? Indifference? Both of those answers have scored their share of believers, as evidenced by the many memes that show up on Facebook.  Those are both in opposition to love, to be certain, but I think we have to dig deeper than that.

When I started this dedication, Venus*, threw me under the bus.  All of a sudden I was confronted relentlessly with every way in which I could possibly feel unloved, threatened or disrespected. These thorns of havoc jabbed me from every direction, until I recognized them for the lesson that they were. Then different thorns would snag me. In some cases, I would experience violent physical discomfort until I recognized the thorn, then it would clear up just as quickly as it came!  Today I present to you the “thorns,” my dear readers, and believe me, gathering this list hurt like hell.

So here is my list so far of the conditions necessary for me to feel loved, and by extension, fulfilled, happy and in balance:

  • Acceptance: When I feel safe to be my whole self; when my inner truth can be expressed outwardly without risk of rejection, including acceptance within my community, social group, family, friendship, lovers.
  • Sovereignty: When my absolute authority over my own body, mind, emotions, and spirit are respected and I have FREE WILL to be master of my fate, and make my own decisions as a being of dignity and worth.  My emotional boundaries are not being threatened.
  • Resources: When I know I have access to sufficient resources to make sure my physical needs of food, water, oxygen, and shelter will be met.
  • Affection: We are social beasts, there is just no more base truth than how all human beings need touch and nurturing, and how ADULT humans need sexual gratification to be well-rounded, healthy people.
  • Expression: When I have a means of expressing my needs/opinions as a sovereign being, and have the respect of being heard by others around me as an important person of dignity and worth. I want my place at the table, and in the voting booth, etc.
  • Security: When my physical safety is not threatened, and I can let down my guard and relax and get a good night’s sleep; when my physical boundaries are not trespassed, also when my privacy is respected.
  • Authenticity: When I know that I can trust that the outward appearance and declaration of any person, product, and circumstance is the actual truth, without deception or trickery. Is this just a “bait and switch” sales pitch? Does this label accurately describe the contents? It is worth what it says it is worth, etc. Are you charging me a fair rate for your services?
  • Trustworthy, an extension of Authenticity: Are YOU worthy of my care, are YOU worthy to be treated with sovereignty, can I trust your expression to be well intentioned? Are the other people around me granting me the same level of courtesy, honesty, dignity, worth, security, etc., that I’m investing in them? Can I trust what you say is true? Are you actually a sheep, or just a wolf in sheep’s clothing?

This is just the short list that I’ve discovered between Imbolc and Litha.  Let me plant this seed of thought: The opposite of Love grows from the root of FEAR; the fear of a LACK OF LOVE felt through acceptance, sovereignty, resources, affection, expression, security, authenticity and trustworthiness.

When we do not have these things, we are wounded, deep down in our wee-baby souls.  To be denied these basic human needs for too long creates stress, and trauma, and from that grows anxiety, fearfulness, and anger, that twists and festers inside us and emerges at paranoia and hate.

Fear of a lack of love leads to selfishness, hostility, aggression, and violence wherein we lash out and impose the same transgressions that we’ve suffered onto others as a way of either getting what we need the hard way, or exacting revenge.  We become the bully, and do ugly things, like a giant billboard announcing what bullet wounded us in the first place. “Thou dost protest too much!” This is the Jungian shadow, and we project our own “fears of a lack of love” onto those around us, calling out those things we hate most about ourselves.

Suffer the bullet of bigotry? You find someone different than you and become their bigot. “I may be a red-neck, but at least I’m not whitetrash.” “I may be whitetrash, but at least I’m not a nigger.” “I may be a nigger but at least I’m not a fag.” This is just another example of shit rolling down hill; there is no end to it and it is all shameful.

The bullet of name calling because you think you are too fat? You call the skinny kid on the playground names.

The bullet of homophobia? You must be terrified of your own homosexual curiosity, and if you can’t have what you want, ain’t nobody gonna get what they want.

The bullet of poverty? You steal, pillage, exploit ALL THE RESOURCES.

The bullet of sexual rejection? You rape, cheat, exploit.

The bullet of physical abuse?  You try to control and hurt those weaker than you, the kids, an animal, your employee, your spouse…

I know these lessons so intimately well because I have been both the bully and bullied, and I’m not proud of that.

Why are there bullies in a world when just about everybody has heard of The Golden Rule, to Treat Others as you would like to be treated?  I was raised by an evangelical Christian touting the Golden Rule at every opportunity, and she was a model human being. Yet I was rather monstrous, if I’m honest with myself.  My sovereignty of mind and Spirit were not respected, I was given no voice, and no credence, and it made me ANGRY.  Wounds are like that. It feels better to blow off that steam for a little while, but then it just festers further. Only love can heal those wounds.

Think about it, why do people do anti-social things? Why do people do destructive things?   They are wounded; and wounded people wound others. Its a fictional example, but consider the Star Wars story, even powerful Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader because deep down he was still the former slave, afraid of death, afraid of losing his dearest love, and afraid of not having control over the uncontrollable…but even he could be saved by the love of his son. USE THE FORCE, LUKE!

Yoda-Eyes-Closed“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” Yoda, George Lucas in Star Wars

The opposite of love is the fear of being hungry, alone, powerless, voiceless, rejected, or harmed. Love that is security, acceptance and the resources to survive; love that is sovereignty, free-will and respect; THAT LOVE is Divine love, and it is “perfect.”

The Thealogy of Perfection:

In Wicca there is a phrase often used when we enter sacred space with our spiritual family. We say that we enter, “In Perfect love and Perfect trust.”  Perfect love, is the “whole,” Divine love that acknowledges you as a sovereign being, with dignity and worth, having ALL parts; light and shadow, good days and bad days, ups and downs, and we accept you unconditionally. A promise of “perfect love” embodies the needs of acceptance, sovereignty, resources, affection and expression. We care, you are important, and we will not abandon you just because you are having a bad day, or we disagree with one another.

hands_above_4However, that is a powder keg, unless it is tempered by the most important part of that statement about “Perfect Trust.”  This sets the strong boundaries in place that make a safe environment for all that unconditional love you’ll be offering.

Trust embodies the needs of security, authenticity, and trustworthiness, and is the social contract between members that promises that the care that you are extending to them will be returned in equal measure, to the best of their ability. This is the trust that they are honest, authentic and trustworthy in their dealings with you, and that they will not transgress against your boundaries, while expecting the same from you in return, to the best of your ability.

This social contract is a two way street and promises that you are both trying to live up to your shared ideals, and if one of you misses the mark, then you will respectfully help them get back into your good graces, and vice versa, without a witchwar, nor name-calling, nor slander, nor gossiping behind their backs, nor cursing them into a toad.  Remember, Heron’s second rule of Witchcraft is “don’t be the asshole.” If somebody starts behaving like the asshole, remember Heron’s first rule of Witchcraft is “don’t burn the witch.” I’m sure you can find a nice way to correct the situation, because that is how sovereign beings with dignity behave.

However, and this is the fly in the ointment; If all your best efforts to correct the harmful situation go unheeded, and you find yourself in the company of a person who violates your boundaries, love and trust without care, and they refuse to accept responsibility for themselves… go Gandalf on them. “You shall not pass!”  Bind that behavior into oblivion, send love and light into the wound, then show them to the door with a Namaste and a smile.  Be the Warrior Witch, because ain’t nobody got time fo’ dat. With great power, comes great responsibility! 🙂

Which brings me to the idea of vows that people make with their partners, or their coven-mates. In both previous instances wherein I took vows to my ex-husband, and later to my former coven-mates, I asked that this line be included, “I will trust in your good intentions, as I strive to be trustworthy.” I love this idea, and I’ve tried to live up to that in every way I know how.  Unfortunately, in both cases the courtesy was not returned in equal measure and I felt the harm of that betrayal. Those are still my wounds to this day.

When writing vows, and when entering into formal unions, consider how you will offer “perfect love and perfect trust” to your partner or group, meeting the conditions listed above. Parents, how are you fostering these ideals and conditions for your children? How do you train them to their sovereignty? Do they have a voice in your home that is heard and given credence? Are they safe from harm, and treated as a being of dignity and worth? I should hope so, because you should ensure they extend you the some respect and courtesy, and I know you’ve heard of the “Golden Rule” to treat others as you would like to be treated.  Consider also the “harm” caused when those vows are broken, and just don’t be that person, because that makes you the asshole, and by now you know how I feel about that. DON’T DO IT!

“Eight words the Wiccan Rede fulfill; an it harm none, do as ye will.”

Blessed be.

Continued from Part 1: Divine Love: The Dedication

*For the purposes of ease, I’ve begun to call the Goddess of Love by her Roman name, Venus, though I see her as one Goddess of Love with many aspects, names, faces and cultural lenses. Hey, I’m a panentheist, this is as close you’ll catch me to “polytheism” before I start to twitch.  😉

Divine Love: The Dedication

IMG_7362The Great Work of this turning of the wheel for me has been especially difficult, mostly because it wasn’t at all what I thought I was signing up for, but it never is. I should know better by now.

On the exact day of Yule, at just almost Midnight, my sweetheart presented me a gorgeous ring, and asked that we hand fast at Beltane as a formal engagement for one year and a day, while we figured out a way to get our lives into one state, one house, and merge our families.  You see, we lived over 2 hours apart and there were lots of mitigating circumstances to our romance. <sigh>

I could hear the fear in his voice when he posed the question, there was hesitation, self-doubt, vulnerability there.  I felt it, too.  So many questions, so many hurtles, so many old wounds all of a sudden start twinging. It took a little while, but I accepted his proposal and his lovely ring. Then, just like magick, I pulled out my own ring box, and presented a band of silver I’d bought for him and asked the same questions. (I’m tricksy like that, my precious.)  He accepted. 🙂

The Great Work:

From Yule until Imbolc, as I opened myself to the Wyrd, and the messages of my guides for what my next Great Work should entail, “Love” was the word delivered over and over again. What does it mean? How to live and love in a healthy way? If the married couple is the microcosm embodiment of the Divine Lovers, how do we proceed in our human union as a reflection of our inner divinity?  Better yet, how do I get over my terror of commitment and abandonment fed by the wounds of my divorce? There was much to heal, and I had a hand fasting to plan, y’all!  So, more than just gowns and flowers and rings, I made this my spiritual work for the year.

I started with the foundation premise of my panentheist and Hermetic paradigm, that all matter and energy in the Universe, is the body of the Divine, the ALL, the Prime Vibration, the Source, Great Spirit, etc. “As above, so below: As below, so above.” That it is both immanent in the stuff of the universe, and transcendent with a consciousness and purpose greater than the sum of its parts.

My paradigm is explained through the Hermetic principles, therefore; Divine is expressed through the Polarity of Gender, of male and female, and that all of creation/evolution is the result of their love-making.  “…and where the two are conjoined, there is blessedness.”  In other words, the whole universe is the embodiment of their love for each other; therefore, everything *is* love, and love is the guiding creative force of the Universe;  it is ALL blessed in it’s nature.  Well, that is lovely poetry, and I’m pretty good at holding both poetic truth and literal truth in the same concept, but what does that mean practically?

That’s what I’ve been exploring through the Great Work this turning: *IF* everything is Divine Love, and also has both sides of every polarity in equal measure, *then:*

Love in the Balance
By Heron Michelle

If the Divine is Love, and all is Divine,
the range of opposites entwined; then,
they are all that is light, and all that is shadow,
the incubator, and the gallows;
all that is beautiful, and all that is heinous,
your rosebud lips, and puckered anus.
All that is tender, and all that is brutal,
It is justice, and the loophole.

All that is pleasure, and all that is pain,
They are the rescued, and the slain;
Light kiss of breeze, and ripping cyclone,
the earthquake, and the stepping stone,
a gentle rain, and tidal wave,
the master and the slave,
the beating and the caress,
sigh of delight, and scream of duress,
soft candlelight, and conflagration,
they are the challenge and the explanation.

They are all that is safety, all that is menace,
crimes committed and the penance.
They are the giving and the deprivation,
the effect, and causation.
The feast of plenty and the famine,
the pink of health, and foaming rabid,
they are the splitting zygote, the rotting corpse,
wedding vows, and pen stroke of divorce,
the giggling toddler, and old age doddering,
Love that is futile, and love that is conquering.

If the Divine is Love, and all is Divine,
They are the dove, and the swine;
they are blessings and the admonition,
the victory in the war of attrition;
then love is diversity, and adversity,
the Universe is our University,
both the classroom and the trap
Mama’s hug, and Papa’s strap.

These are such very hard concepts to wrap the mind around and fully appreciate.  How can loss and heartbreak, betrayal, abandonment, and abusiveness ALSO be blessed? In what screwed up dimension is that OK? my bruised, broken, and terrified inner voice was asking.

So here is what I’m learning:  they are lessons, and important lessons to have, in the great arching scheme of things, especially when we accept that the purpose of life on earth is to be our proving ground, the University of the soul, and every lifetime a different course in what it means to exist; some courses are harder than others; some subjects we like, and others we loathe, but they all further us towards mastery.

Or maybe the metaphor of our Divine parents is easier to grasp; sometimes mama has to smack your hand away from the danger, because she loves you and wants you to know better.  Or sometimes our parents love us by stepping back to let us learn the hard way, get burned, fall down to scrape our knees, make our own fool-hardy decisions, and live with the consequences. We are tempered, purified and made stronger in the fires of risk and pain, failures and successes; the phoenix will rise from the ashes.

Ok, taking these ideas as the founding premise of this year long experiment, I asked how then would this play out in our view of life, relationships, conflicts and resolutions?  How does this “Divine University of Love” idea guide how best to live and act, right here and right now? This was my dedication:

“I, Heron, call upon the Two Who Move As One, Great Goddess and Great God, and to the Goddess of love and beauty in all your aspects: Venus, Aphrodite, Freya…. Hear now my dedication to you during this turning of the Wheel!  My Great Work will be to grow, learn, act in the world as an agent of Divine Love. Let my acts of worship be to make the world more beautiful, more compassionate, to heal through Love.  I will endeavor to make each of my days in the world better and more loving than the day before. I seek to know the nature and meaning of Divine Love, and will deepen my study through the messages of the Thoth Tarot system, seeking ways to apply these lessons to everyday life.  May this be for the highest good of all involved, harming none.  So mote it be!”

IMG_7360There were candles prepared with stones, herbs, oils, symbols, planetary magick of Venus, poppets, spell boxes, and just about every other trick I had up my sleeve to layer up and reinforce that I was a  being of Love, resonating Love, creating Love, attracting Love…you get the idea.  I asked to walk through the rose garden of Aphrodite/Venus and be her hands, feet and voice in the world.

Yeah. Uh huh. I see you reading this, shaking your heads and smirking.

Love is a many splendored thing, as they say.  The roses smell lovely, in their delicate unfolding of brightly colored petals into the sunlight, but they are nurtured in the dark, dank shadow of the earth, fed by the decay of last season’s death, shat out by worms.  Between the earth and the blossom, there are the thorns.

My dedication began with an appeal to Aphrodite/Venus, and since that day I have been on the guided tour through the dark and piercing undergrowth. Many times now on this blog I’ve referred to witchcraft as “the thorny path.”  In that poem from high school, Because I’m Young,  I asked life to “pull back your thorny fist and hit me for all you are worth.”  Thorns tend to be a theme, as of late.

IMG_7408On the next full moon after Imbolc, on the Friday of Valentine’s day, my lover and I worked magick together to strengthen our bonds to each other, and our love. Then as the moon turned to waning again, we worked to remove all obstacles in the way of our union, should that be for the highest good of all involved, harming none.

The next day we released those ashes into the James River while an eagle looked on from the trees above and the herons picked their way through the waters. We took a selfie of ourselves with that eagle and the river behind us. I framed it as a reminder.  Did I mention that he is a Scorpio? Eagle and Heron, sittin’ in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G... but I digress…

Within three weeks of that esbat the hand fasting was “postponed.” By Ostara, I knew we were in trouble, so we took a little breathing space to get our head’s straight.  By Beltane, he’d asked me to set him free and not make any contact until future notice…. My eagle has flown, and this Heron turns her beak back to the murk, sorting sustenance from waste.

I will never be the same.

(In the next installment, I will continue this story of Divine Love with the many lessons learned so far through the Great Work.)