I’ve been meaning to post about this for awhile. It’s not a story that shows me in the best light in any way but it was a huge learning experience for me. It was part of the process of getting rid of the death grip of Separated Ego. I’m fully aware that this lifetime is about my struggle with ego and grandiosity. The friend that survived with me coined the phrase Uncle Tom’s Coven, we were going to have it printed on black t-shirts. Maybe we still will. There are some details missing. Not to make myself look good, I can’t. But simply to keep this from being longer than it is. They are only details that further dig Tom’s hole, not mine.
A little background first. In 1988 I began trying to find connection with the pagan and witch community. I’d known I was a witch when I read Sybil Leek’s Diary of a Witch in the 60’s. Sex drugs and rock and roll kept me from looking sooner. But you know how it is. When you belong you can’t stop the pull. I didn’t want to be a radio personality but I wanted that witch stuff. My best friend knew some people but she was incredibly secretive about it. It took forever before she took me to a bookstore that changed my life. Mandala Books in Seattle (now closed sadly). That was where I found books by Cunningham, Starhawk, Adler, Budapest, the Farrars, Buckland, and eventually Ravenwolf. I spent a lot of time and money in that bookstore. The smell of the Nag Champa (the first incense I associated with The Craft). The women’s spirituality circle that met every Sunday. And the circles that formed because of friends made in that initial circle. I practiced solitary for years in addition to the women’s groups. I was happy in those moments. But I still had a hole inside me, a spiritual sized hole.
As you know (if you’ve read About Me) I’m sober now. I wasn’t then. In 1995 my drinking took me to the bottom spiritually. I had been to the bottom in other ways many years before but this time I was aware that I was dying spiritually and making plans to do it physically. After treatment and a relapse and trying a 12 step program I realized that I better do what was suggested. And I knew that not having an open mind about spirituality in sobriety could also kill me. So I left The Craft, my friends, my circles, my tribe. In 2000 I realized that I had come full circle after trying many of the other major religions. I had learned a lot and been able to see the similarities but Wicca and paganality speak to me in a way that no other does. And I was still sober. I could practice with a real connection now.
It was time to find a group. I contacted a woman that I had known B.S. (before sobriety). I will call her Amber for this story. I fully intend to keep the people in this story anonymous. All but one, Unca Tom. Wouldn’t you know it she was in the process of getting something new started. We met and it was wonderful. The connection was still there. We met again and met with a third woman who was interested. It was going to be casual. Training but not British Trad stuff (Amber has a 3rd degree in BTW). And that sounded very good to me. She had more people she wanted us to meet.
One night many of us met at her house. There were three people I had never met. Another BTW 3rd HP, my friend who I will call Doe, a 2nd degree, Tom, and a newbie like me, Dork. We sat around and talked and meshed and had a great time. There was a cauldron fire waiting for us outside in Amber’s circle of trees and we all went outside and did a dedication ritual to the new group. What did I know?
Not long after that Tom and Amber flew back to Toledo for Tom’s 3rd degree initiation. And during the ritual, which Amber was only allowed to watch from a second story bedroom window, she had a heart attack. She was rushed to the hospital where she had emergency surgery. Tom came home to Seattle but she stayed in Toledo recuperating. And he had us newbies come to her house and clean it top to bottom. It was a pig sty for certain. I did this out of love but I’m certain Tom did not, although at the time I thought we all did. By the time we were done she had no more secrets. And by the time she got back Tom had kicked her out of the circle.
Doe and Tom were going to head up the newly re-arranged circle and teach us British Trad with the promise of initiation and training and eventually, if all worked out, 3rd degrees all around. And my ego said, yes! I want to be important! I want to be called Lady! I want to be one of the Cool Kids. I want to be SPECIAL!
When Amber met with me privately asking, even begging, me to stay with her I made a decision that would change my life forever. I hardened my heart to love and chose ego. I said no. To this day I can’t make up to her for my abandonment when she needed me most. I have apologized and done what I could to heal the wound and while I think I am forgiven the matter is not forgotten and I have lost her trust for at least this lifetime. She is so funny, so fun, such a bright light. But I don’t learn nearly as much from the good folks. I learn best from the bad folks how not to be like them.
Training began in earnest. We were instructed to not read anything, no books or internet that was not assigned. It was assumed that we would mix things up and not have an accurate idea of what this trad’s teachings were. I promised I would only read the material that was assigned while I crossed my fingers behind my back and read to my heart’s content. I knew I wouldn’t mix stuff up. We held the Sabbats and Esbats and class was once a week. We were very busy little neophytes.
Then Newbie Girl (not me or Dork) sent me an email that cc’d all of her mundane friends. Then one of them replied all. I politely requested that they remove my address from the group. She lost it. Now, I was in the closet at the time she had already brought one of them to a meeting so our faces were known. She had been instructed not to give out my private information to anyone. She blew it. And we had an email fight to end all fights. And she called Unca Tom. Who had a fight with her too. She left in a huff because she should be able to spam her friends. But not before he could say “Go back to the Christians where you belong!” I was to find in time that this was, in his mind, his deepest insult.
Down to 2 newbies and two HP’s. The attrition is in full swing. Now Dork really is a dork, he’s STILL a dork. Both he and I read whatever we wanted. All the time. But I never told a soul. He would bring the books to class as well as binders stuffed full of stuff he’d printed from the internet. About 6 months in, Tom got tired of explaining to him why he wasn’t supposed to do this. Dork’s reply? “But Beweaver is in the SCA! Why don’t you mind that?” Not too swift on the uptake, Dork. For some reason he equated other influential print matter with my interest in costume. *laugh* Tom threw his binder down the stairs and that was the end of Dork. Which was cool. Tom had been abusive to him on several occassions and while I understood the desire, I didn’t appreciate the action. Dork drove me nuts but he was harmless. Tom was incapable of explaining anything so Dork is probably still in the dark.
Tom also started telling stories about his own training. His first HPs who he had loved was crazy. Certifiable. Spoke about her quite badly. Frequently. He told us horrifying stories about Amber. His second HPs, the one who gave him his 3rd was Da Bomb. He gave his references. None of us bothered to check them. Silly Beweaver. And then he tells the story of how Da Bomb’s coven cast a spell against someone who was harassing the DaBomb’s daughter. And bragged about how they killed the harasser magically. I was appalled, so was Doe. We all argued that day. We tried to discuss with him why this was so wrong. His reply was that we didn’t know enough to judge him. That when we were initiated we would understand. Nothing would ever make me understand that I said. But I stayed.
Mendes showed up on the altar. Tom got smashed after every ritual, his eyes red from the pot. He got meaner, creepy even. And very Holier Than Thou. I was totally uncomfortable with Mendes. So he kept the statue out of circle but displayed it prominently on his mantle. So much for the loving Goddess and her Consort. YMMV but I prefer to leave Mendes alone.
Down to 1 newbie and 2 HP’s. Some of you are wondering why Doe and I aren’t gone. First reason: Doe and I both had something to learn about ourselves in this process. I believe now we were supposed to see it through. Second reason: Ritual was amazing! AMAZING. Inside circle everything was awesome. It was only outside circle that sucked. But really First Reason is why we stayed. We hadn’t learned the lesson yet. We weren’t freaked out enough yet.
I come to class one day to find out that Doe has been kicked out for sticking up for me and Dork. Evidently Doe and Tom had been arguing about this for some time. Her other reason for staying had been to protect us, to make sure we got good stuff too. And now it’s me and Tom. He starts planning my initiation. And by this time, I’m not excited about it all. Things start rushing. Really fast. He’s got folks flying in for my initiation. He wants me to pay their airfare. push push push. And to this date I still had not seen him cast the circle. And who is the High Priestess who will be there? He never did say. The newbies were only allowed to come in after the circle was up. I feel as though I simply can’t initiate into something that I know so little about. Considering the craptastic job he did at teaching metaphysics I don’t think he knew all that much about it either. And what I did know, well… murder magic, verbal abuse, doesn’t know diddly about metaphysics, drug and alcohol abuse… My alarm bells are just screaming. Two things are keeping me there now.
1. Fear. I don’t want this guy mad at me.
2. During the past month or so I’d been embroidering a ceremonial stole for him. It’s red silk with pearls and other semi-precious stones and all kinds of symbols on it. Some I recognize, some I don’t. Every stitch was done in magic circle. I had not finished this and felt that I should finish it before leaving. I finally decided that I needed to leave no matter what.
Tom and I meet at his home and talk. I’m terrified and nervous but somehow I manage to tell him that I’m leaving, that I don’t want to initiate with him. He tries everything to get me to stay and go through with it. Amazingly I stick to my guns. He really wants that stole so I do promise to finish the stole as long as I no longer do the work in a circle. Fine.
As I’m leaving he says “Now you can go back to the Christians. You’re a Cowan now.” *sigh* Who cares? And I realize he is not going to forgive me. Or forget that I deprived him of his pride by leaving him when I would have been his first initiate ever. *shiver* And that he does magic with the intent to harm.
This ends my time in the Coven of Blahblahblah but doesn’t end The Trouble with Tom. On to Part II