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.

 

Witchin’ in the Kitchen: Samhain Recipes

JackolanternSamhain (pronounced Sow-wen) is known as the Third Harvest. This is the time of the slaughter, when in ancient agricultural communities, the livestock was thinned, butchered and prepared for storage over the winter, because you can’t keep the entire herd fed over the winter, nor warm with you and the kids in your yurt, and well…the point of raising livestock is to eat it…duh. In Eastern NC there are hog kills and they are a lot of hard, gory work on the farm, but make for a great feast of pork barbecue. mmmmm…..

Samhain is a Greater Sabbat and the peak of the tides of the Autumn season, when the earth is in decline, just like old age. It is celebrated when the sun reaches 15 degrees Scorpio, or on the calendar date of November 1. Remember that if “Hallows” is Nov. 1, then “All Hallows EVE,” would be the night before, on October 31st. In the US Halloween is celebrated far and wide with gory, horror shows, costume parties, traipsing through the night with lit jack-o-lanterns and trick or treating for candy (or else! Its sanctioned extortion, I tell ya.) For one night you can be your shadow self for the night, which in this college town seems to reveal the latent desire to be porn stars, but anyhoo….  While the roots of these practices are indeed from our pagan ancestors, and a lot of fun to do with both the kids, and all my wacky, witchy adult friends, I don’t consider that part of my spiritual practice.  Don’t get me wrong, I LERVE me some Halloween; I’m over-the-top intense about my costumes and decorations, and I throw a huge Witches’ Costumed Ball

Heron as "allegory." Basically I was a dark personification of "pisces" or The Moon card.

2013, Heron as “allegory.” Basically I was a dark personification of “Pisces” or the Moon Tarot card. My date was Allegory of Scorpio, or The Death Card. It was awesome!

every year, but I separate the two sides of the holiday, and celebrate Samhain on the astrological date during the first week of November.

The Wheel of the Year mythos of this time tells the story of the Sage God, who sacrificed himself to feed his people at Lammas, and began his descent to the underworld at Mabon, now arrives and enters his deep slumber of regeneration, just like the hibernating animals of the wild.

The Crone Goddess, having joined him for her rest and preparation for birth of the new light at Yule, has fully withdrawn her vital energies from the earth, just as the sap has withdrawn, rendering the branches scraggly and bare.  Best to have brought in all the harvest from the field by now; anything left behind beyond Samhain needs to be left for the Spirits, or its bad luck.

This last harvest is about letting what no longer serves our highest good die away, clearing out the refuse, and making space for that fallow period. It is an austere time, polar opposite of the decadence and frivolity of Beltane, as it should be. Whereas Beltane was the marriage, Samhain is the funeral.

This is when we honor the very important aspect of death within the life-cycle. Without death, we would be seriously screwed. I mean, just think about EVERY zombie, or vampire movie you’ve ever seen. That shit ain’t natural, and its terrifying to think about.

Speaking of shit, every time you take one be grateful for the fact that what food you ate that “died” to sustain you, can be broken down into energy, and the refuse removed from your body, being replace with NEW LIFE!  We NEED death. Within the Great Work of our spiritual intentions, we start to release attachments to those things that have come to their conclusion because of the Work, or that need to be cleared away to make room for the full harvesting of the Work. We honor the dead, we remember our ancestors, we sit in silence and share the “dumb supper” with our beloved dead. We mourn our losses, but losses make us wiser…they pierce the veil and allow us to see further, and recognize the big-picture patterns forming around us.

From Samhain, we then turn the inner eye back over the whole cycle and appreciate it’s end and what it taught us.  We, too, enter our “hibernation,” and should take this “between” time to contemplate, integrate, and “hold the space” in that dark, silent, still, dreamy period ahead; Winter is coming.

Here are a few of my favorite Halloween and Samhain recipes that I’ve long loved for both Costumed Ball and Samhain Dumb Supper with the Tribe; may they brighten the feast of the dead. Enjoy!


 

pumpkin fluffPumpkin Fluff Dip

Ingredients:
1 (8 ounce) cream cheese, softened
1 (15 ounce) can solid pack pumpkin
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 (8 ounce) Cool Whip, thawed
Gingersnaps or graham crackers
Blend the cream cheese, pumpkin, vanilla and spice with a hand blender until smooth, add the Cool Whip and fold together with a spatula. Chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve. I like to load it into a small hollowed out pie pumpkin, and serve with the gingersnaps or graham crackers.

Baked Jack-o-lantern Brains

Ingredients:
1 pie pumpkin about the size of a volleyball that sits upright easily
1 box Uncle Ben’s Wild Rice with Original Recipe seasonings,
or 6 oz. of the grain of your choice, with 1/2 teaspoon salt.
1 pound lean ground beef
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1/2 cup raisins
1 chopped fresh apple
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried mint leaves
1 can tomato soup
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare your rice or grain according to package directions and set aside.

In large skillet over medium heat, brown ground beef and onions, stirring occasionally to break up the meat.  Pour off the excess fat.  Remove from heat then stir in the lemon peel, raisins, apple, walnuts, parsley and mint leaves.

With a sharp knife, create a removable top around the stem by cutting at an angle a 4-6 inch diameter hole.  Scoop out the seeds and loose pulp, trim the stringy pulp from the top.  Stuff the pumpkin with the skillet mixture, replace top.  Sit your stuffed pumpkin in a large baking dish, add 1/4 inch of water and cover with foil.  Bake for 1 hour or until flesh of pumpkin is tender and easily scoops away with a spoon to be served with the stuffing.

While pumpkin is baking, blend the tomato soup, lemon juice and cinnamon and heat either in a sauce pan over low heat or warmed in the microwave for a few minutes.  When serving, pour tomato sauce over the stuffing.


Lentil Veggie Turkey Soup

Ingredients:
1 onion, chopped
3-4 stalks of the heart celery with all the tender leaves, chopped
3-4 carrots, chopped
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 teaspoons of Thyme leaf
1 teaspoon celery seed,
copious black pepper (to taste)
1 1/2 cups dried lentils, rinsed
1 can of diced tomatoes with liquid
1 can of corn, drained
2 boxes of prepared chicken stock – I don’t actually know how many ounces were in each, but they were the standard large-ish box available in the grocery store soup section.
1-2  tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, to taste.
1-2 cups of prepared wild rice (I happened to have some left-over in the fridge. It was Uncle Bens, with the seasonings already mixed in.) OR you can add a half cup of dried wild rice and an extra 1 cup of water.
6 tablespoons of soy sauce or tamari sauce
A turkey or chicken part of some kind, like a leg on the bone. Mine happened to just be the tail bit off a bird I’d roasted a while back and had frozen the extra pieces for making stock. I added it while frozen, then let it simmer in the stock the whole time.

I sauteed the fresh veggies in olive oil for about 5 minutes. Then added the lentils, spices and canned veggies to saute a bit more. Then I added the rest of the ingredients, except the prepared rice and soy sauce. Bring to a boil, covered, then reduce to medium low and simmer for about an hour, possibly two on very low. This can be an all afternoon affair if you’d like.  Stir frequently.  Before you serve, remove the turkey/chicken piece, separate the edible meat, chop into bites, and add back to the soup and discard the bones, etc.  Add in the prepared rice and soy sauce. Taste it. Is it too earthy? More vinegar and pepper. If it isn’t salty or rich enough? More soy sauce.

For a vegetarian version, use veggie stock instead and omit the poultry, obviously. I suggest mushrooms as an alternative.


Fungus Aradia

Why? because this is an Italian dish with mushrooms and I’m stretching for Witchcraft related names, just go with it!
Ingredients:
1 pound of peppardelle noodles (wide, flat ribbon noodles)
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 pound of thick sliced pancetta, cut into long strips
(or substitute thick-cut bacon)
3 yellow onions, sliced into 1/8 inch ribbons
2 pounds of assorted fresh fungi (crimini, chanterelles, portobellos, porcini) sliced         1/4 inch thick or halved if small.
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh sage and thyme
1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic
salt and pepper
freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Directions:
In a large saute pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil.  Add the pancetta and stir occasionally until lightly browned.  Add onions and saute until almost tender, 7-8 minutes.  Transfer to a bowl and set aside.  In the same pan, melt the butter and saute the mushrooms just until they release their liquid and soften.  (You may have to cook the mushrooms in 2 batches depending on the size of your pan.)  Add the onion mixture back into the mushrooms and reheat over high heat.  Add the balsamic vinegar, sage, thyme and garlic and saute for 2 minutes.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and keep warm.  Meanwhile boil the pasta in salted water until al dente.  Drain and transfer noodles to a large serving bowl.  Add the mushrooms and toss gently. Serve with Parmesan cheese.

Witchin’ in the Kitchen: Ostara Recipes

eggsOstara Sabbat rolls around as the sun enters the sign of Aries, between March 20-22, and initiates the season of spring. Ostara is the Spring Equinox, the liminal time, or the gateway time holding in the balance the ending of Winter and the birth of Spring.  This is a low ebb in the flow of energy on The Wheel of the Year, and so is considered a quarter, or lesser sabbat.  Yet is always a welcomed moment to bid adieu to Old man Winter, and welcome in the fresh breath of Lady Spring.
The mythos at this time tells the story of the Maiden Goddess, Persephone, Ostara, Eostre, fully returned now from her underworld journey, who steps foot upon the earth again and with each step, the snows recede and the sprouting seeds break through the surface of the earth. As the world awakens, the branches budding out, the Goddess too, blossoms into her full womanhood as the flowers that rise, opening their eyes, lifting their faces into the golden dawn.  The Lad, the Jack of the Green, the Stag grown strong, entering manhood as the sun strengthens, and the animals of the wild emerge from their deep sleep to seek out their mates, and feather their nests. It is the time of the hare, fertility, and for gaily colored eggs shared as a blessing between friends and neighbors.

Here are a few of my favorite spring time dishes to try for your Ostara sabbat feast.

Many Blessings!
Eostre Bunny Green Salad
Vegetarian
Salad:
1 bag of prepared mixed salad greens
1 cup alfalfa sprouts
1 cup red grapes, halved
Cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
Grated Asiago cheese (as much as you like)
1/4 cup salted sunflower seeds

In large salad bowl, layer ingredients in order that they are listed.  Serve with Citrus and Seed salad dressing.

Citrus and Seed Dressing: Vegan
1/4 cup Tahini (Sesame seed paste, usually found near the peanut butter or
international foods)
1/4 cup Tamari (Arabic Soy sauce, usually found with Asian foods, gluten-free options available)
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive oil
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup onion, minced
1/4 cup green pepper, minced
1 small stalk of celery, minced
1 teaspoon white pepper

In a blender, blend the onion, green pepper, celery, tamari and tahini.   Add the lemon juice, pepper and oil and blend on high speed until smooth.


 

tabboulehCaterpillar Salad
Vegan
(caterpillars love to eat parsley, otherwise this is known as Tabouli)

Ingredients:
I cup Bulgar wheat
3/4 cup boiling water
2/3 cup chopped green onions
2 bunches of fresh parsley, finely minced in a food processor
2 small tomatoes, diced

1 small cucumber, finely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
6 tablespoons olive oil
6 tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions:
In large mixing bowl, add Bulgar wheat and the boiling water and let it sit for 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, chop and add your green onions, parsley, mint and tomatoes.  Mix everything together with the remaining ingredients.  It is best if let sit for a while prior to serving.


 

Deviled-Eggs1Devil-May-Care Stuffed Eggs

Ingredients:

1 dozen hard-boiled eggs, peeled, halved
2 tablespoons yellow mustard
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish
1 tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar
1 teaspoon granulated cane sugar
1/4 teaspoon celery seeds
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Paprika

Scoop the yellow yolks of the eggs into a wide, flat bowl and mash with a fork. Add all the rest of the ingredients except paprika. Mix thoroughly with a spatula. Taste it and see if you like it…adjust as needed. Too sweet? Add a bit more salt. Too sour? Add a bit more pickle relish or sugar.Want more ZIP? Try a bit more vinegar. I like my eggs pretty zippy.

Take a gallon zip lock bag, stuff a corner of it into an empty coffee cup and fold down the top of the bag over the edge of the cup. With the spatula, shovel all the mix into the bag, using the edge of the cup to scrape the spatula clean. Close the bag, squishing all the mix into one corner, burping the bag for any air bubbles, and sealing shut. Twist the bag to push down the mix and use like a pastry bag. Cut about a half inch corner off with the scissors, and squeeze the mix back into the eggs, using a bit more than the indention will hold, until all gone. Sprinkle a bit of paprika on each egg as a garnish.

Witchin’ in the Kitchen: Imbolc Recipes

Imbolc is the cross-quarter Sabbat on the Wheel of the Year when the sun reaches 15 degrees Aquarius, around the calendar date of February 1st. Imbolc is the apex of the winter season, and therefore a time of heightened magickal power. It is celebration of first milk and with that the first promise of coming spring. It is a time of making dedications to the Great Work of the next turning; it is a time of blessing the tools of our work, and planting the seeds of our intentions.

This is also the time during the Wiccan mythos of the year, when we welcome back the Goddess as the Maiden, recovered now from her childbirth labors at Yule and renewed again as the young lass, like the slender shoots of crocus flower, peeking through the snows. The God, too, has grown from his infancy at Yule, and we welcome him back as the Lad, the Youthful God, like the wild young buck, or the green sapling. I envision them both like teenagers, full of innocence and wonder, shyness and and daring, like the plucky stealing of kisses, and the blush on their cheeks. Its the quickening of the heartbeat at receipt of a valentine, it is the betrothal.  On Imbolc, I celebrate the magick of promise and promises.

When the tribe joins together for Imbolc we bless those seeds of promise, and dedicate the The Great Work of the year. Sometimes we consecrate new tools, but we always bless the earth with seed, milk, ash of the Yule log, and intention.

But first, the feast! Here are a few of my better winter recipes, excellent for Imbolctide feasts of first milk, and of new love!

Blessings!
Valentines-Day-Cake“Ply her with Chocolate” Groom’s Cake

Ingredients:
1 package chocolate cake mix
1 package chocolate pudding mix (3.9 ounce)
1 container sour cream (16 ounce)
3 eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup Coffee Liqueur
1 1/2 cups Chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour a 10 inch bunt pan.
In large bowl, mix all ingredients except chips.  Beat until well blended.  Batter will be thick.  Fold in chocolate chips.  Spoon into prepared pan. Bake for 60 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly  tapped.  (The toothpick test does not work; it would  come out gooey even when it is done.) Cool 10 minutes in pan, then turn out onto serving plate to cool  completely.

This is so rich it does not need icing, but you can top with chopped strawberries.

Brigid’s White Chocolate Raspberry Wedding Cake

Ingredients:
1 package white cake mix
1 package vanilla pudding mix (3.9 ounce)
1 container sour cream (16 ounce)
3 eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup Chambord Raspberry Liqueur
1 1/2 cups White Chocolate chips
Raspberry preserves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour a 10 inch bunt pan.
In large bowl, mix all ingredients except chips.  Beat until well blended.  Batter will be thick. Fold in chocolate chips. Spoon into prepared pan. Bake for 60 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly tapped.  (The toothpick test does not work; it would come out gooey even when it is done.) Cool 10 minutes in pan, then turn out onto serving plate to cool completely.

Melt raspberry preserves in the microwave and then drizzle over the cake.


Nightshade Noodles: Vegetarian
This is a hearty meal for cold nights, and pot-luck dishes. By the way, eggplant, peppers and tomatoes are all “nightshade” fruits, thus the name.
Ingredients:
16 oz. package of cooked noodles (macaroni or shells, something bite-sized)
1 large eggplant*, peeled and grated to make about 2 cups
8 oz. button mushrooms finely chopped to make about 2 cups
1 medium sized yellow onion, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper*, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 can diced tomatoes* with juice
1/4 cup salsa–spiciness to your preference
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt–or to taste
2 cups grated mexican blend cheeses
splash of milk
black pepper to taste
hot sauce per individual tastes

Directions:
Cook noodles per package directions, drain and set aside.

Heat a few tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat.  Saute the onion, eggplant,  mushrooms and bell pepper for about 10 minutes or until until all are glossy and soft.  Add can of tomatoes, salsa, vinegar and salt.  Cook 2 minutes more.   Add cheese and milk, stir to melt. Remove from heat.  Add noodles to the vegetables and gently turn the mixture to incorporate.  Serve with a hot sauce like Texas Pete or black pepper.

 

Down the Rabbit Hole of a Past-Life Retrievalist

My favorite part of the witching work I do is past life retrievals. Its some wyrd work, to be sure.  While I have no idea how other retrievalists discover their talents, what training they’ve had, or techniques they employ, I can tell you that I got here via a winding road that began when I was a small child.  I’ve always remembered parts of my previous life as a WW1 soldier in France.

Throughout my formal education, I bounced between colleges and majors, studying creative writing, religion, philosophy and psychology, anthropology and history, and for something completely different: historical costume design. I finished with a Bachelors of Science in Interior Design, so I know a fair amount about the history of art, architecture and furnishings, too.  Ultimately, I had something like 60 random extra liberal arts credits that you might think were a waste of time and tuition. Au contraire! Spirit guided me along the circuitous path, even when I knew not why. Why is any of that important? You’ll see…

What truly kicked off this journey for me was my Reiki II energy training. Quite by accident, I discovered that I have a knack for healing through time and space. Moreover, while I’m channeling Reiki, I can “distance view.” Learning that praxis was like getting the keys to a time machine! Then in 2012, I made a pilgrimage to  Sirius Rising Festival in Sherman, New York, where I took an hour-long workshop on how to do retrievals led by Donata Ahern, who was delightfully stern.  She came in, told us all in no uncertain terms that we were capable of doing this miraculous thing, laid out a script we’d follow, said YOU SEE THIS THING NOW, and so I did–in shocking, full visionary detail. I recently connected with her via FaceBook to thank her for that life-changing hour.

Now, thanks to Donata, I both teach other witches how to do this work, and help my clients to tackle their current life issues by rediscovering lessons learned in previous lives. While we are there, I send Reiki to aid in healing and understanding old “karmic” issues when they occurred.  I call these sessions, going down the rabbit hole. Down there in the between, I’ve met amazing people, felt all their triumphs and downfalls, fallen in love, had my heart broken, seen life-affirming, consciousness-expanding, mind-blowing things! I only wish there was a way to video what I see and feel for you, or take you with me…but wait…I can write their stories.

Care to take a trip with me to medieval Scotland? It all begins with the deep breath in…take in the air that connects us to all life, through all times, passed from all peoples…in and out, deeper and deeper…we are connected…

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The process

I sit across the table from my client with incense burning, candle alight and a psychic blend oil on the third eye and each palm. She is an academic professional, most likely of European descent, just for interest. It is noteworthy that at least 50% of the time the previous life I retrieve is a different gender expression, and of an entirely different race, heritage or sexual orientation. It is my understanding that soul groups do travel through lives together, but are not at all bound by genetic lineage, culture, religion or anything else. They also trade relationship roles; mother in one life, husband in the next; taking turns as incarnated and spirit guide for each other.

I begin the flow of Reiki healing energy down through my crown chakra, to my heart, and flowing out through my hands. I attune a small quartz crystal to be an open conduit of healing for my client, and awaken it to amplify and record the session. My client’s arms rest on the table, palms up. I place the quartz in her right palm, and my attuned amethyst crystal in her left palm.  I rest my hands on top. This forms the physical bridge over which I send my consciousness to link with hers, connecting us as I follow the flow of Reiki moving through my hands.

“I begin this session with an intention and a prayer, calling to all our guides, gods, angels and ancestors to guard and inspire us. Show us the way! Keep us safe and healthy as we journey together. We seek to retrieve the past life that holds a lesson needed in her current life. We ask that the lessons be revealed in a way that is gentle and correct for her at this time.  I offer myself as the conduit, guide my words so that they are most meaningful, and of most benefit, harming none. Blessed be.”

I push Reiki healing energy through my hands, breathing deeply, willing my descent into a meditative state. This is how I unfold the journey in my minds eye: I see myself crossing the bridge of our hands to meet her spirit within her body or energy field.  I approach her on those banks, and we take hands like school children might to skip off to play.

reiki-distance-healing-symbol“Hon Sha Ze Sho Nen, we connect.”

As we turn, I visualize the thread of her spirit’s journey like a river, and we board a boat together.

“Hon Sha Ze Sho Nen, we go back.” (I see the symbol.)

I see us flowing back through time, descending into a deeper trance state.

“Hon Sha Ze Sho Nen, we go back to the beginning.”

I visualize my client at the moment of her birth and look into her tiny face.

“Hon Sha Ze Sho Nen, we go back before the beginning.”

I move backwards with her into the void, the betwixt and between, to before she merged with the flesh in this current incarnation. It is usually around this point that I am no longer aware of my own body, except that it is the heavy anchor to which my floating consciousness is tethered; it is a state of ecstasy to be so unbound.

Meeting Our Guides

I stretch open the void, like opening the curtains on a wide window and allowing it to be deeply black. I call to see the element that guided the lifetime that we will retrieve.

Is it earth, air, fire, or water? Its like spinning a pinwheel that has the colors and elements on it. Then I let go of the edges of the void and whichever element snaps into the foreground is the one I follow. Fire flares brightly into prominence.

Which of the zodiac signs of fire where they born under? Aries, Leo or Sagittarius? Usually, I visualize the sign’s animal or symbol on that wheel, then I snap the void again, and Leo the Lion roars with power.

Spirit guides of that Leo lifetime, will you work with me? Show us the way! I work with the guides of this middle world of matter: plant, animal, mineral.

Was there a plant guide? A branch of a white flowering tree appears. As I am searching to see if it has thorns or not, and I am just settling on Hawthorn, my client who is a witch in her own right, says “I see Hawthorn!” I completely agree. Hawthorn is strongly associated with the Fae in Celtic cultures, protection, death and transformation, and with Beltane, therefore fertility.

hawthorn-373219_1280

Was there an animal spirit guide? A small bird swoops in. This was not as clear, rather wild and simple looking, with a red head/face and beige on the back feathers. I call him “red bird.” He looked a lot like this robin image I found afterward.

robin-185448_1280

Was there a mineral guide? GOLD! Chunks of raw, bright gold flare into imagery right away and with some force.

I ask them to help us understand what lesson of that life my client needs at that time; to take me back, and I follow red bird back into the void to find the long line of lives, standing in what looks like a cue. I find my client in the middle of that line, knowing that her future lives (like grey shades) stand before her, and then I pass down the line of those that lie behind her.

Meeting Bearnard Branagh

Who will meet us today? Step out into the light!

I always focus first down at the ground into a pool of light. Within a moment or two feet step out of line and into my vision.  Sometimes there is hesitance, and sometimes it seems like a scuffle among the lives to gain my attention. In this case, rather quickly, a heavy leather pair of men’s boots appear, mid-calf, brown leather, worn and rough, rather primitive in design.

Ok. I feel a strong male presence in those boots, solid, rooted, pleasant, authoritative.

I work my way up, taking in the details of his clothing and physique. He is wearing a pair of rough woven breeches in an earthy, darker brown color, tucked into the boots. I’m guessing a wool, but its not much finer than burlap, though softer. Moving up, there is a woven tunic, of thick, soft wool. The tunic goes to mid thigh, and the sleeve to mid forearm. There are thicker bands to make hems, and a round neck hole, down to a slit at the throat, and slits at the hips. The tunic is belted with a thick leather belt attaching at a metal ring. He wears a leather pouch and a knife attached to his belt in a very utilitarian fashion.

The man is of average height and stocky, small paunch at the belly, but over-all very powerfully built, like you might imagine the dwarves from The Lord of the Rings books. He has dark hair, cut shortish, dark chest hair visible at the collar, and a reasonably Celtic Torgque necklacewell-groomed beard that is a few inches long, both are streaked with some grey. I’d place him between 35-45, in the prime of his life. He is wearing a torque style Celtic necklace, like a semi circle of twisted bronze metal with two knobs at the end, that lays around his neck. He has green eyes and a very pleasant demeanor. I can tell that he is a relaxed, confident, satisfied person who is in good health and is a person of authority.

Put us into your landscape; where do you live?

Now we have the birds eye view of the geography in which he lives. Between this and the hint of the clothing/jewelry, I’m guessing that we are in the highlands of Scotland that are so beautiful and distinct. It is definitely a high rocky, mountainous moor, with a silver loch nestled in the bosom of the green valley. There is a village on the hillside, sheep and other beasts are grazing around.

The village is a smattering of about 20 low-slung buildings of stacked stone, wood beams and thatch. Very quaint, but rather primitive. I zoom back to try and pin point a general location and all I get is that the sea is some distance to the north and west of what I’m viewing. I’m guessing we are in the early medieval period, 600-1000? Give or take a century! (All those extra anthropology and history classes I took in college come in somewhat handy these days.)

scotland-974098_1280

Take us to where you work; what occupation keeps you busy?

Now I’m inside a building, looking over his shoulder as he works. It is a workshop/barn made of stone, with heavy timber structure and thatch roof, dirt floor. There is a round forge with a kind of metal hood over it that leads through the roof. He works with metal, but as I look more closely, I see he is more a farrier than an armorer. Horse shoes are shown to me, and I know there are large working horses there. Also, the metal and leather parts to what look like carts, plows, crates, barrels. These are farm implements.

What is your name?

This can either come screaming through in perfect clarity without me asking, OR is a highly tricky process. I am rarely clairaudient, meaning I can’t “hear” voices. Mostly I am clairsentient (I just suddenly know things), clairvoyant (I see things like watching a movie I can somewhat control) and empathic (their emotions are flowing through me like the musical soundtrack to the “silent” movie.)

When it comes to names, I only have my own symbol set to use for translation, but I know when its in a language I don’t speak, and often my guide will “break the fourth wall” and just tell me what it would mean in English.

In this case, I got a clear “B” and then an “r” sound, two syllables. I ran through a few options that didn’t seem to stick. Bernard flashes to mind but with the English inflection of BER-ned. I saw a flash of a spelling and it was a lot more letters that is strictly necessary, so I’m pretty sure they are trying to show me Gaelic; though I doubt this person I’m retrieving is literate. These are the guides trying to convey the information visually. Sometimes I see carvings on gravestones, or I’ll see words written down on documents. It is much fuzzier when they can’t read or write themselves.

Now that I’ve done some research I find that the Gaelic spelling is Bearnard, and means “strong and brave as a bear.” Bernard is also the patron saint of mountain climbers, which will prove to have an interesting correlation, as you will see.  We agreed that I’d call him Bearnard. Later in the retrieval, the surname “Branagh,” flares into mind without my asking for it, which tends to happen a good bit, and I love it when it does because that is a good indication that they are interacting with me with enthusiasm, rather than my mere probing. As I research Branagh as a surname it looks more of an Irish name. <shrug>

Bearnard, take me to your home; where do you live?

We move quickly through the door of the barn, and we are in a courtyard formed between that work building and stable and the cottage beyond, which is set into the hill side. I can see the mountain rising high up behind the cottage, which is two story on one side, with a roof slanting down to the one story section. There is a kind of lean-to shelter beside the house for livestock and implements, I think. There are sheep about, and other animals wandering free around, like geese.

Into the cottage we duck through a small door, and his plump and smiling wife is by the hearth fire, with his two, teen-aged sons. He is filled with love and happiness for them all; this is his pride and joy. She was wearing a tunic of woven fabric, with a sleeve that was fitted to the wrist, and belted at the waist with a leather girdle-like belt. She wore an apron-style over-dress of a darker color. Her hair was streaked grey now and pulled back with a muslin cap that had the chin ties hanging down, untied, but she flashed an image back of her maiden-self and she’d once had red curly hair.

The cottage was constructed of rough stone, and wood timbers, with thatch roof and a stone floor, with scattered thresh and at least one sheep pelt as a kind of rug. Upon entering, there was a large stone hearth with the metal racks and a pot for cooking over the fire. A chimney rose through a loft above. There was one cabinet with a work surface that served as a cooking area, and a rectangular wood table with benches. The boys had a ladder that rose up behind this kitchen area and they slept in that loft where the heat of the fire rose up to warm them. The rafters and thatch were pretty rough up there, and there was obvious nesting birds and such. They had hooks in the beams were they hung their few clothes.

Behind the main living area, set back further, like an “L” floor plan, was the sleeping area for the adults, with a low wood bed frame and what appeared to be a lumpy stuffed mattress and furs and woven blankets. I saw a wooden storage chest. All the ceilings were low. The front of the cottage had two small windows with heavy wooden shutters that enclosed them, but no glass that I could see. It was a cheery place and his emotions are full of accomplished pride; he is king of this manor!

The two sons were wearing ratty woven tunics. The younger had a bowl-cut of straight chestnut brown hair and was shorter and stockier, like his father, and had a more sullen demeanor. The older boy was lanky and lean, energetic and devil-may-care, with a shock of curly red hair that he’d shaven close over the ears and back, leaving a kind of rat-tail lock on the right side that was braided with beads, or shells or some decoration. Both had leather strap belts and closures on their garments.

Bearnard, show me something that you prized, where were your passions expressed, your joys?

He unwraps from a scrap of suede-like material a beautiful broach/pin used for securing the blue/green tartan cloth at his shoulder. It was a bronz-y patina and was intricately created as a work of art. He was an artisan who took great care in his work.

Show me the hard lesson of this life. What was the pain, the difficulty that taught you the most?

We are now at the bedside of his elderly wife, who’s silver hair is loose on her shoulders, wet with sweat. She is pale and suffering from a fever. The hardest thing was to lose his wife to this illness late in their lives.  The boys are now men with full beards and gathered around her at the end. I flood the scene with Reiki energy, hoping to bring a sense of peace and acceptance to the family.

When I asked him to move me forward to his own end, I see him as a kind of long, grey bearded fellow with a walking staff and his hood thrown over his head like The Hermit card image, or a Gandalf looking fellow. He would walk alone in the highlands, climbing, and there was a cave like place he would visit in the rocks.

cave-262258_1280

Normally, I ask them to show me both how they died, and I sit with them, a midwife to their death, watching as their Spirits rise and find their way into the between. I’ve accompanied folks through every manner of death, but they are shown to me, as with hindsight, with a detached acceptance. What their spirits do next will be the subject of my next article…stay tuned!

I asked Bearnard again about his crossing over, and again I was at the cave. He stubbornly refused to show me anything more. This time I see his adult sons laying him to rest there, laboring to stack stones around his body, which they’d arranged respectfully on the cave floor. My first thought was that this seemed a divergence from what I understood about the burial rituals of that culture, but the sons merely said that this was a sacred place for their father, and they were honoring his wishes.

He fills me with an understanding that while this was a harsh life in some ways, it was an abundant, content and secure life full of love and pride, as well.

The Lesson

I give my client the chance to ask questions of Bearnard before we close, and as she is a busy professional, she asks him how he made time for his creative work.  He shows me that it is winter, the snows are piled against the cottage and he does small detailed jewelry work at the table by the hearth fire. He conveys that in his life, the dark times of year are when nature imposed a rest and break upon them. That all HE had to do was honor that and work with what limitations he had. We receive that message as you have to build that time into your life, whether it is convenient or not; that rest and reflection needs its place in the cycle.

We work our way back out of the trance state, returning the way we came, with gratitude offered to each guide. I conclude the session with a three card tarot spread. The middle card represents the aspect of my client’s current life to which the retrieval is speaking. The left side card is the advice brought forward by Bearnard, and the card to the right is how she should use that lesson to move forward in this incarnation. I won’t share those cards, but lets just say that they spoke clearly to what we’d just seen and were of great significance to my client, affirming what she already knew. It was a touching and emotional reading that leaves me humbled and grateful, like always.
Blessed Be.
~Heron

The Great Work: Holding the Space

Gouache on paper by Heron Michelle

Gouache on paper by Heron Michelle

As part of my spiritual practice each year I choose an area of study or devotion to which I will dedicate myself for the course of that turning of the wheel. I call this year-long working, that is furthered through 8 sabbats and many esbats, the Great Work.

Beginning sometime after Samhain, which is the end of the cycle, and beginning in earnest during the Yule rites, which is the beginning of the cycle, I use various means of meditation and divination, to open my heart, mind and eyes to the Awen (divine inspiration) about what that next Great Work should be. Then I make the dedication at Imbolc like the planting of the seeds. Throughout the remaining year the work is fertilized at Ostara, empowered at Beltane, cultivated at Litha, harvested at Lammas, and the fruits of those labors applied and integrated at Mabon, before laying to rest at Samhain what aspects of my life and process no longer serve my highest good, in light of the new development.

That time of rest between Samhain and Imbolc becomes a very wide open, reflective and intuitive time. Without fail, once I broadcast to the Universe that I seek their guidance and I am open to their messages, the synchronicity, signs, symbols, and omens blaze and sizzle into my awareness like fireworks. It becomes almost comically clear what threads I’m meant to begin weaving into the tapestry of my evolving consciousness through the next cycle of the Great Work.

The way that I utilize the energies of the solar cycle that we call “The Wheel of the Year”  allows for a time to “hold the space” during that dark time of late fall, early winter, when we celebrate the mythos of the God/dess descending into the underworld and arriving at Samhain. For me, the waning Samhaintides, are a time of rest and reflection. It is a time when the lessons of the previous harvest are taken into account with gratitude, and in the silence I find conclusion to what the year taught me. Then I turn my eyes to the future, into the birth of the new cycle, to begin a new vision.

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Gouache on paper by Heron Michelle

It takes this time of metaphorical “darkness,” to refocus one’s inner vision.  Just as when one sits in the dark back yard, when there is no moon, nor glare of artificial light, and your eyes can relax into the low light. Perception expands, deepens, and points of starlight previously imperceptible, now come into our view; the patterns of the stars take on new clarity and meaning.

“Hold the Space” is the term I use more frequently than “be silent” when referring to the active principle of the elemental earth mysteries of the Witches’ Pyramid of Power, the foundation principles of my magickal practice.  To hold the space means that I hold open the void of potential, like playing midwife to a birth, and deliver into the world whatever my Divine Will deems appropriate for me at that time. Meanwhile, I withhold any sort of critical analysis, judgement, or action.  I merely PAY ATTENTION, gather the strands of data, and SHUT UP for a while (that is the be silent part.)

“Speak ye little, listen much.” ~The Wiccan Rede.

As Imbolc approaches and  I begin to formulate the new dedication, all those strands of data begin forming a pattern, like a big arrow pointing in a direction, that I can discern.  But its for the best that I still withhold judgement and just begin that journey with the first step, since there are no guarantees to be had, anyway. Truth be told, even if I think I have an idea where Spirit is leading me, I’m always amazed by the journey. I may THINK I have a map, but I’m not going where I’ve been before, that is behind me, and every person’s journey is unique, so other people’s maps would do me no good anyway. You know what is said about the difference between Religion and Spirituality, don’t you?

“Religion is belief in someone else’s experience.
Spirituality is having your own experience.”
-Deepak Chopra

I’ve been consciously traveling this river of Wyrd, this flow of Spirit, or my fate or personal destiny, as my Anglo-Saxon ancestors may have called it, now for over a decade. I can trust that the boat I’ve made for myself is well-crafted and strong, because I built it myself, one bit of praxis at a time. I can trust that my Wyrd is flowing in accordance to Divine Will, and that the wisdom, skills and experience I’ve gained through my spiritual practice will be sufficient to navigate whatever rocks, eddies and rapids may lie ahead. I also know that as a sovereign being with free-will, I have choices:

  1. Do I cling to the edge in terror of the unknown before me; paralyzed by my fear? Am I so powerless and dependent on anything or anyone else to allow my personal destiny to unfold? I’m no sheep.
  2. Do I turn my boat around and paddle feverishly and pointlessly against the current, attempting to cling to the past or to old ideas, and outmoded ways?  We know that is an exhausting, frustrating, pointless endeavor at best, and is seething fundamentalism at worst, getting you no where; I am no fool.
  3. Do I allow myself to become diverted and mired in some murky bog of avoidance, self-loathing, addictions, heart-break, disillusionment, or entrapment in old ideas, or systems that no longer serve me? I’m no slave.
  4. Or might I have the courage and open mindedness to take responsibility for my own evolution by pointing the prow of my boat into the future, flowing with the current of wyrd, my Divine Will, and using all the tools I’ve honed and wisdom I’ve mapped for myself, to tackle what new vistas and lessons are out there waiting for me? Yes. I am the Witch; I am the Magickian.
Gouache on Paper by Heron Michelle

Gouache on Paper by Heron Michelle

With gratitude to the mystery teachings and techniques I weave through the Wheel of the Year, I have a praxis through which I can build the strong boat, map the wyrd through my own wisdom, and learn the skills of navigation through magick.  I will not let fear paralyze me, nor will I waste my energy on the pointless avoidance of change. I will not be blinded by personal ego, misdirected by personal will, nor will I let despair nor hatred bind me.

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.” ― Frank Herbert, Dune

I Am: A Memoir

Long ago,  in 2006, I think, I was asked to submit an article for a webzine column entitled “I am” wherein folks would share the story of how they found their pagan path, and how they define themselves within their practice.

For the launching of this new blog, I’ve been rethinking those questions and how the subsequent 8 years continued that story, for better and for worse.  At the time of the first writing I had only *just* finished my formal year and a day of studies, but had not yet approached the gates of initiation. Now that I peek into the viewpoint of my 2006 self I can honestly say that I was a wide-eyed infant lost in the woods with absolutely no clue what I was getting myself into.

Today, I remain…a Pisces, a daughter, a sovereign woman, and a single mother of two precocious and vibrant children. Since 2006, I have reestablished my independence (otherwise known as divorce); become a witch, priestess, teacher, clairvoyant, Reiki master,  mehndi artist and a business owner.  I am Divine!  I have identified as a pagan-seeker since 1992 at the age of 18.  I continue to recover from a Christian upbringing, but after many years of study and walking the spiral path I can now define myself as who I AM instead of who I am NOT–without apology.

My journey toward witchcraft started much like anyone else in the southeast US.  I was raised in the ordinary, middle-class, suburban, Southern Baptist sort of way in Taylors, South Carolina.   My childhood was fabulous; full of freedom and adventure, including a few years living in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.  However, my mom suffered a massive hemorrhage and near-death experience two weeks after the birth of my little sister.  She called out to Jesus to save her so that she could raise her children.  She would dedicate her life to his service if she lived, and live she did. That vow changed a lot of things…

Mom’s number one agenda became raising us in the “fear and admonition of the Lord.”  We were at the church for every class, service and event.  Thinking about the fine points of theology was hardly encouraged, but I had this annoying habit of resolutely disagreeing with our minister.  Picture a 7 year old actually *listening* to a fire and brimstone sermon and just knowing he had it all wrong, then arguing about it.  Despite being a small child I had a different truth, a stone foundation that was ancient, upon which my brand-new childlike house was sitting.

My whole life I’ve been “differently aware.”  When I first learned of reincarnation I had a eureka experience. I’d always remembered flashes and bits like another person’s memories.  I knew that somehow, just around that last bend in the road, I was an adult man. Occasionally, when going into public restrooms, I had to be reminded that I was a little girl.  There were times when I wouldn’t answer to my name as if it wasn’t mine at all and times when I’d catch my reflection and be startled. The deja-vu was so constant and over-powering that I’d lose track of whether it was past, present or future.

You can imagine the gender identity issues this would cause. I intimately understood being a man, a soldier in WWI. I remembered the fear, and adrenaline of warfare, reacting with PTSD-like behavior when triggered.  I had erotic dreams, that I now recognize as past-life recollection, about being with women. Yet, I liked being a little girl just fine, and had crushes on the boys. In the eighth grade, I confessed to a friend that I was afraid I might be a lesbian. She asked, “Do you like girls?” Well, no, not specifically.  “Then what makes you a lesbian?”  Good question!

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Almost 3 years old, and pretty happy about becoming a little girl.

Now that I have a clairvoyant practice of retrieving past-life information for others, I know that gender is a very temporal and fluctuating thing that can be explored flexibly; however, being raised in a church that tried to “pray away the gay,” you can imagine the sense of crises in which I was raised. Today I prefer the term, “heteroflexible” and I take a namaste approach; the Spirit in me, is attracted to (or not, as the case may be) the Spirit within you. Personally, I think the style of meat-suit people happen to be wearing should be of of far less consequence in matters of love. (1)

I also could see the material world as energy if I shifted focus. I see flashing, multicolored particles flowing and swirling and would lie in bed at night and practice moving the flow with my mind as a way to get to sleep at night.  I’ve also perceived the thoughts of those around me (telepathy), and I usually know who is on the phone just before it rings.  I see auras when someone is very emotional.  As a kid, I called them halos  and boy could our minister work up a bright “halo” when he was preaching that hellfire and damnation!

Starting in the 5th grade and going through early adolescence I suffered some very deep depression.  I was in existential turmoil, having rejected the hatefulness, bigotry and isolation taught me by my mother’s church.  But, if I wasn’t a christian, was I doomed?  In that black/white world of “with us or against us” I thought I had only two options: Christian or Atheist (Atheism=Devil, in that small world).  Yet, if there was no higher purpose to life, why bother?

At around thirteen years old, I lie in bed wide-awake one night when the room seemed particularly moonlit.  Clearly in my mind’s inner dialogue I admitted my worst adolescent fear: “There is no God. I am a freak. I am absolutely alone and this is all pointless.”  Immediately, my senses were arrested. I lost control of my body and was pressed into the bed as though the gravity of god-almighty was in the room. I was unable to move, heart beating like crazy; flooded with adrenaline, I became hyper-aware.  The room became 10 times brighter, filled with bluish moonlight, the silence screamed and my mind rang with the surety that I was NOT alone and I DID have a purpose to fulfill.  This did not come as a voice or in words and gave no clues to its identity, or gender.   I struggled against this force until I gave in and admitted, “OK, OK–Maybe there is a God!”

A quickly as it began, it was gone. I was released and all returned to normal.  Still panting and tingling, I looked around at the ordinary room with the ordinary darkness.  I moved my fingers and stretched. My rational mind kicked-in, skeptical. I thought, “That was weird. I’m losing it. God did NOT just speak to me.”

I am here to tell you that the whole thing repeated itself again twice as strong; I was taken hostage by my own body!  The moon light intensified once again and this time a voiceless scream was in my head.  I thought, “OK, OK, I believe!”  And it was all over, never to be repeated since.  Today I believe that the greatness of the Universe quickened within me, and spoke through my body and Spirit.   At the time, I thought I’d been “called” to christian ministry.  I was horror-struck.  I started running from that fate by way of binge drinking, partying, and non-christian behavior of all self-defeating kinds.  I do not regret those free-thinking, free-living days, but they were hardly pious.

I have this theory that I was being groomed for something specific: I modeled for years, learning poise and grace. I majored in creative writing at The Fine Arts Center, a special high school. In college, I extensively studied religion, anthropology, psychology, history, and writing for several years, before transferring to ECU for a BS in Interior Design, cognate in business, and a specialty in sustainable design. For the next 5 years I worked as a NCIDQ certified, professional Interior Designer, designing healthcare facilities for architecture firms in Raleigh and Houston.

But I digress…back when I’d been eighteen years old, I read Marion Zimmer Bradley’s, The Mists of Avalon.  In this fictional Avalon, I found the goddess-centered lifestyle and spirituality that felt like home, but I assumed those ways were dead and trapped in a distant past.  Shortly thereafter I became friends with a Wiccan priest in my hometown.  He opened my world to neo-paganism.  He shared books with me and we talked in generalities, but despite my expressed interest, he remained very private about Wicca. A deep, familial love and spiritual intimacy  developed between us, but I was never invited to train with him or his coven and I still don’t know why, for sure…Perhaps it was the old Wiccan requirement that the seeker must ask for training 3 times and be denied, before being accepted. I didn’t know that.  That experience gave me to believe (wrongly) that Wiccan Witchcraft was a private club, and that I somehow did not qualify.

So, for the next 10 years I considered myself pagan, by philosophy only, and remained locked tightly in my broom closet with a stack of books.  I married a scientist who had no need for spirituality, nor a belief in spirit at all.  I was successful in a my career as an Interior Designer, while lurking on message boards for the pagan communities in Raleigh, Houston, and Charlotte.  Fear of what my family would think, or that I might be disregarded professionally, kept me mute. I once worked a block away from a metaphysical store that I walked past longingly every day, and yet not once stepped inside.

My daughter is born; A mother emerges2002Then in 2002, I gave birth to my daughter, just after my 28th birthday, just after my Saturn return began.  I’d spent weeks of bed rest cloistered with my books, Raven Grimassi’s Wiccan Mysteries, and Spiral Dance, by Starhawk. During the labor a recurring vision of the goddess pushing open the portal at the end of a long tunnel guided me.  I came face to face to the Mother of us all, and she looked me right in the eyes, turned as though to invite me to pass her, said “you are ready, come through,” then guided me through the rites of birth. I wanted an all-natural, right of passage to motherhood and I got it!  As I gave life to that baby, I called on strength within myself I’d never dreamed possible.  I was surrounded by all the ancestors of my line before me to one side, and after me to the other side. I knew that it was already done, therefore I could do it!  It was ecstatic!  It was a proving ground, and I emerged victorious!  I had a sense of belonging in the great creation of the Universe where I could be so small, but equally divine and powerful. I named my daughter from a word that means Victory!

After her birth, I overcame my fear and through Witchvox.com found a family coven in Charlotte.  As a seeker, I joined them for my first Midsummer Sabbat celebration.  Shortly afterward my husband and I relocated yet again.  I was devastated to arrive here in Greenville, NC, and find that (at the time) there were no pagan groups in town, very few individuals listed on-line, and certainly no training circles.  Well, no one who meant to be found, anyway.   A few days prior to Samhain, I grabbed the bull by the horns and started my own yahoo group called East NC Pagans and invited every local pagan who had a listing on witchvox within 100 miles.

I began to realize how different my spiritual needs were when I was eighteen compared to thirty years old.  My beliefs about deity ranged from wanting an ancient, monotheistic Goddess, to a godless Scientific Pantheism with many stops in between, but there was one defining moment that brought my spiritual journey full circle.

Again, I gave birth naturally to a huge and beautiful baby boy.  His birth was quick and perfect, but medical complications afterward caused an uncontrollable hemorrhage. This sent me on a panicked ER-style ride to a D&C procedure.  I signed consents for possible hysterectomy and parted from my stricken husband with a “take good care of my babies for me.”

I really thought my time in this life was over.  My blood pressure was so low it wouldn’t register on the automatic cuff. As they strapped me, still painfully conscious, to the table in crucifixion position, yelling for the physician to get in there NOW! I could FEEL the panic in the nurses’ voices shouted over me as they rushed to save my life. I stared up at the ceiling and thought to myself,   Here I am just like Mom was when she almost died with a toddler and new infant waiting for her.  Is there a higher power to call on?  Am I alone here?  Hellooo??”     I opened my heart to the void and listened…to silence…  I let go and put my fate in the hands of the medical team.

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My son is born, and I live to raise him!

Coming back from that was tough. I briefly handed over the moderator job of East NC Pagans to someone else and walked away from everything. But, I found that ignoring my own spirit wasn’t possible.   During the very slow beginnings of that group I renewed my study and visited open circles out of town. It took over a year before I could convince anyone on that board to meet me in public for coffee and conversation, then suddenly it was a break through, thanks to the good folks at the local Unitarian Universalist church. The community building  took off like wild fire! Over the next years the membership of East NC Pagans grew to almost 200 people with large monthly meet-ups, classes, and affiliated groups forming in different cities.
From East NC Pagans a circle of friends coalesced who were all seeking, as I was, and hungry for more.  Over beers one night, while bemoaning the lack of teachers in our areas, my dear friend Alice quoted the old Chinese proverb, “‘Tis better to light a candle, than to curse the darkness.”

*CLICK*

Profound gnosis hit me. The great cosmic “Clue by Four” knocked me for a loop. If we were going to grow, we had to take responsibility for ourselves.

By Yule of 2005, we’d formed a study group called Wisecraft Circle. It was a non-traditional, eclectic and egalitarian circle that used the published training guides by Christopher Penczak (2) and Timothy Roderick (3) as our curriculum (among a bunch of other reading we all liked.) We turned the wheel together one full cycle and began again at Imbolc with new friends, this time holding a covening and formalizing our organizational structure.  That was February 1(ish). March 9th my mother passed from this world, kicking off a period of intense awakening for me, guided directly by the Spirit of my mother.

Unfortunately, the “F” word, fundamentalism, reared its ugly head. Questions of legitimacy, authority, ego, and sexual tension killed that circle before it’s second summer solstice. I learned a lot about who I was and who I was NOT, and what NOT to do within group practice.

Midsummer night, the first ritual I'd written and lead for Wisecraft Study Circle.

Midsummer night, the first ritual I’d written and lead for Wisecraft Study Circle.

Nevertheless, I’d dedicated to a year and a day of study in Witchcraft and had some amazing things open up for me.  My awareness expanded, I called and felt the presence of the Divine; become the conduit for Reiki healing energy; inadvertently began astral projecting in my sleep; and the bloom of my psychic ability opened. I experienced spiritual ecstasy that brought me to my knees, and learned to write and lead rituals for the community that expanded that transformative opportunity to others.

The second turning with Wisecraft, I’d dedicated to working with the element of Fire. Nothing touched by fire stays the same and all you can do is surrender to that tempering power. What did not serve my highest good, all that hindered my growth, was burned away: abusive relationships reached their pique so that I was forced to confront them; my mother passed away; the circle disintegrated with all manner of pyrotechnic, ego-spanking emotion; my marriage hit the skids; I had my heart broken by the dashing of old dreams…all by August. However, as I emerged from those fires, my resolve to live authentically outside the broom closet, and with the dignity and self-respect my mother had instilled within me, was honed to a razors edge.

Let me repeat: with the guidance of my fundamentalist, evangelical, ultra-conservative mother’s spirit, I realized the lessons she’d taught me to be the “peculiar people;” to let my “little light shine, not hide it under a bush,” to be a WITNESS for the Divine light within me, and that I deserved to be treated with love and respect by my partner. (4)  By November, I announced my decision to open The Sojourner and the wheels of business development went into high gear.

The SojournerAfter much betrayal, an emotional gauntlet through the burning wreckage of my marriage, the sale of two pieces of real estate in a depressed market, two families moving, the collection of life insurance money from my mother’s estate, false starts, re-imaginings at the last hour, and over a year to secure a location, The Sojourner Whole Earth Provisions was opened to the public on March 28th, 2009. It took immense effort, sacrifice, generous investment by our families, and hard work by many dear friends and partners without any appreciable form of monetary compensation for years. That first day we were open, pagans and muggles alike arrived by the car-load from great distances and damn near cleaned us out!  Lady Sojo is an entity in her own right, and I’m honored to be her care-taker.

As of 2014, we’ve now been open for 5 years, hanging in there despite a lousy economy, and I am now teaching the 5th full year of Modern Witchcraft students, in a program I created based on the books and experiences born of my time with Wisecraft Circle.  From those who’ve completed the training and taken self-initiation, The Sojo Circle formed, and is still a wondrous tribe of beautiful, loving Witches.  A second affiliated training circle now operates out of the Raleigh area concurrently, using this same curriculum.

I’ve passed through many more gates of initiation and taken service to Spirit as Their priestess. My sacred commission, given to me directly through another of my “burning bush” moments, was to be the light-house, shining brightly so that all people may know where to have their spiritual understandings validated; where seekers of enlightenment find an open, safe, welcoming, and responsible training ground on Main Street USA, not a “private club” shrouded in secrecy and bigotry in some hidden basement.

2014It is my belief that I was chosen and groomed by Spirit through a wandering path, to become a public face and voice, (hopefully a respectable and trustworthy one) with the resources, poise, skills, and wherewithal to build a beneficial environment for all followers of the less-traveled paths to flourish in eastern NC.  So, here I find myself today in 2014.

*pause*

As I reread the above I realize how much Personal Ego seems laced within these revelations. I put that pride in the scales of balance, and on the other side, I place the pant-wetting fear, the loss of some of my dearest relationships, the humiliation and heart-break, not to mention the repeated ego-spankings from those I loved the most, that it took to bring me to this re-balanced place.

Nope, I’m OK.

I am grateful, now, for this balance, though I’ve been the brat who wanted to break all the toys and storm home. I did learn from the losses, and am quite proud to report that I am NOT an alcoholic, NOT waned to nonexistence from grief, NOT bankrupt, and NOT in an abusive relationship, but it was a pretty slim victory over those forces of fear. I’ve come a long way, baby.

Here was the prayer I first uttered as my dedication back in 2005:

Spirit! Great Weaver of all things, I seek to know your nature. Ignite within me your fires; wash me clean of doubt; blow my mind. I dance to your rhythms with earthen shoes and the starry heavens tangled in my hair. Show me the way! As I will, it is so. Blessed be.

(1) Hindu scripture recognizes this emergence of a LGBT “third gender” as an evolutionary progression that is sacred. Native Americans revered homosexuals as shamans, calling them “Two-Spirit.”

(2) The Inner Temple of Witchcraft by Christopher Penczak

(3) Wicca: A Year and a Day in the Craft of the Wise by Timothy Roderick

(4) No doubt the subject of an upcoming blog

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!

Salvation of a Southern Witch

I am one of those people who goes way over-the-top celebrating just about anything. I throw themed parties, decorate with lavish holiday displays, and go all-out creating hand-made Halloween costumes.  I sing, dance, and laugh too loudly, and both divulge and indulge too much.  If ever there are shenanigans to be had, you can be sure that I will attend to them directly.

a woman in a fancy hat

Heron in her Ostara Bonnet / Heron Michelle

I’m 41 years old now, and I look back at decades of thoroughly enjoyed antics and I will admit to you right now, in front of the Gods and the entire internet, that I can appear to be completely ridiculous… compared to a muggle. I’m not everyone’s preferred cup-of-tea, but I am SO OK with that.

You see, some time ago a secret came busting out of my broom closet, to the shock and dismay of my conservative family and neighbors.  That pointy-hatted truth just refused to stay politely tucked away.  It was a wild, unfettered and jubilant truth…my raison d’etre…so why should it stay hidden?

Even though many fine and respectable people thought I’d lost my mind, people for whom I’d so long bent and subverted my truth in exchange for their acceptance; even though it meant that I’d leave broken-hearted from my long marriage, and cherished stay-at-home-mom gig; even though I’d choose not to use my college degree, and leave my well-paying profession behind, I eventually took my fundamentalist Christian mother’s advice and let my “little light shine” freely for all to see.  She used to say that we, as Christians, were a “peculiar people” and we should be proud of that. As it happens, I was even more peculiar than she would have appreciated. That, and witchery is an unstoppable force. Go figure.

Heron Michelle

Heron Michelle

Today, I am a public Witch in a deep-fried southern town, and as a matter of course, I do many of the things my mother said were “of the devil.”   I own a witchy store in our downtown in full view of my conservative neighbors. I teach openly about neo-paganism in religion classes at local colleges. (So far, no lynch mobs have formed, fingers crossed.) I am a priestess within a coven I’ve helped to found, teaching the occult mysteries year-round  to all responsible seekers.

On weekends, I offer past-life retrievals, magickal consultations and tarot card readings to clients.  I drum until my hands are numb, bellydance around bonfires, adorn beautiful people with mehndi body art at pagan festivals and have a fabulous, sovereign life of love and happiness.  Most days I will tell you that by taking the less-traveled path, it made all the difference, but that is the happy ending.

Gather ’round, my lovelies, and let Mama Heron tell you a story, the back-story, a Witch’s Come to Goddess tale…or as they say in the Southern Baptist church, let me !TESTIFY! about my “burning bush” moment, how I was “saved,” and accepted my sacred mission to be an agent of Divine Love.

The Witchling Awakens…and Completely Misses the Point

I now serve Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love, but I was raised in “the fear and admonition of the Lord,” as my evangelical mother would regularly say.  It never felt right to be terrified of god like that, but when you are a child, what mama says is the gospel truth. What she preached to me was very upsetting, to say the least. I had my own truth, things I just knew, but mama would squash any of that talk. I remembered when I was a man in a past life, dying in WW1, but there was no room for reincarnation in her paradigm. This was very confusing, so I’d suffered through some childhood depression.  The adults in my life didn’t know what to do about it so it went untreated and not talked about. What does a middle-class, white kid in a loving family have to worry about anyway? I know now that this is pretty common for a young girl just awakening to the witch blood.

Eventually, I rejected both the religious teachings of my childhood, and any authority my mother held over my soul. Not to mention any respect I may have held for her. That sent me into a tailspin. I’d rejected the hatefulness, bigotry and isolation taught me by our church, but what else was there?  If I wasn’t a Christian, was I doomed?  In that black and white world of “with us or against us,” I thought I had only two options: Christian or Atheist. To them, atheism was on par with dancing with the Devil.  Yet, if there was no higher purpose to life, why bother?

Around that pivotal time of menarche, I lie in bed wide-awake one night when the room seemed particularly moonlit.  Clearly in my mind’s inner dialogue I admitted my worst adolescent fear: “There is no God. I am a freak. I am absolutely alone and this is all pointless.”  I pronounced it with petulant finality, anger and self-loathing.

That is when everything went haywire. Immediately, my senses were arrested. I lost control of my body and was pressed into the bed as though the gravity of God Almighty was in the room. I was unable to move, heart beating like crazy; flooded with adrenaline, I became hyper-aware.  The room became ten times brighter, filled with bluish moonlight. The silence screamed and my mind rang with the surety that I was NOT alone and I DID have a purpose to fulfill.  This did not come as a voice or in words and gave no clues to its identity, or gender.   I struggled against this force but I could not move, and it wouldn’t stop until I’d acknowledged it directly.  I gave in and admitted, “OK, I hear you! Maybe there is a god!”

As quickly as it began, it was gone. I was released and all returned to normal.  Still panting and tingling, adrenaline rushing, I looked around at the ordinary room.  I moved my fingers and stretched. I sat up and craned around to look out the window with it’s ordinary darkness. My rational mind kicked-in, skeptical. I thought, “I’m losing it. God did NOT just speak to me.” And I laid back down.

I am here to tell you that the whole thing repeated itself again twice as strong. I was taken hostage by my own body, pushed back into the bed.  The moon light intensified once again, as though a floodlight was at the window, and this time a voiceless chorus screamed through my….everything.  I was a budding clairvoyant, and I had a vision of what my sacred mission would entail many years in the future–the message was basically that I had to prepare myself. Just a glimpse and a knowing that there was a specific purpose for me in the future. I surrendered with, “OK, OK, I believe you!”  And it was all over.

“Hello, I’m Aphrodite” might have made the interpretation easier, but no, that is too easy, and it was not any one particular deity.  What I got was that it/he/she/they were BIG, INEFFABLE, and POWERFUL. What I heard was, “Shut up and listen, kid: THE UNIVERSE is ALIVE.”

Today I believe that the greatness of Spirit quickened within me, to give me just the right nudge so I didn’t give up in despair.  At the time, I thought I’d been “called to Christian ministry.”  My whole life I’d listened in church as preachers and missionaries took to the pulpit and testified about how God spoke to them and they knew they had to serve Him.

I was horror-struck.  I assumed the message was that I had to preach the gospel of Jesus. I started running from that fatby exploring just about any forbidden thing my mother warned me about. I read the banned books; I tried all the verboten things. I didn’t want the job and so I answered HELL NO.  In true, rebellious, teenager form, I struck out to find just about any other way of being, come hell or high water.

…but I digress…

From Existential Crises to Personal Gnosis

This story is about a night years later when I was 19. It was May of 1993, as I drove back from a freshman year at Marlboro College in Vermont, to my home town of Greenville, South Carolina. It was a hard first year out on my own. My parents separated just as I left for school, and moved away. To escape the drama, I’d chosen to go as far from home as my father would finance and lived through six months of snow-entrapped winter for the first time in my life…in a liberal arts school.

I’d crawled out from under my mother’s protective rock in the bible belt, and into progressive New England.  It was like being released from captivity in a dark room…onto a foreign planet.  I thought I was there for the creative writing program, but I’d mostly studied religion, history and anthropology. I was exposed to the WHOLE story of the bible, ALL the major religions, the ways of indigenous people and their plight under the spread of Christianity. I asked the question: what did my ancestors believe before they were forcibly converted? I’m an Anglo-Saxon-Celtic genetic blend. I resonated with what I found among neo-pagan beliefs based in these cultures; it was like coming home!

By this time, I’d met a few actual Witches and began an obsessive study of Goddess religion and Wicca.  As the rite of passage for all witches of the nineties, I’d read Spiral Dance, Drawing Down the Moon, A Witches’ Bible,  but I was still in a confused, reactionary state, and so had laid that aside in frustration as well.

My problem was that I was trying to replace the patriarchal form of we are the only right way with an even older matriarchal form of we are the only right way.  Of course, Witchcraft doesn’t play that game. It’s metaphors, and non-dogmatic, seek the truth from within approach, would not give me the same comfort of absolutism in which I’d been raised.  I was still too much the sheep to take the needed responsibility for my own path. What if my mother found out? What if I were wrong?

I couldn’t wait to get back home to South Carolina, where I at least knew the lay of the land, but with my parent’s 25 year marriage falling apart, and each of us now cast to the four winds, I had no real home left.  That year, I’d also fallen deeply into an unhealthy romance, and after six months barely pried myself out of the black hole of partying to which my lover was already lost. I cried “uncle” on the harshness of New England and went into full retreat from my long-held dreams. This wasn’t my first heart-break and it wouldn’t be the last, but in that moment, it felt like the end of the world. I was in deepest mourning and I didn’t have a clue who I was anymore.

Road-Side Salvation via Giant Glowing Peach

(No, I wasn’t on drugs.)

As I drove down Interstate 85 that starry night, just past Charlotte, my mind churned in an anguished, lost pleading for answers.  Why even bother to keep living; to keep opening myself up to loss and anguish?  Was this just one long monotonous parade of day following day, months repeating themselves, the grinding of seasons, suffering the relentlessness of staying alive until at last I would succumb to nonexistence?

For what purpose? Why not skip all the bother and just go ahead and snuff out? I was young and I thought I was faced with a life of nothing more than constantly battling the inherent forces of entropy and decay for no other reason than to make another generation who would just continue the struggle. In short, I was deathly afraid of meaninglessness. My hands shook on the wheel as I seriously considered taking a hard left into a concrete embankment. In another moment of existential crises, I was hyper-aware once more, wide open and pinging the Universe for any kind of clue what to do.

Beside that black highway, I passed by this peach shaped water tower in Gaffney, South Carolina, that looks like an enormous ass glowing in the night. It is a ridiculous spectacle, totally unnecessary for the purpose of being a water tower. It is also fantastic in it’s over-the-top expression of pride in that being peach country.

*click*

The moment of gnosis that bloomed within me was like a fourth of July grand finale.  The point, I realized, was that we decide to give life meaning beyond the mundane. WE DECIDE to celebrate, to make art, and to live beautifully, not just functionally. We CHOOSE to throw fabulous parties, and to revel in the sumptuous delights of existence along the way, not just exist.  We make wild, juicy, orgasmic love, not just procreate. We gather the tribe and share feasts on the holidays, not just sustenance.  We eat birthday cake.  Why? Why not?!  We make the key points along the never-ending cycle sacred.  Why waste energy struggling against the cycle when you can celebrate it, flow with it, glory in the sureness of the dawn and the spring and the new babe?

Heron and her Larger-Than-Strictly-Neccessary, Jack-the-Fabulous-Lantern, ready to welcome friends to her Halloween Party

Heron and her Larger-Than-Strictly-Neccessary, Jack-the-Fabulous-Lantern, ready to welcome friends to her Halloween Party

To Live a Life of Love

It occurred to me that life truly was in the details.  The efforts we put into making life grand and enjoying it are worship.  We decide that it is meaningful, then we back that up with effort and trappings and it has meaning. The struggle balances the reward; the gain balances the loss; the love balances the fear.

Religion shouldn’t be about being “right”, or worshiping “god” or duty, or heritage, or fear of a distant doom.  It should be about fulfillment, growth and love.  I choose if this is heaven, hell or purgatory.  Do I focus on suffering, sacrifice and atonement? OR do I focus on love, balance and attainment?  These were choices.  I opened my eyes and saw that it is *ALL* Divine and the Divine is LOVE. I changed my mind, and the world around me changed;  I emerged from fear into wonder and “god” was everywhere, saturating the world in delight.

I choose to live a life of love; I make cake and decorate for the holidays; I throw parties, carve enormous jack-o-lanterns and wear crazy costumes; I dance, make love, and howl at the moon, all as worship. What I sought, I found it within, and I was saved from fear.

My answer to the age-old existential question?

I love; therefore, I am.

Blessed be,

~Heron