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Remembering My Mothertongue

I was initiated as a witch on Candlemas 1976 when I was 28 years old. In my two-room apartment in Boston, with my five-year-old son bearing witness, my whole women's circle initiated itself as a coven that night. We had been meeting on full moons since the previous spring when the first national women's spirituality conference, Through the Looking Glass, galvanized us to drum together. Drumming was our way in, our trance induction method of choice. In the fall, musician and priestess Kay Gardener visited our circle, named us witches, and planted the seed. We bought the books she recommended, taught ourselves the Craft rudiments, and planned our Candlemas ritual.

I called myself a Dykewitch and took a witch's name. I began to live my life in accord with seasonal ceremony, and I learned to make words DO what they say. I devoted myself to the pleasure principle embodied in the Charge of the Goddess: "All acts of love and pleasure are my rituals." As a lesbian feminist poet I was already coming to understand that my body was the truth by which to measure my world. Wicca confirmed incarnation and all the sensory world as treasure! Being a witch felt like belonging to Gaia and remembering Her Mothertongue.

I studied and then taught Womancraft, a psychic skills class that was a feminist amalgam of Jane Roberts' work, Silva Mind Control, Jean Houston's Mind Games, and some brilliant affirmations by local feminists. Then I became part of an ongoing Spiral, an open and nonhierarchical women's circle based on spontaneous rituals, structured only by casting the circle / calling the directions at the start and grounding the energy / opening the circle at the end. We made the container more or less the same each time, but how energy was raised within and for what purpose depended on the needs of those who participated. I brought this form of the Craft with me to the country, where I lived on a farm for a decade and hosted periodic rituals. Over many years and many moves, I found or created circles where I could, and where I couldn't, practiced solo.

There are other parts of my life closely linked to my being a witch. Along the way I became a healer, practicing bodywork with guided relaxation. Healing is one of the strands of my life I can't unravel from being a witch. And when I studied and practiced shamanism, I combined it with the Craft in my eclectic fashion, doing trance journeys and calling upon power animals in the circle.

My eco-feminist politics is connected with witchcraft as well. Though I don't often think of myself as a witch these days, I think the transformation demanded of our species at this time requires that I behave like one. Environmental abuse rips whole species away from the embrace of Gaia the living Earth. Sexual abuse of the women and children of our own species rips away parts of ourselves. At the twilight of patriarchy, we all sense Life at stake.

Yet our fears of being called angry women are still visceral, since witch-burning went on for 400 years and only stopped 300 years ago. I think we're called to rise up from those fears with the power of love. Being an empowered woman seems to me to be the generic form of being a witch.

In past epochs, oneness with the world was so natural it didn't have to be conscious. Today our sense of oneness is a deliberate return. Science acknowledges that there are no closed systems, no rim that separates realities, finally agreeing with the visions of ancient priestesses and poets. And today, we have the technology to actualize that primordial spiritual vision of a world family.

I have also learned from Buddhist activists like Joanna Macy and Thich Nhat Hanh much about dis-spelling negativity, prime Craft lessons for our times. Alanon structures my spirituality these days, too. She, the Goddess of my understanding, is everywhere. She was Kuan Yin when I needed to learn compassion and she is Kali now as she teaches me how to destroy patterns that no longer serve.

Today my life looks less communal than when I was a young mother. I spend more time nurturing my personal growth than working politically to save the planet. The deep joy for me is that saving the planet and nurturing my personal growth are no longer separate poles. They have aligned into a single focus. I understand feminism's mantra, the personal is the political, with fresh perspective.

I'm in Earth School to master a demanding and progressive curriculum: my purpose is the practice of love and forgiveness; my work is embracing what's here. Nowadays I find that almost any spiritual practice, worked deep enough, can help take me in the direction I want to go. In life as in poetry, the deeper I go into the subjective, the more I arrive at the universal.

Dianic Wicca is a heritage that has made me who I am, in sweet convergence with other streams in my life. My pagan love for the dear material world deepens as I age. My cherishing of ceremony continues. My need to remain in rhythm with the natural cycles and seasons is stronger than ever. Wicca reminds me that I belong on this planet at this time, and I must contribute my gifts. Whether I celebrate life in a coven or in a party of one, I am grateful to be a witch, a devotee of the Great Mother, a daughter of Earth.

Graphics Credits

  • full moon, digital collage by Sage Starwalker (original images courtesy of Dania Lolah (Venus) and alex seto (full moon). All rights reserved.
  • Kali, photo courtesy of Kabir Bakie.
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