First and Second Degree 3/20/2007
I am April. I take no other name, because I was born to be who I am and there is enough power in that for me. I am fully seated in the knowledge that I am here to be a warrior woman in service of the Goddess. and it completely terrifies me!
All my life, since my earliest of memories, I have walked with one foot in the spirit realm. I had the born ability to commune with the ancestors, to commune with the creatures of nature, to commune with the spirits of those departed but unable to leave the earthly plane. Then my Mother brought the catholic priest home to pray over me and take that communion from me, imparting his own to me which I have long found unsatisfactory. I look on my life as a complete unlearning of all I was born to this life with and I rail against the social norms because of this. I know that I am here to reclaim and take back all that”¦s been taken from me and to teach others to find their warrior of reclaiming. Being a child of Fire ruled by Mars, I accept my path.
Yea, that was how I started out writing this essay. Irritating, isn”¦t it? I think we can all agree to call that ego. But, there is so much more to the story. So much, in fact, that there is no way to include it all. All those fine details that weave the rich tapestry of our lives into what is tangible. And, I have learned so much since writing those beginning words that I decided to completely rework it into something others can learn from. I say that because I now know that it is also a part of my path to be a teacher. I cannot yet see the specifics of that statement, but I feel the course has been laid in front of me now.
I started studying the Pagan path when I was 18. I had lived in a Christian girls home for a year after being incarcerated in juvenile detention for year. Those two years, I had been pumped full of the religious ideals of others. I enjoyed attending church because of the sense of community, something I had not really grown up with. Southern California lifestyle supports individualism vs. community. My family was all about that and we were always at odds with neighbors and family and never really had a strong support system. But, while I enjoyed that aspect of church attendance I could never wrap my brain around the teachings. None of it rang true and I watched church members live one way on Sunday and another way for the rest of the week. I also felt so alive on Sundays, but would come home and start to feel guilty about the life I lived. I felt that to be in conflict with my own life and the true nature of who I am was no way to live and I started seeking a spiritual life elsewhere. Long story short, I found Paganism through the Unitarian Church in California and when I moved to Denver became a member of the Denver UU church for 10 years. I was the only Pagan among them for about 8 of those years and when a lovely woman named Joan came from the Iliff School of Theology and asked me to help create a CUUPS group I was elated. That group still lives, but I have moved on in my growth process. Also during this time I was part of a women”¦s coven in which I learned the following”Khow to create beautiful rituals that have no meaning or substance, how to be toxic and to create a toxic environment among your sisters, how to backstab and work ego based magick, how to be a manipulative person who works from a place of evil”Kand that none of that is who I wanted to be or how I wanted to behave. After 6 years of fear and pain and fear”Kand did I say fear?”KI walked away and began the work of becoming the true me. It was difficult at best but I have learned so much along the way. When I find myself operating from that old place, it is easy to identify now and I work hard to update my operating system. I have spent years working with all the tools I”¦ve acquired along the way and throwing out the tools that no longer work for me. I have found that my most important tool is my mind and that all the physical tools on my altar are nothing without the power of mind. I have learned the importance of keeping my mind free and clear of confusion, of devaluing chatter, fears of the known and the unknown and out of date beliefs handed to me as legacy from family and even my magickal community. The old term ”„garbage in, garbage out”¦ is something I try to remember every day and as I go about my day I keep in check information I have acquired that does not serve me or my people. Sometimes, I feel that I create pain in those of my circle because I am constantly pointing out those things that no longer serve. I realize that I cannot tell others how to live their lives, but I can show them a different path. I know that I will refine this skill and that this will become part of my life as teacher in service to the Goddess and to the community in which I live and play.
Regarding Sacred Space
There are many beautiful and magickal ways of preparing sacred space. To do this, can be an act of reverence that can help to create, in our own minds, an environment which is fertile ground for our magickal workings. However, I have long asked the question”Kis not all space sacred? All space we work in is connected to the Mother. We are earthbound because of the laws of gravity. We are sacred souls, manifest in sacred body temples. So, is not all space that we reside in sacred? For me, if I can remember these things I find that anywhere I go can be a sacred space for magickal working. Of course, some places can absorb the negative energies of others and over a period of time can become a space less holy. In these cases, for me a simple smudging and a prayer of my intent to reclaim the space as holy is usually all that is needed. I have also found that using Reiki symbols and healing practices can work not only on people, but on places. This, I believe, is due to the fact that we are all made up of the same energy that comprises our space, our buildings, our homes and the things contained within them. As a Pagan, I find sacred space outdoors, as well as indoors. There is sacred space in parks, in restaurants, in grocery stores, in open fields, on sidewalks, on the freeway, in high rises, in churches and temples. I will share some examples of sacred space that I have been known to visit on purpose, from time to time.
Anywhere outdoors is always sacred to me”Kwell, except in the desert during summer.
Churches are very often beautiful buildings. In downtown Denver, we have the benefit of the Catholics building their own sacred space, known as the Basilica. It is located on Colfax in the midst of the hum of a large urban population and all of it”¦s many problems. Just outside of the Basilica are restaurants, liquor stores, homeless men and women, characters of all kinds peddling their wares whatever they may be and a sea of people who live and work in this area. As you approach the building you may not feel you are near holy ground, but as you enter it”¦s doors the serenity is all encompassing. While I do not, nor have I ever followed the teachings of Catholicism, I can appreciate the grand effort they have made to create sacred space in this building. I often visit there when I need to find calm and peace in my mind. To sit in that place, in the quiet, surrounded by the love of the Mother in her deity form of Mary is an awesome thing. While the crucifixion of Jesus is a hard thing to look at, it often reminds me that he was a great teacher of humankind and that his ultimate self sacrifice was given to us as a gift, a powerful reminder of our ultimate power of creation, death and rebirth.
An unexpected location of sacred space, I have found in the cash register building downtown. I know nothing of the architect”¦s who designed this building or how they conceived it or why they designed it the way they did. I can only tell you, that in my experience, that building breathes. It is alive! I happened upon this one day many years ago, when I worked downtown as a temp. I was sent to many different offices to work for short periods of time and one day I was sent from an office I was working at to make a delivery to another office”Kin the cash register building. As I arrived there, I had to pee and was looking for the bathroom. A quick inquiry and someone directed me to a corner where there is a small convenience store, a restaurant, a waterfall wall and a restroom. As I came out of the bathroom, I sat down next to the waterfall wall to get my papers in order and get a piece of gum from my purse. This strange sensation came over me that was disconcerting at first and made me want to run away. But, as I sat there and tried to tune in to what I was feeling, I realized that it was breath expanding and contracting and it wasn”¦t mine. I wondered for awhile if the area I was in was inhabited by some ghostly spirit. Because I was in a hurry, I had to depart for my errand. I made a mental note to return and explore. When I did, I had time to sit and soak up the energy. It did not take long for me to realize that it was the energy of the building itself that I was feeling, and that the building was a living, breathing entity. I have gone to that place on many occasions, when I have a hard time catching my own breath because of some issue in my life. I tune in and breathe with that place and it always reminds me that sacred space is everywhere we look for it and can be found everywhere we walk.
I have taken part in hundreds of rituals over the years and honestly, I”¦m in a place where formal ritual is not very important in my personal life. I understand and embrace the importance of ritual for group working and witnessed it”¦s ultimate power at our Women”¦s Ritual at Dragonfest. For me, in my own life, my best rituals are the ones I work in my mind, with eyes closed sitting on my bed. I do not visualize an actual ritual in my mind”¦s eye. Rather I focus deeply on that which I need or want to attain. I breathe into my belly the feeling of desire around these things and keep them focused in my third eye, my solar plexus and that space where the back of my neck meets my head and where the subconscious mind lives. It is important to feed positive energy to the conscious and subconscious mind simultaneously because this is where we all have the power to really make magick happen. My life is not perfect yet, but I am always taken care of and the Universal energy of Goddess always provides what I need. I attribute this to the work of my mind and the power of focus. I always go into this meditation ritual with a feeling of gratefulness to Goddess in me and Her wish for me to become that which I was born to be and to do. This has been my primary method of magickal working for several years now and it has produced some amazing results in my life. When I give in to self pity and bemoaning my life is when it all starts to unravel. I know that the areas of my continued suffering are of my own creation and that I must work to change pain into gratitude and joy in order to manifest my desires. I never say ”„why is this happening to me?”¦ anymore. I only say, ”„damn how did I let that happen?”¦ when something goes awry. There is great power in knowing that I am the one that creates every situation in my life. It allows me to adjust myself when things aren”¦t the way I want, and then work toward changing it into something I do want. That, to me, is the most awesome ritual of all.
As I have stated about ritual, I do not believe the tools are of much meaning without the power of my mind. I have many tools still upon my altar, but they don”¦t get much use anymore. Mostly for me, when working with tools, it is important to create an atmosphere that is conducive to the thought I am trying to manifest. I still use sage and incense and candles, mostly as a way to get my mind into a calm and clear state that allows me to be open to the messages I will receive from the Universal God/Goddess energy. I have found throughout the years, that rocks and sticks are my greatest tools. Most of the ones I have worked with over the years have found me, rather than the other way around.
I have a small woodspirit on my altar, that very literally ”„popped”¦ out of a tree at Dragonfest ”¦96 (I heard it!), flew across the road I was on barely missing my face and landed just to the right of me. I bent down to pick it up and saw this little face looking at me. Sometimes, I take that woodspirit with me as it has always embodied a feeling of protection for me in some way.
Recently, I acquired a blade of sorts, a hand polished and shaped selenite blade. When I first picked it up, I felt an immense surge of energy pulse through my hand and all throughout my body and down to my toes. I knew this was something that I wanted to work with as an energy tool, perhaps in Reiki healing. But, it had ideas of it”¦s own and for now I am using it to focus all my energies into, those regarding my wants, my hopes, my dreams, my destiny and my service. Sometimes, when I feel the need to dance to the drums at home, I use my blade during my dance. It is definitely a tool of the Warrior Goddess in me, but also one I use to connect with my Divine Feminine Creator”Kwho is the truest part of myself.
Other tools that are or are becoming of more importance to me are: My cord. I keep it present at my altar to remind me of my connection to my sisterhood and to the community in which I serve. It is an important visual reminder to me of my responsibilities to myself, my coven and my extended circle of family. My drum (the tool of the Universal heartbeat) For me this is a tool of passion. It makes one want to move and dance under it”¦s direction and I love this aspect of drumming; My guitar which I do not play at all well yet, but the sound of which has evoked in me such strong emotions over the years, that as I learn to play it I can now create these emotions on demand. I find this to be very valuable to me; And finally, my mind and my mouth. I can create or destroy with my words. I can uplift or downplay with my words. My mouth is the vehicle of the thoughts in my mind. I can, through the power of thought, create a richer life of passion, of love, of happiness, of joy, of compassion, of beauty, of peace. And through my mouth and I can pass these things on and help to activate them in others. And this is what I choose. These are my tools, though not traditional, very powerful in my life and that is what is important.
Over the years, I have done much exploring with elemental play. I can talk for days about the elements and their correspondences and how to work with them and on and on. But, I really don”¦t care to. For me it comes down to this very simple equation: We are all earth, air, fire, water and spirit. We are all made up from the energies contained in these wonderful elements we work with. We are no different from these elements as they are contained in us, and we are contained in them. Our human skin and bones contain all the amazing minerals of the earth which swim in the water of our bodies. These are fueled by our breath and ignited by our inner fire, which creates the electrical charge that propels us through the world. And spirit activates our growth, our evolution to our higher self. In working with elements now, I merely love to experience the pleasure of playing in the dirt, swimming in the water, being warmed and called by the fire, living in harmony with my breath. I remember reading once in a science and medical journal that as we breathe in particles of air, that we share those particles that were once breathed in and out by Albert Einstein, Abraham Lincoln, Shakespeare, King Arthur, Marcus Aurelius and Cleopatra and all the other living of this planet. To know that each of us shares the same particles of air, not just in this lifetime, but throughout epoch”¦s of time never fails to leave me in awe of the power of our creation. To know that we are the ones that hold this power, and that through the elements and the power of spirit we create ourselves, is an awesome knowledge. If we can do that, imagine what else we can do!
Regarding Goddess and God
I cannot speak of Goddess without speaking of God. Because, to me, they are the dual nature of the same entity which is ourselves. We, as humans, have chosen gender as a way to identify with certain aspects of our nature during our incarnations here. But ultimately, we are one with Universal energy and that energy allows us to create and re-create ourselves over and over again. We are here and many of us have been here before. We experience life in many forms and we are the Universe expressing itself through our lives. We live as man and as woman, as child, as mother, father, brother, sister. God and Goddess are the gender forms of our higher self. We manifest them in thousands of ways over this globe. We use them to remind us of who we are and who we have the potential to be. Each culture utilizes its”¦ own language and customs to call forth deity, be it male or female. These deities are the manifested archetypes of our own soul workings throughout the ages.
For me, God and Goddess speak to me on many levels. But, I am always drawn to the representations of God and Goddess of the Eastern cultures. Many of you have seen Quan Yin tattooed on my leg. She is my Mother protector. The ancient one who comes and pours the blessing waters at my feet in my deepest times of need. Having her with me, literally walking with me everyday, has been a profound experience of learning and remembering to Mother and protect myself in the dark times. Visual representations of the Buddha are not always appealing to me, but reading the teachings of the ancient Bodisatva I always find compelling. His teachings of love and grace and forgiveness are always speaking to me. The Buddhist methods of stilling the mind are some of the greatest teachings, I feel, and have been a saving grace when the insanity of the world settles into my brain matter. Kali is the Hindu version of Quan Yin. The dark mother aspect. Fierce protector of her children. Both of these Supreme Mother”¦s will slay the enemy to save her children. While the visual representations are a bit different”Kactually Kali can be quite terrifying, while Quan Yin appears to be so beautiful and serene”Kthey are both warrior Goddesses and that vision appeals to me deeply. In contrast, the Japanese Shinto Goddess Amaterasu is the guardian of all people. She is also the ruler of all other deities”Ka very powerful Goddess! One of her tasks is to weave robes for all the Gods and she rules over the harvest, family, fertility, hearth and home, wisdom, peace, compassion and light. I love her for her beneficent qualities. Her male counterpart is Hotei He is the God of happiness and laughter. He is filled with the wisdom of being content. He is visually represented as a jolly fat man (think Santa Claus). He is often seen carrying a linen bag full of precious things, including children. He protects the weak and small, especially children. I love the idea of a Japanese Santa god to save the children from the often grim realities of life, through his gifts, which bring happiness, laughter and contentedness.
These are just some of the deities that I call upon when times get tough. But, I always know that their gifts cannot be found outside of me unless I can find them within first. Also, because of my pull toward the Gods and Goddesses of eastern mythologies, I never considered myself Wicca. A witch, yes, but not of Wiccan leanings. I have studied and used the God and Goddess representations of the Hindu, Vodoun, Yoruba, Vedic and Buddhist traditions throughout my life. I can always find a humbling lesson in their stories, sometimes and especially when I”¦m not looking to be humbled.
My beliefs have truly evolved and changed shape, quite drastically, over the years. I have learned that every time I develop a hard and fast belief about something, a piece of information is put in front of me to challenge my belief. When I was young, it was difficult to come to terms that I may have come to believe something that was not true or that was flawed in it”¦s argument. The older I get, the more I realize how important it is to be flexible and open to learning a new way, or a new idea. It was, after all, only about 400 years ago that we believed the earth was flat and the center of the Universe.
I believe, that as a Witch, I have taken a vow to a sacred way of the wise and to be wise, one must remain open. I do not always like my belief system challenged. I am hard headed and stubborn and that is just the way I like it! I plan to die a crabby, opinionated, old woman (with a bottle of red wine in my front of me) who earned her opinions through study and devotion to the path. I have long felt the call to Service, without a place to focus that call. I now feel that through continuance of my studies and the forward motion of Service, I can share what I have learned in teaching and in healing light. I am now committed to giving back to my community through Reiki practice, through healthful living, through peaceful practices and commitment to acts of kindness. I realize that we do not live in an always kind world. I also realize that I am no Mother Teresa. I know that the Warrior Priestess that lives in me needs outlets for her energy. Through meditation and perhaps some sword dancing, I can find that balance of dark and light that lives in me. And, I pray there be some wisdom in me when I go! So be it!