Pride in the CLE 2017

Cleveland Area Pagan Pride is the highlight of the year for me in many ways.  I love seeing all the different kinds of people, hearing folksy music, smelling incense in the air, and getting Henna tattoos.

The last two years I have also presented at PPD, and the coven has had a booth for fundraising.  As I adamantly do not believe in charging “dues” for my coven, fundraising allows us to buy supplies without overburdening any one member (e.g., candles, tools, food for feast, etc.).

The presentation went very well.  I co-taught a workshop with my long-time friend Cara Mia (a.k.a., cutewitch772…you can look her up on YouTube).  We presented “The Art of Ritual”–where eclectic and traditional ritual meet, and what to expect in private vs public ritual settings.  We also designed an impromptu ritual with the attendees.  Afterward one of the women thanked us for the presentation, and later another found me at my coven’s booth and asked if she could give me a hug–which I heartily agreed to because I love hugs!  She said it was immensely helpful for her as she had been trying to practice on her own and had some concerns about whether she was “doing it right,” and we helped her to realize that what she was doing was beautiful and meaningful.  We also connected on a mundane level because we’re both nurses.  So that was delightful.

My poor reader, however, got very burned out doing Tarot readings on the first day.  It was a strangely difficult day for a number of reasons, but she persevered for most of the day.  Truly she is one of the best readers I’ve ever known, I just wonder if all the magical people around were creating an energy-suck because she ended up staying home sick on Sunday.

This, of course, meant that I was going to try my hand at doing public cold reads.  For the very first time ever.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been reading Tarot cards on and off for 17 years.  I read for my coven and friends.  But I have never, EVER done public readings in exchange for money in all my years of practicing Wicca and reading cards.  Pro-tip?  Making your first public appearance at Pride is like jumping head first into the deep end, and there’s a giant squid at the bottom, and a hurricane coming up top, and the tie on your bikini is coming unraveled…

OK, ok, that’s kind of dramatic–but it was nerve-wracking!  It actually got better as I started to get tired because I wasn’t able to give as much energy to my nerves, I had to give myself over to the Reading of the cards, and I started picking up on things I never would have thought I’d pick up on for total strangers or even acquaintances.  One of the people I read for is a friend–but I found things in her reading that she hadn’t told anyone about, including me, so it was a great way to talk about some things she had weighing on her mind.

However, I could only read for about 4 hours before I hit burn-out.  I simply didn’t have the stamina for public readings, having never done them before.  I must have done well, though, because I did get a few tips!

It also helps with bolstering one’s confidence.  Sometimes you just don’t know what you’re capable of until you go running into it full tilt.  Taking risks and challenging yourself is how we grow.

We were also surrounded by some awesome people, including my new most favorite humans–Kim and Tom with A Creative Apothecary in Akron.  If you live in NE Ohio, or if you’re visiting, go check them out.  They’re bubbly and a little nerdy and just utterly delightful, and such a huge help to us in getting everything set up!  You won’t find kinder people, and their shop is like a safe haven unto itself.  Go check them out.  Now.  Go.  Shoo.  ::waves hands in encouraging manner::

Pride was awesome.  I’m going to be at Dayton Pagan Pride on the 16th as well, again with my friend, Cara Mia.  Feel free to say hi if you’re going to be there, too!

Blessed be.

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The Dream

Sometimes I wish…

That I could just practice and teach Yoga all day.

That I could support myself by practicing Wicca.

That I could look at cheesecake sideways and not gain 10 pounds through osmosis.

That I could work a job that didn’t physically and mentally break me apart day after day.

That I could hug every cat.

That I could save every abused, abandoned, and neglected animal.

That my boobs wouldn’t try to bust out of my bra–or that I could afford a proper fitted one.

That my beloved Emily Kittenson was still with me (RIP sweet kitten).

That I weren’t so tired all the time.

That more people practiced unconditional love.

That we weren’t so  dependent on fossil fuels.

That I could swim in a river of strawberries.  Because strawberries.

That I didn’t ache so keenly for motherhood.

That I could live in a castle with some dragons.  And a cat.

Ok fifteen cats.

Sometimes I wish…

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You Can’t Handle the Proof

OK, let’s be honest: anecdotals hardly constitute proof.  But who doesn’t love a good testimony?

Psychometry.

In short, psychometry is the art of reading an object.  Remember that scene in The Craft when the shop owner touches Sarah’s ring and says, “It was your mother’s.”  She doesn’t ask–she TELLS her.  It’s not uncommon for people who learn that someone is a Witch to ask the Witch to “read something” for them such as the cards, the Aether, the spoon with a weird bend in it they inherited from their grandmother, etc., as “proof” of their psychic ability.

Sigh.

But that doesn’t mean that these aren’t real practices with real world impacts.  Here is my anecdotal for you.

First of all, yes, I’m a High Priestess.  Yes, I realize the decision I made was pretty stupid.  Yes, I learned a lesson.  Yes, being a High Priestess does NOT mean you know everything or that you will never make a mistake.

I made a mistake.

In the coven I’m now studying with, the High Priest had a break up that, to my understanding, did not go well.  Eight months later, he finally had his belongings returned to him.  Not only did he re-acquire said belongings, but his ex also returned (all of? not sure) gifts that had been received.

Understandably, my High Priest did not want to keep these things around with the negativity and animosity associated with them.  One of the gifts was a beautiful set of pentacle earrings.  As he had just acquired these earrings, he had not cleansed them, and he gave them to me with the caveat–“burn them, salt them, bury them, whatever you have to do, but they’re yours if you want them.”

I like shiny things.  I took them.

Now, the chain on my every-day pentacle necklace broke.  It feels very strange not to wear one, so, silly me went, “Oh, I know, I’ll wear my new earrings!  What harm can they do if I just wear them for a day or two until I get a new chain?”

SO. MUCH. HARM.

Nothing physical.  But emotionally?  Damn.

Within 24 hours I spiraled deep into a horrendous depression.  I felt worthless, unmotivated, and even trapped by my life.  Now, I don’t know the circumstances under which this aforementioned relationship ended, but heck if I didn’t almost feel like I was breaking up with myself.

As soon as the depression set in I took the earrings out.  It took two days, but I’m just about out of the depression cycle.

Those earrings are going have the bejesus cleansed out of them, and then I think I’m going to try wearing them for just a couple of hours at a time.

Lesson learned.

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Wicca and Depression

I remember the first time I truly struggled with depression and anxiety.  It was my sophomore year of college, and I learned that a chunk of my financial aid was being taken away–and that my school was increasing its tuition by 10%.  As I was attending a private university, this meant, in sum total, that I would be going into three times as much debt as I had planned on to complete my degree.  I looked into transferring out, but all of the colleges I was interested in were doing the same thing.  Regardless of where I attended, the bottom line was the same, and I was unwilling to give up a college education.

The anxiety set in.

This is not the only thing that triggered the fundamental problem.  There is no One Event that results in anxiety and depression.  My least favorite question in the world is, “What caused it?”  There is no simple answer.  While I can point to the straw, the camel’s back was buckling already under an invisible weight.  Depression and anxiety are common in my family.  I put a lot (and I mean A LOT) of pressure on myself to perform academically (ever see what happens to a 4.0 student who gets their first B? It’s not pretty).  I had body image issues with being overweight.  I was unsure of my major.  I was committed to a fringe religion and had my first real brushes with discrimination in the last year.  My brother had graduated college, and suddenly the neat little track we were promised in public school education dropped out from underneath him–get a degree, get a job was no longer a promise in the economic climate we were entering in our post-graduate lives.  The future looked grim.

But does any of this point to a “cause” for depression?

No.  We can only conjecture.  Mental health is a tricky beast.  We operate with what limited understanding we have of the human brain and nervous system, but we have hardly uncovered all of its secrets.  Some mental health seems to be affected by hormones, neurotransmitters, and other chemicals–others seem to be conditioning and training, even physical abnormalities in the nervous system.  Taking a more esoteric look at it we can make an argument for the effect of energy: positive ions vs negative ions, crystalline vibration dissonance (such as wearing hematite ALL THE TIME), chakra imbalances, psychic vampirism, etc.  Who is to say where the truth lies?  We can only do more and more research until we have the answers.

What do we do in the mean time?

I also remember when I first got treated.  I had an amazing, and I do mean AMAZING, counselor at college.  She was in the graduate program, and she was not only able to help me process my disordered thinking, but she gave me the tools I needed to manage my anxiety.  However, as the depression and anxiety both were developing over a long period of time, there was also a chemical component, and together we made the decision to seek pharmacological help.

I was worried.

Why?

Well, I was a First Degree initiate in my tradition.  I was working toward my Second Degree, and I eventually wanted my Third when the time was right.  Plus, Wicca has a reputation for being crunchy-granola: if it isn’t 100% natural, it isn’t 100% Wiccan.  Herbs?  Awesome.  Candles?  Excellent.  Crystals?  Oo powerful shiny rocks.

A pill?

POISON.  BIG PHARMA.  ALERT, ALERT! HYPOCRITE!  PLAY-GAN! SHE’S A WITCH, PAWN OF SATAN, BUR–oh, wait, that’s actually OK.

Somehow pharmacological treatment for mental health has become demonized across the board.  Not only is there stigma in the general population, but even the Pagan population seems to have its nose in the air because Lexapro isn’t “natural.”  Somehow St. John’s Wort is acceptable because it grows outside, even though there is no knowing the potency of any particular supplement even if it is home grown, but Prozac is unacceptable because it was developed in a lab.

I don’t know, I always felt a flask on a bunsen burner was a lot like a cauldron over a hearth fire.

Here’s the trick though: Everything is a chemical.  Whether we create reactions in a lab (cauldron?) or it falls from the sky (acid rain?), it’s a chemical.  As a Witch, as a healthcare practitioner, I care less about whether “we” created it vs. Mother Nature and more about whether it is effective with acceptable side effects.

Side Note: Everything has side effects.  If anyone tells you it has no side effects, they are lying.  Herbs have side effects, tea has side effects, pills have side effects, food has side effects.  The trick is whether the desired effect outweighs the consequences of the undesired effects.  Balance.  Crops up in everything.

So why not take a pill if that’s what’s going to help?

I asked my High Priest at the time.  I was worried I could no longer practice Wicca.  In my defense, I was 19.  I didn’t know all of the “rules.”  I also didn’t know if taking a pill would affect my ability to practice magick–would it block me?  Specifically I was taking Lexapro, which is an anti-anxiety medication.  In my experience it helped to even me out–I was neither super sad nor super happy, I was “numb” but it was such  blessed relief from the anxiety that I appreciated the way it made me feel because it gave me the freedom to make the non pharmacological tools work, to focus on the habits and skills I would need when I was ready to come off of the Lexapro.  There was worry though–I was numb.  So much of my experience of magick was being able to feel the energy, which has an emotional component to it.  He had given us, his students, a series of energy-based exercises to work on, and I was worried I wouldn’t be able to do them.

I remember his response.  In fact, I think I have it printed out somewhere…ah yes, here:

Friday, September 30, 2005

Merry Meet Ariawn*,

Just a quick note.  I’m glad you’re ok and I suspect what I was feeling was the difficulty you were having re: anxiety, etc.  Not to worry, prescribed medications won’t have any effect on your ability to function.  if a condition were one of psychosis or you needed them to function at all, it might be a concern, but you aren’t in that category.  I would only be concerned about the use of “non prescribed” sorts of medications.  While we have a history of these things being part of our culture we no longer condone their use.

I’m glad to hear you’re doing well in school (though I’m not surprised).  Thanks for answering so quickly and Goddess protect you always.

Love and Blessings,

Dragoman*

*Names changed from given to Craft to protect identities.

I remember being in awe that he could so quickly without further questioning accept and support my use of prescription medication for anxiety.  Now, I am aware that not everyone will agree with everything he said as there is much evidence to support “non prescription” sorts of medications (i.e., he was talking about marijuana in case that wasn’t clear) for treating anxiety, but the underlying concept I am trying to get across is there: Prescription medication in itself will not cause a person to not be able to do the exercises, to do the magick, to function.  Magick as functioning.

If anything, what I learned was that practicing Wicca helped with my anxiety and depression.  Many of the tools I was given were akin to what I did in my practice, I just had to alter them to suit my needs.  For instance, rhythmic breathing helps to trick your nervous system out of fight or flight, which is essentially where the feelings of anxiety stem from.  Rhythmic breathing is also something we use for meditation and to induce altered consciousness for magick.  My counselor also encouraged me to write letters to help purge my emotions–much as we might write out a spell and burn it to release its energy.  She encouraged me to develop routines–what are routines but mundane rituals?  And of course balance, speaking of life as a wheel where each component is a spoke, but if the spokes are uneven, the wheel has a hard time turning against the ground, and developing ways to rebalance each of the spokes.

Wicca helped me with my anxiety and depression.  Did it “cure” it?  Well, no.  I don’t really think there is a “cure” but you can find peace and balance again.  Wicca, and my counselor, and Lexapro, helped me to find that balance, taught me how to maintain it, how to recognize when the imbalance was happening again, and how to stop it in its tracks.  And as I am human and sometimes fail at this, Wicca has also given me a support system to help point me back on the right track.  The support of my family, my friends, are invaluable.

I do wish we could clear up depression like an infection.  “Oops, looks like you have a serious case of depression going on, with a secondary infection of anxiety.  10 days of this anti-depressive medication and 5 days of this anti-anxiety balm should fix it in a jiffy.  Call me in two to three days if you don’t see any improvement or you spike a fever.”  Perhaps one day we will be able to isolate a “depression virus” and develop a vaccine–which I sincerely hope will be packaged with smiley-face stickers.

Until, then, though, know that you have numerous tools at your disposal and the support of many like yourself to help you through this.  There are counselors, doctors, friends, family, other Wiccans, medications, and methods to help you to manage and improve how you are feeling.  And you are worth it.  And you are loved.  And you are wanted.

Blessed be.

~Ariawn

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Neophyte Again

One of the things we must realize when we are leaders and teachers is that we are also always followers and students as well.  To lose sight of this is to lose the ability to grow.

I have studied Wicca for over 15 years.  I have a coven, I am a High Priestess in my own right.

This March, I became a neophyte again.

There is a strange discomfort that comes with opting to both be a neophyte and High Priestess at the same time.  To simultaneously be responsible for my own education in one group, and responsible for the education of multiple others in another group.  Becoming a neophyte means also undergoing change, cutting and clearing away that is unnecessary, and being pushed out of one’s comfort zone.  It is not merely a return to basics, but it’s own process of rebirth.

I started in fairly decent health, stable job, and some pretty serious depression.  Since the ceremony, I have spent one month hospitalized, my employment situation has experienced upheaval, as has my husband’s, and I’m pretty seriously NOT depressed.  I still have some anxiety, but in some ways I feel that I have shaken off shackles, shackles of my own making.

If you’ve ever considered hitting the “restart” button on your practice, keep this in mind: it is not as simple as revisiting old topics.  Your spirituality is intimately connected with your life–it may mean hitting “restart” on multiple areas as a collateral effect.  Be sure you are ready, that you are stable and have support and resources to help you through the transition.

However, the benefits are well worth it.  The sense of calling I have had from the Goddess, the need to serve the gods, the clarity of thought, ability to prioritize and appreciate the world more deeply, to feel reconnected to the energy again…these have been invaluable to me.

And to my lovely husband who has struggled with me every step of the way–words cannot express how much I love you.  Thank you for supporting me and being my partner in all things.

Blessed be.

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Survey

Merry meet everyone,

I’ve been MIA, but I have a favor to ask.  One of my covenmates is doing a research project for school, and I ask that anyone who identifies with British Traditional Wicca or Dianic Wicca partake in this survey.  She is looking for both men and women, and anyone who identifies on the binary spectrum.

Thank you!

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1y9cUNqWJ4tVZFFgUujln4Fj8sevRk2rbnHF6Ikd2acM/viewform

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Time Out

Merry Meet.

So I just wanted to throw up a quick post saying something along the lines of, “Gah I wish I hadn’t stopped writing I’ve had so many interesting things to blog about OMG I can’t wait to share it all with you!”…except I can’t remember even a tenth of the things that have come up in my noodle during the months of absence.

It’s been a tumultuous time.  I started that new job–amazing, btw–and three months into it I applied for and accepted a promotion as Director of Nursing.  I’m scarecited.  Excared?  You combine scared and excited how you see fit and let me know what you come up with.  Scared because I just came out of a job that made me feel incompetent, insignificant, and like I was a lunatic into one that I feel supported, appreciated, and like I’m actually making a difference in people’s lives–excited because, well, hi, promoted after three months is just exciting!

We’re trying very hard to plan for a trip to Salem in October, something I swore I’d never do (Witch city in witch season?  I’ve gone mad.).  I’m thinking it’s not going to happen, and back up plans will have to be made.  Nonetheless.  I really, really want to at least see the Nurse farm in Danvers as Rebecca and Francis Nurse are my 11th great grandparents (13 generations I think it works out to?), and I got to play her in The Crucible in high school.  It was an incredibly powerful production we put on, too.  My parents hugged me extra hard after they saw it, knowing our genealogy and my nefarious interests.  Look on their faces?  Worth it.

You know, that’s a thing.  I’ve been reading a lot about legitimacy in Wicca.  It’s a hot topic right now.  Well, it’s often a hot topic, but the conversation certainly waxes and wanes.  Short version: Practice your damn craft instead of worrying about how authentic it is.  Long version: People seem to predicate authenticity on things like initiation, having a Gardnerian lineage (i.e., Gardner is somewhere in your lineage even if you aren’t in a Gardnerian tradition), and antiquity.  Initiation doesn’t make you a witch–being a witch makes you a witch.  The whole Gardnerian issue is it’s own beast.  There are just people out there who are going to say you’re not a “real Wiccan” without Gardner in your up-line. The antiquity thing–since when has “it’s old” been a reason for something being real?  My Droid Turbo just came out this year, but I’m pretty sure it’s a legitimate smart phone (I really like it, btw).  It’s a logical fallacy.  Wicca as we practice it now is not, and has never been, an unbroken unchanged religious practice dating back thousands of years.  You may find certain things we do that date back thousands of years…you’ll more easily find some of those things in the hundreds, dozens, or several years ago categories.  At one point every religion was new, but that didn’t make it “not real.”  I personally feel that Wicca is an evolution of indigenous pagan belief and modern spiritualism blended with ceremonial magic–it doesn’t HAVE a starting point, but we can deduce an evolutionary point around the 1930’s to early 1950’s in England.

But people crave authenticity and justification.  I’m not going to say they don’t need it, but I want to see a change in the defining parameters.  How about something like this: does it have a positive impact on your life?  Are you practicing effective magic? Is it coherent and philosophically sound?  Or is it not sound, and that’s part of the Mystery?

One of my favorite things to tell people is that I may be full of shit and I’m OK with that.  I may completely, entirely wrong about my religion, my craft, my perspective of the world.  It’s OK to be wrong–and it’s also OK to take new information, new experience, and make intelligent decisions, even alterations, regarding one’s path based on that.  This is what draws me to Wicca in the first place–even traditions are organic.  My tradition is not the same as it was for my High Priest and Priestess, and when my coven hives under new leadership, it won’t be exactly the same for them, either.  It has to grow, change, adapt for the future.  My authenticity is not predicated on being right–it’s predicated on practicing my craft.

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