Monday, November 22, 2010

Note from Gede Parma re: Hope

Gede Parma, author of several Craft books including "Spirited" and "Of Earth, Sea and Sky" wrote the following note on Facebook about hope and his reflections on American Paganism. Frankly, it gave me hope, too. Plus, he mentions me, which totally tickles my inner Scorpio. ;)

Thank you, Gede, for your inspiring words and thoughtful compliments.

As the weather (even here in the high desert, Placitas, NM) becomes colder and the wind changes, I reflect on my journey of the past 3 weeks. I have now been travelling for nearly 11 weeks. In that time I have visited the West Country of England, the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. In my time in the US I have spent sacred time and space in NYC, Collingswood and Cherry Hill (NJ), Philadelphia, New Hampshire, Boston and Salem (MA), the Bay Area, Los Angeles and San Diego of California, and most recently Phoenix (AZ) and Albuquerque and the surrounds (NM). I have watched and witnessed the land change dramatically as I have wandered this holy land. I have come to have a great deal of respect for the generally left-of-centre (if you will) undercurrents of political America. I have been confused and confronted by the over-culture of the States that, in seeking to monopolise, capitalise and constrain, deplete the precious resources of this continent (and others) and fly in the face of civil liberties and the principle of sacred equality, which as a walker of the way between I find to be an essential understanding of Life. But I have found seeds of hope planted in the many communities I have been welcomed into. I have encountered members and groups of a diverse array of Pagan and other Earth traditions in my travels: Reclaiming, Feri, Temple of Witchcraft, Gardnerian, West Coast Eclectic, Golden Dawn, Progressive Wicca, Stryxian, Asatru, Heathen, Clan of Tubal Cain, and many I am probably forgetting (including the vast eclecticism that is a living, thriving component of the ‘NeoPagan’ scene). I have always regarded the diversity and multiplicity of the Pagan traditions as our inherent strength, and I still do. These differences in path and persuasion do not separate us so much as distinguish us, and yet we are joined by our experience of the Earth/World as sacred, as living, as intelligent. This is the philosophical precept of all Paganism in my mind, and beyond this simple understanding, the rest are out-growths of paradigms that have evolved, hopefully organically, from the breathing soil of the Great Mother.

Something that I find absolutely fundamental to all levels of my health and balance (including energetic) when travelling is the introduction to the spirits of place, the genius loci, the potencies within the Land. Whenever I reach new land I delve into it; my roots through every layer of soil, compacted rock, veins of mineral and gold, deep pockets of underworld water and chthonic gas, until the fine filaments of my ever-searching roots reach the molten core of earth-fire that is the beating pulse and shining star of the Earth. I draw up that vitality, I drink deep of the silver-white light of the camp-fires of heaven, and I then bring these energies to the wellspring of love that sits in the Centre (the heart - the transmuter of life-force). I am then at home and settled upon the land that I find myself with/in. I charge and bless my offerings and set them upon the ground or on the branch of a tree, perhaps I might even scatter the offerings to the winds; whatever the moment and spirits inspire. I affirm this: “Spirits of this holy place, may you welcome me as I welcome you” and thus is the relationship imbued with deep and abiding respect and a friendship that goes beyond the superficial. The Air, the Fire, the Water, the Earth, the sacred community that forms and is formed by place is then woven into my being and bones and becomes a part of me. As a wandering centre, as a Shamanic Witch, my relationships with the world/s around me and within me are decidedly conscious and thus return the gift of consciousness to me. I can not count the synchronicities anymore because when Magick is your charge, your guiding sacred principle, you become Magick and you are Ignited Mystery. As an initiate, as one who begins again in every moment, I am both elevated and deepened by my relationship with Life, and thus Mystery, however, beyond all else, I am humbled. As my dear friend Courtney Weber would say, “we are novices, not because we do not have knowledge or are not experienced, but because we are always beginners in the eyes of the Gods.” To accept this and surrender to this does not repress, suppress or oppress, it enlivens, deepens, moves and shakes, until we are made anew, again and again, reforged by the fires of creation/creativity and awakened to purpose - and whatever that is, is surely self-determined, resting upon your sea of karma.

I have walked amongst the Redwoods, and been held close by the sweating bodies of the people of the Earth in the mighty spiral-dance; I have been thrown into currents of ‘coincidence’ so overbearing that I forget the struggles against such a word, and I have witnessed the wonder of the blue-jay, the jack-rabbit, the crane, the hawk, the humming-bird and the vole. I can not forget the search for the spirits of place in what felt at first like a hollow void of senselessness (my visit to Philadelphia); and in the deep pursuit of such a communion I came across a sun-lit green square. I was alone and I sat on a remarkably ordinary bench. On one side of this square I was flanked by one of the oldest churches in the US, by an antiquarian bookstore, by empty store lots and by a main street; and yet, all was hushed. I looked down and there beneath a faded yellow autumnal leaf, I spied a vole (a field-mouse). Adorable was my first thought; dead? was my second. Then the vole moved, ever so slightly, and I realised that here, in the innocence and humility of the vole, scurrying to hide under fallen leaves, was the quintessence of the land spirits of Philadelphia - a city known for its bright hope and renewed political vigour focussed on the sanctity of autonomy, freedom and justice for all. And yet, perhaps, here also was the beginning of a ‘fall from grace’ of sorts in which these principles were gradually abandoned and compromised to make room for a capitalistic nation whose only goal is to homogenise, compartmentalise and dominate. Here, the spirits of the land, met with a struggle that they in their infinite wisdom and endurance could not oust…here, was the innocence, in a place remarked of as the centre of modern-day civil liberty, but also the beginning of a tide of desecration and degradation on land, spirit, people and principle.

And yet…I can not help but to have hope. Inside of me the flame has burned brighter than ever before. The Star Woman HerSelf, the mighty Weaver of the Fabric of Life, she who holds the distaff and the wheel, has placed the blue flame inside of me on the night-journeys of the long-ago; and the flame conjured in love, compassion, unity and strength have been kindled at almost every class and talk I have done in this country; at every circle, ritual and ceremony I have been a part of, alone or with other human company. I am walking a trail of quivering flame and its impact is that the Mirror of the Soul that is Me and You, and All, is reflecting a Truth undivided, and yet found in every part of the differentiation.

I have not forgotten what it means to be powerful. And as I sit here, in the home of woman who has opened her door to me with grace, I see the golden light of the oncoming winter dancing through the cold breath of the Great Spider who has spun her web in this land, and for the people here, for a timeless time. It is to the native peoples (including the non-human) of this land now that I am in: Placitas, Albuquerque, New Mexico, that I dedicate this blog: to the sunset and the Sandias that is turned the hue of rosey-pink by the dying light that will ever-return.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Been awhile...but here I am!

School and Samhain ate October. I haven't seen a lot of people outside of my crew in awhile. I've been blessed in that one of our members, another daughter of Brid, has returned from FL and has been taking care of me and my home while she adjusts to living back in NYC. I've been absorbed in adjusting to school work, all the while holding up my day job, which has been the busiest it's ever been. I had the privilege of attending the Hekate Ritual at the Assembly of the Sacred Wheel's Autumn Magick Festival. Between that and my own Crew's Samhain celebration, in which we invoked both Hekate and San Miguel in a Wiccan version of a Misa, our Lady of the Crossroads swept a lot of crap I really, really needed to stop carrying out with Her and I am deeply thankful. With a little more clarity and a little more time, I can catch everyone up on Witch In Seminary!

I had a lot of curious glances and received many nervous questions in my first few weeks at Union. In fact, I felt like I had a neon sign over my head that said, "THAT'S THE WICCAN GIRL." It was to be expected. Most of my classmates are new to New York, many coming from tiny Bible schools in tiny parts of the country. They were adjusting to not only life in the city (which is MORE than enough to adjust to, as is...), but also rubbing elbows with classmates from other Christian denominations--many of which many were taught were "wrong." Suddenly, a Wiccan chick is in the mix. Hair blew back all over the place. However, I was pleasantly surprised at my reception. There were a lot of respectful questions about Wiccan practices. Many were quick to let me know that they knew the Pentacle wasn't attributed to Satan. Several asked how we were all faring during the Christine O'Donnell debacle. It was sweet.

The main question I get from people both inside the Seminary and in the Pagan community is "Why a Predominantly Christian Seminary?" So, here goes:

1.) The Wiccan/Pagan community does not yet have accredited seminary schools that I am aware of. We do have institutions run by very fine teachers, but I personally wanted to go to a place with accreditation.

2.) Most Wiccan schools and Colleges are solely online. I learn best in live, face-to-face interaction.

3.) Union, while predominately Christian, is officially non-denominational. Hell, if they accepted an out-of-the-broom-closet Wiccan, they must be. I'm learning alongside people of many faiths. It's fun.

4.) Union's focus on social justice was appealing. I want to learn how I can help, both inside and outside the Pagan community.

5.) The classes are awesome. I'm thoroughly engrossed with Depth Psychology.

6.) Union is right across the street from my day job. That's convenient.

7.) My job is paying for a portion of my tuition. That's also convenient.

Do I feel out of place at Union, alongside so many would-be Christian ministers? Surprisingly, no. I feel quite at home. In discussions about speaking in tongues and Pentacostalism, I had plenty of contributions from my experiences in ritual possession and Trance Prophecy. When my classmates talk about being saved by Jesus, I say, "Yes, I understand. I was saved by a Goddess named Brid." But most of all, I'm surrounded by renegades.

My classmates are deeply spiritual people who, frustrated with their denominations, left to go to Union in order to find answers that challenge the notions they were raised with. While I feel I'm there more to find tools than answers, I'm a renegade within the Wiccan community. I was trained by renegade teachers who taught me to break the same rules and guidelines they gave me. When presented with a new structure, I'm likely to try it out and then reshape it just to see if it works in a different fashion. Just like my classmates are doing in their own faiths.

I respect tradition. There is a place for tradition and structure, just as there is a place for the non-traditional and un-structured. In the forest, it is the diversity of the ecosystem that allows it to survive as a whole. The same is true with our spiritual and/or religious traditions. A Wiccan Priestess attending a Christian Seminary is about as non-traditional as any of these things are going to get. I guess I consider this my contribution to our own eco-diversity and helping our own survival and growth.

There are more stories to tell--of my classmates realizing their religion's Pagan roots, Harlem Ministers reflecting on the Goddess and Witches dancing on the Chapel Altar to a Ra Ra band. There may even be a book in here, somewhere. Stay tuned. :)