Lessons in the Blood

It was just a little over a year ago that I almost perished. I wasn’t taking good care of myself, worried over money and skipping meals. I worked long hours one day, and other than the coffee at work, neither drank nor ate adequately. That night, a friend showed up at the shop with a bottle of wine, and we drank a few glasses on an empty stomach. Not advisable.

<Flash forward>

It is the witching hour (3:00 am) and I wake up with a thirst so great that it actually felt like a life or death emergency–complete with sense of panic. I rushed to the kitchen with only the moonlight through the windows to guide the way. I was in a cold sweat, yet burning hot, nauseous, and my arms felt heavy when I raised them to the cabinet for a glass. I stood there in my white nightshirt as the filtered water from the fridge door dispenser poured in. I turned into the doorway to the living room intending to sit down and made it one more step, having not yet taken a single sip…

I’m guessing that low blood pressure, possibly low blood sugar, and obvious dehydration caused me to faint. I know now that I had a ridiculously low vitamin D deficiency, too, that maybe had something to do with it.

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I have no idea who these perfomers are, but don’t they look theatrical with their fainting?

Fainting is something you see in the movies a lot more than it actually happens in real life. I’ve never seen anyone *actually* faint, so it was just a caricature to me–a movie stunt.

What happened next is remembered more like an out-of-body experience. The memory is of “throwing” my consciousness across the room, visualized like an old, men’s overcoat, heavy and thick, and that it crumpled with a clunk across the coffee table as if the pockets were full of rocks.  I remember a disembodied sensation of violent, awkward pain, as my chin met the edge of the coffee table, that my head almost wrenched free of my neck. I felt very heavy and boney as my chest scraped down the edge of the table, and that the floor hit me rudely hard. This memory is two-fold, both that I was the “coat,” so irreverently cast aside, and I was also observer who threw me and watched me crumple and thunk.

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Where I woke up in the living room next to the TV Cabinet. OUT OUT DAMNED SPOT!

How long I lay there, I don’t know. It felt like a long time that I lay bleeding into the carpet, dreaming.  Eventually, I realized that I was very cold, and wondered who stole my covers. Followed closely by, why am I sticky? Slowly I became aware of my blood-wet hair clinging to my face, tangled in my eye lashes…that there were blue lights too close to my face for this to be my bed…oh yeah, those are the lights from the Wii in the TV cabinet….

Where am I? Why am I…?

That is when I noticed the searing pain and touched my face.. that sticky wet was everywhere. Then the nausea…and the gut-wrenching thirst. I tried to sit up, but when my head was raised higher than my heart, I nearly fainted again.  So I marine crawled first to the bathroom, leaving a trail of bloody prints on floors, light switches and counters. I wanted a mirror…but seeing what I was at that moment didn’t help. I thought I’d drink from the sink, but the black edges would crowd in whenever I stood up, and there was no cup.

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One of the places I fainted briefly, crawling back through to the kitchen past the original glass I dropped.

I crawled on hands and knees back through the broken glass I’d dropped in the living room to get to the kitchen again, fainting once in the middle, creating a second bloody puddle, but I made it to the kitchen sink and guzzled down cup after cup of tap water as fast as I could between stints lying on the cold vinyl floor.

I think I lost consciousness a total of 4 times, briefly, before I made it back to my bed, threw back the blankets and lay there under the ceiling fan on the white sheets, so not caring what I was ruining. I was covered in my own blood from head to feet, in a flop-sweat, heart racing, and praying to all that is holy that I may keep living.

I did consider calling 911. I will confess to you that, at that moment, I chose to tempt death rather than rack up a medical bill I have no ability to pay. I wanted to call the man I was engaged to at the time, but it was 4:00 in the morning, and he lived 3 hours away. I knew he would pack his kids into the car, and drive directly to me, but that would only cause him difficulty, and to what end? So, I chose to persevere and not send him into a crazed panic on the highway.

I honestly thought I might die alone in the dark.  Mind you, I am not in the least bit afraid of dying, when the time comes.  Actually, I look forward to the Next Big Adventure, while being in no hurry to get there, but as I lay there praying to my guides, focusing on the Reiki energy I tapped into, and allowing the water to work it’s magic, I thought about many difficult things.

I thought about how in recent years, I’d been bricking myself into a tower away from the intimacy of true friendships, for fear of losing anyone else that I loved. If I keep them at a distance, I can keep them.

Anger I thought long dealt with welled to the surface; anger at my ex-husband for leaving me to be alone at this moment. Even anger that he had my 11 and 9 year old children at his house and I had no one to cry out for. Where was my promise of “in sickness and in health?”

Then, I thought of my mother who had been in a loving, inspirational marriage, but as fate would have it, died almost 7 years before, snuffed out in a matter of moments from a cerebral hemorrhage while alone. My step-dad was out of state on a fishing trip. Mind you, she called her mother who lived two doors down, and she came running to find her brain-dead on the floor. *My* mommy is dead; I live far away from my family. So who do *I* call to come running?

I thought about many things as I waited for those life-giving waters to work their way through my system. What if I *did* die at that moment?  How long would it be before someone noticed I was missing at work? Courtney, my co-worker, would probably find me…would have to call…I dunno…who do you call when you find someone dead? That thought caused me to feel embarrassed, an imposition, not fair to her…

Who would comfort my children? Who would soften the harshness of their father who does not tolerate the expression of unpleasant emotions?  Would someone else carry on running The Sojourner? I spent time thinking of all the work still left undone.

I remembered, to my horror, that I’d never updated my will since my divorce!  The nurturing of my children, all my assets, and all my dreams, would fall to the person who’d treated me like last week’s garbage, then dumped me off at the curb; all my endeavors would go to shit if I died, and that was reason enough to live!

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BRAINS! Yes, I am posting a zombie picture of me for all the internet to see…I’ve selectively clipped it so as to protect you from the worst of it.

Drinking the water was enough to restore me.  Eventually, I got up, faced myself in the mirror, and took this picture for proof of the horror I’d become. Then I sat in the shower as the water swirled with red down the drain.

In the end, I needed a few band-aids, an aspirin and a few months for the giant knot of a bone-bruise on my chin to heal on it’s own. I am glad I did not waste thousands of dollars of my kid’s grocery money on an ambulance trip because I was too careless to drink a glass of water and have a meal while they were gone.

Moments of clarity like these do not happen randomly, not to witches. These kinds of revelations are like the Universal Gong ringing so loudly in your consciousness, that all your thoughts just fall into harmonious rhythm with Highest Divine Mind.  It is sometimes called the Cosmic Clue-by-Four smacking you upside the…chin…in this instance. You can’t help but walk away from that moment a transformed person.

I realized how precious and delicate human life truly is; how stupidly easy it was to kill yourself through neglect.  I also realized that it was very important to me to live on and raise my kids myself.  I know now that no matter who I have in my life, my home, my heart –ultimately– I entered this life alone, I am solely responsible for my survival while here, and I’ll depart this life alone, but it is up to me to make that trip a healthy one. I was reminded that I have to cultivate the support structure of relationships that I desire.

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See? As my little children would say, all I needed was a “boo boo bandaid” to make it all better…

This all comes to mind because the wheel of the year turns back to these anniversaries once again; of that long hard stare into the maw of death last winter; of the long-distance engagement that ended shortly thereafter on my 40th birthday, of my mother’s death on the day of my 33rd birthday party.  While I recognize the passage of these difficult milestones in time, today I am grateful for the lessons they taught me —  yet did not kill me — so that I can enjoy the miracle of my life as it is unfolding now, with the correct people.

You know how witchy folks like to say that every moment is both a death and a rebirth? Those were just the labor pains that delivered me into this new, independent life I enjoy as I prepare to celebrate my 41st birthday. It has been a bumpy ski down the slope of that “hill” I went over last year, but DAMN what a thrilling ride!  I couldn’t be happier, and I’m much healthier now.

Thank you, Cosmic Clue-by-Four. I remain open to your lessons, but next time, I humbly request that the experience not leave my house looking like a scene from Pulp Fiction, nor require professional carpet cleaning to remove blood from ALL THE THINGS. Though, I’ll keep these scars as a gentle reminder.

Happy (almost) birthday to me!
Cheers!
~Heron

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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.

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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!

A Dream Not to be Forgotten

Garden-Wedding-Idea1I am a dreamer, literally.  All my life I dream great epoch dreams of adventure and exploration, full-color, full-detail, full-emotion, and sometimes prophetic, or “lucid” where I know I’m dreaming and can take control of the experience to work things out, solve problems, and stretch my wings. In those moments, I tend to fly.  Gravity, schmavity. 😉

Wednesday morning, I had a very different kind of dream. This one was about the emotion of the thing and there was no control over anything…like being caught in the rapids of a rushing river, all you can do is be taken with it, and try to keep your head above water.  It was the sort of dream that clings to you for days afterward like the greasy stink of burning oil, heavy and acrid.

When this dream began I was bursting with love and happiness, giddy excitement on my wedding day. Dressed in white and delicate laces, hair twisted gracefully with tiny white flowers, and cascading in wispy curls to the shoulders. I felt like a full-body smile, as though the flesh was simply not strong enough to contain all the feels and I might burst into a cascade of rainbows at any moment. I had all the emotions of the bride that cannot wait to get the the altar and claim her prize.

In the dream, I am about to marry “the one who got away.” It isn’t nearly as important *who* I visualized as this dream man, let’s just say that my subconscious supplied an image of such a man.  More important was that in this dream, for a shining few moments, in the dappled sunshine of a garden wedding, with flowers in full bloom, in perfect weather, with gaily dressed friends and family gathered around, ribbons and twinkling and all the trappings of my “perfect” wedding day, I was the happiest woman on earth and I felt beautiful. I explained to giggling, congratulatory women around me that this marriage was a dream come true; that I could hardly believe that *this* wonderful man was choosing *me* to spend his life with; that I was so honored to become his wife. Just to look at him was to melt me into puddles of bliss. He was a gorgeous, dapper, stallion of a man in a tuxedo…let’s just say that when my subconscious creates a groom, it does a stellar job. 🙂

The moment of triumph: we are at the altar, hand in hand, and the officiant asks if there is anyone there who objects to our union. Like the stab of a knife, a woman I don’t know breaks desperately into the scene, throws herself before us and proclaims her undying devotion for my groom, and asks him to marry her instead because “he was the one that got away and she’s always regretted losing him.”  He rushes to her, accepts her proposal, then turns to me and says he’s sorry but he just has to marry her instead because he’s always secretly loved her more than life itself.

However, he wants me to stay and be their bridesmaid for the ceremony. You know, take the consolation prize and just step off to the side. Be a dear, and don’t bother me further, if you don’t mind. kthxbai

All of a sudden I am wearing the most hideous pea-green bridesmaid’s dress you can imagine, have an 80’s hairdo (blarg,) and am forced to stand witness, right there on the spot, MY LOVER, marrying this other woman, at my altar stone, at my wedding, in front of my friends and family, and I stand there dying inside. Frozen solid in pain and horror, the light within me turning to darkness and seeping like the chill grip of death from the inside out until my body is a husk in green satin, the roses in my hands dry and crumble. The dream shifts such that I’m viewing the joy of their wedding unfold, through the husk of this dead body and I’m just a small, invisible consciousness peeking out, a ghost on the sidelines.

That is when I was once again aware of my bed, and the cat beside me, and my son softly breathing as the dawn light crept into the window. But in that dreamy middle-realm before fully waking, I felt the deep mourning and humiliation wracking through my body. All the loss of my love and pride crashed through me and the crush was paralyzing.  The jealousy, the want, the horror of rejection, and I wanted the pain to stop….just to let go and be gone completely from the flesh that was a prison.

Gods, I remember that feeling. There was a time in my separation from my ex-husband that this is how I woke up every morning. This state of abject self-loathing, shunted to the side like last week’s garbage; this was my life. I barely survived that time period: I almost managed to will myself to non-existence, but that was a very long time ago.

After this dream ended, it took a few minutes to realize it wasn’t real, and I could rise into the monotony of the new day, in my new house, in my new life.  There were children to wake, and breakfasts to be served, carpools to be run, and work to be done…alone. <sigh>

I know it was a dream, but I’m a witch, and the dream times are the message board, the chat-room of the Gods and guides who work with me.  The subconscious knows, and through dreams, my conscious mind is given marching orders for what it needs to do.  For me, there are rarely *just* dreams. This one was the shadow of the past, casting long and piercing into the now.

And the now, marked the 7th day since a man I loved, a man I was supposed to be hand-fasted to a Beltane a few weeks ago, asked that we cut off ties completely for the time being, because we live several hours apart from each other, and we have no way of changing that…for possibly a decade. There were very logical, very healthy reasons for this request, and I agreed that it was for the highest good of all involved.  Seriously, never before has there been a more amicable and spiritually mature parting of the ways.  By the Grace of the Goddess Aphrodite, to whom I am dedicated this turning, I was able to let go of my lover, hoping that if he was truly mine, someday he’d return to me, when we were both ready and the time was right. There is no denying that I have healing work to do on myself; there are things still tender and unresolved since my divorce.  Sometimes I think I’ve laid these issues to rest, but then they rise from the grave like zombies, and eat my brains. I just can’t get these images out of my mind.

The divine works through me in such a way that I follow these bread crumbs through the dark forest of consciousness. This particular crumb is rotten, the bitter pill. Yet again, the thorny path rises up to meet me. There is work to be done.

Great Goddess, guide me! So I pull out my trusty tarot deck and let her speak to me.

May 23, 2014What brought me to this moment: 4 of swords, truce
The key to the situation in the present: Knight of cups
The message moving forward: XV The Devil.

Synopsis: I may have laid down my weapons, stopped the battle, and formed a truce, my worries were conquered, I knew calm and clarity over the situation, but truce is not always a peace…I can’t suppress feelings about the situation. The key to the situation is my knight of cups….funny, that has been the signifier card for my lover since the beginning of our relationship…I always called him my Knight of Cups. He was my surrender to beloved ones and reaching the highest of emotional planes and to have a spiritual relationship fully integrated within my community. Moving forward, I can’t let others (or myself) demonize me; I am the master of my life. Use this vital, masculine form of creative energy and individuality, in whatever way I need right now to meet my needs–to follow my bliss. This is also the card of Capricorn, and I think of how agile the goat is in scaling what seems to be impassible mountains. They are some determined and hard-headed creatures!  This speaks very deeply to me.

With gratitude for the journey…

Blessed be.

 

 

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

Darkness Naming

I wrote this poem several years ago as I was struggling through the many pains of separation and divorce. Sometimes when all the feels build up, poetry is a way that I release the pressure before doing something that would be harmful.

Darkness Naming
by Heron Michelle

There is a darkness
rising from my fetid depths, roiling,
stomach bile and acrid steaming,
pressure builds to whistle screaming,
the tweak and grate of countless irritating rubs
against my grain; I am raw.

Do I name this dark carbonated rising
to pop the toxic bubbles before I blow?
Self-inflicted–no–allowed woundings,
old nemeses–no–partners in crime,
intimately known, yet loathed,
for the yucky, shameful feelings that they crow.

Bigotry, pop.
Degradation, pop.
That hilt in my back, pop.
Lost love, friends, respect, pop, pop, pop.
Blindness and delusion, pop.
An idealistic young woman who with each unholy lick and suck
swallows what was sacred, and mine–bitch–POP.
My own youthful idealism, pop.
Michelle, pop.

I’m laid bare in my own shadow,
open and oozing, bomb diffusing
dazed from the naming,
splattered with the film of teary splashes,
dark, iridescent and shining.

Names of darkness banished to
in-consequence, evaporating,
hopefully forgotten.
What remains needs renaming,
Yet I still don’t know if my
last name
can be
released.