- Sara Willow photo © Sara Willow. All rights reserved.
Each Wave is Part of the Ocean
At thirteen, I chained myself to the steps of the Minnesota State Capitol, in protest of a drastic cut in funding for AIDS research in the state. I couldn't bear the injustice of a government who had proposed several million dollars to research just pulling that money to divert it to other, less important projects, like rebuilding a brand-new overpass in the suburbs and financing a raise for the Attorney General. This act, part of a massive "die-in," was my first radical act as a feminist. I knew, as I traveled the four hours south to St. Paul, that I was going to make a change in the world, starting with myself.
At sixteen, I attended my first public ritual, for the Autumnal Equinox of 2001. Gathered around an old stone fireplace at the edge of a lake, on the University campus, I celebrated "equal day" with 15 strangers, only two men, and all soon to become good friends. I had seen flyers around campus those few weeks of my first semester, and I knew I needed to attend. I had been practicing solitary, studying every book in the library and bookstore, for three years, but I always wanted to work with a group. It seemed that the magick would be more real, more tangible, when shared and prepared with others.
This ritual, on the shores of a lake beginning to freeze, was my first taste of feminist magick, magick which had behind it not only the wishes and desires of the self, but also the intention for peace, justice, and a safe world. Even the setting, a group of (mostly) womyn gathered in public in a poorly lit back alley on a college campus, was pushing the bounds; we truly believed we were safe, that no harm would come to us. I remember the University Security officer driving past, turning around, driving past and stopping, coming to "check us out" and make sure we weren't breaking any rules. I think it was really his own curiosity that made him stop; we had filed (I learned later) a description of the event with Security and the Administration in order to reserve the space.
In the five years since that ritual, I have participated and facilitated rituals in both private and public settings, with strangers and my adopted mothers. I have also helped to plan several years of "Take Back the Night," an evening of celebration, remembrance, and action to make the streets safe for all people. I directed a campus production of "The Vagina Monologues" for two years, donating the proceeds to domestic violence and sexual assault organizations, in order to help them continue their work. I began advocating for womyn and children at such a young age, I couldn't imagine anything else.
I did not hear the phrase "feminist spirituality" until I began reading the work of Starhawk who, through The Spiral Dance, helped me understand that the beliefs and values I held strongly social justice, equality, the rights of all were believed by hundreds, if not thousands, of witches across the world. I recognized that my actions were so much larger than myself and the small group of womyn with whom I celebrated the Holy Days. More importantly, I understood that the magick I practiced could be used to make great changes in the social and economic systems that are based on oppression and injustice.
Thus began my life as a feminist witch. I decided to practice magick only with womyn; not because I "hate" men, but because I feel safer, more able to be open, and understood by womyn. The Unitarian Universalist fellowship I joined was very committed to peace and social justice issues, and I found an outlet for my activism: protesting the war in Iraq, serving at the Soup Kitchen, and fighting an unjust government system. My spiritual base, my magickal ritual and my honoring of the Female in the cycle of the year, gave me a greater respect for the Earth and all of Her beings.
On the threshold of entering a priestess training program, with the strong support of many womyn all across the country, I am standing at Her feet, ready to serve.
Connecting to Tradition
Some days I wonder if I am the only grrl my age on this path. I find myself the youngest womyn in ritual, the youngest womyn in classes, the youngest womyn in the training program. I often feel I am a Maiden wandering in a sea of Mothers and Crones, looking up, looking around; occasionally I worry that it isn't okay that I am so young. And then a womyn comes to me, a former stranger, and tells me with tears in her eyes how much she wishes she had known what I know at this young age. I am able to comfort her by saying "But you know it now, and I know it now, and together we can change the world." My teachers tell me that, if they had concerns over my young age, they would let me know. The High Priestess told me that she began studying the Goddess at 19, and was ordained at 26. I recognize the responsibilities involved, and I am confident that I am on the path to do the most good.
In my college Feminist Theory course, we learned that a major difference between liberal and radical feminists is that liberal feminists seek to make change within the system, while radicals realize that the system itself is flawed, and therefore no true change can come from within it. True change can only start from within the self. To find myself in a religion that is entirely outside the system, and is (in fact) a threat to the system, makes me comfortable calling myself a Radical Dyke Witch. My Feminism is embraced by my Spirituality, and my Spirituality is my Feminism.