Postcard #21: Rejuvenation

The green has made its debut outside as I produce and process words inside. Poetry wells up in me, too much to share, and the desire to dance is like having a sore back ready to be rubbed, or more like an itch I will enjoy to scratch. I must go out and answer the wind!  This is perfect weather-drama to sway to and fro with layers of veils for mist.

I am dressed up for the day. Wish you were here. You’d see me ready for the dance. I used to never wear spaghetti strap tank tops, even in the hottest heat, but now as I move more to the heart beat of everything, I have to be arms-free!

I have to take off now. I am looking forward to getting my hair tossed and my skirt nearly blown off. The sun has warmed the roof and greets me blind in the eye. My gut is anxious, I can barely eat, my muscles pensive, all because I have no more excuses now to sit still, because it very much is spring!

The Last Time I Saw Her Face

Dear Mom, I do not remember what you looked like the first day of my life, but I will always remember what you looked like on the last day of your life. It still bothers me that you left on that sunny day, March 23rd 2010 (a day that would have been your favorite kind of day) without me being there to hold your hand one last time. I am so sorry that the last night you were alive proved too overwhelming for me. I did, however, kept stepping back into and out of the room, taking breaks like deep breaths, and stretching out on the gaudy floral print couch in the waiting area. I wanted to spend the entire night, stay all day, be as vigilant as a knight on a mission beside you… I do not like that I was weak while you were there struggling to be so strong.  My body just could not keep up with my sense of duty.  Or was I just lazy?  Was I selfish?  These questions come up after years of me working on forgiving myself.

I hope you can forgive me.  I’m writing about you on my blog.  Some people who know you, and strangers, too, will read this.  While you were in a home, you never got to explore what being on the internet was like and blogging was a complete unknown thing for you, but you loved writing prayers, hymns, and children’s stories.  If you had the control of your hands, and your eyesight revived, I believe you would have loved blog writing because it is so instantly accessible to readers and other writers.  You had a lot of stories, Mom, and I never got to tell you how grateful I was to learn the value and healing power of storytelling from you. You always taught me to write out my feelings and thoughts. You were a writer yourself and you loved to sing. I’ve been carrying on your tradition of singing everyday at home, making up impromptu love songs about friends and my cat, and writing an essay each week to record my reflections. By your example, I learned how to properly leave evidence of my existence behind so I won’t disappear and that I would never have lived for nothing. Yes, Mom, you were always right. I have a life purpose. I won’t give up. You didn’t give birth to a loser. You gave birth to a daughter of God.

And that is the other thing I want to address. I never again want any member of our family to be rejected over what they believe. I’m sorry you and I didn’t always see spirit to spirit, yet, wasn’t it interesting how strong we were/I am when it comes to our love of the Divine? It is never about religion. It was about our personal relationship with the Gods. Even though you never saw them as multiple, I respected, and still respect, the many ways in which humanity sees God. I promise that when I pass that I will not disallow any member of our family, and none of my friends, the opportunity to publicly turn and relate to the Gods via the religion of their choice. I want my funeral interfaith. I want my life to be interfaith. I will still be a stalwart Witch, but I will refuse to be anyone’s enemy based on differences of faith and spirituality. We had our differences, Mom, and many misunderstandings, yet I feel your spirit is at peace, that you know, now, that all is love.

After you left your body, and the last of your breath escaped your lips, where did you go next? Do you remember how angry I was at your church pastor? I was, in two words, jealous and paranoid.  He got to be there when you died.  I didn’t.  Sure, I was happy you had clergy with you, but I needed to be there at that moment.  I could have been there, if only… !

That day my brother met with your pastor to work out the best way to honor your memory.  I was told to stay in the car or hang out in the church while these men had their meeting.  You know that my brother was only trying to spare me the gory details and emotional pain, but he was wrong to leave me out of the memorial planning. When they locked themselves in that office down the hall, I felt shunned.  I sat in what felt like a place miles away, isolated in a chilly office with glass walls that went all the way up to the ceiling, alone on a sticky, plastic, green chair, waiting too long alone. Alone, surrounded by strangers alone, alone and made uncomfortable by people who were using the event of your death as a means to convince me to join your church. Torture. So I stomped into that hallway and pounded on the door. Foolish me! I almost screamed murder.

I needed to know every detail of your death.  Like I needed to know all the details I didn’t know about your life, all the things you never shared with me. I realized after you died that there was a lot you left out in the stories you told me.  So many moments, traces of you to uncover…  What happened to you?!  It hurt me to desire to know!

“It was a beautiful, peaceful passing,” the pastor said in a tone that made me wince. He mentioned the Biblical scripture DVD that had been playing for your comfort non-stop in your room had come to a pause when you took your last exhale. It was at the tail end of a passage from the book of Romans that went: “It is Done” and the pastor gushed about how moving, godly, amazing it was. It was as if he had scripted it for a movie. It stung my last nerve. You know I’ve got a poison tongue, Mom, and I let it lash.

“I want to know EVERYTHING! Don’t give me some story to comfort me. I NEED to know what happened to my mother, mister. Don’t spare me because, for all I know, you put a pillow over her face and took her out of her misery!” I could not hold back. I may have said more than a few rude words. My voice may have carried beyond the office. When my brother spoke calmly to me, I talked over him, told him to back off, told him how unfair it was to leave me waiting for so long in the office lobby. I accused him and the pastor of talking about me, how are we going to handle Coreene’s pagan daughter? Will the Witch disrupt the church service? Shame on her for being a Witch and causing her mother so much heartbreak! but worse yet I was paranoid about everyone at that church thinking that’s the woman who broke her mother’s heart so bad that she weakened and died and maybe, did you, Mom, did you spend many days and nights crying over me? As brother half-hugged me, apologizing for not including me in the meeting with your pastor, I sank into the leather couch… Why am I remembering all the couches I sat on while you were dying? Strange. Anyway, where was I?

The pastor fulfilled my request and told me the uglier details about your death. Every morbid detail was a relief. I think it strange how people thought hiding the details would make me better. I find it fascinating, Mom, how being told the details of what happened to your body helped me to relax.

It was the same numbing comfort I felt when I last touched your body and kissed your cooled cheek. Brother and I requested, and I hope you didn’t mind, that we got to spend some time with you in the hour after you died before they would take you away. You were still in your little cotton nightgown with that green shamrock pillow you made under your right wrist. The night and days before, brother and I took turns holding your hands, sometimes he took the left, me the right, and so on, so forth. I enjoyed swabbing your lips with water and touching your baby soft hair. In those final times, you seemed like you were becoming a baby again. Your face was a little bloated, but smooth and silky. In death, with all the blood drained, you seemed carved out of alabaster. You weren’t yet like ice. My lips carefully kissed your left forehead and noticed it was clammy — how it feels when someone has a cold sweat due to a fever. As I looked at your face, there was no question you were gone. Even with eyes still open, the spark that was there was gone.

I sometimes go to bed afraid of waking up in your dead body. My body is so much like yours was. The last time I saw your face was a preview of how I will look like when I die. They call it shock, the zombie-like-numbing-comfort-daze where you understand that someone is really dead yet not really gone and you walk around feeling like a lost child or orphan, but more like a senile elder who completely forgets how to get back home. I wanted to stay with your body, hold your hand some more. Did you see that, the time I attempted to entwine my fingers around yours, but then, as if shocked by static electricity at the stiff-clay sensation of your joints when I tried to open your hand, I jumped. Then I really felt bad for noticing how your blood, a deep blue-almost-purple, pooled underneath you. I looked back at your face. Your mouth was the open part of an empty seashell. Your chest was still slightly moving as air continued to escape from you. It was a whisper-gurgle that nearly gave me hope, but, no…

“Tina!” You’d scold me and make that tsk! noise that, to this day, can drive my brother crazy, “Why dwell on something like that? Tell your friends better stories about me. I wasn’t just this corpse. I was your mother, so make me nice.” I can imagine us like we were back in the mid-80’s drinking a diet Pepsi, nibbling on chips and dip. “But, Mom, that was a seriously strange moment, one that is deeply dented in my memory and worth reporting because it really happened. Some people will never see the bodies of their loved ones moments after they die. They may just see the made-up, dressed-up body after the morticians display them nicely in a coffin. Others still will never get to see them at all because the body has badly decomposed, horribly damaged, or just immediately cremated which is often requested by some patients who refuse to let their dead bodies be seen.” I’d then pause to drink my Pepsi and Mom would make her mouth go all crooked like my mine does while thinking of what next to say.

Oh, Momma, I know how much you loved keeping things proper, respectful, and pretty. I must have been embarrassing at times. You wore bright yellows and pinks, while I wore blacks and deep plum and wines. Your lipstick was bright orange rose, mine was cranberry red. My eye liner was thick when I was a teen. As an adult I would, and still do, streak my hair with colors you’d rather see me wear on a blouse than coming out of my head. Your hair was always slightly retro. I still fondly remember your carefully sculpted beehive structured hair-dos from the early 70’s graduate into the puffy perms you sported in the 80’s and 90’s. I so loved it when your hair went completely white, not grey, just this baby seal white so fine, it was like the angel dust we used as Christmas decoration.

How’s that, Mom? Did I paint you prettier with my description now? I sometimes forget to stray away from the morbid and hold back and use the softer, more pastel and Easter-sweet tones you love. Do you know now that Spring reminds me of you forever? When I celebrate the Vernal Equinox, I start to mourn like I do at Samhain. Mother, you are my Kore, my Persephone, and my Demeter. The two weeks after you died, visions of you as a girl dressed in Greco-Roman attire singing all sorts of songs, ones you wrote, Hymns you sang in church, and ones more ancient I did not recognize, interrupted my sleep each night around 4 in the morning. Most people would be freaked out by this and think, OH. M. GEE. MY HOUSE IS HAUNTED. But your daughter is a Witch, spirits aren’t always giving me a scare, and there is no way I am going to be frightened by the after-death presence of my mother who is cheerfully sharing with me the joy of being freed from a body that broke down.

“You still have to let go,” You firmly say and, indicating with a sigh, you add, “Don’t let what happened between us keep you from getting together with new friends and starting new things. I want you to promise me something…”

I am immediately anxious now. Now, Mom, you know how I hate it when anyone puts any kind of pressure on me like that, and you know how I like to take on challenges I really cannot meet. So, come on, hurry up and get it over with!

“Promise me that, no matter what, do not let anyone get away with making you feel sorry for yourself. Remember I love you. You have to take care of yourself. I did not raise a bad person. So, come on, Tina, stop crying and give yourself a break. Keep singing. Don’t stop dancing. Because within you the beauty of all our mothers shines out of you! You’ll see.”

That’s when I imagine my Aunt Sandy, Aunt Madge, and Aunt Viv are in the house. They’ve been in the kitchen all this time, and now they are shewing me out the door, ordering me to go play outside with the other kids while they get things ready…

I’m back to myself alright. I never feel like I’ve “lost” you, Mom. But it gets lonely sometimes. I still have dreams of the days we gathered at Aunt Madge’s. I often visit Aunt Sandy’s apartment as if it were 1986 again, but she’s not sick, no one is, all bad memories fade away. Everything’s forgiven. It is the fantasy that motivates me — the candle I hold even in the wind and carry in the rain — a love that despite any dispute is too stubborn to burn out.

Mom, tell our family, show them all, how much I love everyone. This is no lie. It flows out of me like a prayer. May it be carried to heaven, answered and dropped down to earth with the rain that fell today, and soak into the ground, bringing peace, popping out the green and flowers. Blessings be and wishes true, I have to say it one more time for good measure: I LOVE YOU!

Postcard #20: Power Cracks

Hey, come over here! I have something to tell you. It’s okay, I won’t bother you too much. I didn’t mean to get so emotional last time, or too excited, but I have to let you know something really cool. I finally got over something I was afraid of and it’s made me very proud of myself. Really proud. To some people it may be really petty, but to me it’s a wonderful discovery that just about slammed me down to the ground and kissing soil, so grateful a spell was broken. I had been struggling with that panic over Twitter, remember? It was cracking me up and sending my heart racing. I thought for sure it was a warning to hold back, but really… It was fear of being myself, of letting go, afraid to speak, and grasp my freedom, to remember my strength, and realize I had nothing to worry about.  They almost had me convinced I was a problem, that I had no more place in the world, that I was a nothing person with too many problems, someone only worth shunning, and try as I may dream, I should stay hidden and silent because I am difficult, not worth knowing, that everything that comes out of my mouth is pitiful, meaningless, and that I still need help, that everyone should know I am a problem, not a person.

Yet as I practiced attempting to expand my social network, hesitating before each time I emailed, blogged, or posted a reply, second guessing everything I wrote, only to end up writing, out of self-consciousness, poorly written material in haste and need for acceptance, I treated myself as I was once treated. And yet, as I scratched at my shell, started to crack and shake, weep and freak, it was the earth quake moment that signaled my break out. The ice that kept me frozen BROKE and I did it.

I am myself again and I have myself to thank!

“The death of fear is in doing what you fear to do.” — Sequichie Comingdeer

Like the photograph of the Lake above, the cracks that I thought were going to split me apart were really the shattering of what kept me still. The time I took the photograph was an afternoon after I had wept for hours on end, questioning everything I was doing with my life, and wondering if I mattered at all to anyone. Even Mr. Snuggles was helpless in helping me fight against this feeling. Medicine didn’t punch a hole in it either. The pain was driving me to the point where I wanted an end. It’s never about “oh woe is me” it’s about real pain, the kind that doesn’t stop, the pain that you don’t want to tell anyone about because no one can help, and I don’t want to make anyone who cares to feel helpless, or exasperated, when I report about it too much, because it is a pain that is routine, making it all the more worse. I write about it because it’s my testimony. I am telling you I’ve lived through this, will continue to live with it, and I’m not quitting just because it hurts sometimes. I could have stayed in bed for the rest of the day, yet little doses of magic go a long way.

What? Magic? Yes. I’m going to write about that soon. Magic is good for the mentally ill. It sets things in motion in a way that nothing else can. A splash of basil water, a slap of rosemary, prayer, meditation, ritual, repeat three times, dance, trance, open the body to the Gods, and a lifting up takes place, as if I have been cleared.

The trees called me, the wind rushed up at my door, birds sang premature spring announcements of mating and territory, and hares and fat squirrels were darting in and out of the juniper… Come out! Come out! Come out! So out I came, thrilling to everything, attracting people to me, smiles flashed at me, and the lake, the last of the ice was cracking, shaking, breaking loudly. See?! It doesn’t last forever this nonsense thought of you left to suffer! You’re not the cause of every mistake. Look out onto the surface of the lake and see how the water underneath is always there. Your retreat from life is unnecessary. Your wounds are gone. Time to take up your pen — your little sword — and sing. I know you can do it!

Out fly the words as the lake shakes off the ice and the sky brightens up into brilliant cobalt blue and cerulean (I’ve always loved that word, cerulean how it sounds like the name of a fantasy warrior or an alien swordfighter starring in an epic sci-fi movie) and I begin to pick up my truth again. I get back online, I face the fear, and my fear comes back at me with a vengeance just to make me remember the power I truly have over those who don’t want me to succeed at anything. I let them complain. Even though I shouldn’t, I respond to their last complaints, yet in the end, I am free. Free!  And I don’t have to do anything all over again.  The cycle is broken.  Gone.  Done.

I get on Twitter and Facebook and Gmail and WordPress and think of you and smile without a worry to trouble me. So what if I occasionally make a mistake, forget to listen, get distracted, lose my cool, and panic every now and then, right?! I am not what bothers me.  I am not the sum of my problems.  I am not disorder itself.  I don’t have to let the pain take over. I do not have to prolong my suffering. I certainly do not make it your responsibility.  But, every now and then, I reach out for a little reassurance, a sign that all this living is not for nothing.

I’m fixing me. I’m breaking out. Where ever you are, can you feel this feeling? This kind of trembling like a power surge moving through me up from the earth and up to the moon? Is it moving through you, now, at this moment?  Are you tapping into the same power and generating your own miracles? Oh, the magic is out there, my friend, and I am in love with it all over again!

How can anyone not feel that?

Tonight home is where the magic begins… where the magic IS.

Twitter, Twitter, Little Bird bring me closer to my friends!

I follow that little blue bird Twitter now, hoping the tweets I release @ValentinaWeena will sweetly sing me closer to my friends. Previously I expressed panic over Twitter because I found it to be too fast paced, perhaps a little too much and too close to people and celebrities for comfort. I feared obsession, getting addicted, or carried away by the overload of 140 character lines of instant messages describing all kinds of personal activities that would just overload me with too much emotion. Now that the mystery is gone and I’ve desensitized myself from the social network, I came to the realization what was really bothering me about Twitter. It all truly stemmed from my fear of being publicly shamed and shunned by friends who disagree with me online.

I had this happen to me not long ago, and it affected me so painfully, it almost made me turn my back on getting online ever again. The friend who suddenly fought with me, well, she’s still friends with many of my friends online, so there are always reminders of her absence and poor judgement against me. Shunning is the worst thing you can do to anyone. It does nothing but stop you in your tracks and make you question your self-worth. The friend I’m talking about told me that I would “pay” for not agreeing with her by making sure everyone would know about her opinion of me, yet many of our mutual friends were not so easily swayed by her side of the story. I never made an effort to get anyone to choose sides and just wanted to hide. In the end, I just felt awful since the whole fiasco happened online, and since she refused to communicate with me directly by phone or in person, there was no way to repair the damage, I could not defend my character, and for many months I dealt with harassing messages from people who thought they were obligated to defend my ex-friend. Some people just love to get on the bandwagon when it comes to abusing a stranger, especially when they don’t stop to check and see if whether or not they deserve it, they just want the excuse to kick someone, anyone, while they’re down to blow off steam. The worst thing about it was I had to be separated from a whole group of people I enjoyed being with. If I ever have to go through that again, I would crumple up and die!

But would I… really? Probably not. It would just make me more of a recluse. And I really don’t want that kind of life. I like being solitary, but I still need social interaction with others on and offline. To not be part of the rest of the world in some fashion is like being cut off from life. I need to be plugged-in, activated, part of community, and serve a purpose.

For too long I feel my talents and skills have gone unnoticed. I’ve lived in a dark shell nursing old wounds and complaining about how I’ve been done wrong. I hug my pillows like I would forgotten lovers, willing them to life again, but it’s just me lying to myself. There are times when having a comfort zone is healing, yet later I out grow it, I need to emerge and dance, dance, dance.

So, please, little blue bird, dear Twitter dear, sing my songs, tweet my loves to me! Because I’ve gone too long without my buddies and I really need them everyday in my life, even if it is only through those short little 140 character lines… Sing, Twitter, SING!

Checking My Words, Speaking My Truth

I do my best to accurately write, from my heart and mind, the things I understand to be true, and interpret, in my own words, what I believe to be true.  To the best of my ability I aim to present information I have processed, after much deep thought and study, here on my blog, and anywhere else I publish my words, to be the truth.  After someone puts into question something I claim is the truth, or points out I have not shown enough evidence to support my claim, I feel like I have failed, yet when their motive is to correct me, I appreciate it.  I’m not always on the ball, I can forget to do something, I might get distracted, and I’m not perfect!  Perhaps I left an important reference out or, in my haste and excitement to get out my answers, I made a simple mistake that blew my honest intentions out of the water.  But when someone’s motive is to shame me, it serves no purpose other than to force my face into a pile of self-doubt.

Where did I go wrong when I thought I really got it right this time around?  I had gotten very proud of myself with my last article on Witchcraft Where Witches Came From.  I did not receive a lot of criticism over it, only one close friend had something to say that worried me.  I realized I had left out a few things and I intend to go back, re-summarize, and add to the article at another time.  I intend for the article to be part of a series on the origin of Witch mythology.  But perhaps I am in over my head.  Normally, I am not a scholarly, journalist kind of writer. I am great at writing from my imagination and using song and poetry to express my emotions, something I have a lot experience with, it’s my comfort zone. To write an informational column-style piece of blog is a challenge for me, yet often can be very rewarding, especially when it helps someone else to really understand something from a new perspective. I don’t mind writing essays, and I’m perfect at autobiography, yet for a close friend, I will meet any challenge, or dare they give me, especially out of respect and love for them, even more especially when they are the ones who are genuinely asking the questions in confidence and looking to me to provide the truth.  Plus there is a desire in me to impress upon them I am trustworthy and that I am worth their love.  Yet why do I feel like I have to fight, compete, and meet any challenges in the first place in order to win anyone’s love and respect? Why can I just believe it has been given already and trust that I can be free to express my truth to them without fear of rejection?

Whenever I write about my religion, it does affect me very emotionally. Being a Witch has its good days and bad days, but just because it has been considered evil for centuries by billions of people all over the world does not mean it should be evil, no matter if the origins of the use of the word were to describe someone who practices evil. I’ve spent a lifetime redefining, reclaiming, and reviving the tradition of Witchcraft as something very good and decent. Even if it is a close friend who asks a dumb, possibly offensive question, I forgive them and do my best to answer them with the best of my knowledge. When what I have to say is not enough for them, I get very sad. What were they asking me to prove? Why were they so disappointed? Where did I go wrong when they thought my information wasn’t enough?

I could write MORE. I want to go DEEPER. I’ll change it. I’ll draw down the Moon for my friend, for anyone, just to get them to smile at me again. I want to still play in their playground and combine our wonder-twin powers and activate talismans and charms and spells and… change the world, take over the world, make it a better place. But does that requires me to be better? Perfect? More awesome? My passion growls. I want to fight. But I have no sword. I just have my words, my art, my songs, my fluffy, comfy silly stuff magic that must seem so small compared to what other people can do, right? Why do I feel like I am so lost when it isn’t just myself doubting me, but when it’s also someone I love who is disappointed in my efforts?  It’s like those times I felt helpless when watching over a friend’s baby when I can’t get them to sleep, or how helpless I felt the time I could not take away a friend’s pain after their little brother just died from cancer.

Please don’t stay sad or mad.  I wish I could make it better, but I can’t.  I’m sorry I couldn’t wave a wand and whisk up the proof you wanted when I promised I would.  I really thought I could do it.  I never want to fail you.  I want to make you feel good.  I want to make you laugh and smile.  Please don’t go away.  I’ll make it better.

What am I truly setting out to prove when I struggle to speak the truth? And why, after I spend days and nights of research, isn’t it enough to produce the right answer to please someone else? I think that my objective then is not to present the truth, but to gain acceptance. My emotional state overcomes my reason. I write out of urgency to please. This blocks my ability to think clearly. I become an idiot. When it comes to wanting to keep and maintain my friendships, I’ll bend over backwards and end up hurting myself.

Then here I am, there I go, on the floor, rolling around, and you be standing there looking down at me, shaking your head,  saying, “Val, Val, Val… now you’ve gone too far. Again. What are you going to do this time?”

I could go into the sob stories of how I lost several significant relationships just over this last year. How the close relationship with my brother failed after a petty misunderstanding, made more painful to me because I remember things he doesn’t and this somehow devalues the connection we shared with our mother who passed away March 23rd, 2010. That’s the hardest sob story I’m dealing with this month. Today, March 13th, is his birthday, and if we were still on good terms, we would be up to having fun like we used to and I would feel less “orphaned” in the world. Over the last two years I’ve lost several close friends to misunderstandings over things said, things I never got to defend myself over.

Today my relationships are mostly active online and I, mostly by circumstances beyond my control and budget, no longer have a in-person-to-person interaction with some of my closest friends. All talk is silent and typed. Phone calls are rare. I like having no interruptions and enjoy the quiet, but not when it gets too lonely. There are times when I get desperate for some ACTION and have to take large steps to get out, get involved, make new friends, run around, and just DO something, ANYTHING. Mostly I volunteer to help people in my community. That’s what I believe a Witch, or any kind of spiritual person, should do because leading a religious life means not just having a sense of duty, but ACTUALLY having a duty. I learned that early on from my mother. Rarely do I have to prove anything to anyone these days. Gone are the days when I had to debate philosophy and politics to prove my wits or display my intellectual integrity.

Growing up with a very serious religious background, I remember my mother hosted gatherings on Wednesday nights after church, a sort of after-Bible study party where the adults would argue into the late night over scripture. The kids and I were left to our own devices, some of us fell asleep on the couch to the sounds of raised, emotional voices coming from the kitchen. It always disturbed me. They’re all from the same religion, so why do they love to fight over what they believe with each other? I thought it didn’t make sense. Is this what it’s like with every religion?

I found out many years later that it could be. After co-founding a pagan fellowship and study group at the university in the 90’s, my early twenties were spent listening again to, and trying to avoid participating in, debates over religious philosophy and other spiritual ideas where someone was trying to prove something to everyone, or trying to get me to prove to them something. I hated being accused of not being inaccurate, but being stupid! One of the harshest critics I’ve ever had to deal with was my fellow neo-Pagans. What were we trying to prove to one another? The university fellowship was a diverse group, all of us were from different paths, practicing different traditions. This diversity was a blessing, but also it could divide us.

There’s a rule I maintain with my family now that I would very much like to keep with my friends, and that is to strictly keep conversations between us free of political and religious debates. Those are the two things that have always caused rifts between my relatives. It is what broke my mother and I apart, especially over religion. I will never let that be repeated because I can never get back the years I lost while she was still alive.

Yet, is it right to make it mandatory to not debate anything with a friend, especially when it is over a subject we both feel passionate about, like religion? I remember late night talks with friends that I loved, talks over just about any Occult subject or philosophy that would get my heart pumping as fast as if I were in love. There is nothing else in the world that captures my attention more. It is a beautiful subject, perfect for the late night lifestyle I lead. I long for the nights when I can stay up with a friend and go over notes or brew a potion or write up an incantation or plan a magical group… or better yet start a brand new religion or tradition or whatever. To envision being part of history and become famous, or for I to be the power behind someone’s throne. It is the stuff of legend that speaks to my wild heart. Of course I am going to get fired up, my heart will be tortured, my words won’t come out right, not until there is a common truth, a solid one, to agree on.

Perhaps that is one of the reasons why we debate and struggle and challenge ourselves in the end — to strive for unity. Yet I want to still maintain my individuality. Who is to say that my truth is the truth when it comes down to what is my expression of what I believe? To some I may be wrong, or that I may be preaching something wrong to others; or I just tried too hard and did not look into the right direction and find what someone else wanted? In the end I just pleased myself because I failed to please someone else. It does not make me feel good like it did earlier. I just hope that people understand how I feel and what I did to bring some understanding between us.

Blessings between us be. To us all.  Truth, forgiveness, and peace.

Postcard #19: Loving the Lovers

Remember the time when I was jealous of lovers? I would see them walk by and seethed with hatred and anger. I felt it unfair that I didn’t have anyone to pair off with. Now I can smile at them and can barely fight the urge to pinch their faces! There are two kinds of lovers I find the most cute: college student lovers and elderly lovers. The student lovers I don’t seem to notice that much until spring and fall starts — the two most popular times for walking through the nature reserve I call “my” backyard — I welcome them as signs of the season blossoming. I try to photograph them without spooking them. Yesterday I managed to catch a pair at a perfect moment. It was like netting a pair of butterflies without having to use a net…

It was the unusual warmth of an early March that brought all the lovers out. Many dotted the landscape, lounging on the freshly moist snow-melted ground, not bothered to get their jeans wet, using backpacks for pillows, and each other as blankets. As I walked all along the trails, I counted about twenty pairs of lovers, but only one lesbian couple who were sensible enough to have erected a two-person hammock. The young ladies were balanced perfectly inches above the ground, one of them cocooned completely at the other’s side, while the other kept her nose deep in a book. From faraway their bright orange half-moon wedge of a hammock looked like a slice of melon or, I thought at first glance, like someone had parked a kayak. How strange to see that, considering the ice hasn’t completely broken over the lake, I told myself. Every couple greeted me with a smile, except for the two on the bench I photographed. They were lost in the moment, silent, gripping each other’s hand, and their serene mood touched my heart.

It’s nice to love the lovers around me. I realize that without all these lovers in the world, there would be no life. No love = no life. If I hate and despair over being surrounded by lovers while I remain alone, I might as well be attracting to myself just more hate and despair. If there was no love in the world, I would have never been given life in the first place. It is best to be loving toward the lovers, just like I would when I see ducks in pairs, or deer chasing each other in the trees, and birds feeding each other in their mating rituals.

I was once in love like they were, too. I once walked through these same woods with my lovers. I have made love in several secret places tucked away beyond the trail. I am certain other lovers over the last twenty years have discovered their own outdoor love nests, too. Before the singing of the frogs, and before the branches break out in buds and blossoms, it is the lovers who signal the beginning of spring.

I welcome them as I embrace the sunlight as well as I swoon at the smell of rain-kissed earth and heavy sky… I don’t have to be part of a pair to be a lover. I’m in love with all these things. I cannot help it. I cannot resist writing and sharing with you this love. Thank you for letting me pour this love out — like a sudden burst of rain like the cloud that just moved over me just now that just lifted in a matter of minutes. An outpouring like the way I weep for joy and out of pain because it’s too much to contain or keep only to myself.

Where Witches Came From

“Have Witches always been evil throughout history?” The innocent and curious may ask. “If so,” the ones who misunderstand say, “why call yourself a Witch since it is synonymous with an evildoer?” Some modern Witches suggest the witch as evildoer is a myth, that the term was never meant to be used to describe someone who performs malevolent magic. “Yet where is that proof?” Some friends have asked me, and no answer I’ve given them has sufficed. One well-meaning friend suggested that, instead of using the term ‘witch’ to describe my spiritual path, I should use a different word that has a better association; “Why not call yourself Wizard, Herbalist, or Magician, or just Wiccan?” Another solution suggested to me and other Witches has been that we should claim that we are solely seeking to re-define the term ‘witch’ as benevolent spiritualist, someone akin to a hippie who practices peace, love, and harmony. Or why not claim that modern-day Witchcraft is a re-creation of an Old Religion, not a true relic of the ancient pagan past, but one inspired by it, one that is really a New Age spiritual movement, not a true religion. Who is to say what is a true religion? What basis are we comparing real religion on? Not all religions are defined by one type of belief in a Divine Being. We have to look beyond our own bias, divorce ourselves for a moment from thinking within the confines of our own culture, and open our minds to new concepts we dared not consider before because it just simply was not pointed out to us in a direct fashion.

The answers to the questions above are not easy to come up with on-the-spot.  Even I, after two decades of practice, have to consult books and cite references.  I should know, by heart, answers to the questions most asked by non-Witches.  I sometimes assume people will just Google them these days, but after checking on the internet myself, and even consulting books I have long turned to, I realized that the answers are not always clearly listed.  It reminded me of the days when I was first taught Witchcraft, how my teachers encouraged me to think for myself, leaving me alone to do research to answer my own questions.  But not everyone is willing to do all that research themselves, they ask and, since I am the Witch, I should be the spokesperson, the only expert they will ever come across whom they can personally interview. Even though I am a Solitary Witch, one who prefers to be alone, I still make it well-known I am a Witch, and this means dealing with the public. In an effort to educate, share, and put to rest concerns and debates, it is my intention to present a list of answers to each question and, where applicable, cite historic, documented sources. Here we go!

Witches weren’t evil, they were just the enemy

* The English word “Witch” evolved from the Saxon word wicca which was a masculine noun pronounced “witch’-ah”, not “wick’-ah” with the feminine form being wicce, properly pronounced “witch’-eh”, wiccan being the male plural noun (not an adjective) and the feminine plural form wiccen (pronounced “witch-en”)– referenced from the Witchvox article A Witch By Any Other Name (The Great Wicca vs. Witchcraft Debate) by author Mike Nichols.

* First evidence of the sin of Witchcraft documented in Latin penitentials (set of rules regarding penance first developed by Celtic priests) by Theodore of Tarsus, stated: “If a woman has performed incantations or diabolical divinations, let her do penance for one year. About which it says in the canon: Those who observe auguries or auspices or dreams or any kind of divinations according to the customs of the heathens, or introduce men of this kind into their homes in investigating a device of the magicians – if these repent, if they are of the clergy let them be cast out, but if they are truly secular people let them do penance for five years.” This provides just one example that Witchcraft was primarily concentrated on the magical practices of women and not yet a sin punishable by death. Source: Meaney, Audrey (1989). “Women, Witchcraft and Magic in Anglo-Saxon England”. Superstition and Popular Medicine in Anglo-Saxon England (ed: D.G. Scragg) (Manchester: Manchester Centre for Anglo-Saxon Studies): 9–40.

* First documented use of the word ‘wicce-cræeft (witchcraft) and ‘wicce’ (witch) was used to describe the malevolent magical practices of people, specifically women, who were not Christian, appeared in the Law Codes of King Alfred the Great, circa 890 C.E. These people were most likely the last priestesses and/or magicians left of the polytheistic Anglo-Saxon pagans and various ancient British cultures who were still resistant towards monotheistic Anglo-Saxon Christianity. King Alfred was zealous in his mission to convert all subjects under his rule to Christianity. So zealous, that in his Laws, he adapted the “Do not allow sorcerers to live” from the Book of Exodus to “Do not allow the women who are accustomed to receive enchanters, magicians and witches to live.” This Biblical law would not be translated to “Thou shall not suffer a witch to live” until the reign of King James I centuries later.

* After the 9th century, the masculine noun ‘wicca’ was later dropped and the feminine noun ‘wicce’ soon evolved into the English word Witch used to describe any woman who practiced magic, malevolent or not. Based on the information listed here, it is no surprise that Witches were considered evil since they were the enemy of the Anglo-Saxon Christians. Any kind of spiritual and magical practices were suspicious. Women were especially suspect because they were connected to sexuality and the church preached that the world of the flesh was the domain of the Devil. Young, beautiful women were the most dangerous. It wasn’t until after the Black Death that widows, the elderly, ugly, and diseased women were most suspect of Witchcraft.

Witches are synonymous with Power, not evildoing

* According to Éva Pócs, there are three varieties of Witchcraft in popular belief:
The “neighbourhood witch” or “social witch”: a witch who curses a neighbour following some conflict.
The “magical” or “sorcerer” witch: either a professional healer, sorcerer, seer or midwife, or a person who has through magic increased her fortune to the perceived detriment of a neighbouring household; due to neighbourly or community rivalries and the ambiguity between positive and negative magic, such individuals can become labelled as witches.
The “supernatural” or “night” witch: portrayed in court narratives as a demon appearing in visions and dreams.

*  There are four general categories for accusations of witchcraft:
— Getting caught in the act of positive or negative sorcery.

—  A sorcerer or healer lost their clients’ or the authorities’ trust.

—  Someone gained the enmity of their neighbors.

—  The person was reputed to be a witch because their presence is imbued with a sense of “magic” or other-worldliness that cannot be explained.

*  In 1487 the publication of The Malleus Maleficarum, “The Hammer of the Witches” or “Hexenhammer” by the Dominicans Kramer and Sprenger, was used as the primary instruction manual for magistrates on how to detect and exterminate Witches — 80 % percent of whom were women. Why women? Because women, despite being believed to be the weaker sex and treated as second class citizens in the Middle Ages, still had power

“If we inquire, we find that all the kingdoms
of the world have been overthrown by women.”
–quoted directly from the Malleus Malificarum itself!

* From the earliest societies and on through the ages, women tended to the physical and spiritual needs of people in the private spheres of family life. At one time this must have extended to a very vital role in tribal societies. Yet in a culture dominated by a religion where God was male, powerful women were a threat and had to be devalued. Women’s work became the Devil’s work, especially if it was carried out in secret. Even the most innocent of acts could warrant an accusation of Witchcraft; favoring a pet cat, sweeping and cleaning, making a doll, braiding hair, being too beautiful or too ugly, and just simply being “uppity” could get you burnt at the stake.

The Proof is hidden in the lies

The memories from the Burning Times and centuries of bad propaganda have given the term “Witch” a very bad name. Yet it did not end with the persecution of wise women, it was used as a means to enslave and demonize tribal cultures as European imperialism grew.

* Moving beyond the Witch Trials of the Medieval times, during the 17th through 19th centuries, charges of Witchcraft practiced by natives were to justify the enslavement and usurption of African, American Indian, and Latin American cultures. It was believed these people lived in fear of their spirits and Gods, and that Christianity was the only way to save them, or they would be destroyed.

* In order to keep their spiritual ways alive under the rule of their white Christian masters, Afro-American people adapted to the ways of Catholicism and intermixed with them their tribal spiritual practices and beliefs, thus creating new religions. Maligned and very misunderstood, Maccumba, Santería, Lukumi, and Voudoun (along with MANY other Afro-American magico-religious traditions) are all religions hurt by the evil myth of Witchcraft created by European Christians to belittle and bedevil their beliefs. So much so that even today it is a grave insult, and a laughable mistake, to associate their ways with even the harmless neo-pagan version of Witchcraft today.

* The possibility of a conquered people revived and empowered by religions considered the stuff of “witchcraft” by Christians, was a bit of history repeating. Like the Anglo-Saxons who feared their pagan spiritual enemies, and the threatening idea of women powered by supernatural forces conspiring against the church, the mysterious ways of a people guided by unknown spirits was yet another blow to the insecurities of an arrogant and dominant culture fueled by the negative reinforcement of belief in a Devil.

To acknowledge that a supposedly primitive, weaker culture had the power of Witchcraft, was to admit that they had a power that could not be completely controlled by the nation that claimed to conquer it. To claim that the native religions were not true religions because they were considered inferior, primal, or simple compared to the much more organized and civilized Christian traditions, was an arrogant attempt to claim superiority over religions that cannot be “tamed” or easily labeled. If one cannot contain it in a box, it is wild and unpredictable, easily considered dark and dangerous. Whether or not native traditions practiced violent or non-violent rituals in service to their Gods and spirits, fear of the power of “witch doctors” and other tribal spiritual leaders led to Christian missionaries converting innocents. In exchange for leaving their tribes for the promise of a better life as a Christian, sometimes led to life-threatening situations for new converts, completely playing into the Evil Witch Myth needed to scare people into staying in a different religion. It doesn’t matter if it is considered “evil”, power is power, and people, no matter what the religious background, are frightened and awestruck by it.

Therefore I claim that Witchcraft, mythic, historic, perceived diabolical or holy, is synonymous with POWER, both psychological and supernatural, unbound by time, geography, and cultural definitions.

Any other name would not mean the same

* Being a Wizard is not the same as being a Witch. Wizards are a different kind of magician altogether, often considered a higher class venerated as thaumaturgists (miracle workers) who were the world’s first chemists, philosophers, mathematicians, and astrologers. One of the most well-known wizards in history was John Dee, devoted advisor to Queen Elizabeth I.  All wizards were men protected by the aristocracy — they really weren’t all that different from the women, yet women’s magic was considered diabolical, typical misogynistic bias of the day.

* Herbalists are people dedicated to the study of the economic and medicinal uses of plants. They are not magicians or witches by any means, however many Witches today often use herbs for both their medicinal and magical properties. Key components for charms are roots and herbs. Most of today’s Witchcraft is based on the teachings of folk or Hedge Witchcraft, a contemporary tradition inspired by the “low magic” ways of peasants and slaves. Low Magic is the opposite of the “high-class” science-oriented magic of wizards mentioned above, centered on the simple ways of hearth and home — the magic of the common people.

* The term Magician can refer to anyone who practices magic. Yet magicians are a different breed of practitioner than the Witch. The magician uses an outward projection of the human will and mastery over the spirits of nature. The magician’s use of magic is more scientific, formulated, and quite technical in execution. The magical practice of Witchcraft is an art. The Witch uses a more inward approach, letting her own body be a conduit for the spiritual forces of nature and the Gods to work through her. Witches’ magic is more homemade and personable, concentrating more on the poetry of ritual and trance.

*  Wiccan is the same as Witch, Wicca is the same as Witchcraft, even though today it is contested by those who wish to separate themselves from the magical practice and just strictly be spiritual and vice versa.  This movement from the magico-religious to merely religious, I suspect, stems from the need to accepted by society and to be better tolerated by other faiths.  This is a backwards step in interfaith networking.  Even Witches can get their own terminology mixed up with the best of intentions!  I once questioned it myself until I did some research over the last five years and came back to the conclusion that I felt was right all along; call me what you like, believe what you will, but the correct name of my religion is Witchcraft OR Wicca (I prefer Witchcraft because it sounds like home to me, has never freaked me out, and I wish more people would recognize the joy I find in it).

Who is to say that one way is better than the other? Or that our ways don’t ever overlap? We call ourselves by different titles for a reason, to distinguish one from the other, and to sometimes reclaim a power that was stolen or lost.

Religion is the soul of the People

Religion should not just be defined as the way people relate to the Divine, nor should it be limited to just the set of rules established to hold in check the behavior and thoughts of a culture. Religion involves community and public duty, reverence and respect for our fellow human beings in the name of our Gods, and the daily communion with our Gods as a means of practicing harmony between the worlds of spirit and earth. Not all religions require a belief in the Divine, but all include a tradition of seeking enlightenment and maintaining inter-connection with the source of all life.

Witchcraft is another type of religion that helps people fill in what is missing in their lives that they could not find in more traditional, mainstream religions. They want to reconnect to an ancient past, find a new way to relate to the Gods, share their unique personal experiences pertaining to the spirit world, and connect with free-thinkers of a like mind and soul.

Witches are not hippies, but many of us have learned from them. Nor are we a sub-branch of New Age spiritualism. We are not a passing fad or trend, yet groups of teens will always be fascinated with becoming the fantasy kind of Witch or the Goth type that drearily stares out at us from many illustrations today. The real witches, like me, owe it to these young people, and to the ones who just don’t get it to give some clear answers that will break the cycle of misconception.

The title ‘Witch’ is justly earned by those who have achieved it through initiation, experience, and study. To use this word — Witch — is take back the power stolen from innocent people whose souls were crushed by tyrannical religions and governments. The ancient European pagans were supposed to be wiped from memory. Conquered indigenous people were supposed to be removed from history. Witches were supposed to be the perfect supernatural scapegoat for all humans to blame every misfortune on. In every pocket of the world over the Witch is still referred to as evil, even though there is plenty of common sense to prove there is no need to believe in such a thing, yet why do we like to cling to our demons? There are still places in the world where it is dangerous to be a Witch, yet here we are, reclaiming the word as a means to take back power, redefining the word to be empowered, and reviving it as the word as a jab against ignorance and complacency.  This is my free-form poem definition of Witchcraft:

A religion for free thinkers, misfits, rebels, feminists, freedom fighters, misunderstood heroes, and other pius oddballs who, despite ridicule, end up making a difference in the world NOT by using their ridiculous talents and mysterious skills and tenacious willpower, with the cooperation of many invisible friends (spirits) and Gods everyone else likes to believe are fiction, but because they still wield extraordinarily frightening influence over the minds and hearts of people everywhere by merely mentioning that they are a WITCH !

So, where did Witches come from? They were conceived by the fearful imagination of those who don’t want us to think for ourselves. They were born out of the minds of people who are scared of us stepping out of line. Witches are the nightmares of dictators. And no matter how many times they seek to destroy us, we are beyond all control.

What shall I write about next?  Did I answer all the questions I listed at the beginning of this article?  It is now 6:20am, I have been writing all night, so focused on my task, I can barely hold my head up and I feel like I have repeated myself several times.  I want to do some more myth-breaking-writing.  Something about where all the cartoon witch symbolism stemmed from, yet that will have to wait until next week!