Got time? There’s much here for me to process…
When I was about 12 I shoplifted a book from the local grocery. Baaaaad Girl. Baaaaad Witch. What was the title you ask? Good question! The book was Diary of a Witch by Sybil Leek. It changed my life. I knew that I was one too.
That was 1971. I began my spiritual seeking at the time. I tried my parents Quaker meeting, my friend’s Baptist, Chinese Baptist, Catholicism, Buddhism, whatever I could get my hands on. I actively sought out spiritual experiences. I was so young then and I have a memory of me skipping down the street on a very sunny day on my way to church. I earned a bible at that church for reciting the 23rd Psalm from memory. It was the entire class all at once so don’t tell that I fudged it okay? I still have that bible, I’ve never read it.
My ex-husband had a group of friends and I became very close with the women over the years. The men were divorced but the women stayed together for more than a decade. One of them I was very tight with and when I was about 25 she introduced me to some friends. She was very secretive about what they were doing but I KNEW, I just KNEW, it was what I’d been seeking. There were witches, I could smell it, taste it, feel it in my bones. One of them owned a bookstore and on Sundays they had a women’s goddess circle. They had books I’d never ever seen. Remember, this was way pre-internet. They had Buckland’s book on Witchcraft, the Farrar’s, Cunningham, Ravenwolf, and Starhawk among others. They had scholarly texts. And candles! Can you say penis and skull candles? Men and women candles. Oooh artwork. I spent every Sunday there. The fantasies began… You know what they are, if you’re honest you’ve had similar fantasies about a pagan eden, a witchy eden.
I had finally found witches. While I participated in the goddess circle some of us bonded and started our own smaller gathering that was much more witchy. I started practicing on my own. My skills progressed in ways that astonished and pleased me, fed me, validated me. I had results I never expected. Those were halcyon days and they were golden. I have a memory of me on another sunny day walking with my folding shopping cart, traversing the park across the street from my apartment, COWEN Park (har!!!), and toodling off to the grocery store, the drug store, and THE magic book store. Goddess, those were really good days. This was pre-sobriety but I rarely drank during that time. I had a passion, fulfillment, love, and creativity spiraling around me in large doses. I was in love with life, with magic, with me. I ate well and took care of myself. GOOD DAYS.
I had two dreams. One was to find a magical partner that would be my life partner, someone I could live a magical life with, similar to what I thought Pauline and Dan Campanelli had. I also wanted a coven, I wanted initiation, I wanted the British thing. I wanted training, I wanted to be an Elder. Back then I needed others to validate me, to say I was worthy. I really processed this in a big way a couple years ago when I left the SCA and I wrote about it here. It’s taken me a couple more years to finally get there with my craft and my spirituality. But I’m here. Finally.
I’ve been struggling with what I want regarding my magical practice for about 5 years. 5 years ago I began and eventually completed a rigorous year and a day of outer grove training with some really amazing witches as teachers. I really grew that year (read painful soul evolution). When I had started the training it was with the intent of initiating. By the end of it I wasn’t so sure. After three years I decided to take the plunge. I felt that I couldn’t say no to something I didn’t know. I needed to initiate in order to know more, I wanted more training, more community, and I missed my teachers and one fellow student in particular. So, in March of 2009 it happened. And I’ve been wondering what on earth I have done ever since.
From the very beginning it has felt off. It’s been very hard to put my finger on it. Just OFF. I’ve questioned myself, was it ego? Defiance? Too sensitive? Too mean? These are all criticisms of me that have cropped up in my life over the years. Can I be those things? Sure, of course I can! I’m human! But do they define me? I thought for a very, VERY, long time that they did. But they do not. So what if I have those reactions sometimes? Are you really going to sit there and pretend YOU don’t? I think I’m not going to watch that shit.
Also, it’s too rigid. It just isn’t feeding me ritually, spiritually. Is it beautiful? Sometimes incredibly so. I can’t explain it, it’s just doesn’t feel right. When I said I felt it was rigid I got a shocked and somewhat angry response. No open discourse. Their way or the highway. I feel trapped in a box.
I’ve struggled with a situation that came up the day I was fired in August. The situation happened at a full moon circle. That day I was devastated, completely heartbroken. When I am that destroyed I know what I need. I need to go into my cave, lick my wounds, be allowed to stay there in peace. When I’m ready I will come out with a story to tell. So when I got fired and had the continued dust up with Mr. Furnace (who I still adore, we spend quite a bit of time together and he GETS me) I told the coven I wasn’t coming to the full moon circle. After three phone calls from Elders they talked me into going against my better judgement. I know how I can be and I knew I was NOT fit for human companionship that night. But I went with the promise that I could just be.
There is a woman in the group who was the barrier to my initiation. She and I had had problems in the past during outer grove. I had had a similar event in my life and was at a similar devastation crossroads when she insisted on hugging me to make it all better and I snapped at her. I had said no don’t hug me and she insisted. When I snapped at her she took it personally and it became all about what a bitch I am. Instead of, hey I process grief differently than you do and hugging is not the answer, I do not NEED to be soothed and certainly do not need to be fixed. When I’m trying to hold it together so I can get through class/circle without losing my shit, please don’t touch me, way too fragile, I will shatter into a million pieces. She needed to know that I would not behave like that again, that it wouldn’t be the Cynthia Show. Yes, she said that. Every circle it’s the J Show instead. God. Because I wanted the initiation and because my ego was really not involved I sucked it up and let her say her piece etc.
So who do you think started in with the “oh sweetie pie I’m so sorry” schpeel? Yeah. I ignored the email. She followed me around before circle, every time approached me with “oh sweetie” on her lips and her arms outstretched. I would see her coming and I would turn and walk the other way. Couldn’t be a clearer message right? RIGHT?????? In circle they offered me my second degree. I was flabbergasted. I had told them 3 weeks earlier that I didn’t want it, I wasn’t ready. Here I was absolutely destroyed and this is how I’m feeling when this was offered. It did not have the expected effect on me I assure you. I refused it right then and there. I asked them how could they do that, get those energies blended with the I’ve been fired again and my boyfriend hates me energies. Did they think the other icky stuff would magically go away because they offered me this thing? It was quite clear that it sent me over the edge because for the next 10 minutes I sat in circle sobbing with my hood over my face. The only reason I did not ask to be cut out of circle and go home was because my initiator was sitting next to me holding my foot.
It was clear I was overwhelmed with too much emotion and it was clear I did not want to be in the spotlight. When asked if I did any magical working for myself my answer was no. When it came to thanksgivings, that woman? Decided she was going to force her will on me anyway and when she had the floor she started in with “there is someone in this coven who is not feeling well today and I just want to tell her….” WTF?
Are you fucking kidding me????? Bad enough she forced her grief process method on me but to speak of me in the third person in a little girl voice? She was High Priestess that night. Are you fucking kidding me? I said, “no, stop, don’t do this” and her response was “No, you need to hear this, you need love, and I’m going to continue” which she did. The Elder HPs was all “girl you better stop, she’s kicking ass and taking names” but she continued. I then pointed my finger at her and said “I just took your name.” After circle, as I was leaving, from behind me she said, “are you mad at me?” My reply was Yes. And I left. There was a lot of talk after that. How was my position NOT clear? Their surprise really stuns me, are they really this naive? This blind? This clueless?
What did my teacher tell me the other day when we finally met? That I was surly. OMFG. SURLY? Is that your conclusion for the night’s activities? You forced me against my will to attend, you forced me into the limelight, TWICE, and when I don’t go all soft and warm and fuzzy, I’m SURLY? NO MEANS NO. Especially in circle. That woman violated me against my will IN CIRCLE. I’ll give you fucking SURLY. You all had an agenda. You were going to fix me by offering me a carrot, by hugging me, by “there, there now little one.” And I wouldn’t let you and I’M SURLY???? Oh hell no, you didn’t say that shit.
I’ve come to the conclusion that I am not a good fit here, round peg, square hole. These are people I love, as they are, unconditionally. But it is not returned, not unconditionally. When I don’t play the way they want me to play I get in trouble. I’m fucking 51 years old and I’m pissed and I’m really tired of getting into trouble. Will I again? Oh most assuredly. But not with this group. My teacher was all, why do you not let us love you? I was all, why do you insist on touching me when I clearly don’t want to be touched? Why do you insist on trying to fix my feelings, make me feel the way you think I should feel when I’m clearly not interested? Why does my grief process have to mirror yours? Why do I have to do this your way? I never said I didn’t want their love. I said I didn’t want it at that moment in that way. Their love would have been best expressed by letting me be still with my grief as I had requested. THAT would have been love.
So while this thing with the woman is not why I’ve decided to leave the coven, that episode has illustrated to me why I am not a good fit. I do not need to be fixed or soothed or loved on their terms. I need to be fixed and soothed and loved on MY terms. I was thinking one day about the golden rule, all spiritual paths have one. Ours is harm none and do as you will. While I don’t like employer classes with titles such as Cultural Diversity I did get one good thing out of that awful last job. “Do not treat others the way YOU want to be treated, treat others they way THEY want to be treated.” That is what is wrong with my place in this coven. I will always be at odds with them because they are only capable of the first, not the latter. I need the latter. And No means NO. You do not need to understand why I am saying no, you just need to respect that I said no and act accordingly. No means NO. Period. End of discussion.
My High Priestess Elder actually said that that was not negative magic in circle. That the woman saying those things was not working magic. I said, “oh, ho, I beg to differ. EVERYTHING that happens in circle is magic. Do something against my specifically stated NO and you are working the worst kind of magic.” They think I’m nuts. I can not believe this is their thinking on this. I certainly do not believe I am over reacting, I believe the woman owes me an apology, and I’m not going to make kissy nice face in order to return from my leave of absence.
I’m kind of done with working with others, there are other experiences in the memory banks, not just this. Maybe it’s me, maybe it’s then. It is of no importance. I know what works well for me and I’m ready to let the fantasies go. I’m a witch, I’m a fluffy bunny pagan, I’m mother earth, I’m goddess, I’m limitless, I’m eternal. And I’m done. Now to find the most graceful way to extricate myself without hurting feelings. This isn’t about them. It’s about me. Will I miss them? Some of them most fiercely. But I’ve learned what I needed to learn. It’s time to move on into the sunny day, ever seeking, ever questing, ever learning, ever eager.
Here’s to all kinds of new beginnings. I’m again the fool but this time I see the cliff edge and I’m going to be walking on the path I know already. MINE.
God and Goddess, save us from the well-intentioned! When someone acts with intention, they are seeking change, not understanding or comprehension. This is why they aren’t listening or hearing the very clear “no” message. They already have an agenda, i.e., their “best intentions.”
By saying “understanding”, I am not saying understanding why “no” is “no,” but simply understanding that “no” is being communicated and is what needs to guide their actions (which in the case of “no” means “take no action”).
Unfortunately, even today and even to other women, a woman saying “no” is never taken at her word! As women, we’ve not been allowed to express our real needs and wants historically, so hearing “no” from a woman could mean “I really DO want to say yes, but I’m afraid” (of what others might think, of what will happen if I do, of exposing my weakness, of a million different excuses). Are there still women who really DO mean “yes” when they say “no”? You betcha, and those are the women who just can’t believe it when another woman says, “No!”.
As a witch, I expect two things from other witches in this regard: To not LIE and say “no” when they mean “yes”, and to have developed the level of empathy needed to hear and respect “no,” even when it’s unspoken. If someone can’t be honest and/or can’t empathize (especially with other witches IN CIRCLE!?!), I don’t think they understand what it means to be a witch, nor function like one.
While I’m sorry you were subjected to such a gross violation, I’m so proud of you for thinking your way through what happened, and seeing that you HAVE THE RIGHT to feel and deal with your feelings your way.
I disagree; the problem is NOT you, the problem is THEM. They are not exhibiting the same growth and flexibility that you have achieved. Like most organizations, a coven or circle craves structure and structure means rigidity. Familiarity, doing things the same way they’ve always been done, building community through “sameness”, is the foundation of any group; everyone must agree and conform. We see very clearly how dangerous this is in fundamental religion, but witches become myopic when it happens to their coven/circle.
You, my dear, are the Fool…with wings…so fly! Fly for your freedom and fly to yourself. Mwah!
Bwahahahaha! The well-intentioned.
Oh thank you. This has been a most trying time for me. So many things continue to fall by the wayside but I’m really finding that I have found my voice and I’m going to use it. And my feet, yes, that I can walk.
Thank you for validating that what happened in circle was a gross violation. Directly against The Rede IMO and with intention makes it evil magic to me, no matter how “loving” the perpetrator claims their intentions.
Man, I will be glad to be done with this phase of my life. I’m ready to just chill for awhile. A LONG while.
oh and what I run into more than saying no when we mean yes is folks who say yes when they mean no. That one drives me BANANAS.
yeah.. it was a violation, and a gross amount of not listening, and all this time i through that it was the witches job to listen to everything that is going on, not just what they want to listen to.. *mutters darkly about stupid presumptuous people*
yeah.. also thank you for posting about your experiance, as it has give me a lot to think about. in new zealand, the people are not really a huggy type of people, and this goes for the pagans as well, hell i’m not sure that they can chant beyond a slow dirge as yet.. *sniggers* even with the encouragement of faster and say it like you are happy.. anyhoo, the call for physical community is coming through strong currently in Wellington, *muttersalitteaboutvoices* and this is great food for though when it comes to dealing with a variety of people, or supporting and how to show support. me i generally go with, cups of tea, and offered hugs if they need/want them, sometimes.. mostly it is cups of tea and a nice sit down.. *smiles*
gosh that was rambley..tehehe
Hey Deerhart! Some of us seek a “home” with others…some of us find that their true “home” is within. And then there are those of us who see “home” is everywhere and everything…all expanding and all encompassing. Congrats on your flying the Coop! We MUST talk one of these days!
Love & hugs to you!
As you can imagine I’ve been thinking of you quite a bit lately. Yes, home is definitely expanding in many ways right now.