Ready? Steady? Go!

Wow. I guess this is the “Farewell” post. It’s a little bit hard letting go. Thanks to everyone who listened to my insanity and helped me feel a little more sane over the past couple years. (Because, “Yes, Virgina, there are bad Witches.”) I hope you hang out to hear Hazey tell her stories too. While she’s a site younger than I am, she has a good head on her shoulders and quite a yarn to spin.

Have a happy and prosperous 2013–pop over to http://www.EhshaApple.Wordpress.com if you haven’t already, you can pick up my travels post-Bad Witchery over there.

I’m sure, as things go , I’ll be back to poke my nose in from time to time. But until then, I have some blogging advice for Hazey, The New Bad; y’all feel free to eavesdrop.

Twelve points for twelve months.

1) There’s no need to tell your story all at once. Folks are happy to listen if you are entertaining; therefore, episodes are better than a movie-length post.

And you’ve got enough to say that you don’t have to be repetitive.

2) Poioumena, parables, metaphors, and fairy-tales are good for telling more of the whole truth than can be put in words. Folks identify with certain stories and know how those stories “feel” so you don’t have to work so hard to put them in your pointy shoes.

3) That said—keep control of your metaphors. Ain’t nothing worse than a metaphor what can’t stay on track. Plenty of “Bad” metaphors out there have run amok of their authors and shown folks that the emperor is truly and completely nekid. Make your logic hang together or folks’ll notice. Our reader is smarter than the average bear (and they know how to make sense of a film’s ending).

4) Metaphors are OK. But don’t lie. Just don’t. It ain’t worth it; the truth is so much more frightening and entertaining anyhow.

5) You aren’t “The Bad.” Remember you are just reporting on “The Bad.” And you have seen that shite as up close and personal as any of Stephen King’s protagonists.

And, as we continue to see–some folks are always gonna think it’s about them. You can’t second guess yourself. If it stings them, must mean they have a guilty conscience–ain’t nothing you can do about that.

6) That said, this is not about revenge; this is about warning others that Pennywise is not actually a clown and that they shouldn’t patronize Leland Gaunt’s little shop of horrors.

7) You are learning loads of new things right now. Information is pouring in and out of you at break-neck speed at this point in your Witchy career. You should share that information and all the great new lessons you are learning—but you should also know when to STFU. When it comes to “secrets,” remember that your audience understands that there are things which cannot be said.

8) Don’t dicker with your numbers. Nobody cares in the end. I pulled up a “Bad” blog not too long ago which purported well over two-thousand “followers.”  The little box came up and asked if I wanted to join 627. Now that’s just embarrassing. We keep our numbers under wraps here for a few reasons: A) The number that pops up here is grossly inaccurate. I’ll explain the logistics of Tumblr, Twitter, FB, etc. later. B) If it hurts someone else’s pride that we have X and they have Y—enough so that they have to make smack-talk about it Online—then we will just remove the info. We ain’t out to rub it in.

Speaking of (A), everything posts to a parallel site on Tumblr. We can discuss Facebook and Twitter and the WP stats function later. It’s not interesting enough to go here.

9) Speaking of “followers,” your audience does not “follow” you—you are not their “leader.” They are your audience, your sounding board, your patient ally, and occasional (when necessary) adversary. Do not presume to make them your subordinates as other bloggers have done. You’ll do better to have 1500 “friends” than 600 “underlings.” (Hell, I’d rather have 600 friends than 1500 underlings.) If no one else ever visits, I’ll be here right by your side, reading, laughing, crying, goading.

10) Speaking of things with which you should not dicker—readers’ comments are sacred. Only SPAM gets deleted. Otherwise, how’s anyone ever gonna trust you?

11) Never blog UI. I believe that’s what the “Save Draft” button was specifically designed for. Trust me. Sometimes you don’t want to publish that shite until you are sober. And rehydrated. And maybe caffeinated—but that’s a whole ‘nother problem.

12) Finally—but most importantly—have fun. This is for blowing off steam, not for generating pressure.

I adore you. I’m already proud of you.

Ready? Steady? Go! (Take this bad broom and fly!)

Sage advice from the original.

Hel and Back

This one spans three decades and may take a minute. Grab a drink and put your feet up.

It was 1980 and I sat in the church van with Maria Villalobos-Ramirez, Lourdes Bacardo, Anita Rodriguez, and Dolores Ortega. Between the five of us we had gone through all of the butane in Anita’s Clicker portable curling iron, half-a-bottle of Love’s Baby Soft, a tin of grape Lip Lickers, and a full eyeliner pencil and a lighter.

We were headed to camp (yes, think Jesus Camp only less affluent) and we were singing. Songs that started out about roadtrips, “Lonely days turn to lonely nights, you take a trip to the city lights,” “Surrounded by strangers I thought were my friends / I found myself further and further from my home,” and “I gotta be cool, relax, get hip, get on my tracks. Take a back seat, hitch-hike. . .,” disintegrated into, “There’s gonna be a heartache tonight,”[1] “I wanna kiss you all over,” “Oi, oi . . . I’m a powerload . . . watch me explode!” That’s about when Brother Preacherman said enough was enough and that we should sing gospel songs instead.

That’s when TBW decided to rebel. I parodied a choir-girl stance and began, “Hey Momma, look at me, I’m on my way to the Promised Land.” Right on cue, the other girls chimed in, “We’re on a highway to Hell!”

Brother Preacherman was too tolerant of my bad behaviors.

We think of going to Hel as a bad thing. We tell the feckheads in our lives to go to Hel. Some of us even provide directions. But as someone who’s been to Hel and back, I can tell you that the ride sucks, but the return has its rewards.

Let me explain.

Part One: I left the comforts of my rather insular covens and headed for The Bamas in 2002. I worked on my doctorate, raised my babies, and kept doing my thang. I tried “coming-out of the broom closet” once or twice—okay, constantly—but very few people understood what I was up to. There was an “English Graduate Organization Prom” that I attended with my new-found grad-school bestie that first year; I had only been around for a few months and I thought it would be good to mingle. I was wearing a headband right on my hairline; a die-hard-fundie (who had made off-color comments about a pentagram shirt I wore to class) asked me, “Do all of you wear those?”

“All who?”

Wicc-ahh, wit-ahh, whatever you call yourself.”

I had been pegged by a Church of Christer—but for a totally banal headband.

I threw a bang-up Samhain party (which I referred to as a “Samhain” party rather than a Halloween party—and was met with “a whaah?”) some weeks after that and all of my Witchy-Chachkas were very visible. Everyone must have thought they were décor.

Another time, a few years later, I sat on my back porch with my immediate supervisor (and friend), her fiancé, The Only Other possible-Pagan (she was ambivalent at the time), and The Bad Husband. I don’t remember what precipitated the event, but I was reading Tarot. My boss wanted to know, “Where’d you learn that?” Just as I was about to tell her everything, the other woman shot me a terrified look that said, “NO! Keep your mouth shut!” To this day, I wonder what she was afraid of?

After that, I wore pentagrams, spiral goddesses, serpents, and medicine bags to work. You name it, I tried signifying with it and no one saw me. (I still have a giant “Witch” sign over my desk—next to a rune glyph, a spiral goddess pendulum, and a little portrait pin of Marie Laveau.)

All of this is just to say that when I decided to make myself known, I had to take my stav in both hands and pound the ground. Hard.

I think I was a little out of line. Much like singing AC/DC in a church van.

Because that action set me on a road to Hel, through the fires, and into relationships with some of the Baddest Witches eveh.

Part Two: The Descent

It was Summer 2007, I had just earned a Fellowship: the department was paying me to finish my dissertation rather than teaching. The above mentioned grad-school bestie was so resentful that I had gotten the award rather than her that she “broke-up” with me. No shit.

The Only Other possible-Pagan took a job in another state and shoved off—and not on good terms.

In late-May, I set the need-fire, I took my stav, and I called for three witches that would teach me what I needed to learn from here on out.

See “The Witch’s Duh.”

I had just met a brand-spanking-new grad-student with the craziest aura I have ever seen. (She is the #2 of my “Trance” post, btw.) Having sent my children to stay with family in Chicago,[2] by July 3, I was three chapter drafts into my dissertation. There was a toga party.

That’s how it began.

After that, there were 12 months of phonecalls with her voice on the other end saying, “Oops, I ended up in bed with the wrong boy again, can you help?” and “I’m drunk and the boy I like is being mean to me, can you help?” Imagining her as salvageable, I always did. But the relationship wasn’t entirely unreciprocal. Having felt like I had bled every ounce of my person for others, I had little to no sense of self left in the cupboard. We joked that she thought she was “all that” and that I didn’t even believe I was “a bag of chips.” But her unbridled vivaciousness would not contend for her BFF (actually, this relationship was the first time I’d heard/applied this term of endearment) to be less than awesome. She said that she loved me and she brought the dead parts of me back to life.

It was February of 2008 when I decided to dust off my grimories and hit the books harder than ever.[3] By April, I was ready for my last elevation with Bertie. I graduated with a PhD in May. Over the summer, The Only Other Pagan came back to town and we made amends. She had wholeheartedly adopted Witchiness—plus she brought a friend back with her.

We were tightthighttight for three months.[4]

Then, in September/October, I got talked into rigging a Dom-Jot table. I take full responsibility for having gone along with it. I lost my mind that fall and nearly lost everything else by New Year.

Part Three: In Hel and Back Out

In January 2009, I had a Naussican spear through my chest (see “It’s a Wonderful Q” for this reference), and found myself standing at the Gates of Hel without a shovel.

I started teaching Witchcraft on a more formal basis; I knew that if I was going to have to climb my way out of Helheim, I was going to need to buckle down. I spent the next ten months mentoring Witchcraft students online and teaching a select few in person. I spent those same ten months deflecting ridiculous fallout from that fight with a Naussican. I started writing a book called The Bad Witch Files—but I never knew how it ended, so it never went very far. It still calls me in bits and spurts.

I continued teaching (secular and religious) and learning and practicing and trying to piece my life back together in some way that looked like life, even if it still smelled of sulfur.

In October 2010, I started blogging here and you can go see the milestones for yourself. I think it was summer 2011 before I realized I was on the road back from Hel. I knew the journey was going to be long. And I knew that if I was ever going to make it all the way out, I was going to need to articulate myself—use my voice.

And—here was the hardest part—then I had to work through forgiving myself.

But, in order to avoid the calm stillness and silence where certainty resides, I kept myself a moving target, often chasing my own tail. Having spun m’self round and round, I have finally come full circle after traveling to Hel and back.

Part Four: The Return

It was back in February 2012 that I finally found the new mentor I had been craving. I had studied and practiced all the Hermetics, Ceremonial Magic, Theurgy, and Goetia I wanted to alone. After ten-fricking years of going it alone, I was ready to be taught, lead, united with others.

I looked to him to teach me all about Teutonic Shamanism. Unfortunately, it didn’t take too long for me to drain him of everything he knew, leaving me back at the drawing board.[5]

Right back where I started.

Fortunately, I did not go to jail, but I did collect $200. And by “collect $200,” I mean “pulled my head out of my arse and found my voice.”

Yawp, bitches. [6]

At the beginning of that shitefeckedup four year trek, I knew I had Heathen ethics, I knew I had High Ceremonial practices, I knew I had a moral compass aligned with Matthew 25:40, I knew I had a Helluva sound occult education behind me, and I knew I had – gifts—we’ll go with “gifts.” But I had never been forced to articulate what I “was.” I always considered myself a Heathen Sorcerer, perhaps because my childhood nickname was, “Y’lil’heathen,” perhaps for more substantial reasons stemming from my appreciation of the Anglo-Saxon ethics I learned as an undergraduate. I laid claim to the title “Sorcerer” in my early 20s, before I was even a mamma.[7] But, while I knew what it meant in my body and in my soul, I was never really sure what that might mean—you know, on paper, with other people looking at it.

Polyphanes wrote a post last week that struck a chord with me. He wrote: “I’m so far over the place, hither and thither, that I break a lot of people’s definitions, preconceptions, and labels. In other words, as befitting my Hermetic nature, I’m a trickster and don’t fit into any one bin, since I’ll just flit right out and into another one. I’d be like a Schrödinger’s Cat of traditions, except with less neurotoxin.” 

I felt a little like an unexplained Copenhagen interpretation too.

I’ve given you the rundown of my Jesuit educational upbringing with Bertie. Though Bertie tried her best to balance Catholic Christianity and Occult-Paganism for me, I held on to some of the vestiges of my Evangelical fears of “evil” and “Hel” for quite a while. I’m not ashamed to admit that. But, today, it seems like a lifetime ago that I was articulating my sense of Evangelical Detox. That’s not to say I discovered it in 2010, but that I had just found the voice to articulate the experience.[8]

Perhaps the most profound experiences are what ended my ongoing tailspin in the last few months. Having gotten back in constant contact with Bertie, I was pressed *from the outside* to journey back to the inside. Having lost Brother Preacherman and Mama Lisa over the summer, I was shocked into appreciating the “call” (or were they saying “caul”?) other folks saw hovering on and about me. Having learned what I’ve learned from Maman Lee a few months back. And having been pressed by The Road Less Traveled to reeeeealy articulate the difference in several traditionssome of which are my own, some of which I didn’t understand nearly as well as I did after being asked to clearly express those distinctions—I found that my voice was there all along. It was a little browbeaten and tired, it had been vilified and colonized—but it was still audible. And it still sounded like me.

Back in December 2011, I think I busted through some hymeneal (hmmm, hymnal?) membrane when I clearly articulated my thoughts about the word “vagina.” It had been—dare I say it—pricking at me for a while. And much like really good sex, once I found the right spot, it was all over.

In February 2012, I picked up the stav I had left idle for too long and started working on Teutonic Shamanism[9]—very close to the pathworking Bertie had taught me in the 90s.[10] It was these pathwork journeys, ironically, that brought me back out of Hel. And how I found my voice.

As for the journey, it’s not at an end. But I’m glad to be trading in these uncomfortable shoes.

So here’s what I’ll tell you in the next few posts:

  • What it means to go to Hel and Back in Teutonic Shamanism
  • Why I’m settling deeper into a new path (or, really, praxis)—that’s not different, just a better amalgamation of what I always was
  • What I’m teaching in Delta, Alabama next month and in Auburn, Alabama in November and December
  • How all of this relates to Wolves and Ulfarnir
  • How you can go to Hel too!

Thanks for sticking it out for this long post.

B, Q, 93,

TBW


[1] Which I thought was, “There’s gonna be a party tonight.”

[2] One of whom, at not quite twenty, we lost this week.

[3] Ergo the 2008 in my email address—that was the year I set “stuff” up under the name Ehsha.

[4] This is all a sort of side-story which is more of an irritation than anything real. But it bears mentioning given what I had requested—three witches to teach me. Boy howdy. Witch’s Duh.

[5] This is no disparagement on him. It’s just that everything was the same stuff I had been teaching for years myself—just with different names.

[6] Walt Whitman. Leaves of Grass. I’m teaching this in a few weeks. Squee.

[7] I remember the conversation with my sister. I didn’t have the language to discuss High Magic versus Low Magic yet, but I knew the connotation of “Sorcerer” versus the connotation of “Witch.” Having always understood Wicca as initiatory, I never laid claim to it as an eclectic idea. I still have a hard time getting my head wrapped around non-initiatory Wicca as “Wicca.”

[8] And it seems kinda trippy to me that I started envisaging an online Pagan Seminary back in September 2008 and started actually working toward it by publishing the results here nearly three years later. Now, here at the end of 2012, it seems the time has come to fully articulate that ambition.

[9] I don’t know how many of you saw the “Wyrd Sister” page before I turned it into the retail page it is now. If you missed it back in January, it aimed at being a page which cataloged my last leg of training in Seiðr. It rapidly got too close to STFU mysteries, so I switched it.

[10] And now I have vajay and stav and pounding jokes running through my head—that’s appropriate.

Guest Post: The Karate-Kid Witch

Here is the little ditty one of my trainees wrote and asked me to blog for her.

It took me a full day to quit slobbering all over myself and get it posted.

 

My name is Selene and I am a very lucky girl.

I really never thought I would (type) say those words and mean it.

My mother walked out on my father and me when I was two. My dad did the best he could, which wasn’t great. He died when I was fifteen which left me in the care of evangelical relatives who rejected my sexual identity and made me feel shame and self-loathing.

This is surprising to those who meet me; I am more likely to wear an argyle sweater and Mary Janes than I am to have body-mods or short hair. If I had a dime for every person who told me that I “don’t look like a lesbian,” I’d have enough money for therapy.

When I graduated from high school, I moved out and back to the town where I had lived with my dad. I worked as a waitress to earn enough money to get a little community college under my belt. My big dream was always to go to “real” college. No one in my family had ever gone and I imagined myself collegiate. But there was never an opportunity for me.

That’s one side of the story. I am happy to report that I am on the other side of that story.

Last year I met The Bad Witch. Funny thing is I didn’t know she was “The Bad Witch” until about three months ago. I called her teacher, mentor, mother-figure. Ehsha keeps her private life private.

Anyone who has the opportunity to study with Ehsha should grab the opportunity with both hands and hang on tight. It will change your life. (She’s a huge pain in the ass. The best teachers always are.) One thing she’s best at is teaching you a lesson you didn’t even know you’d signed up for. Mr. Miyagi style – wax on, wax off.

When I first latched on to Ehsha, I thought I was going to be spoonfed. I thought she would hand me some answers and I would become a Karate-Kid Witch with no difficulty whatsoever. I thought the process involved little more than touchy-feely lessons about candles and moon phases, ancestors and goddesses, wands and familiars. I thought the hardest thing I’d learn was ritual processes and maybe some “energy work.” The woman I have become laughs at the girl I was.

Of course, I cannot reveal the details of everything I learned; The Bad Witch scolds us, “Tace!” and makes the sign of Harpocrates, ordering us to make an offering to the enigmatic pantheon of “STFU.” This is our little joke. But I can tell you that I have learned the most important thing I know. Magic comes from inside, is directed inward, and can only affect the internal. The most fabulous part of this lesson is that the internal is everything. As I learn to master my insides, and I’m still learning by the way, I learn to control everything. All of those terrifying things that I thought were out of my control are now my daily lessons in altering myself and achieving my True Will. Sounds simple, right? But those of you who have done real magical work know that learning this lesson – I mean really learning this lesson, in all its measured progressions – is a painful process. Applying the knowledge that comes after this lesson is learned is a whole different can of worms.

And I don’t like worms. I too was a huge pain in the ass. I was not a good student. I must have quit three times. Ehsha must have let me quit three times. She said that if I was unwilling to proceed, I was unfit for initiation. This pissed me off. I ranted and raved and made a damn fool of myself one weekend. Then I realized that I wanted her to know it for me. I wanted her to want it for me. I wanted her to do it for me. Once I settled down and stopped kicking and whining, I fell into line. That was the best thing I ever did. It might sound like “submission” to you. And maybe it is. But I was not submitting to Ehsha’s will. I was learning to submit to my own Will. And let me tell you, my Will beat the crap out of me. And The Bad Witch cheered it on.

That ever happen to you? You want something but you want someone else to tow the line for you? Then you realize that the line that needs towing is the line to “your own getting-rightness,” as Ehsha will call it. Once you learn that submitting to your own self (your True Self, not your ego-self) is the only way to avoid submitting to the Will of others, you’ll know what I mean. Wax the floor.

Like I said, I’m still learning.

One of the first things my cohort and I learned with Ehsha, after STFU, was, “Learn, and obey; success will be your proof.” Giving over that much trust to someone is hard for a girl who has been browbeaten for twenty years. Just do what I say and you’ll see? Well we did. Mostly. We screwed around and dropped some balls and picked our noses and some old wounds. But at the end of it all, success is our proof. Paint the fence.

At the beginning of the course, we were asked to write out, in detail, one goal. As we went along, we were periodically asked to revise, to more precision, the goal. I wanted to go to college. One of my cohort wanted to live in South America with his daughter and her mother. A third wanted to own his own business. Teak got his act together pretty quickly and ended up inheriting his uncle’s small business in Texas. Ryan is currently in the process of moving to a resort town (where he was given his dream-job) in Brazil with his baby girl and brand new fiancé.

This guest blog, which my mentor has graciously allowed me to share with all of you, is my way of announcing to The Bad Witch that I have been accepted to University of Florida and am moving to Gainesville this weekend. I have a full ride, Mama, and a lovely apartment off campus. Success. Wash the car. I’m scared to death. But I am going to strike a strong crane pose and kick college’s behind.

The Bad Witch may not have everyone’s respect, then again, not everyone really knows The Bad Witch – the real woman behind the provocations. As for me, success is my proof that she deserves my respect. Proof that she knows what she’s talking about. Proof that she cares for me deeply. Proof that I did well to submit to my own best interests. Proof that it was the divine that led our paths to cross last October. Proof that keeping silent is key. Proof that when The Bad Witch is in her role as teacher, all is right with the world (an allusion to Browing’s “Pippa Passes”).

I have a lot more to go on this road. But I can’t begin to tell you how glad I am to know how to put one foot in front of the other in the right direction

Thank you for everything, Ehsha. My heart bursts with admiration for you.

When We Get Exactly What We Ask For

We know that we should be careful what we wish for lest we get it. But do we ever stop to consider that we should be careful what we get because we might just want to hang on to it?

Think about it.

It’s like 38 Special taught us: hold on loosely.

I have a girlfriend who is charmingly beautiful. We joke that she should be Cinderella at Disney because she wouldn’t even need a costume. About a year ago, she used to be a little bit “chunky.” She made a healthy life change, started going to the gym and became a vegan. Voila, twenty pounds gone and she became very pleased with herself and her body. Then. She became terrified that she would lose the progress she had made and so took a darker turn toward obsession. Unfortunately, she is not only unattractively thin, she is no longer charming. her hair breaks and her gums recede.

I have another friend who wanted a voluptuous garden. Hell-bent on an organic experience, she composted with manure, fertilized with “tonics,” and controlled pests with cayenne pepper and dish soap. She tended her seedlings and planted them and, during a drought year, watered them meticulously. Then the infestation came. She lost a few leaves and, infatuated with the idea of “war,” she spread Sevin dust all over her garden. Needless to say, the bees fled and none of her flowers were fertilized until months later.

I also know a man who wanted to be a business success so badly that he ended up being his own demise. He mistakenly defined success as wealth. When he forgot about customer service and employee happiness, he made everyone around him miserable. In effort to balance his wavering budget, he grasped onto his business wit both hands and strangled the life out of it. He broke laws, falsified documents, and in the end, drove everyone away.

These are, obviously parables for the real point: be careful of what you value. Do you place your values with those you really love? Or are you so afraid of loosing something that you undermine yourself? We all do it. It’s kinda a human thing.

Don’t we all know “control freaks” who want to manipulate and regulate to the point of joylessness? Don’t we all know someone “greedy” who micromanages with Draconian style to the point of lovelessness? Don’t we all know “social butterflies” and egomaniacs whose gregarious panache and insatiable need for attention can draw in plenty of hangers-on but no real friends? Haven’t we all been these people from time to time and to some degree?

When we get what we want, even then, we have to monitor our desires. We must continually ask ourselves, “What am I willing to sacrifice to keep this? Am I willing to hold on to this fulfilled desire at the cost of pursuing other, perhaps more satisfying and / or appropriate, desires?”

Let’s face it, though. Those of us strong enough to get what we want are often able to rationalize our motivations to the point of self-deception. Especially in our line, with our spiritualities, we are able to tell ourselves, “Well, this is my spiritual obligation. The gods gave me this task / blessing / calling; I must live it out.”

Sometimes, the universe gives us what we want just to see how much we are willing to lay it down. When we get what we want, it feeds our ego. To give up that desire is also to give up a huge chunk of ego. After all, we successfully manipulated the energy within ourselves and in the universe and obtained our desires through magical work. Damn. That’s a rush. Then to lay it all down? Shite. Who in their right mind would want to do that?

The person seeking the higher self. The person seeking union with the Divine. The person being obedient to a call which runs contrary to human instinct. Look at Abraham. Isaac (or Ishmael) was his beloved son – the miracle of his old age. His last ditch at immortality. And yet, Abraham was willing to bind him and lay him down as a sacrifice. So archetypal is this story that there is a term for such a sacrifice: the Akeidah (literally, the Binding).

This doesn’t mean that we should all start surrendering that which is dearest to us. As a matter of fact, the Hebrew God stopped the impending sacrifice. It just means that we should be willing to give it all up if called to do so. Obedience has its own reward. We should be willing to examine our egos for the will of the Divine.

After all, we are talking about having a little faith.

It means we should be careful what we wish for (or as I like to say, “what we witch for”). Because we just might get it. And then want to keep it. Against all odds.