Francine and I first met at CWED in Sao Paolo (Brazil) in 2014. I will never forget how she quietly came up to me and presented me with a bag of vegan snacks, including a massive block of goiabada, a Brazilian sweet made from guava (a fruit) as she had found out that I loved guavas! In the years since then, Francine has impressed me deeply with her kindness, her passion for Hekate, as well as her dedication to learning, serving her community; and her work ethic. She is part of the new generation of young people who are taking the celebration of the Mysteries into the future.
In this interview I asked Francine about how her interest in the Goddess began, her work with the Covenant of Hekate and the Wiccan and Goddess community in Brazil.
Sorita d’Este interviews Francine Derschner
Children of Earth: People who Inspired, Informed or Encouraged me.
Sorita – You have been involved with Paganism for quite a few years now. Can you say more about how you first discovered that this was a spiritual tradition you resonated with, and how your interest evolved into practice?
Francine – I was fortunate and blessed on my spiritual path. Like many in Brazil, I came from a family with a great deal of religious diversity: Catholics, spiritists, evangelicals and a lot of interest in esotericism on the part of my mother. This gave me an interest in the spiritual from an early age, and I was able to frequent esoteric shops and buy statues of goblins, witches, as well as lots of incense in my childhood.
In college, I began to study Wicca, probably inspired by the feminist movements and oriental religions. I guess the ancient gods are especially attractive for a history student. And my interest evolved in practice at almost the same time because I had the privilege of living near a fantastic wiccan group who performed open rites: the Nemorensis Tradition. The books and the work of Claudiney Prieto and the Nemorensis Tradition were my true introduction to the Art. Meeting a quality group near where one lives is a real privilege.
Sorita – You have given talks on your beliefs and practices, and also facilitated ceremonies in Sao Paolo, Brazil, where you are based. What prompted or inspired you to become involved in teaching others?
Francine – In fact, I never meant to do any of those things. But my devotional relationship with the Goddess Hekate led me to this because when I started working with her, I didn’t know any devotees or books that could serve as references about the Goddess.
So when I discovered the Covenant of Hekate and your books Sorita another world opened up for me, and I wanted to share what I was learning with other people in Brazil. Naturally, other devotees started looking for me wanting to know more about the Goddess. So before I even realized I was celebrating the Rite of Her Sacred Fires in a public park and given talks at pagan events in my city.
I found a local community of devotees and a new way of serving Hekate and deepen my devotion to Her.
Sorita – How has the Pagan and Witch community in Sao Paolo changed over the last few years? What is inspiring that change?
Francine – Our pagan community, in general, has grown a lot; we now have many different traditions of paganism in Brazil. We have many more books translated into Portuguese, and also more public events and active groups than ever before.
Brazil is now more connected with the international pagan community, and we are also more aware of what is being discussed in the world. This change came with the development of new technologies, especially the internet, of course. Even at the risk of appearing like a flatterer, I also need to emphasize the importance of Claudiney Prieto in all these changes. Many of the opportunities here in Brazil were created by him through his books, the events he organises – Mystic Fair and the Conferência de Wicca (Conference of Wicca) which brings international speakers of different traditions to Brazil every year, has a huge impact on us.
Today I believe that, with all these new doors opening in Brazil, new devotees, groups and traditions will emerge, and that the Pagan Scene in Brazil will consolidate more under such leadership.
Sorita – You are one of the Keybearers of the Covenant of Hekate, the community I founded with others following the first Rite of Her Sacred Fires in 2010. In the last decade or so the interest in the Goddess of the Crossroads has grown significantly around the world, and as a devotee myself I am very excited about the opportunities this creates for learning and experiencing the Goddess in different ways. There are vast numbers of people in Brazil interested in Hekate, why do you think Brazilians are interested in exploring the Mysteries of a Goddess who is seemingly so foreign to their own land?
Francine – Hekate has a historical role related to the social excluded and less fortunate, she is a goddess that transcends boundaries. All these aspects make her very attractive in the Brazilian scene in my opinion. Even today, many of those involved in the worship of ancient deities and in paganism here are seen as socially excluded among the vast majority of Christians and evangelicals. There is a very pronounced social inequality in Brazil.
But above all, I believe that one of our most unique aspects is our religious syncretism, it is prevalent for people here to attend a Catholic Mass and to then go to a Terreiro of Umbanda; or to be Evangelical and make ‘sympathies’ at home. Our religiosity has always been very magical and all of this makes Hekate an ideal Goddess – which we can identify with, as she has connections with magical practices and cultural syncretism throughout the centuries.
Sorita – You hosted the Rite of Her Sacred Fires 2019 in the Santuário Da Grande Mãe in Sao Paolo, a space in which events are hosted entirely free of charge for others. Can you say more about this space and why it is so special to Sao Paolo’s Pagan community?
Francine – The Santuário Da Grande Mãe was a gift to the local pagan community, especially to the small groups that live in Sao Paulo. Our city and its surroundings have few green areas, and generally speaking, these spaces can be remote and dangerous. People are often robbed or attacked when they are in those areas. Public parks which are safe options have strict rules that sometimes preclude our rituals, such as (for example) the prohibition of lighting candles. Then there is also the religious prejudice of the officials and employees of these places.
Sorita – I was delighted to see the initiative you and the other organisers of this year’s Rite of Her Sacred Fires in the Santuário Da Grande Mãe took to ask attendees to donate food staples for a homeless food bank. For me, this is something very much in the spirit of community gatherings for the Goddess, and I would love to see such initiatives more often – not just in the context of the Rite of Her Sacred Fires, but in all such gatherings honouring Hekate. What inspired the decision to do this and what advice could you offer to those reading this who might want to undertake similar work in their communities?
Francine – At the end of every rite we were faced with the problem of what to do with the offerings brought, so last year while taking my Deipnon offerings to a crossroads I met a homeless person who asked me for the food before I even had the chance to offer it properly. This opened up a new possibility.
I live and work in a region with many homeless people, and because of this I felt the need to help these people that I saw literally every day. This led me to meet with the group to whom we send the ritual e ritual donations of the Sacred Fires this year.
For those who want to do such actions, I say, look around, see the needs of your community or your region. Of course, there are great causes and global issues that we should also engage, but sometimes this becomes too complex,so recognize the needs of those around you it’s imperative.
Sorita – What is to you the most important qualities the Goddess Hekate embodies?
Francine – This is a tough question since she has so many different qualities, but for me, it is Hekate’s guiding and protective aspects.
Sorita – Within the Covenant of Hekate you are involved with a virtual Sanctuary offering spiritual support to members, free of charge, who are in need of help to petition the Goddess. Can you tell us more about that?
Francine – The virtual Sanctuary of Hekate Ourania-Pammetor was a joint work accomplished with the wonderful Edward Cantazaro (one of the other Keybearers), and to be honest, he is the primary person who shaped this project.
We have a team of designated members who receive the petitions from the CoH members and through these volunteers we assist the petitioner by providing the energetic support towards the appropriate goals. As an exchange we we ask the petitioners to perform some act of charity, of their choosing.
More information is available on the website hekateouraniapammetor.wordpress.com
Sorita – In addition to the Goddess Hekate, I know you also honour other deities on your household shrine. Not all devotees of the Gods feel that it is crucial to maintain a household shrine, and some think that they can’t because of religious discrimination and misunderstandings associated with Paganism and Witchcraft which continues to persists. How important do you feel it is to maintain a household shrine and how do you feel you benefit from this practice?
Francine – For me it is of the utmost importance to have a space for the sacred in my life, it serves as a channel of connection and communication with the divine, but it also reminds me of my own spirituality every day. Having a chance to have a space to light candles and incense, making prayers for the gods brings us closer to the divine in my opinion. For me have a household shrine it’s as if I officially invite the gods whom I love to have a permanent abode in my house and in my life.
Sorita – What advice would you give newcomers to the Goddess and Pagan traditions who are looking for a teacher or way to learn?
Francine – First of all, don’t hurry. I see many newcomers following dubious information in their haste to start their magical practice – even in ways which could be dangerous. Always check the sources of the material you have access to. Who wrote the information? And is the information based on good ethical foundations? History can also be a very valuable resource in the learning process, so read a lot and respect your own time.
Your favourite book of all time? Pride and Prejudice
Your favourite character from history? Currently Hatshepsut, a female pharaoh
Your favourite element? Fire
Your favourite food? Probably Candys
Your favourite number? 25
Your favourite planet? Jupiter
Your favourite plant? basil
Your favourite stone? Lapis-lazuli
Your favourite Tarot / Oracle deck? I’m a runic person
Your sunsign? Aquarius
About Francine Derschner
Francine has a degree in History, and a long fascination with mythology and esotericism. She began her journey in Wicca in about 2010, and has since found her personal spirituality through her work rediscovering the Ancient Gods.
In 2012 she started her work with the Goddess Hekate, and was called into her service. Dedicating herself wholly to the Goddess in her personal practice. She is a Torchbearer and Keybearer of the Covenant of Hekate. In the Covenant of Hekate she describes her goal to be assisting other devotees in their reconnection and rediscovery of the Goddess, and to expand the Sacred Flames of Hekate wherever she can, especially at home in the Brazilian community.