Shopkeeper Sagas: Not All Who Wander are Lost

Originally published July 11, 2016 on Witch on Fire, click here.


Shopkeeper Sagas: Not All Who Wander are Lost, Part 1

If you are any flavor of pagan, or even P-curious, I bet you began your spiritual odyssey at the local metaphysical shop. These magickal places are where you can find new age and occult books, tarot cards, herbs you’ve only ever heard about in Harry Potter, crystals, arcane tools, candles, statues of the old golds, and shining silver jewelry with sigils that will confound and concern the neighbors. But, the most important thing you find in a shop like this is a sympathetic ear, and the straight answers to the hardest questions you’ve ever asked. These shops are the safe port in the storm for those of us who are dancing to that rhythm most folks can’t even hear.  If you had such a shop in your hometown when you needed it most, consider yourself very lucky.

Since 2008, I’ve owned and operated just such a place. Keeping these doors open and accessible is my sacred mission as a witch. I believe that the Powers-that-Be called me to do this work as a means of organizing the Pagan community here in eastern North Carolina specifically. I came here in 1995 for my BS degree, and moved away twice to pursue my career in Interior Design, but inevitably was lured back. There is an inescapable gravity to this place.

[Edit: At first, I wrote that this was a “gods-forsaken place,” but through the writing out of this story, I see that clearly the old gods have taken a very keen interest in this region. Not just through my work, but through many dedicated pagans over the last 20-30 years.]

The Sojourner Whole Earth Provisions: 414 Evans Street, Greenville, NC. Equipping the path less traveled since 2009

The Sojourner Whole Earth Provisions: 414 Evans Street, Greenville, NC. Equipping the path less traveled since 2009

The Sojourner has a prime location in the hip Uptown area near East Carolina University. We keep open hours 7 days a week right out here in plain view of Jesus and all of his sheep. Boy, oh boy, is that a TRIP!  The stories I will tell… Within a few blocks our neighbors include ECU, large churches, the mosque, yoga studios, Minority Voice Radio, African American clothiers for church vestments, hats, wigs and fancy dresses, several art galleries, an organic farm-to-table restaurant, tattoo and piercing parlors, a “gay bar” with the best drag shows, a Headshop for glass smoking paraphernalia, aaaaand a teacher’s educational supply store, just to name a few. FUN TIMES!

Uptown is a bizarre slice of society, and we get along on this street quite well! However, the town of Greenville is dead-center of the country doldrums between the cosmopolitan Research Triangle of Raleigh/Chapel Hill/Durham, and the quaint, bustling tourism of the coast. East Carolina University imports many sophisticated, progressive and intellectual people <ahem<like myself> ahem> who are awesome. However, Greenville is an island surrounded by the conservative, bible-thumping, Trump-supporting, creationism-believing, queer-fearing, Klan-sympathizing bigots who cling to an antebellum view of the world. (1)

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Confessions of a Witch on Fire

Heron’s Rook Readers!

This article was originally published on my brand-new, very-own, Patheos Blogging home!  Introducing, Witch on Fire!

I would just loooooove it if while you are visiting Witch on Fire that you subscribe to receive them by email. The only way this sort of “professional” blog works out in the favor of the writer, is if a massive number of “page-views” happen every month, and I’d just hate it if you missed something because social media algorithm’s hid it from you. If you like what you read, know that regular visits to the page are a great form of support and I love you for it. Thanks!
~Heron


Confessions of a Witch on Fire

Blogs can become a form of “pulpit” for us pagans. Like sermons serve our neighbors in other religions, these articles can inform, inspire, and hopefully motivate us toward some beneficial change in our lives. On a good day, they may open the reader up to a deeper connection to the Divine in some way. I consider that to be important work, not to be taken for granted.

However, the difference between a boring sermon and a riveting one, is when folks tell their personal stories about their lives. They testify! I want to know about their practice, feelings and perceptions, and how that work is changing them. It’s honest and entertaining and I usually take away some nugget of applicable truth.

Knight of Disks. Tarot Cards from the Thoth Deck by Crowley, Photo by Heron

Art, Queen of Wands, Knight of Disks. Tarot Cards from the Thoth Deck by Crowley, Photo by Heron

Confessions or Comedy?

I’ve been teaching Modern Witchcraft classes now for over 6 years, and it is true what they say: you can’t completely understand something until you’ve taught it to someone else. It is a lot harder than you might think, especially when it comes to deep, esoteric concepts and how they play out here in the middle world. They have to be made real through examples. So, I’ve come to teach by telling my stories without shame. This scandalizes some folks. Other people think its refreshing. To each their own, but I’ve always found that the most instructive stories are more like a confession, where I own my own shit, admit what I learned the stupid way and how I got the cosmic smack-down until I corrected my mistakes–my life is kinda like a stand-up routine that way: That which does not kill me, makes great comedy.

Keep reading this article by clicking here!

Interviewed on Blogtalk Radio by Jason Mankey!

On Wednesday night, I had some fun chatting with my friend, Jason Mankey, on his podcast at Blogtalk Radio on Witchschool. We talked about thealogy within Witchcraft (or the lack thereof,) my Come to Witchery story, and a surprising truth about owning a metaphysical store, among other things. If you’d like to listen, check out the PTRN ~ Raise the Horns Radio with Jason Mankey below.

https://player.cinchcast.com/?userurl=witchschool&assettype=multi&itemcount=6&version=2.0&version=2.0&platformId=1

Listen to internet radio with Witch School on BlogTalkRadio

Crafting Sovereignty at the Grand Sabbat

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


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

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

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

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

Crafting New Traditions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Re-vision, Re-organize, Re-Tool

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

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

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

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

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

A Vow Against “Chur-cle”

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

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

A Temple between the Worlds

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Courtesy of Heron Michelle

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

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

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

 

Beltane is a Party…with Healthy Boundaries

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

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

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

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

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

There’s A Safe Pot to Piss in at the End of the Rainbow

There is no room in my witchery for homophobia. Wait, check that; there is no room in my witchery for -phobia of any kind. Sadly, I realize this is not true of all witches, but I see the God/dess incarnate in every being, expressed through infinite diversity. We are all the Love of the Two Who Move As One; we are all equally precious and Divine; Love is my religion.

Fear is the Path to the Dark Side ¹

a sign reading "the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing" by edmund burke

Photo by Heron Michelle

Moreover, as a citizen, business owner, mother, and the priestess of a coven with many GLBTQ members, I have a moral conviction to work for the betterment of our society for all. I cannot blithely abide the legalized violation of civil rights to any citizen. To stand by and do nothing is to tacitly condone this harm, and I have this witchy little creed about that.  This is no time for “subtlety.”

Fear Leads to Anger

The point of my Witchcraft praxis is to purify me of my fears, work through my phobias, and awaken me from the illusion of separateness. I believe every single human on earth is sent here to enjoy their lives, love and learn from each other, present challenges and evolve through them. So, all phobias are there to instruct, and then be cured through my connection with Divine Love.  The heart of my witchery beats to the rhythm of personal sovereignty and the responsible pursuit of happiness.

“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, Spiral Dance

 

“An do what you will be the challenge,
So be it in love that harms none,
For this is the only commandment,
By magick of old, be it done.”
~The Witch’s Creed, Doreen Valiente

a sign reading "the Earth is the Mother of all people and all people should have equal rights upon it" by Chief Joseph

Photo by Heron Michelle

Have I mentioned recently that I live in North Carolina?  Yup. We’ve had quite a month of controversy here. I live in a state now infamous for HB2, “Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act,” better known as “the bathroom bill.”

This nightmare that was rushed through a special session by our GOP legislators is now state mandated discrimination of the most dastardly order. This is why we can’t have nice things, like work at high-tech jobs with Paypal, host championship games, or go to Bruce Springsteen concerts, and rightly so!  Bring on the boycotts and travel bans, America! With no fool a season spend, nor be counted as our friend.² If a bigot invited me to a party at their house, where I knew they were coercing some of their other guests into dangerous and humiliating situations, I wouldn’t attend, either.

Click HERE to continuing reading this article at the Patheos Pagan channel, on the Agora Blog.

Aphrodite’s Thealogy of Perfection

In Wiccan rites, in order to enter the sacred circle with other witches, you are challenged at the gates. HOW DO YOU ENTER? The two keys to gain entry were originally, “In Perfect love and Perfect trust.” In recent years, I’ve come to appreciate this concept as one of the most valuable that Wicca has to offer to Witchdom, as a whole.  Sadly, I’m finding that it is widely undervalued.

a series of hands, clasped to form a circle, from various ethnicities

As a new witchling, when I was struggling to understand what was meant by “perfect” and was taught that it meant “unconditional,” my teacher’s answers just brought up more questions within me. I really didn’t understand, and my early attempts to apply this idea in my life opened me up to more than a few broken hearts.

Several leaders whose rituals I attended suggested to me that if I didn’t feel comfortable pledging to love and trust these strangers at an open festival, I could just answer that I entered, “With an open heart and open mind,” instead. I’ve even repeated the same advice to new folks at my own circles over the years. I now believe that this was bad advice based on a crucial misunderstanding.

“Bide the Wiccan laws ye must, in perfect Love and perfect Trust.”¹

As I taught these basic things, and new students asked the same questions, and raised the same red flags time and again, eventually I stopped avoiding the issue and spent time seeking a better answer. When the books and mentor’s answers failed me, I went directly to the source.

For my Great Work exploration of 2014, I devoted myself to discovering what the goddesses of love had to teach me about unconditional love and trust within a panentheist paradigm, such as I have. It was the hardest year of my witching life, thus far, and when I emerged I had an entirely different pair of “rose-colored glasses” with which to view this seminal piece of wisdom.

With the aid of Aphrodite, I developed what I now call the Thealogy of Perfection, and from there, a way to apply that thealogy practically as the Four Rules of Witchcraft for Personal Sovereignty.

fire-heart-961194_1280

Aphrodite’s Thealogy of Perfection

What do we mean by “perfection?”

If the world is a divine tapestry, woven of 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.”

Hermetic Alchemy: 
V. Principle of Rhythm: States: “Everything flows, out and in; everything has its tides; all things rise and fall; the pendulum-swing manifests in everything; the measure of the swing to the right is the measure of the swing to the left; rhythm compensates.” — The Kybalion.

Divine Love would have to be both sides of every polarity, every atom, all states of matter, all types of energy, all phases of the cycle, all types of life-forms, all expressions of gender, all sexual preferences, all social strata, all areas of consciousness, crests and troughs, good hair days and bad hair days, red votes and blue votes, sinners and saints, et cetera and so on. Think of a “Perfect” circle; it is all god/dess.

Click here to keep reading the original article on Patheos Pagan Channel, on the Agora blog, published March 21, 2016