What Sort of Witch Are You?

For some individuals, witchcraft is a journey of finding one’s unique style of magic, own cosmology, and personal philosophy.

This post was on Witches and Pagan in 2016, at http://witchesandpagans.com/sagewoman-blogs/a-faerie-haven.html

Have you seen the popular lists of different types of witches—e.g., traditional witch, Gardnerian witch, Faerie witch, eclectic witch, hedge witch—with precise definitions for each category? These charts help some beginners. Learning you fit a certain style can be validating and reassuring. It also makes some newcomers feel they belong.

But this post is for beginners who find the categories make things really difficult. Everyone else, I’m not naysaying what works for you; this entire post is simply ideas and methods that work for me, in case they’re useful to someone. I don’t want the charts thrown out. They’re great for some people. And with that:

There are individuals whose witchcraft entails a journey of finding one’s unique style of magic, own cosmology, and personal philosophy. Being new to Pagan community and being told there are specific witch types, each with very specific definitions, can box these folks in, lead them to think they won’t fit anywhere in the Pagan community, and ill-legitimize personal self-discoveries that transcend the categories.

What if you come from a traditional witch family, talk to fairies, and enjoy practicing Gardnerian magic occasionally? Sure, that might classify you as an “eclectic witch,” but that term is redundant historically speaking; it was once a given that witches were eclectic, because witches understand the connectivity of all things. To me, the term “eclectic witch” robs me of my heritage. My witchy heritage fuels spells, making them powerful.

As to connectivity, the Old Gods unite me with the enchantment that flows through the entire universe. That current carries me, its sweep making me joyful, as it bears me toward even more joy. But “eclectic witch” implies magic is not in everything around me and thus denies what’s inherent to many folks’ witchcraft.

In the same vein, I see witches as wild creatures, transcending every limit. I’m a child of the Gods. Their infinite powers are mine. Mind you, I’m not suggesting I can successfully cast every spell anyone else can cast. I believe witches can have specialties.

In any case, categorizing keeps some people from developing specialties. These are folks whose process demands they look not at definitions but into their own selves and, despite how scary it might be, journey into seeming formlessness until it becomes recognizable as their special gift—their specialty.
WildCreaturesI love—and use—the different terms for types of witches. They’re great jumping off points, e.g., for connecting with like-minded individuals.

They also can be pointers. But I use the terms the old way: to evoke—lyric speaking to our wild witch hearts and whispering of the undefinable and unlimited—rather than as part of quantitative charts, mapping magic out so exactly as to be … boringly limited for some folks.

I love magic so much it makes me sad to realize charts might crush certain people’s magic.

Also, poor scholarship defines witch types incorrectly. For example, it’s sadly a current given that Gardnerian Wicca bears little resemblance to traditional witchcraft. I lived in a Gardnerian household in England with one of Gerald Gardner’s students and, as a traditional witch, I can tell you people living in that house practiced old-fashioned witchery. Furthermore, I met members of the family tradition that greatly influenced Gerald.

Lack of scholarship also portrays traditional witchcraft as consistently the same. It varied, village to village and family to family.

And many a scholar will say “eclectic witch” makes no historical sense. Global travel is not a modern occurrence. Various ancient cultures shared their rituals constantly.

Are you dismayed by witch categories because they make you feel the magical Art has been divided up like slices of a pie … and you feel like the whole pie? Be the whole enchanted pie.

If you’re a fledging witch who resonates with what I’ve written, I support you not by giving you categories to validate you, but by validating who you already are. Like most of us when we come into Pagan community, you’ve always had Paganism in your heart and life, perhaps without having named it as such. So trust what you already know and build on it. You have the intelligence and insightfulness needed to do so.

Enjoy the names for all the different types of witches, or use none of them. But claim your path as valid.

By “valid,” I’m not saying everything you do currently as a witch is always safe and effective. No one is perfect. Also, some spellcrafting requires substantial training. Get a teacher if you want. But don’t worry about what “type” of witch a prospective teacher is. Choose someone whose spirit calls you and who honors your spirit in turn, whether or not you know how to describe your path. Witches used to work together in all their differences and likenesses, getting along just fine, learning just fine.

I teach. Classes are mostly via group phone calls (aka telesminars): you don’t need a computer or any special technology to attend; just dial the phone. Subscribe to my free newsletter, which gives details about upcoming classes: http://www.well.com/user/zthirdrd/InfoForm.htm

What sort of witch are you? You’re you! So mote it be.

My Wonderful Students

My long-term shamanic students are the best people. It’s such a gift to have them as my fellow seekers.

I celebrate them today by introducing you to three of them and the remarkable work they do in their respective fields.

sarah_photoSarah Josey—see above photo—is a Clinical Herbalist, Nutritionist, and Sacred Living instructor. She says she’s “passionate about helping people achieve health through natural means and supporting people on their life path towards overall wellness and happiness.”

Sarah started studying with me before entering her profession. I had the joy of watching this dynamic, young woman grow into her career. I try to empower my students, but it is up to them to take the ball and run with it. Sarah has definitely done that.

She owns an herbal apothecary in Fort Collins, CO, and also spends part of her year in Fairbanks, AK. Check out her work at SarahJosey.com.

I spend as much time as possible in trance because I love it, but I also believe my shamanic classes should create concrete results, improving all aspects of someone’s life. So it’s always a joy to work with someone who’s multifaceted. Kathy Crabbe, who is wrapping up a two-year shamanic training with me, is an artist, illustrator, writer, and soul reader, and lives in Southern California in an adobe style home she and her husband built.

Here’s Kathy:
kathy-crabbe-bio-pickAlong with her impressive list of talents is Kathy’s commitment to using her gifts in service to community.

Kathy blogs at kathycrabbe.com/blog

A spirit portrait I painted of Rommy Driks gives a sense of this writer who has studied with me for eight years:
starfirestargazermergedRommy says of her blog, “I create strange brews of urban myth and faerie tales, while grooving to good music and sipping better tea. Stop by and enjoy a cuppa and a story.”

That’s a modest self-description, considering her writing is truly original, exquisitely crafted, and conveys important ideas. I thoroughly relish her “strange brews.”

Check out Rommy’s work at http://kestrilsrhythmsandgroove.blogspot.com/

I am blessed to be surrounded by exceptional people.

PortraitBotmBnr

Upcoming Class: The Spiritual Warrior

The Spiritual Warrior:
A seven-week teleseminar (group class by telephone)

The Spiritual Warrior class empowers the part of you that fights for survival, family, ideals, dreams, human rights, and Gaia.

I have not taught this class in over four years, so grab the chance.

Francesca De Grandis, May 2012

Francesca De Grandis, May 2012

This post includes some of my personal philosophy, on which the class is based.

People use the terms “spiritual warrior” and “pacifist” in various ways. Here’s how I use the terms:

* Pacifists will not engage in physical violence even if their life is on the line. Though I’ve enormous respect for pacifists, and they can legitimately be viewed as amazing spiritual warriors, that’s not what this class is about. I am not a pacifist.

* Spiritual warriors are not unduly aggressive. Nevertheless, they’ll go into combat when needed. If battle’s the only choice, they engage with their whole heart and soul.

Ceremonial and practical lessons will include:
* why effective warriors often go with the flow instead of fighting it
* the gentle uses of war
* how to shove back when push comes to shove, without losing the high moral ground
* the importance of down ‘n’ dirty fighting in business, community leadership, and inner growth
* strategizing with an ethical military mind
* standing up for yourself with no self-recrimination

The lessons also help you honor healthy aggression. Not all aggression is expressed by childish, irresponsible, hurtful rage. You’ll learn how to handle your aggressive power so that you express it healthily—you control it; it doesn’t control you.

We’ll celebrate the aggression without which we can lose our lust for life, because the two energies are so intertwined. You’ll find new passion for living because you’ll suppress your energy less.

I’ll also teach methods for self-healing after the battles of childhood and adulthood. This class helps you regain a carefree, gentle attitude.

My warrior self protects the fragile child within me, providing the safety she needs to express love, delight in fairies, and be creative. I’ll help you be a champion who shields your child self.

This class is for:
* the seasoned fighter who wants additional strengths, strategies, and self-control
* a person combatting a life-threatening challenge such as cancer
* someone needing to fight for a life that has dignity and pleasure
* and anyone else interested.

Novices to witchcraft are welcome; yet adepts will find appropriate challenges.

As I said, the above expresses my warrior philosophy as it underpins the class. The post also outlines parts of the curriculum. I hope you’ve enjoyed the material.

But warriors don’t settle for words. Join me for the work—and celebration!—needed to embody everything written here. Let’s live our lives fully.

Nuts and bolts:
* These are group meetings by phone. To participate, just dial the phone from anywhere.
* Class meets seven consecutive Thursdays, from 6:00 to 7:00 pm EST, starting Thursday July 21.
* Reserve Sept 8, same time, for a makeup class in case I’m unavailable for one of the planned sessions.
* Tuition: $250. Your usual long-distance charges apply, and appear on your phone bill. The event’s area code is a U.S. #.
* If you’ve taken this class before, repeat it at half-price.
* Enroll securely using PayPal. Sign up for “Special Event” at http://www.outlawbunny.com/special-events-registration/
* Upon receipt of payment, your place is reserved, and event phone #, etc., emailed to you. If you need more info, or want to discuss scholarship, trade, or payment plan, call me at 814-337-2490. No refunds.

The Spiritual Warrior is part of Third Road’s oral tradition and satisfies one of the two electives needed before Third Road’s advanced training.

Fight for yourself and for what is important to you.

Pagan Trends, Absolute Truths, and Trusting Yourself

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Trends change rapidly in the Pagan community. We often see “an indisputable fact” ricochet to its exact opposite within years. These “truths” cause immense discord. How can we navigate these treacherous waters without disavowing our own personal wisdoms? We all find our way of doing it. If I share mine, perhaps that might make finding yours easier.

So, a story:

Way back when, most American Pagans insisted traditional craft was nonexistent. People became downright nasty in their disdainful insistence there is no traditional witchcraft. Nowadays, many Pagans discuss traditional craft, what it is, how to do it, and where to learn it.

The party line back then was that anyone who claimed a traditional craft lineage was a liar. The person in question might be completely discredited.

To the best of my understanding back then: a big name Pagan dishonestly validated the material he taught by saying he’d gotten it from his grandmother, a traditional witch, but he lied about her being a witch.

People just decided, if he was lying, everybody else must be. Good grief!

Ok, let me continue this tale by adding how it affected me personally:

I was raised in a longstanding European-based shamanic family tradition. This was hardly a secret to some of the Pagans I knew. But, in case it’s useful context for the rest of my story, I didn’t have a best selling book yet, so the number of people who knew anything about me were far far fewer than later became the case.

You can imagine, amidst all the vitriol and possibility of being totally discredited, I was thoughtful about when to mention my traditional witchery to a Pagan. I wanted to avoid the near certainty of being branded liar in the larger Pagan community.

Close friends knew my family background, and I’d tell others when it was important. In fact, when the bestseller did come out, its back cover mentioned my mom was a Sicilian witch. To do otherwise would’ve insulted her and all my witch ancestors. But I also used discretion. For example, skirting my family history in casual conversation.

What I’m saying is: navigating the dangerous seas of trending “absolute truths” was challenging—for one thing, it can be frightening to buck popular opinion—but I found ways to maintain integrity while also guarding my emotional equilibrium. We can keeps our spirits whole. Here are two navigation skills that worked for me:

One is knowing it is vital to trust your own beliefs and respect the value of your own experiences, despite people who try to hit you over the head with trends to make you feel ignorant or otherwise not as “authentic” a Pagan as they are.

The second navigation skill is discretion. I want to practice discretion about whether to say something.

Nowadays, most people use the word discretion to mean holding silence. But discretion can also mean wisely considering the best course of action, judging each situation according to its specific circumstances. I’m using the latter definition here. So, in terms of our topic, discretion might lead one to speak—to good purpose—or to remain appropriately mum.

It’s vital to speak up for your beliefs when there’s good reason. Losing self-respect does not constitute successful navigation of treacherous waters.

As to choosing silence, let’s start with the example of avoiding arguments with people who aren’t going to listen.

Back when mentioning a family tradition might completely discredit you with many people, I was at a dinner party where someone who was constantly on power trips declared, in a high and mighty tone, that as a scholar she was devoted to naysaying the possibility of a family tradition. She did not know I came from one. I didn’t tell her. (A friend in the know did surreptitiously wink at me. That was lovely support.)

Most people who jump on trending absolutes will neither listen nor engage in a courteous, informative exchange of ideas, because they’ll rush to prop up wobbly egos with pseudo-knowledge. They’ll just try to browbeat you into feeling you’re wrong, though that may not be their conscious motivation, bless them. Wasting your time in a verbal entanglement amounts to letting someone’s pseudo-truth get the better of you. Your time is sacred.

Yet if she had been honestly interested, and merely misinformed about whether traditional witchcraft existed, I might have discussed my family.

Important aside: Though I avoided an argument at the dinner party, I admit my record’s not perfect with that sort of thing. Luckily, seeing how it depleted and upset me helps me not repeat the mistake any more. A hard won lesson, but one that frees me from other people’s opinionated insistences.

This blog is long but the following feels vital. Another example of discretion and silence:

(Please note, I’m going to use traditional witchery as an example in this essay again. That’s a coincidence. The examples have no relation. So don’t think you need to connect the dots between examples.)

More than once, a segment of the Pagan community inflated their position to one of dominance by stating “superior” pseudo-truths, and I could have deflated their posturing by disclosing a bit of traditional witchcraft’s sacred lore.

I stayed mute about the lore. I was blessed to have received it, so would not disclose it merely to prove a point to people who would not have viewed it as precious information but who would have pawed it.

They’d have greedily grabbed at it as mere words—exploited it as verbal fodder they could parrot to appear in-the-know and first string. (Heh, at least I got to feel smug about keeping my mouth shut. … Ok, I admit, feeling superior wasn’t good for me.)

Had I said anything authentic, nobody would have cared. The agenda on their table was to show how important and “wise” you were. That was not an agenda I wanted to be part of, even though telling them traditional material would’ve moved me to the top of the food chain. But climbing up would have actually, as the old expression goes, dragged me down to their level. … Goddess, I was tempted anyway. … Maybe smugness about my silence was my solace.

My story about being silent is relevant to discretion stopping fake truths from derailing your personal hard-won beliefs, in the following ways:

Opening my mouth would have been my ego reacting to theirs, as well as meeting their attempt to move up in a hierarchy with a similar attempt of my own. Both of those would have betrayed my personal belief in not living in ego or falling prey to power struggles.

It also would have wasted my time and life force, instead of me going about my merry business, living happily according to my own ecstatic truths.

Responding to someone’s power play with one of our own can be incredibly tempting, but also incredibly damaging to ourselves. Ego-driven magic and power-hungry grabs put someone on the slippery slope of chasing chimera more and more, less and less living joyously in the beautiful world the Goddess created for us.

Had I shared the lore for the purposes of my ego, I also would have debased that material. Reduced to mere words in order to feed my ego, the power of that beautiful material would’ve been lost to me, crumbled into dust like Faerie gold.

There’s one more way someone’s pseudo-truth would’ve gotten the better of me if I’d blabbed sacred knowledge for the sake of ego and dominance. I would’ve betrayed my following personal truth: I hold my religion sacred by only using it for honorable purposes. To do otherwise, I would truly have failed navigating the rocky seas of community-enforced pseudo-truths and sunk to the depths.

When magic and spirituality become tools to create unhealthy hierarchy—aka dominate others—they go sour. So does the spirit of the practitioner in question. His soiled shamanic path is handed down to his students, its very essence feeding their worst aspects, perhaps subtly but thoroughly. A nightmare for the community.

When magic and spirituality remain tools to serve, in respect for our differences, those tools become more powerful and capable. So do our spirits. Free of contentious opinions and excess verbiage, our innate magic fills each day, often silently. We become blessed by—and a blessing for—community.

I hope some of my above opinions are useful to you.

I teach traditional craft. My Gods bless me with wise students: They are wise in so many ways, but one is that we all respect each other. Honoring our differing views as assets allows each of us to uniquely contribute to the group’s magic and well-being. This in turn allows each of us to benefit from all the participants’ strengths.

If you’d like to join us, I teach mostly via group phone calls—aka teleseminars. Subscribe to my free newsletter, which tells you about upcoming classes: http://www.well.com/user/zthirdrd/InfoForm.htm

Have a magical day.

Traditional Witchcraft, Spirituality, and Ethics

FDG2016TphatCurrently, it is a prevalent opinion among Pagans that traditional witchcraft was strictly magical, lacking theology or moral aspects. While I can respect that theory, it is not congruent with my own experiences. I suspect whether traditional witchery had sacred or ethical aspects varied by locale or by family tradition.

I never argue with anybody’s experience, only their theory. Theory is ever-changing. I’d never want to invalidate anyone’s experience, including my own. I’ll share mine below.

My experiences lead to conclusions that differ from the aforementioned current popular Pagan position. I hope to add to the Pagan dialogue on the topic, and provide support for those who, like me, have an unpopular point of view.

Growing up in a family tradition, I learned magic and a mystical worldview con leche. Therefore magic and mysticism were a given, as much a part of life as the air I was breathing. In the process, a religious and ethical worldview was deeply ingrained in my cells.

Note I say “my cells,” not “my brain.” It took my entire childhood and adolescence to imbibe the tradition’s basics, because cellular lessons take time.

The understandings of the tradition were so deeply imbedded in our home life that much of the family tradition was taken for granted, not out and out spoken, but more implied and lived. This includes the theist or moral aspects.

In fact, calling it an understanding in the above paragraph is somewhat of a misnomer. It is not so much an understanding as a way of being.

In any case, a lifestyle with many of its important aspects being subtle or unspoken seems an earmark of many traditional witches I have met.

When I got older, I saw that this subtlety sometimes causes people who were viewing the family tradition from the outside to not see the tradition’s deep religious and ethical roots, only the more overt—and perhaps less core—trappings. When I participated in family traditions in Europe, I usually found deep religious and ethical roots in them.

Observers are not engaged in the family culture. They are standing outside it, watching. Only by being part of a shamanic family culture over a long period of time can one can really understand the culture. The notion that to watch something is to fully understand it is a fairly current concept of scholarship. As I said above, learning the traditional witchcraft of my family required an experiential, long term lesson.

It has become almost de rigeur to insist traditional craft never had sacred or principled aspects. This makes it important to me to write this post about my family tradition, because I feel I’m speaking up for my Gods, for my witch ancestors, and for others who feel as I do.

I do not like it when a theory ceases to be a theory and becomes a mandated belief—in other words, when someone is mouthing somebody else’s words to, consciously or not, invalidate other seekers. Unfortunately, the concept that traditional witchcraft had neither ethical nor theological base has become yet another Pagan rote declaration, usually said—or written—in an intimidating tone of I-know-better-than-you-so-whatever-you-think-is-stupid.

I can admire people who authentically believe other than I do. An informed and friendly exchange of ideas about traditional craft, spirituality, and ethics could be a lovely thing. Healthy debate is a wonderfully educational process for everyone involved. A supportive, respectful, and thoughtful exchange of ideas can do wonders.

But debate is not the same as trying to legitimize and define one’s path by invalidating someone else’s. That hurtfully invalidates a lot of newbies who already feel insecure about their belief system. This can crush a newcomer’s spirit.

Coming to our community, hoping to finally find fellowship, but instead encountering someone just as invalidating as mainstream society, can be doubly heartbreaking, because they thought they had finally entered a safe space. So they often never participate in our community again, and end up without support in their Pagan explorations.

People who need to squash others in order to validate their own power have less power than they think, and more mere bluster than they realize.

Thus, I felt impelled to write this post to support invalidated Pagans.

A last thought on traditional witches and ethics: perhaps in some cases, a lack of morality had less to do with any tradition and more to do with human nature. Some people just take anything, even that which is moral and sacred to begin with, strip it of those roots, and use it for their own selfish—or even evil—goals.

I hope this post is a useful contribution to Pagan dialogue about traditional craft.

If you want experiential lessons in traditional craft, I teach The Third Road, a tradition I channel, informed by the magic of my ancestors and my mom. (Channeling teachings is part of traditional craft.) I teach mostly via group phone calls—aka teleseminars. Here’s the link to subscribe to my newsletter, which tells you about upcoming classes: http://www.well.com/user/zthirdrd/InfoForm.htm

Bless you.

Phoenix Resurrection

PhenxRsrctn
Phoenix Resurrection

I celebrate—here with community—my triumph over a long initiatory ordeal.

Hear my confident victory cry: 10+ years, flames tempered my steel and burned away dross. Til nothing remained except power, abundance, and beauty. Now, my story is victory and joy. I’m happier and more abundant than ever.

Humans are resilient. I overcame a 10+ year nightmare, one tragedy after another. Now, my story is victory and joy. On all fronts: Health, finances, delight, and more. For one thing—just one!—I should’ve died, but now have many good years ahead.

Here—hear—my victory cry: I did more than survive, I thrive again.

It has been quite some time, now, that I thrive again.

I thank my Gods, my community, and my stubbornness.

Victory: I was an excellent shamanic guide, but I used my extreme trials to become an even better guide, so that I can do the next works my Gods require. The foundation beneath my flight was firm, but now it is beyond strength—it is the Universe card, the Tao, the moment, the always.

A 10+ year initiatory bonfire, on which Gods stacked my old ways, til painful blaze reached sky, allowed Phoenix rebirth.

For a good long while now, that fire—transmuted—has been a nourishing Dragon fire within me, fueling my joy and Eagle flight. Some days, it quiets to a banked ember in my heart, warming my soul and loin.

Now my story is victory and joy. Doubt you can rise? You can fly! We humans can wrongly think we’ve lost ourselves. But Scorpio me was always Dragon, even when I couldn’t sense my fire.

I am Phoenix reborn. Flames laid waste the past, birthing warmth-driven foliage. Now, Phoenix relaxes—an easy flight in sacred meadow and passionate forest born from the Phoenix’s own rebirth.

I am Eagle soaring free, no longer pierced by arrow. I am Dragon holding up the sky.

Now, my story is victory and joy. I celebrate through gratefulness. Thank you.

Master Healing Class

Update: Don’t wait til “later.” This is a special event. Not likely repeated. For decades, I’ve mentored working healers from diverse traditions. Usually in context of unusually lengthy training. Now, I’ll focus a seven-week intensive specifically on it. If you’ve studied my oral tradition, you know how much I can teach in amazingly little time. Grab the opportunity.

Master Healing Class:
A seven-week seminar
for practitioners of any mystically-based healing art

An opportunity for working healers—whether you are paid or work for free, help only a few friends or offer your services to a huge community, use your mystical ability to heal the physical body or to empower the spiritual body.

These lessons transcend any healing tradition or modality because they’re geared individually toward your unique healing approach. You’ll learn what you need right now to improve your effectiveness as a healer. Tailor-made tools and paradigms to improve your particular gift.

Ask for input about any part of your healing practice, including maximum self-care while healing others. I do mean any part.

Faerie art, Francesca De Grandis

Francesca De Grandis, self-portrait

If you’ve no questions about augmenting your healing approach, you still receive lessons tailored to you, at every meeting. I channel. Each class, I also give direct spiritual transmissions to enhance your particular healing abilities, as well as direct transmissions of lessons.

You transcend the healing tradition that you work in. Or you may not be in a tradition. And you may be self-trained. Or…? Whatever your background, ultimately each healer’s approach is unique.

For three decades, I’ve mentored healers from a large, diverse variety of traditions and healing modalities. It is not about me teaching in a way that limits you to learning set teachings or set energy patterns from me. I have my own approach and help my students foster theirs, all of us guided by Divinity.

The lessons will be suitable to spiritual healers of any kind—e.g., psychic healer, tarot reader, reiki practitioner (and for some of us, those categories overlap, but I was just giving examples).

Whether your work is energy healing, shamanic, or psychic, or …, it is all good.

Powerful even for very advanced healers. I’m experienced in holding space for my peers to empower themselves. The more we grow, the more we need to sharpen our tools and selves; and a shamanic teacher on the embodied plane can augment your process.

Faerie Ancestor who is a guardian to this site. Silk Painting, Outlaw Bunny

Faerie Ancestor who is a guardian to this site. Silk Painting, Outlaw Bunny

Nuts and bolts:
* We meet by group phone call. Just dial your phone.
* We meet seven consecutive Thursdays, from 6 to 7 PM EST, starting FEBRUARY 6. RESERVE March 27, same time, for a makeup class in case I’m unavailable for one of the planned sessions.
* Tuition: $250. You might pay long-distance charges, depending on your long-distance plan. If so, they appear on your phone bill. The event is a U.S. area code.
* Register here.
* Or pay by check or money order.
* Upon receipt of payment, I email you event phone number, etc. No refunds.
* If you need more info, or want to discuss scholarship, trade, or payment plan, call me: 814.337.2490.
* Participants are personally responsible for the consequences of their voluntary participation.

Don’t worry about whether questions that others ask in class will be relevant to you. As unique as you are, you’ll receive more useful material than most folks could imagine. After all these years, I am well-practiced in creating a paradoxical sacred space in which wild souls come together for individually relevant, life-changing lessons.

I can hold you and your particular needs. Enrollment is limited, to foster authentic connectivity and in-depth attention for each participant.

Support to move into your next level as a healer: Click here to register.

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Connectivity, Ecstasy, Service

If we believe in the pantheist or Taoist principle of all things being connected, we walk our talk by serving all things. As an ecstatic, I find heart-rendering joy through service.

We are part of a great weave. Call it the World tree, the dance of life, the Tao—call it Fred. We can be codependent in this weave, or we can have boundaries but still be within it. We can fight it, or we can be fed by. And we can surrender to it.

Surrender can be just a fancy pompous word unless we are of service. There are other ways one must follow through on the notion of surrender for it to actually be surrender, but for now let’s focus on service.

But before we do, I need to add an aside: I am not suggesting we must perfectly attain any of the ideals I set forth here. I would be a hypocrite to suggest I have anywhere near attained these ideals myself. I do cleave to these ideals, and do my best to achieve them (though my best is often poor), and this is all my Gods ask of me.

Okay, back to service. We can serve the weave. My belief and experience is that, if we believe the Taoist or pantheist principle of all things being connected, we walk our talk by serving all things. Serving community, serving Gaia, serving all of life, serving family, serving one’s spiritual tradition(s) and spiritual teacher(s) and spiritual student(s), serving one’s Gods.

We must also serve self, self is part of the weave. Sometimes, we best serve by serving self alone. For example, when we are ill or need to build courage to serve others. Or when we simply need time alone to enjoy ourselves.

Ultimately, to be part of the weave, we serve in surrender. I often forget that. In other words, when my Gods ask me to do something, I often try to set about doing it my way instead of Theirs. But to really do that which my Gods ask me, I must also implement it the way They ask. (Oh, my, in this essay, surrender becomes service becomes surrender.)

When we serve, we align ourselves within the weave, we start flowing with it. We start being fed by it in ways that we cannot otherwise. There is healing and empowerment not otherwise available.

What’s more, we experience connectivity so sublime that it is orgasmic. Literally orgasmic. I have great orgasms because I am of service.

I painted this blessing  banner quite a while ago, but post it here bc it is in the spirit of my prayer.

I painted this blessing banner quite a while ago, but post it here bc it is in the spirit of my prayer.

Being of service is truly pagan, it’s not a wimpy trait, it is part of ecstasy. Not only ecstasy between the sheets but also an ecstatic way of life—being joyfully within the weave whether it’s with your family, your coworkers, a beautiful summer day, or the stars in the sky.

I am blessed to feel connected to every star in the universe and know the thrill of all starlight radiating around me, with me, through me. I know this weave because I am blessed to be of service.

My prayer: Gods, I know that serving is a blessing to me, because all things come from you—my breath, my ability to rise in the morning, my joy, my serving. Everything of me is from you. So do not let me think that my service to others makes me superior. Getting the chance to serve others makes me very very lucky! It is to you I must turn if I want to serve: I pray, please bless me with the power to serve—including the willingness to serve. And bless me with the humility to serve in surrender—when You set me a task, help me implement it the way You ask.

CnslingBotmBnr

Bickering, Community Service, and Self-Awareness

Part two in a series on supporting newcomers (and oldtimers) in your spiritual community. May, 2013. Part one is on my other site, at http://www.outlawbunny.com/2011/06/14/welcoming-newbies/

A woman phoned me to inquire about my classes. That’s not unusual; I teach oral tradition style, so feel I should be available by phone if someone wants to ask about my work.

She immediately said that very few pagans are hard-working in their spiritual efforts. This is not unusual, either; I hear that sentiment plenty.

After addressing her community critique, I tried to move the conversation past it, but she kept returning to the issue. She is not someone for whom I’d be a good teacher.

It is only human to bond with someone new by denigrating others. But it is a tendency I try to avoid: While it feeds the ego of the two people bonding (they get to feel superior to everyone else in the world), it keeps them from getting any actual work done. I mean the sort of work that happens in my classes: for example, self-examination, self-care, nurturing of ability to serve community, and building shamanic skills. No, I am not the teacher for her.

Fool, tarot card, Francesca De Grandis, 12-03

The fool is about love. Fool, tarot card, Francesca De Grandis, 12-03

When first working as a spiritual counselor in an occult shop, I received a pretty big shock. I’d been guiding folks in a private practice, mostly by referral. Suddenly I was thrown onto the front lines. Someone would come to the shop to consult with me because their daughter had just died. Or their 14-year-old son had gotten somebody pregnant. Or their husband beat them.

I went home and threw out my lofty new age abstractions. I threw out my Celtic cross spread, at least for most of the shop appointments. (For those of you who don’t know the spread, it makes for a complex lengthy session.) A lot of these shop sessions were only ten minutes long. After that my boss pressed the buzzer: Time’s up!

I sat in my home and started coming up with very fast spreads that would tune me into the heart of the client’s issue(s) and the essence of the advice they needed. I compiled a list of community resources: contact information for women’s shelters, teen crisis counseling, etc. I honed my inner skills more than ever so that I’d sense a client’s needs stat.

I was a working minister.

Decades later now. As then, not all my work is with trauma survivors. Often, I help people with more “everyday” concerns,” as well as train folks in shamanism, other esoteric skills, creativity, and marketing. But I’m definitely always on the frontlines: in community, with a busy schedule of counseling and teaching.

I mention being a shop employee and my ensuing work because: I’ve rarely gotten involved in pagan debates; I am too busy! Mind you, I discuss my work with other front-line ministers who can help me polish my shamanic skills, not burn out, and otherwise address my work. But I do not want to be criticized because of theoretical issues that have little basis and are thrown on the table by angry people with no understanding of what I am really up against on the ministerial front lines.

When we’re busy looking at our own faults, polishing our own skills, taking care of ourselves, and serving community, we don’t have time to unnecessarily criticize people.

Criticism is appropriate sometimes. Each of us needs to be held accountable by community. And healthy debate is joyfully welcomed in my classes because fresh perspectives rise.

The sort of criticism that I’d like to see less of is the endless picayune bickering that seems to produce little. Hmm, well, it produces swollen egos, draws the limelight, hurts sincere seekers whether newbie or oldtimer, and silences timid souls. Important sidebar: It hurts the newbies not only because they feel rejected but also because it encourages them to behave in kind.

Even as an oldtimer, I can feel hurt and invalidated, when people get so riled up and so angry and bitter; and behind their words is the statement, “I am better than you, I am better than you, I am better than you.” And behind that statement is their primary one: “Go climb in a hole so that your sincere efforts don’t shame me any longer.” This can be devastating to newbies who are ardent seekers with hearts wide open!

Those kind of arguments and the comments of that person who phoned me are also tantamount to saying about the person being criticized, “You are the ‘other.’ You are ‘one of them,’ so you are not as worthy of love and respect. I do not have to treat you with caring and decency because you do not have the same vulnerabilities as me.”

Now, if this post ends now, my mental meandering amounts to me just being another superior jerk. But I am going somewhere productive (I hope):

It felt important to paint a recognizable picture of high-handed community strife and its outcome for three reasons:

1) If you avoid insane community debate, you still might be uber-critical of other pagans (or someone else) within the confines of your own mind. When I find myself doing that, it’s time for a good look at myself. Internal criticism (perhaps a running commentary on the superiority of others, lol) has the same impact on me as it would were I voicing it online. Same impact, dude! I might be avoiding looking at my own errors or avoiding responsibility, to either community or self.

Feeling superior is more comfortable than looking at my own faults. And superiority can, oddly enough, make me feel safer than self-care. And superiority is safer than getting out into the world to try to make a difference. You avoid the endless, high-handed criticism of I-know-better-than-everyone-else idlers who are likely to pursue you once you try to make a diff in the world.

2) Angry superiority is what many newcomers first see. Or we might meet newbies with a subtle version of the same thing. I want to make a practice of examining myself for this. For example, is my ego playing out in a more subtle manner? Goddess, when someone inquires about my work, keep me humble, welcoming, self-aware, and focused on love and service. Goddess, at all times, keep me humble, welcoming, self-aware, and focused on love and service.

3) If you are afraid of getting into the pagan community because of what you see, now you know i see it too. You are not alone. Please realize there are people who do not bicker. We aren’t as vocal because we’re busy living. If you ask the Universe to guide and inspire you, you will find us.

And, with us, you can work and dance and celebrate the Gods. Because we are pagan to the bone. Heathens, celebrating the stars, the earth, the seasons, ourselves, and each other.

You will find us. We are here. I am like you.

Spirituality, Small Groups, and Promotion

Fool, tarot card, Francesca De Grandis, 12-03

Fool, tarot card, Francesca De Grandis, 12-03

Been in an interesting process. Wld luv yr insights.

I was in a position to blog at HuffPo. After mega-deliberation, I decided that it’s not for me, at least not yet. (I’m not anti corporate media: I watch tv and movies, published with HarperCollins, scripted a segment for a major tv network, enjoy YouTube, etc.)

Interestingly enough, after my decision re HuffPo and some other corporate media, I was asked to blog for Dharma Trading Co. And I have absolutely loved working with them! Their audience is nowhere near the size of HuffPo‘s, but it feels right.

Yesterday, Anne Newkirk Niven, editor of Sagewoman and other pagan rags, asked me to blog for her. I was given a choice between blogging for http://witchesandpagans.com, which has 30,000 Facebook likes, or the soon-to-be blog for Sagewoman (7000 likes) that will become part of the larger witchesandpagans site.

After looking at the site, praying, and meditating, I chose Sagewoman. That might seem the poor promotional choice, because I don’t know if it means less readers. You’re supposed to get as many readers as possible, right? But numbers aren’t everything.

Strength, tarot card, Francesca De Grandis, 12-03

Strength, tarot card, Francesca De Grandis, 12-03

Narrowing my focus sometimes implements one of my life goals: authentic connectivity, which can require a community I get to know.

I am not saying that no one gets to know anyone at witchesandpagans.com. I am not saying I chose Sagewoman in order to narrow my focus. In fact, I am not stating here why I chose Sagewoman. My process of choosing Sagewoman was complex—and partially sheer intuition—and I do not fully understand it yet, so will not try to outline it here. My point is: I made my choice despite the possible numbers, and the choice is in keeping with my life goals. I am not making a pronouncement on what is “right,” I am just sharing my process. Speaking of which:

I do not strive to be queen of the witches. I want deep connection so that, whether in print or in oral tradition, we can get spiritual work done. Am i knocking big numbers? No. There are types of spiritual work you can do in big numbers. There are types of authentic connection that can happen in big numbers. (I must say, though, that big numbers too often consist of folks spouting off about how much they know, telling you how superior they are to you, and decrying the pagan they now think is a jerk.) When going for large numbers feels right and honorable, I do it. The rest of the time, I do work that requires smaller groups. I usually limit class enrollment, for just that reason.

What do you think of all this? My process is terribly against-the-grain in some ways, so I wld love your thoughts, whether you post them here or on Facebook.

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