Daily Archives: January 21, 2012

Superman: The Witch of Krypton?

Superman: The Witch of Krypton?

Author: Phoenix Forestsong

Just tonight I watched the incredible two part film Kill Bill. Is it gruesome? Yes. Is it incredibly violent? Yes. Is it choc full of philosophical and introspective moments? Well…sorta…yeah. Regardless of its classification, it is an incredibly awesome visual experience with a plot that is a unique, demented, and twisted journey into the minds of Uma Thurmon and Quentin Tarentino. In fact, it may say more about Uma, as far as I understand it personally; the character of “The Bride” was her creation! Kudos Kiddo!

Nan Daiyo? Kill Bill and Wicca?

How does the incredibly graphically and gloriously violent Kill Bill tie in with Wicca and Superman? David Carradine’s character delivers a very insightful and philosophical speech that got me thinking that, perhaps, this so very much applies to me too!

The speech, of which I will include below with the required sourcing, was an instant “Aha Moment”. This little dialogue, of which I’ll edit slightly into a more understandable monologue — including the masking where they should be if you haven’t seen the film yet — will blow your mind. Read it carefully and then I guarantee that you too will go “hmm… Oh? Aha!”

“Now, a staple of the superhero mythology is, there’s the superhero and there’s the alter ego. Batman is actually Bruce Wayne. Spider-Man is actually Peter Parker. When that character wakes up in the morning, he’s Peter Parker. He has to put on a costume to become Spider-Man. And it is in that characteristic Superman stands alone. Superman didn’t become Superman. Superman was born Superman. When Superman wakes up in the morning, he’s Superman. His alter ego is Clark Kent. His outfit with the big red “S”… that’s the blanket he was wrapped in as a baby when the Kents found him. Those are his clothes. What Kent wears – the glasses, the business suit – that’s the costume. That’s the costume Superman wears to blend in with us. Clark Kent is how Superman views us. And what are the characteristics of Clark Kent. He’s weak… he’s unsure of himself… he’s a coward. Clark Kent is Superman’s critique on the whole human race…You would’ve worn the costume of Arlene Plimpton. But you were born and every morning when you woke up, you’d still be .” (Kill Bill Vol. 2, 2004)

Have you had your Aha moment yet? If not, think upon it a while longer, oh beloved brethren of Krypton, ‘cuz you are Superman. That’s right, the man with the incredibly stupid costume, the bright red and blue spandex, “Is it a bird, a plane… ” Yeah…that’s you.

What kind of grass have you been smoking and how can I get some, you ask? In all seriousness, simply consider your life right now. What happened when you woke up this morning? What did you do? What went through your mind? Who did you become?

You wake up, you perform you morning routine and you become…who? Think about it. What costume do you wear to become who you have to be for the day? Think about your role and identity, and then ask yourself, “Why in the hell do I do this? I’m Freakin’ Superman, for Goddess sake!”

I am not a Comic Book guy nor am I a Starfleet Captain or a Jedi Master. Heck, I’m not even a Lord of The Rings or Fantasy Mythos junkie. I am simply a thinker, a connoisseur of stories based in truth, fiction, science fiction, fantasy, and anything with an incredibly interesting, unique, moving, and “good” plot. I tend to draw inspirational and unintentional (sometimes intentional) connections to “Things” from watching movies, reading books, and from Life in general. I then make really bad analogies out of them to present my point.

What’s “Things”, Precious?

“Things” is such a nebulous term to use; however, in this case “Things” is used in a literal sense. “Things” are objects, people, places, thoughts, feelings, and any other named or unnamed, new or old, known or unquantifiable “Thing.” It is not a special ability or trait that I possess, every single sentient adult, child, beast, and vermin on the planet possesses and uses this ability daily.

As living beings we draw information from our environment, analyze and process this new mental treasure, and apply the newfound knowledge into our lives. Thus we eventually discover ourselves to be “Experienced” and “Wise” and very, very Wiccan.

Draw from the above story and ask yourself the question “In what way am I Clark Kent? What is the costume that I wear for my spouse, children, family, friends, co-workers, and employer?”

Why do you wear that ridiculous disguise when you could soar like a bird, be faster than a speeding bullet, or leap over the tallest building? Superman doesn’t have to wear his tights as he saunters on down the street of Metropolis to be Superman…he can do that Skyclad and so can you.

I suppose the point of this particularly dreadfully written essay is simple: Be You. You are going to make mistakes because you are not, nor will you ever be, perfect. Perfection is a pipedream, a Platonic Form. There is absolutely nothing that exists in reality, not a living or nonliving thing in the physical world, that is perfect. In fact, every once in a while, more often than you’d like, you are going to *** up in incredibly creative and overly complicated ways that will even bewilder you. That is life and we are the living, so lets go Live!

The “Just Us” League

Please, if you take nothing else away from this considerably bloated collection of personal philosophies and insights, at least promise yourself one thing. Tomorrow morning when your eyes flicker open and greet the hopeful and optimistic clean slate of a brand new day, just be yourself. Take the day, do everything that you normally do, but do it as You. Be your own Superman and shed the persona of Clark Kent just as a snake sheds its worn, aged, and uncomfortably fitting skin.

Reflect upon all you need to for today but please promise yourself that you’ll begin your Tomorrow as the (Wo) Man of Steel! I, for one, will be greeting the day as Phoenix Forestsong, shedding (nay, shredding!) my disguise of insecurity and weakness. I am proud to be who and what I am with the knowledge that, “I am Superman!”

Superman is who I am. Clark Kent is what I do.

Bless and Blessed Be,

-Phoenix Forestsong


Footnotes:
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0378194/quotes\
Kill Bill Volume 2

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I’m Right, You’re Wrong: The Fight to be Different

I’m Right, You’re Wrong: The Fight to be Different

Author: Sarrestia

I was thinking about writing all the examples and instances up front, and then lay out the bottom-line, but then I decided, what the heck:

Ladies and Gentlemen, there is not a damn thing you can do to be anything like the person next to you. No matter what you do, no matter how you live, no matter what you think, you will always, from before birth to after death, be different. This is not an opinion, this is not an ‘in-a-perfect-world’ statement, and this is fact, genetically to psychologically to metaphysically.

Every single person is built on two things: their genetics and their environment, not one or the other, but simultaneously.

Your genes are the product of half of two people’s genetics: your mother and father. Though you have their genes, you do not have all of them; you have a combination of genetics that they can never have. You are different! Even if you suddenly start looking ‘like’ your parents, or acting ‘like’ your parents, you are still not your parents. It is a genetic, biological impossibility.

Your experiences are the product of your environment, your genetics, and most especially, the thoughts and emotions you keep within your mind of those experiences. From the moment of birth, you begin to the act of experiencing the world around you, and within you. You are different!

Even identical twins, with the same exact genetic combinations, due to their experiences, will never, can never, be the same; they will be different. Though many studies of identical twins have shown that separated twins will display similar likes and dislikes, similar activities in their lives, but they are vastly different because of the families and environment they were raised. In addition, identical twins that were not separated, but were raised together have shown, repeatedly, that despite the same environment, they develop different personalities.

So, the very core of every single human being — in the genetics and experiences and behavior — will never be the same as another; we will always be different.

If this is so, then why do people demand that they be different? Why do children develop the intense, rebellious nature to become different from their parents, when they are and always have been? Why do people fight and kill to be different?

As to the title: I’m Right, You’re Wrong, it is this very thing of proving to another that they are different, in their personalities, their ideologies, etc that causes so many issues when it isn’t even about who is right or wrong. The point of any of this is that we are both right and we are both wrong. We are right in ourselves, to ourselves, but we are wrong to everyone else.

I would love to say that this problem is only the vice of the major religions, but alas, no. From the major religions to atheists, everyone thinks they are right and everyone else is wrong.

I will take this moment, before I continue, that this species of ours is blessed with the few individuals who have pulled themselves away from this trap to understand that it doesn’t matter what you believe in, they are happy with what they believe in and who they are; your beliefs, though nice to know, are irrelevant to their happiness. Sounds harsh, yes, but honestly it is the only way one can be happy, is to not allow everyone else’s opinions about one’s beliefs or their beliefs to be of any concern.

Unfortunately, this right vs. wrong attitude is deeply impeded in the pagan community. From the ceremonialists and traditionalists looking down at eclectics and solitaires to pagan women vs. pagan men to Wiccans vs. Witchcraft vs. New Agers vs. Fluff Bunnies… I can go on, of course. For a spirituality that is so ambiguous that the beliefs and actions of an individual is based on what feels right to him/her, and a spirituality that is far more accommodating to a person’s choice of lifestyle in any manner, it seems ridiculous that we would carry this issue with us. Of course, it may just be the result of the majority of pagans carrying this right and wrong issue from their previous religions, but I’m going to be optimistic (or pessimistic) and say it is just human nature.

By stating that I’m Right and You’re Wrong is human nature, it may be a lost cause and we, except for individuals, may never overcome this issue. However, at this point, I will be optimistic and say that the people who are formulating one of the greatest spiritual movements this world has seen in such a long time have the ability, if not the necessity, to overcome this pitfall and rise to a higher form of thinking with regards to anyone who is in the least bit different from you. Because guess what, they are, and will never see the same thing you see or feel or think or smell, and NEVER have the same spiritual experience as you.

Let the main religions continue their never-ending fight to be right and destroy, even if not physically they are still trying mentally and emotionally, those they feel are wrong. Let atheists struggle in their fight to convince people to shrug off millions of years of myth-based philosophies. Understand that you are different and will always be different and embrace that; embrace your weirdness, your difference, while at the same time acknowledging what we all share.

Which brings me to another point: despite all of our differences, we are still all members of the human species (unless there is someone that is reading this that does not currently carry human DNA within them…beg my pardon, no offense) . Every single person feels the same emotions. Whether they are expressed differently or triggered differently, a happy person in Iraq will look and act the same as a happy person in Nebraska (I know, I’ve seen happy Iraqis but I’ll have to debate the extent of a happy Nebraskan) .

We are different and we are the same, we are all right and we are all wrong. We are all individuals within one species on one planet, with DNA that is at its most basic the same with every single living creature on this planet.

Pagans, we are a fractious bunch from the very start because we choose to follow what is right within our hearts and souls, not because of what someone else says is right. So why do I constantly see people writing and commenting on their opinions of another person’s spiritual choice? Does their decision to join a coven, take the best from all the rest, or follow the creeds of people with less than credible sources change your beliefs, affect your beliefs, make you doubt your own? If so, then your heart and soul are telling you that the path you are currently on isn’t the one for you.

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I Am Me

I Am Me

Author: Dahlia Starwatch

I was always told, “Yup, Jesus is up there. Yup, God’s watching you, so be good.” And I couldn’t help but feel a bit afraid of the menacing big guy upstairs that would send down to the inferno that (not literally) burned right under my feet if I did something wrong or bad. And I couldn’t help but feel alone when the topic of religion came up in my family.

I said I was this, but it felt off. Then I’d say I was this, and still feel off. Then I got more into Buddhism. It felt close enough to what I wanted; I said that’s what I was. So I studied and studies and practiced and my grandparents were proud. They’d take me to the temple just to study. They made sure I practiced at least once a day, but everything still felt off.

But that’s what the problem was, I felt off. And I hated it. I just wanted a religion that would let me believe in what I believe in, and that was magic. I had always loved magic since I was a little girl. Starting from watching “Charmed” with my mom and aunts to “Harry Potter”. I found magic in the world, and that’s what I wanted. I just could never find it. So I stuck with Buddha, no matter how uncomfortable I felt.

Then I started going for walks around my neighborhood and down at a close park and felt the energy of the world. I felt the energy that the rocks stored and carried. I felt the energy from people that passed me on their own walks or as they sped by in their cars. I felt the energy of the creek and the trees and all the other plants. I didn’t understand it so I just dismissed it. I didn’t like dismissing it. But it was foreign, and I was very “in my shell” back then.

I kept going for my walks and I kept trying to ignore what I felt. It was really hard, so finally, i just sat down on a big rock in the park by the creek and just sat there. I sat there for a good hour. I watched how the world changed in front of my eyes, even if they were just little changes. I felt the world’s energy shift and move and felt it move through me and i was just in awe.

I came back the next day and did the same thing all over. I soon began to realize, after I left the park, I felt much happier. I felt better I felt amazing. I didn’t understand it, so I went to mom about it. I tried to explain it to her. I tried to explain how the energy moved and how the world changed and how beautiful the change and energy flow was. But she just told me that I was touched by a special gift from one of the Gods. I felt crushed that that was the only explanation I was going to get. So I went down the park continually, and every day I thought to myself, this feels like magic. This is what I like. This is what I want to feel like everyday, all the time.

Then one day, a good friend of mine began talking about some of his Wiccan friends. I became really curious and decided to do some research. Being that I couldn’t get to a bookstore, I Googled away (yes, I am a dweeb at times but I love being that way ^.^) ! I ended up finding a website (Wicca-spirituality.com) and fell in love with Wicca. I ate up the information and began to really study the faith trying to understand the God and Goddess, and I realized, this is what I am. This is the religion I’ve been searching for. I couldn’t feel more… centered. I felt at home.

I told my mom, but she didn’t know what the religion was. So I tried to explain it to her, and she still didn’t understand. She told my dad, and my father said nothing. But they both threw a terrible fit when my friend gave me tarot cards for Christmas. I argued with them that it was apart of my religion.

They argued it was bad luck. I wasn’t going to give up something I believed in. They had raised me to fight for what I believed in. But now they were being just plain hypocritical. I was allowed to be a Wiccan, but I couldn’t practice Wicca?

I couldn’t practice the magick I had believed in my whole life? I was shattered. This is who I am, and my parents wouldn’t let me be true to myself when that’s what they taught me while growing up. So finally, I just shut them out of my religious beliefs.

I shut them out. I didn’t want them to talk down to me because they said what I believed in was now said “Evil”, which was a common misunderstanding. Wicca is beautiful religion, and I’m proud to be a witch. But apparently they weren’t.

Finally though, they began to accept who I am, religion included. They even take me to the Stores to buy supplies when needed, even though the Stored are a long drive a way

So I’ve been studying Wicca ever since. I am proud to say that I’ve actually merged two religions and it feels perfect for me and I am proud to say I am Buddhist Wiccan. It made no sense to me to drop a religion I had done for so long, and Wicca isn’t really all that different when it comes to the faith. I love that I found out who I am, and that I have a Goddess watching over me.

Merry ye meet and merry ye part. (:

Blessed Be~~ Dahlia Starwatch

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The Story of an African American Wiccan Priestess

The Story of an African American Wiccan Priestess

Author: LilithSilverKrow

During my 14 years of study of Witchcraft and Wicca, Shamanism and Paganism, I have found that Pagans of Color are hard to come by, or just simply in hiding. For years of my life, I have searched far and wide to create a group based on African American Neo Paganism and Wicca, but to no avail, it’s as if I am the only one who exists. While I know this isn’t true, I often find myself wondering if the traditional stereotypes of our African American Family culture, and the binds that keep families of color separated from other belief systems are true.

Is it true that we must bind our beliefs solely within the Christian Hierarchy of religious followings? Do we tell our families that we hold a close belief in something other than the all-knowing all-mighty God? How do we tell our families that we are not evil, and that we believe in the purity of nature?

Coming from a strict family of Deacons, Pastors and Reverends in the Christian Faith (not to mention the Catholics, and Jehovah’s witnesses) didn’t make my coming out so easy. When I was a young Pagan on my path to understanding the ways of the Goddess, I slowly came out to my family with little subtle hints that their way of religion was not particularly right for me and my spiritual tastes.

I would often deliberately sleep in on Sundays, ditch bible school, and refuse to sing in the choir- (er.. I mean I suddenly lost my voice, of course) . I would spend many hours in silent meditation, out in public spaces (like the living room, or the front porch) , which often lead to a lot of interesting questions. While this was probably not the best way to come out in a family so demanding of living a Christian life, it was a subtle way of letting know that I had a different path to walk. Finally, I was kicked out of my mother’s house for two different reasons. 1. For being a Lesbian Vegan, and 2. For being a Witch.

The very first book I had ever read was True Magick by Amber K. My mother actually found that book while “cleaning my room” and asked me if Christmas was out of the question. I started to explain to her the Pagan holidays, and what it means to be a witch- then she proceeded to tell my great-aunt, the devout Christian from Kansas and head of the family about me and my choice of religion… This caused an absolute riot in the family, and I was thrown out immediately on the spot, with no place to go. After a while of communicating with my mother, and letting her read all the books I deliberately left laying around, she decided to let me back in the house if I promised to stop being a Lesbian, at least eat some chicken and not tell anyone about my choosing to be a witch… At least she let me have my spiritual choice… one down and one and a half to go.

After my mother and I settled are differences about the whole idea of me being a Pagan child, she allowed me to have friends of the same faith and decided that it was time for me to go and be myself. She realized after all the fights and the arguments, that I wasn’t going to change my mind and that if she wanted me not to be who I was authentically, then I would obviously need to find my own place and move away from the house.

At the age of 16, I moved away to continue to lead a group or coven, and study with only those that were serious about Wicca and Witchcraft. I refused to let anyone in our group unless they read at least 5 books pertaining to Witchcraft or Wicca, and knew the basics of what our Spirituality was about. I look back know and realize that I have always been serious about my religion, and have made sure that others around me radiated the same kind of energy that I did. I never let movies influence me and I never bothered to listen to what others said about me. I was once again the only African American of my group.

My group consisted of several different races and ethnicities- Puerto Rican, Vietnamese, Caucasian, Mexican, and well me the black girl and “High Priestess”. I really hated the title of High Priestess, because having read all the books that I took the time to read, I knew that there was no such thing as miraculously becoming a high priestess. I just kept learning and making sure that all of the people in our coven were doing what it took to learn all of the initiatory rights, bound by the law of the Wiccan rede and following the wheel of the year. Sometimes I look back and think that I knew more then than I do now, and other times I wish that I could find more people of color to start a new coven all over again- this time with the right credentials to lead.

To conclude my story, I stuck with Paganism because it was the only source of spirit that allowed me to connect with the feminine energies of the Goddess. It was my only source of love and abundance and understanding and it has brought me nothing but wonderful bliss and has made my life truly centered and enlightened. I have learned how to connect with all sorts of people, to fit in and to allow what comes to me to come.

Although, I am still looking for Pagans of color who have a sense of their own individuality and pride as Pagans, I am happy doing what I do best. I am now running a humanitarian business here in Portland Oregon that focuses on the Pagan community, I own a two Shops, teach workshops and classes in the Pagan community and I do Shamanic Soul coaching and Journey work. This is what I do for a living, serve the Goddess in any way shape or form that I can. I dedicated my life and live in Service of the Goddess, and forever I will always be in service to those that need healing.

May the God and Goddess Bless you,
Love and Blessed Light,
Lilith Silverkrow


Footnotes:
B y Lilith Silverkrow

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Becoming a High Priest/ess

Becoming a High Priest/ess

Author: Valerie Voigt

Beginnings: I practiced for a while as a solitary for some years before beginning training with a family tradition Witch in 1978. She saw to my initiation in 1981 (as an eclectic, albeit with traditional background: this because I was not marrying into her family) . She told me to found a Coven, which I did, with her to guide me. After she crossed over to the Summerland, I later studied the Feri tradition, and was initiated by Victor and Cora Anderson in the mid ’80’s. Feri as I learned it is a non-degree Tradition, though some teachers use a quasi-degree system to give their students training benchmarks. I was initiated into a Gardnerian Coven in the late 80’s, and was raised to 3rd degree in 2008. I’ve been running Covens and/or training circles and/or open circles almost all the time since 1981. I continue to study. I lead the Gardnerian Coven Blackbirds.

In my Covens, we’ve always made a distinction between the High Priest/ess of the Coven itself (that’s an ongoing role with responsibilities to the group, and to the daughter Covens, and to the larger Pagan community) and the High Priest/ess of any particular ritual (that role is temporary and includes responsibility only for running that ritual) . Most of the time, the High Priest/ess of the Coven also High Priest/esses the rituals too; but we do require everyone, as part of their training, to design and perform both private group rituals and semi-public community Sabbat rituals.

One reason for a lot of the confusion over terminology is that the terms “priest/ess” and “high priest/ess” are used in multiple ways even within the older Traditions. To wit:

In most of the British Traditions (which I will, for the purposes of the present discussion, define as the Gardnerian Tradition and those Traditions with a clear genetic relationship to it, e.g., Alexandrian, Mohsian, Silver Crescent, etc.) every First Degree initiate is ritually announced to be a “Witch and Priest/ess.” Why, and what does this mean, exactly?

The “why” is twofold.

Firstly, it makes it harder for someone to infiltrate a Coven for the Inquisition and then turn around, turn the Coven in, and get away without any suspicion from the Inquisitors (after all, if any other spies have happened to see the initiation, it will be harder for someone to talk their way out of an accusation if the spies say, “I saw this person ordained as clergy in this religion!”) . Granted, by the founding of the Gardnerian tradition as we have it now, the Inquisition was no longer the threat it had formerly been (it does still exist–it’s now called the Office for the Defense of the Faith, and the current Pope used to head it–but it is much reduced in power and fame, and has softened its methods) . The British Witchcraft Act, however, had still not been repealed–and the legal implications and practical dangers of being publicly discovered as a Witch were very real, and not funny.

Secondly, and more importantly these days, as a Priest/ess you are directly responsible for continuing to pursue your own spiritual development, for listening to the Gods (not just praying to them or asking for Their help) , and for taking control of your own life and accepting and dealing with whatever responsibilities the Gods send.

It is in this latter sense that the widespread idea that “Every Witch (or even every Pagan) is a priest/ess” is true. In a way, “priest/ess” is a courtesy title, given to remind the newly initiated Witch of their responsibility–it does not qualify one to lead a group. It does, however, give notice of the responsibility to fulfill whatever obligations may arise (for example, in time of need, the person might have to step up to higher responsibilities in full knowledge of their own weaknesses) . In such cases, when the person shoulders such responsibility honestly and without pretension, the Gods always provide Their help.

As to what it means:

A First Degree initiate should, at least nowadays, be competent to perform their own rituals, on their own behalf–an activity that requires the basic priestly knowledge of how ritual works, including whatever details are required within their Tradition.

Likewise, in some of these same British Traditions, every Second Degree initiate is ritually announced to be a “Witch and High Priest/ess.” Again–why, and what does this mean, exactly?

There is some “courtesy” aspect to the title, as a Second Degree is not expected, routinely, to lead a Coven. Nonetheless, a Second Degree is expected to be able to lead rituals for the Coven. That is, s/he is able to competently fulfill the ritual role (if not necessarily the administrative, counseling, etc. etc. roles) of a Coven leader. If the regular High Clergy of the Coven must be absent for any reason, it falls to the ranking Coveners (who are typically Second Degree) to carry out the ritual duties. In some cases, a Second Degree will actually lead a Coven (normally under the guidance of the High Priest/ess of the parent Coven) –in this case, “High Priest/ess” is no longer a courtesy title!

Even in these British Traditions, however, the word “High Priest/ess, ” used in normal conversation, refers to a permanent Coven leader, who is always Third Degree.

Because, traditionally, Wiccan clergy are unpaid, most of us have full-time jobs that are not connected with religion–we are secretaries, engineers, factory workers, or whatever. Therefore, in most cases we have not had professional clergy training aside from what our own Elders, with the same limitations, were able to teach us. So, typically only the independently wealthy among us have the leisure to pursue a full-time ministry, or the professional training that allows them to do most aspects of the job well. How many independently wealthy Pagans do you know? I thought so.

As a result, our High Clergy usually have to specialize in only one or two of the jobs clergy are expected to do: administration, ritual, counseling, theurgy, thaumaturgy, teaching, herbology, divination, interfaith work, writing, public speaking, outreach, theology, social work–there’s probably a lot more. We simply do not have the time and resources to be good at more than a small subset of these tasks. Few Craft clergy are good at most of these–and almost all those with deep expertise in many of them have very gray hair, because they have had to learn by long years of experience. It’s not that our own teachers were lacking: but often their own talents were different from ours, so most of us have had to supplement our in-Coven training with outside studies. Sometimes we have the good fortune to learn from several different Craft teachers (I have been incredibly lucky in this regard) . Usually we have to supplement our training in other ways, such as by attending sessions at conferences such as PantheaCon, or taking evening classes in a specialty such as counseling.

The point I’m making here is that even talented, very well-trained Traditional High Priest/esses aren’t usually good at all of the tasks we associate with the job.

In less traditional Covens (including most of the eclectic ones I have known) , the title “High Priest/ess” is still usually given to a Coven leader. In those Covens that adhere to a strictly non-hierarchical approach, the term may not be used at all, or sometimes the term will be used only in its ritual sense–that is, ritual responsibilities are rotated amongst all the Coven members, and whoever is in charge of a particular ritual is “High Priest/ess” for the duration of that ritual only.

(This last use of the term “High Priest/ess” is startling to most Traditionalists, who, as Mike Nichols puts it, “would no more rotate the position of High Priestess in their Coven than they would rotate the position of mother in their family.”)

Like many others here, I have run into my share of kids who have read one book, have adopted a Craft name such as “Merlin” or “Ain Soph” (yes, really!) , and are running around calling themselves High Priest/ess. I usually manage to keep a straight face.

Unless there is good reason, I don’t confront them about it–and if I must confront them, I usually do so indirectly. For example, if I am at a gathering and some clearly unqualified self-appointed “High Priest/ess” is gathering a group of naive prospective students around his/herself–prospective students whom, according to my understanding of my Oaths, I must protect insofar as I can–I join the conversation and ask some question. For example, “How do you feel that elemental correspondences are affected by local geography?” or “How do you approach invocatory Work in your Tradition?” I continue the conversation until the pretender has clearly revealed him/herself. I never say, “You don’t have a clue!” because I don’t have to: they show it. And I don’t scold–there’s no need to humiliate anyone. They just need to be given pause to consider the need to learn more.

Most of the time, though, the Gods seem to take care of it. How? Well, if the person is just clueless and seeking ego-strokes, They usually provide the person with some embarrassing experience (such as freezing up in a group ritual, having to consult their one book, and discovering that the answer they need is not in the book) . On the other hand, if underneath the ego-indulgence the person really has the potential, sometimes the Gods simply dump a lot of responsibilities on the person and force them to handle the situation! I myself have seen this happen. In such cases, I encourage more experienced Coven leaders to give careful and discreet help to the chagrined-but-suddenly-serious person who is trying to be responsible. Why? Because there are far too many more Pagan seekers trying to find teachers than there are qualified teachers to teach them–and if the Gods show me someone who is truly and honestly trying to step up to the plate, it is my duty to help if I can.

I normally do not encourage teens to jump into the Craft, because serious pursuit of Craft studies requires so much time and energy: youngsters should be out having fun, discovering their identities, and exploring a lot of different things. So I tell them they should read widely, be careful, and check back as adults if they are still interested. But teenagers are not automatically unqualified to study, or even to lead a Coven: one Craft Elder for whom I have always had great respect first learned the Craft as a teen in the 1940’s, in an all-teen Coven led by a teenaged brother-sister pair. When the teenaged coveners had questions, the High Priest and High Priestess sometimes didn’t know the answers and had to go ask their parents–who were High Priest and High Priestess of a traditional Coven.

Likewise, I suspect that my own two daughters, who both grew up in the Craft, could readily run Covens: one is now 25, and the other is 19. But both, having seen for themselves how much work is involved, have so far declined.

I never sought to be a High Priestess–I had expected to simply be a quiet Pagan who did supportive behind-the-scenes work. And if I had known how much work (both in the sense of magical/spiritual Work and elbow-grease-type work) was involved, I probably would have run screaming–at least until the Gods dragged me back. Because if They want you, you don’t, in the end, have much choice about it!

To have the title of High Priest/ess, all you have to do is call yourself one. To actually be a High Priest/ess, you have to do the work. The title, by itself, isn’t a goal; at best, it’s really just a side effect.

Blessed Be!

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Coven Life: The Tie That Binds

Coven Life: The Tie That Binds

Author: Aconite Caotix

I’m sure that many people wonder what it is like to be in a coven. To some, it is their goal to find that special group of people that you can share your magickal journey with and have that bond of love and trust that only seems to be in such a tight knit group of people. This essay is to serve as a warning to those that feel that they NEED to be in a coven, grove, or circle to further themselves spiritually. Yes, there are many lessons to learn in such a group, but they might not all be ones that you want to learn the way they are taught to you.

When I first came to Wicca, I was what you might call a “lost soul”. I was seeing a counselor for depression, and one of the things that we came up with that was leading to my depression was a lack of belonging to any spiritual group. I was your typical “seeker”, and ripe for anyone to pick. So I met a very charismatic gentleman at a Pagan Meetup, and he said that he was starting a coven. My eyes lit up when he said the word. It was the very reason I was there! But you know the saying, “Be careful what you wish for…”

Things were great the first few years. I was getting the teaching that I had always wanted, and even though there was a lot of work on my part involved, I believed that it was all worth the effort, and that I was serving the gods. I’m not going to go into my whole history with the coven, but I will get right to the point of this essay and that is that the leaders of the coven were not all that they originally seemed to be. What seemed to be a nice, nurturing, couple turned out to be people that were selfish, dishonest, and willing to do whatever they had to and use whoever they had to in order to get what they wanted or feel that they deserved out of life.

For the whole ten years of my time with them, I was a servant. Sure, they called me their friend, and even went so far as to call me family, but I was to them whatever they needed me to be for their own purposes at the time. When the High Priest was lonely for company, I was his best friend. When they needed money, I was family. When they needed someone to move furniture, I was the subordinate doing their part to help their elders. They even coerced me into getting a cell phone JUST so they could get a hold of me whenever they needed to.

Now some of you might be reading this and think, “Hold on! You weren’t in a coven, you were in a cult!” Well, you would be wrong, but not completely. If you have read Bonewitz’s or other lists on what to look out for in a group that could classify it as a cult, you could find elements of a cult-like group in the coven I was in, but I don’t think I was ever strictly in a cult. But I would like to strongly suggest that if you don’t get anything else out of this essay, that you take away a caution when building the kind of bond a coven fosters with ANYONE.

Yes, it is a very romantic notion to be that close with a group of people, and to have that support network in your life, but if you are not careful, you can get into a situation where the support only really flows one way, and it is REALLY hard to see that is happening when you are right in the middle of it, filled with notions of “family”, “perfect love and perfect trust”, and “hierarchical tradition”. You can easily be duped into thinking that all the things that are being demanded of you are legitimate, no matter how outrageous they may seem to someone on the outside.

The coven setting can create the perfect storm for egos to be fed, “us vs. them” alliances to be formed, and where “tradition” can easily trump common sense. You feel that you owe your allegiance to those that have worked so hard to put the group together. And it is usually an allegiance that is required unconditionally. They SAY that you are there of your own free will, but how free is your will when you are doing things for people because you feel you have to? Because you feel bound by some mystical sense of accountability to the leader of the group. It is this kind of command that turns coven members into minions.

When three separate groups of parents of members of our group thought that the leaders were controlling and egotistical after meeting them for just a short time, then you think that would have opened my eyes to the fact that something was unhealthy in the relationship. But the bond they created was so strong that I did not see it right away. It was only after 10 years of doing practically nothing but my job and my coven life that I realized I had gotten in “too deep”.

There were other factors to my leaving as well. The most damaging one was that my wife and I actually LIVED with the coven leaders for about a year. (I know you are thinking that “c” word again.) Luckily for me, though, it was during this time that we got to see their true colors, and the lengths they were willing to go to secure their own comfort and well being, anyone else’s be damned. They would claim to others that we were “helping each other out”, when it was really them that needed OUR financial assistance. They took advantage of our good natures and drained us for every penny they could, but still thought we owed them more when we finally managed to get out of there and get our own place. We even almost bought a house with them! I thank the gods every day that we did not, because it would have been doubly hard to leave then, but at the time we were fully committed to them. They, however, were only committed to themselves.

So please take this caution to heart. You may think that a coven is the only way to get the spiritual experience and teaching that you feel you need in your life, as did my wife, many others, and I. And there are some lessons that you will probably only learn is such a setting. However, joining a coven is a possible trap. While it may not exactly fit the description of a cult to a tee, there are elements of such groups built into the structure of most covens. Someone who has been intimately involved in such a group for ten years has warned you. And while I don’t completely regret it, there is a lot to life that I missed out on during that time because of my allegiance to the group and its leaders.

There are other ways to get spiritual teachings and camaraderie. Public gatherings are great ways to meet others of like mind and spirit without the trappings of “belonging” to anyone. A lot of local new age stores have some kind of classes going on regularly. But another note of caution here: some of these classes are taught by leaders such as the ones I had, and they can use these classes as a way to recruit people into their group. And if you do find yourself in that first interview with the leaders of a coven, try your best to find out what kind of people you are talking to. Ask to see their bylaws. If they give the leaders “supreme authority” and equate them with the gods themselves, then enter at YOUR OWN RISK! Because you could find yourself tied to them in a way you never thought you would be to anyone for any reason.

And it is a tough bind to break.

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Today We Honor Nemausus

Nemausus

 

Deus Nemausus is often said to have been the Celtic patron god of Nemausus (Nîmes). The god does not seem to have been worshipped outside of this locality. The city certainly derives its name from Nemausus, which was perhaps the sacred wood in which the Celtic tribe of the Volcae Arecomici (who of their own accord surrendered to the Romans in 121 BC) held their assemblies (according to Encyclopædia Britannica 1911), or was perhaps the local Celtic spirit guardian of the spring that originally provided all water for the settlement, as many modern sources suggest. Or perhaps Stephanus of Byzantium was correct in stating in his geographical dictionary that Nemausos, the city of Gaul, took its name from the Heracleid (or son of Heracles) Nemausios.

An important healing-spring sanctuary existed in the town; it was established in some form at least as early as the early Iron Age but was expanded after the Romans colonised the region in the late 2nd century BC, when there was active Roman encouragement of the cult. Another set of local spirits worshiped at Nemausus (Nîmes) were the Nemausicae or Matres Nemausicae, who were fertility and healing goddesses belonging to the spring sanctuary.

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Does Your Pet Know When You’re Sick?

Does Your Pet Know When You’re Sick?

  • Melissa Breyer

An acquaintance of mine recently posted a picture on Facebook of his son, suffering from strep throat, and Happy the cat curled luxuriously around the boy’s neck. I could practically feel the warmth, weight, and goodness of Happy’s body as we joked about the Happy cat cure.

It was an exceedingly cute picture, for sure, but it got me thinking about my old kitty, Serena, and what seemed an infallible instinct for illness or general blues. The minute anyone plopped on the bed with pain or malaise, Serena would be there, hop upon the chest, and assume ‘the position’…a long straight-out stretch punctuated with her legs and paws wrapped around said sufferer’s neck. I’m not sure if she ever cured my strep throat, but she certainly melted away sorrow like there was no tomorrow. I really can’t say for certain whether or not she had some instinctual sense, or if this was a usual cuddling configuration that I only noticed when I was not 100 percent.

I have heard of dogs being able to detect cancer, but what do you think? Are our pets so in tune with us that they can tell when we are not well? And if so, do they act on it? I think there’s something to it. Share your thoughts in the comments.

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