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.

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"

 

 

Aphrodite’s Gift: A Year in Divine Love

I’ve had this blog in my “drafts” for almost 8 months now, kept fiddling with it as the loose ends came together, then I forgot it was there.  Alas, this is becoming a chronic condition for me. I recently rediscovered these writings, and for posterity I choose to post them now, even though they are 8 months out of order. Better late than never? ~Heron


Moody Rose By Heron Michelle

Moody Rose By Heron Michelle

I’ve thought long and hard about the Great Work of 2014 on “Unconditional Divine Love.”  I continue to wrap my head around all that I learned and I know that work never really ends, just continues to process into something more and more refined.

Here in the restful weeks following Yule, I look back over my previous year seeking the neatly crafted conclusion paragraph at the end of what was a confusing, heart-breaking, yet, ultimately rewarding story of my last year, so that I may look forward and discern what the upcoming dedication should entail.

So, here are a few rays of Yuletide lights to part the darkness…

Aphrodite:
After a year in the presence and service of Aphrodite, I will never think about the phrase “rose colored glasses” in the same way again. She gifted me with a way of seeing through all the posturing, vitriol, and vehemency; the lies, anxiety, and desperation; the assholery, and bitchocity; the control-freakery and the escape-goatery; the bullying and victimhood of the world around me, and pierce straight down to see the broken hearts of my fellow man.

We are a wounded people, and those wounds are still bleeding out all over the place. It’s a mess! She taught me that the more egregious the offenses a person is committing, the deeper the anguish that feeds it; the louder the hate-speech, the more clearly I now hear the cry for love. When I see destruction, I can now see clearly past all that to the suffering animal, merely lashing out to protect that part of itself that is weakened from a lack of love, and the fearfulness that engenders.

I became aware that this apocalypse we are living in is the field of destruction made by the dominant paradigm in this society, the battlefield paradigm of good vs. evil, brought to us by the dominant, patriarchal, Abrahamic religions. Anyone who has ever survived a war zone will tell you that no matter which side “wins” the war, everyone loses something profound and is left adrift in the rubble.

venus-541127_640The Mabon Day Revelations
The Mabon Day Revelations of the third and fourth “rules of Witchcraft”, and the tarot confirmations, continue to percolate through my thinking, finding application in all aspects of my everyday life, magickal life, relationships, governance, parenting, etc., I am struck by their integration.

1. Don’t burn the Witch
2. Don’t be the Asshole
3. Don’t be the Weak link
4. Must be Present to Win

These all flow from one into the other, and none can be plucked out separately, or the whole system falls apart. Not burning the witch is no help, if you refuse to be fully present to actually resolve conflicts. How can one possibly have the discretion over whether or not they are being the asshole, if they have no awareness of the fabric of existence within which we are all interlinked?

What good does it do to give lip service to “harm none” without an deep and abiding oath for “perfect love and perfect trust.” Hell, as far as I can tell, most folks out there in the Witching world don’t even know what that phrase is supposed to mean. Why? Because too many have had to rely solely on book training, and too often the only books they had access to were incomplete and written by those who did not yet understand.

Or, they were also forced to rely on those witches who can only regurgitate what their High Priestess once had regurgitated to her, and so on and so forth. I guess what I’m saying is that we will be stronger as a people if we consciously decide to BE PRESENT TO WIN, and continually check in our ideas and praxis with the Divine, DIRECTLY, and be willing to release what may have been traditional, for what promises to serve our evolution individually, and as a species.

All these “rules” require a great sense of purpose, a higher sense of self. All these require a sharp mind, a whole and opened heart, and an alignment of personal will with Highest Divine Will, which are extremely difficult to achieve, and may take years to even begin to understand. It also will, at some point, require vigorous good health to survive the strains of high-level energetic and magickal work. I know I have much work to do on my health and physical condition.

yoga-815288_640Have you looked around the average pagan gathering recently? If ever the humans there were again subjected to the evolutionary test of “survival of the fittest” you know as well as I do that most of our wheezing, broken, imbalanced, addicted, poisoned, morbidly obese numbers would be the first to fall, and a damned succulent feast we’d make for whatever force sought to devour us.

How can we hope to either serve the gods, or build a better world, if we don’t have the physical stamina to stand in sacred space, nor kneel at the altar? If reading that makes your cheeks flush with anger, indignation or embarrassment, then consider this mirror I’m holding up to be my loving gift to you. Maybe I’m the asshole for expecting great things of a great people, or maybe there are assholes among our number polluting themselves and then blaming every other thing for their problems.

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

There is a reason that the yogis and masters of the oldest mystery schools put such emphasis on the connection between body, mind, and spirit. That is why there are martial arts and yoga, tai chi, qi gong, special “ritually pure” religious diets, fasting and purification protocols. Living purely and consuming only what is in alignment with your core values can make a huge difference in your ability to spiritually level up; you are what you eat.

Have you ever read up on Pythagoras? He followed a very well defined and pure diet that he believed strengthened the vessel to channel the gods. Into what quality of vessel do you invite your gods? Think about it. If you offer the finest quality offerings on your altar, but you feed your own incarnate divine body poisons and junk, you are burning the witch; you are the asshole; you are the weak link; you are not present to win, you lose.

roses-66527_640The Initiatory Process:
We call the path of the Witch an initiatory process. There are transformations that must catalyze and refine all of our bodies: flesh, will, emotional, mental, spiritual. All of life is this process, all of spiritual evolution across *many* lives is this process, too. Every step upon the path of the Witch is both a death and a rebirth into our most Divine self. That is why I keep calling it the “Thorny path of the Witch” because this process can hurt like hell.

Being a Witch does not happen with a simple profession of faith, nor with “foolish wand-waving**,” nor even with a ritual wherein another human declares it to be so. Beneficial Witchcraft cannot exist in the darkness of ignorance, nor in the bindings of fear. The minute a Witch starts to think of themselves as an island, as “greater than,” or as “power over,” in terms of their pedigree and accolades, they become the weak link, and they lose.

Humility and Leadership Burn Out
If I’ve learned anything at all about Witching over the last 23 years it is this: there is a direct relationship between awareness and humility. The deeper in awareness you advance, the more humbly you accept the vastness of what you do not yet know. Those true servants of the Divine that I’ve met over the years may never disclose to you their most excellent pedigree. The truly wise person may never mention their well-earned 23rd degree, grand-pubah, all-high-muckitymuck status in well-regarded mystery schools, time spent at the knee of greatness, nor the 42 Great Things they accomplished before breakfast this morning.

Usually, they just smile, shake your hand and introduce themselves with their first name.  But when you take that hand, you feel it….that sense of warmness, calm, centered, balanced, compassionate, self-awareness. They are powerful, but they transmute that power into loving creation, strong and sovereign. Approve or disapprove as you will, they are beyond caring about such things.   They probably garden somewhere on the lunatic fringe, retired from the bullshit of the whiny, cantankerous freak-show that has become of certain segments of the neo-pagan movement.

This is our profound loss, my people. It is our loss that those of greatest attainment and at-one-ment, are so heartsore from the constant insane demanding, squabbling, complaining and general assholery within pagandom that they’ve retreated from community leadership altogether, with a “good riddance” and a backward-thrown middle finger. Into that breech, I’d like to bring the lessons of Divine Love and the Four Rules, and hopefully create a little change to bring peace enough to retain the best leaders before they burn out.

thorns-627759_640
In short, I asked to understand and practically apply the lessons of unconditional Divine Love–of perfect love and trust–to human relationships and I was first stripped bare, heart broken, and then shown through excruciating experience all the ways that I feel the FEAR OF THE LACK OF THE LOVE. It was a tour of how humans are horrible are to each other. Yet, once I recognized and acknowledged each lesson, the painful blows of that ass-kicking would stop. Now I know how to avoid being the Asshole!

I call those my eight Love Conditions:

  1. Acceptance: when my inner truth can be expressed outwardly without risk of rejection.
  2. Sovereignty: My absolute authority over myself are respected and I have FREE WILL as a being of dignity and worth within society.
  3. Resources: Access to sufficient resources to sustain my life in good health.
  4. Affection: Touch and nurturing; the healthy sensual intimacy I prefer.
  5. Expression: Expressing my needs and opinions as a sovereign being, with the respect of being heard, my contributions are valued.
  6. Security: My physical safety is not threatened and boundaries not trespassed; my spiritual, emotional and mental privacy are respected.
  7. Authenticity: I can trust that the outward appearance and declaration of my environment and any situation I encounter are the actual truth, without deception or trickery. I’m not being fooled or exploited. I am not the butt of the joke.
  8. Trustworthy: I can trust that the people and environment I’m in are worthy of my trust, care, and mutual respect.

Now that I know the love conditions so intimately well, I can spot them clearly when they are missing from any situation presented to me…. my new pair of “Rose Colored Glasses” helps me see 20/20 what wound from a fear of a lack of love is the source of these witch burnings and assholery, what weakens the links, and makes us absent for the win in our community. Its like a damned super-power now! HAIL APHRODITE!

IMG_9756The Gift:
Then, I was gifted an opportunity to be in relationship with a great man, a great partner, who had been on a parallel journey to my own, who knew too well the pain of a broken heart and was still hopefully seeking the answers to these very questions. Together, through gently helping each other correct our old fearful and wounded relationship habits, we’ve so far been able to build the healthiest love I have ever known. This love inspires me to be the best person I can be, not for him, per se, but for myself, so that I will have the longest time possible to be fully alive, strong and present in this life, to enjoy his company. This love makes me a better witch. Hail Aphrodite and THANK YOU!

A key lesson I learned this year: The only heart prepared to receive love is the heart already opened from the sharing of love.

“All began in love, all seeks to return in love. Love is the law, the teacher of wisdom, and the great revealer of mysteries.” ~Starhawk

I conclude the Great Work of 2014 a healthier, more compassionate person than when I began, and I am grateful for the very practical framework for applying these lessons for a better life. I understand this to be the work I am meant to carry forward into the coming Great Work of 2015, so that I may widely share the lessons. I will soon welcome Hermes onto the altar and seek his aid in communication, travel and mediumship.

Into the breech once more!
With gratitude,
~Heron

**”foolish wand waving?” If you don’t get Harry Potter references, there isn’t much I can do to help you. Probably best if you just stop reading here, and go get you a copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by JK Rowling. Then all will become clear.

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!

IMG_8291 - Version 2

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!

Rule #1: Don’t Burn the Witch, Tarot Message

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This blog is the second part to Heron’s Rules of Modern Witchcraft.

…continued to:  Rule #2: Don’t be the Asshole,

Rule #3: Don’t be the Weak Link

Rule #4: Must be Present to Win.

To recap: What I mean by “Don’t Burn the Witch”

  1. Practice basic fire safety with thorough respect for the Powers of Fire.
  2. Do not conjure what you cannot banish.
  3. Begin by healing, loving and respecting yourself. “If that which you seek you find not within, you will never find it without.”
  4. Protect, defend and support your fellow Witches, engaging them with mutual respect, in “perfect love and perfect trust.”

September 23, 2014, after I awoke from the Mabon Day Revelation dream, I grabbed up my Thoth Tarot Deck and engaged Spirit in a conversation about each of my Rules of Modern Witchcraft. I used a spread I developed last year that I call the Witches’ Pyramid Spread. This spread has since become a key instrument in my divinatory practice as it speaks to the evolutionary process and works especially well when I’m reading for magickal people engaged in The Great Work.

Query: What lessons do you offer us through “Don’t Burn the Witch”

Highest Divine Guidance speaks to how we are to apply attention to our outer relationships in society.

Card: The Magus In the realm of thought, Divine is asking us to dismiss what we think we know and begin to WONDER  about the brilliant capabilities, skills and tools we have to share with others, and how we can create the world we desire through clear communication. We are asked how the full expression of our creative potentials can bring us happiness. How can we become fully-realized mages, capable of creating the world we desire?

Card: The Princess of Disks In the realm of will, we are asked to SURRENDER to a new beauty entering our lives; to become the gateway to a new identity, to a new concept. We are asked to rebel against the old ways, and gain sovereignty over what we manifest in the world. We must surrender to the transformative powers of divine harmonic balance.

Card: 5 of Wands: Strife In the realm of emotion, Divine directs us to DARE to overcome restriction, to face the strife of the situation and do something about it, to express ourselves creatively. Face our adversaries and build our strength, gaining dominion, by bravely facing any resistance to our will-power.

Card: Knight of Wands In the realm of the physical, we are asked to RESONATE, to make the quest into the void of potential, applying dynamic forward motion, seeking out and gaining increased insight, resulting in a mastery of growth and development, and changes in consciousness. Be grateful for this gift from existence; every challenge that arises will help us grow. It is our time to reap the harvests we’ve long worked to achieve.

Card: 8 of Swords: Interference Highest Divine Guidance for our outer relationships with society, asks us to relax and trust life; stop worrying so much about our choices. Problems which seem unsolvable will find their solution in their own way. Apply endurance and trust in all that we do. We have a choice to “burn” or to nurture ourselves and our fellow humans. What sort of neighbor do we wish to be?

So, this is my interpretation. What do these cards and messages mean to you? How does this message inform how you would apply “Don’t Burn the Witch” to your own life?

In gratitude, blessed be.

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.)

Witchin’ in the Kitchen: Yule Recipes

Yule.h3The wheel of the year turns on, and we arrive at the Sabbat of Yule on the winter solstice, when the sun enters Capricorn (December 20-22.)  On this longest night of the year, we gather friends and family around the hearth fires, to jingle bells, feast on the sweet and savory, toast the wassail, and regale each other in song and story until the wee morning hours. We sit vigil to the birth of the new baby sun, the infant God reborn anew to the Goddess.  Like the New Year’s traditions of old, we welcome “baby new year.”

Yule is the celebration of hope, returning light and life, even in the heart of the darkest night. Like the yin/yang symbol, each pole contains the essence of the other side. At Summer Solstice, when the light was strongest, we faced the defeat of the sun and the long dark shadows cast before us. Here at the Winter Solstice, in the cold and dark, we acknowledge that the darkness is defeated by the light once more and will grow stronger and the days longer each day from here.

In the Great Work, we’ve been “holding the space” since Samhain, reflecting on the previous year’s intentions, their harvest and what we’ve learned. Up until now we’ve been letting go of what no longer serves our highest good, clearing the fields, cleaning and putting away our tools. Now, the metaphorical snows have fallen to blanket the world in pure white, obscuring what was, so we can begin to imagine what could be. This is the purification and the starting fresh. This is the blank page, the primed canvas, awaiting inspiration.

With the dawning of Yule we turn the inner eye into the future. We stare deeply into the void of potential and play midwife to the birth of “what’s next,” and over the course of the next 6 weeks, until Imbolc, we will remain open to the messages of Spirit about what the next Great Work for us should entail. (See my Great Work: Holding the Space post on more about this process of remaining opening to the messages from Spirit. See my Imbolc recipes post for the next step in the Great Work.)

Here are some of my favorite Yule recipes that have helped to warm the cockles of the heart, and bring cheer to all at this most joyous of holiday seasons. Note, that so many of our “holiday” spices of cinnamon, orange, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, etc, all have solar and fire magickal associations. Wassail punch is a traditional alcoholic beverage at this time, as well as Mulled Cider, his non-alcoholic first cousin.  For more information and another great traditional recipe, check out this article at Nourished Kitchen. These drinks become solar potions that actually do heat you up, but also would bring you in resonance with the newly returning solar energies. Merry Yuletides!


 

 Wassail_Punch_1Wassail Punch!
Ingredients:
2 quarts apple cider (I prefer the organic, murky stuff in the refrigerated section over the refined clear apple juice in the aisles. But sometimes the cider needs a bit of sweetening with some honey.)
2 cups orange juice
2 cups brandy, or spiced rum (I prefer Captain Morgans.)
1 tablespoon dried All-spice berries
2 cinnamon sticks
1 small orange, sliced into 4-5 rings
1 tablespoon whole cloves
Ginger-ale (optional)

Directions:
Slice the orange into rings and stud the peel with the whole cloves (this is pretty, but it also helps to keep the cloves from being scooped up into your cup this way, and that can make for some floating fire bombs in your cup.) In a crock pot, set to warm, add all the ingredients and let warm for several hours before serving. This is called “mulling.” If you would like to serve it to the kids, simply leave out the alcohol. You can also add a splash of ginger-ale to give it some kick and bubble for the little ones.


 

IMG_4450Veggie Wreath Appetizer
Vegetarian
Ingredients:
2 (8 oz.) packages of refrigerated crescent roll dough
1 (8oz.) package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon dried dill weed
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
3 cups finely chopped green vegetables, like broccoli, bell peppers, green onions, cucumbers)
1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper

Directions:
Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Remove dough from cans in rolled sections, but do not unroll. Slice each dough section to yield 8 rounds each, 16 per package.  Place a small round bowl, inverted on a cookie sheet.  Arrange flat dough slices around the bowl to form a wreath shape, then arrange an outer ring.  The slices should all be touching each other, but do not press together.  Remove the bowl and and bake for 11-13 minutes or until golden brown.  Cool one minute; loosen with spatula and slide off onto a serving platter to cool completely.

In a small bowl, add cream cheese, sour cream, dill and garlic powder and blend until smooth.    Spread the mixture over the wreath and then top with the green vegetables to form the foliage.  Sprinkle the red bell pepper to form the berries.  Red pepper slices can also be used to form a bow.  Refrigerate.


IMG_2876Deck the Halls Torta
Vegetarian
(Makes 3 tortas)
Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup pine nuts
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 2/3 cups cream cheese, room temp.
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 1/3 cups drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
1/3 cup tomato paste
3/4 cup butter, room temp.
salt and pepper
slices of toasted baguette or crackers

In food processor, finely chop garlic. Add basil, pine nuts, oil and lemon juice.  Process until well blended. Add 1/3 cup cream cheese and parmesan cheese.  Using on/off turns, process until just blended. Transfer pesto to a medium bowl.

Again in food processor, coarsely chop tomatoes.  Add tomato paste and process until almost smooth.  Add 1/3 cup cream cheese and blend well.

Using an electric mixer, beat 2 cups cream cheese and butter in bowl until fluffy.  Season with salt and pepper.

Spray 3 2-cup souffle dishes or bowls with non-stick spray.  Line with plastic wrap as smoothly as you can manage, extending plastic over sides.  To assemble, you will layer all three mixtures so that they have white, red and green stripes when finished.  To begin, spread 1/4 cup of cream cheese mixture evenly on bottom of each dish.  Next, divide tomato mixture into thirds and layer in each dish.  Follow with a layer of 1/4 cup of cream cheese mixture in each dish.  again, divide pesto mixture into thirds and distribute into each dish.  For the final layer, divide remaining cream cheese mixture into thirds and distribute into each dish.  Smooth evenly and fold plastic wrap over the sides to cover.  Chill over-night.  If you only need one torte, you can wrap the remaining two and freeze for up to 3 months then thaw for about 24 hours in the refrigerator prior to serving.

To serve, Invert chilled torta onto platter.  Peel off plastic.  Garnish with basil sprigs and toasted pine nuts.  Serve with crackers or toasted baguette slices.


Sondra’s Chicken Divine
This was one of the most requested of all my mother’s recipes, especially at any holiday gathering. Whenever my sister and I would visit mom after we’d left home, she would be sure to have one waiting for us. This is especially a good recipe to make in advance in a disposable pan and freeze for later, or for taking to sick, recovering or grieving friends. My mother was always the best for arriving at just the right moment to support a friend with a hot meal. I share this family recipe in honor of her.
Ingredients:
1 package Uncle Ben’s wild rice with original seasonings
3 cups frozen broccoli florets, thawed.
2 can’s cream of chicken soup
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1 can cream of chicken soup
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
a dash of white pepper
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and cubed
3-4 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 tubes of while wheat Ritz crackers, crushed
3 Tablespoons melted butter
sprinkles of paprika

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Assemble this casserole in a large, deep baking dish.  First layer: Prepare rice according to package instructions then spread in the bottom of the dish.  Second layer: Evenly spread the broccoli over the rice. Third layer: Blend soup, mayo, sour cream, lemon juice, pepper, chicken, broccoli and 1 cup of the cheese in a large bowl and mix thoroughly.  Spread evenly over the broccoli.  Fourth Layer: spread remaining cheese over the chicken mixture. Topping: Crush the crackers and blend with the melted butter, then spread over the cheese.  Sprinkle paprika over the crackers. Cover with foil and bake for 30-40 minutes or until bubbling at the edges. Remove foil and brown for a few minutes more. Let stand a few minutes before serving.