A Common Question About Wicca or Paganism and Being Wiccan or Pagan in 2017

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Last year I used my oracle cards and asked if a particular goddess was trying to reach me. I turned a card over and it was Rhiannon. I already had an image of her on display, and my shrine to her grew quickly and naturally into a thing of such beauty that I’d like to share it, but I feel it should be kept private.

After a few months, I found my that my thoughts often turned to The Morrigan. I felt her as strength, autonomy, and ultimate feminine power. She is, after all, regarded by some as the personification of Ireland.

(Rhiannon is a Welsh deity familiar to most because of the Stevie Nicks song. I LOVE Stevie, but she wrote the song because she was inspired by a character in a novel, not the goddess. If you are interested in Rhiannon because of the song, research the goddess. Books are best. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find a book just about Rhiannon as I did with The Morrigan. I did find and buy this book and found it eye opening. It has chapters about 13 Celtic and Norse goddesses including Cerridwyn, Brighid, Eostre, Freyja, Aine, Danu, Modron, Hella, Branwen, Maeve, the Valkyries, and Morrighan. If you want to read about the fictional character that inspired Stevie Nicks, you want this book. I found the hardback and paperback in the same used bookstore.)

Okay, now that we have the list of books out of the way, let’s talk Wicca, altars, and 2017. You can bet your buttons that anything with the words “religious freedom” in it no longer applies to us in the U.S.

I’ve been interested in Wicca since I was 12. I’m 44 now. I started my Wicca journey with The Mists of Avalon and The Spiral Dance. Guess I didn’t get the book list out of the way after all. What I learned from The Mists of Avalon was what it means to serve The Goddess. The library copy I read had an index listing The Spiral Dance as source material. Wiccans generally refer to “The Goddess,” “The Triple Goddess,” and, more popularly today, “The Spiral Goddess.”

What if more than one goddess seems to pick you? I believe in individual manifestations of The Goddess. Believe me, if She wants you to see Her as one or more particular deities, She’ll make you see it.

With my shrine to Rhiannon and then The Morrigan opening my door and announcing herself, I was concerned about having shrines to multiple deities, especially deities from different pantheons. This forum discussion helped me tremendously. I set up a separate shrine for The Morrigan. It’s much darker than my shrine to Rhiannon but, as with the construction of Rhiannon’s shrine, it almost seemed to create itself. I honor both of them on holy days and throughout the month, especially on the days/nights of the New Moon, Full Moon, and Waning Moon.

Now, 2017. They’ll use their religious freedom nonsense against us eventually. How do you want to live as a Wiccan, a pagan, a heathen in 2017? If you’re already out, you’re out. If you’re not, you must be knowledgeable about your religion and your REAL religious rights before you come out. Hell, if you’ve been out, you should have the ACLU’s phone number in your phone. Many of us are by nature solitaries and we despise dogma, and lately there’s been too much of that in Wiccan groups (and too much of men running groups and chastising women.) If you don’t want to be in a coven, don’t feel obliged to join one now. But consider a quiet support system. You can find your sisters and brothers on Twitter. You can find me there.

Beware of white supremacist, homophobic “pagans.” They’re out there openly now, particularly if you identify with Norse goddesses and gods.

Blessed be, Sisters and Brothers.

Ash Wednesday a Year Later

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I woke up early today, for a wonder, and started reading Twitter. I no longer keep up with the Christian calendar unless it’s Easter or Christmas. Those were our family traditions. Today is Ash Wednesday. I haven’t celebrated–or been forced to observe–Ash Wednesday since I was in private school.

A lot has happened over the last year, especially since September, to show me that Christianity is not my path. I’m on the outside looking in at people discussing getting ready early today to that they can go to church, and I’m reading tweets from countries in Great Britain where the Ash Wednesday celebrations are a much bigger deal that they are here . . . full of color, traditional costumes, and music.

The only reason I’m writing this post is that the happiness over Ash Wednesday is such a painful contrast to what happened today in 1692 in Salem, Massachusetts.

Three women were interrogated on suspicion of witchcraft: Tituba, an enslaved woman, Sarah Good, and Sarah Osborne. And thus began one of the most obscene episodes of insanity in American history: the Salem Witch Trials.

We know now (at least some of us do) that it is 99.999% likely that none of the 19 people executed in Salem for witchcraft were witches. I’m leaving that less than 1% chance open because someone may have been quietly practicing an old belief system. Maybe they escaped the hysteria because they kept to themselves. Maybe they turned their faces from their accused neighbors in order to survive.

It’s 2017 and Salem now exists on tourism fed by false accusations of witchcraft.

When I put away my Mary Magdalene paraphernalia last September and turned back to what had lain dormant in my mind for thirteen years–that’s weird, thirteen years, isn’t it?–I felt sad, lost, forsaken, as if I thought I had a friend but didn’t. That’s how close I was to this heretical version of Christianity. I didn’t mind being a heretic. It felt right to me . . . except that it was causing me quite a bit of anxiety trying to understand it.I remember reading something in the Bible attributed to Jesus regarding divorce and thinking, surely this doesn’t apply to me. I didn’t want to leave. I had to.

It’s all simply too hard to fathom. I was amazed at how easily I slipped back into my old ways and how much pleasure there is in being an adult and not having to disguise my altars or put away my Tarot cards.

Then I remembered where I was. In the South. Surrounded by neighbors who, instead of listening to me when I tried to explain the reason for my lifelong OCD, told me “you know you did something wrong” and told me to pray. Where people wave crucifixes and proclaim “my God is good!” even though their lives, from what they tell me, are not happy.

It’s a pretense. And I have to keep my altars and my Tarot cards and my books in my bedroom, because at least down here people have some scruples about just walking into your bedroom.

Which brings me back to the point of this post: pagans still can’t be as open about their beliefs as Christians. And today is a holy day for many Christians, but it’s also a day of remembrance for 19 people who fell victim to a hysteria much like what is burning across our country today:

Victims of Salem in Order of Execution:

Bridget Bishop

Rebecca Nuse

Sarah Good

Elizabeth Howe

Susannah Martin

Sarah Wildes

George Burroughs

George Jacobs Sr.

Martha Carrier

John Proctor

John Willard

Martha Corey

Mary Eastey

Mary Parker

Alice Parker

Ann Pudeator

Wilmot Redd

Margaret Scott

Samuel Wardwell Sr.

Giles Corey

Several victims died in prison:

Lydia Dustin

Ann Foster

Sarah Foster

Roger Toothaker

Mercy Foster (daughter of Sarah Good, born and died in prison)

This obscene part of American history is more than just a list of names of the accused dead. There were a few people who escaped from the Salem prison. You can start here to learn about the real people behind the names:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_people_of_the_Salem_witch_trials#Convicted_and_executed

I’m going to spend Ash Wednesday in remembrance of all these many people who suffered and died as a result of hysteria, prejudice, and intolerance.

We would do well, when we turn on the news today, to remember that “witch hunt” isn’t just a catchphrase and, under the leadership of someone eager to harm those different from him in skin color, religious belief, and sexuality, it’s already happening again.

Resolved

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I have three New Year’s resolutions:

Stop worrying about offending people who don’t/wouldn’t like the real me.

Spend more time studying and practicing my religion.

Start drawing again every day.

The first encompasses the other two. People have always attacked me or mocked me for my interest in Wicca, to the point that I tried to fit myself into Christianity or at least more “acceptable” belief systems that Wicca. I’m done being mocked. Spending more time studying, practicing, and drawing will mean less wasted time online. It will all help my anxiety and OCD and depression, and it will help my arthritis and hand tremor.

More time practicing my religion will naturally lead to healthier eating by eating fresh, seasonal foods.

Focus on study and practice, I hope, will help with my OCD. I do not expect a cure. I do think that Wicca will help me learn to turn my thoughts to positive things and start to banish these intrusive thoughts that keep me from functioning as well as I could.

I’ve been drawing fairies and goddesses since I was in high school. Over the past couple of years, I’ve bought art supplies but not used them. Just as I’ve bought books and not read them. I’ve felt like an old doll cast into a corner, out of date, out of chances, immobile.

But I’m not a doll (although I’m really fucking tired of whiny losers getting their undergarments in wads over my dolls) and I can start to live again in 2017, and I plan to.

I feel like re-starting that story I started in high school, I feel like taking my camera for a long drive.

I feel like stretching and listening to my joints creak back into movement.

Wise Women

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I’ve noticed, since Tuesday night, more blog posts than usual from pagan women. Like this one I just happened across on Twitter: https://theshadowsanctuary.wordpress.com/2016/11/10/waking-up-in-trumps-america/.

It seemed safe, for a while, to be pagan in the U.S.A. Living in the Bible belt is different, of course, I never shared my beliefs with anyone but my mother, my favorite cousin, and my best friend. Other family members know but don’t understand because they’ve never listened TO me, just dismissed me as an oddball–but I digress.

The fact that pagan women are speaking out about their feelings about living in “Trump’s America” gives me hope. As I told someone on Twitter, women have always been the healers and the warriors. Apparently pagan women are feeling called in some way to deal with this monstrous situation.

At the same time, many of these women are queer, disabled, or both and are at risk in “Trump’s America.” They’re at risk due to their sexuality, because we’ve already seen threats against LGBT people, and at risk due to their health. They may be dependent on Obamacare to stay alive. They may lose Obamacare because of Trump.

So we should all be prepared to stand up for each other and help in any way we can. And put something on your altar to remind you every day to send energy to these brave women to help protect them.

The Soothing Feeling of Tending an Altar

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Tending an altar, for me, is a lot like tending a garden. I actually have two little live plants in matching bud vases on my altar. They’re chrysanthemum sprigs. Somehow they rooted, even though they never get any sun.

When you tend an altar, you remove the burned down candles daily. I keep a tall white jar candle on my altar all the time and replace it each new moon even if it’s only burned down a little. I keep the old ones in case there’s a power outage. I sometimes use votive candles for special things. The best way to get them out of a glass holder is to fill the holder with hot water from the sink (NOT boiling water) and wait 15 or 20 minutes. The candle wax will separate from the holder. If it comes out in a big piece and you can’t get it out of the holder, repeat the hot water so that it softens and you can bend or break it. Let the holder return to room temperature before you use it again.

I make sure my little plants have plenty of water. I empty and refill the little ceramic bowl of water I keep on the altar. I remove the ashes of the incense. It has quickly become a relaxing ritual, tending the altar.

Everyone’s altar should be different. It doesn’t have to look like the standard pagan altar layout you’ll see in a lot of books about Wicca. You can have any goddess image that makes you happy. I don’t have a god image on my altar. Most men frighten me. If you’re a man and you’re reading this and you would never dream of doing anything to harm a woman, I ask you not to be offended and understand that my fear comes from being abused by my father and ex-husband and verbally assaulted by so many man online.

I like a lot of things, a lot of trinkets, a lot of color. My altar is bright and looks like a summer garden. I finally met the Goddess who touches my mind, heart, and soul. I have a gorgeous statue of Her. In Her mythology, She was a queen. When I speak to Her in my mind, I call Her “Great Queen.” She was also the subject of a horrifying lie and abused by Her husband because of it. She bore up under the abuse and was vindicated. That is one reason, I think, that She came to me.

I have paper dolls on my altar (away from the candles.) The only thing I have that isn’t bright and lovely is and old tarnished silver tray that I keep under my incense burner. It belonged to my grandmother. So did the big old tatted doily that I use as an altar cloth. I found a wooden incense burner–at Walmart, of all places–with a gold butterfly on it. Sitting in front of my altar is a lot like sitting on my porch looking at my summer garden.

I have had depression for many years and often have no motivation to do anything, but every day I tend the altar. It’s a small thing, but it’s something, and it makes me feel grounded and connected to something good and beautiful when the world outside is descending into madness.

Election 2016: Why I Am A Wiccan

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A Dianic Wiccan, to be specific.

If there is a safe space for women in the U.S. right now, it is in Dianic Wicca. We venerate the Goddess. That’s it. We venerate the Goddess. She represents all of us in terms of race, age, mother/stepmother/adoptive mother/childless, non-Judeo Christian belief systems. Perhaps white women have appropriated aspects of non-white culture.

We did it because it called to us. We meant no harm.

No matter what ugly thing is going on out there in the “real world,” we come home to our femicentric homes and our altars and we feel safe.

We try to learn from non-white, non-European cultures and again, we mean no harm, and in our belief system we expect to be corrected. So if we inadvertently cause offense, we WANT to know so that we can correct ourselves.

That world out there is getting uglier and more hostile by the day for all women and we want to be for all women. Sometimes, we feel rejected, and we understand why that is, but we want to repair. We just want all women to be together. We fuck up, yeah, bad, but we aren’t beyond reaching out and touching hands and holding hands.

The spiritual community of all women is more important now than ever. We have to be for each other. All women, including LGBTQ women have to be for each other.