First Degree Goddess Initiation Essay
Mab of the old Ways 6/27/09

I was one of those who had a life changing moment. A place in time where I can say "Goddess claimed me". She showed me She has always been with me, and always will be. I was one of those who had to be taken the lowest point of my life to see Her. This is me.

I was raised the granddaughter of a Baptist minister and the daughter of a Sunday school teacher. I was raised that anyone professing "magical powers" was demon possessed. I was raised that God wasn't male or female, but that He couldn't be a woman. I was raised with the power to sense when things would happen. My mother had this same gift, though she fought it. My father kidded us & teasingly called us "witches". Funny he should know something we didn't.

I spent most of my life afraid of my gift. I spent most of my life questioning my faith, and then afraid of that. I never understood why my mother and my aunt would get so emotional over The Lord's Supper or over prayers at church telling us how we weren't worthy of Christ's sacrifice. My aunt once told me it was because I just didn't understand the magnitude of the act. I spent most of my life feeling as though I didn't fit in, and as if I must work my hardest to make everyone else happy. I had everyone telling me who I was & how I was. I never got a chance to find out myself.

Until I got married. There were a lot of secrets and things just didn't work out. I made the horrible mistake of confiding in a friend who turned out to be much more. I fell in love with someone else. I was miserable in my marriage, and so was he. We found ourselves commiserating a lot, and found ourselves falling for each other. I tried working on my marriage, but I seemed to be doing it alone, without my husband meeting me halfway. We separated, and I bounced for a bit between roommates. My friend tried working on his marriage, with similar results. Only, he had a new baby-a new tie to his wife. He didn't have the strength to leave his marriage or to cut ties with me. In the years that followed, I spent a great deal of time hurting, crying, and praying to God to help me. The pain was so much that I couldn't manage it. I couldn't make it stop. I couldn't dull it. I couldn't accept the situation I was in. I couldn't find the strength to change it. I seemed to be trapped, and God seemed to have deserted me.

It was at this lowest point that I was "claimed". I lay on my bed alternately crying and sleeping from a combination of emotional exhaustion and nighttime painkillers. "You're worthless. Why don't you just give up? No one will ever love you. Your own mother told you you'd never mean anything to a man. Why are you even here?" On and on the voice in my head went. Finally, I simply couldn't take anymore. When I felt as though the voice was right and I should just be done with this life, I whimpered out into the darkness "help me". I felt a sudden quiet and stillness inside me. I saw myself filled with shimmering white light. I felt arms around me, cradling me. I heard a soft, compassion filled, feminine voice speak to me. "My child. My poor child. I am here. Let me hold you. It will be alright." I felt comforted and loved. I believed it would be alright. I had begun reading books on witchcraft several months before - my first tiptoeing into forbidden studies. I knew instantly that this woman holding me & speaking to me was Goddess. I remember that I called her Mother…Great Mother…and that she comforted me and made me strong enough to get up & try again. I fought and scratched. I fell. I climbed back up. I found Her in The Morrigan, and found strength & courage to take care of myself and protect and defend me & mine. I began to read more books on the Craft. I set up a small altar in my bedroom. I began casting spells and learning to read tarot. I meditated, grounded, and centered every night. I changed jobs and found Goddess had a witch waiting to help me. Phoenix Blackfox took me to my first metaphysical store. She took me to a Wicca Basics class. She shared Goddess with me. She shared magick with me. She stood by me when the darkness fell again, and she shone Goddess' light around me.

This is how I met Goddess. This is what I strive to be for others. To be a priestess of the Divine is to be a beacon of light for those in darkness, to be the compassion and care of Great Mother.

The Elements
Earth: I have always begun all workings in the North. I cannot say why. East has never felt particularly comfortable for me. So, I begin with earth. Perhaps it is because we are born of earth and return to earth. Perhaps it is because earth is the bones of our ancestors and our history. Perhaps it is because earth is stability and constancy to me. It is the dirt of our creation and from which comes our sustenance. It is the lands of our foremothers. It ties us to all.

Air: I am a Gemini sun. I am flighty & easily distracted. I am intellectual. I am air. The music that floats on it. The creativity of the mind. The colors of the rainbow. The rosy potential of a new day. Air is soaring on strong wings, to lift the mind to see all possibilities. Air is the power of the voice to speak, sing, rant, YELL my truth.

Fire: I have been forged in fire and come out stronger. Transformation is an often painful thing. Fire is helpful. Fire is destructive. It comforts, it feeds. It is passion and lust for life. It is the spark of divinity in us all. It motivates us to move and take action. It holds us entranced, gazing into its glow.

Water: The dreaminess of emotions, water is most difficult for me to control. It is the intuition that I have learned not to ignore. It is the soft rain that washes the world new. It is the flood that wipes the slate clean for new growth.

Deity - Spirit - for me is neither god nor goddess. It is both. This is how my Christian family taught me. Spirit is All - the beginning and ending and everything in between. Gods, goddesses - they are simply names & aspects of the Whole. I access the Divine Feminine because this is what I relate to, and what I feel can best relate to me. This view makes it difficult for me to deal with extreme religious views, but it also allows me the freedom to tolerate others' paths without judgment.

Preparing Sacred Space
Preparing Sacred Space, for me, is less about the physical preparation as it is about the mental preparation. In my own practice, I usually skip sweeping & simply smudge the area with smoldering herbs (usually sage). I begin in the north and work widdershins until I have made a complete circle. Then, I smudge myself. I generally use my hand to project the energy out to cast my circle. I envision a blue/white light projecting from my palm out into a point in space. I see it simple as a line, usually about shoulder height. Again, I begin in the north & work deosil around the circle, drawing a pentacle at each quarter. Once I have returned to the north, I envision my circle extending like a bubble above & below me. I then draw a pentacle above my head & on the floor below me. "The circle is sealed. I am between the worlds, outside space and time. What work I do here affects all the worlds." My Sacred Space is ready for inviting others in and for my work.

My pentacle is a simple thing hanging in the window of my bedroom. I made it of the interior of a wooden embroidery hoop and elemental colored ribbons. I do not use it as a symbol of earth on my altar. Rather, I keep it in the window where I can see the sun on its brightly colored ribbons. It reminds me of the joy of life, when things are difficult. It reminds me of the constancy and stability of Spirit that is hidden in the rush & hurry of day-to-day. It is one of my favorite tools.

As most of my tools did, my wand came to me when I thought wands were a silly frivolity-not used by witches of my kind. However, as usual, I was proven wrong. There were many trees lining the drive outside of an apartment I lived in for a few years as I was "discovering" myself. One day, as I walked my dog, I saw this little evergreen limb lying on the walk in front of me. I rather absently picked it up & found it fit very neatly into my hand, curved perfectly to nestle in my palm & long enough that I found myself fiddling with it like a conductor's wand. The light bulb went off & I thought "This will make a nice wand." So, I took the little limb home, wrapped it in a weave of white ribbon I had lying around, and glued a small quartz to each end. As it is made of one of wood, and one of the smaller limbs found near the top of the tree, I associate it with the element of air. Simply holding it brings to me the feeling of wind blowing through me and the feel of being lifted on powerful wings. I must admit, I do not frequently use it, but I do love the feel of it in my hand. I am sure that someday, when I am ready, it will be a powerful tool I use often.

My athame is a double/split blade, black handled, with entwined dragons on the hilt. My Gemini sun found this oddly appropriate for me. It's one of the tools I actually bought from a vendor (I prefer to make my tools if possible). I use it frequently for cutting bits of twine/string for spells, for stirring incense, setting protective energy pentacles, and in spells for separation. With a steel blade, I find it more intoned to the element of fire-forged hard in flame. My athame seems to have a rather masculine energy to it, but I believe that is the protection/warrior aspect coming out.

I have a simple chalice. A clear, rounded wineglass I picked up off the bargain shelf. The stem is wrapped in wicker. I was looking for something simple and natural. Traditionally, the chalice is the symbol for the sacred feminine. I find this to be true in my practice, as well-the chalice as the container of the waters of life. I rarely drink from it, myself. Usually I use it to hold my water & salt for cleansing, or to make an offering to Goddess (some wine or juice, usually).

I had never heard of having a cord as a tool before joining Coven of the Goddess. I had read and heard about knot magick and witches' ladders, but never a cord to wear and use outside of a single spell. Oddly enough, I now have two cords: one that ties me to my coven sisters, with whom I chanted and wove my cord; and one that carries my energy alone. There's a long history of cords used in religious garb in many cultures, so it doesn't surprise me the energy and power a simple length of yarn can carry. I am only now getting familiar with my cord and building the power and relationship with it, but I am finding myself drawn to touch it & handle it lovingly each day. I look forward to building the strength in those 3 pieces of yarn braided together, and appreciate the way they tie me to the Old Ways.

I do not have a robe, per se. I have several "witchy" outfits & things that I wear to alter my mindset. I believe that robes are only necessary if they help me to step outside of the mundane-to signal to my brain that I am bringing my inner priestess &/or witch out to play & work. Many times I do my crafting and meditation in whatever I am wearing at the time-be it jeans, or pajamas. I enjoy my witchy clothes because they bring out the dramatic in me & allow me to step into a role I don't usually get to enjoy so openly.

My cauldron is simple & small-just big enough to hold a pillar candle or a bit of sand & incense. It is the most used of my tools. A tool of earth, it serves as a container for burning, for burying, for returning to Mother. Its black iron reminds me of the darkness of returning to the earth, & the darkness from which we come. All things are held in this cradle, and so it is I associate my cauldron with the element of earth. It also is a link, for me, to the Old Girls of the past-those ancestors who boiled laundry, cooked dinner, and made medicines in larger versions of my simple little pot. I am reminded that many Early Americans, and many wandering Europeans carried little with them except clothes, a few food provisions, and a cast iron pot. With a simple bit of cookware, we can work wonders.

I do not have a censer. I do not find one necessary in my work. Usually I use my loose incense and herbs with charcoal in my cauldron.

I have a small, silver bell with a triple goddess moon symbol etched on it. It has a happy little home in my curio in my living room. Its bright tone energizes me, lifts me up when I am down, and clears away heavy, negative energies. I also have a small jingle bell tied to my front door to ward off negative spirits & energies. I love my little bell for the happiness and brightness it brings, & for how quickly it dispels stale energy & creepies.

I love my besom. I really do. It truly reminds me of the simplicity & functionality of witchcraft, & how easily magick and Goddess can fit into my life everyday. It clears away the cobwebs of daily life. Sweep widdershins, and prepare for making sacred space. Clear out the old & make room for the new. Fertility rituals, household luck-and a darned good way to get the kids to help me clean! It is one of the simplest ties to every ancestor-particularly the matriarchs of clan and family. It is a most basic tool, both practical and magickal, that every woman learns to use.

My new sword is my pride and joy. It is not an ancient one, not handed down by anyone. But it was a gift from my husband, and he put great thought into it, so it is of great value to me. It is fashioned in the Irish style, with the hilt & handle made in the form of a human. It is a power tool for me, to cut circle, to remind me of my warrior spirit, to remind me of my power to defend what it mine. When I hold it, I feel all the power & courage of all the old Celtic warrior women and queens coursing through me, and I am one with them.

I have not yet found a boline that suits me. One day I hope to have one to use strictly for harvesting herbs. Until such time as I find one, I will continue to use whatever I have handy (athame/kitchen knife/scissors).

I do not have a staff. I have found myself fascinated by the idea of having a beautiful stang as a mobile altar, and have found many beautiful pre-made staves. Unfortunately, none of them have called to me. Perhaps one day.

I do not understand the purpose of a scourge. It seems to me more befitting of old Christian monks & zealots-the idea of cleansing and purifying the sinful flesh by way of pain. I do not intend to ever own one. I do not believe God, Goddess, or even Christ himself to have intended for us to punish ourselves for instinct or mistakes. After all, even in my Christian upbringing I was taught Christ paid for our sins/mistakes/etc. so that we wouldn't have to.

The Four Pillars
I am a work in progress. I will forever be. For me, stasis is death, so I must keep moving and changing. I have seen so much growth in my sisters. It is difficult for me to see myself, though. My growth seems.well, nonexistent at times. But then, just when I think I've lost all hope, Goddess grants me opportunity to view my own growth by presenting me with the chance to share with other women. I see, then, that growth isn't measured by how powerful I am, or whether or not my spells work, but rather how strong I am, how flexible, compassionate, and understanding. My growth is better measured in how I reflect Goddess in my life and decisions; in how I am finding it-not easier, but less difficult-to walk my path straight and proud every day. I find I can confidently discuss herb lore, energy work, folklore, Goddess, and even compassionately counsel others. Every day, I feel stronger as priestess and woman. I know that this is because of the women of Coven of the Goddess. I had rough times, and had been through Bridget's fire before I came here. I had no one to help me, and I floundered a bit with how to handle the pain of change & letting go of control. I found a home. I found a place of wonderful women who won't allow me to wallow or play victim, but who will support me when I need it. Women who have their own troubles, who don't hesitate to help another, but refuse to simply do for or fix a problem for someone who won't help herself. Women who kick me in the ass when I need it. Women who don't judge others. Women who are stronger and braver than any I had ever met before. I can't separate the Coven pillars of Growth, Balance, Responsibility, and Unity. They naturally merge together. Separate, we are women of our own, with our own quirks and practices. We all struggle to find balance in our lives & ourselves-balance between ourselves and others, between light and dark, balance between work and play. We unite in this struggle as women have always struggled with these issues. We help each other up when we have fallen. Differences exist among us, but rather than use these as points of argument, we share and learn from each other. Together, we are a force to be reckoned with revealing the unity of the different aspects of She who is All. We are the many faces of Goddess, and through our kinship within our circle, we are living examples of Her.

I am Mab of the Old Ways. I am a keeper of secrets, a teacher of the craft, and a Priestess of the Great Goddess of a Thousand Names.