Some words with my mother

I finally found out that my mother knows about my faith, although I think she has misgivings.

I got the usual warnings that she was not thrilled about it, and that I should be careful about spirits “apart from God.” There was a veiled reference in her words to the “creator/creation” dichotomy (which I have roundly rejected), and she strongly hinted that she thought being gay was the reason I left the church.

But being gay was the last thing on my mind when I left the church. I had much deeper questions- not about myself, but about the nature of faith, of God, and of the Holy Writ that dwarfed any personal matter. Many of those questions are hard to articulate and I’m still trying my best to put them into words.

I also got the distinct feeling that she thought my vast swings in mood and my tendency to swing to extreme viewpoints were because of not being a Christian, and not in spite of trying to move on from those things.

I was an angry extremist so much of my life, but there’s really no room for that in the path I have chosen. What, after all, would I be an extremist for? If all things are united, if all life, all spirits, all deities are only nodes on a continuum of consciousness, what room is there for talk of extremes?

I am not perfect and the Way of the Witch will never make me that way. That insidious drive to split the world into “my way” and “their way” will be present no matter what I believe. But, I feel, I’m better off on a path that gives it little room to prosper.

And so I vascillate from time to time, I stray from what I truly believe in for an arrogant streak that I forever have to reckon with. But that is not because I walk this path; it is despite that fact.

Garbage In, Garbage Out

They say that if you keep tabs on your life and record significant things in your Book of Shadows, it will begin to show you patterns in your life.

For the longest time, I kept getting really agitated during waxing cycles and was unfit to do a ritual by the time the Full Moon came.

A few full moons came and went, and I was fine for it.

But then this past waxing cycle I was smart enough to note the events on both the New Moon and the Full Moon.

What I found was that on the New Moon, I had a significant emotional breakdown and that as the moon waxed, things didn’t get much better.

The waxing cycle is for growing what you’ve started.  If you start with something bad, that’s what you get.  Garbage in, garbage out.

The waning cycle is already seeing a lot of the bad things that happened in the last waxing cycle ebb away.  The New Moon should see me in Albuquerque, NM on my way to a new life in Oregon.

The opportunity is there to make the most of it.  I hope I can clear out the last of these negative vibes as the day draws near.

The Bigger Picture

Few people familiar with modern witchcraft haven’t heard the term “burning times” to describe the infamous witch trials of Europe between 1400 and 1780.

What isn’t readily clear is the scope- or indeed the significance- of the witch trials and what they mean to modern witches.

First, some facts about the matter to clear the air:

Even the most enthusiastic scholarly estimates put the number executed at around 100,000, although 40,000-60,000 is the general consensus among historians.

Second, no discussion of the witch trials should be approached without pointing out that very few of those convicted were actually practicing witches.

Third, the proposed, hidden “witch cult” theory is impossible to prove.  There have been covens for at least the last 120 years who claim to be a direct continuation, but if you want to talk about scholarly proof, we modern-day witches have little to offer.

These facts do not change the broader picture of what the Burning Times meant, I don’t think.

First, you have to realize that execution was not the only fate those accused endured.  Often those accused would be spared if they recanted and named others as witches, as in the case of the Salem witch trials.  Punishments such as banishment and imprisonment were also not unheard of.  If those not executed are added among the victims of the witch hysteria of the early modern period, that becomes significant.

Second, it is likely that some of the accused were, in fact, magic users.  Henry VIII made the practices of certain “wise men” and “wise women” a capital offense, and although that law was repealed under his son’s reign, punishments for something as simple as a love spell remained harsh.

Third, there is almost no dispute that most of those accused of witchcraft were women, outcasts, and people who were generally disliked in the community.  Men- and particularly men of the nobility- were very rarely charged at all, let alone punished.  It was a mechanism of brutish social control that women suffered under disproportionately, that much is certain, and there is no need to exaggerate the scope or numbers to make a feminist case for the witch trials.

But the most important thing to remember is that the witch trials, at their heart, represent the very worst in organized fear and hatred.  They are a warning- not just to today’s witches, who seek to build on those few shreds of folk belief that have survived the ages- but for anyone who isn’t part of the ruling status quo.

There are even those who, today, defend the Inquisition and the witch trials as a righteous endeavor.  In 1999, Jean-Claude Dupuis penned these words (bold text from the original article):

But if the Church recognizes the freedom of conscience of the individual in his innermost heart, if the individual is free, at the risk of his salvation, to refuse the faith, it does not follow that he can propagate his errors and thus lead other souls to hell. So, the Church respects the freedom of conscience of individuals, but not the freedom of expression of false doctrines.

These are the kind of attitudes today’s witches have to keep an eye on, the whole “you can believe whatever you want, but we’d better not find out about it” approach that pervades nearly every strain of conservative thinking.  That spirit is alive and well, and always waiting in the wings.

Maybe there wasn’t a hidden witch-cult that was nearly snuffed out in the early modern period.  Maybe there weren’t, as some suggest, nine million killed in the name of the Church.  But the spirit of hate, distrust, fear, and hysteria were all real, and all simmer in the background of history.

That is what the Burning Times mean, and why we should never forget them.

A Curious Thing…

I once related some of my angst about how I’ve always had a sense of times, distances, and concepts so much broader than my immediate surroundings, even at a young age when I shouldn’t have known about these things.  It was very difficult for me because I knew certain very nebulous concepts long before I could articulate or emotionally deal with them.

An online friend form Serbia was reminded of the beliefs of the Vlach in how a shaman would behave or think.

And really, as I’ve tried to get more in touch with a spiritual path, I’ve found that I have a curious link to low magic.  I’ve found that I’m at my most focused when I’m basically out in the wild, with a camp fire going and an eye to the full moon and letting my instinct drive me.  Lost in the moment, my mind seems to tune into things that even now I have a hard time describing.

I also have a long history of precognitive dreams and exceptional luck and timing, enough to make coincidence and random chance less and less probable.  I have a tendency to attract curious phenomena and paranormal activity (and I am not the only one to remark on this), and I have a keen sense of the interrelatedness of things, even if I still have a hard time describing it.

The few times I’ve tried to practice a more ritualized, high magic (only recently), it has been done after a more chaotic formula, sticking to a loose series of protocols and letting the spirit of the moment guide me.

During the last full moon, I remember taking in such a tremendous amount of energy that I felt physical tingling as I grounded.

Maybe I am more in tune with chaotic energies.  I’ve been seriously thinking about my status as a shaman and how I could hone those abilities to help others.  I have seen the faint glimmers of so many things from the edges of my life, all I need to do is find out what it is that will draw in more of the things I have seen and felt.

Sorry if this all seems vague and nebulous.  It’s an extremely difficult thing to put into words.

A Single Point of Light

One of the critiques I hear most often from Christians who have some understanding of Pagan ideas is this: that one should worship the Creator, not the Creation.

About a week ago, ruminating on this, I wrote the following:

The Creator and the Creation are one in the same.

You who do not understand, it avails you not to lecture us on our faith.

From a single point of light came all things,

Every star, every being, and all matter and energy.

In time, it became aware of itself, and became the Lord and Lady;

And the human seed gave them names and faces, spoke to them,

Became their eyes and ears as the mysteries of their being

Unfolded before them.

Thus it shall continue:

All life, all matter, all energy, shall be reborn,

Shall take on every possible form,

And learn through its changes

Until They have learned everything there is to know.

Then all shall be complete, and all shall be as one again;

And all things that were, are, and shall be will be joined once more

Into a single, radiant point of light.

Friends Along The Path

I have been surprised multiple times by how many friends I’ve met, in the last few months, who were either already on the Path long ago, or who came to it at or around the same time I did.

The anthropologist in me says it’s just about adaptive culture; we’re responding to a culture that, apparently, hasn’t worked for us.

And yet, part of me says it’s something more elemental than that; my intuition tells me that the calling has grown stronger in recent times because the universe, in short order, will need as many souls in tune with what it says as possible.  Perhaps a great time of need approaches.

Whatever the case, to my friends old and new, I am honored to have you by my side, called by the Lord and Lady.  Blessed be, and may the circle be open yet unbroken.

Without Love, What Are We?

I am not one to refer often to the Christian Bible, but this book- as with many others- has many gems of wisdom hidden within, even among the more terrible things it says.

I came across this one today:

1 Cor. 13

  1. If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
  2. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

But isn’t this so much in line with what a Witch should also strive for?

Whatever we become, whatever we do, whatever things we learn, see, or grow to comprehend, if we do it without love, we have only a dead faith. We are no better than cold, calculated students of the mystic arts, or worse, workers of maleficia; in short, a witch who acts without love is no better than waerloga (warlock), an oath-breaker.

What does the Rede begin with?

Bide within the law ye must, in perfect Love and perfect Trust.

The penultimate lines of the Rede, before the eight-word injunction, then say this:

Be true in love this you must do unless your love is false to you.

These two phrases, at the beginning and end of the Rede, to me say it all: Have love in your heart, or disavow the way of the Witch.

We must strive to live in love for the earth, love for all creation, love even for those who the world says do not deserve love.

This much, I think, we should demand of anyone, regardless of what tradition they follow.