It’s the second anniversary of The Bad Witch Files.
Originally, I thought I’d write up a “retrospective” to reinforce the journey I’ve made from the Witch I was two years ago: undermined, deceived, and betrayed by the only Pagan “community” I thought I’d find in The Bamas. Two years later, having dug my heart-roots deep, my branches are starting to expand their canopy again. Rather than looking back, let’s look forward. Shall we?
Last night we had our Winternights craft circle and Disírblòt/Ælfablòt. (See my list of events (a new page to your right) for more details.)
But, alas. This year, I had wall-to-wall Wyrdness. Tissue-paper, feathers, ribbons, beads, and—yes—glitter.
Let me make something very, very clear. I am a talent at sewing on all levels with a particular penchant for costuming. I can decorate the shit out of a house and garden (and chickencoop). I can paint, I can knit, I can solder, I can calligraphy, and I can make any piece of wood my absolute bitch.
Do not hand The Bad Witch glue sticks and glitter.
This. I cannot do.
When one of my students, a beloved grove member, suggested a craft circle, I smiled and said, “Hokay?” Then, piled high with the faces I adore more than air, I managed to make a go of it.
Then we retired to the beautiful harrow The Bad Husband arranged and had a bit of a blòt. “All Ehsha Style.” And while we had our, um, moments—we’ll go with “moments”—it was right out—here’s the word—“sanctified.” The harrow was hallowed and that’s the end of that.
Plus, when you get in your skin and learn to do what comes naturally, you learn a thing or three. Here is what The Bad Witch learned from “craft” night:
Mulled wine is oh-so-fantastically-suitable if the cat ruins the mead.
Often, the only things standing between some folks and vegetarianism are salami and bacon.
The Bad Husband never learned to braid. Who knew?
If it’s red and sticky, you should prolly put it in your mouth.
Bloody handprints don’t grow on trees.
I always forget the incense.
October ain’t no thang to mosquitos in Alabama.
If the need-fire won’t catch, use a spare ritual script as kindling.
While waiting for the need-fire to catch, Sumbul!
Included in this blòt was a spontaneous Sumbul and beot. The Sumbul reflects the strength of one of the most Heathen ethical traditions: Kindred. Again, I want to clarify that Kindred doesn’t rely on consanguinity, but on loyalty and affinity. A Sumbul is where kin sit in hall and take turns with the drinking vessel. (“No, no. That horn ain’t fit to drink from yet. Get a glass.”) The vessel serves as a bit of a “talking stick” in other cultures. In Sumbul, one can skald—tell a story—and one can beot. A beot is a ritualized boast. Not the braggadocio of conceit or egoism; a beot is a promise within the community—a sacred oath. It’s not just a promise to the community, mind you. It is also a promise from the community.
For example: The Bad Husband’s beot was to improve his language skills in German to a fluid (not fluent) conversational level by the next solstice. So, not only has he promised to improve our community by adding to his communication skills (and therefore work-related skills—which in turn benefits his reputation in the broader world—this is good for our community which believes that individual health brings health to the whole). Success in this endeavor will increase his reputation in our community. Failure? Um, that’s different. But the flipside of the beot is that the community is also bound to encourage TBH to improve his German. They are to prod him and make reminders of his beot. They are oathbound to not stand in his way or make any hindrances or obstacles for him. When possible, they are to assist him. It’s all about community support. In turn, TBH promised to help other members achieve their goals. Sumbul and beot is a way to let your community know what’s important to you, gain their support, and become accountable to something outside of yourself.
Our oaths got bigger as the cup passed ‘round: “Oh, I get it. The more we drink, the bigger our beot become?” What started with promises to finish this or that household project by spring ended with more serious oaths to learn languages and complete Shamanic and Hermetic training (four separate beot—each trying to one-up the other in a friendly-sort of way). But beot aren’t just promises to do things. A beot can be about something already done. Sumbul is a place to get the recognition that we deserve without the guilt manufactured by our Puritanical background. Others boasted of things like twenty years of military service (whoo-rah), a shiny new bar exam passing, a place on the dean’s list, a successfully (newly) integrated family of eight, and many other lovely things.
Today, we all have a better gauge of where each other stand and we have a clearer idea of how we can help one another. How Heathen is that?
Here are TBW’s beot. I tell you this here as a bit of cyber-Sumbul. You are my extended community and I want to include you in my support network. After all, you pushed me through two years—I’m pretty sure I can count on you to push me some more.
(And as a cyber-Sumbul, if you are someone who reads my blog just to look for ways to hinder my progress, stop reading now. When you listen to one’s sacred beot, you become enmeshed in supporting it.)
Click “more” if’n you’re willing to throw down on The Bad Witch if she get’s lazy.
- I have three books *almost* done. I promise to quit dancing with all three and commit already. Expect one by 2/14.
- I am doing a blog hop of some sort in 2013. I’ll announce details ASAP. My first impulse was to have something with a tangible reward for participation. I thought The Wyrd Sister might donate some “prizes” based on quality. There will have to be a voting system, this is what I haven’t figured out. The idea is embryonic and I am open to suggestions.
- I’ve incorporated as a religious non-profit charity (since 2010), and therefore have those tax benefits. I also have a business license. I am fixin’ t’file an application as 501(c)3 and will, therefore have all of the tax benefits and as much government recognition as the U.S. can manage without an uprising. (This booger runs $600.00. Did you know that? I sho didn’t.) That’s all to say that I started a grove back in 2010, it was the fruition of several years’ solitary planning and organization to get it all legal and non-profit-like. But, most of her members are non-local. (There’s an entirely different local grove that just sprung up this month that aims at doing an entirely different eclectic sort of thing. There’s no need to be redundant or competitive. So, that frees me up from that responsibility and I can focus on my true passion: Ceremonial Heathens.) More on this later.
- Last night we decided to hold an open event—a Yule masquerade “dance.” Eek. Might commit to delegating this task.
- Here’s the big one. For these past two years, I have been working toward providing some quality mentoring and training via the interwebs. There’s so much crap out there that I thought I should put together something decent. About eight months ago, I started putting together a real-life, honest-to-goddess seminary. It’s looking good. I have a web page, a teaching portal, some faculty (and am looking for a few more, ehem), and about 30 interested applicants (and am looking for more, ehem). I’ll be accepting formal applications for Fall 2013 by February. I’ll get you the web address soon. I’m still tweaking a few things and don’t want to be caught with my drawers down.
We have a branch for initiation; that’s the most complicated. It turns out that there are a whole lot of ladies out therewho want to be trained as a völva. Plus, I’d bet a dollar that there’s at least one dude out there who wants a shot at seiðmadr too. I’m I right? I had to go and open my mouth (get it—that’s a galdr joke) and now I have aspirants running at me. Ain’t it a blessing? I have figured out a way, based on a successful model in another tradition, to make this happen for everyone who wants it in the U.S. This is a long term goal—but worth mentioning.
We have a branch for education: I did all the what-what necessary to grant religious degrees (Cert., M.Div, Th.D. and D. Min); I’m crazy-stoked.
And we have a branch for ordination. Being a (real) minister is crazy tough; I’m glad Bertie prepared me for what I would need to know. Having an academic degree in Pastoral Ministries has been very helpful to me. I want to pay it forward. I made sure my legal ducks were in a row and can begin ministerial training and ordination. This is not a “buy your ordination” program either. There’s real training and support involved.
I’m glad to share all of this with you!
And may have just had a thought for the blog hop – The Bad Beot. We all post our plans and try to help one another . . . hmmmm, worth considering.
Pass the cup and hail!
B, Q, 93,
 I sent The Bad Son to AWAcon dressed as Adam Jenson from Deus Ex and The Bad Baby as Blaire from Soul Eater. (Last year, the boy was Death the Kid.) The Bad Eldest made her own costume for the first time. She went, you betcha, as Kim Hyun-a of “Gangnam Style.” (The last costume I made her was Ciel Phantomhive: 2010. How they grow.) My nigh-on-eighteen-year-old spent the weekend with Vic Mignogna. Older than her father. I wasn’t worried. At all.
 Truth be told, she did more than suggested it. She carried the day.
 In Native American cultures there is a system of bragging as well. I find that many of my lesson notes from teaching Beowulf now apply to teaching Last of the Mohicans.
 But, one has to be careful about assuming that all Pagan communities understand or even appreciate the concept of beot. I have been around folks who see such promises of achievement as a threat or as a gauntlet thrown down in competition rather than as a tribal oath of mutual improvement.
 I hope Angela from Dear Aradia is happy to hear that the seminary is about to make liftoff and will start accepting applications this winter. (You wanted a lecture with me—let’s do it!)
 I’m working on “accreditation” via distance learning bodies—but the $10K application fee is prohibitive and premature at this stage.
 Here’s my philosophy:
Not everyone has been blessed with the ability to teach or the desire to minister; those of us who are realize the profound benediction of living in service to others. Many see leadership as ruling rather than serving, we know this is not the case. Here, we expect students to give to their communities as they build a ministry that provides assistance to all who are in need.
Unfortunately, those who would serve are often called up to provide credentials that the broader world is ill-prepared to provide to Pagan ministries. Often, Pagan ministers are compelled to “buy” degrees or ordination online from non-ministerial and predominantly secular institutions.
You can tell from our tuition and fees schedule that this is a labor of love, not one of profit. As your founder and director, it is my blessing to serve you and your communities by providing you with the recognition and credentials you deserve.