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.)

Wiccan answers to the Question of “Evil”

A Barton College student in an Intro to Religious Studies class is writing a paper on the evil side of religion. He chose to write his paper on Wicca.  He contacted me to ask if he could attend a ritual or class for some immersion in real Wicca. As he learned more he realized there was NO evil side of the Wiccan religion! I was very glad that he’d already reached that conclusion before he got to my class!

His professor then urged him to write the paper debunking that stereotype and revealing the truth that Wicca was not, in fact, evil.  He did attend one of my classes and ritual.  He then sent me these thoughtful questions, which I’ve answered to the best of my ability.  I post them here.

From the Student:

1) How does Wicca justify or explain evil, suffering, fear, pain and misfortune of the innocent in the world when the basic premise is karma?

Me:

This question must be answered by backing up to look at our paradigm and view of god/dess.  The core principle that I hope you will learn through your studies is that, god/dess = love. Some folks who aren’t deists use the word interchangeably.  Love is the polar opposite of fear. (and I would argue that the Abrahamic Divine polarity of Yahweh and Satan, are a manifestations of fear locked in the battle of good versus evil.)

Most folks consider hate to be the opposite of love, but I argue that hate proceeds from fear.   “The enemy is fear. We think it is hate; but, it is fear.” (Gandhi) We hate what we fear, and that fear, on some level, comes from a lack of love. (But that is an entire paper in itself, so I won’t digress further….)

I  take a panentheistic view of god.  Our paradigm is based on the polarity of goddess loving god and from their union, all creation flows. This is a honeymoon paradigm instead of a battleground paradigm.  Panentheism means that we see god/dess as imminent in all of nature as well as transcendent.  Immanence means that every speck of matter and all the energy of the universe are essentially the “body” of god/dess; that god/dess manifests itself as the entirety of the seen and unseen worlds.  Transcendence means that there is an over-arching consciousness to the entire being of the universe/god/dess. This consciousness synergistically transcends the sum of all the parts of the universe. God/dess can be everything, yet appealed to, and worked with, as an entity in itself through ritual, prayer and magick. Ritual is a Wiccan’s devotional expression of that Divine interrelationship.

Which brings us to the two basic principles consistent across paganism: Blessedness and Interconnectedness.  Blessedness: If everything is god/dess, if everything is Divine, including me and you, then all are blessed in our nature. We have all the empowerment and abilities to live a good and beneficial life. There is nothing inherently evil in any of it, or any person; the universe is inherently blessed, benevolent and neutral.  Since we are all this interconnected web of existence, this Divine tapestry, we can never be separate from god/dess and have within our reach everything that we need, all knowledge, all resources we need. The path of Wicca is the mystery tradition of figuring out the mechanics of living our lives in balance, and tapped into the flow of nature, which is our Divine source.

Now, extrapolate from there. If god/dess is everything, and essentially neutral, then they are both sides of every coin, every polarity. They are darkness and light, happiness and sadness, birth and death. They are pleasure and they are suffering.  They are hunger and satiety. They are all levels of consciousness and all possible aspects of existence.  The point of our many lives is to grow in love and evolve through the learning of all these lessons. We evolve through all levels of consciousness by learning the lessons from challenges presented in our lives.  It isn’t punitive in the same way one might think of a judgmental god doling out reward and punishment.  Think of it more like an instinct; an automatic system in the mechanics of the divine universe.  Sometimes the most transformational lessons hurt. Just like a parent letting hurtful lessons be learned by the child, doesn’t mean they don’t love you. Tough love, you know? It is all part of the universal experience; which is the divine experience and the human experience.  You can’t appreciate one side without the other.

It happens on a universal level as well. Stars are born, go super-nova and explode, and then new stars and systems are born of that wreckage. Same with galaxies. Same with the seasons of the earth and our own lives. Everything is born, grows, matures, reproduces, declines, dies, to rest and then be reborn again in some way. (We celebrate this cycle in our “wheel of the year” sabbats.)  Energy cannot be created nor destroyed; it merely changes form, yes?  Matter and energy are the same thing (matter is just a denser, lower vibration of energy.)  As it is in the material world, it is also the same in the spiritual world.  Spring follows the winter….that is the metaphor to describe the cycle of it all. Our very universe is not linear, it is cyclical. I personally do not believe that our universe exists in a straight line back to the big bang, but that was one “spring” in an eternal cycle of bangs, growth, contractions, to rest and then bang again…. As it is, as it has always been, as it always shall be….

Our version of karma is slightly different from those in Hinduism, though many borrow their word.  We have the law of three-fold return. It is like instant karma, as well as long-term karma. Consider this: you kick the dog, the dog bites you, now the dog will forever fear you, acting defensively and you should now fear the dog in return and you will continue to feel the negative effect of that kick every time you meet that dog.   Flip that; You love on the dog, scratching it behind the ears and caring for him.  The dog leaps into your lap and kisses your face and adores you, and will loyally defend and care of you in return the rest of his life, inspiring further love in you as well.

We believe that the three-fold law returns back to you whatever you put out into the universe amplified three times, but also effecting you on three levels, emotional, physical and spiritual. Put blessings into the world and you are greatly blessed.  Put harm into the world and you are greatly harmed…. both in this life and in your following lives. Love begets love; fear begets fear.

“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” (Yoda, Star Wars.)

Your original question:  How does Wicca justify or explain evil, suffering, fear, pain and misfortune of the innocent in the world when the basic premise is karma?  I believe that we are all born innocent. If the divine flow of the universe is basically neutral or benevolent, and we are born with the ability to be a beneficial person,  tapped into that flow, because we are all interconnected, then the potential for “good” and “evil” reside in our intentions.  Good and Evil are decisions we make on what sort of energy/actions we put out into the world.  This divine energy is a lot like electricity. Electricity can be used by a skilled electrician to power a toaster, life-support systems, or an electric chair.  The Power can be used by a skilled Witch to manifest benefits, to heal or to harm. That is why the one major operating instruction of this faith is “If it harms none, do as you will.” Harms NONE, including yourself, and anything else in the universe.  The big question to interpret becomes, what is harm? Based on our view of the cycle of life, death is not necessarily harm; death can be merciful. Suffering is harm. Causing fear in others is harm. Hate and hateful action are harm.  A BIGGIE in Wicca is to never interfere with the free-will of another. That is a BIG form of harm. So, love spells to coerce someone to love you is harm.  “Curses” or malevolent intentions through magick and thought are harm as much as murder, rape, domestic abuse are harm.  Littering is harm to the environment! Dictating to someone who they can or cannot love would be harm in its own way because it imposes your will on another.  You see how such a simple phrase could take a lifetime and a volume of “what if” scenarios to fully explore? But it is paramount that the Witch him/herself fully explore this Rede (which means guideline) and how they can best do no harm in their lives.

The Student:

2) If someone does approach Wicca with evil intentions and they violate the Wiccan Reed, are they still technically considered Wiccan?

This is a complex question; therefore, I can only give you my own interpretation.  In every religion there are the good, faithful folks who “get it” and do their best to live up to their standards of good conduct, occasionally falling short, and then learning from their mistakes. I would call that “human.”  On the other hand, there are those suffering from imbalance who just don’t “get it” are falsely in a religion for the wrong reasons, be it control or power or ego.  I can think of all sorts of public-faced Christians who are down right malevolent and not good Christians in any sense of my understanding of it. Are they not Christians at all? Or are they merely bad Christians?

So to try and answer your question, I think that if someone is claiming to be Wiccan, and walking that path actively, there is only one hard, fast, requirement: The Wiccan Rede. If they are just not interpreting that Rede the way another would, then there is nothing anyone can do about that. It is the beauty, the danger and the risk of a self-regulating religion. The universe will take care of that indiscretion eventually through karma. However, if that “Wiccan” says they do not choose to follow the Rede, as if it does not apply to them, and they do harm as a form of their religion, then they are NOT Wiccan; they are some other path of their own making. They can call themselves a Wiccan, but they are no more so than, for example, Hitler was a good Christian as he tortured and murdered millions of Jesus the Christ’s own race.

The Student:

3) If Wicca spells and incarnations do produce results, how do you know the power behind the results is good or not?

Me:

I may have answered this already. The Divine flow of the universe, the power behind magickal workings, is neutral, benevolent even, and ruled by my own intent. If I do a spell intended to be beneficial, or perform a ritual with the best intentions, and do so by tapping into the benevolent Divine flow of nature to co-create that intention, then how could it be anything but “good?”   I always add this caveat to the intentions of my rituals and workings: “May this be for the highest good of all involved, harming none.” This way, even if I cannot anticipate a potential harm, Divine guidance will neutralize my working, or change it to be a benefit. Because of this, magick is never guaranteed any more than prayer it guaranteed. Spells are a form of multi-sensorial prayer. Sometimes the answer to that prayer is “no.”

The Student:

4) If a Wicca caters or constructs their religion according to their own desires, is it recognized by other Wiccan?

This is also the beauty, the danger and the risk of a self-regulating religion. It is also an inherent difficulty in being a part of the founding first century of a new religion. We are all muddling through and co-creating it as we go along. We are evolving together, but it is more like herding cats!  All of us are independent thinkers and we are encouraged to be so. With that comes the difficulty of accepting others who may be doing things vastly differently than you do yourself. Witch wars have erupted in our community over these differences in perspective, style, form, etc. The short answer is that we SHOULD accept each other.  I hope we can maintain our flexibility as we evolve and not fall into the pitfall of dogma and stricture that have twisted and derailed other faith traditions.

The Student:

5) If your tradition contradicts the tradition of another Wiccan, can they both be objectively true?

Me:

What is truth? There is a saying, “One mountain; many paths.”  There are many paths to the ultimate reality that drives and creates this universe. I would ask, does it matter if anyone else has the same truth as my own? From my paradigm, I derive that the point of my existence is to enjoy life, to grow, evolve, and celebrate the wonder of union with the Divine in all it’s forms. What delights and gives pleasure and fulfillment to an individual is subjective. Therefore, there may as well be as many spiritual expressions of that Divinity as there are spirits in the world! More power to them!

The Student:

6) How has the history of Wicca and how it is perceived by outsiders influenced the way modern Wicca operates? IE discretionary meetings, secrecy, fear of persecution.

Me:

Yes. There is a great deal of old lore and “etiquette” in traditional Wicca concerning secrecy and privacy that is finally falling away as we emerge out of our broom closets into the light of day and a new era of pluralism.  For example, most Witches take a magickal name to use in the community so that their legal name is not used by others and they can celebrate without fear of being inadvertently “outed.”  For years I was only known as Sorcha, (Gaelic for Sarah) or the Lunachic in the wider community.  I have fully come out of the broom closet as my sacred mission to live openly, so now I use my legal name. Though I’ve lost a lot from making that decision… and gained far more!

In the old days of Europe, legend holds that covens went to extreme lengths to hide their identities and work secretly.   As the Wiccan movement came to the US in the 1960‘s, the secrecy began to fall away as it merged with the feminist and environmentalist movements, and merged with the radical social changes of that time period.

Living openly isn’t a possibility for most Wiccans yet, because even in NC today, state employees, teachers and folks living in the more rural or backwards nooks and crannies of the state are still in danger from those who are so handicapped by their ignorance and fear that hate crimes happen to anyone outside the mainstream.  I once lost a job waiting tables in a restaurant because the wrong person overheard me say that I was studying Witchcraft!  A customer of ours now is attempting to relocate to Greenville, because a hateful neighbor outed her as a Wiccan to the school board for whom she worked. The harrassment began in the community and her boss told her she’d have to leave because they couldn’t control the parents insistence that a Witch not teach their children English Literature.  Persecution happens regularly!

The Spanish Inquisition by the catholic church murdered millions and the energetic waves are still in effect. Salem Witch trials are still remembered in the US.  Anti-witchcraft laws in England were not repealed until 1952.  Right this minute there are discriminatory laws against “gypsies” and those doing “divination” in Pitt county, with the purpose being to keep us from working in Pitt county. Preachers today preach hate for pagans and Wiccans, telling their congregation that we worship Satan. We have nothing to do with Satan, as that is a part of Christian mythology and we simply are apart from Christianity.  They fear what they do not understand, and from their fear comes hate and intolerance. They are falling to the “dark side” of their own religion as they descend into seething, controlling, coercive politics and social stricture.

I feel that a great change is happening in our culture. We call it the awakening and it is happening across the board in all faith traditions. People are awakening to the love of the universe and they are growing up from the child-like, slave-like divine relationship with a vengeful god of the Abrahamic traditions to a more mature, co-creating relationship with their loving, divine parents. I think this is what Jesus was trying to say to his people 2000 years ago, and yet they were obviously not ready to hear it yet.  We are awakening to own inner divinity, which I think is what all the Avatars (like Jesus) were heralding, and now the time has come. There is a reason that Wicca/paganism is the fastest growing religion in America today.  Maybe the Mayan calendar that predicted the end of the age in 2012 was correct, and we are just entering into a new cycle of our human evolution. These are exciting times!

Blessed Be!

Panentheism in a Nutshell

I’m a panentheist, so that is the foundation of my paradigm. Meaning: Deity is both imminent in nature, AND Transcendent. Nature IS Deity and within this Pagan paradigm that is how I view “God” with a big G. Nature just *IS*–regardless of any human viewing it, debating it, choosing it, and regardless of any faith. Nature has it’s own mechanics, and we grow into understanding of it through scientific observation…physics, biology, ecology, etc. However, we grow into *relationship* with Nature/Deity through a study of metaphysics, first hand spiritual experience, and getting in tune with the cycles and rhythms of our little patch of the universe.

So to me, “God,” or Great Spirit *IS* EVERY particle, EVERY Wave, all the energy that binds them into manifestation, keeps evolving AND is also GREATER than the sum of it’s parts, taking on an identity and energy of its own–the same way that a human being has both a body AND a Spirit that transcends our matter.

So the Universe, per this view, is like a huge woven tapestry of energy, Spirit and matter and we are all interconnected, all powerful creators, all blessed in our nature because we ARE divine. This weaving together, this bonding and impetus to continue on could be called LOVE. In Wicca we see the ineffable Great Spirit as having polarity–of Goddess and God–and through their LOVE all creation flows. And why not? Just about everything we can observe in nature is created through the union of male and female. The Great Spirit/Goddess/God is continually dreaming new patterns of the tapestry, and humans, as sentient manifestations of Them contribute to this dream.

Per this view there can be no separation from “God,” no original sin or inherent flaw to be saved from, no judgment by an outside entity, no *better place* to strive to be nor anywhere worse to which you could be banished, however; we are inspired to work together to make *this* place, this tapestry the most beautiful, creative, loving place possible. The choice of our free will is to flow freely, or to struggle vainly against nature–and that is the root of “evil.” We exercise our “free will” in a choice to be beneficial or harmful.

In Wicca there is only one hard, fast rule: Do what you will, but harm none, and why would you? If everything is interconnected, then you will be equally effected by whatever harm you create. Personal responsibility is the key.

Can anyone else see the awe-inspiring, inclusive, society-changing, evil-defeating, peace-engendering, fundamentalist-diffusing, confidence-boosting, religion-overcoming, super-hero-creating possibilities to this paradigm that I see? And why this work might be worth doing for me? This is some GOOD NEWS!