Broomstick Chronicles Archive
Letters from Macha's travels
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22 October 2005
Broomstick Chronicle No. 25
The Broomstick Chronicles are undergoing some changes. After much nudging by
Victoria Slind-Flor and others, they will be transformed into a blog. Since I’m still learning how to make this transformation, I can’t tell you here and now where you’ll be able to find it. As soon as I know, I’ll send out an announcement.
In the meantime, I’ve recently returned from Kalamazoo, where the fine folks of Hearth & Grove Fellowship (love that name!) hosted me for a weekend of workshops at a lovely UU building called the
Susan Wilson, who originally contacted me about this visit, had knitted me a beautiful shawl, of something very soft, with mottled colors (some purple) and knotted fringes. I was mighty glad to have it, too, because it had turned from late Summer to Autumn from the night I arrived there with my California clothes.
Mikhail McMillan of
BearButt Productions drove down from Grand Rapids on Friday night to tape my talk for later broadcast on
Pagan TV on
GRTV Channel 25 community access television in his city. When the tape is ready, it will also be available for other community access broadcasts in case anyone out there wants to air it in your own community(ies). My talk covered lots of new developments in American NeoPaganism, with emphasis on dying and death and on
Cherry Hill Seminary.
Small world: it turns out that Mikhail was born in
Stockton, California, where I went to junior college for a year, and was reared in Seattle, where you and I know there are lots of Pagans. We discovered we had some mutual friends.
Speaking of mutual friends, for years during my friendship with the late John Patrick McClimans, he occasionally spoke of his friend “Sue from Kalamazoo.” Well, wouldn’t you know it? Sue from Kalamazoo came to my workshop. I just love all these webs.
One of the things I love most about Pagans is they love where they live. They explore it and experience it and learn it, and take sweet sustenance from it. Susan’s husband, Dorman, is such a man. He had something to tell me about the areas we drove through, the buildings, some railway history (he’s a buff). We visited old
Mount Olivet Cemetery and strolled among the spirits there. I always love seeing where communities put their dead to rest. There’s a story Susan and I happened upon there, of a young mother and her infant daughter, that’ll have to wait for another time. On my last day there Dorman and Susan showed me their ritual sites in local parks, where their quiet, initiation circle in the woods was carpeted in fallen leaves.
Nancy Machin, who serves on the Board of the Indiana-based
Pagan Educational Network (PEN) and edits their newsletter,
Water, and several friends of hers came up from Indiana for the weekend. Some attendees had experienced recent deaths in their families. This brings a sense of immediacy to the work we’re about. It gives the work more direct relevance and provides opportunities for all to learn, as well as offering a place for those left behind to honor and mourn the deceased. Two people who came were teenaged daughters there with their families. I’m always heartened to encounter second and third generation NeoPagans.
Cherry Hill Seminary
Cherry Hill Seminary has been undergoing major reorganization. I’ve been caught up in that process. All to the good, I’m confident. One of the key movers and shakers of this change is
author, mom of three youngsters, and Dean
Laura Wildman-Hanlon, bless her! Besides establishing new positions, trying to find committed Pagans to staff them, and hiring new faculty, the Really Big Improvement, from my perspective, is the hiring of the above-mentioned
Susan Wilson as CHS’ new Public Information Officer. Hooray! Check
here if you think you might have time and skills to contribute to this unique venture.
The day before I left I did a long interview with a reporter for the
Pacific Sun, our local weekly freebie newspaper, and a generally good paper it is. Even though this was for the feature article for the issue coming out just before Halloween, we barely touched upon Samhain. Instead, I talked a lot about CHS and the
AAR and the upcoming
Conference on Contemporary Paganism.
Probably one of the best things to come out of this interview, from the perspective of my own vanity, are some photos by
Reclaiming’s 26th Annual Spiral Dance Samhain ritual will take place in a new venue this coming Saturday,
Kezar Pavilion, an old basketball stadium in the
Haight (where I lived for several years in the 1960s) just at the edge of Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. I’ve been asked to call in the Ancestors, the Mighty Dead of the Craft, and the Beloved Dead, all in a single invocation. I’m really, really anxious to do it with clarity, eloquence, dignity and respect – so they’ll hear us and come.
I’m excited about visiting the Delaware Valley, land of my errant youth, when I go to Philadelphia next month. You’ll be hearing more about that in my next Broomstick Chronicle.
In the Works
“Visions of the Past and Memories of the Future: NeoPaganism in California” is coming up fast in January. Co-sponsored by
Pacific School of Religion and
The Pagan Alliance, this unique event will take place at
Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California, the afternoon of January 21, 2005, just a short month before
PantheaCon in San Jose. We’ll view archival film and video footage, by Jo Carson and Greg Harder, respectively, collected over the past 30 years from various events throughout California; the screening will be followed by a panel discussion. I first did something like that with the old Reclaiming Collective (RIP) 15 years ago. Three of the panelists from that earlier presentation have now crossed over; fortunately, that entire panel was videotaped. The Pagan world has change
a lot since 1990 not least by the World Wide Web.
Thanks for reading this far. As the veil thins and Luna wanes, I wish you a loving dance with your Beloved Dead.
Samhain Blessings to you and yours,
31 March 2005
Broomstick Chronicle #24
Coast to Coast.
Greetings, folks! My, it’s been a while.
PantheaCon, San Jose, CA
I enjoyed four fun-filled days at
PantheaCon near the end of February. I presented two things: “Witchual: A Spell” and a panel on Pagan clergy with Cherry Hill Seminary.
My collaborators in “Witchual” were Victoria Slind-Flor, who also wrote some of the liturgy, Prudence Priest, who provided many props, and our charming demon servant,
Kevin Roddy from Hawaii. This is an adaptation of a ritual originally presented ourdoor at
Harmony Tribe’s Sacred Harvest Festival in Minnesota last Summer. I expected it to be a challenge to recreate it indoors where we were prohibited from having any open flame and where lighting and other technical considerations were limited. And it was.
I was happier with how the panel unfolded.
Cherry Hill Seminary Dean and founder, Kirk White, came from Vermont and faculty
Gus diZerega was there from Upstate NY. They joined our five Northern California-based faculty (Brighde Indigo, Patrick McCollum, Jim Bianchi, Victoria Slind-Flor, and yours truly). We described our mission, gave brief individual introductions, and opened the floor to questions and discussion. This led to lively debate. Judging from the applause, those who came were pleasantly surprised that we hadn’t come to present our fixed agenda, but rather in a spirit of
communitas. The energy in the room was palpable, and, best of all, we were deep into things when our time to vacate the room arrived.
Among my favorite things to do are to reconnect with old friends and colleagues I seldom see, to meet new friends, and to learn more about who we are, what we think, believe and do. PantheaCon is a great place to do that. Of the many folks I was glad to see, a few stand out. One was someone I first knew from when she danced the Fire element at a Spiral Dance in the Women’s Building in San Francisco back in the ‘80s,
LaSara Firefox. LaSara has a new book coming out in September,
I also had a great time at a late party in the Absinthe Room, where I had a chance to chat with Kala, Dress, Loni, joi wolfwomyn, Katya, Gary Suto, David Wiegleb of
Field’s Books, and
Richard Man of the didjeridu.
Choosing just what to attend in what time slot is always difficult because there’s so much going on all at once. Naturally, I missed some of the presentations I had wanted to attend, notably
Gretchen Faulk’s talk on The Mystic Rose and the
Pagan Alliance/MART ritual on “Weaving Traditions.” However, I did get to see Jim Bianchi and his colleagues from several Druid groves in action.
The ritual that moved me the most was the Red God Revel, performed by
Thorn Coyle and
Laura Tempest Schmidt. Using visuals, dance and music, without narrative, these three priestesses brought forth a manifestation of Kernunnos to remember.
Later I met CHS students Carolyn Dennison and Jon Harwood from Orange County, and Jon’s lovely and talented wife, Margaret, as well as Malendia.
I was home long enough to do some laundry, pack, and take off again for …
New York City
After a lovely long lunchtime catch-up with my agent,
Jennie Dunham, on Thursday evening I spoke to a group of seminary students about Neo-Paganism. This was part of a series called Spiritual Journeys: Interfaith Perspectives, sponsored by Auburn Theological Seminary’
Center for Multifaith Education,
The Temple of Understanding,
New York Theological Seminary, and
The Long Island Multi-Faith Forum. When I do these talks, I find I not only learn more about others, but I often learn as much about who we Pagans are, and our place in the world of interfaith.
Friday was my birthday.
Citadel editor Bob Shuman took me to an elegant French restaurant, then I rushed off to the
Metropolitan Museum of Art to meet my friend and hostess,
Lynn Pacifico. This was the month when
Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s “The Gates” brightened Central Park. She and I strolled a bit through The Gates before we immersed ourselves in antiquities and the museum gift shop. After indulging in rich dark chocolate in the museum cafeteria, we found a serene circle of benches, potted plants, and smallish states of Greek deities surrounding a fountain where we could go over our lines for our roles in a ritual, “Bridget: A Celebration of the Triple Goddess of Forge, Flame and Healing,” we would be doing the following day as a continuation of the work at Auburn.
Saturday morning we gathered at Auburn to set up and rehearse the ritual before the celebrants arrived. People had been asked to wear red, yellow or gold, or white in honor of the goddess, and to bring waters from natural sources to add to the waters of the world in Bridget’s well. Lynn (Minoan Sisterhood), Vajra (Reclaiming) and I priestessed the three Brigits. My old friend Rich Wandel (Gardnerian, and archivist at
The National Archive of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender History) and Reclaiming priestess Aurora Ferryman lead the guided meditations. Rich also created our beautiful straw Bridey dolly. Others brought altar items, erected altars, baked the ritual soda bread, and took other ritual roles. Most were from Reclaiming groups in the general area, although celebrants included other local Witches we’d invited, Christians, and other interested parties. Among the Witches who came together to support this work were Awe, Rose, Shasta, Frostwolff, my fellow Fool’s Journey traveler Gary Suto, Ann, Chris, Steward, and euclid. I was glad to finally meet Pam Turtle face-to-face, and to see BrightFlame again after we met last April at the Dandelion Gathering in Texas. I’m hoping to see them again soon if I make it to Philly in November.
The ritual was followed by a pot luck meal and a Q&A session, made especially rich by the variety of Witches who could provide their own unique responses to queries propounded. I was happy to see Dean Lee Hancock again, and want to especially thank Lisa Anderson of Auburn for all the preparatory logistical work she did as liaison with the building staff, coordinator of speading an inviting table, and cleaning up.
Sunday I had a free day to see more of the city. Fortuitously,
BrightFlame was also staying in the East Village, near to where I was staying with Lynn, and was gracious enough to spend the day with me. I must confess that while I enjoy the immensity and busy-ness of The Big Apple, I do find the subway system a bit intimidating. I’m not fond of tunnels, caves and other underground spaces, and when I emerge I’m disoriented. We spent a good bit of a sunny Sunday afternoon, this final weekend of The Gates installation, with flocks of others wandering the many gated walkways and shooting photos of the bright orange Gates – the creators insist on calling the color saffron, but to me it was the brightest of oranges – against the white drifts and patches of snow, the slick gray granite, and the naked sleeping trees. We got some fine shots which I’ll try to put with this BC on my website. I say ‘try’ because I’m still learning DreamWeaver. BrightFlame and I also had the luxury of plenty of leisure for shop talk, something I have an inordinately big appetite for and always find revealing.
In March, my friend and colleague Patrick McCollum and I attended the annual fundraising dinner for the
Marin Interfaith Council, of which I’m a member. We enjoyed talking with our tablemates of different faiths; the ongoing Power Point Presentation featured beautiful photos of Samhain altars, Maypole and Morris Dancers; and speaker the Rev. Scotty McLennan, Gary Trudeau’s college roommate and inspiration for the character of the Rev. Scott Sloane, illustrated his talk with
I have no more confirmed trips this year yet, but I’m way busy with writing, networking, teaching, and developing the Public Ministry program at Cherry Hill Seminary. To say nothing of squeezing in mundane work to generate some income to keep the proverbial wolf from the door. Ah, well – this works warms my heretic heart and feeds my Pagan soul.
April will see me, with some West Coast CHS colleagues, speaking at Berkeley’s
Pacific School of Religion, part of the
Graduate Theological Union. Check my site for details.
Yours in changing culture,
Communitas means relationships among people, “jointly undergoing ritual transition” through which they experience an intense sense of intimacy and equality, an “I-Thou” awareness. “Communitas is spontaneous, immediate, concrete... undifferentiated, egalitarian, direct, non-rational...” In the process of liminality, the pilgrims progressively achieve a release from conformity to general norms and may experience a profound and collective sentiment for humanity which includes or is stimulated by the quest and presence of a sacred space, god and spirit. [from
Ending the old year, beginning the new.
Sacred Harvest Festival
In late August I traveled to southern Minnesota to Sacred Harvest Festival, an annual gathering produced by
Harmony Tribe. I was excited to see many Paganistani pals. Nels and Joby Linde took me from the airport to dinner, thence to a cozy three-room tent with air mattress, chair, table and candle that had been set up for me by Judy Olson and her sons. The weather was unseasonably cold. Thank the gods I have a good sleeping bag, because snuggling up inside that was the only time I was warm for the first three or four days of the festival.
Among all the presenters and entertainers, two of us came from other regions of the country: Ivo Dominguez, Jr. from Delaware and myself. Ivo and I had met at a MerryMeet in Upstate New York back in the mid-80s, so we had fun reconnecting and catching up.
I was made to feel ever so welcome by everyone there. I had invitations to dine at many campsites. Mostly, I enjoyed hanging with the Shelley and the Wild Women.
Another personal highlight was the fact that I had a whole week to visit with Sparky T. Rabbit, actor, ritualist, and one of the best Pagan singers and songwriters we have. He, among many others, entertained us in the evenings at the Heart Chakra, the main community gathering area. While musicians played and singers sang, drummers drummed and dancers danced round the bonfire, and fire twirlers of all ages twirled fire, the wee ones, snuggled in sleeping bags atop pushed-together hay bales, drifted to sleep. Just imagine what their childhood memories of Summer festivals might be! Sparky has written a
review of this festival for Witchvox.
This year’s theme was “Dark Moon Mysteries: Seeking the Shadow Self.” In keeping with that theme, I designed a spell called “Witchual.” This is, in part, an homage to William Shakespeare, with rhyming help from Victoria Slind-Flor. In an open glade in the woods, three Witches – Wendy the Good Witch, Lila Sidhe and myself – concocted a potion. Robin Grimm joined us as our evil demon assistant. Nels, Susu and other musicians provided appropriate cacophony, while FoxFire put the final touches on the charged brew. I’m grateful to the folks at SHF for the opportunity to perform this ritual, to those who helped set it up, and especially to Wendy, Lila and Robin.
I had a chance to visit with Jim Runnels. Formerly known as Mad Dog, more recently called Moon Dog, Jim is the man who made me feel so good when he danced and flirted with me of an evening at MerryMeet in 2002. On this trip I met his wife, Dianne, for the first time. I’m so glad we had this visit, because, sadly, about five weeks after SHF,
MoonDog crossed over. We’ll remember him at our Samhain rites this year.
After SHF, I spent two very informal days at Steven Posch’s house in Minneapolis, where I not only had a rare chance for long schmoozes with Steven, but also got to visit Elvis, K.J. and Sonje, Gary, Magenta, Stephanie, Conloach and gang. Now if I could only see the day when Steve’s CD “Radio Paganistan” is released!
I got home just in time for the book release party for my new book,
Pagan Pride: Honoring the Craft and Culture of Earth and Goddess, at
ChangeMakers for Women. If you missed that and are in the area, I’ll be doing a reading and signing on November 4th at
Ancient Ways in Oakland, CA.
Rochester Pagan Pride Day
Luna and the organizers of this year’s Rochester Pagan Pride Day had invited me to speak and to give a workshop the night before the celebration. While there, I stayed at the home of Valerie from the Kore Group, a local Reclaiming circle, and her three playful kitties. We appreciated the leisure to get to know one another, and I enjoyed, as always, seeing the varied ways in which our community grows. The Kore Group pressented the opening ritual for Pagan Pride Day, which included the very ancient sunwheel dance, in a muddy meadow, to help turn the Wheel of the Year.
One of the great features of this particular Pagan Pride celebration – something I’d not encountered at others -- was the presence of people from
Wild Wings Birds of Prey, a nonprofit wildlife education organization. They did some wonderful hands-on talks to children and adults about raptors and carrion birds. In addition to falcons, hawks and owls, they brought a turkey buzzard named Barf, because, when threatened, turkey buzzards vomit as a defense mechanism. They keep him because he has bonded with humans and cannot live in the wild.
Another exceptional presentation was a weed walk of the park, conducted by local naturalist Pat Chakalis.
During the course of the day, I got to chat with Zoe Soulspirals from Ithaca, NY Reclaiming and the Pagan Cluster, whom I’d met at the
Dandelion Gathering in Texas in April, and her friend Lee. I met Carole, whom until then I had known only online as a student at Cherry Hill Seminary, and her husband Gary. The Kore Group graciously invited me to celebrate Autumn Equinox with them. Rochester’s Pagan community is diverse, expanding, and working with a strong spirit of cooperation.
I like to visit cemeteries. As some of you know, when I’m visiting a place I’ve never been before, I like to check out the final resting places of local souls. During the afternoon before my workshop in Friday, Valerie and I tripped around Rochester’s historic
Mt. Hope Cemetery. We paid our respects at the graves of
Frederick Douglass and
Susan B. Anthony. This is a beautiful cemetery, and it, like the rest of the city and many of its buildings, is far older than mos
St. Lawrence University
Denice “Okana” Szafran, Cherry Hill Seminary’s “Golden Web Toadie” and authority on Polish and Slavic Paganism, had arranged for me to lecture five undergraduate classes at
St. Lawrence University. She, her daughter Chris and I drove from Rochester to Canton on Chris’ birthday, where we dined that evening with my old friend
Gus diZerega and their colleague, Jennifer Vincent-Barwood. When I wasn’t speaking to classes or visiting the university chaplain, the Rev. Kathleen Buckley, Denice and I sat in on my Berkeley friend Layne Little’s lecture.
On my final day there, Denice and I drove around the countryside. We passed black horse-drawn buggies of local Amish and Mennonite folks, stopping at a pre-Revolutionary town of Ogdensburg, right across the river from Canada, and at a local purveyor of cheese curds, herbal medicines, and handcrafted furniture.
Deirdre and Donald’s Wedding
Almost as soon as I returned home, my dear daughter Deirdre married her Donald, on
Rodeo Beach in the beautiful Marin Headlands. I had been lobbying for them to jump the broom as part of the ceremony, and at the very last minute they agreed. Well, to be fair, Donald had always wanted to do it.
This left me with only two days to find, decorate and charge a suitable broom. Coven mates Victoria and Brighde came to the rescue. They spent several hours the day before the wedding working on the broom. This particular broom had a lineage of sorts: It had been the property of an older woman who collected such things. She had offered it as a gift at a women’s circle at a time in her life when she was in the process of divesting herself of too many material possessions, and Victoria had accepted it. Victoria, in turn, twirled it in the WOW (Witches Opposing War) besom brigade and later in the Interfaith Pagan Pride Parade in Berkeley this past May (both mentioned in earlier Broomstick Chronicles).
Brighde and Victoria wrapped the handle in satin ribbon matching the pale blue of the bridesmaids’ gowns, attached several cowrie shells, and even made a wee penis from a piece of wool I’d picked up from the ground at Tara in Ireland. They decorated it with artificial flowers in the Autumn colors Deirdre had chosen for the wedding, and attached a small charm bag. Into the bag they placed herbs and other good things, along with wishes and the power of their chanting, and two of Deirdre’s milk teeth the Tooth Fairy had saved.
Vibra Willow, who has known Deirdre since childhood, did the honors of presenting the broom at the wedding. Her daughter Amie Miller and Donald’s teenage niece Ashley held the broom while the couple jumped it. Deirdre and Donald, as instructed by the spellworkers, took the broom with them that night, and took the little pouch on their honeymoon. Now we’re waiting for the magic to work.
Silver Anniversary of the Spiral DanceThe Spiral Dance, Reclaiming’s annual Samhain ritual, is celebrating the silver anniversary of the original publication of Starhawk’s book,
The Spiral Dance. I’m honored to have been invited to call the Mighty Dead of the Craft to our circle that night. I’m eagerly awaiting the arrival of several visiting friends from afar – Chicago, Honolulu and Grants Pass, Oregon.
Let us continue working as hard as possible on all levels, from magical to mundane, for a beneficial outcome of our presidential election this coming Tuesday.
Blessed Samhain to all,
July 9, 2004 — Three Months of Wandering
Well, like I said last year, 2004 was going to include a lot
of traveling. This is the first BC I’ve been able to get
out, and it’s long overdue. I’ll try to make it succinct
so you don’t get overwhelmed with too much stuff from me.
Eire, the Motherland
In March of this year my partner Corby and I took our first
trip to Europe, to the Emerald Isle at its greenest. Knowing
little but what we’d read in books and found on the Web,
and guided by tips from Patricia Monaghan,
we landed in Dublin just before St. Paddy’s Day. Overall,
I found Dublin fascinating. But for the rain and hail, for which
I was ill-prepared, I liked the coolish weather. I loved being
able to walk so many places and feel the agedness of the city.
On Patricia’s advice, we took a tour bus from downtown
Dublin to the Hill of Tara and Brugh na Boine. It was pouring
when we stopped at Tara, I slipped in the holy mud, and much
of the site (the Liafal in particular) was fenced off or undergoing
repair work (the Mound of the Hostages). I did manage to get
some photos and picked up a stray piece of wool from the ground
for a spell Victoria has in mind.
What struck me most about the country, and what was most palpable
at Brugh na Boinne, was the ancientness of human habitation,
and the affects of humans on the land and the land on humans.
Where we live in California I know there have been humans living
for many, many centuries, but the lifestyles of various Native
American peoples was different. Their homes were generally made
of organic material that degrades over time. (Except, of course,
for such places as Chaco Canyon in the Southwest and the Serpent
Mounds in the Midwest.) So most of what we have by way of material
artifacts are midden heaps, not massive corbelled stone structures
Recounting our entire trip is too much for this little missive,
especially since this chronicle is covering the entire first
half of 2004. We did pay our respects at
Solas Bride in Kildare,
where we chatted, meditated and chanted with Sister Mary and
Sister Rita. We brought back holy waters from
Tobar Bhride in
Kildare and the well of St. Bridget of the phone booth in Clare.
We found the town of Athlone on the River Shannon to be a hip
and sophisticated place; I especially loved the crows nesting
in the little windows on the rock walls of Athlone castle, and
the colorful storefronts and homes.
On Irish Mother’s Day we stayed in the birthplace of my
paternal grandmother, Kate Reilly, in Ballinasloe, County Galway,
on the River Suck. This is a major horse-trading town where
supposedly nothing happens except during the fair in late September
or early October, but that was not our experience. We went several
places before we were able to find lodging for the night. The
town was really jumping.
We stayed a few days in Clifden in magical Connemara. Both of
us really loved Connemara. We began to fantasize about opening
our own Pagan-oriented B&B there. Returning one night to
Clifden from Roundstone, where I purchased a fine new bodhran,
we nearly got lost in the famous Roundstone blanket bog, where
so many have stepped upon stray sods over the centuries. Somehow
we finally managed to turn the correct direction on the right
In Galway City we visited our friend Jim Duran, formerly of
the now-defunct Institute of Celtic Studies in the SF Bay Area
and singer with Sheila Na Gig. He showed us around Galway, turned
us on to Byrne’s Bookstore, and a book called Facing the
Ocean: The Atlantic and Its Peoples 8000 BC-AD 1500, by Barry
Cunliffe. He also gave us the sad news of the death of my old
friend Padraigin McGillicuddy. Padraigin, when she lived in
Oakland, used to have a Saturday morning radio show about Ireland
called A Terrible Beauty on KPFA-Pacifica Radio.
Also in Galway, we stood on the William O’Brien Bridge
(erected 1889) and watched kayakers bouncing down the swift-flowing
Corrib River, which flows from Lough Corrib down into Galway
Bay. Downriver closer to the bay, the river is home to swans.
We loved The Burren! We visited
Burren Perfumery, where they make scented products with
the local wildflowers. The Burren is unique in all of Europe,
perhaps the world, in that it is the home to Arctic, Alpine
and Mediterranean flora all growing together in the little grykes
between the hard limestone. It’s also home to 28 species
of butterflies and scores of orchids. Since we were there in
March, we were ahead of the blooming season so we didn’t
see it in its full glory. No matter, though, as the magic abides
no matter how long or short the days. I got some great photos
of the turlough (a temporary lake created by overflow from an
underground lake) at Carran, of Poulawack Cairn (Carn Pholl
an Bhaic) and many smaller stone erections surrounding it, and
of the Poulnabrone Dolmen.
The Cliffs of Moher, rising 700 feet from the ocean’s
surface, are every bit as awesome as their reputation.
We had to miss so many things we wanted to visit that we simply
must return soon.
In April, I joined 100 or so other Reclaiming Witches in the
first ever all-Reclaiming gathering at a camp along the beautiful
Guadalupe River. I haven’t been directly involved in Reclaiming
activities since the Collective dissolved in 1997 (except for
a few years in the e-cell), so I really wasn’t sure what
Reclaiming is now. I’m still not, but I doubt I’m
alone in that regard.
I'm glad I went. I did not attend many large meetings, preferring
instead smaller interest groups and engaging in conversations
on a more intimate level.
This was my first trip to Texas -- except for DFW change-overs
which doesn't count. The site in the Texas hill country was
exquisite, with the clear, cold Guadalupe River flowing by and
wildflowers everywhere, especially along the highways, thanks
in part to Lady Bird Johnson. I wasn't too keen on the fire
ants or poison oak and ivy. There were currently active people
(Katrina, Vibra, Oak, Willow Kelly, Vajra, Diane Baker, Dawn
Marlowe, Urania, Kala, Dress, Beverly, Suzanne, Robin, Brighde,
Panthera, et al.) I'd hoped to see who weren't there, as well
as formerly active folks (Anne Hill, Kevin Roddy, Sophia Sparks,
Bone Blossom, Valley High, Lee Henrikson, David Kubrin, Mugwort,
Kevyn, Lauren L., Susan S.) I didn't necessarily expect to see
but would have enjoyed. I had the rare opportunity to travel
and schmooze with old colleagues Starhawk, Rose, and company,
and to see a Witch formerly known as Jez. I was disappointed
at the absence of anyone from our wonderful, hardworking, unsung
e-cell. With their dedicated work we wouldn't be so well connected,
and organizing/communicating ahead of time would have been much
more cumbersome. All praises to Elfin and Jim!
I loved having all the children around. We ranged in age from
in-the-womb to several greyheads such as myself. A movement
isn't a movement unless it has the full spectrum of ages within
it. Nor can we survive without overt diversity. I definitely
felt like a minority voice, but I'm not gonna let that silence
me. And I hope that no one else who doesn't necessarily feel
the strong pull of the majority ever feels the need to remain
It was great to reconnect with friends (Thistle, Grove, Donna
Read, DragonWing, Baruch), to get to know a few folks I'd heard
about (Laurel, Andy, Shel, Morgana, Amy Moondragon, Cerridwen
with an 'S' sound, Pat Hogan), to meet delightful new friends
(Holley -- we share scores of connections, both magical and
political, starting with my midwife --, Changing Tide, MoonCrone,
Laura Maple, Nanette, Lucy, Red Moon Lotus, Midnight, Ann Flowers,
Urs, two Yarrows, Ravyn, Vicky, Angela, Pete & Laura &
young shaman Jack, Aurora, Mareena, Angela), and to show folks
that the NightMare doesn't have a foaming mouth and fangs dripping
The food was plentiful and good, and increased by the sacrifice
(sacred offering) of a deer. Kudos to the cooks! The composting
was wonderful and righteous, the spell to help the land recover
from the oil spill potent. Huzzah! Facilities were clean and
airy and everything worked.
My thanks to all the organizers for making this happen, and
for encouraging me to come. I kiss your virtual feet. <smack>
WOW Besom Brigade Activity
Check out Winter 2004, Issue No. 92, of Reclaiming Quarterly:
yours truly is the cover girl. It features an article about
and some splendid photos of the brigade. Plus, on page 25, in
a review of Jone Salomonsen’s book, Enchanted Feminism:
The Reclaiming Witches of San Francisco, there appears a photo
from the very first Spiral Dance Samhain ritual in San Francisco,
on the occasion of the publication of the first edition of Starhawk’s
The Spiral Dance. On the right mid-ground of that photo stands
a much younger and slimmer Macha, holding a toddler Deirdre
on her hip (you can’t see her, only the weird angle of
the stance). I didn’t know this photo was taken until I
saw it here.
Issue No. 94, Summer 2004, contains some great photos of the
Brigade and other contingents in the Interfaith Pagan Pride
Parade in Berkeley, CA on May 15, 2004
In late May I attended a large day-long conference at Eastern
Michigan University in Ypsilanti called Together in Faith:
Journey into Inclusiveness. Sponsored by the
Friends Service Committee) LGBT FAN (Faith Action Network),
the event was a national multiracial, multigenerational
conference for people of all religions and spiritualities creating
lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender-affirming communities.
I spoke briefly at the opening ceremony in a local Methodist
church. I was happy to have been immediately preceded by a women’s
chorus singing Paula Walowitz’s wonderful goddess song,
She’s Been Waiting. It’s one of my favorite
songs on the Lunacy
album and is one we used in the Goddesses Alive! (aka A Rainbow
of Goddesses) masks ritual.
My workshop, Sex & Spells: Gender and Political
Activism in the Witchen Community, attracted a
mixed group for the morning session; the afternoon one nearly
Christopher Case, a colleague in the
Nature Religions Scholars Network, attended the conference.
We spent much of the day together talking Pagan shop talk.
After the conference, we drove into Ann Arbor and browsed a
great bookstore called Crazy Wisdom.
I joined Oberon Osiris and his wife Banshee, CoG members in
the Detroit area, foro breakfast on Sunday, and then to a reception
given by the Federation
of Circles and Solitaries A friendly and vibrant group,
FOCAS is very active in local interfaith activities, among other
things. I hope to return next Summer for a longer visit.
Cherry Hill Seminary Intensive
In June I visited the terraspace campus of Cherry Hill Seminary
for the first time. My friend Satori and I stayed at a nearby
Victorian style B&B called the Greenhurst Inn, which is
listed in the National Register of Historic Places. I got to
meet CHS’s amazing, multitalented golden toadie
webspinner, Denice Okana Szafran, and her two daughters,
Jamie and Chris, as well as Laura Wildman and Tom Hanlon’s
big new family. In addition to meeting some folks I’d only
known online, I got the chance for too-brief visits with Gwyneth,
Wiccazoid Cat, and several others.
On Saturday evening we installed Despoina Hypatia Polymathes
as the seminary’s guardian ancestor, and on Sunday morning
we held our very first graduation of Okana,
who was graduated with honors.
I had hoped to attend the Parliament of World Religions in Barcelona
this month, but that was not to be.
My friend Alison Harlow crossed over recently, a tremendous
loss for the witchen community. My obituary is on
and more about her life can be found at her
Sacred Harvest Festival
Next month I’m off to Sacred Harvest Festival in Minnesota,
where I’ll get to play with Sparky Rabbit, Nels Linde,
my old pal Sharon Devlin, and lots of other wonderful Midwestern
Witches. The theme is Dark Moon Mysteries Seeking the
Shadow Self; details at the
My precious daughter Deirdre has found Mr. Right. She and
Donald Barron will be married in October on Rodeo Beach (site
of past Reclaiming rituals, complete with burning wicker men),
part of the Golden
Gate National Recreation Area in Marin County, California.
Needless to say, this will take much of my attention for the
next few months. We agree with Deirdre that Donald is an exceptional
man. He’s smart, fun and cute; has a social conscience
(that scores big with me); and seems to have a soothing effect
At long last, my new book,
Pagan Pride: Honoring the
Craft and Culture of Earth and Goddess, is coming out
in September, just in time for the various Pagan Pride celebrations
around the world. Perhaps I’ll see some of you in person
A Fervent Wish, a Necessary Spell
May the present occupants of The White House be sent packing.
May our precious Constitution be revitalized. Long live Lady
Liberty! So mote it be!
June 13, 2003 From São
Last year I received a surprising invitation from some Witches
in Brazil to visit and present at their annual gathering, called
III Annual Witches Meeting (III EAB - Encontro Anual De Bruxos).
Starhawk had met one of the founders of
the Brazilian Association of Witches (in Portuguese, Associação
Brasileira da Arte e Filosofia da Religião Wicca), Claudiney
Prieto, also known by his Craft name of Lugh. She spoke well
of him. So, despite having a manuscript deadline, not ever having
been in another country besides Canada and Mexico, not knowing
a soul, and not knowing the language, I accepted the invitation
and took the plunge. I was not disappointed in my virgin voyage
South of the Equator. I found the Brazilian people I encountered
to be warm, friendly and enthusiastic. They love their country
. I was asked many times how I like their country. The answer,
of course, is "very much."
Lugh and Bia, a translator, greeted me at Cumbica International
Airport in the suburb of Guarulhosa. I was weary from traveling
nearly a full day, so they took me to check into the hotel and
rest a while, for which I was grateful.
The airport is some distance from São Paulo proper.
We drove by some favelas, or slums, and along the polluted Tietê
River. As I had been lead to expect, the favelas were far worse
than any slum I've seen in the U.S. São Paulo arose along
the Tietê. Today debris and garbage floats in the river
and it stinks like the sewer it probably is. This misuse of
the river has also resulted in flooding. There are projects
to clean and restore the river, but according to my hosts, the
restoration projects have been plagued by corruption and the
money alloted seems to vanish before any real restoration work
gets done. All very disturbing.
São Paulo, founded by Portuguese Jesuit missionaries
in 1554, is the largest metropolis in South America and, at
22 million people, one of the largest in the world. It's also
reputed to have the worst air pollution. Friends and acquaintances
who'd been there advised me that Brazilians, like many others,
were casual and laid back about time so I shouldn't fret too
much about punctuality. They were right. This suited me fine,
except for having to wait until 10 or 11 o¹clock at night
for the main meal. Fortunately, our hosts had thoughtfully provided
us with large baskets of local fruits in our rooms.
After I enjoyed a brief rest, my hosts picked me up and took
me to the Abrawicca headquarters, in a house in another neighborhood
from the one where our hotel and the conference were taking
place. I was dumbfounded to see a photo and minibio of myself
on the walls of the main room, along with photos of Starhawk,
Margot Adler, the Farrars, Doreen Valiente and Gerald Gardner.
At Abrawicca I met my primary translator, Arthemis (her given
name), and many of the staff of the conference. Everyone was
excited about the upcoming conference.
Thursday night Mavesper
Ceridwen, from Brazil¹s capital city of Brasilia, officiated
at the dedication of six people into the Brazilian Dianic Wiccan
tradition. I noted the 13 rune-inscribed rocks surrounding the
circle, reminding me of the tradition¹s roots in McFarland
Dianic from Texas. Arthemis stayed near me to translate what
was being said, but as it happened, I could recognize a lot
from the words and gestures from what I know to be Craft ritual.
The face of every dedicant was radiant. At their request, I
posed for photos with dedicants afterwards. It was an honor
and a privilege to share this important event with them.
The other American author besides me who presented at the
conference was deTraci
Regula. She had just had her book about Isis published in
Brazil. DeTraci arrived the day after I did. That Friday afternoon
our hosts took us to the former
Presidential Palace built by Emperor Dom Pedro I, who proclaimed
Brazil's independence from Portugal in 1822. The palace, dedicated
in 1890 and now the Ipiranga Museum, where we saw many artifacts
of Portuguese colonial rule, is fronted by a series of pools
and surrounded by a splendid garden. In addition to having murals
depicting significant events in early Brazilian history as part
of the construction, many of the exhibits showed clothing, furniture
and artifacts in the excessive Victorian style typically found
in many European-influenced countries in the late nineteenth
century. We also drove to the big Ibirapuera Park, similar to
Central Park in New York, where the
opening ritual was to take place that evening.
An opening ritual with 300 celebrants honored White Buffalo
Woman. Although within a formal Craft structure, this ritual
was as eclectic as many in America. Its juice came from chanting,
drumming and dancing, which the ebullient Brazilian Witches
did with abandon for about three hours.
We stayed in a neighborhood called
This is an old section of the city where the original Portuguese
settlers built mansions along Avenida Paulista. Female residents
of São Paulo are called Paulistanas and men Paulistanos.
During our first trip down Avenida Paulista I noticed posters
on the poles showing a Hitler-mustached Dubya. That gave me
a sense of solidarity with the Paulistos, which was later confirmed
in the workshops.
A more extensive report of III Annual Witches Meeting, including
discussion of Mavesper's pioneering research on native Brazilian
goddesses, can be found at
Witches' Voice web site..
My presentation was called "Buffing and Polishing for
Self-Taught Witches and Covens."Title aside, when you're
speaking to and with 500 Witches of all levels of knowledge
in another language, you just wing it. I was challenged to do
a good job, and from the response afterwards and feedback since,
evidently I did. All would have been for naught had it not been
for my wonderful translators - Arthemis, Bia, Liane, and, unofficially,
Valéria Vihlena, an astrologer who was another presenter.
In my customary casual style, I opened the floor to sharing
and questions. It seemed to me the overwhelming concern was
for validity and credibility. The question of lineage versus
self-initiation loomed large. My answer, in a nutshell, is that
I think it depends entirely on the person. I recognize and honor
self initiation in some Witches whose conduct, knowledge, demeanor
and skills attest to their "witchiness." Just reading
a purported initiation ritual from a book, all alone, does not
an initiation make. On the other hand, I emphasized what I consider
the tremendous potential when we entrust our life to other Witches
we love, ideally our coven, to initiate us into the Craft. When
we do that, we take the chance that that experience will reveal
the true Mysteries, and further, such an event can increase
"perfect love and perfect trust" within the initiating
I spontaneously concluded the workshop with a slow and stately
spiral dance and the gift of a new chant. The simple chant I
chose, written by Andras Arthen of EarthSpirit Community in
Massachusetts, was, "We are one with the soul of the Earth.
Mother Earth." The very same chant that was used in the
most sacred redwood groves at Headwaters in California some
years back. In Portuguese, this chant is, "Somos um com
a alma da Terra, Da Mãe Terra." We chanted and spiraled
just long enough that the less fit among us didn't collapse,
and ended with a wordless chant of power.
After the whole conference ended, about 20 of us - organizers,
presenters and translators - adjourned to a cafe for a late
dinner. I had scheduled an interview with a local journalist
for right after the conference, but I took ill and had to postpone
it, and complete it via e-mail. The journalist, Rachel, is very
interested in Witchcraft and the Web.
Other good news is that one of Claudiney's publishers is very
interested in publishing both
The Pagan Book of Living and
Dying and Witchcraft and the Web in Portuguese. I'll
keep my fingers crossed.
On Monday, Lugh, Mavesper and Luciana took deTraci and me
around to see some of the sites of São Paulo. Just as
San Francisco is home to the largest Chinese community outside
of China, so São Paulo is home to the largest Japanese
settlement outside of Japan. We paid our respects at the Japanese
Templo de Kuan Yin na Liberdade. Emerging from a lotus blossom,
She stands placidly back from the street, with smaller statues of little angel-like beings on either side,
a mural on the temple wall on the right, a small pagoda with
sitting area behind Her, and behind that a weedy, untended garden.
But most remarkable is the roar of city traffic and smell of
exhaust fumes coming from the underpass at Her left. Amidst
the urban hubbub, She remains a serene and comforting presence.
They also took us to the big downtown art museum, Museu do
Sesi, connected with the University of Brazil, where we¹d
hoped to see an exhibit of African diaspora religious items,
but alas it was Monday and the museum was closed.
When I was asked what I wanted to see in my short time in
São Paulo, I immediately said I'd like to attend a ritual
of one of the African diaspora religions such as Umbanda or
Candomblé which were born in Brazil. Luckily for me,
Mavesper had been a practitioner of Umbanda before she found
goddess religion. The temple she attended, Templo Umbandista
Caboclo Rei Da Mata, headed by Pai-de-Santo (father of saints)
Argimiro Daniel de Sousa, was in São Paulo. They conducted
rituals on Mondays and Fridays. So Roberto drove Mavesper, Luciana,
Chandra and me around the city, ending at the temple in time
for the ceremony. My experience and observations will appear
On my last day, Bia, Luciana and I strolled in the sun and
shade of an old city cemetery - at my request. I'd noticed the
big elaborate crypts beyond the wall in the downtown streets
when we'd first entered the city. I inquired about burial customs
and funeral practices, statutes, ordinances and the funeral
industry. Bodies are not cremated. They must be buried within
24 hours of death, unless there is an extenuating circumstances
preventing that. They are only embalmed in special circumstances
such as having to be shipped elsewhere. Funeral directors have
their places of business near the cemeteries.
In Araçá Municipal Cemetery, the architecture
of the crypts families are grouped on shelves inside
of crypts - is ostentatiously Catholic, with lots of madonnas,
weeping Jesuses and angels. A few are simpler, understated Japanese
structures, and a few were crested with Stars of David. Cemeteries
are great places to visit. They¹re quiet and offer respite
from the ceaseless noise and commotion all around. Araçá
Cemetery rises above the city, offering a sweeping vista of
the citiscape and cool, refreshing breezes.
Bia kept me company for a while during my long wait at the
airport, and then I flew home.
I¹m hoping that Lugh and Mavesper can come to MerryMeet
in Reno this August. Then I can show them some of Northern California
and lots of our beautiful Bay Area, especially our Pagan sacred
sites. I'll gladly visit Brazil another time.
April 10, 2003 Groovin' in The
Wow, what a great trip I've just returned from! This is a
long one, so sit back and relax, or read it later when you have
The last time I was in New York was in 1998, and before that
in 1971, so you can see that it's not a place I have a lot of
familiarity with. During the taxi ride from LaGuardia to
Theological Seminary in the lovely Morningside Heights section
of Manhattan last Wednesday, I sat wide-eyed in the back seat
taking in everything in my view. New York seemed to be just
emerging from Winter. The grass was brown and dead and trees
bare. The skyline seemed an endless array of buildings.
I arrived in time to join Eileen Macholl, Lee Hancock and
Judy Harrow to hear Dr. Wendy Doniger, Mircea Eliade Distinguished
Service Professor of the History of Religions at the University
of Chicago Divinity School, present the first Barry Ulanov Memorial
Lecture at Union
Theological Seminary on "Pretending To Be Who You Are:
Myths of Masks and Identity." I've long been a fan of Dr.
Doniger so being able to hear this free lecture was a special
treat. It was also nice having this time to familiarize myself
with the campus and the neighborhood. The lecture took place
in a beautiful chapel. In fact, all of the buildings that comprise
Union Theological Seminary, of which Auburn is a part, were
erected a different times yet blend harmoniously with the others.
We were lodged in the Landmark Guest Rooms on campus. This
appears to be one of the older buildings, built in an English
Gothic style. Most of the buildings were of grey stone, probably
granite. Some were more Dutch in appearance.
After Dr. Doniger's lecture, Judy and I had a late meal in
the neighborhood and got the chance to schmooze for a while
before the planned events of the following day. That was another
treat - having time to talk with Judy face to face.
Thursday morning, since I was to meet my colleagues at 12:30
for lunch and a text study, I took advantage of the time to
look around. After walking a few blocks south, I noticed lots
of trees that appeared to be only a few blocks west, so I headed
for them. That was Riverside Park, which runs along something
called either Henry Hudson Parkway or West Side Parkway. The
park descends steeply from the street to the parkway and the
Hudson River beyond. I later found out that the opposite shore
was New Jersey, as I'd thought. (I get really disoriented when
I'm in unfamiliar terrain.)
Like everywhere else where Nature could be observed in this
metropolis, Riverside Park was still subdued by Winter. It's
heavily wooded, but the trees were still bare, with no trace
of green budding leaves on their limbs. The look of the rocks,
the shape of the land formations, the smells of growing and
sleeping things - all had a very different feel from what I
feel in the crazy rolling hills and Pacific air of our Marin
County, California. The ground was carpeted with dry leaves,
through which peaked newly emerging crocuses and a few blades
of green grass. Daffodils were just waking up here and there.
The California that I left has seen its daffodils bloom and
fade already. Our purple wisteria is nearly gone while New York's
yellow forsythia is just coming out. The park had tennis courts
and playgrounds and wide expanses of walkway for strollers and
I noticed a huge white domed building on a hill nearby, so
I asked a passerby what it was. She paused for a moment to remember,
and then said, "Grant's Tomb." All I ever really knew
about Grant's Tomb was from Groucho Marx's old TV show, "You
Bet Your Life." When the daffy little bird with a question
in its beak came down on a string near him, he asked his guests
a bonus question to win more money: "Who is buried in Grant's
Tomb?" A real no-brainer, of course, but still some folks
were stumped by it and guessed wrong answers.
So I walked across the street and through a big children¹s
playground to the edifice. It was surrounded by wonderful mosaics
and all manner of images - mermaids, Indians, buildings, animals.
This mosiac wound around both sides and the rear of the tomb,
and nowhere could I find any sign saying what it was, who the
artist was, or why it was installed there. I did, however, find
a fenced-off ginkgo tree that had been planted in the 1800s
on behalf of a Chinese viceroy who¹d been Grant's friend.
I wandered around the round marble room, read some of the
displays, signed the guest book, reflected on 19th century U.S.
history, learned of Richard T. Greener, the first African American
graduate of Harvard (1870), and have since learned that Grant's
Tomb is second largest mausoleum in the Western Hemisphere.
Hmm. I guess I'm drawn to resting places of the dead.
We gathered in the afternoon for lunch and a text study. Rabbi
Robert Rabinowitz had selected Talmudic passages we'd read ahead
of time. We were about 20 in all; Witches in attendance were
Judy and myself, Katrina Messenger from Washington, D.C. and
Grove Harris of Harvard's
Pluralism Project. We began with a reading from Deuteronomy,
and proceeded to talk about necromancy and our attitudes about
the dead and about communicating with them. About feeling "other,"
about making ourselves into "other" and about
making those we see as different from ourselves into "other."
Our interchanges were lively and stimulating throughout. The
worst I can say for the experience is that it was frustrating
to have so much more to talk about and to have run out of time.
The best of it was the attitude of openness of heart and mind,
the listening ear and questing mind, the willingness to try
to articulate ideas with clarity and respect for all. We have
so much more work to do.
That evening we assembled as a panel before a room full of
invited guests. Each panelist spoke about 15 minutes on the
topic "The Divine Feminine: Intersections and Collisions
Among Judaism, Christianity and Earth-based Religions."
Lee moderated. Beginning with me, followed by Rabbi Jill Hammer
of Ma'yan, the Jewish Women's Project at the JCC of Manhattan;
Judy; Anne Barstow, a Presbyterian minister and author of Witchcraze;
and ending with Katrina. Each speech was different from all
the others and added to the richness of the entire evening.
Both audience and panelists were rapt; I saw no yawning or nodding
off or fidgets of discomfort.
At both the afternoon text study and the evening presentations,
several people expressed interest in Cherry Hill Seminary. Judy
and I were happy about that, and thanks to Cherry Hill¹s
amazing webmistress, Okana, we had flyers for those who wanted
them. (See http://www.okana.org
for Okana's extensive information on Polish and Slavic Paganism.)
Working for Peace
I know that so many of us have been working nonstop for peace,
beginning before the invasion of Afghanistan and later Iraq.
For the January 18, 2003 march, we organized another besom brigade
similar to the ones in Paganistan and in Santa Cruz, but this
time we called it WOW - Witches Opposing War, and adapted our
chants and routines and created new ones on the spot to reflect
our peaceful perspective. With Vibra and others carrying signs
made by Kala and her coven, and Luna serving as drill mistress,
we marched in black, with pointy hats and brooms. We stood out
boldly walking near white angels walking on stilts and carrying
paper crane mobiles. (See photos by Tom Lux.)
Whenever we could find the space and the march wasn't moving
too fast, we performed one of our routines. The real crowd-pleaser
is the star formation. To us, this was a protective spell for
the Earth and all its inhabitants of every species. Occasionally
we became separated in the crowd. At those times, we raised
our brooms in a cone. This allowed us to find one another and
reconvene, and also added to the power of our spells. You can
read more about WOW in the forthcoming issue of
The overriding wish of all participants in the Divine Feminine
event last week at Auburn was for peace. We were asked to collaborate
on a ritual. So the Rev. Lee Hancock, a Presbyterian minister;
Professor Janet Walton, a Roman Catholic nun; Rabbi Jill Hammer;
Katrina, Judy; and I designed a brief ritual to conclude the
evening. We pushed the chairs out of the way and formed a circle.
Jill spoke of the sacredness of the time of the New Moon. Janet
brought a peace candle to the center of the circle. Katrina
lead an invocation followed by individual invocations around
the circle. Judy spoke of the light of peace while passing the
candle before each face, and held it in the center as I began
I am a circle.
I am healing you.
You are a circle.
You are healing me.
Unite us. Be one.
Unite us. Be as one.
We danced a slow spiral in and out and in and out again, singing
and looking into each other's eyes, before reforming our original
in-facing circle and recharging the light of the candle. We
hadn't planned on dancing the spiral, only on chanting together.
However, I let my sense of the moment and my trust in everyone
there override my hesitation that dancing a spiral might be
a little too "California woowoo" for this New York
gathering. So spiral we did.
The non-Witches - I'm not using the usual term denoting someone
who isn't a Witch (a) out of respect for people with that surname
who take offense at its use that way and (b) because we are
all trying to avoid depersonalizing other humans by consigning
them to the category of "other." - entrusted us Witches,
evidently confident that we'd know what to do and how to conclude
The one thing we didn't do formally was ground, so people
were pretty jazzed for a while afterwards. I know I was. And
I reveled in it.
Friday morning Katrina and I checked out of the Landmark and
breakfasted in The Pit at UTS. This was a rare opportunity to
know each other more intimately and discover our many mutual
resonances. I hope Katrina had as enjoyable a time as I did
sitting in the sunshine coming through the leaded glass windows
After meeting with the Auburn sponsors to review and evaluate
the preceding day's events, I took a taxi down the West Side
Highway to Lynn's apartment in Greenwich Village, one of the
treats of New York I was most eagerly anticipating.
Ground Zero and Lady Liberty
As we'd been planning for months, Lynn took me to Ground Zero.
It's surrounded by a chain link fence so you can view the construction
that¹s underway. The ramp that survivors stood on for the
memorials and ceremony after recovery efforts were completed
is still there, but visitors can't go down it. Lynn pointed
out where her son Rafe Greco was photographed taking down the
last girder. Rafe, a welder and metal sculptor, worked with
the rescue efforts from the first day and for months thereafter.
She's justifiably proud of him, and I am too, even though I've
never met him. There were souvenir hawkers everywhere. On one
side of the chainlink fence that surrounds the construction
site there are
photographs showing the various stages of disassembly.
Across the street is St. Paul's Chapel, built in 1766, and
adjoining graveyard. The wrought iron fence surrounding this
graveyard was where people created spontaneous shrines for their
lost loved ones right after 9/11. The debris from the attack
on the World Trade Center is gone from the graveyard now, and
the memorials have been taken down, but inside the chapel there
is a wonderful
exhibit of what it was like and how it was used during the
difficult weeks and months afterwards. This comprehensive display
shows photographs, objects, quotes and videos of people using
the church in the rescue efforts. Meals for rescue workers were
prepared and served at St. Paul's. People came in to sleep in
the pews. Musicians offered the gift of music to soothe the
souls of both those whose lives ended in violence nearby and
those left to deal with the aftermath. Banners from people all
around the country sent to New Yorkers in support of their tremendous
efforts are arrayed around the top of the church interior. In
a glass case hangs a red chasuble covered with sooty patches
from various rescue teams - NYFD, NYPD, and many others. The
chasuble was used at the time of the tragedy and continues to
taken out and used on special occasions.
No matter how much I'm exposed to what happened on that day,
no matter how much I learn, no matter how much I see, I still
get choked up whenever I try to describe just this simple visit
to Ground Zero and St. Paul's. I was deeply moved by the experience.
I recommend to anyone who visits New York City that you take
the time to see this area and all that's there.
From Ground Zero Lynn and I made it to the
of the American Indian just before closing time, where there
was an exhibit called "The
Edge of Enchantment" about the the lives, families,
histories, beliefs, and dreams of the peoples of Oaxaca, Mexico.
Like so many buildings and public places in New York, and probably
in many East Coast cities - more, I think, than here in the
West - the Museum, housed in the old Customs House, is home
to lots of impressive sculpture.
While it was still daylight, we crossed over to Battery Park
to view Lady Liberty. Twilight was coming on by then. Her torch
flamed in the dimming light. As we walked along the waterfront,
I reflected on what Lady Liberty has meant to so many people
looking for a better life here in the United States, how she
stands vigil on her island in the waters of New York Harbor,
and how much I honored her and feared for her safety - not from
without but from within. From the executive, the legislative
and the judicial branches of our current administration. My
wish is that those among us who value what she stands for will
pay her homage, give her offerings, sing of her, honor and praise
her as the goddess of our country I believe her to be.
Battery Park was where I did my touristy shopping, buying
a cool Lady Liberty butane lighter and resisting a Lady Liberty
shot glass. Maybe next time.
I spent most of the rest of my brief time in New York wandering
around the Village - with Lynn, with Lynn and her three dogs,
with Lynn and Grove, with Grove, and alone. There are so many
things there that interest me - architecture, parks and gardens,
historical homes, stores and merchandise, food and drink of
all kinds, books, people.
While Lynn studied for her homeopathy exams, Grove and I walked
the Village and talked and talked and talked. As with our text
study and my time with Katrina, we were left with so much more
to say. In ten hours we did manage to cover a lot, but now that
I¹m home I remember so many threads of conversation that
weren¹t followed through sufficiently, so now I want more
Sunday I was scheduled to do a book signing at a store called
Magickal Realms in The Bronx. The owners are Lady Rhea and Lady
Zoradia of the Minoan Sisterhood. Lady Rhea is Lynn's Craft
grandmother. I hadn't realized before this trip that the people
who were sponsoring this book signing were people about whom
I'd heard and read. I even wrote about them myself in
and the Web. Lynn decided to surprise Lady Rhea by coming
with me. They hadn't seen each other in years, and Lady Rhea
didn't know that Lynn and I were friends. Lynn and I rode the
train to the end of the line at Pelham Bay and walked into the
store to delighted shrieks of surprise.
I received a warm reception. There was a goodly crowd, especially
for a sunny Sunday afternoon. I was able to tell them some of
what I've seen of the growth of Paganism around the country
in the past five years and more, and they were able to tell
me a lot about the growth of Witchcraft in New York and how
things were "in the old days." They also were interested
in what I had to say about the development of Pagan seminaries
and how I thought we need to take care to not simply mimic Christian
seminaries. They welcomed the Cherry Hill flyers I had left.
We also talked about Pagan funerals and laws regarding the treatment
and disposal of the dead, as well as our wishes for what happens
to us upon our demise, and if and how these wishes might be
Afterwards, Lady Zoradia, Lady Rhea, Lynn (Lady Themis), Lord
Julian, Damian and I adjourned to a nearby Italian restaurant
with lots of local color, where we (over)indulged in spirits,
foods, and much loud conversation.
Snow was predicted for early in the week in New York even
before I left California. I didn't want to be burdened with
a bulky Winter coat so took my chances. Mistake! Sitting in
Lynn's eighth-floor apartment where we could see the Empire
State and Chrysler Buildings from one window and the Hudson
River and Hoboken from the other, we could hear the wind howling.
By Monday morning the buildings were no longer visible through
the white of falling snow. I had made a date to have lunch with
my editor at Citadel Press, Bob Shuman, so I had to get myself
to Midtown in this storm. The snow was falling so thickly I
couldn't see very far down the block. My glasses became covered
with snow and when I reached under my thin black London Fog
raincoat for dry fabric on which to wipe them, I only succeeded
in making them wet with drops of water instead of flakes of
snow. I couldn't see out of them any better than when the lenses
were covered with snow.
Anyway, I did manage to get to Bob's office. He took me to
a quiet, elegant French restaurant several blocks away. We had
a spirited conversation, yet another one that ended too soon.
Then he escorted me to the train to be sure I got on the right
one to get myself back to the Village. I fear he made himself
late for his afternoon meeting by doing this.
It mystifies me when non-New Yorkers gripe about how fast
and curt and rude New Yorkers are, because all my experience
has been the opposite. Whenever I've asked for directions, people
have been patient and gracious in providing them. They often
make sure you get on the right train to get where you're headed,
or get off at the proper stop. All my encounters have been pleasant.
I dined on fine food, especially at one of Lynn's favorite
neighborhood Indian restaurants, engaged in marathon conversations,
and took my leisure to see some of New York's many sites. Responses
to the text study and Divine Feminine evening at Auburn, and
the enthusiastic reception I received at Magickal Realms, make
me optimistic about the possibility of another trip to Gotham.
Blessings of the living land,
December 17, 2002 Report from
Well, we did it! Alison Harlow, Prudence Priest and I worked
together with several Santa Cruz, CA Pagans to get a Besom Brigade
up and running. We spent about two-plus hours on a Friday night
with a group of complete strangers (to me) learning routines.
We had to learn them ourselves from materials sent by Paganistan
Besom Brigade folks and from what I remembered. We did amazingly
|Photo by Richard Goering ©2002
Santa Cruz's annual holiday parade was very short,
only a few blocks. With Drill Mistress Prudence's weather magic,
we had a glorious sunny day. We had several numbers prepared
to show the judges, but we never stopped long enough to do more
than one at a time, and even then, we barely stopped. Less than
a half hour later and we were at end end. I was surprised.
Our contingent, the silly Witches, put together by J'Té
Hunter and her pals, was called "WET Fairies -- Witches
for the Ethical Treatment of Fairies." J'Té had
made a cool little human-drawn float of a cauldron surrounded
by lots of stuffed animals and topped (way up high) with a pentacle
and a pointy hat. The cauldron was great for carrying water
bottles and clothing removed because of the heat. (Ah, California
in December!) This was surrounded by our cohorts dressed in
beautiful, fanciful fairy garb, complete with gossamer wings,
and carrying all kinds of "honor Mother Earth" type
So far, the only photos I've received are posed ones of our
group at the end of the parade route. I'm hoping eventually
to receive some action shots. I know people were taking them
because I saw them. Onlookers seemed very amused, and we knew
we were having big fun.
Special thanks to Bonita "Flame" Blumenauer, Minnesota
Besom Brigade Drill Mistress Mother Mary B. and Lou "MomHen"
Gastuch for words/songs and detailed descriptions of routines.
We couldn't have done it without their help. I kiss their virtual
Thanks to the Paganistani for starting this brilliant bit
of street theater, and for sharing it with us. I'm thinking
of trying to get together a contingent for the next big Peace
March in San Francisco in January. Maybe we would find some
new songs, or change the older ones, to suit the antiwar movement.
I'm a big believer in having humor and fun in our actions. It
amuses marchers and onlookers alike, gets positive press attention,
I wish for all of you the comfort of dear ones round the hearth
and deep insights in the longest night of the year, and for
renewed energy and hope with the return of the light. Joyous
Yours in creating Pagan culture,
Back to the top
October 31, 2002 Autumn Equinox,
Salt Lake City, to Samhain at Home
This news is frightfully late. And brief.
After the Pagan Pride Day in San Francisco in September, I
flew to Salt Lake City as the guest of Aspen Grove Festivals,
sponsors of MabonFest; Oh My Godness, a GLBT spirituality group;
and the Greater Salt Lake Area CUUPs.
Aisling cooked and served a hearty meal for four (Aisling,
her partner Brie, Finn and me) the evening I arrived. After
the meal and through mounds of peach cobbler we indulged in
a long conversation about all manner of things, not the least
of which were things Pagan.
Aisling decked me out in proper Renaissance attire for Saturday's
MabonFest in Affleck Park, a big, lush mountain canyon outside
of SLC. Those Utah Pagans sure know how to choose a festival
location! Aspen and maple were just beginning to show Fall colors.
As we sang in a pavilion, yellow and orange leaves gently drifted
from trees to ground all round. When Finn and I returned to
the canyon on Sunday, there were even more trees in flagrant
Fall colors. We could practically see them change before our
It was great to meet and talk with so many new-to-me Pagans.
At the end of the day, after the Green Witch was given to the
waters, we enjoyed an abundant feast the left everyone satiated.
The temperature in the canyon dropped considerably when we lost
the sun. My Renaissance garb wasn't keeping me warm enough.
A charming aromatherapist named Durin blended some warm essences
(clove and such) into a lotion which he rubbed into my neck,
shoulders and hands to warm me up. But even with the bonfires
that were lit after the feast, I didn't last too long before
I had to return to Finn's apartment for warmer clothing.
|Photo © 2002 by Briana Boose, used
Sunday evening my hosts gave a dinner prior to my death and
dying workshop, with Finn and I as guests of honor, in the South
Valley UU Church. Each dinner guest spoke a bit about what brought
them there. Our hosts also lavished us with gifts. I'm grateful
to have had this opportunity to celebrate with the Pagans in
the Salt Lake City area, and hope to return another time.
Attached is a fun photo of Aisling in the blue tartan talking
with reporter Sheila, with me and Finn nearby putting in our
Tonight is the night when the veil that separates the Worlds
grows thin and may be passed through. May all who seek connection,
communication, reconciliation or celebration with the Beloved
Dead, the Ancestors and the Mighty Dead meet them in joy and
love as we dance sacred spiral together.
Love and Samhain Blessings,
Back to the top
September 18, 2002 --Rural Minnesota,
LaHonda, California, and San Francisco Bay Area's First Pagan
You haven't heard from me since May because that's the last
time I rode out on the broomstick circuit, but I'm more than
making up for that this September. What a month this has been
for me! Bear with me because this is a long one.
At the invitation of my dear friends in Northern Dawn Local
Council of CoG, I visited them and helped present the annual
Leadership Institute. I arrived excited and ready to play on
Tuesday evening, to see Bill Metrey in his red Ford greet me
at the airport and drop me off at the home of janie and Bosco.
We three gabbed and gabbed, then went to Jewel of India for
too much delicious Indian food and extended conversation. We
just kept going like energizer bunnies, long after the wait
staff had cleared out table. Fortunately, there weren't a lot
of diners waiting for our space.
Back at their home, we had chai and more conversation, followed
by janie going over LI plans with me so I'd be prepared to review
them again with both her and Beth. We three - janie, Beth and
I - had been planning the work via e-mail until we could all
get together in the same space in Minnesota.
Then janie drove me to Steven's house, where he and I went
on and on and on, catching up on each other's lives, the state
of the Craft, ideas about rituals, and so forth. I especially
wanted to consult Steven about the procession we were planning
for the First Annual San Francisco Bay Area Pagan Pride Day.
Processions are not common in the Bay Area where I live, yet
are quite common in the Midwest. I love them. I want to form
them whenever possible, since the PPDs are panPagan, and since
many non witchen Pagans sometimes can feel alienated when nearly
all rituals are done in witchen circles rather than using other
On Wednesday Steven and I ran errands, then drove out to Camp
Iduhapi, site of MerryMeet, to ready ourselves for the Leadership
Institute the following morning. Steven was doing a session
on giving great rite and I was working with janie and Beth presenting
a workshop called "Visible Magic: A Community Path to Future."
Forty-six people had registered for the LI but only 17 stayed
for the whole day's work. Perhaps it was the stuffiness of the
room, the stickiness of the day, or delayed flights. Maybe even
the material. In any case, those of us who remained to the end
left with self declared promises of what we will have accomplished
for our various Pagan communities within the next six months,
the next year, the next five years, and for our grandchildren.
My six-month commitment is to complete the first offering of
"Call of the Dark Mother: Working with the Dying, Death
and Grieving" at Cherry Hill Seminary. Since this course
began on the Wednesday I returned from MerryMeet and on the
first anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, I have every expectation
of being able to keep this promise of completing it.
When we arrived at the camp, we were greeted by so many wonderful
Northern Dawn friends - Gary, then Maryanne and others.
I shared a nice clean cabin, near the clean rest rooms and
showers, with some of the current (2001-02) national officers
who also happen to be my pals: Finn, Kirk and Elsa. There were
some spare bunks. We ended up with a different person on one
of the spare bunks every night, beginning with janie on Wednesday
night and ending with Rhiannon Epona on Saturday night. That
was a sweet touch, I thought.
Thursday evening Steven treated us to an outrageously fun
session of Pagan Jeopardy. With categories such as stone circles,
GBG, the Wizard of Oz, and omancies, this is quite a way to
learn our Pagan history! And to learn who knows what esoteric
facts about what and whom. By far the most obscure question
- omancies for 100 - was answered immediately by Alison Harlow.
During the first session of Grand Council, Finn asked for
"other reports" after the various officers and committees
had reported on their work this past year. I took the opportunity
to speak a bit about the things that some of us CoG members
are doing unofficially and independently. In my case, working
with the Marin Interfaith Council, their proposed first annual
concert of sacred music (to which I asked some NCLC-CoG musicians
to apply); working with Patrick McCollum and San Quentin death
row inmates; teaching at new Pagan seminaries/ovularies; working
with established mainstream Christian seminaries in designing
and producing interfaith symposia on Earth-based spiritualities;
and media interviews.
I got to hang out with, and enjoy, some CoG members I¹d
only known slightly in the past. In particular, Stachia and
Jeff from Touchstone LC.
Amber K and Azrael Arryn K gave me a copy of their new book,
for which I wrote a brief foreword (although my name does not
appear on the cover). Originally to have been titled Tarot
from Within, its ultimate title is now Heart of Tarot:
An Intuitive Approach. This is a system that my late friend
John Patrick McClimans used to call "Gestalt Tarot"
and which Amber eventually learned from Ginny Brubaker and Dave
Norman in Chicago. I had challenged Amber a few years ago to
write the book about this system that John had encouraged her
to write. I'm delighted to see it now made manifest. Long may
John's memory live in our hearts.
Steven, Elvis, "Nazzbane" Fox and Robin Grimm were
responsible for all the ritual components of MerryMeet this
year. What a brilliant crew! This year's theme was "Witches
Turn the Wheel." The opening ritual involved the carrying
and emplacement of a wheel, made by Elvis and carried by NFO
Finn, and the group reading of a piece of liturgy by Steven
called "Turning the Wheel." At the reconvening of
Grand Council each morning, in addition to all reading aloud
this piece, we all sang a song I¹ve been trying to "mistress"
for about 20 years - "Praise Be." Singing this every
day made me glow with religious fervor.
|Photo by Cynthia Edmunds, VA.
That's me in the rainbow-hued pointy hat.
About a year ago Bonita "Blaze" Blumenauer announced
the formation of the Besom Brigade in Minneapolis on a listserve
I'm on. As soon as I learned that I'd be at MM this year, I
contacted her and asked if I could be in it. Under the direction
of Besom Brigade captain Mary Blackburn, we learned a few routines.
Then at just the right moment, gauged by our collaborator in
the GC chambers, we marched into GC and performed our routines.
What a hit we were! We received thunderous applause and managed
to perform a brief encore. As if that weren't fun enough, we
had the help of adorable Witchlets Sonja and Eleanor, daughters
of Elvis and KJ, and Bill and Beth, respectively. The Besom
Brigade reprised our routine in the dining hall at lunch that
day, and lead the procession for the closing ritual, too.
Conlaoch invited me to sit on a panel on death and dying with
him and Morgan of the RowanDream in Madison, WI. Morgan has
started a listserve called Pagan_Thanatology@yahoogroups.com,
which is where she and I met. Conlaoch I had met at Avalon a
few years ago. About 15 people attended the session. I think
it went well, although it's such a vast subject area and such
a loaded topic that one two-hour panel can barely scratch the
I got to have some long talks with some of my dearest friends
in Paganistan. Besides janie, Bosco, Steven and Beth, I had
an overdue long intimate conversation with Elvis.
The main ritual in a mosquito-infested woodland glade at sundown
on Saturday night was billed as a "Grand Old Time Witches'
Sabbat." I surrendered to the experience. I'm exceedingly
grateful for Elsa's and KJ's help when I was in the depths of
that experience. I have often said that Steven Posch is one
of the premier ritualists I've encountered in the United States,
and I must say that he and his minions did everything to reinforce
that opinion. The mysteries of which I partook do not lend themselves
to recounting. Suffice it to say that for me the ritual had
profound personal significance.
After the ritual I seemed to need heart connections. Drew
graciously escorted me out of the glade and back to the cabin
so I could change into my costume for the Witches' Ball. In
the safety of this loving environment, I felt free to express
myself, and to seek lots of hugs. John Slade served as mainstay
in giving and receiving hugs, supported by Finn, Kirk, and Wendy
the Good Witch, who's now called Medusa.
By the time I actually made it to the Witches' Ball, many
folks had come and gone. With plenty of room on the floor and
what I guess one might call "post-techno" dance music,
I danced with abandon, something I rarely do these days but
something we should all do more of. MoonDog delighted me with
his shameless flirting. He made me feel really sexy. I'm also
happy to say that I managed to get Uncle Draggi out on the dance
floor a time or two. We oldsters danced around John and Wendy,
who were engrossed in each other. I felt as though we were all
forming a Valentine, with the lovers John and Wendy as its centerpiece.
One notable occurrence at MerryMeet this year was the formation
of the National Association of Pagan Schools and Seminaries,
comprised initially of Cherry Hill Seminary in Vermont and
Ardantane Witch College and Pagan Learning Center in New Mexico.
These schools are preparing us to be more competent, knowledgeable,
sensitive "clergy," to minister to each other and
to others who request us.
Several Reclaiming Witches in Paganistan are taking the notion
of empowerment for what I believe it to be, and have started
a local group. They'll be having their first retreat in October.
After the closing ritual on Sunday morning, Steven and I packed
up and returned to Minneapolis. He dropped me off at the
Alexandria Library, where Magenta gave me a tour and she and
Martin and I chatted. Missing from the library's shelves are
the late Paul Duquette Tuitean's Norse collection and the rest
of his extensive library. I have hopes that they'll soon be
there where they can be used by Pagans and scholars.
Drew picked me up at Steven's house, only two doors down from
the NAL, and took me to his home, where I got to visit with
him and Jeannie and see photos of their handfasting. Later janie
and Bosco joined us there for dinner. Then we listened to two
songs from Steven's soon-to-be-released CD, "Radio Paganistan:
Folktales of the Urban Witches." I can hardly wait for
this CD to become available! No one but Steven could ever sing
"Mother Bertka's Coming to Town" like he does! The
five of us, plus Pesto, Jeannie's new dog, took a cooling evening
walk along the Mississippi, and then janie, Bosco and I returned
to their home so I could rest and catch a morning flight back
to San Francisco.
I arrived home in time for first session of Call of the Dark
Mother CHS course and remembrance of 9/11/01. I barely caught
my breath in the two days I was home before I left for Z Budapest's
Goddess 3K in La Honda, California. I met many wonderful women
there. Jade is someone I'd known by reputation and through our
many mutual friends and from working in Our Freedom: A Pagan
Civil Rights Coalition, but whom I'd never met face-to-face.
I think I can speak for her too when I say we enjoyed some lively
conversations and found many areas of alliance.
Melissa, from Novato, right here in my neck of the woods,
knocked herself out doing such a great job of organizing. The
meals were amazingly good, and plentiful. Given the fact that
I had just returned from a Y camp in Minnesota where the food
was terrible, this came as a pleasant surprise. I helped Diana
Paxson a bit with her midnight oracular seidh. I'm also glad
to have connected with another local Dianic group, the Daughters
of the Goddess. We talked a lot about networking. I see mutual
benefit from our collaboration. Mostly I talked with Victoria,
Leilani, Terry, Patrice and their webmistress from Ashland,
OR whose name escapes me.
During that event, I had to bilocate by coming back up to
San Francisco early Saturday morning for the Pagan Pride Day
The San Francisco Bay Area's First Annual Pagan Pride Day opened with a procession of Pagans bearing an eight-foot replica
of Lady Liberty, made by Fiona Zimmer, on a palanquin, preceded
by fumigators, aspergers and drummers, and followed by offering-bearers,
musicians and local Pagans, all chanting these words by Vibra
Willow: "We shall sing of the old gods, for we know we
are free. We shall keep Her sacred flame alive. Praise be Lady
Liberty!" (You can hear this chant at
Lady Liberty was mounted atop the main altar behind the stage,
cleansed, consecrated, and emplaced. All speeches and performances
were done in Her honor. We chose to honor Lady Liberty at the
Goddess of the U.S. in remembrance of those lost on 9/11/01
and to express our gratitude for Her blessings.
Organized by Gary Suto, Gary Mattingly, Jennifer Vaughn and
many friends, this PPD featured three speakers (Sam Webster,
Don Frew and myself) and some stunning performances by belly
dancers, sword dancers, Morris dancers, bands, singers and more.
Tom Lux and Jeff Anton took lots of photos, some of which I'll
be posting on my site soon, so drop by in a week or so to see
what's new. If it is done another year, we'll have a lot more
participation. This first year was hindered by inadequate publicity
and several competing events on the same day that are important
I also showed some of the Besom Brigade routines - as well
as that can be done with one person and no besom to some locals
like Prudence Priest, Tami Griffith and Vibra. I want to spread
the fun around.
Saturday night I drove back to La Honda for the rest of Goddess
3K, and then back to San Rafael on Sunday afternoon.
On Friday I'm off again to Salt Lake City for their second
Pagan Pride Day. There I'll be the guest of Aisling and Finn.
My next Broomstick Chronicle will follow shortly after my return
In the meantime, know that there are some wonderful, wonderful
Pagan folk out there in the USA.
Blessings of the living land,
Back to the top
May 31, 2002 -- Not in Kansas Anymore
Wow, what a fantastic trip I had to Heartland Pagan Festival!
I had the best time ever. Still high a week later.
The weather was so clear on the flight out that I couldn't
sleep or read a book. Not complaining, mind you. I couldn't
take my eyes from the beauty of the Earth beneath us. I could
pick out all kinds of islands, hills, inlets, bridges and such
as we arose out of the Bay Area. I watched as the Delta and
the San Joaquin Valley unfolded, blending into the Mother Lode
and the snowy Sierra Nevadas. The basin and range of Nevada
and Western Utah, then more snow-capped mountains, until we
flew above the clouds and I could see the Earth no longer. Another
good reason not to try taking the redeyes any longer.
Randal and James met me at Kansas City International. We had
a hearty meal, stopped for some supplies, and headed out to
Camp Gaea. Angel and Michelle greated us at registration with
smiles, where we also saw the beautiful athame that the smith
Govannan had donated for their fundraising raffle. We arrived
after dark so I didn't see much of the camp till morning.
My pals Sparky and Beal were already settled into our cabin.
Our "concierge," Raven Spirit, had made up the beds
and left small bundles of sage on them for us to smudge the
room. We three did some catching up, excited about having the
opportunity to spend some time together. Sparky and I were even
more excited about getting this rare chance to collaborate on
In the predawn hours that first morning in the cabin I sat
up suddenly, rudely awakened by an annoying, loud, repetitive
sound. Beal explained that it was just a whippoorwill. I thought
it sounded like a car alarm, the kind that the owners go off
and forget about and then the neighborhood is terrorized by
its ceaseless beeping. I later found out that the local Indians
experienced the same annoyance with this bird, and seemed to
be able to solve their problem simply by pointing at the bird.
After that, I guess it goes away because they hear no more racket
from it. You country folk who might be reading this are probably
amused by my West Coast, semi-urban ignorance of bird calls.
Due to some late schedule changes, I had two days to explore
the festival before I was scheduled to present. Unfortunately,
a lot of that time was filled with rain and mud, making me much
Grey Cat arrived late on Thursday. She and I shared one side
of the handicapped cabin. Old friends since the days she was
editing The Crone Papers, from a time before electronic
communication, we hadn't actually seen each other since 1993
when she and her crew organized CoG's MerryMeet in Asheville,
NC. Although in the last couple of years we've enjoyed regular
e-correspondence, it was a real treat to get together in person
again. And both of us with brand new books on the market!
All the festival staff treated all of us with care. We just
flashed our magical gold plastic armbands and Tony, Tammy and
their Rainbow Café staff loaded our plates with food.
Several folks I met all too briefly - in a shuttle, in the
food line, on the fringes of a concert in the pavilion. Among
those I would have liked having more time with: Aislinn, J.D.,
Angel, Doc Mateo, Raven Spirit, Drake, Robin, and others whose
names don't come to mind at this moment.
I did, however, manage to attend a couple of workshops. Not
all I had wanted to attend. Sparky's workshop on Ritual as Theater
gave me some tools and insights about one of my passions - rituals
of beauty and effectiveness. Grey Cat's discussion on Pagan
clergy pushed lots of my buttons; I hope I behaved at least
reasonably well. And Nels Linde's beginning drum workshop challenged
me and gave me an even greater appreciation of good drummers
than before. The operative word here being "good."
One of HPF's "founding members," Rhiannon Bennett,
who, with sidebars from Clarity and others, gave a history of
Heartland and all the challenges - meteorological (floods),
neighborhood (intolerance), real estate, economic.
I felt that all three of the workshops I presented were well
received. Since returning home, I've gotten some e-mails for
people who'd attended thanking me for them. I can't tell you
how satisfying it is to be told that the things I have to offer
For occasional respite from the hubub of the marketplace,
I ducked behind Nels' Hawkdancing booth and hung out with him,
Judy, Joby, Andrea, Tracy, and a few others. Also had a great
time gabbing and watching the dancers and fire-twirlers with
Judy on Friday night.
Sparky had foretold that I'd want to spend a little on goodies,
that the merchants at Heartland would be plentiful and exceptional.
He was right. Corby made out with two new handmade Renaissance
garments from T'Ger. Barbara, Russell and Phoenix of Aquarius
Books generously hosted a booksigning for me. I think they sold
all the copies of Witchcraft and the Web they had with
them, plus several of Grey Cat's
One of the most remarkable features of Heartland, to this
California Witch, is the fires and fire-tenders. Unfortunately,
I didn't get their names. But I did see them laboring and sweating
to build the big nightly fire. They added something to make
it burn green sometimes, and at other time to shoot forth sparks.
You could never do anything even remotely like that here in
California, but with all the rain and verdure around, it's safe
to do in rural Kansas. I tip my pointy black hat with a flourish
to all the fire priests. Whoo wee!
Another great treat was the opportunity to reconnect with
old friends Rhiannon Asher and George Moyer. I had stayed with
them in Denver back in 1998. Soon afterwards they moved to Kansas
and began republishing Hole in the Stone. Now they're happily
ensconced in the university town of Lawrence.
We had a laughter-filled reunion in their tent, listening
to the amazing music of Elvendrums nearby. Afterwards, since
this was the last night before I was leaving for home, we passed
by the fire pit on the way to the moonlight sale in the merchants'
area. Both of us were seduced by the lure of dancing in the
firelight. The drums were hypnotic and enticing. But we continued
to the vendors for one last shopping. There we encountered Judy,
stripped to the waist and painted with glitter designs, ready
to dance. By this time lightning had begun flashing in the sky
in the distance. Just as we were headed back to the fire pit
to dance, big drops began falling. And since I was leaving at
daybreak and didn't want to be packing soggy clothing, I hightailed
it back to our cabin.
As I lay in bed after packing, I watched lightning flashes
strobing the sky until daybreak, with attendant thunder and
heavy rain. No whippoorwill calling over that noise. By morning
the storm had passed and Randal and I made our bleary-eyed way
back to KCI. I had him all to myself for that one last ride.
If I had any regrets, which I really don't, it would be that
we got no photos of anything there. None of Beal or Grey Cat
or Sparky or me or anyone.
My pals Fritz Jung and Lord Orion told me I was going to love
Heartland. How right they were!
I'll be home most of the Summer so you won't be getting updates.
The next event I'm excited about is Sam Webster's Symposium
- Pagani Soteria in June. It's so small and so popular that
he's scheduled another like event in July.
Blessings of the festival season,
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