The woman whom I named Lilith has been my friend for more than forty years now. We were emailing each other a few years ago, discussing the year 1970. She has agreed to let me share part of her story. I have woven the following out of excerpts from those missives.
I was steeped in the Catholic mystic tradition. Our good Irish nuns were forever telling us about the lives of the saints. For me the whole notion of kneeling on tubercular knees, going into ecstatic states, was “normal” fare: suffer enough to drive yourself out of your body beyond the physical and you attain a glimpse of God! So, when I got involved with the Craft, the Catholic mystic trad was a foundation for me. I had experienced “ecstatic” states throughout my childhood, and I wanted MORE of that.
My recollection of Brigid: OHMYGOSH! (said with full-on Valley-girl dialect!)
Judy came up to me that afternoon and said, “We’re having a party here tonight and you’re invited.”
“OK, I live here, why wouldn’t I be invited?”
“Well, it’s a special kind of party. It’s a Witch’s Sabbat.”
(The words “Witch’s Sabbat” turn slowly in my good Catholic girl’s mind. I had spent my entire life until that point going to school, practicing piano, and doing homework! I was socially retarded! What IS it with Catholic education? Repression?)
“Of course I’ll come!!”
I, of course, am way curious. . .thoughts of naked bodies, pagan sacrifice, strange incantations, . . . my mind went into overdrive! Imagine my surprise when I see this motley lot with kids and dogs and potluck and smiles and, jeeze, it all looked so normal! And here I am in my red velvet dress expecting some Hollywood B movie version Ah! the mind!
I remember standing in the circle and you asking if there was anyone present who wanted to be initiated. [This was our Order initiation. It mainly involved taking an oath and signing our membership list.] I stood there rooted to the spot. I couldn’t take my eyes off you. I was completely enthralled. And I was pushed form behind. You looked surprised and I looked in back of me to see who had pushed me. There was no one there. You asked me to pick a name, and the first thing that popped into my head was Zahran. You just shook your head No at me and said, “Your name is Lilith.”
What was compelling for me was this: any religion that celebrated women, that included singing, dancing, and kissing, couldn’t be all bad. It felt right. It felt like family to me. And I felt, for the first time in my life, that I belonged here. I had always felt like an outsider or, at best, at the edge of things. So I loved the ritual, but I think I loved you more. . . .
When I first opened up, in that period between The Frog House and Summer Solstice, I was out of control. Stuff would flood in, I could “see” everything, and functioning in any real sense was beyond me!
That ritual was so memorable for me. Through the woods from Glenna’s house to this magical knoll under a full moon, naked! It was the first time I had taken my clothes off in front of anyone and it felt so right, so free. Coming back, I walked alone, seriously deep in thought. I could feel the ground beneath my feet shifting. I was conflicted about my life before, with Dennis, and this new possibility. I think on a soul-level I resonated deeply with this notion of the sacred feminine, and I connected to the reality that SHE comes in so many different forms, tall, short, beautiful, plain, and all so wonderful, and if they were all wonderful, there existed the possibility that maybe I was wonderful and beautiful too! . . .
I remember our Litha Sabbat in Lagunitas that summer . . . seeing you above me, transformed, enlightened, not a metaphor, because I rarely see auras, but I saw yours that night, rainbow hues rippling outward like a Van de Graff machine, “shining like shook foil,” for you had dropped your psychic shields completely. I felt gifted and blessed that you could trust me so much that you became totally vulnerable, and I loved you. I hope you have always known that ecstasy was your true initiation . . . White Cord and Red Cord later were mere documentation.
Somehow, we got enmeshed, you and I, and you’re right, I opened up to you, totally without conditions or reserve. Whatever happened in that moment happened only that one time and never again. It was, as they say, a defining moment. I suddenly had this self-realization. I also came to see the power of sexual energy and the possibility of transcendence, numinous. You opened the door of the timeless to me.
I stopped looking for that quite a while back, not because I don’t think it’s ever possible again, but because it was just for that one moment, and that ignited the deeper search. So to say I am grateful is an understatement. How many times in our lives can we be told by someone that you changed the course of my life, and because of that I am better, greater, more possible in a world of limitless possibilities?
Whatever was going on in the interpersonal level with all the players, there was this thread of Wicca: the feminine, being a Priestess, feeling the current run through my body, feeling embodied by HER, being HER, bridging the gap between dimensions. This was the drug for me, the search for the deepest, for consciousness, for the Divine Connection of that Summer Solstice, that all too fleeting moment.
So!! Initiation on the deep level is VERY powerful. Perhaps that’s why the Church is so repressive. That power unlocks the great secrets and mysteries of creation, opens the doors of the mind, and frees creativity, gnosis. We are/have God within. WE create and destroy. No longer are we victims nor do we have to remain on the sidelines of creation.
What were you thinking when you named me? No, I don’t think you were “thinking,” but rather it just came out of your mouth! And, like Lilith, I was banished from the garden (perhaps quite by luck!) but banished, nonetheless. Lilith, within me, survives. She is fierce, a warrior, compassionate, kind—surgical.
In a religion such as Wicca, where a woman’s power is celebrated, nurtured, the levels of initiation serve to empower women, gradually, with care. That is, unless you’ve been “initiated” as I was. My perception was that the power coursed through me. The rest was more about tempering my spirit, maturing me to handle the power wisely.
Perhaps it is not obvious enough that Lilith’s initiation opened up the innate psychic abilities that I believe all humans have but are usually not aware of. Our coven had an extensive system for helping our members open up and train such abilities. Lilith’s maturing comprised her mastering that system, going on to find even more advanced training, then developing her own system for such training. She has practiced as a clairvoyant reader and counselor for at least 30 years, and has acquired many of the “powers of the Witch” described in Leland’s Aradia. Many remarkable people passed through our coven; yet I have always thought that Lilith was one of the greater success stories of our “grow your own witchcraft” experiment. Consider this anecdote she sent me:
In 1983, I took eight students of mine on a journey to Mexico. They had just completed a one-year seminar with me and the trip was their final. We camped on the beach in San Felipe. Every morning the old Mexican vendors would come by. The first day they tried to sell us stuff. The second day they just came and sat outside our RV until I came out with my coffee. They would smile, then come up to me, one by one, take their hats off, and take my hand. I understood, in the moment, that they wanted me to “bless” them for good luck, which I did every morning for ten mornings, and they would regale me with stories of how well they had done that day. It’s clear to me that the “locals” sensed that we weren’t the usual tourists, and these old men “recognized” me—interestingly, to the chagrin of a couple of my female students, who were in a power struggle with me. They struggled, I watched! For them, to see that strangers were paying respect to me was a breakthrough. Why are people so hardheaded? You just want to train them to develop their power and use it wisely.