Monday, December 27, 2010

Genius Loci

My friend The Druid of Fisher Street just posted a great blog on the great topic of land spirits. I began my response in his comments block but decided I needed more room. It began like this:

Great topic, great post!

I have had these same thoughts. Having a background in Native American traditions has greatly influenced my American Pagan path, without the cultural appropriation.

When I was in Oklahoma I found my spot to commune with the local land spirits, which turned out to be an old Native hot spot, and I took it as confirmation.

When I moved to the Central Valley, again the first thing I did was put up the antennas and scan for a place, which lead me the Three Rivers, another native hot spot. Later I found the area riddled with mortar holes of the Potwisha Indians, which I now use as prayer bowls where I leave my offerings (hence the card selection).

I personally appreciate your concern for cultural appropriation issues, as I am sure the natives do. But there is a difference between *cultural" appropriation and inspiration. It is no coincidence that I/we have been dawn to the same areas as the first nations. As Pagans we seek to develop and maintain a connection with the land and our attunement naturally draws us like magnets to those same areas, for the same reasons. I often explain Paganism to the muggle/cowan folk as "Indian stiff for white people" or the return to Indigenous European Traditions, and this is a perfect example of why.

I have come to identify land spirits as Genius Loci which fits quite nicely within my tradition and practice. And again no coincidence, that I was just reading a great article by Lupa (luv her) on the topic in Llewellyn's 2011 Magical Almanac, titled Connecting to the Land: Modern Paganism, Bioregionalism, and the Genius Loci. (if you go to the link, you can read the article on page 26!)

Thank you Lord and Lady for great minds thinking alike.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Idols of the Marketplace

Time flies, the Eclipse and Solstice have already come and gone, and I have already received my books for the coming semester. I am pleasantly surprised how much I have learned from a Baptist seminary. Being raised Pagan I never had an in depth understanding of Christianity, nor was I ever interested in one.

But as challenging as it has been, I have gained an appreciation for the religion and realized there's some pretty good stuff in there. It's not the religion I have a problem with, its the followers of that religion (who aren't actually following the religion).

But I love theology! And I loved my Humanities class! I really learned a lot. It gave me so many ideas and I wanted to write on some of those before I lose them in the avalanche of new classes...

Sir Francis Bacon wrote Novum Organum or New Instrument, in which he writes about the Four False Idols: of the Cave (mind), the Tribe (all humans), of the Theater (schools of thought) and of the Marketplace (language). False Idols being false beliefs. My long time readers know how I am about personal challenges, so I am embarking on a brave (Non-Scientology) self audit of my false idols. But I thought I'd warm up with the idols of the marketplace I've seen and work my way into the Cave. For this installment, I came up with three idols, hold on let me get my soapbox...


THE REDE

The Rede has become a Meme: "an it harm none, do what ye wilt." But it's so much more than that, there is actually 26 (or more) lines (depending on which version), and it embarrassing how many "Wiccans" I've met who didn't know this. I've seen so many people leave Christianity and come crying to Paganism, but ironically that have not left the Christian mindset and dogma behind. They have drug it kicking and screaming into Paganism. They have let go of the safely and security of the Bible only to clutch the Rede with white knuckles. But they've only switched addictions, the Rede is not Gospel, it's guideline. There is actually some really good stuff in there, which like Masonry, the greatest lessons are only alluded too. It wouldn't hurt to read into it a bit before adopting or rejecting it. I'm just saying...

Recommended reading: The Wiccan Rede, Couplets of the Law, Teachings, and Enchantments by Mark Ventimiglia, Citadel Press 2003.


THE WHITE HANDLED KNIFE

This is another Axiom of the Wiccan community, if you Google "white handled knife" you will get results explaining that it's also known as the Boline, and visa versa. But there is a difference between the two: the Boline is used expressly for harvesting herbs and other plants whereas the white handed knife is used to cut, carve, mark and engrave other objects for use in the craft such as cords or candles. However there is yet another tool called a "Burin" which is specifically used for marking candles. I don't know how this ever developed into a full blown axiom, but what the hell, apparently I don't pronounce Athame correctly either...


SELF INITIATION

As a Freemason I have come to place a high value on initiation as a rite of passage. It is a life changing, consciousness altering experience, that you CANNOT do to yourself. There is a big difference between a "Dedication" and an "Initiation." You can perform a (self) dedication ritual to mark your commitment to a particular path, in fact I recommend it. But an initiation by definition is "a rite of passage ceremony marking entrance or acceptance into a group or society."

"A group or society..."

I knew someone who came to me asking about initiation, she told me about the Coven she was in before and how when she asked to be initiated she was told to write the initiation ritual, and they would perform it on her (writing the ritual was part of her test). ???????!!!!!

While the phases of initiation may vary from tradition to tradition, there remain a few necessary elements such as the chamber of reflection, the shock of entrance and the guardian of the threshold. And depending on the mystery there's probably a death and a resurrection or rebirth. None of these things can one do to ones self, nor should one attempt to do alone for the sake a safety.

Not knowing who they are or what they are about to do to you is a necessary part of the process, it forces you to question your own motivation, "what did I do to get myself into this situation? What am I doing? Why am I doing this?" Some of the biggest secrets of mystery schools, traditions and the Craft are revealed through the sacred dramas like initiation, they are an experiential necessity for unlocking the wisdom within.

I can go on for hours about the value of initiation, which is always over emphasized for the wrong reasons, but that's another idol...

Thank you Lord and Lady, here's your soapbox back.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Changing Lanes

I have often said my life has been like a Forrest Gump movie. I'd like to amend that statement: it has been more like Slum-dog Millionaire. I have lead an unusually charmed life full of incredible experiences. What makes them so incredible has often been the impossible sequence of coincidences.

Within the Cauldron of memory there are departments. One of those departments contains memories that "mean something." I may not know what or why at the time, but they register as significant, and I hold them in a separate area.

Then things like Iraq happen. And finding myself in absolutely absurd circumstances they suddenly become relevant, significant and lifesaving. Because of some seemingly random bit, I am the only one who knows what to do, acting without hesitation. Small significant things in my life were "preparation" for "Who wants to be a survivor?" The result has been described as a miracle. I call it Magic.

Events like these, prompt the question of a Grand Design: does everything actually happen according to some divine plan? Or are we just looking for a pattern to feel more secure about our place in the universe?

I have always believed that things do happen for a reason, or at least they happen to me for a reason. Even the bad, in fact the worst things that even happened changed my life for the best. While in Iraq, my (ex) wife developed a several drug habits and several relationships which resulted in her getting pregnant and attempting suicide.

That was my Hero's Welcome, a red cross massage about a pregnant, drug addicted wife. When I walked in the door, there were three men in my home. One was in the bedroom. Things were about the change.

So I divorced her, got custody of my children, got out of the Army and start over. Went home to help run the family business and met her the day I rode into town. We have been together ever since. She is the most amazing women I have ever met, I didn't even know women like her existed. She is the best thing that ever happen to me and I almost lost her at five o'clock this morning.

She gave a client a ride to work in the early morning rain, and on her way home someone ran a red and caved in the drivers side door. She walked away a little sore, but unharmed. She came home and we both cried. The reality of life's frailty can do that from time to time. But out of the tears came laughter: well my sachets worked!

We travel a lot; I make weekly trips to prisons and state hospitals, weekend trips to the national forest and we make monthly trips to friends, family and lots of rock concerts. So she made protection sachets for every vehicle to keep us safe (and make me wear my seat belt).

My wife has never opened a door for herself in my presence since the day we met, and she never will. you'd be amazed how much attention this can draw, apparently its a bit unusual. Every once in a while I like to ham it up for the audience and bow "your chariot ma'lady..."

We had spent the last few day talking about getting a new chariot, and she spent Friday window shopping hybrids. I told her she didn't need to do this, I was already planning on buying her a new one. Laughter is the best medicine.

We talked about the Grand Design. It wasn't bad Karma, or a the third fold of some spell, shit happens (for a reason). We don't always see the bigger picture, especially when Dryghtyn throws overhand. It's been my experience that we're usually looking to closely to see the bigger picture. But I know there is one, I've seen.

Thank you Lord and Lady for the Chariot, sorry about the dent.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Community Service


One of my favorite archetypes has always been the Trickster. Always misunderstood and unappreciated for what they really are and the valuable service they provide. The "Trickster" is the mask of the Sacred Clown, in some Native (mystery) traditions these clowns possess a respected, revered and feared power few understand or even recognize.

Next month I will be speaking at the 2011 Conference on Current Pagan Studies. The focus of this years conference is "Sustaining a Pagan Community" and I will be addressing Rites of Passage and have the honor of speaking along side Selena Fox and Patrick McCollum.

I've been working on a three separate writing projects, and have trouble keeping them separate and they all seem to bleed into one another. One of those Pagan community topics that has been on my mind is Metaphysical shops. Many places I've been they always seem to be the hub of the Pagan community.

I know that the Enchanted Cottage in Bakersfield is for its Community, just as the Crystal Barn is for Visalia. A few weeks ago we were in Oakland to see Shakira and while we were in town I finally got to visit Ancient Ways, which started PantheaCon. It was a really great shop, a real "Pagan" shop. I especially liked the "Candle Dressing Policy" posted on the wall, that's when I knew I was in the right spot, and sure enough I looked up a saw the altar statuary set I've been searching for, for over three years. They have been out of production for some time, but everyone online still advertises that they sell them, until you try to purchase them. I'm on six different waitng lists, for when they become available again, and I found them both.

Grin.

So, I've my new book sales have been awesome! I can't believe I sold over a hundred copies! I didn't know I was that popular, or maybe it was the foreword from Raymond Buckland, or maybe people are just trying to help out. Whatever it was, thank you.

But despite the online sales, I still sell books in several local shops here in central California. At every store I have introduced myself as "Chaplain Nichter," and explained that I am a volunteer Wiccan Chaplain, that I wrote a book on Wicca for inmates, and that I send inmates free copies. I explain that for every single book sold I make enough to buy more two books and send them to inmates for free, and it even covers the two bucks for shipping.

"Charity Fund Raising"

Then I ask if they would be willing to carry a few copies for me, and they all have, and I get a call when one or two sell. Today I went by the local Fresno shop. We've been patrons there for over four years and have easily spent over six hundred dollars there in statuary, wall plaques, books, and very expensive hippie clothes, which I find ironic, but my wife loves her outfits.

So, I go through the exact same intro-explanation, with the owner, who knows me. And to my surprise, she conplained that the price of the book was too high.

"you don't understand...your selling these books at retail, you're suppose to sell them at whole-sell... other wise I can't raise the price to make anything out of it"

I told her I DID understand, and repeated ...charity fund raiser... after a moment of silence I asked her what price she recommended, and she replied:

"Well for starters, you need to find a cheaper publisher! You need to print at a much cheaper price so you can sell at a much lower whole-sell price, or no ones ever going to make any money! Second you need to learn about proper marketing, promotion and advertisement"

She took the books out of my hands and looked at them. Making a wry face she said "I guess I could try to sell them but no ones going to pay any more than the fifteen your already charging."

Now bear in mind that I only offered her three small copies, add a few bucks for each and we're talking about what? Ten bucks tops.

I gently attempted to take the books backs and said "you know what....never mind, I'm sorry to have bothered you." But she actually tightened her grip on them and said "I SAID I WOULD TAKE THEM!"

I pulled them out of her hand and said "No no that's ok, never mind... but couldn't resist telling her her "you know, I'm selling these books in six other shops and no one else is trying to make any money off of this non-profit-charity- fund raiser but you, I don't keep a dime, I'M GIVING THE BOOKS AWAY."

I left the area and went to find my wife so we could leave, and the owner came after me a cussed me out, "I didn't know her, who was I to give her attitude, I think she doesn't do charity work, I have some nerve being so disrespectful to her, She has rent to pay and who's going to pay for the space my book takes up on the shelf?"

So, once we got back into town, we made a stop by our beloved Crystal Barn. It's like Cheers, everyone knows your name, even the dog comes out to play with you and get petted. we weren't in the store more than ten minutes before the owner came out and gave us a gift wrapped Yule present!

One of the powerful things about Sacred Clowns is their ability to break all the religious rules and social taboos. That's actually their job, they violate and desecrate all we hold sacred and holy with humor, it's an art form, it's magic. By doing so they provide a contrast, we cannot have the light without the dark. The trick to is recognizing them when they come dancing into our lives.

Thank you Lord and Lady for the statues and the clowns. Blessed Be.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Fiat Fortuna

I'm a big fan of Gus diZerega's A Pagans Blog, and his last post on preparing for Yule inspired this post.

One of the things I've noticed in the Pagan & Magic community is that many of the celebrated personalities both historical and contemporary, have tried to define Magic(K).

While I have my own ideas, I have only gone so far as my signature tag line: Wisdom is the proper application of knowledge, and Magic is the result.

Other than that I liken it to the pornography quote: "I can't define it, but I know it when I see it."

Our Coven hosts monthly open community circles and has for over a year now, and the circle has slowly grown into a community. Last month members proposed we actually did some magic, and cast a spell together.

I have had these ideas and interests myself, but was concerned with the subjective nature of the topic and the potential for conflict when it comes to the ethics of spell craft.


But thankfully we managed to address the concerns without conflict and decided to focus on prosperity, which is a topic everyone could get behind. Our ritual space comes complete with an old fashion chalk board which we used to facilitate our Spell Craft. We used my patented sure fire spell craft technique (found in my book) and everyone contributed to each phase of the process.

It was so awesome to see people taking an active role, and I could see the spell taking shape. Starting with one person rolling a small pebble down a snow bank, slow at first but quickly gaining mass, momentum, energy. I had every confidence that we would achieve our goal in the limited time allotted, but was still impressed with how quickly and efficiently we all worked together.

We circled up and prepared to cast, one by one each person declared their love and trust before joining hands. The circle complete, everyone began chanting the title of this post, while I stood in the center reciting the spell over and over. Each time I did the chanting got louder, and the energy got higher. I could feel it hitting me in wave after wave, first I got what my friend calls the "chicken skin," but then broke into a sweat and felt something more. When it was time to call the declaration statement, I was shouting near full blast, and with a single toll of the bell the energy was released. The voided space filled with a pleasant silence.

One of the neat aspects of our tradition is interfaith. While we have initiations, degrees and priesthood for those drawn to it as a primary path, our tradition is for most, a secondary. The idea is that eclectic solitaries each have their own ways, but all use a secondary tradition in order to function as a group. And it works.

In an hour and a half, eleven eclectic Witches joined in ritual, celebration and fellowship, collaborated on a spell topic, contributed to the spell craft and successfully cast a spell of prosperous blessings.

That's Magic.

It may seem odd how Gus's post about Solstice cards and preparing for Yule prompted this post, but I'm getting to that part, we'll come full circle, I promise.

As is just so happens, a few weeks ago I stumbled into a website called ZAZZLE.COM. I love personal designs, we have our own custom jewelry, degree rings and pendants. So when I found the site I had to try it out and test the product quality.

It only took me six minutes to upload our emblem, design a post card, and order a poof set. The cards came in a surprisingly timely manner and the post cards are awesome! Its a good quality of the card stock, the the images came out great and with a nice glossy finish. If I was to put them on the rack with other cards, your wouldn't be able to tell the difference. So I'm giving them five stars, one for *Accessibility (easy to use) and another for *Versatility, I have complete control over the design aspects. One for *Quality, one for *Time (speedy delivery) and the fifth one is for *Price.

So in preparation for Yule and the rest of the Wheel, we will be designing our own cards.

(front cover)

Yule Tide Blessings from The Witches of Mill Creek

(inside cover)

With Love and Peace and Bounty Known
With Friends and Family our Fellowship sown

From your Hearth and from your Home

May these Blessings never roam


Thank you Lord and Lady for such a Magical life, blessed be.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The CNN of Paganism












I had what I consider the privilege of being raised Pagan, and very early on I came to the conclusion that we were the only ones.

Thankfully, I was wrong.

A few weeks ago in Circle I commented on how much the Pagan community has grown. I've gone from being "alone," to being part of an entire cultural/religious movement. Growing up I could count the number of Pagans I know on one hand, and so much has changed since then.

I realized that I can count the number of non-Pagan friends I know on one hand, and how different the world has changed for me, and us. The most prevailing evidence of this can be found in "our" media.

I spend my spare time reading Pagan magazines like Pan Gaia, New Witch and now Witches and Pagans, listening to Pagan Radio shows like Pagans Tonight and Hex Education, or The Pagan Radio Network which is owned and operated here in my town by my good friend Lew. And every weekend I look forward to the new release of articles on Witchvox, which connects Pagans on a global level and gives Pagans around the world a voice.

We have developed ourselves in nearly every aspect of media, and I for one love and appreciate this facet of living the Pagan life. But by far my favorite is The Wild Hunt. I have said it many times and will continue to say it: It is the pinnacle of professional Pagan journalism. It is the CNN of Paganism. Jason provides an invaluable resource to our community, and as a community we have an obligation to support and sustain these resources if we have any hopes for the future of Paganism.

Last year I donated to The Wild Hunt Pledge Drive, and challenged my readers to do the same. This year I have upped the ante and and my organization has the honor of becoming and affiliate underwriter for The Wild Hunt. Again I challenge you to do the same, make a donation, support a valuable member of our community, support the the invaluable service he provides to us all.

The Magical world of Paganism is diverse, and we don't always get along very well. But there are a few critical points of common ground we all share despite our differences, and The Wild Hunt is one of them. Think of it as the Pagan Lent, and skip Starbucks for a week and send that money to Jason, he's earned it.

Blessed Be.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

An Inmates Guide To The Craft

I had no idea that it would take this long, but it's finally done. Last night I celebrated the completion of my second book. I rewarded myself with a nice hot soak in the hot tub, complete with my favorite cigar and a nice glass of port. The stars were especially bright and the neighbors were unusually quiet. And I spent the better part of the evening quite happy with myself.

CARCER VIA : AN INMATES GUIDE TO THE CRAFT

So it's officially done, I uploaded it to Lulu and am just awaiting the hour or so it takes to process before I order my first patch. For anyone who has looked through my first book The Auguris and didn't understand it, this book is the key. The Auguris was primarily intended to be used by our community, or anyone who has been to one of our rituals.

As promised, Carcer Via actually contains words, sentences, paragraphs and pages of actual writing. And while it is primarily intended for an incarcerated audience, the free world may still find it interesting. The introduction is based on my annual lecture at Fresno State University and the main body is focused on my unique system of magic, so if you like my blog, you'll like my book even better because my friend Steve Provost over at PenDragon Editing did an amazing job of glossing and shining my usual chicken scratch into something quite intelligent.

Like the first book, this book is also a community service project, so all revenue generated by this book goes to pay for inmates to get free copies. For every single book sold, three inmates get a free one, so buy one, it's going to three good causes. (Three Fold!)

I am also proud to announce that my book also features a foreword from my friend and personal hero Raymond Buckland, who was gracious enough to write some very kind words despite his busy schedule of appearances and book fairs. Ray's writing a lot of fiction now days, which I think is just as good as his Witchcraft. I am especially eager to read his latest book The Golden Illuminati. *Rubs hands together*

But most of all I would also like to thank my best friend, my lover, my mistress and my personal Goddess, my Wife Claudia. For being so supportive, never giving up on me and never letting me give up on myself. Without her, nothing would have been possible.

Thank you Lord and Lady for that sexy Witch, the Papa Goddess. Blessed Be.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Man At Work

I have always jokingly identified myself as "chronologically impaired." Surfing the internet this afternoon I realized that I haven't written anything here in almost three weeks. I can't believe how fast time has passed. It's amazing how the state of mind has an effect on the perception of time.

When your running late you can't get the clock to slow down, the later you are, the faster the seconds count off. But when your stuck some where, waiting, it takes forever. Minutes seem like hours, dragging painfully slow.

But when your hard at work in a labor of love, your perpetually lost in the moment. There is no passage of time, there is only the pleasure of each stroke of the brush, each strike of the hammer, each keystroke.

Last month I announced the release of my Book of Shadows. In that announcement, I mentioned I had taken a break from my "current" writing project to finish it. Well I didn't waste anytime time, and dove head first back into the current project, my second book: Carcer Via, an inmates guide to the craft.

Unlike the Auguris, I actually "write" words, sentences and paragraphs too. And finally I am satisfied. It's finally good enough, for now. I'm finally in the final stage of finalizing the final draft. More details as they develop.

Thank you Lord and Lady for the "auto save feature."

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A Thousand Words



During my tour in Iraq I had several near death experiences. I don't make a habit of speaking much about such things, but when I do I have found it very hard to find the words to express myself adequately.

I came so close to being killed many times, although each occurred under different circumstances, they all invested me with an incredible yet indescribable sense of being.

Yesterday my Grandmother forwarded me an email with this picture and the following caption:


Look at the picture above and you can see where this driver broke through the guardrail, on the right side of the culvert,
where the people are standing on the road, pointing.

The pick-up was traveling about 75 mph from right to left when it crashed through the guardrail.

It flipped end-over-end, bounced off and across the culvert outlet and landed right side up on the left side of the culvert, facing the opposite direction from which the driver was traveling.


The 22-year-old driver and his 18-year-old passenger were unhurt except for minor cuts and bruises.


Now look at the second picture below...




Yeah... it's like that.

Thank you Lord and Lady, thank you.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

THE AUGURIS, The Mill Creek Book of Shadows

So I took a break from my current writing project to complete another. The book I've been working on for some time now is a narrated version of the Auguris, my Book of Shadows. I starts our with an introduction I give at my annual lecture at Fresno State and for the Department of Corrections. From there it takes you step by step through our system, which I am quite proud of. But for those who use our system inside and outside the prison system, there has been a need for the "bare wire book"

About five years ago I went down to Kinko's with a flash drive and had a little twenty page "Workbook of Shadows" printed up for some of my classes and the inmates I work with. But it was just a small chunk to assist with learning our ritual. Then again later another small chunk from Kinko's for my Wheel of the Year class and some more inmates. The only consolidated work has remained in my possession, until now.

The main purpose of this project was that I wanted to produce the Auguris on a larger scale, to fill the needs of inmates and member of our organization. I wanted it to be a more than another trip to Kinko's. So I ended up on Lulu and a week later the Auguris has an ISBN number. I priced it at sixteen dollars and the cool thing about this is than for every book purchased, the revenue generated pays for a copy to go to an inmate for free. So for the record, I'm not making a dime, it all goes back into my prison work.

But a word of warning, to the "uninitiated," it will seem completely ambiguous to anyone who is not familiar with my tradition. There is no narration, or instruction. It does not read like a normal book, it reads like a book of shadows. Its literally a collection of spells. But when you perform the spells in a particular order, it's a ritual. The Auguris is divided into what we call "the Five Books of Labor."

Liber Lustro: (Purification) In this first section we perform the opening acts of purification.

Liber Adoro: (Communion) This section includes invocations for the two ways we call quarters, the Vigilia, which is invocation of the God and Goddess, and the Great Rite.

Liber Rota: (Observation) These last three books are considered "vocation" or the Craft work. Liber Rota contains the calls for all four Esbats, Eight Sabbats and rites of passage from birth to death and the first degree oath.

Liber Sitella: (Divination) is a simple section, I only included three symbol sets: Geomancy, Runes and Ogham. I purposely kept the meanings vague, the user should develop their own personal interpretation.

Liber Defixum: (Incantation) Spells! Spells! Spells! This last section is just a collection of spells that have been fashioned within our tradition. Again, no instructions, explanations or details. That's all coming in the second book.

There's also small Liber Missa in the back, which is just the closing words. Throughout the five books there are thirteen ritual tools: Bell, Candle, Besom, Censer, Aspergillum, Athame, Lodestone, Pentacle, Cup, Boline, Sitella, Wand and Cauldron. Each one of these tools has a rubric, a definition of use within our tradition, and each tool is used in the ritual with the corresponding spell. We use the first six tools for purification and the next tree for adoration and communion. The boline is used for call for craft work and symbolizes the holiday work, the Sitella symbolizes the divination portion of the ritual, the wand of course for the spell craft and the Cauldron symbolizes the cool amalgamation of the groups energies as we close.

The labors are set in a particular order of precedence: Sabbats, rites of passage or esbats, then normal craft works. So we just start at the beginning of the book and work our way through. So for anyone feeling froggy, feel free to jump. But bare in mind that we are "Wiccan." This is a very simple ritual form and structure for a group Wiccans to get together and conduct a ritual. It's not High or Ritual Magic, but it works very well for us simple folks. I will be posting more in-depth explanations one book at a time in the next few weeks.

For anyone interested in purchasing a copy here's the link. Thank you and remember it's going to a good cause!

Thank you Lord and Lady for your inspiration. Blessed Be.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Playing With Dolls

"If you build it, they will come..." like the Wiccan version of that Kevin Costner movie about the baseball field for ghosts, I was told if I cast it they will come. And they did.

Nearly a year ago I founded Mill Creek Church, and several times a month we rent a large room at the local metaphysics shop. It's started out slow, just a handful of friends in town. Then a steady ebb and flow of first and old timers would come and go.

But lately there has been a surge of activity in the Pagan community in general. I've gotten more calls in the last three weeks than in the last three years. Handfastings, Blessings and personal spiritual counseling have kept me much busier than normal.

I have always been extremely fulfilled by my personal spiritual path and practices, the only thing it has ever lacked was fellowship. Our last meeting stands out as quite possibly the best ritual we've ever had there, because of the degree of fellowship. I am surrounded by people who take their path seriously and invest in themselves and their practice. A friend called in advance to make arrangements to provide the "cakes and ale" for our communion, she brewed her own rose water and baked some wicked cookies. This sort of contribution and sincere investment on our ritual is a blessing.

Another blessing is diversity. Our membership is an all star cast of various traditions of Witchcraft, and every meet someone shares something they do. Another friend is a very serious Hoodoo practitioner, who really knows her stuff. She gave us a crash course in Hoodoo and her practices, complete with a very brave show and tell of some of her tools of the trade, like Voodoo dolls.

Now I may be a fluffy bunny Wiccan, but I'm all about the Craftwork or the Craft at work, and much of what I do comes from my training and experience in not so warm and fuzzy Witchcraft. We use dolls too, but we call them Poppets and other than the name, everything else is the same. But my friend talked a lot about making a doll in your own image to cast magic on yourself. As I Veritas Wiccan I love that because the main purpose of our tradition is the Craftwork of self improvement. Most people use systems focused on command control and manipulation of the outside world. But pound per pound, your going to get better bang for your buck working on yourself. You just have to have the courage to work on your issues. It is surprising how many people don't.

My wife made her doll from scratch and it came out so good, she placed certain items in certain areas of the doll to address certain issues, she had a lot of fun doing it and gave me a lot of ideas. So this weekend I will start working on mine.

Almost 40 and I'm still playing with dolls. Thank you Lord and Lady for my friends and their toys. Blessed Be!

Monday, August 2, 2010

So Long And Thanks For All the Fish

When do we become men? When do we stop being boys and officially cross the threshold into manhood? For ages many cultures tell their children when its time. For hundreds of years indigenous cultures have practiced puberty rites of passage, often marked by some test of character or endurance, some feat which earns them the right to cross the threshold and join their peers in adulthood.

America has a culture, has lost these rites. Forcing our youth to create their own rites of passage. Loosing virginity, joining a gang, committing their first crime or first visit to prison. A point sharpened by the admissions of several inmates I minister to is that they're in prison because they were trying to prove they were men.

I submit the absence of these rites contributes the to decline of western civilization.

Our "Book of Shadows" teaches the observance of our Sabbats and Esbats throughout wheel of the year, but it also contains our rites of passage.

Several months ago at one of our ceremonies, my oldest son was handed a weapon. He reached out and grasped it with both hands and as we held it together we recited this catechism:

Q: What is this?
A: A weapon.
Q: What do weapons do?
A:Weapons kill.
Q:Why do we kill?
A: Only to feed and protect our own.
Q:Do you swear to feed and protect us with honor.
A: I so swear.

We recited this catechism every time he held his weapon and we practiced and trained until winter came. This summer he was handed a different weapon, one that's more focused on the "feeding portion of his oath."

It wasn't easy, the current was strong but that's where the fish are. Its difficult enough to swim in the cold flowing waters, the six foot spear made it more awkward. He swam over an hour before the perfect opportunity presented itself. He slipped under the water quietly and glided silently towards his first fish, he waited until the fish turned sideways showing his full side. The tri-tipped spearhead shot straight through the midsection and into the earth below. He leaned in holding the spear down as the fish flailed to free itself, his lungs burning he stayed beneath the surface until the fish gave up.

He finally came bursting out of the water gasping for air, holding the still impaled fish over his head, as he made his way back to shore. He cleaned it the way he was taught, never hesitating. When we returned home later, he presented his mother the meat from his first hunt. She was so proud. Tomorrow we'll go to Grandmas to cut the firewood for the coming ceremony, his rite of passage. I don't know which one of us is more proud.

Thank you Lord and Lady for such a powerful fish, blessed be.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Making Milestones

A few weeks ago I was happy to write about the Milestones of being a Wiccan Chaplain in the department of corrections. Today I am equally happy to write about the milestones of being a Wiccan chaplain in the department of mental health. Perhaps even more so this time, for one simple reason.

Getting my credentials renewed with the department of corrections is an incredibly validating thing, especially when you consider at this point, that unfortunately, I may be the only one. However my point is that I am following an established path, a system or "the system."
There is a difference with the department of mental health, it is a completely different department with a completely different system. There is no set path, or procedure. There is no precedence for what I am doing, except the trail I am cutting through the unexplored territory.

Last year I started providing religious services for their patients, under supervision. a few months back someone suggested I submit a proposal for a 12 week course on Paganism, just to see what would happen. So I did, it was approved and added to the facility curriculum as an "Introduction to Earth Based Religions."

I learned in the Army that there is a big difference between the planning and execution of a mission. It always looks so good on paper, Perfect. But the real world offers to many variables and the first try is always the hardest. through the trials of pass or fail we learn by experience. But we never forget the first one, so much energy, anticipation and concern is funneled into it, specially when it was your idea and your plan.

Once on a training mission I was an OPFOR (opposing force) team leader. I was given very broad and general instructions and guidelines for our mission which was basically probe the enemy perimeter keeping them busy and tired all night, then breach their defenses and make their life a living hell to wake up to.

Probing was easy, we slept all night, each of us taking turns firing off a few shots on different sides of the compound. The entire enemy force would come rushing to return fire, they ran back and forth all night and slept like babies while we got ready for the real assault. I had selected a breach point for several reasons, there were huge generators running, so they wouldn't hear us, and no one likes to stand right next to something so much less set up camp there, so I knew there wound be anyone around.

The problem was accessibility, the surrounding area was uninviting. They knew that which is why they put their generators there, the forest was way to thick, way too dark and way to scary for anyone too go through. So when we reached the the treeline of "haunted Sherwood forest" my team was not thrilled by the idea. I lead them in a few hundred feet, it was dark, too dark to see. We stumbled and fell all over the place. I called a time out and told every one to eat their MRE (field rations) in the dark. We sat there for an hour in the pitch black trying to eat, even I spoon fed my cheek a few times. Then we just sat around telling dirty jokes until I made the call to muster.

The meal was perfect. The food stabilized everyone's metabolism and put us all at ease. We had fun trying to feel ourselves blind, and laughed at the noises we made when we failed. The time in the darkness gave our eyes time to adjust. That worked so well that we could see our trash on the ground and who was throwing shit at who. We were like ghosts. We floated through the forest without making a sound, avoiding every root and branch. We became so well adjusted that we could see our own shadows in the darkness as we made contact.

We completed that mission. *Grins*

Now, leading a new team we completed that 12 week course. It was considered a success, so much so that my class is now a permanent fixture of curriculum. I just started teaching my second semester. Same class, new students. I like the picture I used here, leaving milestones in the forest as I go.

Thank you Lord and Lady for the gift of direction and the courage to follow it, even in the darkness. Blessed be.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Shining a Little Light on Me

Pagan Prison Chaplaincy, (for the most part) is a humble path. There is no fame or glory to be had, there is no lime light on prison yard. But every once in a while someone notices.

Last October I wrote about saying cheese, where I was on the front page of a local newspaper insert. Which was an accident, the article wasn't about me but a group I had joined only a few days earlier.

A few months later I was in the same circular, but this time I was interviewed by reporters about the Kaweah River Drum Circle, which I had been a member of for only a few of its eighteen years. But the reporter was referred to me, as spokesmen for the group.

But today I appeared on the front page of our local paper The Visalia Times Delta (small picture) and the front page of the living section (huge picture). I must say I had my concerns about the manner in which I was going to be portrayed. But after a nice phone conversation with the reporter, I was more confidant that their interest in my story was genuine.

We had all but forgotten about it until my grandmother called first thing this morning, yelling about how surprised she was to open the morning paper and see me, again.

As I said, this is a very humble path. There is not much ego gratification to be gleaned from what I do. The knowledge that I am helping people who have a sincere desire to rehabilitate through spiritual growth has been the Mana that has sustained me for these past three years. Other than this Blog I don't engage in any sort of self promotion, but I must admit that it is nice to be recognized for my work. And I hope that it serves the greater purpose of shining a bit of light on the incredible need for religious pluralism in our society.

Thank you Lord and Lady for using me to show others that it can be done. Blessed Be.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Raising the Bar









So my hero Heather Deirdre Awen, has a blog of her own, and last week she sent me a heads up on her post about the failings of Pagan Clergy. Her post really hits home for me both as a Pagan and as a chaplain. She makes very good points and supports them with direct personal experiences, to which I can relate as I'm sure we all can.

I have had my experiences with grand poo bah high priestess, their online temples of the sacred stars and twinkles. I myself have been warmly invited into a group, then attacked, chastised and ridiculed for have an opinion. An Egyptian Wicca HP once asked me to introduce myself, and after I did she told that Egyptian Wicca was an ancient mystery school from which all traditions had emerged, including Freemasonry. She said her tradition, unlike the "Indian stuff" I had been "dabbling in" delves deep into the mysteries of the earth, which was sacred, in case I didn't know, then she called me young Padawon. I did a special adoration to the Lord and Lady years later when she was a student in the class I was lecturing at Fresno State University.

Anyways, I think the problem is that Paganism in general is all encompassing and inclusive. Which for the most part is a strength. But unfortunately it attracts people for many of the wrong reasons. The one that's most relevant here is the ego gratification of titles like High Priest.

My last post I mentioned that there were a handful of Pagan prison chaplains here in California a few years ago, and I was told that at this point I am the only one left. I wrote about the conspiracy theory they all shared, and Heathers post brings up other issues like how to dress. The prison system doesn't have too terrible of a dress code for visitors, the biggest thing is no jeans, because that's what the inmates are wearing. But bear in mind that this is a state facility, so there is some sense of an implied standard. So again I see it as a simple matter of common sense, or so you would think. I have personally seen a Pagan chaplain show up to a prison dressed as though he just came from a Reconnaissance Fair. WTF?

For the past three years, when I visit any institution, anywhere, as a chaplain, I DRESS like a chaplain. In fact I am always mistaken for the Catholic chaplain because that's how I dress, that's how I look and that's how I act. Ergo, that's how I am treated.

A few years ago at that same Pantheacon, during a cherry hill intensive, we were talking about Pagan clergy and someone said she had a problem with us using "their" terms and titles, like priest, reverend and chaplain. She said that it took away from the "mystique" of our path. To which I feverishly disagreed. I use congregation instead of coven, and religious service instead of ritual. Am I lying? No, I'm just using words their more comfortable with. But more importantly I have a serious problem with the need, use and emphasis of Mystique in any religious form of Paganism. Mystique is a substitute for substance! The more smoke and mirrors, robes and titles you need to be a high priest the less you have to offer as clergy.

I have been approached by members of my Coven, our church, my prison ministry, and random people with many of the serious life altering challenges that life can throw at you. I immediately realized that I was not qualified. So I went back to school, and I'm still there, and I'll be here until I am.

1. Be humbly aware of your limitations! "I don't know" are not bad words! Its important to remind them that I am not a trained or qualified counselor or therapist. I recommend that they call someone who is, there are lots of hot lines they can call.

Last week I was interview by a reporter from a local paper, and am looking forward to seeing how I am reflected. One of the things I hope she quotes me on is beliefs. Because as clergy, is not about our beliefs, it about the beliefs of those we serve.

2. You have no authority over anyone, you are a servant to everyone! As a Minority Faith Chaplain, I serve all kinds. each in a different way. For some I do nothing but show up, because they can't do their own ritual without supervision, so sometimes the greatest service I can be is by just showing and and shutting up.

Qualification?

Hmmm boy that's the big one isn't it? So I'm a third degree high priest, am I qualified? So I have a degree in religious studies, am I qualified? What if I wave a degree in psychology? How bout now? Qualifications of Pagan clergy has always been a double edged sword, anyone can argue either side of anyone's clergy resume and never get anywhere. I often get asked this question, sometimes people have a genuine interest, others are looking for a chink in your armor. So I usually answer them with another question, "What qualifications should I have?"

If you were to ask me, I would say read the book "The Circle Within" by Dianne Sylvan. She wrote one of my top three books on Wicca. In it she listed the qualities or qualifications that we should strive for. So many times when I am asked, I often say that the qualifications I hope I am developing are:

Love
Compassion
Humor
Gratitude
Integrate
Wisdom
Joy
Growth

I think as long as we strive to inculcate these graces, we'll keep the bar up there were it need to be. Blessed Be.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Milestones

When I first entered the extraordinary world of Pagan prison chaplaincy there were literally only a hand full of us. My first year at Pantheacon I got to meet them. Each of them distinctively diverse, sharing only a few characteristics. The one I noticed right away was the conspiracy theory.

They seem to spend the majority of their time speaking about all the discrimination, and the conspiracy by the Man to keep them down and out of the prison system. I accepted them at their words and payed close attention, because I was told to, because "I had no idea what I was getting myself into and what we chosen few were up against." Now I'm not saying there is no religious discrimination, but I had yet to see any myself. And on several occasions what was identified by them as discrimination towards us (myself included) I recognized as protocal and priority.

We had got in to do a service early one morning, but it was canceled because the tule fog was so thick you couldn't see five feet in front of you, much less the whole yard. "This kind of passive aggressive deterrence tactic is a perfect example of what we were fighting against, get used to it." But as a combat veteran, I recognized the serious breach of security. If you cant see it, it's not secure, the military taught me to used conditions like that to attack, evade and escape. No conspiracy, just common sense.

I was eager to talk to the others at Pantheacon about their more positive experiences. I wanted to talk shop, I wanted to talk about how they handle certain challenges with inmates, how they ran their rituals, what worked for them and what didn't. But there was not much to talk about there, most of them weren't actually, technically, actively volunteering. They had all gone and done it before, but not anymore. they each had unique stories about how the Man had stopped them.

The one story that always haunted me was the "brown card." To become a religious volunteer, you must pass a background check and security clearance, then there are in-service training programs you must attend before you are issued a state department of corrections ID, called a brown card. (Although their not actually brown.)

The card is only good for one year, at which time you must go through the process again to renew your ID and clearance. The catch I was told, is that when its time to renew, they don't schedule any training. So you cant renew, your ID expires and your locked out, which is were they want you. I was warned time and time again, that I was being used. That I was either a mindless pawn or a sellout. And when they were done with me I would get "starved out" like the rest of them.

So around the end of May every year I get a little nervous, hoping my supervisor there at the prison doesn't make a liar out of me. They haven't. In fact they have gone through great lengths to keep me on. Though I can't say more than that about it, the fact is last week I filled out the packet for the third time, took my picture for the third time, and received my renewed credentials for the third time.

In these past few years of service I have seen many inmates come and go, I've seen many paid staff come and go, yet as a Wiccan chaplain I remain..... proof that it can be done.

Thank you Lord and Lady for investing me with the fortitude necessary to walk the path you have laid before me.

Blessed Be.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Nature Vs Nurture

My biological father was a cool guy. Like the Fonz, he rode a motorcycle and hung around the hells angels and plenty of other people which could easily be considered the wrong crowd.

When I was a kid my grandfather would take me to the visitors center to visit him. We would wait out on the yard and grandpa would always point out the window to his cell. "Look Joey, third window from the corner, count with me, one...two...three, see him!"

When I was younger I wanted to be just like him, cool. Being like him got me locked up too. One day I climbed up on my bunkies rack and looked out the window. I recognized the yard and the picnic table where my grand father and I sat when I was a child. Then counting the windows I realized I was sitting in my fathers cell.

That moment changed my live forever. It was then and there that I decided I wanted to be like my step dad. An amazing man who worked full time, went to night school, worked odd jobs on the weekends, kept up the maintenance on our place and still managed to throw a ball at me and take me fishing.

For the past three years I have served as a chaplain for a variety of offenders. Murders, rapists, drug addicts and now the state hospitals mentally ill and unstable. Patrick McCollum once said he knew he could send me into a super-max prison facility and I wouldn't be afraid, that I had what it takes. I always wondered why. I wondered which one of them contributed to that particular aspect of my character.

Serving such people has made me think a lot about the whole nurture vs nature thing. I have a lot of my father in me, perhaps too much sometimes. Often when visiting family I am reminded how much like him I am. I am told stories about him, and many of my mannerisms serve as constant reminders of him to my family. Many if not most of these mannerism, were natural, I never learned them from him.

I took this picture with my camera phone. I spent this last week on vacation with my family, my parents rented a cabin at Lake of the Woods, not far from Ashland Oregon (no wonder the grand arch druid lives there). We had a great time. Fishing all day, barbecue tri-tip dinners and evenings around the campfire with good wine and even better cigars. I realized how much of him I have in me too. I noticed how many of his mannerisms I have acquired, and saw him doing things the way I do them and saying things the way I would say them.

I look back on my life, who I have been, who I could have been and who I have become. As a father, step father and adoptive father, I'm raising four kids the way I was raised. My oldest girl has been accepted into the university preparatory academy for her next two years of high school. My younger girl ended her last year of elementary school, on the gate program for advanced students and on the presidents list for honor roll, complete with a letter from Obama. Although my step son is in special education, he is still the top of his class and received the silver presidents award and my youngest boy wants to be a police officer.

This fathers day the best gift I'm receiving is the fruit of a fathers labor, good children. Thanks to my father who taught me how not to be cool, and my dad who taught me what being a man was really all about. As it turns out I am the product of both.

Thank you Lord and Lady for blessing me with such contrast.

Happy Fathers Day & Blessed Be.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Another Key to Success

I've spent a lot of time up late working on projects, and sometimes just watching television. The other night flipping through the channels I came across one of those self help gurus who really got my attention with just a few key words.

He told a story about coming home late at night, walking into his dark living room. He dropped his keys looking for the light switch, but found that when he did his power was out.

He decided to take a drive, perhaps to get something to eat in hopes that the power would be on by the time he returned. So he started searching in the dark for his keys, after a short unsuccessful search he saw through the window that the street light outside was on so he walked out there, under the street light and began looking for his keys, there in the light. A friendly passerby saw him looking through the weeds for his keys and began to help him look.

After a long unsuccessful search, the good Samaritan ask him where he thinks he lost them. He replied, "oh in my living room, but my power is is out and I can't see there so I am looking out here where there is more light..."

He went on to explain that the lesson here is that we look outside of ourselves, unsuccessfully, for the keys to our life. Instead of looking inside, in the dark, which is the only place we can possibly find them, but that last place so many people look, if ever. I was immediately reminded of our first degree:

"The Candle is a ritual tools used by traditional Witches to cast illumination throughout their craftwork, but we as Veritas Wiccans are also taught to use it in a more spiritual manner by casting the light of truth throughout the craftwork of our lives."

The initiate is given a taper which is carried throughout the ritual drama of initiation, "in search of the light of truth, in hope that they may light a taper from it, to better find their own way." Our craft incorporates the use of magic, for the purposes of self improvement. For those who have the courage to shine a light on their inner darkness and look for the keys to success in the only place they can be found, inside.

May the Lord and Lady bless you with such courage.

Blessed Be.




Monday, May 31, 2010

The Keys to Success

One of the most profound things I realized in my Boundaries and Ethics class was that we seem to acknowledge Amissio, Loss so much more than Aquisitio, Gain. For example, consider how much time, energy and effort we invest in funeral and memorial rites to acknowledge a death and how little seem to go into a birth. Following suit, we also seem to lament failure so much more than celebrate success.

But if you take a look at anyone who has succeeded, you will see that their road to success is riddled with the potholes and flat tires of their failures. But they did not stop or turn back, they pushed forward with tenacious fortitude. Despite the numerous obstacles placed in front of them, by their adversaries, by their friends and perhaps most of all, by themselves.

Like many initiatory orders, our tradition also has its own Guardian of the Threshold. The Guardian of our Threshold is personified by the Cerberus, and each of its three heads represents a particular aspect of the initiates tribulation. And those three aspects are a direct product of the initiate himself, ergo, the path which leads into our Zotheca is amply guarded by all those who desire admittance. The only thing stopping them, is them.

The key to success, is Virtuous Labor. No one will let you in the back door. No one will do the work for you. Success is not an entitled allotment, but a bountiful harvest of the fruits of our virtuous labors and tenacious fortitude. You must do the work yourself, you must do the work ON yourself.

This past Friday I tasted the sweetness of a small piece of that fruit. I have been a volunteer Wiccan chaplain for several state facilities, for several years now. Friday I was given my own key to one of them. A small but powerful token for this initiate.

Thank you Lord and Lady for teaching me one of the keys to success, is trust.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Memorial Day

It's funny, looking back I notice that many of my posts regarding my feelings and experiences with post traumatic stress and other Iraqi aftershocks are reflected by wands.

Sometimes they stir up the sentiment and emotion, lying shallow beneath my surface, other times like this, I select them as they so adequately reflect those that have surfaced on their own.

Those are the worst ones, the ones that come of their own accord. Without warning. That's the worse part of PTSD, you don't have any warning, or control over when it happens. You never know whats going to set it off. You think you do, and you shy away from those things. And after you finally conquer the fear of those triggers, you end up tripping over new ones.

Today I took my Priestess out for Sushi, her favorite lunch and her favorite restaurant. It was our own little celebration of her college graduations before the big one tomorrow. She is the first one in her Mom's family to graduate from college so EVERYONE is coming.

We've been going there for years, we know the owner and staff quite well and my daughter even worked there for a while. We have our regular seats, and I've become comfortable there. I don't need to sit with my back to a wall, and monitor everyone's movements, although the urge is still there.

I love the Ninja roll, my usual. It's hot, spicy and messy, but I haven't changed my order in over four years. Its comforting. There is a traditional Japanese greeting that is announced by all the staff every time someone enters the restaurant, my own little warning bell. It too is comforting. I chewed slowly as I watch the man lumber in with his large bulging nylon briefcase. It seemed to cold for the beads of sweat near his ears.

His face was flushed and I remember thinking how out of shape he must be. But more than that, there was something else out of place. I couldn't place it. He excused himself to the restroom as I replayed his entry over and over, my wife's voice echoing in the background. His suit was fancy, expensive, but his watch was a cheap five dollar knockoff. And so was his briefcase.

His briefcase.

It was then that the feeling of absolute terror took me. I put my arm around my wife and hugged her tight. There is a rear exit next to the restroom. I looked at her, so happy, so excited. She was still talking but my heartbeat drowned out her beautiful voice. As I looked down at the briefcase, through my throbbing heartbeat, I swear I could hear the ticking. I remember thinking, she graduates tomorrow, one more day, one more day. I held her tighter, the light and life in her eyes has always been so calming. I told myself it wasn't a bomb, it wasn't a bomb, it wasn't a bomb...

The Sushi chef behind the bar looked at me, looked at the briefcase, looked at the back door and looked at me again. He shared my concern for only a moment before he looked up and smiled at the returning customer. Apparently, the man had a very "close call."

He wasn't the only one.

There is a whole generation of us. you see us everyday and you'd never know, the battles we fought, and how close we came to death over there. While I can recount a handful of thoughts, I cannot express in words, the feeling of almost dying so many times, since I've been home.

Memorial Day is this Monday, and what is remembered lives, remember them.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The High Priestess, a card from the Joe Tarot

They say that behind every great man is a great women, and it's true. I know because I am in fact a great man, and that's only because of the great woman beside me. My High Priestess.

I met her the day I drove into town, and we've been together ever since. We were both single parents, who divorced our previous spouses for behaviors too gruesome to mention here.

She was and is strong, independent and above all an amazing mother. When I met her I had an antique cell phone which I kept in my glove box in the rare event I needed to make a call. She sent me my first text massage ever, I didn't even know what a text message was until then. We and technology have come a long was since then, a few months ago she bought me an iphone and we still text all the time.

When we first took over management of our care home, it had a very poor history and hadn't passed a inspection in many years, despite the excessive staff. We have been running this place for over five years now, just the two of us and we haven't missed a beat.

Working at home has many benefits, after being gone overseas for so long, it was nice to send my kids off to school, and be there when they got home. Not long after we got settled in, I told her that our lifestyle afforded us unique opportunities and so did our location. We live only a few blocks from the College of the Sequoias, and it would be a waste if we didn't take advantage of the blessings of opportunity which have been afforded to us.

She always talked about wanting to go to back to school, and about how much she would have loved to study Law. I told her that if she didn't go back to school next semester she would be suck at home, while I went. The next morning when the alarm woke us up to prepare breakfast for the house full of clients and kids, she said, "it's ok baby, you were up late last night, sleep in and I'll take care of breakfast."

And she did. Then she slipped out and went down the the college and enrolled herself, and I've been stuck at home while she went to college. Well perhaps "stuck" isnt an accurate depiction, after all if it wasn't for her I wouldn't have never done everything I have accomplished. If is wasn't for her, I wouldn't be able to volunteer at the prison at all, much less a full day every week.

We were Handfasted under the mulberry tree in our backyard. Our marriage was the first ritual anyone outside our family ever saw. And that ritual induced the curiosity and interest of many people, we began holding group circles, and later founded a Coven. That Coven developed into a tradition, a prison ministry and a very successful community organization. Mill Creek Church has been meeting at a local metaphysical store several times a month for over a year now, and last weeks ritual had such a large turn out that we ran out of chairs, we been blessed with the complications of accommodating fellowship.

But our success is not just gauged by the quantity of fellows, but the quality of fellowship. And we have found both. I have asserted my status as the Low Priest (the only one you'll ever meet). And the fellowship has asserted my wife's status as the High Priestess, a title she has repeatedly denies.

But if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and talks like a duck, then obviously its a High Priestess. I've seen her grow, I've seen her overcome obstacles both personal and professional, I've seen her attend to our Coven and "congregation" with compassion, consideration and commitment befitting such a title. There are those people who can be "challenging" to deal with, and as a person, you may not want them in your home. But as a Priestess, she couldn't in good conscious deny them religious services. she said that they, more than anyone, stand to benefit most from the Craft.

Spoken like a true Priestess.

If it wasn't for her I wouldn't be who I am today, and I really like me. I like to think I have had a huge influence on her, I would love to take responsibility and credit for all that she has accomplished, but I can't because, she did it all herself. And next week we will be celebrating that at her graduation party. She will be graduating from the College of the Sequoias with her Associates in Science, which includes certificates for Paralegal, Legal Secretary and Legal Clerk.

I am so proud of her...

They say that behind every great man is a great women, and it's true. I know because I am in fact a great man, and that's only because of the great woman beside me. My High Priestess.