Songs Of A Year Past

That feeling of a year has come and gone.

Its place was carved from my memory with an athame, cold and deep.

I feel the empty space that grew bigger after you ran through me . . .

You saw the child inside, looking for love in all the wrong places, bruised knees, bare feet, and my heart on my sleeve. You took this little bird under your wing; you said, “Little bird, fly higher than me. Little bird, be all that you can be.”

Little bird wanted to see the forest in its entirety; she left the nest in search of clarity.

The little girl is further away and the young woman is showing more with each day. Her wings are growing stronger and one day she will fly, higher than she ever dreamed.

She remembers the patience, care, and love you showed her and will not forget it. It was a cherished time in the girls’ life and she was looking for someone to fill the void that tarnished her soul. She wanted to feel whole and cared about as anyone does. She thought she had found it, everything felt so right; how could it have been so wrong? She doesn’t waste time stirring the cauldron on this one; she knows it’s better to take it for what it was and move on.

She wouldn’t change the past for anything.

The Little bird has built a new nest now and has plans of her own. She greets the morning sun each day with a delightful song, she stretches her wings and prepares for flight, yet in the back of her mind she knows she’s not ready for the sky.

She listens to Grandfather Wind just the same as she always did, she hugs Grandmother Oak even tighter, and she knows all that she knows from experiencing it in full force. She talks to those that don’t speak and she listens because she knows they do. Her intuition is getting stronger and stronger and she feels as though she’s actually opening doors inside herself that she never knew where there.

The stars still dance and shine just as bright as ever; the world still spins beneath her bare feet. She still dances to those same old songs and still makes up her own beats.

Her energy harmonizes with the rhythm of the Universe and she can see behind sight, she can hear without sound, she can feel without tangible touch, and she knows things grander than this tiny earth are all around.

She still doesn’t care if people want to stare; chances are so does she. She is open and free and can finally see everything for what it really is or is trying to be. Her truest feelings she keeps locked deep inside, if you want to know you must pay a price.

Big Brother is watching, the eyes never sleep; they are keeping tabs so we have to watch what we speak. Freedom of Press is so 1893, in 2013 nothing is free. She knows this all too well; she can’t assure you it hasn’t already been said.

With the clay in her hands, she sculpts her future. She lays down the past and walks away. “Lessons learned,” is what she’d say.

The sun is brighter tomorrow the moon is farther away. The grass is greener where you water it, don’t forget that and think it’s better in another place.

She has dwelt on things in the past way too long. It’s The End of The World record, skipping in the background. You make do with what you have, you sacrifice for what you want, and you shouldn’t change for anyone but you; that’s how regrets are made, that leave you feeling blue.

Those feelings drive you to abuse the things you shouldn’t and take for granted the ones that really care. The rest of the world doesn’t get it and other people make me feel weird.

There’s much on this Little Birds list of things to do. She cannot sit still and watch everyone else fall apart and melt into one big pile of goo. She wants to help in a game she can’t win. You see the game has no rules so she’s always on the losing end.

The intentions are becoming ever so clear the Little Bird is joyful and queer.

She can’t change what has happened and will not defend it anymore, no matter the side; she stopped keeping score.

There is a community around her that can use her energy more; she sees where she is needed and leaves when she is needed no more. The feeling of this past year has left scars on her bones. She’s changed in more ways than she’ll ever know.

She is quite lucky so don’t feel sad, she found what she was looking for on the outside and is slowly letting go of everyone and everything that makes her mad.

She has walked off the yellow brick road and has decided to see where the red one leads. She knows better this time around, she won’t be caught gazing at the stars with her guard down. Time will tell all and all will be known, there are greater mysteries I’d rather spend my time on.

If you care to come along you know how to find me; until then, my readers’ das Leben.

I Don’t Wanna! (talk about gun control)

I actually have been writing.

I wrote several blog posts and then chucked them. I wrote like a madwoman yesterday to meet a deadline.

But there’s one thing I’ve been avoiding. Admittedly, I haven’t even been reading much in order to avoid the subject.

I do not want to talk about Sandy Hook.
I DO not want to talk about Sandy Hook.
I do NOT want to talk about Sandy Hook.

So, here goes.

I really don’t talk about politics too often, do I? There was that DC40 thing last fall and the PantheaCon thing. But I don’t usually “go there.”

Today, I feel like I have to “go there.”

I have a ton of friends with small children. I guess I was ahead of the procreation curve, my kids are in high school and jr. high. And as I read my friends’ posts on social media about how hard it was to put their babies on the bus and how they gave extra hugs and kisses, I keep thinking, “Am I callous? I didn’t struggle with sending my kids to school. And high school is where we are expected to worry about guns.”

All this as I took the third batch of cookies since Friday out of the oven[1] and stirred the homemade mac-n-cheese while finishing some of the kids’ chores for them before they got home from school.

Perhaps we all mourn in our own way.

I haven’t been able to process this event. I’m sure you are all having a hard time with it too. But I just want to go into my mom-cave and hide until 2013 (which *is* coming, btw). On top of the normal response, I’ve started some of the lighter prep work for a solstice oracle. So, I am as open as convenience store. With some of my filters removed, I am admittedly testy and should not be in polite company—or Online.[2] Tomorrow should be a blast.

Today I got into two tussles with a brother with whom I typically have no contact aside from birthday and holiday wishes. I had a go at a stranger in the grocery line. I dropped the ball in magic-class. And I’ve had to walk away from family TV time—twice. This is not how I function.

Let me backstory before I go on.

When my cousin died when I was about twelve, I cried. A reasonable response. My brother chastised me, “You barely knew him.”

As a kid, my sister used to sing, “Gentle Shepherd” and “Shannon” to me just to make me cry. She thought it was hilarious. I was always emotive when it came to music.[3] With some songs it’s instant and consistent—doesn’t matter who sings it, I cry immediately.[4] And I’m not a sad, maudlin, or morose person—I’m Pippi Longstocking in a pointy hat. I just cry with music. And not cute little soap-opera tears, either. Big “boo-hoos” (and sometimes even some snot).

These family tidbits are just to explain why I shut-down “when bad things happen.” I always have Brother’s voice in the back of my head: “You’re being ridiculous. You don’t even know anyone in Connecticut.”[5] And I even hear my sister laughing at me as I cry.

I stayed offline for most of the weekend, even reblogged a post just to avoid thinking. (That worked out well.) Husband had some friends over for a birthday celebration for me on Saturday where there was absinthe and Prince–no thinking. And I took care of some grove business on Sunday. On Monday, a little tired from a magic class gone slightly cock-eyed, I crashed on the sofa to watch the finale of The Voice with my daughter.

Goddamnit!! if Blake Shelton didn’t stand there with a card that said, “Emilie Parker / 6,” as a piano and string instruments in C guided the soft candle lighting into focus. I’d know that Leonard Cohn song anywhere

And I saw what was about to happen: They are all going to be holding those babies’ names.

Blake didn’t even get to tell us about David’s secret chord before I had my hands in my face yelling, “Noh, noh, noh, don’t. Fast-forward! I can’t!” and ended up stomping out of the room so my own Emily could watch it without me.[6] After that, I pushed it waaaaaaaay down: “I will deal with this emotion at a later date.”

Guess what today was.

A later date.

Yesterday some of you saw my rant on FB about the t-shirt meme. My niece posted it first, then my brother. I commented on both. My644188_526552814037754_1413004826_n (adult) niece removed my comment. My brother and I went tête-à-tête. The crux of his argument was, “If a school is not teaching about God then, by default, it is teaching atheism.”[7]

The crux of mine was that God is everywhere—even where children die. And prayer *is* allowed in school—it simply cannot be enforced. And that religious education *is* allowed in public schools—as longs as no one religious dogma has preference over another.[8] That’s the trouble with rhetoric like this—all finer points that could be very good debates get boiled down into a sound bite, tossed on a t-shirt, passed around social media, and then cut off any meaningful discussion at the knees.

Then, after hearing my President speak, I quoted him: “‘We are going to need to work on making access to mental health care at least as easy as access to guns.’” I added, “Folks, I’m totally pro-gun (just not in *my* house). You see, it’s not about taking things away—it’s about providing access to the right things.”

This was followed by this The Conservative’s Club post which equated the human rights infractions in The (former) Soviet Union, Turkey, Germany, China, Uganda, and Cambodia to U.S. attempts at gun control. The only point I agreed with was: “With guns, we are ‘citizens’. Without them, we are ‘subjects’.”

Mind you, I was only on FB for a little while. And on-and-off at that.

Bam, bam, bam!

With the post that I just reblogged debating the etymology of The Rede—which followed one discussing the ethics of The Rede as it applies to cabbage worms—I am starting to wonder how my fellow Witches feel about guns and how y’all are handling all this shite. We are a pretty emphatic crowd. I can’t be the only one who can’t watch Adam Levine sing “Hallelujah”—especially through the fourth, the fifth, the minor fall, and the major lift.[9] This has to be doing a number on you as well. Can we struggle through it together? (I promise to peruse your blogs as soon as I can do it without breaking-down.)

Here’s where I stand. I’m pro-Amendment 2; not because I like guns but because I believe in an armed citizenry to maintain a modicum of balance. I certainly don’t want an armed authority while I’m systematically disarmed. (I know, I don’t have access to nukes–but I’m fairly confident my government isn’t going to nuke my house.) Plus, I don’t want a gun in my house–but will protect your right to have one in yours.

However, I do not believe that “armed” should not mean “without regulation.”[10] So, I am also pro-gun-control. Gun control does not mean completely disarming. I can even imagine a world where I could be (conceivably and philosophically—if not viscerally and morally) amenable to automatic weapons—so long as they were only in the hands of well-trained and regulated citizens, and that I could be reasonably sure that they would remain only in the hands of such folks.

Ergo, *control.*

It’s like what I said about boundaries. Can debaters stop resorting to either/or, all or nothing reasoning? A boundary is not a rejection.

After I posed most of this on FB, (1) there was an odd explosion in town—but I don’t know what yet. Some lights went out across town—but it was startling. (2) I discovered that there was a (very real) gun threat at one of my kids’ schools. (No worries, it’s all in hand.) (3) I was told that a family neighbor killed (himself and??) his family this morning. This hits close to home, y’all.[11] WhoTF are we as a people? These aren’t anonymous strangers today. I know these people.

So advise me, my friends. How do we live practical lives surrounded by human violence? Yeah, yeah. I got the spiritual, ethical, philosophical end of it. I mean practical lives. The day-to-day and I have to live here end of it.

For instance: When a mentally ill person decides to follow through on threats to feed my dogs “antifreeze-steaks” and then attempt to kill me and my family, can I harm some?


We’ve all pretty much decided that “self-defense” doesn’t count in The Rede. So let me push the argument. Didn’t we already harm the mentally ill person by not providing—and also verifying that s/he undertakes (there’s lots of folks diagnosed with shit for which they refuse treatment)—proper mental health care? Or do we wash our hands of that? As a Heathen, I cannot.

The argument that I keep hearing is tantamount to “That’s not my responsibility.” Well, who the fecks is it then? You certainly don’t expect the mentally ill person to be responsible for his/her own care, do you? Really??[12] And people close to the mentally ill? They tend to get so wound up in life that they believe they’ve “got this,” that they can manage the situation in a domestic way. We can’t count on them to be objective. So what do we do? I certainly don’t advocate rounding people up for Orwellian “therapy” or institutionalization. But there has to be something in between.

Has to be.

If I know that I know that I know (or even reasonably suspect) that a community member has at least three personality disorders, a grudge, a handgun, and a rifle—what are my obligations? If not as a citizen, as a Heathen? Because, if not me—someone else. Even if so-and-so doesn’t come after me, if s/he decides to go after someone else, did I not do harm by passively allowing it?

If we are in a community with an unstable person and we know that they pose a danger to someone (even if we don’t care about that individual on a personal level—hell, even if we actively dislike the target), what are our obligations? How do we do no harm?

I need a compassionate and ethical sounding-board unencumbered by Christian dogma and the political trappings that have somehow become part of “religion.”

You in?

It’s time:


[1] Entirely non-holiday related. That didn’t even occur to me until later.

[2] Let me apologize to anyone who poked the typically placid bear and got an arm bit off.

[3] Still am. I bawl at the first two notes of “O Holy Night” even if I don’t have a connection to babies in mangers and shit. And it doesn’t have to be sappy songs. “Don’t You Forget About Me” does it as fast as “I Will Always Love You” (Dolly Parton, plz). I had to work at desensitizing myself to “Amazing Grace” so that I could attend funerals with a modicum of dignity. I can do it if there are no bagpipes.

[4] Except Michael Bublé. He only makes me feel ennui.

[5] As an adult, I know grief for a stranger is not a ridiculous reaction. But it’s hard to shake our hard-wiring.

[6] When it was over, I had a huge glass of wine in my hand and my darling girl said, “I saved it for you so you can watch it when you’re ready. It was lovely.” Damn kids. They never stop being precious.

[7] His children are/were homeschooled. That’s a whole story . . .

[8]    Brother: There is only one God

Me: I agree. Not everyone calls Him Jehovah.

[9] Coz on a regular day, I’m all about all of those things.

[10] Heck, I willingly make myself subject to lots of regulations: I can drive, but within a speed limit and in a particular kind of vehicle; I can purchase and view pornography, so long as everyone is a consenting adult; I can put ugly gnomes on my lawn, so long as they don’t pose a public hazard. I can’t marry a woman and I can’t grow or buy pot—but we’ll work on that next.

[11] Don’t get me started on the other shit that has gone on this week—like the guy who carved a pentagram in his son’s back. Do you know about this? Hazey told me since I was avoiding the news.

[12] This is not an invitation to indict Lanza’s late mother. We don’t know everything yet.

Instant Sumbul’s Gonna Get You

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.)

A year ago, if someone had told me I’d have a horde of happy Heathens covered in glitter in my livingroom, I’d have called bullshit. Two years ago, I’d have shanked them for blasphemy.

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.[1] 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.

And yet.

When one of my students, a beloved grove member, suggested a craft circle, I smiled and said, “Hokay?”[2] 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.[3] 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.[4] 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.

Continue reading

F is for Frith and Faining

I tried for five days to write a post about (F is for) Frustration. I called that one all right. I had intended to talk about the I Ching and hexagrams 29 and 39 with Changing Lines. It was to be graceful, it was to be blithe, it was to be erudite. It was not to be.[1] Maybe later? Now, I sit at my PC pissed that didn’t get to my PBP post before the weekend ended.[2] But here goes. If trying to write about frustration lead to frustration, perhaps writing about Frith and Faining will bring something better.

Not quite two whole moons ago, I held a Plow Faining[3] (aka Blessing of the Plow or Charming of the Plow) with the new but growing local Pagan community committed to sincere ritual and the spiritual advancement it brings.

It’s odd being a Heathen among other Pagans. But, somehow, I always thought it was just me. I mean, I had been formally trained in an initiatory mystery school. I was certainly a Witch. I had studied (really studied) and practiced sorcery and magick for years. And I  learned to embrace Heathenry (and spent years studying Old English language and Anglo Saxon culture[4]) alongside some very cool details concerning my father’s family heritage. So, I have been picking away at Heathenry (and Ásatrú, I guess–but more precisely, Germanic sorcery) for a good while. But solitary Heathenry doesn’t exactly work, now does it? I wanted, more than any other motivation, to simply incorporate the ethics of Heathenry and the communal goals of frith and cynn (peace and kinship) into my public faith.

In our Plow Faining, I did what I could to make everything seem familiar to the predominantly Wicca-centric group (even as uninitiated solitaries – the tradition is the tradition) but found myself squirrelling around the Elhaz-stodhur for fear of being misconstrued as overweening. (The Bad Witch is a little gun-shy from having been called some pretty horrible things in my last community: with “powermonger” among them. (This was in reference to the time the TBW was asked to “cast a circle in your tradition,” doing the familiar LBRP, I called on archangels for protection. Ooooh, scarey.)  And, so, obvs, I avoided the beot altogether.[5]) In my opinion, I flubbed the whole thing.[6]

I was asked by a Druidic friend later, “Do you think being a Godhi would have made a difference? In Wicca, the Lady seems to take center stage; in our trads, like Ceremonial Magic, being a boy helps.”

Do what now?

I argued that, historically, working seiðr was “women’s work” and that (after the monks got their hands on the Eddas and the Sagas) magical working was interpreted as effeminizing for a Post-Christo Heathen man. But then again, the sun, Sunna, was imagined as maternal in Norse tradition (as opposed to the moon in many Witchcraft traditions). I replied in my particular idiom: “It’s an entirely different kind of flying, altogether.”[7] I admit that Druidry is uncharted territory for me, so I cannot speak to his interpretation of gender imbalance there. But I do know that in the original *culture* as evidenced by non-written cultural artifacts and as evidenced by ancient linguistics (if not the translated post-Christian literature), women were highly revered as völu (plural of völva) and spækona. The wand was not a phallic symbol, but a woman’s instrument to manipulate energy – an aetheric rheostat. Our post-Christian understanding of what men and women were and weren’t allowed to do has been tainted by translation and the inevitable mutation of Romanized cultures. Duh.

I don’t think I flubbed the blót because I am a woman – that’s redonkulous up one end and down t’other. I think my feeling of having flubbed came from my impulse to “assimilate” Heathenry into a “common tongue.” To meet it half-way. It was neither this – nor that.

Then, this weekend. Ahhhh.

Let me back up a minute; on Ostara, I’d taken part in our community’s first private ritual together – followed by the eatings and the drinkings and the laughings and the funtimes. It was all “hooray” and “do it again!”

Then, this past weekend there were the public rituals from various covens – Druidic, Heathen, Eclectic, and so on. (It’s amazing to finally find oneself part of a broader whole. Yes, we have our small group. But it is fantastically healthy to have contact with, to learn from, to venerate deity with, and to combine energies with the broader Pagan Community here in the Deep South. Avoiding that insular sense of inbredness that I talked about in “Evolution” is particularly important in the stereotypical blinkeredness of Alabama, no?) Oh, and the workshops. One on magical timing (during which I got to watch the joyful interaction of three adorable students as they waxed on about their “homework” and “group projects” – it did my soul good), one on wheel-of-the-year correspondences (during which I got to see the “lights go on” for The Bad Husband – it did my soul good), one on politics and Paganism, and others on and on.[8] And the beginnings of sun and windburn from having my whiteness outdoors all day. Plus there were cookies.

As I sat in the circle discussing basic magical timing: moon phases, days of the week, planetary hours, and tidal flows, I heard the Moot

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. Dir. Adam McCay. Perf. Will Ferrell. DreamWorks. 2004. Film.

horn. Like being called from one realm to another, I left the circle of intellectual discussion to wend my way to the harrow, the horn, and the hammer. The ritual was a simple Thunor Faining: with its “Thunor weoh!” and its “Hail Thunor,” and its “Thanks to you, oh, Mighty Hammer, Protector of the World!” and it’s inevitable “Drink up!” and “Wassail!” Simple as it was, it spoke to me. Truly and deeply. I was at home with brethren (and sistren?) and had a deep filial understanding of what we were sharing – as if my DNA remembered something.

Think on’t: I have been solitary for over a decade (after a decade of dedicated communal work) and I have studies Heathenism for about twice that long. Yet, this was – ironically – my first Heathen community experience. Well, you know, aside from belonging to a family with tight-knit loyalties of kinship and our own rituals of . . . hey, I’m starting to remember our last family reunion; it was rather like a sumbel – but with loads of food but no (yeah, right) booze.[9]

Thrilled to see real Pagan groups doing real work in the Deep South, I have been on such an extended high that I may have offered to hold yet another ritual in my space.[10]

Pretty sure it will be Heathen.

And not half-way.

Gimme the day to grade some stuff and I’ll get back to you.

[1] In between then and now there were “family adventures” involving four leaks (a toilet, two refrigerators, and the ever-evolving outdoor irrigation system) ; a child who decided to paint her bedroom all by her grown-up self; a sick Lhasa Apso; an episode involving a tent, cupcakes, and smores; twenty topsy-turveys; and chickens.

[2] Last night I’d had two days of vitamin D and fresh air and had added a big glass of wine and the best-dang supper to my belly. My house was clean, my yard was – um – in progress, my lips were chapped, and I’d had a bath. I . . . just . . . fell . . .asleeeeeeeeeee

[3] Or a sort-of Plow Faining – a Plow Faining is similar in intent to any tradition’s land rites: bless the land, thank the gods and spirits of the land, give a gift and begin the cycle of gebo, that sort of thing.

[4] Studying turned to teaching and teaching turned to more earnest researching and researching always leads to The Dark Side.

[5] I was also called “oathbreaker” (when TBW refused to make an oath to a *human being* seeking a blood sacrifice – my blood, BTW). Still not sure how an unmade oath can be broken, but OK. Oathbreaking was punishable by death in Anglo Saxon culture, this was not a charge the ancestors would have bandied about lightly just to hurt someone’s feelings or damage their reputation. And “liar” (when I perpetuated a perception of events that did not support the collective-ego of the group). I’m thinking, that is not a place to find frith and cynn, now is it? Better to skip town, so to speak.

[6] However, everyone in attendance seemed to like it OK.

[7] Ted Striker (Airplane. Dir. Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker. Perfs. Robert Hays, Julie Hagerty, Leslie Nielsen. 1980. Paramount Pictures. Film.)

[8] At the end of the day we lamented, “We forgot to take pictures!” Ah, well – it happened all the same.

[9] Oooh, I feel another post coming on.

[10] I have also offered to (or been pressed to, I’m not sure how it happened) host a bunch of poets from Arkansas so’s I can show ‘em how hospitality’s really done.

Community: With Footnotes and Hyperlinks Galore

When I wrote about the Chicken Blood, it was a bit of a cop-out for the “B” entry for my participation in Rowen Pendragon’s yearlong Pagan Blog Project. It’s funny, now I have one too many C words rattling around my brain and I find myself blogging, coffee beside me, on a Monday morning. [1]

C is for Community

This morning, I am basking in the relative afterglow of a community meeting gone well.

Over the weekend, a new community-group met up on campus. I had planned to host the gathering in my backyard, where another community member and I put in a couple of days’ worth of yard clearing.[2] But, when we make plans the gods stand by with their stopwatches, tittering at our activity, ribbing each other, saying, “Wait, wait, give it just one more second . . . .”

And then the weather snapped. It was going to be colder than a witch’s youknowwhat and no bonfire in Alabama can keep Southerners warm once the wind starts-a-whipping like it did. It’s almost like some external force said, “Not gonna happen.” But, as I am chaaaahrmed in these circumstances, I was in exactly the right place at exactly the right time and secured us a (nearly) perfect spot on campus. (I am the faculty sponsor for the Pagan student group. Since a sizable contingent of our group is made up of students, I was allowed to co-sponsor the meeting on campus. And I got the space on less than 48 hours’ notice. Take that, misfortune.[3])  I mean, the spot itself was great – the access to it? Not so much. But, here’s my point, as a community, we all pulled together and got it together.

We lugged crockpots full of potluck magnificence, djembes, doumbeks, guitars, you name it, up (and subsequently, back down) and into our space which was set – no fire allowed indoors – with the most, um, inventive altar-space we could pitch in and provide. I’ve been at many a start-up event for many an upstart group, religious and otherwise. This was, quite possibly, the best first meeting I’ve ever attended. Congratulations us!

This community effort is very important to me and I’m glad to see it thriving from the get-go.[4] Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m not in the community-building business for exaltation of any sort.[5] As a matter of fact, I don’t take credit for buildinganything. I just answered a few emails and the divine did the rest. She’s like that.

Thank you Golden Dawn blog for this fabulous picture.

One small reason I’m so glad to see the group thrive is that, young as it is, someone (from the outside) has already tried to vilify the movement.[6] What can I say? The proof will be in the pudding.[7] The thing about community groups is that there will occasionally be cliques and factions; usually this is healthy – sometimes it is a disaster. As long as those work together, the whole can be healthy. Once they start backbiting, something’s gotta give. Communities are about togetherness – not division and rivalry.

Another larger reason I’m so glad to see this group thrive is that I’m tired of going it alone and I know that I know that I know there have to be others just like me – out there – trudging along – wishing to heck that there was someone to lean on and learn from. If I need this, they need it too.

I’ve lived in my little town for almost – not quite – ten years now. I met the only other Witch I would know for most of that time during a long-ass stint in grad school. At the time we met, she had forsaken the Craft altogether; the fact that I was active and practicing scared the shit out of her. So, beginning in 2002, after seventeen years of practicing, I was a solitary for the first time in my life.

I know – usually it’s the other way around – folks become Pagan, study alone, then find a group. I was never really anything but Pagan. By the time I could make my own real religious choices, it was the mid-1980s.[8] By the late 80s, I had fallen in with a mentor from an established Teutonic tradition. I went right from her philosophical arms into the arms of the most visceral Irish coven on the South Side of Chicago.

Fortunately, in the early days, before college and mentors, I was aligned with a like-minded, similarly endowed girlfriend who studied alongside me. In the days before the internet, we read (*gasp*) books. Every book we could get our hands on. This doesn’t mean we bought the books! We would save our pittances to pitch in and buy one good book at a time.  The books themselves were communal.

Now this also doesn’t mean that we didn’t have intuitive understanding or inherited knowledge.  It just means that we liked to dig around in musty old occult book shops, smelling and touching and feeling and rolling in the energy of the hidden community around us. It was the only place we had to talk to others like us. These stores were where we went to learn about the Craft, to learn about the traditions of others, to learn about the uses of herbs, to learn about the lore of groups older than ourselves (which didn’t take much back then, we were baay-beees), to learn about ethics and responsibilities.  We did this, rather than entrenching ourselves in our own concocted dogmas and stagnating in our intellect. Being a Witch doesn’t mean I have to be illiterate. (Druidry is, after all, one of the most intellectual paths – Pagan or otherwise.) While we cut our magical teeth in bookstores, we weren’t chewing on the books; we were chewing on the community that the bookstore provided.

So, when I moved here – almost ten years ago – I was bereft of my community. Fortunately I had email to sustain me through the transition. In those not-quite-ten-years I collected a few other books and the internet boomed with sacred libraries and internet exchange forums.[9] Sadly, all of my tangible books had to come from Amazon and there was no sense of interconnectivity, no musty library smell, no “Here, try this oil,” no “Bladderwort is good for that irritation,” no “For you? That beryl-stone is only a dollar,” no “Come sit with me, I have something to share with you . . . ,” no “How’s about a cup of tea?” [10]

I hope to one day see a shop like those of my youth here in town. The Bad Husband and I have been making plans for such a space. Not for monetary profit, mind you. As a matter of fact, the reason we have The Wyrd Sister is to support the ground store – to provide a space for spiritual community building without having to concern ourselves with profit. I’m not deluded, I know that occult stores, especially occult stores in the Deep South, are not going to turn shiny pennies. That’s not my goal. (If I wanted to be wealthy, I would have stayed a stock-broker and retired in my 30s, before the 2010 bust.) My goal is to provide – not to be provided for. I long to have that musty bookstore community of my teen-years back. I hope to have quiet rooms where folks can read books, even if they can’t afford to buy them. I hope to have information openly exchanged without having a set creed enforced on anyone or having one tradition favored over all others (coz you know how I feel about that).

My momma always taught me not to complain about not having something that I wasn’t willing to make for myself. So, thanks for the forum, Witchvox, Facebook, and Twitter. And thanks for the emails, David, Anne, Mickey, and Lucidian. We’re like a snowball now!

Ooooooh, I feel a scene from High School Musical coming on.

[1] But this is how I like it. The Bad Hubby is back from China, having brought back the coolest rocks from one of the coolest places on the planet, a bottle of ¥1575 rice wine (that’s 250 bucks), a custom red silk Cheongsam, my first strand of grown-up pearls (we’ve been dead-broke most of our lives), gifities for the kiddos – including all the chopsticks Eldest can handle. All of the ani-mules have been fed and the children are off to learn. From books. (Son just registered for next year’s classes and took all AP and IB courses. All. Eldest tried that once. Once. This is going to be unfun for TBW.)

[2] Something I’ve never had a friend offer to do before – OK, offer, but never actually follow through – so thank you, thank you from the bottom of my Bad Witch heart.

[3] M’daddy always says, “Well, I guess it weren’t meant to be.” Here, I reckon he’d just say, “Well.”

[4] And, excitingly enough, Facebook tells me that a second community group has cropped up alongside ours! It seems all the waters needed was a little stirring. I’m so thrilled to see that like-attracts-like, even in The Deep South. Best of luck to those of you attracted to that group. I hope you thrive as well.

[5] Anyone who’s ever been a spearhead or an organizer can tell you that this is not a position for the celebrity-minded attention-whore. As far as I’m concerned, leadership is the profoundest form of servitude.

[6] Most people *get it* that The Bad Witch is an ironic misnomer.

[7] I invited her to join us. Told her she always had a place with us. But her goal is to slander me (and if you know where I stand on debauchery, that’s entertainment). Let it be. In the end, she may have already driven a person away – one who openly acknowledged needing a community effort. The irony is, she tried hurting me. I’m not hurt by this – he is. It so sad. May’s well drown kittens.

[8] Spirituality’s one thing. Religion is another.

[9] It’s not all bad. In that decade, I discovered John Dee and learned more about Thelema. And I rediscovered some of the more occulty shtuffs I was raised on. The kind of thing I prefer in the first place: especially Golden Dawn Rituals, Hermetics, and Solomonic Theurgy.

[10] All I had was one ex-Witch-come-reformed-Witch who cast me as The Bad Witch. And I made do. But I’m so glad that The Mother saw fit to shuffle me along to better pastures.

B is For Boundaries

“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall.”[1]

No matter how you feel about *this* wall . . .

Of course no one loves a limitation. No one loves being told “no.” I’ve even known a Magus (or two) who avoided meeting up with his Saturnine side because he didn’t want to concede to limitations. But as Frost’s narrator’s neighbor reminds us, “Good fences make good neighbors.”

From time to time someone encroaches on our acreage in an unacceptable way.

Though I have a solid, seven-foot cedar privacy fence around a good deal of my property, there is a portion that remains un-girded. A few years back, my next-door neighbor came onto my driveway (while I was out of town) and cut down a large privacy hedge. After getting over my initial rage followed by my “The bastage trimmed my shrubbage without asking,” titters, I pulled my neighbor aside, told him he had “a huge set of balls” and instructed him not to touch my foliage again.

What surprised me most was that we had to have a definitional conversation: “How about the holly, can I trim the holly?” “And the grass, how far can I mow?” “What about the herbs?” “And the lilies?” He said to me, “When Frank lived here, I always just took care of everything on this side of his driveway.”

He and I had never set good one-on-one boundaries. A previous owner had let him run amuck on the hedges and it didn’t occur to The Bad Neighbor that I didn’t want him trimming up my bush.

It’s alright. You can giggle. I’ll wait.

It hadn’t occurred to me that I had to set such boundaries with my neighbor.[2] It seemed second-nature to me — the lines one should not cross; but the same did not occur to him.

Part of the fallout of this conversation with my neighbor is that he stopped clearing his clippings on his side and he stopped pulling the weeds within five feet of our property line. He took my delineation of our boundaries as an all-or-nothing eviction.

Psychologists will tell us that those who have never made acquaintance with boundaries interpret all boundaries, even reasonable ones, as all-out rejection. However, we have to recognize boundaries as *not* rejection. When someone provides us with a boundary, we should recognize that as meaning: “I want to interact with you, but there needs to be a few rules,” rather than, “I don’t want anything to do with you ever, under any circumstances.” Sadly, we have to accept that some people are absolutely incapable of hearing that message. Some people, like Frost’s mischievous narrator, want to blame encroachments on “Elves.”

When we are lucky enough to find someone who is willing to “work” on a relationship, like Frost’s narrator and his neighbor, we may even, “have to use a spell to make [the boundaries] balance.”

The Bad Witch found herself in another relationship with a “neighbor” that was killing her holly and lilies. I asked the neighbor to quit encroaching. Rather than accepting the boundary, the neighbor saw complete rejection; not only that, she declared war. Rather than staying on her side of the driveway, she has started spraying Sevin on my winter crops. (No worries, TBW has excellent defenses).

I know all of the “change an enemy into a friend” spells. I know all of the banishings and bindings. I know all of the tricks and tweaks and bells and whistles and dogs and ponies. I am The Bad Witch, after all. I’ve been advised to, “Throw her in the cauldron,” and, “Let me rip her roots out,” and, “Remember you’re The Bad Witch; get her and her little dog too,” and, “Eee . . . defixiones!”[3]

While I did consent to the last being performed on my behalf (thanks for the new toy, my friend), I’ve decided that I really need to take this incident as a learning moment. Now that I am growing into a community organizer, I need to learn more about building healthy boundaries from the get-go. It’s easier to set boundaries up-front than to go back and revise a relationship. And let’s face it, some of those in our communities can be, as a friend likes to say, “black holes of neediness.” There are those who genuinely do not understand “standard” boundaries (if there even is such a thing). And, let’s also face this, for those of us who are generous by nature, it is difficult to comprehend selfishness and covetousness. We don’t always see it coming.

For these reasons, among others, it’s a good idea to make sure we have our boundaries clearly marked out before we begin a new relationship or invite others into our communities.

It’s scary to allow new people into our homes and hearts. But because we don’t want to build a wall that keeps everyone out altogether, that’s an unhealthy all-or-nothing mentality, compromise is key. Mark out your boundaries but be willing to give a little. Remember, you have to work with others’ boundaries as well.

Good fences make good neighbors.

Blessings, Quarks, and 93

The Bad Witch

This post is part of a year-long project. Rowan Pendragon’s The Pagan Blog Project, “is a way to spend a full year dedicating time each week very specifically to studying, reflecting, and sharing . . . .    The project consists of a single blog post each week posted on prompt that will focus on a letter of the alphabet” (

[1] Robert Frost, “Mending Wall” 1914. (North of Boston.)

[2] Now that he has stopped diminishing my now-overgrown holly and my lilies, I realize how much he had been futzing with my vegetation.

[3] The Bad Husband asked me an interesting question last week. I had mentioned all of my fab-o cyber-support and he asked me, “And do they suck the life out of you too?”

I had to answer him very honestly, “No,” I said, “Actually I get better help from people I’ve never met in person than I ever did from . . . .” Well, you get the picture.