Many Voices – One Wheel

Warning: Shameless Self-Promotion Ahead

As some of you know, I write a column for The Pagan Household called Sage and Scourge, chronicling my adventures living with a staunch Wiccan.

Patrick McCleary is the PaganDad and he runs several sites that are for Pagan families, one of which is The Pagan Household. He is a great resource for Pagan families that are raising Pagan children and he works hard to give a lot back to the community.

He has recently had all of us (his writers), help him compile a book about the Sabbats to help him raise some money for site maintenance. And it’s finally out!

It is titled “Many Voices – One Wheel” and it is only $0.99.

I think its pretty cool. Please help support the PaganDad sites and help us make things nicer for you, our readers!

You can find it here in several different “e” formats.

Many Voices - One Wheel

Many Voices – One Wheel

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Wiccan Groups in New Orleans

I keep getting a lot of hits from people looking for Wiccan groups in New Orleans.

Witchvox is generally the best site to use to find local groups. It provides group listings and contact points for the United States, Canada, the U.K. and Australia. Most established groups have listings here. Make sure to read the ads carefully though and vet the group. I’ve come across several listings from teenagers that say they are high priests and priestesses, even though they admit to no actual training. Use your common sense, it’s still the internet.

As far as I know, in New Orleans itself, there are only two actual Wiccan groups.

My own, Iron and Cypress, which is a coven that practices the tradition Blue Star. We teach traditional, initiatory Wicca. We are a closed group, so you do need to contact us and ask for an invite if you’re interested. We’re open to newcomers, but ritual is held in my home and we do like to meet you before inviting you into such personal space. Many groups will request that you meet with them before being invited to ritual. Don’t be offended if you contact a group and they ask to meet up for coffee first.

And there is The Covenant of the Pentacle Wiccan Church as well, which practices Eclectic Wicca (according to their website). This is a much larger group than my own coven and it is a much more open group. As far as I understand it, they are an actual recognized “church” within the state of Louisiana and because of this, they hold public Circles. You should still contact them before showing up.

If you’re interested in Wiccan groups in New Orleans, these are pretty much your choices. You can also join meetup.com and find The New Orleans Lamplight Circle. This is a local Pagan group with members of various traditions and backgrounds. (There are also several solitary Wiccans in this group). They are an excellent source of the various Pagan groups in New Orleans. Wicca is certainly not your only choice in New Orleans!

I hope that helps!

Update 1/29/14

The Covenant of the Pentacle has split and there is a new Eclectic Wiccan Coven in New Orleans. They are the Bee Hive Coven and they are on both Witchvox and Facebook.

Update 9/19/14

I’ve heard rumors that there is going to be a new Gardnerian group here in NOLA. As I am rather understandably not participating in the community currently, I can’t give you the details, but they are supposedly around.

Masking

In New Orleans, we love a good masquerade. Here, costume wearing is pretty standard. Most of us have dedicated closets and drawers and shelves for our costume pieces. Masking is part of our identity. I’ve only lived here two years and in that time, my not already inconsiderable costume collection has grown at least five times larger than it was before.

Of course, down here, masking is tied into Carnival, brought to Louisiana by the French. Mardi Gras was first celebrated in Louisiana in 1699  and other than a few years here and there, the tradition has continued ever since. Most people outside of New Orleans think that Mardi Gras is a single Day event. It’s not. In actuality, Mardi Gras starts the day after Twelfth Night and continues on to Fat Tuesday. It’s also not something that goes on for the tourists: the entire city celebrates for the entire season.

Why are we talking about Mardi Gras when we aren’t anywhere close to Twelfth Night? Because it is Halloween ,and Halloween seems to be the city’s Mardi Gras prequel. While Halloween itself is on Wednesday, the weekend before Halloween is traditionally when we all gather and celebrate in the Quarter. It’s a time of local revelry and of course, masking.

Masking is probably one of the longest traditions practiced by mankind. It has both practical and spiritual uses, and goes back at least 40,000 years. Masking was used in antiquity for many things; ritual persona, sacred dance, theater and warfare.

When you don a mask, you become someone or something else.  You take on a character that is both ‘other,’ and also greater than yourself. As my Significant Other points out, “masking comes from the sacred clown tradition, which is represented by the Fool in the tarot deck. the Fool, the zero card, represents unlimited potential and rebirth”. In New Orleans, we celebrate this potential of the city to constantly reinvent itself moment by moment. The city does this yearly, creating an atmosphere of constant flux and possibility. It’s probably one of the reasons we bounced back from the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina so quickly; the city was able to redefine itself, to strike a new pose, carrying the people within it into its rebirth: it’s used to this sort of thing after all.

There’s a great deal of the trickster spirit in masking. From Coyote to Harlequino, from Loki to Prometheus, Tricksters often take on different personas to go about their business of foolery, which ultimately brings about positive change. Transformation and resurrection, along with a healthy dose of heroic action, are characteristics of the Trickster. Whether or not you like the Trickster, he certainly brings about an often chaotic transformation. When we mask, we’re recreating the actions of the Trickster to change our reality into something greater and better.

As Titus Burckhardt says in his article The Sacred Mask, “It derives from the expression persona itself. We know that in the ancient theater, derived from the sacred theater of the Mysteries, this word designated both the mask and the role. Now the mask necessarily expresses not an individuality—whose representation scarcely requires a mask—but a type, and hence a timeless reality, cosmic or divine”. In this way, the mask transcends itself from being a simple costume, to a whole new identity with many ritual possibilities. New Orleans is a city that ritually masks to transform herself year to year into something new and different each time.

Lady Deer on Frenchmen St, NOLA

Lady Deer on Frenchmen St, NOLA 2012

Burckhardt continues on to say “Moreover, man spontaneously identifies himself with the role that he plays, one that has been imposed on him by his origin, his destiny, and his social ambience. This role is a mask—most often a false mask in a world as artificial as our own, and in any case one that limits rather than liberates. The sacred mask, on the contrary, along with all that its wearing implies as regards gestures and words, suddenly offers one’s “self-consciousness” a much vaster mold and thereby the possibility of realizing the “liquidity” of this consciousness and its capacity to espouse all forms without being any one of them.” When people mask in New Orleans, in many ways they are bringing to bear the sides of themselves that they hide from the mundane world. People mask to become the people of their dreams and imaginings.

Another Deer on Frenchmen St, NOLA 2012

Another Deer on Frenchmen St, NOLA 2012

The idea of a city that masks is not confined to New Orleans. Other cities have Carnival as well: Rio De Janeiro, Venice, Rome, Paris…all of these cities do the same sort of thing and this gives our cities a much different reality than cities that don’t mask. Cities that mask see magic in the world more easily.

Angler Fish and Bubble Wrap on Frenchmen St, NOLA 2012

Angler Fish and Bubble Wrap on Frenchmen St, NOLA 2012

The roots of Mardi Gras lie first in Paganism, but within modern history, within the Catholic celebration of Carnival leading to Lent. The Catholic tradition holds that we each have a dark self, prey to temptation: a shadow-self. Masking ensures people confront their shadow selves. The Jungian archetype says that “The Shadow represents the traits which lie deep within ourselves. The traits that are hidden from day-to-day life and are in some cases the opposite of the self is a simple way to state these traits. The shadow is a very important trait because for one to truly know themselves, one must know all their traits, including those which lie beneath the common, i.e., the shadow. If one chooses to know the shadow there is a chance they give in to its motivation”. Masking brings on a self-awareness of  identity; we mask to confront the shadow, so that the motivation to give into it is much less.

Capricorn on Frenchmen St, NOLA 2012

Capricorn on Frenchmen St, NOLA 2012

I love that my city is a constant celebration of the sacred dance of magic and ritual. While most people who participate probably don’t see it in that light, I, as a Pagan, certainly do. Last night in the Quarter, who knows who I was rubbing elbows with. I’m sure that many of the local spirits and deities join in with the mayhem of our very human celebrations. I see masking as vital to living a healthy life. Being  someone who we aren’t for a night let’s us see the world through fresh eyes. It allows the world to see us differently, and to create a vehicle for the divine to come more easily into our life.

Me on the Saturday before Halloween, NOLA 2012

Me on the Saturday before Halloween, NOLA 2012

And in the end, being able to change personas for a night makes us appreciate who we are even more.

Vote!

I was debating about diving into a blog about the upcoming election. I’m sure that most people are pretty sick of politics by now, but I also think this is a vitally important election for many reasons. Luckily for me, the excellent Jason Mankey has already summed up many things for me in a blog called The Court and My Pagan Vote over on his Patheos blog “Raise the Horns”.

As for me, I’ll be voting for Libertarian Gary Johnson in this election, the only (as far as I know) candidate who has taken any time to speak to and acknowledge the Pagan community at all (as well as for a host of other reasons that I agree with).

Go and vote in this election. I think this election will decide the fate of our nation for many years to come. There are too many important issues that are going to be decided. Your vote matters and your vote counts, no matter which way you lean.

An Offering

My S.O and I spend a lot of time in the Bywater, a New Orleans neighborhood that sits right next to the infamous Lower Ninth Ward. The Bywater is generally known as an artsy neighborhood with a lot of character and local personality. Chickens roam freely about streets where many artists and musicians make their home.

Many of our friends live in this neighborhood. There are quite a few neighborhood bars and restaurants that we like, such as  The Country Club, a gay bar with clothing optional swimming in the back. When people come to visit us, I always love to drive them down through the Bywater so that they can see some of the most beautiful and interesting houses in New Orleans.

While a little bit rough around the edges, and certainly not the swanky Garden District, the Bywater is the place to be if you’re looking for charm and character.

The local traveling kids celebrate Dia De Los Muertos with an elaborate Day of the Dead Parade that walks through this neighborhood every year. And there are several artists’ lofts and colonies where people celebrate the neighborhood lifestyle daily, by creating amazing things.

One of my best friends lives here, and was walking out of her house when she came across this sight on Burgundy Street (that’s Bur-GUN-dy St. not BUR-gun-dy as it is everywhere else in the world)…

I assume it’s an offering to Papa Legba. It was sitting at a four-way crossroads.

I don’t know what the person was asking for, but this is one of the things that I love so much about New Orleans. How many other places are there in America where you can walk out your front door and find an offering to a Lwa, one that you known will be left alone and respected?

It’s always good to be reminded that Voodoo and Paganism are alive and well in my city.

Fall Fades Into Winter

I came across this poem tonight and thought it was appropriate for this time of year.

Persephone or, Why the Winters Seem to Be Getting Longer

by Wendy Froud

Six pomegranate seeds, as red as rubies, like on a golden plate. They glow with crimson fire in the candlelight. My lord bids me eat. I can feel his hands upon my shoulders. I can feel his breath hot upon my neck. I eat the first fruit, and as I taste, my lord tastes the skin of my throat, where the scent of flowers still lingers.

In the world above, the daylight fades. The wind blows cold among the trees.

The second seed is eaten, and my lord kneels at my feet. His hands reach for my breasts, and through the fabric of my gown I feel his caress, first soft, then hard. I watch my nipples rise then strain against the thin gold silk. He takes a small knife away from the table and, holding it delicately, cuts through the neckline of my dress. The fabric tears, parting from white flesh, and falls away.

In the world above, as night draws close, the grasses turn in the wind. Flowers bend. Petals fall.

My nipples are the color of crimson seeds. The third seed is upon my lips as my lord suckles at my breasts, tracing circles of fire with his tongue. They ripen like fruit beneath his kisses.

The world above is dark. The trees are black and bare. Creatures shiver, and shelter where they may.

My lord explores my body, kissing, biting, tasting the length of me. I need to see him. He will not undress. He will not let me touch him. I know that he is beautiful; I can feel that beauty as my body lifts to press itself against him. Naked now, my thighs tremble and open. The fourth seed is eaten.

In the world above, frost traces white patterns on brown leaves. The last of the summer fruit returns to the soil beneath the sleeping trees.

I catch my breath as my dark lord parts my thighs. His fingers touch me, there, gliding on the juices of my passion. His tongue, questing, thirsts for me, tasting me even as I taste the fifth seed upon my tongue.

The world above lies dormant, frozen. A creature caught by the cold, harsh air curls and sleeps, stiffens and dies.

He looks into my eyes, my lord, and slowly unlaces the robe he wears to taunt and tempt me. It falls to the ground. He stands before me, proud manhood beautiful. I long to take him in my mouth, to close my lips around that hot, strong flesh, taste the milky jewel glistening at its tip. He smiles as he puts instead the sixth seed to my lips. He gathers me to him; I twine my legs around his waist and open to his manhood. It thrusts deeper and deeper, taking me further into my dark lord’s dark realm. The last seed bursts cool upon my tongue as my lord’s seed bursts hot within my body.

The world above lies still as death, waiting for the spring to come. Hollow promise. Who can know how hard that promise is to keep?

I have always loved the taste of pomegranates.

Image Persephone by Silvereyed

You can find this poem here, and many others here.