Summer Solstice arrives on June 21st in the Northern Hemisphere, and along with it comes the undeniable truth that half the year has passed. The last six months were full of lessons, both professional and personal. I completed an enriching and transformative experience in life coaching with JRNI. I also moved into a new house, which has demanded more of my time and attention than I expected. It didn’t surprise me all that much when I drew The Hermit card and the Four of Swords on the New Moon in Gemini. Even the cards are telling me to rest!
It seems a little counterintuitive, though. Pagans are supposed to be reveling and basking in the glory of the sun at the height of his power right now. Maybe I’ll just head to the beach and revel in a chaise lounge instead.
Historically, I’ve used this time as a mid-year review, a little assessment of where I’ve been, where I’m heading, and what might need adjusting. I created the Tarot spreads below with that in mind.
The Mid-Year Review Spread follows the sun’s waxing and waning energy with the still point, the solstice, in between. Since Winter Solstice, it’s likely that we’ve been working on or processing something. Where we are now is the result of the work we’ve put in earlier. As the sun’s light wanes and the days grow shorter, it’s important to recognize where we may need a bit of extra support or nurturing to finish out the year.
When the Sun King is strongest at Summer Solstice, he also moves into the sign of Cancer, which is ruled by the Moon and the most feminine of all the signs in the Zodiac. There’s a great lesson in this. It teaches us to lead with the heart and balance strength with love and compassion. The Solar King Spread below is for the king within us all, who honors the feminine within himself and others.* It also pays homage to that most ancient Celtic ceremony of the king’s marriage to the land.
For this spread, you will need to place the The Sun and The Moon cards from your Tarot deck at the top. If you’re working with an oracle deck, choose something that represents those two qualities for you.
If you use either of these spreads, drop me a line below, or tag me on Instagram @quillofthegoddess. I’d love to see how they work out for you.
I remember the seething, white-hot rage I felt inside. I wanted to burn shit down or blow it up and leave a trail of ashes behind me. I had finally connected the dots between a father who was emotionally absent and impossible to please and the men I had attracted into my life. Guess what? They were emotionally absent and impossible to please, too.
When you don’t receive that unconditional love and support from the man who is supposed to teach you how men should treat you, then you’re likely to make poor choices in the relationship department. You keep trying to be good enough. You twist and mold yourself into whatever shape you think he desires. You make too many compromises about where and how you’ll live. You sell yourself out. You get swept away. You bury your dreams. You dismiss your gut feelings. You keep hoping that the next one will really see you, appreciate you, and actually be there for you in body and soul.
So you try—again—to love someone else, to be open, to get past the scars on your heart. You light up inside when he approves of you and die a little when he doesn’t, because the wound is still there. You’re still hoping to earn his love. You have expectations he can’t possibly fulfill. It’s not even his job to fulfill them, but you don’t know that yet. Every relationship you have with a man is just another opportunity to heal the bleeding, gaping Father Wound, but the problem is that you’re not going to the source.
Then you get fed up after all the painful goodbyes and starting over for the umpteenth time with your life in cardboard boxes. You want things to change. A light comes on. You start doing the work on yourself, because why not? Nothing else has helped, has it?
You see the pattern you’ve been repeating. It feels like wading through miles of swamp water and muck. You grieve. You rage some more. You feel disgusted. You kick yourself for not waking up sooner, for not knowing what you think you should have known. Then you kick yourself for kicking yourself. You sit in circles, alone and with others. You tell your story. You listen to their stories. You feel heard and witnessed as you are, raw and unvarnished. You shed holy tears. You forgive. You breathe. You do this work for months or years, however long it takes.
Gradually, with wobbly legs and new skin, you begin to give yourself the love you never received. It is strange, at first, to walk in worthiness, to know your own power, to have clear boundaries, to not seek validation. Then self-worth becomes your default setting, and those around you either adjust or fall away. You know your triggers quite well; they are old friends by now. You catch yourself long before you are at risk of falling into the same old tar pit.
Sometimes, your healing ripples outward through your words, your prayers, your offerings.
I have watched my father go through his own metamorphosis, prompted mostly by terminal illness and the realization of his own mortality. We’ve had many conversations that usually start out with how the weather has been, who is ill, and who died recently. There have been times, though, when we transcended the whole father-daughter relationship to simply be with each other as two souls trying to figure out life.
I once told him that I never learned how to do marriage very well.
He paused for a minute and said, “I never did either, honey.”
Then we laughed! It was one of the most real moments we’ve ever had, both acknowledging that we’ve fucked up and even finding humor in our mutual fucked-up-ness.
I understand now that I had to go through this whole cycle of healing the Father Wound, because you can’t teach something that you haven’t lived. I didn’t ask for the wound, but the responsibility to heal it was, and always will be, mine. Much of what informs and enlivens my coaching practice is my own journey toward wholeness. It took years for my rage to become compassion, years before I would see my father as the catalyst who set me on my spiritual path, and years before I could have a 360 degree view of it all and feel gratitude.
Healing the Father Wound changed how I viewed all men, and maybe that has been the greatest gift in this journey. When I stopped categorizing them as either oppressors or saviors, I began to see into their individual and collective pain. It was just as valid and deep as my own, and that awareness cracked me open. It still does, every single time that a man drops his armor and bares his soul to me.
My dad has an incredibly sensitive heart—he just had it beaten out of him by a tyrannical, abusive father and an indifferent mother. In another life, he might have been a poet and a dreamer like his only daughter turned out to be. I carry what he wasn’t allowed to carry because of a patriarchal culture that equates sensitivity with weakness. I carry it like a medicine staff, because it is one.
May we rise above the outdated paradigms. May we heal our parental wounds, for ourselves and the generations to come. May we strive to understand each other, and in that understanding, may we find peace.
“How do you know when you’ve passed through a threshold on your spiritual path?” I asked him, thinking that he might have a huge, profound, soul-stirring kind of response.
He never has answers, of course. He just asks questions until I come up with the answers on my own. I know this, because it’s what coaches do, and I’m becoming a life coach myself. We’re trained not to problem solve, but to hold space for the client to reach their own personal truths and revelations.
Deep down, I knew. I always know, but I think I needed to say it out loud, admit it to myself, and make it real somehow. He’s good for that—sort of like a priest in a confessional, but without all the associated guilt and absolution. He’d probably hate being compared to a priest, though. I think witch doctor would be a little more accurate, since I’m the witch and he’s my shrink. (See what I did there?)
I told him that I felt like I didn’t really belong under the pagan label anymore, and I said this with a wistful kind of sadness inside. This was the community that had helped me heal from my church wounds. This was the community that introduced me to the concept of balance between Goddess and God, Divine Feminine and Divine Masculine. This was the community where I had experienced sisterhood, women’s mysteries, transformative rituals, and years of study in the esoteric arts.
Then I launched into why I hate labels, because they’re limiting. The second you label yourself, you’ve created a container that will only let you grow so much. It’s like a plant that gets root bound. If you don’t transplant it into a larger pot, its roots will keep circling around and around until they finally run out of space and the plant’s wellbeing suffers.
I felt constriction and repression in church many years ago, which is why I explored other paths. What I was feeling this time is more akin to restlessness or boredom. I was appreciative of all that I had learned and experienced in paganism, but I also had to acknowledge that the enthusiasm I felt years ago was no longer there. I wasn’t meeting teachers and elders who genuinely inspired me with their wisdom, grace, and deep connection with Spirit. It was easy for me to teach and hold space for others, but no one seemed able to do the same for me.
“Take a deep breath, and check in with your womb,” he said.
He knows my womb is my best oracle, despite all the divination tools I own. I felt my breath sinking down into my pelvis, clearing away the cobwebs and debris from my inner vision.
“I see an empty house, clean swept and ready for a new occupant. I’m walking out the door. All of my things are loaded onto a truck, waiting to take me somewhere. I just don’t know where exactly,” I said.
“Then everything you need for the next phase of your journey is going with you,” he said.
I took comfort in knowing that it all had purpose, that it would serve me well later on. Meanwhile, I rest in this in-between place of spirituality without labels, opening up to whatever awaits, calling in my next teacher and tribe, and offering gratitude…so much gratitude…for where this road has led me.
It may surprise you to know that despite being a witchy, Goddess-powered kind of woman, I cohabitate with a man who is decidedly non-woo. It has come to my attention that there are quite a lot of us out there who maintain some type of spiritual practice that doesn’t involve our partner. It’s like we’re all keeping a holy sanctuary that our most-loved person never enters.
Does it matter? Well, that depends.
For some, it’s no big deal, as long as the partner is respectful and understanding about things like burning candles, wafting incense, reading Tarot cards, and being highly conscious of the moon’s exact phase and astrological transits. As long as love is the foundation of the partnership, it works well enough.
I’ve also known women who relish their spiritual path as their private, inner world, and they have absolutely no wish at all to share any of it with a partner. Doing so would almost feel like a violation, because they have fought so hard to create that sacred space for themselves.
For others, spirituality becomes a sticking point. They want and need their partner to be fully on board and engaged with them and their woo-woo. Questions can begin to arise like, ‘If my partner rejects my spiritual values, does he/she reject me as well?’ and ‘If I can’t share this part of my life with him/her, then do we really even have a relationship?’
In the earlier days of my break from mainstream religion, I was thrilled if the guy I was with didn’t bug me about church or try to convert me. It was even better if he didn’t freak out over words like witchcraft, Goddess, and pagan. (Having been raised in the South, I was recovering from the emotional abuse and patriarchal wounds I received from the church. The slightest mention of evangelicalism would send me running).
So, I only looked for tolerance and open-mindedness from potential lovers, and that’s mostly what I attracted. The word witch almost served as a kind of litmus test to see who would stick around, although I have to say that many didn’t care what I believed or practiced. They were far more interested in my body than my mind and spirit anyway.
I thought that men who were spiritually awake, plugged in, and switched on would be too much to hope for, quite honestly. I figured I’d be doing really well just to find one who was stable, reliable, intelligent, driven, and kind. Enter Domestic Partner #3, who has all of those qualities.
I felt that he was extremely fortunate to have parents who didn’t drag him to church or force him to practice any type of religion. I certainly wasn’t going to do that to him, either. He formed his own beliefs, which are pretty close to agnostic if I had to put a label on them. He has always been supportive of me, but we’ll never share the same views on the inner-workings of the Universe and the things I feel inside but can’t always explain.
Our relationship works, as long as my witching and priestessing takes place on the outskirts of our daily life. It works, as long as my woo-woo conversations are limited to friends and members of my community. It works, as long as I don’t connect the dots between sexuality and spirituality. It works, as long as I don’t care if he ever joins me in my inner temple. It works, as long as I keep this immense part of myself, which informs so much of my writing and all that I do, separate from all that we do as a couple.
Sometimes I do care, though I try hard to release any expectations. I’ve learned that having expectations of anyone is always a recipe for disappointment. Knowing that is one thing; putting it into practice is another. Sometimes it’s lonely. Sometimes I feel we are speaking a completely different language, and there is no translator. Sometimes I follow the flowchart back to the beginning and find that the heart-centered medicine men and sages of this world are still in short supply.
I’ve never felt that my partner rejected me personally or even my spiritual outlook directly. It’s more that I question how deeply a relationship can go if one of the most important aspects of my life can only be experienced with other people.
Having and enforcing healthy boundaries has become the topic of many conversations in my world lately. It seems like we’re all trying to get a handle on what is or isn’t okay with us and how to communicate that to other people. It’s a bit ironic that we’re more comfortable with letting strangers know when to back off than we are with letting our own friends and family know when they’ve crossed a line (or ten). We don’t worry as much about how strangers are going to feel or how the dynamics might change, because odds are high that we’ll never see them again. Our interpersonal relationships demand a lot more of us, however.
I now have an even deeper understanding of why Robert Frost wrote, “Good fences make good neighbors.” Fences show you exactly where a boundary lies. There is no mistaking when and how it has been crossed. It’s frustrating sometimes that our emotional boundaries aren’t always so visible or accessible.
When people come to me because they feel like others are taking advantage of them in some way, I’ve noticed that they often haven’t looked within to really identify their own boundaries. They’re too busy people pleasing and trying to manage how others feel. Women fall prey to this a lot, because we’re socially conditioned to be caretakers and to put others’ needs well above our own.
Expressing what we need out loud can be difficult, because we don’t want to be accused of being selfish. (Oh, that nasty little word!) What we usually fail to recognize is that others fire the “selfish” missile at us out of co-dependency. They fear the possibility that their needs might not get met by us, so they use “selfish” to churn up guilt. If we bite the hook and give into the guilt trip, then we’ve collapsed a boundary. We’ve said Yes when we really felt No. Is that what a Goddess would do? I think not.
Friends have referred to me as “The Queen of No” and “The Boundary Queen” before, and I wear both titles with pride. It took a long time to love myself enough to stop being a doormat, so I will share my tactics for maintaining my sanity and sanctity.
Do a Gut Check
Step One in healthy boundary setting is checking in with how you feel. When somebody asks you to do something, stop and take a deep breath. How does their request sit with you? If you sense hesitation inside, heaviness, or anxiousness, that means you’d rather not do it. Your body will give you signals, but you have to recognize them and honor the message. If you feel like you should say yes, consider the motivation. Are you just worried about being liked?
Be Honest and Speak Up
Step Two is being honest about where you feel compromised. Women have to learn how to be outspoken, even though that goes against the way we’re socially conditioned. We’re taught to be nice, to acquiesce, and to accommodate. Outspokenness is a skill we have to master, nonetheless, if we’re ever going to reclaim our lives. Say it out loud, and stand firm, even if you’re shaking. It does get easier with practice!
Release the Guilt
Step Three is letting go of the guilt that will surface once you learn how to say no. People are rarely going to let you off easy, because they have their own agendas and issues. Feeling the guilt is completely normal, so it’s important not to be hard on yourself when it comes up. It’s equally important to push through it and realize that a more balanced, positively-engaged life awaits on the other side of that guilt.
Be Ready for the Fallout
Step Four is allowing toxic relationships to die, and this may be the hardest part of setting and enforcing boundaries, particularly with relatives. A balanced person who truly loves you will honor and respect your limits. Period. An unbalanced person will argue, give you the silent treatment, try to coerce you into saying yes to their demands, play the victim, or heap on the guilt—maybe all of these things. If they can’t learn to accept your new assertion of power, it’s time to limit your association with them or cut ties completely.
Rock Your Goddess Power
The goddess I think of most when it comes to setting boundaries is Durga. She’s a badass multi-limbed warrior and protector of the universe who rides a tiger or a lion. Her very name means “fort” or “a place that is difficult to overrun.” I like chanting her mantra when I need an extra shot of fortitude, but I encourage you to do whatever ignites your own Divine Feminine fire.
Remember that even if our parents didn’t teach us about healthy boundaries as children, it’s something we can learn. It’s a practice, and it’s something that we have to keep practicing in all of our interactions.
The origin of the word eclipse comes from the Greek ékleipsis, meaning to abandon, forsake, or fail to appear. Our modern understanding of the word is that light is being dimmed or obscured by something else. We apply it to astronomical phenomena as well as our inner light, fame, or stardom. There are many ways that one can be eclipsed.
Every culture has its own myths about why the sun and moon seem to disappear temporarily at certain times. Eclipses were mysterious and a bit frightening for our ancestors, so they created their own fanciful explanations. Though we have scientific data now, there is still value in studying the ancient tales. They reach into the psyche and help us work with what we’re feeling and experiencing, not just what we’re seeing in the heavens.
One that has grabbed my attention during this extremely potent eclipse season is the Norse myth of Sól, goddess of the sun, and her brother Máni, god of the moon.
According to one version of the story, Sól didn’t start out as a goddess. Her father, Mundilfari, thought she was so lovely that he named her after the sun, and he named her brother after the moon. That didn’t sit well with the gods, so they forced Sól to drive the chariot of the sun as punishment for her father’s arrogance. Sól had to race quickly across the skies to avoid being devoured by the wolf Sköll, who chased her continuously. On rare occasions, Sköll (repulsion) would get close enough to nip at Sól’s chariot, causing a solar eclipse. Máni suffered a similar fate, as he had to drive the chariot of the moon while being chased by the wolf Hati (hatred). When Hati got close enough to take a bite, a lunar eclipse resulted.
What are we to make of this tale, and how can it help us now?
It would be easy to demonize Sköll and Hati, those “evil” wolves that never give Sól and Máni a break. That would be a mistake, however. What the wolves represent, at least in my own interpretation, is everything we haven’t integrated, or the lingering, unfinished business of our lives. The past continues to chase us until it finally catches up. Sköll and Hati are the unacknowledged parts of ourselves, and the eclipse is the moment when we must deal with whatever we’ve been trying to outrun.
We’re in a time of radical shifts, abrupt endings and beginnings, and profound awakenings. Do you know the wolves that are chasing you? Can you call them by name? Is it possible to turn around and befriend them this time, so that they don’t have to bite to get your attention? We can look at eclipse season with dread, or we can embrace it as an opportunity for growth and change. The choice is ever ours.
There are plenty of articles out there on how to get through an eclipse. Most advise slowing down, practicing radical self-care, and becoming aware of what needs to be released. I would also look at where the lunar and solar eclipses are showing up in your natal chart. See which areas of your life may be impacted. It happens to be the 5th and 11th houses for me, and much of that energy is already being stirred in the areas of creativity and community in a positive way. Grab your Tarot deck, and try this helpful spread by BiddyTarot if you’re so inclined. Above all, walk through this gateway consciously and mindfully with infinite love for yourself and others. Take a lesson from Söl and Máni, as you drive your chariot onward. Learn from your wolves. Reach down to pet them this time.
There are two predominant themes for Lughnasadh: one is sacrifice, and the other is nourishment. There have been years when sacrifice has shown up stronger for me, when I’ve had to give up something or become more aware of when I’m being a martyr. This year, however, Goddess is asking me to look harder at how well I nourish myself on the most basic level: with food.
I am not a foodie, though there are times when I wish I could be one. Eating is something I do to live, but I don’t live to eat. When I’m overly stressed, I’ll skip meals or eat sparingly. Some people are stress eaters, but I’m more of a stress starver. Nothing kills my appetite faster than anxiety or depression. Most of the time, I cruise along on an even keel. If someone is rude or cuts me off in traffic, it’s no big deal. I can let that small stuff go. I don’t surround myself with drama, so my everyday life is generally calm and peaceful. I’ve worked hard to create an environment that supports, rather than siphons.
Throw in a major stressor like a death in the family or moving, however, and I’m turning green at the gills over just the smell of food cooking. Then all my healthy meal planning goes out the window, and I’m just trying to choke down a Saltine cracker to keep body and soul together. It’s frustrating, especially for a Virgo. We’re supposed to be the health nuts of the Zodiac, right?
So when I drew a card from The Goddess Oracle on the New Moon in Leo, and Corn Woman showed up in all of her grain-abundant glory, my first thought was: fuck. My next thought was: how can I possibly eat well and nourish myself when I’m still mourning the loss of my beloved canine and familiar? On top of losing Baxter just one week prior, I was still adjusting to life in a new place. I felt thoroughly wrung out in mind, body, and spirit, as though part of me had simply left this world along with my dog. I didn’t have a manual that said: How to Eat When You’re Grieving and You Don’t Know a Soul in Town. Someone should create one, though.
What I did have was Corn Woman staring at me from my altar, gently but firmly reminding me that I can’t ignore the basics of life and expect to feel better on any level. Of course it would be corn. I mean, you normally see wheat fields associated with Lughnasadh, but that’s Europe. This is south Alabama, and we have corn, which functions as both grain when it’s dry and vegetable when it’s fresh. It’s also extremely abundant at this time of year. The message was getting louder and clearer: foundation, staple, plain, essential, sustenance. I didn’t need to become a gourmet overnight, but I would have to find a way to love myself better with the simple abundance that Mother Earth provides.
I began with questions, which is the starting point for any type of change and course correction. What am I resisting? What don’t I like about the whole cycle of procuring, preparing, and eating food? We have it much easier than our ancestors, after all. I can cook, thanks to a mom who cared enough to teach me how. Other people practically get off on being in the kitchen, so why doesn’t it excite me? More to the point, why is eating and nourishment the first thing I drop when life gets excruciatingly painful?
Biologically, it’s fight or flight. All my body knows is that it’s facing some sort of crisis. It can’t distinguish between an emotional trauma and a physical attack. It’s programmed not to waste time digesting when survival means getting out of town or fighting to the death. After four decades on this planet, it still doesn’t know that it won’t actually die from a broken heart.
I’ve learned a few techniques for calming the fight or flight response through meditation and energy medicine, but resilience isn’t built overnight. It takes years of consistently applying those practices, and I certainly haven’t mastered them yet.
Spiritually, I prefer to focus on ‘higher’ things. I think it would be fantastic if we could live on air and gain back all the time we spend on food (spoken like one ruled by Mercury!) Eating brings me down to the mundane level, and I don’t always enjoy being there. It feels dense, heavy, and slow. It forces me to be in touch with my body and its needs, instead of floating around in my upper chakras where I’m more comfortable. People often describe me as grounded, but what they don’t know is that I can appear to be Zen on the outside even when I’m dying on the inside. I come from a long line of stoics, and they taught me too well, unfortunately.
Feeling truly grounded takes more work and more willingness on my part to really be in those lower chakras, and that is where I meet my resistance every time a major crisis comes up. I don’t want to be in my body while I’m processing a ton of grief and pain, but abandoning it doesn’t work, either. It just results in feeling weaker and less able to handle the situation that surrounds me.
Corn Woman symbolizes true nourishment, and that means feeding the soul and the body. It is the time spent in the circle, the trance, or the vision quest… and it is the feast afterward to ground and center oneself in this world. No matter how high and far our spirits may travel, we must return to this earth walk, even when it hurts, until our time here has ended.
The lesson is a hard one, and I will most likely be examining my complicated relationship with food for quite some time. Still, I’m grateful for Lughnasadh, for the turning of the wheel, for life, for the first harvest, for the bountiful earth, and for Corn Woman’s wisdom. May we all be well nourished.
Friends, it’s hotter than Brigid’s forge in lower Alabama, so I’ve been going sans bra as much as possible. It’s ridiculous to be layered when atmospheric conditions are at rain forest levels. If it would not result in arrest, I’d probably go around naked through the Dog Days of summer. Since public nudity isn’t an option, I can at least shed my bra.
If you trace the word brassiere to its Old French origin, it means armor or “a protector for the arm.” I’m not going into battle, so why do I need “armor” for my breasts? Why does any woman? What are we protecting our breasts from, or rather, why is the world still so concerned with the appearance of breasts that we spend $16 billion on bras annually? Such a waste of funds!
When I look at ancient statues of goddesses, so many of them are bare breasted. Consider the Venus of Willendorf, or Astarte, or the Minoan Snake Goddess…I could go on. All of them reflect eras when the life-giving, nurturing aspect of the Goddess was honored. Breasts were powerful, not just sexual. They represented fertility, sustenance, and abundance of the land and its people. Goddesses don’t wear bras. The very idea would be insulting.
Today, breasts are hypersexualized, objectified, and somewhat divorced from their main function. Ask any woman who has breastfed her child, and she will describe the challenges of doing this in public without feeling shamed and judged. Society is much too worried about the appearance of a woman’s nipples, despite the fact men have them, too.
How far we have fallen from our matriarchal roots.
When I posted about bra hatred on my personal Facebook page, several friends raised their virtual hands in agreement. We discussed the fact that even when we go braless, we often resort to hacks like covering our nipples with those nifty circular Band-Aids if we’re wearing tight clothing. So even if our breasts are freed from the underwire cage, our nipples might still be muffled under cheap adhesive bandages or nude-colored pasties. Why? Because we feel self-conscious. Our culture has made us believe that if our breasts bounce and our nipples show, we will be considered loose and immoral. We’ve been trained to avoid attracting the wrong kind of attention, lest we be assaulted, raped, or killed.
Yes, trained—and it all begins with the training bra we’re told to wear at the first signs of sexual development. Think about it. Who or what is being trained? Are we training our breasts to get used to the bra, or are we training ourselves to conform to a social standard that we didn’t even set? I remember asking my mom for one, because all the other girls in school were beginning to wear them. I was beginning to feel self-conscious without a bra, which shows just how much pressure girls are under to conform. The message we internalize is that there is something much too vulgar and tempting about breasts, so they must be hidden under double layers of fabric. We carry that message our whole lives, unless we consciously work to reclaim our natural beauty and worth. Reaching way back into our collective memory and connecting with the Goddess is a doorway to the process of reclaiming our selfhood.
Thankfully, some wonderful teachers and empowerment coaches are now actively assisting in the work of showing us better ways to appreciate and work with our bodies. Saida Desilets, Ph.D., creator of the Taoist-based Jade Goddess teachings, describes the energetic quality of breasts in this way:
Our breasts are considered our love center because they sit on either side of our heart and represent the external expression of our heart chi. Chi naturally flows from our heart center out into the world. Our breasts have long been a symbol for nurturing and loving energy. They also hold the secret to our longevity. (206)
Susun Weed, herbalist and author of The Wise Woman Way, also speaks of the power we hold in our breasts:
We are the Ancient GrandMothers and our breasts are ancient. Perhaps you find them ugly. See how they drift yearningly toward the Earth, lower with every passing year. We smile knowingly; we know our breasts contain a power that is resilient, flexible, supple, easy, and impossible to restrain. Whether the whim of fashion says our breasts are to be large or small, pointed or flattened, with cleavage or without, padded or bound, accented or obscured, it matters not to us. Our breasts fall free, untouched by current notions. The power of our breasts is the power of life.
Yet, we block and constrict that power, and we’ve been doing so for the last 500 years since the introduction of the corset.
I have this fantasy that women all over the globe will join together in a Bra Burning Day. I see us all flinging off our constricting garments of torture and dancing around the flames, never looking back. I see men there with us, drumming in the outer circle, supporting us lovingly and committing to the work of demolishing the old paradigms.
May we unlearn the rules imposed upon us by earlier generations that were ruled by fear and shame. May we nourish our breasts with freedom of movement, healthy relationships, massage, good nutrition, and a positive self-image. May we remember that we are the reflections of the goddesses of old, who are still alive and within us now, calling forth our courage and our love.
A well-meaning friend suggested that I might want to be a little less witchy here in lower Alabama. I can understand why she would give that advice. I certainly don’t wish to be a target for people who will probably never try to understand other points of view, let alone something as controversial and misunderstood as witchcraft. There is always the pressure to blend in, conform, and adopt the “when in Rome” mentality. That goes double for a tiny military town like this one.
In my current stage of life, though, I’m politely but firmly ignoring that pressure. I’m too far out of the broom closet to get shoved back in, and I refuse to make myself smaller and more digestible for others. Either they can handle all that I am, or they can choke on me. While my spiritual path is not the first thing I lead with upon being introduced to someone new, it’s also not something I’ll hide or tiptoe around if I’m asked about it directly. Anyone who wants to do a diligent search can find me easily enough on this blog and on Instagram—I identify as a witch in both places. I understand there is value in speaking to someone at his/her level, which I try to do as much as I’m able, but not to the extent that I feel compromised or lessened in any way.
I’ve watched people bristle over the word witch for the last 15 years, when I first started rolling it around on my tongue and applying it to myself. It felt like a new black dress that I hadn’t quite grown into yet, but I wore it anyway, trusting that it would fit perfectly someday. Now the sleeves drape gracefully, the hem falls where it should, and the bodice hugs me tenderly in all the right places. Witch I am. Witch I shall always be, even when I don’t feel like witching (see previous post). My path is strange, winding, and quite lonely at times, but at least it is my own.
I know it’s a bit more socially acceptable for most if I just talk about the Goddess or the Divine Feminine and avoid the “w” word. I’ve done that in person and on this blog for years. The waters are always calmer if I talk about energy and holistic healing without mentioning things like spells and rituals. It’s disappointing, and it feels like watered down whiskey every single time. If you have ever stood in a cast circle and felt the currents of energy running around and through you, if you have ever invoked the Goddess under a full moon, if you have ever summoned the elements and felt the wild, infinite power of each one…well, then you understand.
I’ve been around the New Age community enough to know that witch can send ripples through a room and silence it faster than you can blink. I’ve made the mistake too many times of thinking that acceptance would be automatic, only to find myself shunned by people who hoard crystals, play with oracle cards, carry on conversations with dead people…and still show up for church on Sunday. It was all rather confusing, or maybe they were confused about their own path. It all served to teach me that (a) I can never assume anything about the tolerance level of any group, and (b) I don’t ever have to stay in a situation where I’m not welcomed for who and what I am.
When you can’t find community, sometimes you have to create one. I lead a small study group for solitary or eclectic witches, meaning those who are not affiliated with a particular coven or system. We draw from many sources. We do our own thing, but we also enjoy having an online forum where we can read books together, discuss them, and share our questions and observations. We’re currently reading The Inner Temple of Witchcraft by Christopher Penczak, which offers plenty of meaty material for witches old and new. In Chapter 4, he leads with a paragraph that reaffirms what it means to wear the mantle of the wise:
The witch’s path is not an easy road to walk. Through the roots of our history, we have seen the persecution of those who practice the art of magick and the mysteries of the Goddess and God. Though death is not the result in this day and age, witches are still discriminated against. If you can handle the difficulties, the life of the witch is very joyous, filled with never-ending study and exploration. Witches learn many disciplines to ply their craft. One must be a dedicated student, but also have the passion, the fire, necessary to live life as a witch. Witchcraft is constantly adapting and evolving, calling creative, daring people to it. (59)
I heard that call, as I’m sure many of you did as well. We are writing our own history as we go. Future generations will base their opinions and ideas on what “witch” means by how we present ourselves and what we leave behind. It is my hope that we leave them with a definition of kindness, healing, love, strength, and reverence for the world around us.