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 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.

Some New Baubles and Things to Share

Pimping again.

I came across Wane Wyrds not long ago via The Pagan Pages Blog Hop and really liked the way Cena explained some of the misconceptions about Vanatru. I liked it so well, that I thought I’d share her post, “Misconceptions about Vanatru: What it is and what it isn’t,” with you.

And I’ve also enjoyed several well-spent hours reading/looking at Donald L. Engstrom-Reese’s work at Walking In Beauty, where he defines Queer Spirit for a Pagan community which is, in my opinion, far too hung up on binaries for its own good. I especially like this page where he offers some terms and definitions.

I’ll have a few more to add in a few weeks as I fill you in on my new group: Ulfarnir. I’m thinkin’ maybe they might need their own page.

Which reminds me–I had the great pleasure to meet some real Timberwolves yesterday and talk with the woman who takes care of them. (“You don’t train a wild animal,” she reminded me, “you work with its instincts rather than against them.”) It was an amazing experience and I learned some valuable things. Therefore, I plan to go back and revise my post on wolves to include what I learned. Stop by and see it in a day or so.

I always tell you that I’ll get back to this subject or that subject in another post–sometimes I forget or just get sidetracked. If there was something I said I’d tell you and I haven’t, drop me a reminder. I plan to run through the last few posts and gather up the stragglers when I have a minute; until then, I’ll follow your cues.

You’ll also notice that I’ve added a button for “Heathens Against Hate.” Go poke them.

I hope you dig the new layout. It seems that the more longwinded of my posts can scroll on-and-on, so I wanted a broader middle column for ya.

And, as I’m always up for suggestions, I took a loyal reader’s advice and added a tip-jar. I weighed the decision and looked at a lot of others’ opinions (like this one). In the end, I figured–as a minister, writing at The Files is part of my job. All of the contributions go toward supporting the things I do in the Pagan community. Why would I shortchange my community of some much needed financial support? Besides, some of the blogs I respect most have a tip-jar. I reckon it’s done. If I’ve made you laugh, made you cry, pissed you off enough to make you do something productive, or just given you an idea to reflect on for a bit, consider contributing. (It will show up as Open Path Sanctuary & Templum Gnostica, the legal brainchild behind all the pixie dust.) All of the bells and whistles I am adding to the Pagan community depend on the support of readers and enthusiasts like you.

As ever, I encourage you to go visit the folks on my blogroll. And if I have been remiss in including your blog or if you have a suggestion for a Bad Blog for me to add, drop me a line (

Blessings, Quarks, and 93!



Roots: or Why I Don’t Hate September This Year

It’s about to be The Bad Witch Files’ second birthday. I was looking back on my ramblings and realized that a whole September has gone by without the typical weirdness. Seems that thing I was hanging on to for four years has found itself unnecessary and gone on to bother some other soul. In less cryptic terms: it seems I have forgiven myself for some imagined wrong that I simply could not shake. I, for one, am better off than I was four years ago.

Nevertheless, in looking back at where I’ve been, I realize that I have a steadfast grasp on where I am. Looking to the past and embracing one’s roots is liberating, validating, and empowering. I highly recommend it. You know how when you are a baby-Pagan, you do those “Shadow-work” exercises where you trace out your personality traits and reactive tendencies in an effort to balance yourself? (And then forget to re-do as a grown up-Pagan?) I’ve been working on an anniversary idea for this blog that ended up looking a little like Shadow-Tracking and thought I’d share where I am now.

Firmly embracing my roots: my past, my path, and my sense of self.

It was 2009, about ten months after I finished my doctorate, when I started blogging. It was a blog of fiction and poetry. I didn’t really mean to do anything with it; it was a tool to keep me accountable for writing progress and keep the post-dissertation lag from setting in. However, because I never wanted to share it with anybody, there was no one to be accountable to. (Every day I am grateful to you who read and comment for keeping me honest.) I’m weird about sharing personal factoids. There are some things I’ve never told my closest of friends—or even my family, there are loads of things I never shared with my Alabama Pagan friends, there are even a few things I’m only now telling my husband of twenty-one years (another anniversary next month). It is only by degrees that I reveal myself to you, dear reader.

This is likely because I found that all of the people closest to me had a version of me in their mind—and when I told them things, *real* things, that didn’t jive with the Me of their desires, they got all cranky. So, I avoided this by letting them have the Imaginary Me that they made up in their heads and I kept the Real Me to m’self. That did not make for good poetry.

But what it was good for was that I started writing in private again—long disconnected ranted ramblings—like a day-long freewriting session. In this, I began uncovering things about myself that were worth digging out, but that were not “convenient” to do in life. Black Work for the poet in me, if you will.

Over the past two years, I have found that I have been able to post my Magical ramblings much more freely—and quickly. Perhaps because I am far more sure of myself in this arena of life. Comfortable. Confident. Oddly, more comfortable with 1200 near-strangers than with my closest of Pagan “friends.” I have a solid handle on who and what I am. But I am loathe to share it with just anyone. Once, after the incident which I posted in “Frith and Faining,” someone (local) told me to do the next ritual balls-to-the-wall “all Ehsha-style.”

Ahhhhhh. . . no.

The state required in galdr necessitates, um, assistance. Trustworthy assistance. Verrrrrrry trustworthy and properly trained assistance. But just because I don’t share these things with all of you doesn’t mean they don’t exist or that I don’t know them or that I have a wavering faith. Mysteries. Secrets. STFU.

As a matter of fact, rereading every post reinforced for me how beautifully compatible Heathenry and Ceremonial Magic are in the völva: Heathen Magicians/Sorcerers.[1] (I was always all about High Magic; I never laid claim to Ásatrú, Odinism, Wotonism, etc.) The most fun part of writing The Bad Witch Files has been recovering the methods of seið and galdr so that I don’t have to use the masculinized Golden Dawn and Thelemic models which I studied when I got to the Bamas and found m’self all alone: the only “out” Witch to be found in the university setting at that time. Bertie has been helping me make corrections, but as she always tells me, “You already know these things; it’s a matter of realizing that you know them.”

I think the first time I realized how attuned I was to the seið of the völva was in 2009 when I first started tracking down my ancestral ties in earnest. I was so enthralled by what I discovered that I began writing a piece of historical pseudo-fiction about my ancestors. I was telling the story of a Scandinavian ancestor whose name I had to hunt down and translate (and ask for more help in translating). This is what I found:

“Elsebeth [family name omitted], 15 years old, mother of a 1 year old girl. Sister Juta, born 1414, lives with her. Mother Eydis, born 1397; Grandmother Eir, born 1383; her mother, Ketilridr, born 1367.”

It was a time of war between Pagans and Crusaders. This portion of Europe was in a constant state of coup and counter-coup. This is what I wrote[2] (it’s a rough draft, y’all—I never did revise):

The invaders had been known to break the maidenhead of virgins as they stalked through towns pillaging and burning, but Eir would protect her sisters, Unna and Nanna, twins born ten years ago that day. Eir grabbed a wet stone from the ground and began, frantically, to carve into the earth of her family garden. She heaved her breath in and out as she carved an eight-spoked wheel with three lines on each strut ….  She was openly weeping with terror when Eir raised herself high on the wall at the edges of her father’s estate and chanted, “Ek fyrbý, ek fyrirbanna, manna glaum mani. Minn eiga varði! Minn eiga varði! Minn eiga varði!” Over and again, she repeated the chant, hardly knowing what the words meant, until her eyes threw themselves back into her head and she swooned. She meant to keep her sisters’ virtue barred from the invaders.

This is all to say that until I went back and looked, I wasn’t sure this was something I had actually written—and so long ago. There are memories, and then there are Memories, no?

So utterly fascinated by this newfound information about Ketilridr (pronounced kettle rider, ha!) and her progeny and the insight it inspired, I wanted to find out more about my roots. So I set out to hunt down all my ancestors—I wanted to know names, places, stories. I have found some very colorful characters—and some very unsavory ones too. Nevertheless, I embrace them all. I embrace all of my roots.

I’ve discovered over the past three years that genealogy is a tedious task. One must check all clues and make sure that the information works in both directions. If X’s documentation show that Y is his mother, than Y’s documentations must also list X as a son. Likewise, Mr. Y must have documented links to X. In many of my cases, I found that there was documentation showing illegitimacy, but documentation nonetheless. My ancestors didn’t seem to have the same hangups about paternity as the people I accidentally introduced my kids to via Maury Povich yesterday.[3] I am amazed at how much documentation I can find for my paternal European ancestors—predominantly from Scandinavia, The Netherlands and Belgium, and Bavaria (though there is one very healthy strand of English with one strand of Irish). The Bad Husband has a hard time getting information prior to his Irish-English grand-parents. For much of my family, the trail ends with immigration papers during the Early Colonial Period—but not all. Some go all the way back to the 15th Century.

I have been grateful to have the opportunity to teach Early American Literature to have an excuse to wallow in my ancestry and religio-political history. I don’t have to agree with the concepts of Providence and Election to appreciate my forebearers’ Puritan religion. I find myself more aligned with the tolerance and justice-seeking of my Quaker ancestors, but I still value the profound introspection inherent in a Puritan paradigm.

Of course there are lines I cannot track down or cannot verify. Typically because these end at the BIA with the politics of Jackson’s Removal policies, or in a family museum fire—for pretty much the same reasons.

My ancestral roots run deep in America. As old as America, and even older still. And I embrace them all. My magical roots run just as deep. Not only through my multiple Native blood-lines: my stomping Creek and singing Cherokee blood-lines,[4] but also through my Scot-Irish-Appalachian[5] Hoodoo blood-lines, my Penn Dutch “Hexe” and “Pow-Wow” blood-lines: I come by Heathenry honestly.

But—my scholarship? I inherited that legacy from the Jesuits–and Bertie’s open mind and vast experiences with religions from all over The States, Northern Europe, and Haiti. I embrace this heritage as well. And I also learned to be able to distinguish my scholarship about religion from my own religion. I’m here with my Freshman right now; tomorrow they begin giving presentations on everything from Baha’i Faith to Santeria. My goal is never to convert them to something else but to help them have the tools to articulate the faith they have.

I have studied Wicca, sure; but the more I learn about it, the more I learn, “I’m not that.” Same goes for Voodoo. Simply because one studies a subject does not make them otherwise aligned with that subject. I study Judith Butler—does this require me to be a lesbian? Hell, I read Ayn Rand back in the Reagan days just so I could prove to myself that I wasn’t a soulless plutocrat. Often we better identify what we are by rejecting what we are not. It’s a basic Structuralist concept. Having answered all of the questions posed by The Road Less Traveled, I learned m’self a bunch. And I reinforced my own dedication to Heathenry and CM. I was glad for the opportunity to articulate what I am and what I am not. Where my roots are.

Strangely, my ability to immediately, intuitively, and unambiguously access Spirit? I might just owe that birthright to The Church of God (and DNA, I suppose) where I was taught to recognize true spiritual manifestation—and I was, by contrast, taught to recognize faker-faker-belly-achers and liars-liars-pants-on-fire too. I probably would have always been sensitive, but I don’t know that I would have had the peace about it that I do if it weren’t for the things I learned in church. So, yeah. I’ll hang on to my Christian roots, thanks. And simply because I refer to (typically Jewish, BTW) scripture does not make me a Christian. And if I were? I’d be the best-damned, most well-read, closest to Christ, Christian I could be. I find the life of Christ (either the concept or the historical figure, you pick) fascinating. I’m actually rereading The Gospel of Thomas right now and can’t wait to blog about it. I embrace my roots.

Fall is the season for ancestors in Heathenry. Winternights, coming up in about two weeks, is the beginning of the season to blòt our kin. Maybe having found my way to my roots so firmly is what has released me from the pangs of September that I used to feel.

And to that I say, “Amen.”



[1] I hate the linguistically marked Sorcer“ess.”

[2] My fiction tends to have three things in common: Witchcraft, Three Sisters, and Rape—or, as in this case, averted rape.

[3] I had been watching a movie, walked away to “fix something,” the kids came home, the movie stopped waiting for me and turned the TV to the cable input—ta-da! “Mom! Are you watching this?

[4] Who also used Ceremonial Magic with very particular forms and strict wording and pronunciation, BTW. High Magic is not just for Western Europeans. To explain, idi:gawe:sdi, that is “to say one” is an element of Cherokee High Magic used to “coerce the spirits”—we’d call this conjuration. These are vocalized with strict wording and form because words have an inherent power. Thanks to Jay Laughlin; it pays to know religion scholars.

[5] Don’t get me going on the term “Granny Magic,” I’ll shank a bitch.

Storytime! A Tale of Two Pagans

Also known as, Frog and Toad Are (Not) Friends.

This file is about a very bad Witch indeed. It’s an old story, but a classic.

I’ve been researching yet another project. This one more academic than usual. Walking away from the novel for another moment, leaving off the line editing of the traditions book, I have decided to go full-on academic again. I have stacks of feminist theory piled on my dining table, reams of notes, and a stack of those detestable little index cards littering my entire house. And I had a baby shower yesterday, so it’s all stacked neatly – but I threatened to throttle anyone who tried to “clean it up.”

It’s reminiscent of my dissemination days, which is nice in its own way. I was at my peak when I was “dissertating” and I yearned for the return of that part of the scholarly cycle for about three years. Thank heavens it’s back. The difference this time around is that I have books and articles on Witchcraft, Paganism, and Magic(k) all around me too.

And now I know what I’m doing. A large research project (275 pages of heavily sourced, theory laden, highly specialized intellectual masturbation) is much easier once one has already done it. Kinda like giving birth, I guess. It’s a terrible metaphor. The male author’s metaphorical appropriation of the female process of childbearing . . . Oh, wait, I’m slipping into philosospeak. Sorry. That happens when my brain is here.

Anyway, this is the story I want to share with you. It’s a true story – so far as we know.

Once upon a time there were two Pagans. One was a frog, he was all bluster and flare. The other was a toad, he was brilliant but a tad(pole) nuts. Together they made a great pair. They worked together and crafted together and built community together. And they skipped through the meadows and ran in the woods and swam in the river and in the evening they sat on the porch and counted stars.[1]

But one day, Frog decided that he was going to do everything in his power to discredit his former friend, Toad.

In the strangest (but by no means the last) episode of social engineering the Pagan world has ever known, Frog appropriated all of Toad’s ideas and passed them off as his own. He called all of Toad’s associates over to his campfire in the woods so he could make them his friends instead. And he popularized a made up term that he used to refer to his old pal, Toad. He told some secrets, but he told them eschew so they essentially became lies. He made up some other lies entirely.

But, Frog was a poor liar. Maybe that’s why Frog died broke, even after having to sell off his land where he held rituals. Then he had to go live in a trailer park.

In a desperate effort to overthrow Toad, he and his spouse invited one of Toad’s nearest and dearest over to show her around his lily-pad, and he got busted lying about everything from his lineage to the origins of his artifacts. After that, nobody liked Frog anymore, but Toad was a bit of a hit.[2]

Sort of.

While Charles Cardell, the man popularly credited with coining the term Wicca, and Gerald Gardner were not nearly as close as I (and Lobel) have made Frog and Toad out to be, they were correspondents, there was a vague and sudden falling out (1958), and Cardell did set out to methodically discredit Gardner and his tradition. We see how well that worked out for him. He surreptitiously published parts of Gardner’s secret book of shadows (“Witch,”1964)  and he wrote a public article inviting all Pagan Witches to get in contact with him, presumably to seduce Gardnerians.[3] He lied about all sorts of things.[4] There’s a bit about the meeting he had with Doreen Valiente where she caught him in all kinds of stoopid fabrications. He lied about fairly inconsequential stuff – and some of his lies were obvious. Who does that?

My mentor’s mentor (whom I met only a handful of times before her death in 1997) loved to tell stories about the “Witchcraft in the Woods” scandal. The whole Valiente/Cardell encounter cracks me up. Please look it up. It’s hilarious.

It seems to me that Cardell told so many lies that he had to go back and make up new lies to cover up his old lies. In the end, he was sued for defamation and lost. The case(s) bankrupted him, like they do. He had to sell his land and live like a nomad in a field.

The fun part of this story is that there was an occult-goods store owner who wrote a little poem in response to Cardell’s bad behavior. Margaret Bruce, following Cardell’s progressively more insidious hostility against Gardner, composed a compassionate letter and this poem:

        • We feel it is tragick
        • That those who lack Magick.
        • Should start a vendetta
        • With those who know betta
        • We who practice the Art
        • Have no wish to take part
        • Seems a pity the ‘Wicca’
        • Don’t realize this Quicca.[5]

Some believe that Bruce was not only commenting solely on the loutishness of Cardell but on infighting as a whole.[6]

So, to round off this story-time, I thought I’d invite you to compose a ditty to go with my Frog and Toad paraphrase.

I’ve tried

But my brain is fried.


And they all lived happily ever after, except for Frog.


[1] Paraphrased from one of my favorite books,  Frog and Toad Are Friends by Arnold Lobel.

[2] Too bad he was dead by then.

[3] Kelly, Aidan A. Inventing Witchcraft: A Case Study in the Creation of a New Religion. Loughborough, Leicestershire: Thoth Publications, 2007. Print.

[4] Do I need to give you a list of sources or can you Google it?

[5] Margaret Bruce. Quoted in Seims, Melissa. “Wica or Wicca? Politics and the Power of Words.” The Cauldron 129, August 2008.

[6] Seims.

Writing out of a slump

Obviously, The Bad Witch has been in a slump.

All bloggers go through this, we get excited about our new forum and we blog away and then life steps in and makes blogging seem like a leisure activity. For some, it may be. For others, not so much. Some writers only feel complete when they are writing. Not writing is often a symptom.

But in The Bad Witch’s case, not writing is only a matter of not knowing the words to express what has been happening in this realm.

And that’s the way of it. There is “that which cannot be spoken” – or in this case, blogged.

Thelema is a thing, Hermetics is a thing, Goetia is a thing, Chaos is a thing; and they are all very good things and they all have a special place in my heart. But there are some places where all of these “things” clash for me. I’ll get to that in another blog.

But the thing I’m going through – experiencing – is all of those things and none of those things. Not exactly.

See, the slump is abating already. I’ve just thought of three things I can share with you without diving straight into the sea of “unspeakable” topics.

I can tell you about the prolonged thoughtforms project I am working on. I can give you my perspective on daemons and goetic work. I can try to puzzle out some sort of something concerning the place for the feminine in Thelema and Hermetics. I mean, wands, swords, athames? See a theme? Sure, there are chalices, rings, crystal balls, and scrying bowls. But they are, of course, passive receptors. Again, we’ll get into that later.

You see, my writing slump is not a symptom of disinterest or a lack of work. Maybe I’ve been working too much and I need to slow down and reflect. Really, I didn’t realize how much I was doing until I started listing things. Writing out of a slump is empowering.

I’m excited. Hope you are too.

But, again, life inevitable interventionism causes the writer to sign off too early and tend to barking dogs and crying children and overdue debts and burning soup. Even a bad witch needs a sum of money and a room of her own.