Mabon, the Sacred King and Sacrifice

Blessed Mabon! A little late.

This is a good time of year to talk about the idea of the Sacred King and the Barley Man.

This part of the year, from Litha through Samhain, is focused on the young God and the sacrifice that will guarantee the continuity of the crops. The young god must die with this year’s harvest, and then enter the Underworld, so that he can be reborn in the crops of the following year. It is only through the sacrifice of the king that the people can flourish. Mabon (pronounced MAB-un) is at the center of this cycle.

Six weeks ago, at Lughnasadh, we celebrated the sacred games (named for Lugh, the Irish God of all skills). The winner of these types of sacred games is often crowned the king of the year, and at Mabon, the old king is sacrificed in a variety of different ways for the fertility of the fields. In some places, this is done every year. In other places, it’s either a three, four, five or seven year cycle. The seven year king cycle is found across multiple mythologies.

Looking across the wheel to Ostara, the goddess returns from the Underworld. At Beltane, she and the young god enjoy themselves together. Litha is when the sacred marriage takes place, and at Lughnasadh he is crowned king. At Mabon, the young God must die; and at Samhain, the Goddess travels back to the Underworld to be with him and start the cycle all over again (think of Persephone and Hades as an example of this).

In Wicca, we constantly celebrate the cycle of the Old God, the Young God and the Goddess. This is a cyclical mythology found across European mythology.

James Frazer talks about this idea in The Golden Bough, a book that you can read and reread over and over and still learn new things every time.

“IN THE CASES hitherto described, the divine king or priest is suffered by his people to retain office until some outward defect, some visible symptom of failing health or advancing age, warns them that he is no longer equal to the discharge of his divine duties; but not until such symptoms have made their appearance is he put to death. Some peoples, however, appear to have thought it unsafe to wait for even the slightest symptom of decay and have preferred to kill the king while he was still in the full vigour of life. Accordingly, they have fixed a term beyond which he might not reign, and at the close of which he must die, the term fixed upon being short enough to exclude the probability of his degenerating physically in the interval.” ~ Chapter 24, The Killing of the Divine King, Section 3. Kings killed at the End of a Fixed Term.

theseus-minotaur

I actually came across this concept for the first time when in middle school I read Mary Renault’s The King Must Die . While this novel is historical fiction; it follows the life of the hero Theseus (famous for defeating the Minotaur in Crete) and looks at the transition from matriarchal society to a patriarchal one in ancient Greece. Reading this novel made me immediately think of Demeter and the rites at Eleusis.(I highly recommend this novel for anyone interested in this mythology. I read it when I was fairly young, but it is an adult novel with a lot of amazing mythological insights).

While Demeter searches for her daughter, She comes to the home of a human family.

And thus it came to pass that the splendid son of bright-minded Keleos, Dêmophôn,[25] who was born to well-girded Metaneira, was nourished in the palace, and he grew up like a daimôn, not eating grain, not sucking from the breast. But Demeter used to anoint him with ambrosia, as if he had been born of the goddess, and she would breathe down her sweet breath on him as she held him to her bosom. At nights she would conceal him within the menos of fire, as if he were a smoldering log, and his philoi parents were kept unaware. But they marveled at how full in bloom he came to be, and to look at him was like looking at the gods.[26] Now Demeter would have made him ageless and immortal if it had not been for the heedlessness of well-girded Metaneira, who went spying one night, leaving her own fragrant bedchamber, and caught sight of it [what Demeter was doing]. She let out a shriek and struck her two thighs,[27] afraid for her child. She had made a big mistake in her thûmos. Weeping, she spoke these winged words: “My child! Demophon! The stranger, this woman, is making you disappear in a mass of flames! This is making me weep in lamentation [goos]. This is giving me baneful anguish!” So she spoke, weeping. And the resplendent goddess heard her. Demeter, she of the beautiful garlands in the hair, became angry at her [Metaneira]. She [Demeter] took her [Metaneira’s] philos little boy, who had been born to her mother in the palace, beyond her expectations,—she took him in her immortal hands and put him down on the floor, away from her.[28] She had taken him out of the fire, very angry in her thûmos, and straightaway she spoke to well-girded Metaneira: “Ignorant humans! Heedless, unable to recognize in advance the difference between future good fortune [aisa] and future bad. In your heedlessness, you have made a big mistake, a mistake without remedy. I swear by the Styx,[29] the witness of oaths that gods make, as I say this: immortal and ageless for all all days would I have made your philos little boy, and I would have given him tîmê that is unwilting [a-phthi-tos].[30 But now there is no way for him to avoid death and doom.[31] Still, he will have a tîmê that is unwilting [a-phthi-tos], for all time, because he had once sat on my knees and slept in my arms. At the right hôrâ, every year, the sons of the Eleusinians will have a war, a terrible battle among each other. They will do so for all days to come.[32] I am Demeter, the holder of tîmai. I am the greatest boon and joy for immortals and mortals alike. But come! Let a great temple, with a great altar at its base be built by the entire dêmos. Make it at the foot of the acropolis and its steep walls. Make it loom over the well of Kallikhoron,[33] on a prominent hill. And I will myself instruct you in the sacred rites so that, in the future you may perform the rituals in the proper way and thus be pleasing to my noos.” ~ Homeric Hymn to Demeter, lins 233-274

She taught this little boy the mysteries of agriculture, how to sow and harvest the fields. While he didn’t end up being immortal, he was given a great gift, and is considered to be the founder of the Great Rites.

The greater rites were held in September and celebrated the Persephone myth. While whatever happened in detail at the rites is unknown, we do know that an initiation took place where those shown the mysteries came out with a greater understanding of death. Games and feasting were an important part of the celebration. Cicero wrote “Nothing is higher than these mysteries…they have not only shown us how to live joyfully but they have taught us how to die with a better hope”.  (If you want to read further, I found this article).

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In my coven, we celebrate the great harvest with a sacrifice of the barley man (called John Barleycorn in the British tradition). While the first fruits of the agricultural cycle are available around Lughnasadh, Mabon is when the fields are really ready for the first full harvest. At Samhain, we celebrate the final slaughter of the animals and the last harvest before winter comes. We send the Goddess off to the Underworld and turn inward for the cold months. But at Mabon, it’s time to celebrate the fruition of all our work throughout the year. It’s a time when we can fully reap everything that has been sown, both physically and spiritually. It’s a time for joy and celebration, but also time to sacrifice to ensure that the crops grow again next year.

While ancient cultures may have literally sacrificed the king, we are slightly removed. So we take the symbolic fruits of our labor and bake a Barley Man. I use gingerbread. Molasses, flour and brown sugar are all ingredients that are grown and produced here in Louisiana. Because we are ensuring the fertility of the cycle, he becomes a very obscene barley man, and at the height of ritual, we “chop” his genitals off and slit his throat. He is later left outside and offered to the Gods to do with whatever they will.

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Feasting and celebration is a huge part of our ritual. This is our Thanksgiving. It is time to say thank you for the year that has past and start preparing for the year that is to come.

So feast and make merry and remember the sacrifice that goes into our lives. We may not be sacrificing the traditional way, but blood, sweat and tears still go into everything we have and do, and this is the time of year to celebrate that, embrace that and accept that sacrifice is necessary.

 

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The Devil and Me

Here, here she comes. I’ll have a bout with thee;
 Devil or devil’s dam, I’ll conjure thee:
 Blood will I draw on thee, thou art a witch,
 And straightway give thy soul to him thou servest.
– Shakespeare’s Henry VI, Scene I, Act V

The history of witchcraft is intertwined with the image of the Devil.

It’s an ongoing battle for most modern Neo-Pagans to convince the rest of the world that we aren’t worshiping the Devil; killing goats, sacrificing babies at midnight, that kind of thing. If I had a Quarter for every time someone asked me if I worshiped Satan, I’d be quite well off.

And as this comic wonders, why would Satan want babies anyway?

The Sacrifice - http://www.happletea.com/tag/why-would-anyone-sacrifice-a-baby-those-things-are-hilarious/

The Sacrifice

As a witch, it seems that my story is inevitably going to be entwined with this entity in the eyes of the larger community. From the merging of Christianity with mainstream culture in the Roman empire, the Burning times in later Europe, the witch trials of early America, to the occasional panic over witches in the current media (such as the West Memphis Three), witchcraft and the Devil are seen going hand in hand by a large majority of the population. Margaret Murray’s Witch Cult Theory may have been the first big argument in centuries for witches being separate entities from the Devil; but for the most part, witches and the Devil still go hand in hand  in the general mindset of the populace.

While I don’t worship the Devil, I do believe he exists. If he didn’t exist before, he certainly does now: there is too much fanatic belief by the same majority population for such a deity not to exist. And I don’t think he’s as easily escaped by Pagans as some of us would like to think. It’s easy enough to say “Oh! I have nothing to do with the Devil!” but that old Devil pops up in some interesting places.

The Devil is in and of himself an initiation that most witches have to go through. To us, he is part of a different pantheon, tied to the Christian God (though never actually mentioned in the Bible, other than a brief conversation with Jesus). But anyone who has been approached in public by a complete stranger and asked if they worship the devil, or asked the same thing by their family when they came out of the broom closet, will understand what I mean. The Devil is a liminal figure that most of us have to face at one point or another. There is a reason The Devil is one of the Major Arcana in the tarot; the Devil is a stumbling block, a blatant symbol of the need to make changes in one’s life. The most important aspect of the card is that all of the things that the Devil represents within the Tarot are bindings that a person willingly takes on themselves. You have to be willing to throw off the ties that the Devil creates.

Another one of the places where I find the Devil to be the most intriguing is in fairy tales. Fairy tales are excellent archetypes for magical work. If you were to read my S.O’s book Fairy Tale Ritualsyou would read about his theory that many fairy tales are describing initiations. Hansel and Gretel have to go into the Forest and defeat the witch (who has some rather suspicious ties to their evil stepmother from the first part of the story) to be able to grow up. He didn’t touch on the Devil, but the Devil shows up in many Grimm’s fairy tales as well, and serves as a Trickster character that helps assist these initiations along, just as any good villain will.

And really, at the end of the day, isn’t Lucifer the best villain ever?

Good Guy Lucifer

Good Guy Lucifer

The Grimm’s have many stories that involve the Devil. The authors even introduce the Devil’s Mother. Though, as the story of “The Devil’s Three Gold Hairs” shows, the Devil’s mother actually helps our hero on his way. It’s also interesting to note that the Devil is a fairly passive character in this story. We can assume that he was out and up to no good before he comes home, but the true evil character in the story is the King who is trying to get our hero killed. The Devil is simply a foil for the hero.

And then we have Baphomet. Many just see Baphomet as another image of the Devil, so for those Neo-Pagans who work with him, the stereotype continues. Baphomet can be a confusing figure, symbolizing many different ideas. It also probably doesn’t help that Baphomet came out of the Christian imagination during the Crusades anyway and was a large part of Crowley’s workings in the early twentieth century. It is a conundrum for Pagans that Baphomet has been heavily linked to Satanism.

In Aradia, Gospel of the Witches, Lucifer is Diana’s brother. Lucifer, of course, in Christian theology is Satan or the Devil. In Aradia, Lucifer is a God of intellectual freedom. He probably embodies everything that most people like to think of him as anyway: the free thinker who would not compromise his ideals, though it meant damnation. This tale, the Fall of Lucifer, is represented in Aradia.

The question also arises as to whether or not Satanists are Pagan. I know some who identify as Pagan and some who want absolutely nothing to do with that label. Several years ago, Anton LaVey’s daughter wrote a tome blasting Pagan girls, stating that Satanist girls were much better, and lived their ideals in a way Pagans did not.  I think Jason Mankey’s article, “Are Satanists Pagan?” sums the wider discussion up pretty thoroughly. But as with all labels, that’s a personal decision. It does probably cloud of the waters though for the larger issue.

The Devil, however you want to approach him as a divine figure, is a Trickster. Most Tricksters cause chaos to bring about a positive change. And as with any villain, the hero couldn’t overcome obstacles to change for the better without the barriers the villain is instrumental in bringing about. Maybe whether we like it or not, the Devil is here to stay: the trick he plays on us is challenging us to divorce ourselves from him. It’s a devilish conundrum.

The Forgotten Tools of Wicca

It seems like everyone has an Athame, a Chalice and a wand these days. But some of the other basic tools of a traditional Wiccan altar seem to be overlooked. Let’s take a look at some of them:

Boline:

The Boline is a white handled knife that is usually used as the working altar knife. If the Athame is one of the spiritual tools of the altar, that cuts or draws magical energy in ritual and spell working, the Boline is the physical tool used in basic altar needs and in preparing for any ritual work that you might do, such as in carving candles, trimming wicks, and cutting cords. I’ve heard the Boline compared to a utility knife and I think this is a pretty good analogy for the role that it plays.

The Boline is still a magical tool. It’s energy is just as important as one’s Athame. Most people who work with them still consecrate them like any other altar tool and keep them away from the hands of strangers. The Boline is the knife that you can carry with you out to the garden to cut herbs, it’s the tool to get down and dirty with. It’s a very practical sort of magical tool. While one probably only uses one’s Athame (in traditional Wicca at least) during ritual and as a symbolic tool, the Boline is often carried about and used in much more of a practical manner for ritual or spellwork.

The Bolines sold in most stores these days are shaped like a scythe. While a scythe shaped Boline is traditional, I find that it isn’t always good for anything other than cutting herbs and the garden. I prefer something a little more along the lines of this one…

A Boline like this is much more practical for any sort of task you might come up against.

The use of the Boline shows up in traditional training and it’s not something that you usually find in books. Because of this, it seems to be largely forgotten. In traditional Wicca, there is actually two different types of “practical knives”, the Boline and a separate tool just called the White-Handled Knife. In this scenario, the Boline is used primarily for gardening and the White-Handled knife for carving and cutting on the actual altar. For the most part, in most BTW, these two different knives have evolved into being the same thing. (I’m sure that not all teachers would agree with this). There is also a great debate over whether the Boline/White-Handled Knife is actually a magical tool. I personally see it as being an extension of any magical work I’m doing and treat it as any of my other magical tools, but the way this tool is handled probably depends on the person using it and the tradition that they are in.

Pantacle:

The Pantacle is almost entirely forgotten. The Pantacle is a plate that sits on the altar and is used as a teaching tool. It is traditionally round with symbols carved into it to help students learn the lessons of the Craft. In the past it was made of wax, so it could be broken up and thrown into the fire if the Inquisitors showed up. It is often confused with a Pentacle. A Pantacle is not a Pentacle, a Pentacle is simply a symbol of the Craft.

Pantacle

Pantacle

In these modern days, there seems like there is little need for something like this. We have the internet, we have books: a great deal of written information is always available. In the past, information was not accessible and most people didn’t read information the way we do now. The Pantacle was a simpler way of passing on Craft knowledge.

The Staff:

The Staff is traditionally the tool of the Summoner, who protects the Circle from outside intrusion. It can be used as a form of physical protection and also one of spiritual protection in grounding the energy of the Circle. One of the summoner’s main jobs is to monitor the Circle and ensure that people aren’t over extending themselves in whatever ritual or work is going on. The staff helps the Summoner work with anyone who is not grounded during magical workings.

The staff was the tool of the common man. Weavers used staffs to set the loom so that things could be woven. The weaver could walk from home to home, farm to farm and set a woman’s loom without any suspicion. In this way knowledge of the times and places of meetings could be passed. Staffs are also common as walking aids, someone could travel using a staff and no one thought it odd. While the gentry carried swords, the commoners used staffs as one of their main weapons. No one would take notice of a man with a staff. To read more about the use of the Staff and the role that the Summoner plays, go read my S.O.’s book The Flowering Rod.

The Coven Sword:

The Coven Sword represents the lineage of the coven. It represents anyone who has ever been initiated into that coven. Being tied to the sword ties you to anyone else who has ever been tied to that coven. Some people use the Coven Sword to cast the circle, but as my S.O. puts it, that’s sort of like “using a Howitzer to swat a fly”. The Coven Sword is not usually found on the altar itself, but nearby in a place of honor.

Besom:

A witches’ Besom is more than just a broom to sweep the ground with. The Besom is used in casting the circle. Traditionally the besom is made with ash for the handle, broom for the broom bottom, willow bindings and a secret acorn at the join between the ash and the broom. The Besom is another ordinary household item that could not be held up in a court as a symbol of witchcraft. The Besom is used in handfasting ceremonies, as a household charm for fertility, and several other things. Usually the Besom is also used as a symbol of protection after the Circle has been closed. Go and look up Besom-lore, it is some of my favorite traditional folklore out there.

Book of Shadows:

People think that a Book of Shadows is any book used in the Craft. A true Book of Shadows is used by a coven to preserve the coven’s tradition. In traditional coven training a student is not given access to a full Book of Shadows until they are a third degree initiate. The grimoire is the personal journal that the student keeps until they are initiated fully. Obviously, with the internet, we have full access to many Books of Shadows, such as Gardner’s. It’s not hard these days to just pick up a BOS and read it, understanding it, however, is another matter entirely if you have not been taught the Craft. I live with a third degree elder, I suppose I could steal his BOS and read it, but why, as a student of the Craft, would I want to? Everything in it’s time and place.

Most people have a grimoire, which is a working journal for anyone studying the Craft. Most people keep many grimoires over the course of a lifetime of working in the Craft, where you record your magical thoughts, your spells, your herblore and any other knowledge used in everyday magical working.

Boundaries and Hospitality

“Hospitality is making your guests feel at home, even though you wish they were.” – Proverb

We don’t have doors in our house. We have doorways, but no actual doors. So, my Significant Other put up old sarongs to at least give us some privacy in the bedroom.

We have a black cat named Bansidhe. She sings to us all the time (I haven’t noticed anyone dying whenever she cries, but who knows, right? She is a cat after all. I also haven’t noticed her herding fairy cattle, but I’m pretty sure she does that at night while we’re sleeping. At least it sounds that way…). She also has trouble crossing over our threshold at the curtains. At first I just assumed that my cat might be a little…well, you know, special. But then I started watching her when we did ritual. She never crosses our Circle. She is also an excellent companion on guided group meditations, and in my own astral temple work. She is very good about digging her claws into my knee at just the right moment to bring me all the way back. So I started watching her when she was going in and out of our bedroom.

She works her way up to it and then seems to force her way through. If I open the curtain for her and invite her in or out, she has no problems at all. But when she’s doing it herself, she does that adorable cat hunter butt wiggle thing and gets this look of extreme focus on her face as if to say, “I’m GOING to do it, NOW”.

So I started thinking that maybe my personal shields on the bedroom were a little much…

But what can I say? The bedroom is my Sanctuary, it is where I go to retreat from the world and from people and from all of those grating social activities that drive me nuts. When I’m at work, I’m forced to be polite and nice to people who do not always give me the same courtesy. I see it as a part of my professional demeanor to be as polite in all situations as I can be. Having a bad day? No excuse to take it out on other people.

So when I get home from work, I need a place away from the stresses of the outside world. I also don’t particularly like having people living in my space. I work my ass off and sacrifice a pretty big part of the actual me to work the job that I do. And while there are things about the job that I love, there are also things, most notably a lot of coworkers, that make this job an absolute misery for me. But, at the end of the day, I like having a steady paycheck with benefits. I like knowing that I can pay the rent to ensure that my sanctuary is always there. So working a nine to five job is a sacrifice that I’m willing to make. Having that Sanctuary is essential.

We live in a shotgun apartment. (Shotgun Apartment Layout) Our bedroom is not only our shelter, it is in the heart of our house. It is the most protected room physically in the whole place, which I’m sure adds to the shielding me and my Significant Other have created.

I’ve had more than one person tell me that the shields on my bedroom were particularly strong, but until my poor familiar started having trouble dealing with them, I had never noticed this myself.

In this house, it’s not just me, but my Significant Other as well. While he is a much more social person than I am, like me he appreciates his space. So I’m sure that between  him and I, the shields on our bedroom (which is where we spend a majority of the time in this apartment), are pretty spectacular.

Last year, I had someone that I respected tell me that I’m an “aggressive, territorial bitch”. I had told her son, who was going to be our landlord, that I didn’t want a strange girl living with us. He had hired a girl to watch the house while they were doing repairs on it and she was living in the rooms that we were moving into. I had told him that I didn’t mind if she stayed until she found a new place, but that I wasn’t comfortable with her living with us for very long. She was someone that I didn’t know, who wasn’t going to be contributing to the household expenses, and who was not someone that I had personally invited. I saw her as his employee and therefore his responsibility. I didn’t think this was being unreasonable. But I was told that I was a bad Pagan and that I lacked “hospitality” for not wanting to house this stranger. I think, that out of that entire horrible conversation, as I was torn to shreds and generally sat there with my mouth hanging open in shock through all of it, that it was this accusation that hurt the most.

My S.O. and I went on to house people continually from October of 2011 to March of 2012 without respite (in the shotgun apartment with no privacy). It wasn’t a knee-jerk reaction to this accusation either, it was because of promises that my S.O. and I had made to various people months prior. It wasn’t until after that whole long period was over that I looked back on my supposed “territorial aggressive bitchiness of no hospitality” that it occurred to me how absurd the whole thing was.

But that accusation has nagged at me for months now. Where does our responsibility to be “hospitable” end? Especially for people like me who need privacy from the outer world for our physical well being. I can’t emotionally handle being around people for very long. I have to like you a lot and trust you even more to be O.K with you in my space for long periods of time. When I’m around people constantly, it wears me down, first mentally and then physically. Again, I have a stressful job, and the stress of those people adds onto my stress with regular social situations. I’m O.K with the fact that I have some social anxiety and maybe a slight case of agoraphobia; I know how to deal with those things and live a relatively normal social life. But I also know that there are times when I have to seclude myself in order to shore myself up for when I am around people.

If nothing else, I think the shields on my bedroom, which aren’t particularly intentional, are a good example of how willing I am to keep people OUT of my personal space when I am home.

I never before saw that as meaning I lacked hospitality. How can I give hospitality if I am too sick and worn down to give the type of shelter to a guest that is essential to  hospitality?

I think that hospitality can be a troublesome issue for modern Pagans. We can’t quite just allow every person who wanders by into our homes anymore. The dangers of inviting strangers in are much different than those of the past. Our lives are also not ruled by the social obligations that ancient lives were. We don’t give service to a ruler who then has obligations to us, and our lives are not intertwined with the rest of society in the same way either. And while we do still have obligations to the Gods (otherwise, what’s the point of being a Pagan?), we have much less of a connection to our neighbors and communities than ever before. Community has been the subject of a lot of Pagan blogging lately. People have been asking why it’s so important or why they should be as invested in the Pagan community when its generally quite a mess. I’m sure that this was never a concern to our ancestors. Community was their whole lives. Of course, we also don’t have to worry about breaking social obligations and becoming  outcasts, deprived of the resources of greater society. We can happily live outside of social boundaries if we choose to, and other than alienation from the rest of the herd, we can do our own thing mostly in peace.

I would say that my Significant Other practices some of the purest forms of hospitality that I’ve ever seen in a modern Pagan. If he meets you and you need a place to stay, he invites you home with him. But these interactions are still within the personal sphere. He has also traveled the road pretty extensively for over thirty years and appreciates hospitality in ways that I’m sure most “landed” people don’t. It’s not uncommon for me to come home and find another musician crashing on the couch for a night or two.

I think this also comes down to a debate between the hardcore reconstructionists and those who are more on the Neo-Pagan side of things. To be someone who is actually reconstructing whatever Pagan religion that you’re practicing, the act of hospitality takes on a much greater significance than it does for someone with a more current frame of mind. Xenia was an extremely important aspect of the ancient Greek practices and some form of this is found in most other Indo-European cultures.

I had never seen myself as being inhospitable before. I have more house guests than most people that I know other than the pirates. And one of the things I love so much about my pirate crew is their ability to ensure that everyone in our group has the things they need. Lost your job? Don’t worry, we’ll keep you fed and put a roof over your head until you find something new. The pirates are the best example of a working community that I’ve ever seen. I see hospitality as giving someone a place to stay who needs it until they move on or have gotten back on their feet from whatever, not indefinitely housing someone who doesn’t have any reason to need it. I think that the point you have no extra energy to give a “guest” is the point where the guest is no longer acting in that particular role. It’s just like any relationship, there should be an energy exchange, not an unhealthy energy drain.

I think, as with so many other things, it comes down to doing the best you can. Sometimes we set boundaries because we need them, and it isn’t always the best choice to open your home up indiscriminately. There is a reason we set a circle and only invite certain beings into our rituals. Our homes are the same way. If we aren’t inviting every spirit or deity that wanders past in ritual, why are we supposed to do the same with strangers? We shield for a reason, we cast circles for a reason. Our homes have many sacred elements, and shelter our religious and ritualistic lives as well. We are not the ancient societies that first came up with these ideas, and while I still expect to help people where I can, I have to watch out for myself too, since I no longer live in a community that will.

It’s all about herding cats…

Ok, so have you ever noticed that herding Wiccans is like herding cats? I’m slowly learning this (ok, really not so slowly, but I try to give them the benefit of the doubt here…). Why, you may ask, do I have occasion to learn about herding Wiccans? Easy. I’m a pirate eclectic that seems to have landed herself solidly in the midst of a very staid Wiccan coven.

I’m sure a lot of you wouldn’t put the words “staid” and “Wiccan” together. Witchcraft and conservatism…? Nooooo…not possible. But seriously, Wicca is Pagan Old School. It seems to be a the modern trend to be “Neo-Pagan” and eclectic. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, as long as you’re not trying to claim something you’re not or don’t have the rights to (like saying, “well, I’m this degree is this tradition” without understanding what that really means) or perhaps as long as you are willing to understand that you have a lot to learn. But there was time (long ago, perhaps, but really not that long ago) when nearly all Pagans were Wiccan, or some other coven-based, initiation-based tradition. Just because it stopped being “cool” to be Wiccan doesn’t mean all the Wiccans went away. Oh, they’re still here alright! Up close and personal! Right in this owl’s feathery little face!

I’ve always been a very solitary pagan. I have my group of pirates and that’s all I’ve needed. Until now. Now I’ve been dragged kicking and screaming into a very traditional, and in many ways conservative, coven of Blue Star Wiccans. For this I blame my Significant Other. Oh no, I couldn’t just show up to ritual and simply enjoy being in circle…Learn the Craft he tells me…I remind him that I’m happy with my own…but there goes my kicking and screaming again…

And really, he has a point; a lot of people don’t really study what they like to talk about. I guess I was spoiled. My pirates are all extremely well read and open about the fact that they steal from any and all traditions that catch their eye. Eh hmmm, Pirate. None profess to be a third degree high elder priestess in the such and such tradition. There really isn’t any pretentious BS (BS, Blue Star…is there a correlation…? I’ve heard stories…) going on. That’s not the point. Living a pagan life is. There’s a reason they and I avoid hierarchy and deal in a lot of discordian energies. (The S.O. and I were arguing over Eros last night, he was all like, “Goddess of the morning, blah blah blah…” and I was all like, “Ummmm…out of Chaos and primordial beginnings dude…WHATEVER…”)

But out there in the Pagan world, I’ve run into my share of “three-chapter-Pagans;” they read three chapters of a book and know everything. Really people, you can’t just read a book and think you know everything. Which is what I keep coming up against in my search for the larger pagan community. Where did all these fluffy bunnies come from? How can they possibly look at that Old Time Religion and get bunnies?

And so I find myself in a unique position.

I was formally dedicated to Blue Star just after Imbolc 2012, the first step in studying the tradition with an eye toward Priestesshood. Taking dedication was a decision I struggled with in my little owl brain for quite a while. It took nearly a year and a half to give in to the inevitable. And I don’t imagine I’m your typical dedicant either. I have been pagan for many years. This isn’t my first rodeo.

And oh, did I mention my authority issues?

I still cling stubbornly to a lot of my own practices. There is a reason I became pagan. I realized I needed the divine in my life and I fought a very long and hard battle to get to where I needed to be in order to feel both sane and healthy. (And while I thought I lived openly as a Pagan to all, including family, apparently I only just came out of the broom closet to my parents over Yule this year. I’ve never tried to hide being pagan, I am dating a very well known pagan author and musician… but somehow they’re just now figuring it out… They are very concerned that I am worshipping Satan. *goes and bangs my head against the wall for a while…* ARGH!)

In most aspects of my life, I look pretty normal. I graduated with a Baccalaureate from a snobbish public school and I now work a nine-to-five job. But in all reality, I exist in the In-Be-Tween. The people I work with are generally horrified by my bohemiam lifestyle and the pagans in my circle are baffled about my nine to five job and what they see as my “normal/conservative” lifestyle. I just can’t seem to please anybody.

What can I say? I’m an Owl. (Mind you, in the Wiccan coven, most have a nine-to-five job. Irony?)

So here we stand. This blog is going to be dedicated to the trials and tribulations of being a little eclectic Owl that’s greatly overshadowed by “The Great Wiccan Tradition”. (Or Blue Star, anyway).

And seriously guys…it really is like herding cats most of the time.

Bansidhe

Bansidhe