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

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

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

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

Courtesy of Heron Michelle

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

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

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

 

Beltane is a Party…with Healthy Boundaries

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fear is the Path to the Dark Side ¹

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

Photo by Heron Michelle

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

Fear Leads to Anger

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

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

 

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

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

Photo by Heron Michelle

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

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

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

Aphrodite’s Thealogy of Perfection

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

fire-heart-961194_1280

Aphrodite’s Thealogy of Perfection

What do we mean by “perfection?”

If the world is a divine tapestry, woven of the love of the Goddess and God, “Love” begins to take on a different definition. If it is EVERYTHING, it is also “Whole” and “Complete” in that there are no parts missing or excluded, and that is healthy thing. Consider the word, “Wholesome.”

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

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

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

You Can Lead a Witch to Circle, but you Can’t Make them Coven

This post was originally published on March 8, 2016 on the Agora blog on Patheos Pagan Channel. To read this article in its entirety, find it here…

I was recently reminded of how misunderstood the ideas of “perfect love and trust” are within our Witching communities. Perhaps if we all came to understand the power of this social contract, we wouldn’t have so much strife among us. <sigh>

In my own classroom and coven, “perfect love and trust” are words invoked so often, and with such depth of meaning and and breadth of application, that I’m sure they are THE reason that we’ve made it a whole six years, and counting. Today we have this thriving, healthy, balanced group of exceptional people doing the Great Work with such grace; I am bursting with love and pride for them all.

a young adult woman smiling and giving the thumbs-up hand sign

I was recently tickled pink when the priestess of a neighboring coven asked for permission to include my old “Heron’s Four Rules of Modern Witchcraft” blog in their own teaching materials, saying, “I think this [blog] says so much to clarify in plain English the nitty-gritty issues that are so important in being successful and happy not only as members of a Coven or Tribe, as students or teachers–but as participants in this wonderful life of Witchcraft.” Of course I was thrilled to have our hard-earned lessons be put to good use in a new teaching circle. In other news, next week I travel to Philadelphia to teach these very subjects to a group of witches there. These honors almost went to my head.

Hot on the heels of their flattering requests, I was reminded that not everyone who’s come through my program left as satisfied or as successful as others.  The Universe is like that, keeping me motivated, then making sure I remain humble. So, in that same in-box I also received nasty-grams full of personal insults about my failure as a teacher, leader, and friend.

a young adult woman with a look of dismay showing a thumbs-down hand sign

I’d like to tell you that this is the first nasty-gram I’ve ever received from a former friend and coven-mate. I’d like to say my heart no longer breaks when they arrive; that I don’t take these punches directly in the solar plexus and am sent into a tail-spin of self-scrutiny and the mourning over lost love. What can I say? I’m a Piscean, and I take these critiques very seriously.

Keep Reading…

Valentine’s Love Spell

Valentines Day is tomorrow, and I’ve heard the dismissive excuses a few times already: But isn’t that just a “hallmark” holiday? Hallmark makes Christmas cards, too, but I rarely hear folks bitchin’ about that as if a marketable product should put us off of our fun celebrations.

Or how about this one: I don’t “do” Valentine’s day because love should be celebrated everyday. I agree, but then again, death happens every day, too, yet I make a point of honoring death as a concept on Samhain.  The Wheel of the Year system gives sacred space for all parts of the cycle in due time, and seeks balance between them,  I think that after Imbolc tides shift just past 15 degrees Aquarius and begin to wane onward towards Ostara, it is a GREAT time to celebrate romance and love of all flavors.

a digital graphic of heartsIn the mythic poetry I enjoy at this time of year, we welcome back the Goddess, renewed again as the young maiden, rising from the slumber of the previous turning like the slender shoots of crocus flower, peeking through the snows. The God is welcomed back as the Lad, a wild young buck, or the tiny buds on the limbs. I envision them both like teenagers, full of innocence and daring, with the plucky stealing of kisses, and the hot flush of their cheeks; they are the thrill of promise.

I feel this connection to Their power whenever I do something romantic, or my sweetheart does something romantic for me.  That being said, romance is only one expression of love to enjoy.  “Singles Awareness Day” jabs are another way folks rain on my parade. PISH, I say!  Oh ye of little imagination! If you waste a good Valentine’s day whining about what you don’t have, rather than celebrating all that is possible, well…that’s not very effective Witchcraft.

Here is what I’ve learned about Divine Love so far: The only heart prepared to receive love is the heart already opened from the giving of love. Making the effort to openly give and receive love of all kinds, will set your vibes a’hummin’. If you want to be a “heart-throb,” you have to start with your own heart, Law of Attraction, and all that. May I suggest that rather than being a Grinch and grumping about this time of year, that you let your heart grow a few sizes and get into the spirit of the season with your friends and family?
To continue reading to my spell to find your ideal paramour, the full post is on my Witch on Fire column at Patheos.com.

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

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

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

Bonnybbx / Pixabay.com

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

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

What would I do differently?

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

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

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

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

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

To keep reading click here.

Hermes Gongs the Cosmic School Bell

At the Imbolc altar last year, before the gods and my fellow witches, I spoke these words: “Hermes! Messenger between the worlds! God of eloquence and mediumship, I offer you my voice and my service…guide my studies, guide my words, open the channels of beneficial communication…”

On the 15th degree of Aquarius, 2015, he did accept my vow and thus began a journey of mythological proportions…or, at least that’s how I’m going to tell the story; writer’s prerogative, and all…

Lo! As the first moon of my service waned into darkness, I began my quest, embarking upon a pilgrimage to the sacred crossroads of PantheaCon, flying far from my home, to the distant lands of San Jose, California.  In time did I find the Doubletree, approaching to face the dread guardian at the gates of registration. The beast demanded both coin and a vow upon my good name, which I did surrender.  Accepting both, she gave to me a badge of admission, and bade me pass into those hallowed halls.

Click here to keep reading…

This blog was first published at Witch on Fire, on the Patheos Pagan Channel’s “Agora Blog,” January 12, 2015.

gong-1033432_1920

World AIDS day: Elemental Blessings for Change

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

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

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

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

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

Holiday Blessings,
~Heron

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

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

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

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

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

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

Inspire us all!
With Gratitude, Welcome, Air!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Embolden us all!
With gratitude, Welcome, Fire!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

(Pause)

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

Above and Below,
Welcome, Spirit!

A Thanksgiving Transmutation of Tens

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

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

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

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

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

A Transmutation of Tens

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

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

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

Why I am Still a Witch

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

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

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

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

Aphrodite and Hermes Altar / Heron Michelle

Aphrodite and Hermes Altar / Heron Michelle

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

Click here to read the rest on Witch on Fire…