A hooded woman leads myself and a handful people away from the campsite with nothing but a lantern. We walk in silence, not knowing what to expect. The sun is beginning to set as we reach a three-way crossroads. “This is a very Hekatean area”, I quietly remark to myself.
It’s TempleFest 2014, a camping event that the Temple of Witchcraft puts on annually full of workshops, rituals and panels. Over the past several years, the Temple of Witchcraft has created a relationship with a Faery Court. This year was the first year that they decided to allow the Temple to send emissaries to meet them and create alliances. Names were put in randomly and the winners were sent on this quest if they wished. The quest was described as a combination of sacred space, ritual theater, journey and pathworking.
As we walked as a group in silence, my mind was already digesting the experiences of the morning and the day before. The previous day I participated in a workshop by Matthew Venus entitled “The Feral Fool: The Trickster Archetype”. At the end of the workshop we were led through a journey/meditation where we meet a trickster at the crossroads and ask them a question, albeit keeping their answers in mind with a bit of skepticism, because they are tricksters after all.
I asked the Trickster “What can I do to begin serving others spiritually?”
The Horned Trickster looked into my eyes and said, “You need to empty yourself”.
“Huh? What does that mean?” I asked. But the Trickster just grinned and we were asked to return to awakening consciousness, so the journey was over.
The hooded woman with the lantern leads us down the path to the right and eventually we made it to the opening clearance of a horse-trail. The only noise in the air is the sound of crickets dispersed in various hidden areas. Once again I begin reminiscing about an experience from the morning.
Earlier that morning Christopher Penczak led us through another journey meditation where we meet one of four Jacks of the Wheel of the Year and their Queen. These Jacks were Jack of the Green, Jack of the Corn (John Barley Corn), Jack o’ Lantern and Jack of the Frost. I was expecting to be led by Jack of the Green, but instead Jack o’ Lantern led me down a path and then did a silly crooked little dance and said, “Look how hollow I am! I’m so empty and free, nothing inside but light within the dark abyss”. He led me to a hooded and veiled woman in black who didn’t say anything, but I took out some sort of energy from my heart and handed it to her. As she grabbed the energy her hand lit on fire – like the light behind Jack o’ Lantern’s eyes.
So here I was with the group standing before the clearance of the trail where we met up with the Gatekeeper for the ritual, Michael Cantone – the Temple’s Aries Minister in charge of physical and psychic protection. He explained that each of us were going to go into the clearing on the quest alone and that we were the first group of emissaries. As he was speaking a black dragonfly about the size of a fist dove into the area where we were standing. It circled each of us, taking time to stop in front of our faces as if inspecting us. I thought this was interesting since Faery lore speaks of dragonflies as either the ambassadors of the Fae or a guise in which they take. Michael consecrated us and guided us into a trance-like ritual state before he sent us off one by one.
Eventually it was my time to enter just as the sun had set. As I cautiously entered the dimly lit tree covered path it felt if I was entering the dark womb of Mother Earth, or perhaps the Belly of the Beast as I saw the first hooded but distorted looking man aspecting a member of the Faery Court. To be honest, the whole experience was as disorienting as it was insightful. As I interacted with each costumed member of the Temple aspecting a particular ally, my social anxiety began kicking in a bit. I felt very awkward and wasn’t sure exactly what I was doing or what I should say to these eccentric and otherworldly personalities. I was worried about making the wrong impression to the Faery Court and this brought up some deep childhood shadows.
I think if you’d ask anyone in my family, they will tell you that there’s always been something a little different about me. As a very young child I would have conversations with my deceased grandmother and would constantly see forms made out of light. This faded around the age of four years old. At age five I was already a refugee in a sense. I was taken out of my parent’s custody as a child and the state had me bouncing between different foster cares, foster families and various relatives – but never for an extended period of time. The endless bouncing back and forth during a crucial time in my development paired with ending up in an environment with critical guardians left a deep mark on my soul of feeling unwanted and constantly judged.
By the time I was seven years old my grandfather stepped into the picture and took custody of me. Though I try to believe that he was doing the best he could, with the emotional and psychological tools life had given him – I can’t help but feel in retrospect that he was extremely abusive in non-traditional ways.
However, it was through his punishments that I feel one of my greatest gifts were sparked. One of his standard punishments would be to put me in my bed and turn the electricity breaker to my room off. If I moved out of the bed without permission he’d beat me with his belt. Some nights when punished this way he’d allow me to eat, other times he wouldn’t. Being a restless seven year old, I didn’t have much to play with or think about other than sitting there in the darkness – just me and my imagination.
In a sense he had created a sensory deprivation chamber for me. I would sit there and feel a strange “fluid” ball of energy in my hands and play with them. I would close my eyes and focus on the swirling mandalas of flowing energy inside my eyelids. I would begin seeing shadows of people dance across my walls – a shade darker than the pitch black of the room. I would begin to hear them whisper and hum songs in a language indigenous and foreign to me. Of course all of these things were explained away to me as my “imagination” when I tried talking to elder family members about it and was recommended to pray about it.
But the darkness opened up a new world for me. I felt like an alien around everyone. I wasn’t as interested in playing videogames or toys, though I did occasionally. Instead I wanted to play in gardens and forests and feel the emotion of the wind upon my skin and merge with it. I was thoroughly convinced that the weather and I were one and we could affect each other and would always light up with excitement when I “caused it to rain”.
But here I was at a cross-roads in my life spiritually as I embarked upon a crooked path which now led me down the path of Witchcraft which I had informally explored as a young child for many years. As I grew older I began exploring shamanism and eventually formed a very strong relationship with what I thought at the time was an animal spirit guide who often takes the form of a barn owl, which I now know intimately as a Spirit Familiar. One night I awoke from my sleep and the barn owl hovered above me, flapping her wings as if in slow motion. Clear as a bell I heard her speak, “Come, we must go hunting in the darkness. Keep the light within your eyes.”
As I worked more with my guide, my astral experiences began to enhance. I began traveling to what appeared to be this world, but always seemed a bit different. Sometimes I’d be in a celestial area above the world and sometimes I’d be in vast cavern like places below the earth. I spoke to many spiritual friends and acquaintances about this. A few understood but most didn’t – thinking it was all a fabrication of my imagination and ego. But that didn’t bother me, for me these experiences were just as real, if not more real than waking consciousness – and I didn’t feel I needed to prove it to anyone, however I was in search for answers.
Eventually I came across The Temple of Shamanic Witchcraft by Christopher Penczak. In the book he explained various models of the “other worlds” with the universal theme of an underworld, a middleworld and an upperworld of the World Tree. All of this was validation for what I had experienced.
Through a set of synchronicities and following both the advice of my Familiar Spirit and my heart, I ended up leaving my whole life in California behind and moved to Massachusetts to be with my partner who lived there. As I began reading more of Christopher’s books I reached out to him in an email, where he invited my partner and I to attend an open house at his Temple of Witchcraft in New Hampshire.
Now here I was at a festival with witches walking down a strange wooded path and dialoguing with strange creatures in the night. The first encounter I had with one of the fae I was given a wooden rune with the ogham symbol of “koad” upon it. Koad isn’t a tree like the rest of the ogham but rather means a grove of trees and/or a temple as it often refers to a “grove” of druids.
“Is means ice, or frozen water. Ice is an archetypal creative force in Norse myth. Here it indicates a situation being frozen or stuck, or filled with coldness. While water can be clear, ice is usually opaque, and, reflecting sunlight, can blind. But like ice, this energy will eventually melt and flow bringing change. “– Christopher Penczak
The Outer Temple of Witchcraft: Circles, Spells and Rituals
“Eoh, the horse, symbolizes change, movement and shifts. Sometimes it indicates a new home or new mindset. Horses often work in teams to pull larger sleds, so teamwork is also included in its meaning.”
– Christopher Penczak
The Outer Temple of Witchcraft: Circles, Spells and Rituals
As I went down the faery quest, the encounter that struck me the most was with this spirit who had horns beneath a wedding veil. He was sitting at a stone table with candles lit.
“Come! Come sit for a reading if you wish!” he jovially exclaimed. I agreed and sat down with him. He pulled three cards from the deck, I don’t remember each one, but I remember the first was a mirror. He looked at the cards for about two seconds and then declared with absolute certainty that “You allow others’ beliefs about yourself to reflect upon yourself and effect you too much. It must be the other way! Shine your light, don’t be burned by theirs! Find your crown!”
After the journey I spoke with Silver, who was my Witchcraft Level 1 instructor within the Temple of Witchcraft. She was in a tent at the end of the trail with other Temple ministers to hold space, ground, and give us aftercare from the ritual quest. As she gave me reiki I explained my experiences with her in a safe space. She said that what was coming to her was the “hollow bone” but to wait seven days and then remind her to explain it to me, which she did within those seven days. I received an email, which I share with her permission, stating:
“So, when you emerged from the Quest and I was doing Reiki on you, I heard from a spirit guide that the energies from this Quest, part of the overall takeaway, was that you were stepping into becoming a ‘hollow bone’. This term is well known in Native/shamanic traditions as being one who is a conduit to the Great Spirit, an empty vessel who transcends ego and opens the way. It’s a beautiful way in which to open to the spirits as a way to benefit the greater community. I was told to have you wait seven days so the Quest could work through the seven gateways of your chakras, then share with you after the initial process of release where your work and being are heading towards. I’m being told to be mindful in your energy exchanges and work to transcend ego and be an effort vessel”
A few weeks later I attended Tea with Hekate, the Temple of Witchcraft’s way of celebrating the Feast of Hekate. It was on this night I synchronistically became eligible for General Membership in the Temple of Witchcraft and was consecrated as such. Three priestesses were aspecting one of the three faces of Hekate and we were allowed to ask a question to her. As we chanted to Hekate, walking around the priestesses in a clockwise circle, I sat with “Hekate holder of the flame”.
The priestess aspecting her looked like she was half asleep with her head nodded out (almost like hypnotism). She was obviously in a very deep trance. I asked her, “Hello Hekate. I come to ask how I can help and serve my community spiritually”.
She stirred and grabbed my hand and inquired, “How are you helping and serving yourself? Before you can help and serve others, you must learn how to help and serve yourself first. The two are a reflection of each other.” As she spoke this, I immediately thought of the card reading with the veiled spirit.
I graciously thanked Hekate. And then entered the circle of chanters. Next I spoke to “Hekate of the Crossroads”.
“Hello Hekate, I’ve had many spirits talk about emptying and hollowing myself. Can you give any insight into this?” I asked.
She turned to me and through her red veil seemed to look right through and past me. “You need to empty your emotions. You need to empty your mind. You need to go to an empty place in nature and have a primal scream to reset and purge your emotions. You must scream like a hellhound and let it all go. Then you will be ready.” I thanked Hekate.
Days later I had an astral journey. I decided that I wanted to find Hekate, but I didn’t know how. So I began chanting the chant used during Tea with Hekate:
“Hecate, keeper of the crossroads
Hecate, holder of the flame
Hecate, wisdom of the darkness
Guide my way, guide my way
All that dies is reborn
Formless sinking into form
Rise awake! Born anew
Walking forward, passing through”
– “For Tara – Hecate Chant” from Songs for the Waning Year
by Sharon Knight and T. Thorn Coyle
I slowly “floated” in the astral as if on autopilot to a place I’ve never experienced. It was empty space, but unlike most empty space I encounter in the astral, it was neither fully dark nor fully lit. It reminded me of candlelight or perhaps torchlight in the darkness. The closest experience I’ve had to this was my encounter with “The Devil”. There in the middle of the darkness was a giant pillar of light and facing out from the light were three statues of Hekate – a sort of astral Hecterion of Hekate Triformis. I kept chanting/singing my song, hoping that the statues would speak. They didn’t. Instead the spirit of Hekate as a cohesive whole came from the pillar of light to me. She wasn’t dark and scary. She was personable and comfortable.
She reached out her hand and touched my chest. A feeling rushed into my heart center that I can only try to describe as orgasmic-divine-love – an ecstatic state. With that she said, “Your heart is full of stagnant and dirty oil from your childhood, it’s been there for so long that you don’t even realize it. The flow needs to be stronger and unobstructed. You need to drain your heart and fill it anew. Once you do this, I will light it ablaze.”
Upon returning to awakened consciousness, I realized this was the meaning of the conjoined rune. The mare is sacred to Hekate and one of the forms she appears in has a mare’s head, a bull’s head, a dog’s head and sometimes a serpent’s head along with her own face and all these animals are sacred to her. “Eoh” symbolizes horse & movement. “Is” is stagnation and blockage, like Hekate was telling me about my heart’s “oil”.
I have found that working with her has been extremely healing and honest. She is the patron of the marginalized, the unwanted, the abandoned and the outcasts. Adam Sartwell has a fantastic modern myth regarding this. As the Soul of the World, she reminds us that we all have a reason and a right to be on this planet and that we each have a torch to light despite how dark things may be. Mythically it is Hekate who found and saved Persephone, because she saw the abduction. After such, she became Persephone’s mentor and companion – helping her to make the best of what fate had handed her and stepping into it as an empowered Queen of the Underworld instead of a victim. Whenever you enter the darkness, Hecate is there to help illuminate the way to the metaphorical gold within the dragon’s cave, or to find the blessing within the curse. Just as Hekate had been there when Persephone was abducted, I had realized that Hekate had been there all my life in the shadows – silently watching – stepping in and out of the shadows at her own will.
There is a brutal honesty and severity with Hekate as much as there is a nurturing empathy without coddling and a playful innocence. She is a paradox, even among her own pantheon. In the more popular versions of her myths she is adopted among the Olympians as one of their own after the Titan War. In a lesser-known myth she is abandoned as an infant at the crossroads and raised by herdsmen. She alone holds all the keys to the heavens, the underworld and all roads upon Gaia. The keybearer of the three realms of the Shamanic World Tree.
After all of these experiences Hekate once again kind of stepped into the shadows, though I’ve always felt her with me. Since then I’ve been interacting with other deities that have come to me such as the Morrighan, Brighid, Cernunnos/Dianus, Diana, Aradia, Mercury and others. But she is the deity whom I have the most interactions with, through dreams, visions, and astral experiences. She has appeared to me not in the Titaness form as she did previously but as a young maiden child, playfully laughing as she leads me to different places in visions and dreams. She has appeared to me as the untraditional modern image of her as a Crone. She has even appeared to me in animal-hybrid forms. Yet reflecting upon all of these experiences, I had to ask myself why Hekate has chosen to “re-emerge” from the shadows and bring my attention back to her.
What is interesting is that the next year at Templefest 2015, I met Devin Hunter and Storm Faerywolf and we hit it off immediately as friends. I was so impressed by their insights and rituals that I decided I wanted to study under them as well, so I began studying Black Rose Witchcraft. Devin under the insight of his Spirit Familiar invited me to join the Coven of the Crown within the Sacred Fires Tradition of Witchcraft – which strongly features Diana, Dianus, Aradia and Hekate. In reflection, it’s almost like all of my experiences with Hekate was foreshadowing where my path would take me with the symbolism of fire, horses, crowns and groves. So it would seem that Hekate had returned at a point that I had reached where she was leading me years a go.
I feel Hekate asks all of us to think and act in a titanic way. Though she works with us on a personal level her realms are so much vaster. I feel one of the biggest messages she’s delivered to me is that of going through your own personal abyss of shadows to find your own torch to lead you down your own path. Hekate as the Spirit of the World, asks us to think about our role upon the planet. What energies and actions are we allowing into our world? Which structures, paradigms and systematic forms of oppression need to be burned and not allowed to pass? What do we allow into our portals of reality upon this Earth to enhance it for all Her children? How are we in return, care-taking and guarding the planet we are an extension of? How are we going to put on our crown of sovereignty and decide what we allow and what we don’t allow upon our planet.
But most of all, it is through our own personal weirdness that we add something unique to the world. Through our suffering we learn inner strength and empathy for others. Our journeys into the darkness help us appreciate the search for light within others and ourselves – It allows us to see clearly what parts of our lives and the lives of others need illumination – which candles need to be lit and which ones need to be extinguished.