On Wednesday night, I had some fun chatting with my friend, Jason Mankey, on his podcast at Blogtalk Radio on Witchschool. We talked about thealogy within Witchcraft (or the lack thereof,) my Come to Witchery story, and a surprising truth about owning a metaphysical store, among other things. If you’d like to listen, check out the PTRN ~ Raise the Horns Radio with Jason Mankey below.
May 10, 2016 This article was posted in it’s entirety at The Agora Blog on Patheos Pagan Channel.
A hearty HAIL and WELCOME to you all, my lovelies! I’ve just returned exhausted, aching, filthy, sun-kissed and exhilarated from a weekend spent at the most sacred of crossroads. In a time out of time, we made a temple between the worlds, as our coven hosted a Witches’ Grand Sabbat of Beltane, over a 3-day camping celebration.
What can I say? I am really proud of what we all accomplished. The Sojourner Tribe came together in style and brought both the pomp and ceremony of High Witchcraft with the May Court, plus the nitty-gritty, bare feet, howling at the moon, fire dancing and drumming into the night, of old-fashioned, tree-hugging, dirt-worshipping paganism. This group does nothing by halves, and I can tell you that we rose to this occasion, rang the bell at the apex of Spring so loudly and proudly that there are Genus Loci all over eastern North Carolina still tingling with twitterpation, and looking for a smoke. Shazam, I tell you. SHAZAM!
Crafting New Traditions
This is the first time we’ve gathered for a Sabbat camp-out on our own, rather than attending larger pagan festivals. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE a pagan festival. They have a unique mission of bringing diverse people together for sharing and camaraderie, but a larger gathering of relative strangers comes with its own pros, cons and compromises.
For example, paganism is diverse in it’s approach to ritual etiquette, ethics and standards of behavior. From my point of view, what is sacrosanct and non-negotiable, is to never impose your own religious ethos onto people of other religions. I’m a Witch, but I can’t expect everyone at a pagan gathering to even be aware of the concept of Perfect Love and Trust, let alone promise at athame-point to uphold an ideal that is foreign to their practice. By the same token, I’m not enthusiastic about entering into a Witchcraft-style magickal circle with the unprepared, or anyone who would refuse to pledge reciprocity of loving intention and trustworthiness.
Understandably, a great many compromises are necessary so that all in attendance will find some common ground. Namely, don’t even try to foist witchcraft ceremonies onto non-witches. Inclusive pagan festivals can be a good thing for a great many people; however, the larger and more diverse the festival becomes, the more watered down and problematic it inevitably becomes as well.
During this 7th (crowning) year of our coven’s evolution, we’ve taken on an even deeper level of commitment to one another, and our Craft. The Great Work intention our group set for the year was to grow into our own Sovereignty, and to forge a new tradition of Witchcraft in service to building the community. This year, we felt it was the right time to create additional opportunities to celebrate the Sabbat as Witches here in Eastern NC, thus the Sojo Tribe Grand Witches Sabbat of Beltane was conceived.
For years I’ve dreamed of what we could create within a smaller, intensive gathering if held among those who DO SHARE a desire for Witchcraft-specific ceremony and DO SHARE a common vow of Perfect Love and Trust. What could we create if we all take the responsibility to actively contribute, and build that event together?
Perhaps your group has considered kicking things up a notch and doing something similar? Here are a few of my favorite new things we tried and they worked for us. Plus, I’d like to share some of the beautifully and magickally made sacred objects that our talented members created for this inaugural event.
Re-vision, Re-organize, Re-Tool
By striking off on our own, we were afforded the opportunity to radically rethink how we approached this sabbat, and even the concepts by which we communally gather. We went “back to the drawing board,” and as a group, decided how our uniquely emerging style of witchcraft wanted to create sacred space and then enact the mysteries.
You’d think that with Mercury, Mars and Saturn all being retrograde at the moment that we were doomed for disaster. On the contrary, we’ve been presented with an opportunity for rethinking everything, starting with WHO we intend to become, and WHAT we stand for. We’ve decided which battles we were no longer going to fight, and which fetters we’d outgrown and could now throw off.
For example, I own a witchcraft shop, and usually at the festivals, I’m working my ass off vending, and I miss out on the spiritual nature of the event. This time, it was important to me that there was no commerce in our temple. There was no competition among vendors, and no commercial sponsors. Just the freely traded divination, Reiki and artistry among family, and everyone contributing equally for our expenses.
A Vow Against “Chur-cle”
We wanted to perform the sorts of magick that are best manifested within a larger group, while modifying the Wiccan-style praxis that was always meant for 13 people or less. We vowed to never again endure the tedium of Chur-cle…you know, the “Church in a Circle” that sometimes happens when 200 people wait for each other to get through a challenge at the gate, or to pass the chalice and cakes.
Bottom line: if our witches are so far away from the altar that they can’t hear or see what is going on, or are bored to tears and aching from standing still too long in our ritual, we did it wrong.
A Temple between the Worlds
We also wanted for the entire campsite to be considered sacred space, and all that we did within that temple for the entire three days to be offerings; the preparations, the meals, the ceremonies, the laughing and goofing off, the children at play, the artistry, singing, dancing, the sleeping, the making of love, were ALL our offerings to the Gods.
So at our opening rites on Friday night, we consecrated and created a temple over the entire (large) site by first meeting at the central balefire that was our “Spirit” flame, kept burning all weekend. Here we agreed to the rules of engagement:
- Don’t burn the Witch: be careful, preserve your precious life and help to protect everyone else on site, too. Don’t drink yourself into oblivion. Love yourself and be kind to yourself and all others. Enter in Perfect love.
- Don’t be the Asshole: in all that you do, be the constructive solution, not the destructive problem. Do as you will, but harm none. Enter in Perfect trustworthiness.
- Don’t be the Weak link: we are all in this together, there was no one there whose job it was to throw you a festival, nor to boss you around, so we all do the Work to create beauty and strength, honor and humility, reverence and mirth, power and compassion. Keep pure your highest ideal, strive ever towards it. (Charge of the Goddess by Doreen Valiente)
- Must be present to Win: everyone on site was there to fully participate in our rituals, there would be no observers, no armchair critics, no mere visitors, no free-loaders. If you entered our temple you were there fully prepared to do the Work of Witchcraft of your own free will.
To begin, our Fire Priest, acting as summoner, brandishing our coven sword, challenged us all with the seriousness of what it means to enter between the worlds. HOW DO YOU ENTER? And we all answered in a big cheering shout, IN PERFECT LOVE AND PERFECT TRUST! After that point, anyone who broke the rules would be asked to leave the site. (And we did it, too.)
To continue reading this article, and see many more pictures, click on over to Witch on Fire, on the Agora Blog.
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>
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.
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>
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In 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.
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.
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.
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.
This blog was first published at Witch on Fire, on the Patheos Pagan Channel’s “Agora Blog,” January 12, 2015.
Dec. 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.
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!
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!
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!
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!
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.
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,
This holiday, I humbly request a break. Hopefully, this won’t take up much room in your sleigh. I have been a good little witch this year, and I promise to use my break responsibly, for the highest good and only the most effective, sacred badassery….where totally justified, I swear it…
I need to take a break,
catch a break,
break my own record,
break the glass ceiling,
break the old curses,
break from decorum,
break a few hearts,
break a few necks,
break a few laws,
and make a break for it.