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Thoughts, Wisdom, and the Path of 2nd Degree
Sif Red-Eagle 12/ 2005
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Introduction


For whatever reason, sitting down to write this essay has been challenging for me. ďAm I ready?Ē I keep thinking, for moving forward on my path, for taking every greater steps toward mastery, toward leadership within our coven. The answer, if I listen deep within myself, is, of course, yes. And so why has this essay, this process of putting down on paper all that I have learned in the past year, so difficult?
I think the answer to that question is both simple and not so simple. For one thing, I donít give myself much permission to explore. Iíve always been one to go for mastery or nothing. The path of 2nd degree has felt very much to me like a meandering, a wandering in the footsteps of the Goddess. It has not been as straightforward and clear as the 1st degree. And, at the same time, what I have been doing and learning is how to be a Priestess in the truest sense of the word. Learning involves discomfort as we are stretched to take on ever greater challenges. Perhaps the reason this learning has felt so difficult and yet so easy is because it simply is.
Part of what I think I have also struggled with is that the path of the 2nd degree is just that: a path. To prepare for first degree, I had to make sure that I was clear about our tools, our directions, our elements. The preparation for 2nd degree is much more intuitive, much more spiritual, and much less outward-focused. Instead, I have been nurturing a subtle change within myself. Putting this into words is harder than it seems, probably because it has been so deeply personal, but I hope that this essay will reflect where I feel I have come in the past year and all of the wonderful things I feel blessed to have brought into my life.

Walking, Teaching, and Living in Goddess: My Transformation as a Witch


For the first few years that I walked this path, I was a voracious reader. I went through book after book, trying to absorb all that it meant to be a witch through the words of some other person.
I still have my books, I still read books, but this has been a year of exploration, of play, and of experiential learning. What I have discovered is that the power of trial & error is far more important that anything you can read in a book. I find that the only books that interest me anymore are those that add to my understanding of the history or philosophy of witchcraft. I have recycled my ďWicca 101Ē books so that other neophyte witches can find them and read them as I did.
What I have found is that what it is to truly walk the path of a witch does not exist in any book (except oneís book of shadows!). It canítóit is too deeply personal a journey to be described by anyone other than the witch. And the practice of being a witch is just thatóa practice, a daily engagement in the world and in oneís learning, living, and teaching of Goddess.
2005 started off with a bang for me. I took an Elements of Magic class in the Reclaiming tradition and I loved it. Reclaiming is a very hands-on practice and uses a lot of work with trance, lots of chanting and drumming, and raises lots of energy for magic. It was very different than the work that we do within our coven and I enjoyed being exposed to such a different way of using magic. I began to wonder how I could share the elements that I loved with our group.
At the time, our group was starting to grow significantly. Prior to January, there had only been a handful of us. Beginning that month, we began to add new women to our circle who continued to return and to explore the path of the Goddess with us. Our circle continued to expand throughout the year which made it a dynamic, living body of women working magic and worshipping Goddess together.
Preparing for my 1st degree initiation was another significant milestone in the early part of the year. For the first time, I prepared to teach the word of the Goddess. Teaching is something I have grown to love and embrace over the past several years as I was trained to teach martial arts and then began teaching psychology. Teaching is a delicious process of the transmission and transmutation of information. And yet, I was nervous! Who was I to be teaching magic to anyone? It felt like I had just set foot on this path and was still only a neophyte myself.
What I came to realize, of course, is that I know far more about walking the path of Goddess than I initially believed. Teaching a basics class was easier than I imagined. Going on to teach other classes, both in the coven and elsewhere, and planning on teaching even more classes in the coming year, was wonderful! I have now stopped teaching psychology so that I might concentrate on teaching of Goddess; I feel that I am far more called to do this kind of work than I ever was to teach in a classroom.
Following my initiation to 1st degree in March, I could feel a subtle shift in myself and also in the coven. I had ďtaken my seatĒ and that seat required that I make an even greater effort to participate and to support all my sisters. It meant that my studies would deepen. It meant that my reliance on books would be exchanged for the opportunity to really examine the world around me. It meant that I looked for ways to enhance my life and my magic (really the same thing) through classes, further exploration, and personal practice.
Now, nine months later, I can see all the ways I have changed, of how my practice and my life have deepened by walking this path. I feel less afraid; I trust in Goddess to show me what I need to see. I feel more inspired; I trust in Goddess to give me the words, the images, and Her magic when I need them. I feel bigger; I feel I have learned so many more ways to work with Goddess and with magic and so donít limit myself to spells or rituals, but use these subtle methods throughout the day. I feel more confident; I can easily talk about Goddess with others, and in fact, have brought many women to our circle just through my example and my enthusiasm. I feel more at peace; my personal connection to Goddess has grown and grown until I feel her in every moment and most especially when I see Her face in the moon!
This past weekend, I had the great fortune to be able to take a personal retreat to Shoshoni Yoga Ashram in the mountains just south of Nederland. Many years ago, Shoshoni was the first place that I felt the presence of God in a significant way. To return there, now, was like a little piece of heaven. The yogis at Shoshoni regularly honor the Divine Feminine, the Great Mother, the Ma energy. For the weekend, I submerged myself in the loving energy present in the mountains, in the moon, and in the temples. I realized in those moments that I am in fact ready to move on to the 2nd degree and to continue both my own personal development and taking a greater role in learning and teaching within the coven.
As Iím writing this today, it is a beautiful morning outside. It is cloudy and cold, but a serene layer of white snow blankets the earth. I can feel the energy of Yule pulling me into the final days of the year. And rather than feeling sad as I do most years at this time, I feel filled with joy and with the presence of Goddess. No day, no matter how short or dark, is anything but a beautiful gift to me any more. No challenge, no matter how difficult, is anything but a learning experience, a way to apply my path to my life.
I still have much to learn on this path. In the coming year, I wish to invite even greater learning and devotion into my life. I wish to create habits throughout my day that remind me of Goddess. I wish to continue to study, to write about, to learn, and to apply all of Goddessí wonderful gifts. Most of all, I wish to abandon all self-doubt, so that I might fully and completely embrace this path. My hope is to transform my path into my life, so that my life and my path are simultaneous, no division, no separation. Then I truly believe I will have the right to call myself a Priestess of Goddess.

Working within the Coven: My Development as a Priestess


The longer I am a witch, the more imperative I find it becomes to be connected to community and to give back to that community so that it might be vibrant and rich. I feel that we have an obligation to share our knowledge with one another, to draw out neophytes, and to educate others about what it really means to be a witch. This does not mean that I reject solitary practice, but it does mean that the true spirit of being a Priestess is not to practice alone.
I take the responsibilities of Priestesshood very seriously as I feel that I can best serve Goddess and others by making myself a reflection of Her and by sharing that wisdom with all. Lecture doesnít work as a way to share this path; rather, it is by making my life an example and by using subtle magic, healing, and counseling that I invite others to learn more. I have an excellent role-model in my high priestess, Estella Willowroot, and it would give me great joy, and would be an honor, if I might one day be as marvelous a Priestess, Witch, and Teacher as she is.
This year, I have had an opportunity to serve in many capacities within and outside the coven. I have written and led several Full Moon and Sabbat rituals; I have taught several new moon classes; I have supported the Reiki class at Dragonfest; I have taught my own class on healthy living at Dragonfest; and have student-taught a Reclaiming Elements of Magic class with my friend Diane Feiler. I anticipate that my role as a teacher will only continue to expand in 2006. I will be co-teaching the January new moon class with Silver Wind and Kambrielle, I will be leading the Imbolc ritual with Maia, I will be student-teaching a Reclaiming class with a visiting teacher in March, I will be offering a basics class for women new to our circle during the spring, and more. Teaching magic gives me more love and joy than teaching anything else! It is so marvelous to share my wisdom and experience with others and for them to share their own with me!
Perhaps one of the most important, and truly life-changing, things I learned this year was Reiki. Being able to share Reiki with others, both within and outside the coven, has been incredibly rewarding. I feel called to Reiki in a way I have not experienced with other practices and believe that I have the potential to become a powerful healer.
As a result, I also determined that I wanted to pursue healing as a profession so that I might align my work, my life, and my path in a direct and daily way. In September, I went back to school to become a traditional naturopath. While I am only in the midst of completing my prerequisites, I know that I made the right decision to take my life in this direction. My goal is to have a private healing practice, called Five Points Healing, through which I will work with women on achieving their best lives, using Reiki, nutrition, exercise, meditations, guided imagery, ritual, and personal growth.
I hope to continue my own healing this year as I begin to shift the focus of my life onto me, my home, and my family. Gone are the days where I had boundless energy for work; my body and soul have suffered as a result. Instead, I hope to make an example of my life by healing my own body, recovering my health (and my fertility), and making that a priority over all other things.
I have enjoyed taking on these roles of teacher, healer, and counselor within the coven and hope to continue to expand that role in the coming years. There is a wonderful phrase in business that I will steal here: servant-leader. That is who I wish to be as a part of the circle of sisters that makes up our coven. I want to serve the coven by providing myself as a resource and example. I want to serve others by connecting them to the coven and to the work and guidance of Goddess. And I want to be available to lead the group as needed, by teaching and acting as Priestess, as well as supporting and encouraging the women in our circle to help them walk their path, whatever that path may be. I look forward to continuing my own growth in the area of servant leadership within our circle and making an offering of myself to Goddess through this work. May I serve her as a Priestess and go as I am guided.

Our Covenís Guiding Principles: Growth, Balance, Responsibility, & Unity

The introduction of these principles to my life has served as a cornerstone for my development in the past year. I felt it would be important to address my relationship to each of these principles in this essay, as they directly represent the progress that I feel I have made on my path and as a Witch.

Growth
ďWe encourage personal growth and honor that growth within our coven. Spirituality and magic of Goddess is not defined by the hierarchy of coven status but by wisdom sought and time dedicated by individuals.Ē


This has undoubtedly been a year of much personal growth. Losing a pregnancy last fall was one of the more painful things that has ever happened to me. It has felt like much of this year has been about working through my grief and recognizing the harm that Iíve done to myself and my body as a result.
As a witch, I think this year has been about recognizing and stepping into my power. It has been about incorporation magic and ritual into my life in the ways that make the most sense and about working within the community to become a leader and Priestess.
Losing a pregnancy was a devastating blow and it made me really question the role of Goddess in my life. Why would such a thing happen to me, who is devoutly faithful? What I came to realize in the months following my loss was that the loss was a magical one and that there were abundant lessons in that loss. What a difficult concept this has been to grasp!
One thing that it helped me to recognize was that magic is real, and is very powerful. I had been doing lots and lots of magic to get pregnant, and I did. But I was so focused on the intention of getting pregnant that I forgot to consider the babyís life after that. The Goddess granted my wish, but I had done no magic to ensure the continuation of that wish. As a result, I have now begun to speak about having a child in a much different way. I donít just want to get pregnant, I want to have a healthy, happy child who compliments and enhances my marriage and my family, and becomes an intrinsic part of my life. This lesson was one of the greatest Iíve yet experienced about the power of magic.
Another lesson from that loss was about my body and my life. After the loss, I really threw myself into work (overly so). Last spring, I was working on multiple projects and trying to heal. As a result, I stopped taking care of myself and began experiencing irregular menstruation. I gained a lot of weight. Now, a year later, I find myself diagnosed with an endocrine imbalance.
While I was, at first, very angry at myself for allowing my health to become so poor, I have begun to realize that this is another opportunity for growth, one I would not have had had everything that occurred not occurred. In my hands, I hold the opportunity to heal myself and have a child naturally, without medical intervention. This is exactly what I want to be demonstrating for and teaching other people through my health practice. I could not ask for a more perfect subject!
And, of course, ultimately I had to realize (and grapple) with the fact that that baby was not meant to be, that its essence had returned to the ether and that that was as much a part of the cycle of life as a living baby would have been. I also had to come to terms with my own mortality, as, without emergency medical intervention, I likely would have died. Even 100 years ago, a woman in my position would have died. This confrontation of death and mortality has ultimately helped me to appreciate all that I do have in this life and to recognize that I donít fear my own death, but that I do fear the pain of loss.
My growth in Goddess has been equally powerful and wonderful. Throughout this year, I have discovered the subtle ways in which I am connected to Goddess and use Her magic. One of the most remarkable lessons was a class that I took in early October. In that class, a very powerful witch taught us that our breath is our magic and this is a concept that I have truly taken to heart. I find that breath magic has become something that I use regularly, sometimes even unconsciously, to seal wishes, to direct energy, to pray. I also remembered, through the wonderful main ritual at Dragonfest, that music is a powerful way for me to connect to Goddess, and that singing in particular works. Singing is another form of breath magic and I would always prefer to pray through song, or at least invoke that way whenever possible!
I also feel I have grown so much closer to the Earth this year. I have always been close to the Earth, but never have I felt so in tune with Her seasons and cycles. My work in this area of magic has been intentional: I just started paying more attention. Now I can recognize the most subtle changes in my environment, from different birds singing, to different constellations in the sky.
I feel drawn to this particular form of magic, which I refer to as hedge or folk magic. While I love and embrace my tools, particularly those that Iíve made with the coven, using a dash of magic here and there feels far more powerful than Iíve ever felt with an athame in my hand. As the wheel turns, I feel excited and delighted to continue working with this form of magic and already have a number of ideas and resolutions about how to bring more magic, devotion, and practice into my day-to-day.

Balance
ďAs daughters of the Goddess we seek to live our lives tuned into Her natural rhythms; our rituals follow Her seasons and the turning of the wheel. Encouraged by our sisters in circle, we respect and embrace the dark and the light in all things including our own joys and shadows. We seek sanctuary in balance and become empowered by our choices.Ē


Of the many lessons Iíve received in the past couple of years, the need to bring balance into my life has been one of the most important. About two years ago, during a workshop with Starhawk, I realized that my life was sadly out of balance. I realized that I had values that I was not living. At the time, this brought me so much sorrow. When I returned from the workshop, I printed the values on a piece of green paper (for fertility & abundance) and placed the paper on my altar, where it still sits. And, sure enough, over the past few years, my life has begun to move in slow but sure circles toward those values: Family, Friends, Animals, The Earth, Spirituality, and Music.
This was a valuable lesson for many reasons. For one thing, it taught me that magic isnít instantóit happens over time and sometimes it can take years for a spell to unfold. I feel as though the spell I cast back then is still unfolding. This has been a helpful reminder of the longevity of magical work. For another, I learned that I needed to make changes in my life that would bring me into greater alignment with my values. Until I took stock of these things, I had no idea how far out of alignment I was.
I have gone from being a career-minded, advancement-oriented, overachieving, driven person to being very different. I realized, not long after I cast my spell, that I wasnít interested in advancement, that I wasnít interested in climbing some career ladder that had ever greater amounts of money associated with it, but that would cost me more and more personally. Now, people tell me how lovely it is to be around me because I am so balanced, centered, calm, patient, and pleasant. Itís hard to believe they are talking about the same person; that they are talking about me.
The final acts toward achieving balance came this fall when I made a number of choices aligned with my values. I began using the bus almost exclusively for transportation during my work week. I made an investment in several instruments so that I might spend more time with music. I let go of a number of commitments so that I have the time to put my values first. And, perhaps most remarkably of all, I chose a degree program in health and healing over one in leadership development, the latter of which likely would have led me to become a highly-paid and powerful consultant. Iíve never felt more like I am living the life I really want to lead than I do now, and there are still more ways for me to bring balance into my life.
Throughout this leg of the journey, Goddess has been with me. She was there at the first when I made the realization of how unhappy I was and most recently has been the one beckoning me to make big changes in my life (like working less). She was ultimately the inspiration to go back to school and is the light in the darkness when balance seems so difficult to achieve. I have also found that Iíve begun to live my whole life in rhythm with her cycles, so much so that when one of those cycles is irregular (like my menses), itís obvious to me. I enjoy this feeling of awareness and empathy a great deal, and it certainly makes me a more powerful, in-tune, witch.

Responsibility
ďThe strength of our circle comes from accepting the consequences of our choices. The coven is helpful, empathetic, and encouraging in aid, but only if someone is willing to help herself first.Ē


When Stella shared our principles with me the very first time, I felt I breathed a sigh of relief. They were all so much in alignment with my own values; I knew I had found the right place to land. I was particularly struck by the emphasis on personal responsibility, which is a value I have long held and feel strongly about.
Recently, I have had to really put this value to the test as I have felt a desire to just blame it all on somebody else! It has been a helpful reminder to have my circle sisters challenge that impulse. There are things in my life that I am not happy about, but I recognize that if I donít shoulder the responsibility for those situations, I ultimately give up my power and become helpless. The circle has been a good mirror to remind me of the power I really do have.
As I start the new year, I feel called, strongly, to help myself in all ways. While I will need to continue to build habits and create new and different behaviors, at the same time surrendering and saying goodbye to my old patterns of being, I feel ready to embrace these changes. Yule this year holds a sweetness for me I canít remember from past years. I feel ready to take on this new spiritual challenge, bolstered by the support of my coven.

Unity
ďIt is the desire of the coven to see that all who seek Goddess prosper and grow as women in Her reflection. We stand together as spiritual energy and live by our like-minded principles. We accept this unity as Her work and allow our energy to be guided by Her as a sanctuary to all women who seek our circle.Ē


I started this year with a valuable lesson about the freedom to seek oneís path when my friend Wynyfryd left our circle and took up studies with a different teacher and coven. At the time, I was very hurt by her decision. Stella helped me to see, though, that part of the path of becoming a priestess is to allow women to seek Goddess wherever they may find Her. This lesson has continued to show up in my work throughout the year.
One of the most beautiful things about our circle is its unique nature of being open, always, to women who seek to find it. And, at the same time, I am appreciative of my sisters who I have grown close to because they form part of the core of the circle. When we gather to worship, I always feel an electric current as we cast circle together, as we say the sacred words with mirth, reverence, and in unison. I feel the circle is a refuge from the rest of the world, where we can come together and be the wild, delicious women we are and I treasure that!
I hope to continue to inspire women to seek our circle, to stand in our circle, and to devote their lives to Goddess, and I also appreciate that this path is not meant for all. Rather, I see myself as a light-bearer, shining a lantern to those who cannot see so that they might find their path. Regardless of which direction they choose, their path inevitably leads to Goddess, and so I can stand there, my lantern held high, to help guide them to whatever choice is best.

Conclusion


For an essay that got a rough start, I have been overjoyed with what has emerged in the writing of it! I find that I stand poised for initiation feeling confident, connected, and ultimately excited for the next leg of my journey. To share this mile-marker with my sisters in Goddess, with my beautiful sister Sara Jean, and with Stella makes it all the more glorious and significant.
The past year has taught me a great deal about my own relationship to, and reflection of, Goddess. I see it in myself far more now than I ever have before, and rather than that relationship being something I have to work on, it feels more intrinsic, more a part of me, than it has in the past.
I should clarify. In no way do I mean that a relationship with Goddess is easy. I think it has an easiness to it, like a marriage has after many years, but like any marriage, there are still challenges. I invite these challenges as they teach me so much about myself and ultimately deepen my connection to Goddess in ways that I couldnít have imagined.
This year it has become evident to me in many ways that my life is my path is my breath is my magic. They are all one and the same and as I move through my day-to-day, I am faced with continuous choice points, all of which can be made in the reflection of Goddess or without Her. The easiness comes when those choices are informed by magic and ultimately by devotion. Where are my values and am I living them? Am I acting in accordance with my will, with my intentions? Am I embracing Goddess or rejecting Her in this moment?
I donít cast fancy spells. I donít perform elaborate rituals. I am fond of the work we do in circle and feel that it helps me to maintain connection both with our community and the way that Goddess shows up in our lives. But overall, I am a simple witch. I demonstrate my devotion to Goddess through prayer, through meditation, through kindness and generosity. I work to connect with Her through nature and through acts of the spirit. When I stand beneath the moon on a clear night, it is Her kiss I feel on my cheek and I acknowledge it and call to Her. She is with me always, in every step, in every breath.
My relationship to Goddess is my magic. I believe in the power of a wish whispered to the wind. I believe in the power of prayer, of chakra work, of pendulums. I see Her in all my actions and believe that She is within me. If I create the right intent, my actions will have no choice but to follow, and what else is magic but that belief?
She has changed my life in so many ways, and certainly one of the most lovely was bringing me into the fold of the Coven of the Goddess. It is with humility and honor that I am initiated to the 2nd degree, and with a continued commitment to my own personal growth and development as a witch as well as a commitment to serve our community in whatever ways that commitment chooses to manifest.
So may it be.

JOURNEY'S CIRCLE