Blessings everyone! I’ve been away for work over the last couple of weeks. Every time that I take such an extended leave from my writing, it brings home the fact that it has become such a life-giving part of my life and that the interactions I get with all of you are worth a million!

My Samhain was quite different from the past few years. For the first time in a long time, I went to a public ritual with the rest of the Wiccan community. Up to now, my contact with the Pagan community was limited to Crescent Moon and a few offshoots. My spiritual circle extended to a few spirit-minded healers, shamans and psychics. But this was the first time that I attended a public Wiccan ritual that was not organized or run by students of Crescent Moon or its affiliate teachers. I had other plans for that evening, but something within yearned to celebrate in a purely Wiccan way. I was curious of how it would feel.

There were over one hundred people at this ritual, most of whom I did not know. I had met some of the organizing members at Gaia gathering in May. I have to lift my witch hat to these people who pulled an amazing feat. It is difficult enough to lead an open ritual with people who are not familiar with one another. They lived up to the challenge of a huge crowd, with people of different backgrounds, different levels of knowledge of the Craft, from the seasoned practitioners to the merely curious. It flowed seamlessly, they took the time to explain the proceedings at the beginning so that everyone would be on the same page and the ceremony was simply poignant.

I had been removed from the organized Pagan community for more than 5 years, while I lived up north. All this time, I spent writing and forging my own identity and practice. Coming back to Montreal and reconnecting with the Pagan world brought home a few things. First and foremost, I realized how varied the community was and how established. And those who adhere to Wicca as a religion really live it. Some have lived this way for decades, so that they are no longer just dabbler and explorers. They are Wiccan in all its expressions. Their rituals are organized, their wording shared. They share common songs and expressions. As the organizers explained before the ritual, the ritual was conducted in a pure Wiccan style. Having studied in an eclectic setting with a little bit of this and little bit of that, this was not something that I was used to. But it made me understand a little more some of the backlash that I got when the book came out. There is a purely Wiccan tradition and I have a tendency of forgetting that.

This being said, the ritual was beautiful. The symbolism and the songs brought me back to what I had looked for from the beginning: the raw connection to the earth cycles and the Goddess. We chanted about death and passing, we called our ancestors and asked for guidance for the coming year. So, I found there what I came to find. But at the same time, I looked around at the people gathered there (OK it was Samhain and everyone looks a little odd dressed up…), but I did not feel like these were MY people. There were a number of the usual suspects: the dark, the eccentric, the dramatic, the seekers, the curious, and for sure the priests and priestesses of a Craft that needs to be preserved. There were also some of the people that I was also used to in my initial circles. In a crowd of over one hundred, it is obvious that I could not talk to everyone and learn their stories. But I would have liked to do that, just to know how all these people had gotten to be in the same place that night.

As I looked over the crowd, it struck me that I have a Tradition of my own that may differ quite a bit from a purely Wiccan practice. Part of that is the eclectic background that we may share as Christian Pagans or Witches. Another part is that we have a Christian tradition that inspires the kind of liturgy that we may include in our rituals. This includes a certain attitude and way of attending that may differ from Wiccan practice.

Maybe we are our own tribe…

On this Samhain, may the ones you loved be with you and may the new year bless you with the inner fire of Spirit!

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Cover of "Drawing Down the Moon: Witches,...

Cover via Amazon

Someone emailed me a question that I thought may be of benefit to many. I was asked the difference between the terms Witchcraft and Wicca, and between Pagan and Neo-Pagan.

Witchcraft vs Wicca: Wicca is an official religion and is usually regimented in covens, with the passing of a book of shadows between initiates. Witchcraft is an umbrella term which may refer to Wicca, but also to other forms of folk magic or traditional witches that are not necessarily structured into an organized system with initiates and a high priest/priestess. So Witchcraft encompasses everything from the cottage witch, family traditionals (passed from one generation to the next) to Wiccans of diverse traditions (there are MANY!) 
 
Pagan vs Neo-Pagan: The ‘Neo’ distinction comes from the fact that the Pagan revival is a relatively recent thing. It is a 19th century phenomenon brought about after the lift of the laws against witchcraft in England. Many Pagans claim primitive roots, as if they are resurrecting old prehistoric Goddess worship systems. The term Pagan is, again, an umbrella term to describe all practices that stem from earth-based, Goddess worship. ‘Neo-Paganism’ reminds people that this refers to the new organization of Pagan beliefs into a modern system. Its use is to distinguish between what is generally called a Pagan practice and the new way of expressing these practices in organized religions, such as Wicca. In short, Neo-Paganism has as much connection to ancient Goddess rites as we do to the chimp. People coined the term the term Neo-Paganism to really remind people that this type of Paganism is a modern expression of ancient ideas. But it is a modern practice nonetheless.

I hope that’s clear. One thing that became apparent when I attended Gaia gathering this year is that Paganism is starting to have its own history, and it is quite a complex one. There are a number of books of shadows that have been circulated, lineages and traditions branching out in various directions. It is fascinating to hear the oldest members of the Pagan communities talk about all that history. One excellent source on this topic is ‘Drawing Down the Moon’ by Margot Adler. A must read for anyone who tries to understand where Paganism came from.

When writing the book, I had numerous debates about terminology. What do I call this practice of mine? Is it Christian Witchcraft? Christian Wicca? Christian Paganism? Mystical Christianity?

You will find that at times I oscillate between Christian Witchcraft and Christian Paganism. Most often, it tends to be Christian Witchraft. I felt that this was the term that offered the most freedom, being two umbrella terms. Witchcraft, rather than Paganism, refers to an actual practice rather than a set of beliefs. That is what I was looking for: a practice to regiment my life. Also, the term Witchcraft gave me a sense of reclaiming that which the Church had robbed from me: the essence of my femininity. It was a way of saying that I would not be an accomplice to the crimes of my Church against women throughout its history. When I talk of Christian Paganism, it is in the hope that more people feel included by this even wider term. Here I refer to a common belief in the sanctity of nature, in the many faces of the Divine and in the existence of the unseen, while upholding the teachings of Jesus. The terms Christian Paganism and Christian Witchcraft are not mutually exclusive as far as I am concerned. They simply talk of different things and will suit different people on the pursuit of their own Truth.

This blog is coming out of a heated discussion on the Christian Pagan Fellowship on Facebook. It is a question that I have been pondering for a while and for which the community has to come together: Is it viable (or even desirable) to organize the Christian Pagan path into an organized Church?

Several issues arise from this topic. First and foremost is the definition of Christian Paganism. Some describe themselves as Christian Witches, Christian Wiccans, Mystics, Druids, Gnostics, Catholic Witches, Spiritualists, non-traditional Christians…. the list goes on. Is there enough common ground to even rally all these traditions together? I will tentatively say ‘yes’, that there is enough common ground to rally people together. After all, a growing number of us are getting together in various ways. However, I do not know if there is enough common agreement in practice at this point to make it possible to structure a liturgy around this. Nor do I think that it would add to the practice. Don’t forget, much of the Pagan community is facing the same challenge. The central topic at this year’s Gaia gathering was the topic of a common liturgy. Pagans in general are very attached to the freedom and flexibility that their practice offers. Many like and need to be eclectic in their practices. But obviously, the call of the group is also a strong one and there has to be some concessions made to achieve a balance between the two. I think that a Pagan practice, whether Christian or traditional, will always have a strong blend of solitary practice and community involvement. The question remains as to how much structure we really want in our community life.

I like my solitary practice. I am probably going to be a solitary all my life. But I wouldn’t have written a book if I didn’t feel the need to reach out to others who shared the same beliefs. What I do not want is a structure that sets my beliefs down in stone and that gives someone the authority to lead my worship. All I want is a place to go to, a place that is sacred and where I can offer my prayers in the manner that is most holy to me. A place where I can be surrounded by my symbols, where I can offer worship to my Mother and my Father and where I can receive and share wisdom and blessings with others of like faith. This may be possible within a structure that is fluid enough to offer freedom to contemplate and to share. Such a structure could be as simple as preparing the sanctuary, making an offering, making time for contemplation, passing on wisdom and blessings and sharing a meal. I could see that work. Much of this can be achieved in a solitary practice. Remains to see whether there are enough others who want to gather in a common place to make group services possible.

If I stop and think about what a Christian Pagan Church would look like, I see something along the lines of what the early Church looked like. I see a network of houses identified with the ichtus where patrons welcomed prophets, priests, disciples and fellow Christians whenever they passed through their town.

I see a house where people gather and perform a simple devotion and share stories and teachings. I also see the organization of the Church to be similar to what the Gnostics did. Members would rotate between the different functions of the service, which was assigned by a draw. This way, it was not always the same person who presided worship. You could be the one to set up the house, or take care of the meal, or do the readings or make the offering. This allowed everyone to be involved and prevented power to be assigned to only one person. That’s the way I think a Church aught to operate.

When the topic of organizing Churches came up, my first reaction was that I would much prefer to have an international gathering of Christian Pagans. This way, we can all start to get to know one another, share what we believe and offer a common prayer. That is my dream for now. I leave the rest in God’s hands.

I am still riding the wave that was Gaia gathering, the Canadian Pagan conference held in Montreal a couple of weeks ago.

I could write about all that I learned over those two days, about the workshop on Voodoo, the workshop on the eight paths of magic and the various panels on gnosis, Pagan history and liturgy. But I am not going to. It would not give justice to the buoyant feeling that is still in me some two weeks later. I can summarize the experience in one sentence:

It reminded me of why I am walking the Pagan path. 

During these 2 days, I met wonderful people. I was familiar with only a small portion of the Montreal Pagan landscape. At Gaia, I was privileged to meet people from other places  in Canada who had different experiences of Pagan practice. There were older men and women who have been in the movement since the late ’60’s, people who remember what it was like when there were no books and when passing on of knowledge was done in complete secrecy. These people who link back to icons of the Pagan movement like Z. Budapest and Gerald Gardner. They are already the elders of our clans. I have met people of extraordinary instruction: university and college professors, PhD’s, scientists and full-time witches who dedicate their lives to the teaching and furthering of the Craft. My co-panelists on Canadian Pagan authors were such people. Sable Aradia became a full-time witch to live her passion for the Craft. Her vibrant energy and passion and her generosity of character make her a truly exceptional woman. I have also had the honor to share the panel with Brendan Myers, philosopher and author of several books, who can weave humor and philosophy so effortlessly that it is a true pleasure to listen to. It brought home the fact that Pagan philosophy and theology exists in its own right. It is not a wacky unregimented practice. It has a core, a soul and a history.

Above all, above the philosophizing and theologizing, it brought back the essence of what I looked for when I chose this path. Everywhere I looked, I saw the passion of its people. I saw the joy of living a life of celebration. I saw that primal need to create and to connect to all that is. A circle within a circle, ever flowing and never ending. It was indeed a return to Gaia.

We went walking on the side of the Great River (La Grande) that gives its name to the little community where we live. The temperature had dropped suddenly to 10 degrees and the fog was rising off the water like a scene from a dream. I held the little hand of my son in my left hand and the hand of my daughter in my right. We walked up the hill that overlooked the river and I had the sudden vision of walking in the heart of a great hall.

I felt the warmth of their little hands and something whispered in my head:

This is the gift that She gave me.

 

She…

I looked around and wondered who ‘She’ was.

Was it the great river, flowing steadily forward for millennia, unstoppable and majestic?

Was it the land of the Cree, where we had become parents and where we were living the greatest adventure of our lives?

Was it the grandness of nature that surrounded us so completely?

Was it the Great Goddess, fertile and of abundant?

Was it the Great Source from which all blessings flows?

Looking out at the grandness of nature, surrounded by my greatest treasures, it was clear that all those things were wrapped up into that little word.

She…

The one who nurtures, the one who soothes, who defends and protects and gives beyond measure.

The one who envelops you with a grandness that you can hardly bear and shows you, how to connect with everything there is to become more than you have ever imagined.

She, the wind in your hair and the smell of the times, the water flowing through your veins and through the world in a slow pulsing rhythm.

She who loves and gives back to her children the lessons they need to learn if they sit to listen.

What blessing to live in her presence.

Crazy Week…

It’s always crazy the week before going on vacation: tying up loose ends at work, making travel arrangements, packing everything. The usual madness! It’s no different for a Witch than it is for everyone else!

It’s not easy being the mother of two young kids. Sleep deprivation aside, it’s the worrying that really does me in. Do they eat enough, poop enough, are they developing on schedule, how are they coping with the world…. In short, are they OK?

I went to sleep with all this in my head,  feeling completely helpless and washed out. As always, I turned to my Mother for guidance. What should I do? Is there something I am not doing right? How do I help my son speak more and my daughter sleep at night? Please, Mother, help me take care of them!

I woke up in the morning with a vague knowledge of having spent the night in conversation with someone. We had talked about hope.

Hope.

That was the answer. That’s how you make it through the worry.

Nothing to do. Just hope.

Expect the best.

Bottle down the fear and let it fizzle out with great blasts of hope. That’s the gift of Hope: it is the destroyer of fear. Without fear, you can dare to reach out for your greatest dreams.

And so, that day was born with a new hope. And while we were all playing outside that evening, my son did something unexpected. He reached out to the moon and pretended to gobble it up. He burst out laughing and I knew everything would be all right.

A recurrent question I get is « Are you out of the broom closet? » For those unfamiliar with this expression, it refers to whether people know that you are practicing Witchcraft. Another way to say this is “Are you public?”

Am I public?

With the writing of a book, I had to face the fact that the closet was getting awfully tight! I am putting my name, my face and my beliefs in print and on the web. This brings ‘being out’ to a whole new level!

I am private about my religious beliefs. I have always been. I don’t feel the need to let everyone know that I cast circles on the full moon. It is my special place. I don’t want to let everyone in on it and let them trample my sanctuary.

But I no longer hide.

If someone asks me about my religion, I explain that I practice Christianity in a different way. My library is proudly displayed in my living room for all to see. Anyone with a keen eye knows what I am up to.

I have a few rules of thumb when it comes to being public:

1)      I let people get to know me first. This way, they can see what kind of person I am before they associate me with all the connotations of witchcraft.

2)      I speak up if I get that deep intuitive feeling that it might help the person I am speaking to.

3)      I keep quiet if I or someone I love may suffer serious negative repercussions from my association with Witchcraft. No need to put ourselves in danger for no reason. I think it is up to each of us to determine what constitutes a valid reason.

Another question I have gotten is “Does your family know?”

Of course, my husband knows. We are an open book to each other and he knows who I am better than anyone. My immediate family knows, although the extent of this knowledge varies. They know that I have taken magic courses and they know that I still go to church. We have deep spiritual discussions where we debate God and Church, so we are pretty open on exposing our opinions on those subjects. Do they know what a ritual entails, the different celebrations of the year and the specifics of the practice? They do not. If they were to ask, I would explain. I think it is important to respect everyone’s pace. Each person may want to know more or less about it. I think this is fair.

The case of Christian Witchcraft is complex. On one side, you face the shock of people at being a Witch. If repudiating your own faith wasn’t enough, you have to explain that you turned Christianity ‘into’ Witchcraft. Talk about a double whammer! So , we have to deal with the broom closet and its Christian equivalent, which I like to call ‘the confessional’. Both are closets and in both you stay in the dark, pondering the errors in your ways, considering the sins you may (or may not) have committed, marinating in a guilt imposed by others. So for us Christian Witches, there is a double walking out that needs to take place: out of the broom closet, towards the beauty we crave, and out of the confessional, away from the guilt that has been put upon us.

My path is a path of spiritual growth. It makes me better. Whether everyone else knows about it doesn’t matter so much. What matters is that we not feel alone and that we may come out enough to find each other and celebrate the radiance we find. It’s when the closet starts to suffocate us that we need to ask the questions and decide on which side of the door we want to be.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this issue. Does it matter to you if you are public or not? How do you approach this? Do you speak up? Do you explain and reason it out to others? How do you decide who you tell and who you don’t? Or do you keep private by choice?

So many questions! Well, it’s nice to have someone to talk to for a change!