Saying Hello to a New Year

Saying Hello to a New Year January 2, 2020

This picture pretty much tells you all you need to know.

Hi, Patheos readers! I’m not actually new here, but a lot has changed since I first came aboard back in 2015. I have a tradition that when I start a new journal or book of shadows, I always write an introduction, both to future readers (however imaginary they may be) and to my future self (who has a knack for forgetting details as time passes). Who am I? What am I doing writing? Where am I in my magical practice? What do I hold dear in the moment? It’s a great way to both measure progress and keep my personal struggles and triumphs in perspective. Here, it’s also a good way to let new readers get a glimpse into what they’re in for, and remind longtime readers how much ground we’ve covered over the years.

So hi! My name is Thorn Mooney. I know it sounds like a Harry Potter name, but Mooney is actually a pretty common surname in the American Midwest, from whence half of my family hails. The other half is from the pretty-deep South: Tuscaloosa, Alabama. I’m an Army brat, so I grew up in a few different places (mostly in DC and surrounding suburbs). Now, North Carolina is home, and I think of myself as a Southerner. I like it here, for all its problems. It’s a lot more religiously diverse than people give it credit for, and it’s a great place to be a witch.

When I first started this blog, I was a Title 1 school teacher in Charlotte, NC, working for some of the state’s most disenfranchised children. Now I work in academic publishing, which caters to pretty much the opposite demographic. I’m conflicted about that sometimes, but my new career suits my personality well. I’ve done graduate work in both religious studies and English literature, and I used to adjunct at a big university (which is how I got into teaching to begin with), so I speak fluent Academic. I believe in education, in writing, and in books, but I don’t believe in the ivory tower.

My bookishness is cornerstone to my practice of witchcraft. My magical work is ecstatic, spirit-filled, and deeply personal, but it’s also informed by history, popular culture, and skepticism. I tend to be extremely pragmatic. More historian or theologian than mystic (at least until I’m in circle). It was books that first drew me to witchcraft, and it’s writing that best allows me to process, share, and develop that witchcraft. I’ve been blogging for more than  decade on my own website, and much longer if you want to count LiveJournal and AOL Homepages.
I’m a Gardnerian priestess, and I’ve run a coven in that tradition since 2014. There are so many ways to practice witchcraft–and there always have been–but my way has been Wiccan since the very beginning. I’m a grown-up nineties teen witch who can still quote pretty extensively from my old copies of Silver RavenWolf and Scott Cunningham. I knew I wanted to be an initiate early on, and spent a few years with Blue Star Wicca before finding my way to Gardnerian shortly after college.
Nowadays, people seem to mostly have a handle on the reality that “witchcraft” means different things to different people, but it still sometimes comes as a surprise that “Wicca” does, too. There’s as much variety amongst Wiccans as there is amongst non-Wiccan witches. To me, it’s my lineage and my devotional practice that makes me Wiccan. To others, it’s an adherence to the Rede or the  belief in the Threefold Law. Some of us are theists, but I’ve met plenty who aren’t. Some of us see Wicca as a contemporary tradition rooted squarely in the Western Mysteries (I’m in this camp), but others think of it as a nature religion based on a reconstruction of an ancient past (in spirit if not in fact…it’s been years since I’ve met anyone who genuinely teaches that Wicca is legit ancient. I think we’re mostly over it.).
I don’t have much personal stake in these kinds of debates anymore. I wrote my first book, Traditional Wicca: A Seeker’s Guide, because I didn’t feel like there were enough user-friendly, contemporary works available for people who might be interesting in initiatory, coven-based Wicca, but I don’t hold the position that you need to be an initiate or in a coven to be Wiccan (Gardnerian, yeah, but, again, there are lots of kinds of Wicca in the world). I’m working on another book now about advancing practice, and it’s for all kinds of witches, not just Wicca.
I’m part of other magical communities, too. I’m a student with the Temple of Witchcraft, and since I move to Raleigh last summer I spend a lot of social time with friends in the OTO. Am I a tradition hopper? I don’t think so. But I do believe in taking every educational opportunity I can, and I believe in seeking out truth wherever it lies. Even in coven-based, traditional Wicca, we teach that the witch is ultiamtely alone. We’re all autonomous, all in charge of our own lives, our own practices. I’ve never stopped being a seeker, and I don’t expect I ever will.
Over the years I’ve gone from small-time blogger to published author, teen witch to Gardnerian high priestess. I’ve worked odd jobs, playing guitar in bar bands, reading tarot, serving coffee, running a register, and even teaching martial arts. I work a career job, now, which is a big change. It gets in the way of my witchcraft sometimes, and I write a lot about how I negotiate that. I also struggle with depression and anxiety, like many of us. That informs my practice, too, and I’ve learned a lot through therapy and working with children who struggle with some of the same.
I’ll write about all of these things here at Oathbound. I find that I learn the most while reading about other people’s personal experiences, both the success and the failures. It’s only fair that I share my own. I hope you’ll find something here that’s useful for you. There will be typos and blurry photos and YouTube videos where I say “um” and “like” too much. I’m  a witch with a sometimes soul-sucking day job, insecurities, and limitations. No one is editing these or paying me a salary to write, and I often worry that I’m going to intentionally post something super offensive. But I’m pressing on, anyway!
This is going to be a big year, and I’m excited to share it with you.
If you’re interested, you can find me on Instagram @thornthewitch and on Twitter @TarotSkeptic.
And if you are totally new to my work, here are some links to a few of my old favorites:
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