Shit that moves us

Laverne Cox as lady Liberty

Trans Inclusivity in Wicca

Fun fact about us traditional Wiccans: we LOVE to argue. We specifically love to get all up in arms whenever a very tiny minority of vocal maroons (that’s the moron spelling of moron), and those trained in a vacuum by them, attempt to tell us what we can and cannot do within the pale of the tradition. Most of their stone-aged arguments tend to fall into the “but that’s never been done before” category, which is immediately equated with “you’re changing the tradition to suit what you want when you should be growing to suit the tradition” adage. What they frequently don’t take into account is that Wicca is a growing, thriving religion full of innovation, much in the spirit of how Gerald Gardner practiced. They also tend to forget that as we grow, we learn, and we take our new knowledge to our practice of witchcraft, and lo and behold, we propel ourselves forward along with the Mysteries, without losing anything other than old, annoying exclusionists (even if they are really fun to keep around because they piss off everyone else and it’s kind of hilarious watching opposing factions freak out about each other).

This lovely Wiccan dichotomy, which is unsurprisingly tilted way left forever because duh, this is witchcraft and its all about liberty and freedom and autonomy and being free from slavery, is never better witnessed than when it comes to gender. Our Gods are gendered. Our rites are gendered. Or sexed. Or something that has to do with holy shit everyone’s naked, who’s doing what? And since the advent of the age of trans awareness,™ the definition of gender and its distinction from physical sex has launched a frequently Jerry Springer-style conversation across all of neopaganism.

While it’s fun to watch idiots like Z Budapest continue to dig themselves deeper holes on the wrong side of history, in a stark reversal from the empowerment of marginalized populations they once preached and now fight against when applied to anyone who isn’t them in the most holy-shit-she’s-finally-turned-into-an-actual-threatened-heterosexual-white-man manner ever, what happens in the closed ranks of the traditional Wicca isn’t always as apparent. Until our Gardnerian brohab Benny wrote this awesome blog article about it.  Go read it. Go learn something. We’ll be having a cocktail off to the side and going by the traditional Wiccan names Waldorf and Statler.

P.S. Run-on sentences are awesome. Deal with it.

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Gather Round

One of the best part of being an initiate of Gardnerian witchcraft is, by far, the community. It’s probably the second best aspect of the craft, just behind the connection to our Gods and all that that brings to us. Gardnerians are the primal, fundamental party pagans who know how to throw a rocking good time and also ensure that the vehicle for the Gods is well-oiled, running, and ready to facilitate their worship and service. A coven is only as good as its members, and a tradition is also only as good as its members. That’s why Gardnerian gatherings are such a totally tits thing. We have the best scotch, the best jello shots, the best fire dancing, and the best ecstatic communion with the divine (and with each other).

Gardnerian gatherings are different than pagan festivals that are open to the public because you know that everyone there, everyone at the ritual, has been brought to the doorstep of Mystery and had the opportunity to cross through it. You know that everyone there has the keys imprinted within them, and that the possibility to work Wiccan magic exists within each of them. You also know through virtue of their attendance there that they have the drive to connect to other priests, other witches, in a fundamental way that helps us to better know each other, our gods, and ourselves in the process. Basically, Gardnerian witch camp is the best thing ever, and there’s one coming to the West Coast for Lammas. So if you’re a Gardnerian initiate of any stripe, be sure to check it out. It’s guaranteed to be a rip-roaring good time.

Also, the HPS who runs it is a HOOT. ❤

-A Gardnerian

Pantheacon

P is for Pantheacon. And Puking.

It’s that time of year again. Mid February is a magical mini-season where people everywhere in America use the barbaric murder of a Catholic saint as an excuse to buy red crap and spend money on food. It’s also that time when Pantheacon happens and then every pagan with a keyboard (which is every pagan) starts bragging blogging about how they went to P-Con and how awesome it was. And it is. We’re getting the jump on all of them because there’s one night left and our liver is currently hiding under the blanket in bed at 6PM.

Pantheacon is an ancient word that translates roughly into English from its original Greek as “open bar.” Everywhere you go here, people are tying one on, and the majority of the hospitality suites on the 9th floor are basically an excuse to flout liquor laws and prove how bad ass your group/tradition/friends are. Having it occur during Valentine’s day this year puts it roughly on par with St. Patrick’s day, because holy mother of Gods, we are hungover.

Pantheacon is also a liminal place like a Mexican border town. There’s seemingly limitless alcohol everywhere, every conversation sounds like another language, and people are constantly disappearing. Missing phone calls while one is out at a bar is normal, but when we wake up in this DoubeTree every morning after never leaving it, we see roughly 23 unread text messages and 17 missed calls, all of which involve the most Pantheacon-esque saying: “Where are you?”

This conference is also rife with the Northern California spirit of faction fighting and social justice warrioring. People here are offended by everything, and it even has it’s own Godwin’s law. Godwin’s Law usually proves that the longer an online debate occurs, the higher the likelihood that someone will mention Nazis or Hitler, except that here, all conversations turn to privilege. The first night we arrived, Pantheacon magic happened and we suddenly found ourselves sitting at a table in a casino across the street (because paganism) populated entirely by white people who were discussing race. It was harrowing and absurd and there weren’t enough Jameson and ginger ales in the world to erase those rough 25 minutes, but at least the food was good. Now, most of America is used to being all white and shit, but we’re from L.A, so the second we realize there is no one around of any noticeable Mexican descent, it starts to feel like the Village of the Damned and we get seriously unnerved.

Pantheacon is also a brilliant adult playground. This hotel turns into the Las Vegas of paganism, and nothing that happens in Vegas is usually healthy. Just like in Vegas, extremes come together and interact in stunning and hilarious ways. We were sitting at the Green Fairy party on whatever blurry night that was, which is basically just a giant drinking game featuring absinthe, and watched a man walk up to woman after woman and completely and surprisingly violate their space by brushing his hand down their backs while simultaneously standing next to guys sporting “Ask first” ribbons promoting consent within hug-culture. We sat at Chipotle this morning trying to eat our hangover feelings while listening to one of our straight best friends describe in hilarious detail how she was the object of affection from a relentlessly persistent lesbian the night before, and literally mid-sentence, a totally random stranger sitting at the table next to us leaned over and said, “I’m surprised you’re even upright after all of the whiskey I saw you imbibe at that party last night. I’m impressed.” Pantheacon is magic, and booze fuels it all.

Another notable occurrence occurred when the east coast met the left coast and we saw Thorn Mooney sitting on the floor making a Youtube video with her phone. While we already knew that we would be immediate besties, what was not as obvious at first was how exponentially hilarious she gets when you add whiskey to whatever she’s drinking. She literally took us by the hand and lead us over to an artist drawing caricatures and had him paint us as the cover of Silver Ravenwolf’s Teen Witch. We died. Dead. We couldn’t even keep a straight face in the damned drawing because we were trying not to pee our pants. Photographic proof of Thorn Mooney’s LEGIT Wiccan street cred featured below.

teen witch

Also, this needs to be said to everyone who can read: Thorn Mooney walked me into a wall last night and I had no idea until everyone was laughing about it this morning. SHE WALKED ME INTO A WALL. Fine, I may have accidentally flung her drink across the room and onto another wall, but that is no excuse for the blonde leading the drunker blond through the second degree mysteries of her aforementioned violated alcohol. Touche, woman. Touche.

Pantheacon truly has something for everyone. Apparently there are official classes and workshops all day, but we don’t think we’ve attended one in years. People love them though. Shit is so obscure here that a friend of mine was denied entry into a class about Baba Yaga due to maximum capacity being reached. Who knew? The only thing this convention is missing is a medical suite called the Hydration Station offering IVs in the morning. Whoever pulls that off will make a killing.

One night left, and our hangover is beginning to fade. Pray for us. Pray for us all.

BB,

-A Gardnerian

 

 

It’s Transformative

I was initiated into the Gardnerian Third Degree last night* and since then I’ve had trouble sleeping.  In a lot of ways my restlessness reminds me of Christmas Eve when I was a child.  Back then I’d lay in bed for hours, fitfully turning and tossing, trying so damned hard to go to sleep . . . . . and while I’m sure I slept a little bit, I mostly failed.  I was so excited back then to get to the presents and and the familyness of it all that I worked myself up far past the realms of sleep.

My mind is wondering why I didn’t feel that way before the elevation.  That should have been the excitement; a new ritual, a new title, a new closeness with the gods, but I slept just fine the night before.  Not sleeping post-ritual could have been due to adrenaline (ritual gets me fired up), but I think it’s something more than that.

Take me away o Horned One!

Take me away o Horned One!

When people ask me why I’m a Gardnerian there are many answers that come to mind, but the one I use the most is “that it works.”  In our circles power is raised, worlds are transformed, and we get to touch that divine something out there, that feeling most mortals only dream and wonder about.  So yes, what we do in our rites works, but in the case of elevations and initiations there’s another force at play.

About a month after being initiated I was out walking with my wife and magical partner when she stopped for a second and turned to look at me.  “Does everything look different to you now?” she said, her eyes wide and her tone serious.  I probably gave her a quizzical glance, but then she continued.  “I mean after initiation, it’s like looking at the world in color for the first time after living a lifetime in black and white.”

I nodded and agreed, everything had changed.  The world did look different, and it felt differently too.  For the first time I could really “see” the forces that move the world operating around me.  It sounds so hokey sometimes and it’s hard to put the differences into words, but I remember looking at a tree after my wife stopped me that evening.  It was a tree I had probably passed at least a hundred times before, but this time it wasn’t just a tree.  It was this living thing radiating power, energy, and its place in the world.

Many years were spent as a first degree Witch, and many of those years I felt like a failure.  I knew I had just unlocked something within and without but I had a hard time putting it into practice.  In eclectic Pagan circles I was confident and sure-footed during ritual, as a first degree I felt like a bumbling idiot.  There were practices my wife quickly adjusted to while I stood in the circle with two left-feet.  It was humbling and a little bit humiliating (at least internally), but my HPS and HP never made me feel that way.

Elevation to second degree didn’t unlock immediate mysteries, but it too changed everything.  Over the next few months “my Gard” began to truly click.  Perhaps just being thought worthy of elevation removed some of the self-doubt, but I think my new sense self confidence came from the ritual its self.  Doors were unlocked and new rooms were revealed.  I suddenly felt “not stupid” when discussing the Craft, and I could feel this new power building inside of me.

It’s too early to tell exactly what last night’s/this morning’s elevation will bring, but I know I already feel changed.  I experienced and felt things in circle that I had never felt or experienced before.  I could feel the power of the gods in our rite and could feel them moving through my HP and HPS and now my “other” HPS.  But it also feels like I’m at the start of a journey, but a journey I feel well prepared for.

I wrote at the beginning “that it works” when it comes to Gardnerian Craft, but there’s another thing I’ve been alluding to:  it’s transformative.**  I’ve been a part of things that work before, but I’ve never been a part of something that truly changed who am I and how I see the world until becoming a Gardnerian.  I feel as if I’ve met deity long before beginning the Gardnerian Path, and certainly adopting the moniker of “Pagan” was a life change, but those things felt more like acknowledgements of things I already knew to be true.  The “Pagan Path” appealed to me because deep down I had always believed that way.  It was an acknowledgement of who I was, not a sudden revelation.

My initiations and elevations changed me; they altered how I look at and interact with the world.  My soul often stirs, but rarely does it move.  “Because it works” is a fine and easy answer and doesn’t require a lot of explanation, but it’s transformative better reflects my reality in the Craft.  I rarely give that answer though because it takes too long to explain, and to be honest, some people don’t deserve that much detail anyway.

To my initiators and those who have walked this journey with my partner and I, you have our undying thanks and love.  To those of you in our extended family, you’ve helped out in ways you don’t even realize.  To my partner, love does not begin to express the bond between us.

~Gardnerian V~

*Technically it was this morning, but who is keeping score?  Oh yeah, we are.

**Or as one of my colleagues and family members here might right “it’s fucking transformative!”

Gardnerian Wicca is Good

Sometimes in life, things move us. Sometimes it’s a bolt of inspiration that allows us to narrow in on something that we find to be important. Sometimes it’s the identification of a pattern or meaningful coincidence that we come across. Both of these things are common occurrences when it comes to modern religious witchcraft. Today’s blog was inspired by our dear sister Thorn Mooney’s (pictured above) most recent post to her Oath Bound blog on Patheos.com, “What Good is Gardnerian Wicca.” (Why it’s called Oath Bound, we have no idea, but she knows what’s up and what’s secret, so she has as much right to the term as any one of us, if not more for smooshing it in the public’s face. Go, sister, go.)

We’re about halfway through her most recent post, and about halfway through 6 or 8 whiskeys, and you know what, we think we’ve been forced to think. Brava, Thorn. Brava. The conflict within, between whether to write as the spirit moves us or whether to finish reading so we can make informed commentary tears us asunder.

Ok, we chose to finish reading, because reason.

Something that Thorn and we have in common (and she whoops our ass at it) is that we both have degrees in Religious Studies. We have a BA in it, but this witch has an MA. That means she sunk a lot more time, thought, and money into the pursuit, and we do not envy her student loans. This is a priestess who went for it, because she was called to it, and her writings have left us with spiritual truth bomb after spiritual truth bomb as a result. For this, we are grateful as fuck. (We’re also grateful as fuck for this issue of The Burning Times that her coven sent us. I mean, Lies For Dead Seahorses has needed to be shared for decades, obviously. Hit her up. Beg her to send you a copy. It’s solid gold.)

Her candor in the written medium is flawless. Witness the sentence “I don’t even have words for how boring these conversations were,” in regards to her description of the debates between atheists and protestants in her graduate student courses. Another straight up truth bomb is, “If there’s anything I’ve learned through studying religion, it’s the futility of pretending that it’s a definable thing with neat boundaries that make sense to everyone involved.”

She’s flawless in describing to the rest of us how her (our) Gardnerian Wicca doesn’t tell her how to vote, how to think, how to spend her money or fight injustice. She affirms quite clearly that we don’t have a central hierarchy, and she highlights that many conversations at the masters level of education in regards to religion don’t even apply to her (us). She is a light in the darkness of the Judeo-Christian constructed process of studying religion. Encountering Hinduism and Buddhism caused religious scholars to eventually think outside of their shells, but encountering Wicca has mostly led them to deconstruct Wicca in a Judeo-Christian framework, highlighting the similarities and (mostly) differences.

We don’t wish to presume, by reading her blog posts on Patheos.com, what Wicca has given her. But we do feel confident repeating what she says on its behalf; it “made her feel like she had some impact on her own life. It gave her some sense of agency she hadn’t had before.” It empowered her, and caused her to find a sense of empowerment, making her feel more effective over her own life. That personal power, that is the effect of witchcraft. Witchcraft is empowering, which is why is has been so villified by established western religious authority for centuries.

One of the biggest and best things that Thorn Mooney writes about on her blog at Patheos.com is that Gardnerian Witchcraft has given her a sense of family, and we echo this sentiment strongly. When you are initiated into a coven, you are essentially presented with siblings in the Craft. At first, they are usually the men and women who have also seeked, worked, and successfully pursued initiation under the same High Priest and Priestess as yourself. They become your siblings in a way that defies words, because they are not related to you, but they have the same deep understanding of the Mysteries that you do, presented in the same way by the same people, and because this is one of the most defining experiences of your life, you grok them, and they you, in a way that can only be described as kin.

Fuck the royal we for a minute. I’m a Gardnerian. I’m a member of one of the most reclusive witchcraft traditions and Wiccan traditions in existence, and all I can say about my tradition is that it is family. It is finding my, our way back home. My coven is my family, in addition to my kin who I was born into, who love me unconditionally. The level of love and trust inherent in a truly functional Wiccan coven is bar-none. As Thorn says in her blog, we, collectively as a coven, are bigger than any one person’s practice. It is as much beautiful as it is sublime. We rein each other in as much as we lift each other up and soar with each other through the ethos of life and that which we experience beyond. We become co-creators of our shared realities and recognize the divine within ourselves and each other without the need for yoga mats, yoga pants (or any pants, really), or an excessive amount of blissed-out new agey platitudes.

One of the most spectacular things about the traditional Wicca movement is that we have a shared liturgy. Many pagans might scoff at the idea of liturgy in a witchcraft movement, but when it comes to the study of ritual, it has been found time and time again that the repetition of certain actions, certain affirmations, certain observances and practices, has assisted and, in fact, enhanced the state of mind in regards to those practices. We train ourselves through repetition, and in so doing, we form the launch pad for the witchcraft and the religious experiences of ecstasy, communion, and enlightenment that we strive for. When the very basic circle structure and casting, the calling of the quarters, the invocation of the Gods, and the forming of the traditional Wiccan circle become something we can do with our eyes closed, we prepare our minds for true transcendence, because at that point, our rites are primed to transcend our normal senses and ways of thinking. The traditional Wiccan practice does not restrict: it sets the stage for a show that is ineffable, an experience that is transcendent, and a practice that unites us with our gods in a way that words fail to describe.

I, err…. We are grateful to Thorn for sharing so much of her experience with us, and we look forward to reading so very much more from her in the future. And to Jason Mankey, who writes his own blog, Raise the Horns, (and possibly edits Thorn’s?), we offer our thanks, not just for years of beautiful community ritual, but for bringing to us yet another modern voice that reflects the truly visceral experience of Gardnerian witchcraft. We treasure it, and just because she’s not *really* on Facebook doesn’t mean we value it any less. *CoughCoughHintHintAFanPageIsCrapGetARealOneAlreadyCoughCough*