Cinderella shoes: Why I, in my oversized body, said FUCK IT to the world

I’m a big woman. Not fat, not wobbly (which would be an entirely different sin of its own).

Just big.

I’m nearly six feet tall. I’m broad-shouldered, big-boned, and long-limbed.

There was absolutely no point in my life that I was not going to be large. Genetics decided that for me.

I take up space, which apparently in our society is a crime worthy of punishment if you’re a woman.

Because, in case you hadn’t noticed, we women are supposed to be small. Underweight, taking up no space, not making any noise or having any opinions. We’re supposed to be pretty, according to a very narrow definition of pretty.

Women are not supposed to eat.
Women are not supposed to eat.

The first time I was told I was too tall I was about 12. A guy I liked said I would be pretty if I wasn’t so huge. I was about an inch taller than him. We got on well as friends but he told me he couldn’t be seen with a girl who was taller than him.

Two years later my father started calling me “buffalo butt” and laughing at the “joke” because he thought he was a wit. I was medically underweight at the time. I started my first diet about then.

When you’re meant to be big, and your frame and your bones are big, and your feet are fast getting up to size 11, there is no diet in the world that will make you smaller.

My best friend said she was embarrassed when we went shoe shopping and the shop had nothing to fit me. My mother kept saying I should be more ladylike – whatever that meant.

I think it meant “less like me”. I think it meant less everything to do with me. Less of me.

I started to realise that’s what the world wants. It wasn’t just me either, with all my size. It wasn’t personal, even though it hurt like hell.

Women were supposed to be less than men. Not just less in our achievements and our abilities, but in our size, our space that we control, our earnings, our ideas, our voices. Everything.

We were supposed to be “assistants”, not the person being assisted.
We were nurses, not doctors.
We were teachers, not Principals – unless of a primary school or kindergarten.
We were secretaries, not the boss.
We were the scenery – the eye candy – in the movies.

Not the hero.

Nothing seems to have changed. We're still the "eye candy" and the "romatic interest".
Nothing seems to have changed. We’re still the “eye candy” and the “romatic interest”.

At school I remember asking about being an engineer, and being told, “Oh, you don’t want to do that! and being steered towards a career as a nurse or a teacher. I didn’t fancy cleaning, so I opted for teaching.

There weren’t many “acceptable” options for girls to choose from, after all.

Women live in a smaller world, and we’re supposed to be smaller to fit into it. But as I grew older, something clicked. I guess I started wondering what happens when a person demands a bigger world? What happens when we’re too big for the boundaries others set for us?

I sometimes wonder if I would be the same person today if I hadn’t been born too big to fit the role society wanted me to fit?

If I’d been born the “right” size, looked the “right” way, would I have challenged the role that I couldn’t fill?

Those Cinderella shoes were never going to fit me. So I created a new fairytale with myself as its champion. Would I have done so had the glass slipper fit?

cinderella

I don’t know. I don’t have answers. But I know one thing: I, in my oversized body, said Fuck It to the world.

The world as it was didn’t fit me, so I created a new world that suits me better. That I liked better.

And, as I look around, the Ugly Sisters – all of us who never, ever could fit the shoes we were told to wear – we are all creating our own worlds, side by side.

    They told me I was too big, so I used my height and strength as an asset and began to think of myself as an amazon, proud and strong, with a heritage that goes back thousands of years.

    They told me boys were smarter than girls, so I got myself a few degrees at University.

    They told me computers were for boys (I wasn’t allowed to touch my brother’s computer when it was bought for him, in case I – less than two years his junior and a teen at the time – “broke it”). So I created the largest online community for Pagans in Australia at the time of its creation, became a WebMistress, ran webpages and online forums, and learned my way around the internet, before taking on a Software Engineering degree.

    They told me I couldn’t fight because I was a girl, so I joined the Army.

    They told me sport was for boys and that I sucked at it, so I went to the State Championships in rowing.

    They told me girls were weak, so I became a bodybuilder and weightlifter.

    They told me girls couldn’t be Leaders, so I became a Leader of several communities, transforming them and removing previous corrupt leaderships.

    They told me I couldn’t write music, so I became a choral composer whose works have been performed worldwide.

    They told me girls couldn’t change the world, so I wrote stories with new worlds in them.

Be the change you want to see in the world

I’m just an ordinary woman, with no special abilities. Except I don’t believe in boundaries and rules, and I don’t believe in Impossible.

Maybe that’s what has made my world so amazing? Because only by believing in the impossible can we make it happen.

Women can do anything.
Too long we’ve been told to keep our horizons near, and our world small.
Too often we’ve believed it when we’ve been told what we supposedly can’t do.
The combination of being told to keep ourselves small and being told to appease others is deadly.

It’s time we all said Fuck It to the world, and made some noise. Because, by doing so, we might just discover who we truly are.

Advertisements

Paganism and simplicity

When a lot of Pagans start out, they get a bit of the “gear witch” vibe about them.

They buy stuff. Lots and lots and lots of stuff.

In the Pagan community, there’s so much stuff to be had, so many fabulous tools and toys. It can all be a bit overwhelming. And if you like to spend and possess and have lovely things, it can be real easy to start collecting a lot of stuff.

I went through this, and a lot of my friends did too. Tarot sounds interesting, so you collect a few tarot decks plus some books on the subject. Runes sound great too, so before you know it you have a few sets of rune stones and some books about them too.

You figure you must have a Wand (everyone knows a you’re not a Real Pagan[TM] unless you have a Wand!!!) and you must have a Blade (because they’re cool too, and a Blade has different energy).

Before you know it, you’re eyeing off those fancy swords online and wondering which you can afford. Or how many. Maybe a collection. Yeah…a collection would be great.

It all adds up, and builds up, and when you add the candles and bells and Tibetan singing bowls and God and Goddess figurines and chalices and cauldrons to the collection, no wonder so many Pagans are drowning in stuff! Plus the clothes – you feel like, as a newbie, the right ritual robes and capes will give you pagan “street cred”.

So you buy, buy, buy.

It’s all very addictive. And very, very easy to do.

And very, very wrong.

6593665365_be7281770d_z

Paganism comes from within

All the stuff in the world won’t make a person a Pagan. Which is a good thing. We’re a bit selective like that! Likewise, I’d argue that any path that encourages you to buy and own lots of stuff is a fool’s path.

You’ll find lots of Pagans with lots of fancy stuff all around the world…and they’re usually the silliest Pagans of the lot. They’ve forgotten that the Divine is immanent. Within us. It can’t be bought or sold.

The more stuff you collect, the harder it is to focus on the inner self, your connection with the Divine, and what really matters. Fancy stuff is just a temptation; a lure. A diversion from the truth.

A diversion from the truth.

prince

We all know that of course. It’s written clearly in one of the most valued early texts in modern Paganism, which is the Charge of the Goddess:

    “…If that which thou seekest thou findest not within thee, thou wilt never find it without thee.

    For behold, I have been with thee from the beginning; and I am that which is attained at the end of desire.”

You won’t find Paganism in stuff, and you certainly won’t find Divinity. All the tools, and toys, and robes are just props.

You could even call them diversions for the weak-minded. They help set the scene for those who can’t focus without them. They hold no real power by themselves. Only living matter can do that: living energy.

That’s what we Pagans do: channel energy; create energy; focus energy. A wand in the end is just a stick. A blade in the end is just a hunk of metal. This is the real truth. Connection to the Divine comes from within, not from these lifeless things.

If you want to find the Divine, get rid of everything that isn’t essential. Then you will find what you truly seek.

aphrodite4

Autumn…

It’s starting to really feel like autumn here in southern New Zealand.

12_5_10_autumncolour

Yesterday morning we had the first frost of the year – not a bad one, but enough to remind me that winter is on its way. The heater has been on more and more. We’ve had two weeks of pretty much nonstop rain, and everything is sodden, including several bad storms that have felled several established trees in the district – things look stark and bare without them.

hazelnuts2

Autumn always makes me become contemplative – I think back on the year that has passed, and plan for the year to come.

This year, most of my free time has been taken up with various renovations we’ve been doing – we had nightmare builder who literally made everything worse that they touched, and now we’re still dealing with the fallout from the “work” they did.

Not happy – and I’m probably going to have to call them back, to fix more of the problems they’ve caused. I won’t be keen to ever call in a builder to my house ever again!

autumnleaves1

It has all been emotionally draining and financially devastating.

Regardless, things are ticking over and moving along, albeit slowly. I’ll be glad when everything is done.

This year has been one of great change for me, for the better. I’ve reached some big decisions that were hard to make, and feel like life has rounded a corner. Sometimes the hardest decisions are the best ones for us, but they hurt at the time.

In my case, I was stewing over a number of difficult choices I knew I had to make, but was avoiding making those choices for fear of hurting people I cared about.

Now I’ve taken the steps I needed to take I feel better – I’m still in limbo, before everything is done, but I know there is light ahead.

22_3_2010_hazelnuts

Kind of like autumn really. You know you have to pass through winter, and the cold and the dark, but there is promise of spring ahead.

autumnberries

My great-great grandmother knew Gerald Gardner!

I’m sure you’ve met one. Who knows – maybe you are one. You know, those Pagans who claim lineage.

Some claim to be descended directly from Gerald Gardner (Britsh Traditionals).

Still others claim to have been part of some hidden coven in the New Forest that taught them everything (oh wait! That’s Gardner again).

Gerald Gardner. Creepy looking dude, huh?
Gerald Gardner. Creepy looking dude, huh?

From then on, of course, they’re infinitely better and so much more Pagan than you.

Feel insecure and insufficient yet? Yep. That’s the idea.

My potted history in Paganism

You want to know my Pagan lineage? Here it is: I got interested in Paganism through various books as a teenager, and then got together with a few like-minded friends. And we made stuff up.

We flew by pulling ourselves up by our shoelaces.

woman-flying

We knew nothing except that we wanted to learn. So we supported each other in the learning process, did a whole stack of courses and training, some more reputable than others, and gradually started figuring things out.

Some stuff worked, other stuff really worked, and a lot of stuff didn’t work at all. We were really, really eclectic! We read everything we could get our hands on, from Campbell and Frazer and Kramer to Starhawk and Fox and Buckland – and a whole lot besides.

I was involved with two main covens through the 90s and early century – MoonSpell Coven (which I originated) and then Akasha Coven, which I created and for which I was the HPS. Many of the members of those groups are still practicing, and almost all of them remain my friends.

Akasha in particular was very active in the wider Pagan scene in Melbourne, Australia, offering classes and public gatherings that attracted large groups of people and were very sucessful. My involvement in the Pagan scene wound down when I had children and just couldn’t keep up with the hours required for regular work.

But lineage? I have none. None of my friends do either – or they didn’t when I was working with them. Maybe they do now. But I still don’t. I’ve been in the Pagan scene since I was a teenager, I’m 43 now, so that’s about 25 years of practice, and I’m still unlineaged.

I’d say I’m pretty experienced now. I’m still considered a Pagan Leader in certain circles, and quite knowledgeable, but I feel like a novice in a lot of areas. I’m learning all the time. I love learning all the time! I’d never call myself an expert, although I know quite a bit by now.

Time is, change is…

That’s just it with Paganism though. It’s such a huge field that you never stop learning. Nobody is ever really an expert – not of everything, anyway. If anyone calls themselves an “expert” or starts giving themselves titles in my presence, my Bullshit Detector starts twitching. Like a Timey Wimey Detector, it goes Ding! when there’s Stuff.

timeywimey

bs

Does lineage matter?

The truth is, lineage doesn’t matter. Not one bit. The whole point of Paganism is that you do what you want, what works for you – without the need for a clergy. So you certainly don’t need someone Uber Important telling you what to do.

No practitioner is more important than the rest, simply because of who they happen to know or claim to know. Or claim to have learned from.

I’ve been fortunate in my time to have taken classes with some of the “big names” in Paganism. Did they teach me anything that was intrinsically better than what I figured out on my own? No. Maybe I’m just not someone with a “groupie” mindset, but although the experience of working with these people was generally good, it didn’t make me a better practitioner.

What has made me a better practitioner has been experience. Years and years of it. Making lots of mistakes. Learning from lots of different people from all different walks of life. Figuring out what works and what doesn’t – and doing the figuring out for myself.

I’ve made some big balls ups in ritual. Some of them at large public events I was running. I’ve stuffed up, screwed up, and ballsed up. It all helped me learn. I’ve had to learn humility, and I’ve had to have a healthy sense of humour.

Skills for becoming a better practitioner

I can’t reiterate it enough – a piece of paper, or a certain lineage, or a course from an education centre, no matter how reputable – none of these can make you a better practitioner.

What will make you a better practitioner is learning to listen to your own, inner self.
Learning to take in what works for you, and toss what doesn’t.
Learning to discriminate between the good and the not so good.
Learning to accept that everyone is different, and that what works for your friend may not necessarily work for you.

Having a sense of humour will make you a better practitioner, as will learning to not take yourself too seriously.
Learning that you will always, always be a novice in the world in most fields will help, while recognising that most of the people who claim to be adepts are actually novices too is also useful.

Learning to have a fully functional Bullshit Detector is a valuable asset. Learning that most people are just fumbling along in the dark is another useful asset. And being especially wary of anyone with titles or claims is a real, serious asset – hang on to that, no matter who you meet or what they claim to be!

Lineage isn’t important. The biggest fool can train, and the biggest fool can make claims. What is meaningful, in the end, is what you choose, what is purposeful and worthwhile for you.

meaningful

My path continues…

Like I said, I have no lineage. It is meaningless to me. I’m self taught, and taught by many, and taught by Life, and taught by the Goddess Aphrodite. That is humbling and empowering and enough for me.

I’ve also been fortunate enough to teach many, many others, and help them find their own paths, their own journeys.

I started on this path 25 years ago, maybe more. I’m excited to see where it leads me. But one thing I do know – I don’t need titles or claims or lineage or Big Wazoo outfits to impress anybody.

This journey is for my Goddess and for me.

path

Ritual: Self-dedication to Aphrodite

Time: Night time, under a full moon, preferably rising. Why? Because the full moon is the moon for lovers, love and Aphrodite.

Place: An empty beach is ideal. Why? Because Aphrodite is associated with the water, she is a sea Goddess, and she rises from the foam of the waves. If you can’t access a beach, an empty garden with a bowl of saltwater will do.

Needed: A single, perfect apple. Why? Because one of Aphrodite’s most significant triumphs was winning the Golden Apple that started the Trojan War.

goldenapple

Wear: Something that makes you feel strong, beautiful and powerful. You will be barefoot for this ritual, and may wish to wear something above the knees that will not be ruined by seawater.

aphroditebyliloklilokd2

The Ritual.

Take the apple in both hands, and walk barefoot under the full moon into the sea. Accept the cold water, if it is cold. Feel the sting of the waves, if it stings you. Embrace the scent of the water. Be one with it.

Holding the apple in both hands, raise it up above your head, saying clearly:

I dedicate myself to the Goddess Aphrodite
Lady of Cytherea
Goddess of beauty and love
Powerful Goddess of women
Of sexuality and sensuality.

I honour You, Goddess
In all that I am
Everything that I am.
From this day forth,
For all of my life,
I pledge to do Your work.

Lower the apple to the waves, and dip it gently into the seafoam. Then lift it to your lips with both hands, and take a single bite.

Say:

As I declare, so shall it be!

Bury the remainder of the apple in the sand. The ritual is done.

FullMoonBeach

Everything She touches, changes…

A brief explanation…

When I began this blog, my goal was to upload the old content from Akasha (my coven in Australia, and spiritual path), together with some of the new rituals and work I’ve been doing since.

Of course, nothing ever works out precisely as planned.

Over the last couple of years, my life has been changing more and more, due to the influence of a major Deity in my life. I haven’t written about my experiences with Her at all, and although some of my friends in the Pagan world (and in the Vanilla world) know what’s been going on – or parts of it – I’ve not written about it here.

But I think the time has come to admit that my life has taken a different path. Akasha is where I have come from, but Aphrodite is where I am, and where I am heading.

Hence the change in focus of this blog.

This may or may not suit you, as a reader. I hope you continue to follow, and find my path of interest. It is interesting to me. Not all the content will focus on Aphrodite, but an increasing proportion will.

This is my world, my path, my journey. This is my Goddess. I have been claimed by Her, and She Rises.

botticelli_birth_venus_2

Paganism, Sex, Ritual and Kink

Mainstream culture and religion have RULES about sex.

Sex should be…

– private.
– between a man (singular) and a woman (singular).
– in a bed.
– between married people.
– for procreation only.
– in the missionary position only.
– penis in vagina.
– between people who love one another.
– a relationship where women are submissive and men are dominant.
– between people of the same race, age (roughly) and demographic (roughly).
– something that men initiate, and women never ask for.
– something that women don’t actually enjoy, desire or actively search for.

The list goes on. It’s all so confining and restricting that you have to wonder that a) any sex ever happens at all and that b) when it does, people are able to enjoy it.

Then there’s Paganism and Kink.

What If?

What both do is ask, What If?

What if we throw out the rules that somebody, somewhere told us we had to attach to sex and communication?

What if we just explored our bodies and our minds with curiosity and fascination, and experimented with what feels good, what feels bad, and what our responses to various stimuli are?

What if we made our own rules, instead of accepting, without question, the rules that society has given us and expects us to accept in our lives?

Hieros Gamos
Hieros Gamos

Throw away the rule book

Mainstream religions, to my way of thinking, are about accepting dogma and rules. They give us guidelines and boundaries, and say: Here you go. This is how things are. Accept these rules, and give us your money, and we may choose to accept you. Or not.

Yes, that’s a very cynical viewpoint, but I haven’t seen anything to discredit it.

And mainstream sexual ethics tell us, from that first sex ed class in school through to what is reinforced in movie love scenes and advertising and cultural tropes everywhere we look, that some ways of enjoying sex are more equal than others. Anything outside a fixed set of narrow practices will mark you as a pervert, as a deviant, as somehow wrong.

If you’re a man that finds other men attractive you’ll be scorned. If you’re a woman that loves women, you’ll be abused. Experimenting in bed is frowned upon. Anal sex is sodomy and a sin. Sex between partners of different ages and cultures is disgusting. Women who actively seek out sex are whores, and those women who enjoy sex and are open about the fact are sluts.

Men who prefer the submissive role are unmanly, and sex where there is no penis in vagina penetration – well, that isn’t sex at all, as the thousands of so-called virgins in the Bible Belt who are enjoying regular anal sex with their partners will be quick to point out.

Why we have these rules is an interesting question. I think it’s all about control. Not content with control our finances (job laws and taxes) and our living arrangements (through marriage laws, housing laws etc.), governments and mainstream religions have sought to control our sex lives too.

Telling people how to behave sexually is just another form of control, of subservience, of domination. Do what you’re told, even behind closed doors. Controlling what people think and want to do is the highest form of absolute manipulation.

Aphrodite
Aphrodite

Finding connection

Paganism and kink are, for me at least, intrinsically connected. They’re both forms of free thought and experimentation. You don’t have to like or accept eveything available – not by a long shot. They’re not about conforming to the Church Of Wicca or to the House of PVC, if that doesn’t float your boat. When you enter the world of Paganism, you don’t have to go buy your cape and wand, and when you start in kink you don’t have to go buy a set of handcuffs to be accepted. Everything is valid between consenting adults.

Paganism doesn’t have to be kinky, but it’s a lot more fun when it is. Because, in the end, life is about sex. And so is religion. Religion should be sexy. For too long we’ve been used to the stale, sexless, Godless churches, which thrive on taking away the physical from the spiritual – separating the two and neglecting the needs of the body.

Yet our bodies are Temples – beautiful, sacred temples. To ignore their needs and their desires is foolish and ignorant.

I’m not suggesting that every ritual needs to contain a sexual element. It doesn’t. Or that religion is always about sex. It isn’t. But sex does need to be recognised within religion in order for us to be whole, complete, satisfied beings. Our bodies need to be recognised and fulfilled for religion to feel complete and whole.

With Perfect Love and Perfect Trust

I believe it’s time to put the sex back into religion. Yes, I’m a sensualist, but I do believe it’s time to put the curiosity and the bliss and the spirit back into sex. It’s time for Paganism and kink and sex to all come together within sacred space, and to connect again. It can be done, and it can be done well. “With perfect love and perfect trust” not just as empty words, once again having real meaning in our lives.

Paganism has become tainted by puritanism and consumerism. So you see circle after circle, coven after coven, all geared up with the nicest of trinkets, yet afraid to talk about sex. They’ll discuss everything and anything but. They’ll comment on one another’s latest greatest toy scrying mirror, but won’t share any deep ritual that can truly help them find the Divine God and Goddess within.

Sex is a scary topic. It should be. We bare our souls, and who we are, when we go deep and open with others. We show others who we truly are, and that can be a frightening prospect. There is no turning back, once another person has seen the light that guides you within, in a sexual, spiritual setting. Yet there is so much more to be gained than lost, the fear is worth the risk. Because we risk losing so much more if we remain forever afraid to share who we are.

So yes, I’m advocating our putting down of the capes and the wands and the pretty knick-knacks on the shelves. To truly connect with the Divine, we need to start by exploring our own bodies – what they do, how they respond, how we can connect with others. The human body truly is a miraculous, Divine thing.

It’s time we learned, once again, how to experience our own Divinity.

Witchcraft: Why all this secrecy?

You would think, to look at the net, that Witchcraft is not a secret path any more.

The esoteric world has opened up a lot, and all over the net you can find spells, rituals and recipes for everything from incense to oils. Some are shockingly bad, and some are just laughable.

Most are just the same content, rehashed over and over again.

But just because there is lots of content online, that doesn’t mean that what you can see is a full view of Witchcraft. It’s more like peeking through a keyhole – except we’re letting people see what we choose to reveal publicly, to the uninitiated. The true path and its deeper secrets remains hidden.

The orion arm of the galaxy. Photo by Luc Perrot.
The orion arm of the galaxy. Photo by Luc Perrot.

As it should.

Of course, what you find in a lot of websites and blogs is just so shamefully untested or duplicated or incorrect that it’s a pointless exercise in reading it, let alone attempting to work it.

So why the secrecy?

The truth is, not all paths of teaching are suitable for everyone.

Experienced practitioners know this, and although they’ll offer basic teachings online, the more complex, difficult and dangerous content will remain hidden, and only be taught directly, face to face when the time is right and the student is at an appropriate level of adeptness.

This is what I do. The content you’ll find here, while accurate and correct and all original (except where indicated), is at a pretty basic level of teaching. None of it is going to harm anyone no matter who tries it. Its effectiveness will depend on the competency of the practitioner, as all craft does. But there is nothing truly dangerous listed here. I won’t teach it online – only face to face.

There is secrecy precisely for this reason: some of what we do can be dangerous in the wrong hands.

We use tools that can be dangerous in the wrong hands. Some of the training we do, and some of the rites, can be scary, downright terrifying, psychologically threatening to an unprepared individual, and sometimes dangerous. They’re not for everyone.

This is not a G-rated path.

If it were easy, everyone would do it.

Some religions are easier – and more approachable – for mass crowds and large institutions. They tend to be open, public, easily accessible.

Witchcraft and many branches of Paganism, by comparison, tend to focus on the experience of the individual, the differences between us, and the relationships between small group of people in Circle. They foster strong relationships of trust that people outside the Circle usually don’t quite understand.

We work to a higher level because there is an expected level of ability and knowledge inherent in the group. This is precisely because we are selective, small and secret.

We don’t accept all comers. Not everyone is welcome. We turn people away regularly. Initiates fail Degrees with regularity. Not everyone passes. Some are asked (gently, and with respect) to move on. A lot of people just don’t suit a difficult, challenging, but ultimately very rewarding path. Still others simply find that they prefer another path altogether. All options are fine.

Ours is not the “one, true way” so we have no problem with people moving elsewhere, and searching for truth in other ways.

At public (open) rituals all comers may attend, but when Covens are forming and Initiates being selected, many are turned away. Paganism isn’t about gathering as many numbers as possible, then proudly claiming that we’re the fastest growing religion (or whatever).

It’s about small groups, intense energy, strong focus. And above all, trust.

Pagan paths require an enquiring, questioning mind. They tend to disdain the mentality that accepts doctrine without question. Unquestioning obedience is a fault to be worked upon and hopefully corrected, not a strength to be praised. Truth is held in highest regard. And newcomers often find the fact that science and magic work together surprising at first, although this does explain why so many Pagans have scientific backgrounds!

Put simply, it is difficult to practice Witchcraft successfully unless you are able to think creatively, act instinctively, connect comfortably with your physical self, and be unafraid and unashamed of who your innate, natural self is. All of these are aspects that are explored within the Craft, and they can be challenging for even the most open of minds – and too challenging for the closed mind.

Finally, secrecy is an old habit protecting Pagans from abuse and criticism. The Western world is still struggling toward acceptance of “alternative belief systems”, and until full acceptance is gained, secrecy protects us and what we do. It keeps us safer, it maintains our privacy, and it protects against individuals who would have everyone believe the same thing, in the same way.

Secrecy is a tool we use, just as much as the Blade is, or the Wand.

How to find a Pagan group / Coven in amongst all this secrecy?

It can be tough.

A lot of people do just find a group or like-minded individual to work with through word of mouth. They sense a friend is interested in the same type of things, and bumble along together, then eventually find a Temple to join or take a series of courses that lead them further. This isn’t a bad way to go.

Another method is using contacts like The Witches’ Voice: Witches of the World facility.

Many Pagans are listed there, together with details on their path and where they live, and can be contacted. As usual, always be sensible when meeting someone new: arrange a meeting in a public place, and let a friend or family member know where you are going, and when you’ll be back.

Be safe.

Mabon – Large Group Ritual

The evening begins with a Coven member explaining what is to happen as the evening progresses, so that people know what to expect.

Once the introductions and welcome are through, participants are asked to stand, the lights are switched off, and the ritual begins.

A singing bowl or bell is struck three times to signal silence. The Crone takes up her broom and sweeps around the perimeter of the Circle.

A Coven member then moves around the Circle, cleansing the air with the singing bowl. A second Coven member calls in the quarters and welcomes the elements. The first Coven member circles again with sound, and the Circle is bound fast.

Two Coven members move around to the south, and take up their lighters. They light the candles of the ritual attendees, and bid them welcome. They then return to the Altar, gather the bowls of mojo ingredients, and pass them to the Crone, who explains what each ingredient was and what it was for.

Quarters of brown velvet form the Mabon mojo bags, which are bound with orange ribbon, the two colours representing the Autumnal Equinox and the change from the warm seasons to the cooler months.

The ingredients that are passed around are almonds, frankincense, pine needles, juniper berries and gumnuts or other locally-gathered nuts.

Each participant binds the ingredients in their mojo bag by the light of their candle, and takes time to meditate on their bag while the story of Mabon is read.

As well as the ingredients for the mojo bags, autumn leaves are passed around, and each participant takes one. They are then asked to meditate on the goals and achievements of the past year, what they have learned and how they have grown, as Mabon is a time of the Second Harvest – a time to reflect on the inner life.

When the bags are complete, and the participants have had a chance to reflect and meditate on their leaves, the Crone walks around the Circle, staff in hand, and asks each person that they be willing to sacrifice their leaf to the God and Goddess, for without sacrifice there can be no growth and renewal.

The leaves are gathered in. As a sign of sacrifice, the candles of the participants are each snuffed out as the sacrifice is made and the leaves taken in by the Crone.

Then the cauldron at the centre of the Circle is lit, and the Crone casts the spell of sacrifice, throwing the leaves to the flames. The leaves are consumed and burn brightly.

The cauldron burns for many minutes, shooting orange and brown flames into the air while everyone watches and meditates on the flames. Finally, with all the leaves reduced to ash, the Crone decides that it is time to draw the Circle to a close, and she calls down the Circle, bidding the elements farewell, and the cauldron is extinguished.

stonecircle

Should I come out of the broom closet?

Coming “out of the broom closet” as a Pagan is a big issue for a lot of people.

It’s hard to decide whether you want to remain under the radar as a Pagan, or if you want to be out of the broom closet.

Consider where you live

One of the things to consider is the type of community you live in. For example, I used to be very much “out” when I lived in a big city a few years ago. But since moving to a small rural community (in another country), I have decided to remain pretty much in the closet about my beliefs.

People who know me well can often guess what I believe, but I don’t talk openly about my spiritual side, I don’t wear a pentacle openly, and I keep my faith pretty much to myself. The community in which I live now is very conservative, and I think my family and I are better of remaining quiet about being “different”.

Overall, my experience has been that the larger the city or community is, the more open it is to new ideas and alternative viewpoints. You might want to think about this, and consider what sort of community you are a part of, before deciding whether you wish to be open about your faith or not.

Consider your family

Think about how coming out may affect your family. Are you partnered to someone in a high profile career, whose interests, however unfairly, might be damaged by your coming out?

I’m not saying this is fair. It’s not. But we do have to be aware of how our actions and beliefs are accepted or rejected in our community, and how our beliefs affect others who are related to us.

Are your children enrolled in a Christian school? Likewise, your coming out may affect their prospects at school, or their prospects of enrollment. People can be cruel bigots.

Consider your career

How will your openness affect your career? In some careers (such as politics and law), presenting a conservative image is really important. You may need to think about this.

Coming out to a partner

Deciding whether or not to come out to a new partner can be a difficult decision. Are they open-minded? Will they support you? Do they understand your beliefs? Do they practice another religion or set of beliefs?

It’s often really hard to know whether a partner will be supportive or not. But if they’re the kind of person who is open-minded and open to new ideas, they’ll generally be okay.

Sharing your beliefs is, in the end, a matter of trust. Do you trust others to respect your beliefs, and to continue to value you as a person no matter whether they agree with you or not? Do you trust them to be willing to take the time to understand? Are you willing to share such an important part of yourself with others?

Do what you feel is right. If you have any doubts about sharing your beliefs with someone, or being open in your community about who and what you are, take your time. There is no rush. Come out about paganism only when you are absolutely certain it is right for you. Some people come out the moment they start their pagan path. Others remain in the closet their entire lives. Both choices – and everything in between – are valid.