Broom Closets and Bible Belts: 10 Tips for Your Coming Out Party

This article was originally posted on Patheos Pagan Channel on The Agora Blog on January 26th, 2016. The entire article can be found at this link.

I’d wager that many of you fine readers have struggled with the problem of being the odd-ball witch or pagan  struggling to find acceptance in a family of Evangelical, fundamentalist Christians. That is a thing that happens down here in the bible-belt with alarming frequency, especially for young adults just starting out, and can be really challenging.  For 15 years, I lied and hid who I really was from my mother, and most of our family, which was both miserable and pitiful. I regret how I handled things. Here are a few tips to consider, should you choose to come out of your broom closet, too.

Bonnybbx / Pixabay.com

I’ve written several articles about my mother, her death and funeral, and my journey to reconcile my upbringing with my newfound witchery. On my article about how she haunted me after she died,I received this comment with a very important question:

Heron – looking back, what would/could you have done differently while your mother was still alive? I find myself exhausted by life in the broom closet, but our mothers are much the same in their religious perspective and I’m not prepared to sacrifice my family yet.  ~CB

What would I do differently?

If I had a do-over, I would find a way to show her the respect of an honest adult relationship, and come completely out of my “broom closet” for her to see.  I’d brave the storm of condemnation it could cause in the beginning, and openly be the woman of conscience that I was called to be–just like she was. I would do so lovingly, respectfully, but firmly, regardless of her approval. She never gave a damn what people thought of her convictions. That is a pro-tip I learned from her.

I’d like to give her the chance to understand the fulfillment I’ve found through my unorthodox choices. I have no doubt that we would grow through adversity with each other, as she faced the fact that a beloved daughter became a priestess of a different Deity, and I faced the challenge of standing proudly on my sacred ground without flinching under her fire. I’d like to think that as that priestess of Aphrodite, I could set a high standard of unconditional, Divine Love, grace and beauty with my mother, and then allow her the chance to rise to that standard with me, until we found peace.

Easier said than done, I know. I go back to the commenters question and my eyes keep falling on the word sacrifice.  “Sacrifice my family…”

But how would I “come out” without sacrificing my family? That is the key to this question. The truth is, that when I began the tippy-toe steps out of the broom closet, one consequence was that my eleven year long marriage did eventually end, in no small part due to my religious convictions. So *I did* sacrifice one form of family that I valued very much. Though, I found other forms of family that were far better for us all, I can assure you that it was for the best.

I’ve thought on this question for a while and I must admit that I don’t have any sure-fire answer to what works, but through blundering experience I do have a story to tell, and I’m a story-teller, so I’ll start there: My mother and I had already gone down this road part-way, when I admitted under duress that my ex-husband and I weren’t Christians. Therefore, the odds of us taking our small children to church to learn about “the fear and admonition of the Lord” (no kidding, she used exactly those words) were pretty slim. Just for context, I was 32 at the time. It was also 9 months before her eventual death and she had no idea I’d just self-initiated to Witchcraft and helped form a coven.

To keep reading click here.

World AIDS day: Elemental Blessings for Change

WorldAIDSdayDec. 1st is World AIDS Day and I am reminded of a service in 2012 at the First Christian Church here in Greenville, NC, wherein my circle was invited to participate with the interfaith community. We offered to speak at the beginning of the service, with a Witchcraft-inspired “calling of the quarters,” without actually cutting any portals, because we didn’t have a circle constructed. As this was in the main sanctuary of a large protestant church, among people of many religions, we chose to write them like blessings, calling on the elemental powers to inspire us to create change in the world.

I stood at the pulpit and spoke the words into the microphone, while my witchy-sister, DJ, stood on the stage with me, holding a large, hand-hammered, Tibetan singing bowl aloft and facing each direction in turn. As I finished each call, she would echo, “Welcome, Air!” and the strike the bowl, loud and strong, and we allowed the tone to ring free throughout the sanctuary until nearly silent. Then she’d turn, with former-Marine ceremonial precision, and I would continue the evocation.

When I first stood up, ascended those stairs to the upper stage in front of this large congregation, and introduced us with, “We are here from The Sojo Circle, as practitioners of Modern Witchcraft,” my voice caught in my throat. I won’t lie, I was scared to shaking to say that out loud, in that building, to those people, and my throat chakra clenched down until it hurt. The wave of shock and clenching of sphincters in the pews was palpable, too. But I did say it out loud, with pride, and then I brought in the energies, and we created change…all of us, together.

By the end, there was an unfurling, a relaxing into these hopes and dreams, as we visualized a solution, imagined an end to the suffering of our loved ones with HIV and AIDS, and a better world through inspiration, dedication, compassion, and justice.

To this day, I am still approached by members of the community who first saw me there, at that service, in that pulpit, and they tell me how much these words brought them solace. I offer them to you today, with the holiday wish that they continue to ring out for LOVE.

Holiday Blessings,
~Heron

East/Air
Blessings of the East and of Air!
We welcome you to this sacred space.

Come yellow dawn and soaring eagle.
Come intellect, wisdom and clear-communication for the highest good of our community!

Air! Open our minds and grant us understanding, and the knowledge we need to overcome this disease that threatens our kindred.

Amplify our voices to be resoundingly heard. Help us to speak our truths even when it is difficult. Bring the winds of change! Let reason, and sensibility guide us in this battle we wage against the AIDS epidemic.

Grant us also the power to WONDER, so that our eyes are opened to new ways of thinking, to relinquish judgement and the powerlessness brought by rigidity!

Help us to discover new truths as they are revealed through our search for knowledge!
Powers of Air, bless our researchers, scientists and leaders.

Inspire us all!
With Gratitude, Welcome, Air!

South/Fire
Blessings of the South and of Fire!
We welcome you to this sacred space.

Come red noon and baying wolf!
Come action, transformation and change for the highest good of our community!

Fire! Open our Will and grant us the energy and fierce passion to create change so that we may overcome this disease that threatens our kindred.

Intensify our determination, give us the strength we need to keep up the good fight in this battle against the AIDS epidemic.

Grant us the grace to surrender to the transformative fires that will temper us during this time of travail, burning away old behaviors, fears and outmoded ideas that no longer serve our highest good!

May we align our personal will with the Divine will of love, healing and balance.

Powers of Fire, bless our activists and warriors in their work for change.

Embolden us all!
With gratitude, Welcome, Fire!

West/Water
Blessings of the West and of Water!
We welcome you to this sacred space!

Come blue twilight and watchful crow!
Come dreams, compassion, and empathy for the highest good of our community!

Water! Open our hearts and grant us the fearlessness we need to DARE to break free from these banks that confine us, to overflow, cutting new trails, flowing past all social, institutional and human-constructed boundaries, without discrimination, washing us clean from our fears. Teach us your lessons of acceptance for all our brethren with unconditional love.

Let these waters of love raise us all up, ebbing and flowing in the surety of your cycles, so that we will be victorious in our battle against the AIDS epidemic.

Grant us also the grace of acceptance. May we understand and honor where we are NOW in this battle, and all that we’ve already accomplished, so that we may determine how best to get to where we need to be.

As we grieve for our lost loved ones, and care for those who are suffering, may we all find comfort, peace and rest on the journey.

Powers of water, bless our healers and spiritual leaders in their work.
Stir our hearts!
With gratitude, Welcome Water!

North/Earth
Blessings of the North and of Earth!
We welcome you to this sacred space!

Come black midnight and slumbering bear!
Come stability, foundation, manifestation of all that will serve the highest good of our community.

Earth! Open our ears and grant us the silence we need to Listen as The Divine answers our prayers, to trust in the process, to be patient. Allow our bodies, minds and spirits the opening to potential, and the broadening and deepening of our trust in one another.

Grant us also the ability to hold this space of ultimate potential, so that we may bring forth possibility from that void; help us find the light in the darkness.  Grant us understanding that in all of nature, life is a cycle.  For every down-swing, there must be an upswing. For every death there is a birth and we will overcome all adversity in this battle against the AIDS epidemic!

Powers of Earth, bless our law-makers, civil-servants and builders in their work.
Strengthen us all!!
With gratitude, Welcome Earth!

 

Center/Spirit
Blessings of the Center! Great Spirit within us, around us, weaver and woven one, dreamer and dream! One Source known by many names and many faces, envisioned now in the minds of each of your beautiful children in this sacred space.

(Pause)

Nurture and protect us, awaken within us your unconditional love. Awaken within us that connection that we all share. Empower us all as we fulfill your great work within our community. Be with us now in this sacred space!

Above and Below,
Welcome, Spirit!

A Thanksgiving Transmutation of Tens

[This article can be found in it’s entirety posted on my column, Witch on Fire, November 24th, 2015.]

It is Thanksgiving week here in the US and as usual there is some tension between the materialism of Black Friday, and the spiritual considerations of gratitude and benevolence.  Recently, I had what some would call a crises of faith regarding my own material needs. I’m walking the tight rope between a need to pay for the necessities of life and my sacred mission of service. In short, I think about money, or the lack thereof, a lot. Some might think that isn’t enlightened to admit publicly. I beg to differ.

My witchcraft is about a healthy balance between all the five elements of life: physical, emotional, mental, will, and spirit. You know, the equal interweaving of the 5 points of the pentacle. None of that “denial of the flesh,” or “vow of poverty” bull around this witch’s cottage. Nope, we aim to “drink the good wine to the old gods” here, especially so when we feast in thanksgiving. Well, that feast comes with a price tag, so a required part of my praxis is the hard work spent manifesting the resources we need to not just survive, but thrive.

The tens cards of the Thoth Tarot by Aleister Crowley and Frieda Harris.

The tens cards of the Thoth Tarot by Aleister Crowley and Frieda Harris.

A Transmutation of Tens

Let us not forget that the tarot deck, the bread and butter of a witches’ tool box, has an entire suit devoted to the lessons of our survival through good health and enough wealth; the job that puts food on the table and pays the doctor’s bills. In some decks that is the suit of coins, or pentacles; in my beloved Thoth Tarot deck it is the suit of disks.

During my soul searching these past weeks, I found wise guidance through the tens cards of my deck. I recognized that the last years of my life flowed through these lessons…like a transmutation, a change from something base to something precious. A pattern in my life emerged that can be illustrated by the tens cards of Wealth, Oppression, Ruin and Satiety.

[Click here to read the rest of the story at Patheos Pagan Channel, at Witch on Fire.]

Why I am Still a Witch

[Originally posted on my column, Witch on Fire, on Patheos Pagan Channel.]

This month at Patheos there is an ongoing discussion on the “Future of Faith in America” asking each of us to answer this question:

Why I am still a ________ (insert name of your religion here.) 

Why do I still embrace this wyrdly wandering, beautiful and horrifying, rapturous and humbling path? Goooood question, my lovelies!  Why, oh why, do I do this, particular, thing?

Aphrodite and Hermes Altar / Heron Michelle

Aphrodite and Hermes Altar / Heron Michelle

Insanity not withstanding, the first answer that pops to mind is that This Thing is just who I have always been.  Whether I’m *doing* the praxis, the mechanics of religion, or not, is beside the point.  Frankly, I am not a person of “faith;” either I know, and I know why, or it gets none of my power.  Despite what any naysayer may think, my brand of Witchcraft has no time for “superstition” but all kinds of room for mystery, wonder and poetic, mythic truth. I can hold the space for the unknown, without succumbing to irrational fears.

Click here to read the rest on Witch on Fire…

Confessions of a Snake Oil Salesman

[Originally posted on my column, Witch on Fire, on Patheos Pagan channel.]

Merry Meet Patheos, Heron here.

I come before you today, pointy hat in hand, and a burning need to get some things off my chest. All you priest/esses out there, will you hear my confession?

Bless me, pagandom, for I have “sinned” and fallen short of the glory of our gods; it has been two weeks since my last confession…er…post. For seven years now I’ve been a merchant of metaphysical goods and services, and there are days when I feel like a snake oil salesman.  I confess my disenchantment with the metaphysical industry and occasional lack of faith in my fellow practitioners. I confess that, deep down, there is a part of me still afraid of being burned at the stake as a charlatan by non-believers, and cursed into ruin by my competitors. Though my religion holds no concept of sin, it is meant to save me from this fear. For these and my many other shadows, I take full responsibility. Awen.

As penance, I’ll go say 13 Wiccan Rede’s and a Hail (Charge of the) Goddess…the long forms…in contrived Old English, just for good measure. <snicker>

a man in a three piece suit sells snake oil to unsuspecting villagers

Snake Oil Salesman / Public Domain

“Snake oil is an expression that originally referred to fraudulent health products or unproven medicine but has come to refer to any product with questionable or unverifiable quality or benefit. By extension, a snake oil salesman is someone who knowingly sells fraudulent goods or who is themselves a fraud, quack, charlatan, or the like.” ~wikipedia

Click here to read more on Witch on Fire…

Celebrating Samhain: The Poison and the Antidote

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

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

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

Continue here to keep reading…

a tarot card featuring a dancing skeleton labeled "Death"

 

 

Announcing: Witch on Fire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blessings,

~Heron Michelle