I am one of those people who goes way over-the-top about celebrating just about anything. I throw themed parties, decorate with lavish holiday displays, go nuts creating hand-made Halloween costumes, and Ostara bonnets. I sing, dance, and laugh too loudly, and both divulge and indulge too much. If ever there are shenanigans to be had, you can be sure that I will attend to them directly.
I’m 40 years old now, and I look back at decades of thoroughly enjoyed antics and I will admit to you right now, in front of the Gods and the entire internet, that I do appear to be completely ridiculous… compared to a muggle. I am so OK with that.
You see, some time ago a secret came busting out of my broom closet, to the shock and dismay of my conservative family and neighbors. That pointy-hatted truth just refused to stay politely tucked away. It was a wild, unfettered and jubilant truth…my raison d’etre…so why should it stay hidden? Even though many fine and respectable people thought I’d lost my mind, people for whom I’d so long bent and subverted my truth in exchange for their acceptance; Even though it meant that my long marriage would end with my broken heart, and I’d lose my cherished stay-at-home mom gig; even that I chose to leave my previous (Well-paying, well-regarded.) profession behind, I eventually took my fundamentalist Christian mother’s advice and let my “little light shine” freely for all to see. As it happens, witchcraft is an unstoppable force. Go figure.
Today I am a public Witch, the owner of the local metaphysical store, priestess, teacher and diviner. I serve Aphrodite/Venus and most days I can admit that by taking the less-traveled path, it “makes all the difference,” but that is the happy ending; let me tell you a story, the back-story, a Witch’s Tale…or as they say in the Southern Baptist church, let me TESTIFY!
One of my earliest spiritual epiphanies came when I was in the desperate depths of depression at the age of 19. I’d suffered depressions before several times though the adults in my life didn’t know what to do about it so it went untreated and unaddressed. What does a middle-class, white kid in a loving family have to worry about anyway?
The worst of those episodes of depression was my reaction to rejecting the Christian faith of my childhood. Starting in the 5th grade and going through early adolescence I was in existential turmoil, having rejected the hatefulness, bigotry and isolation taught me by my mother’s church. But, if I wasn’t a Christian, was I doomed? In that black and white world of “with us or against us,” I thought I had only two options: Christian or Atheist. To them, atheism was on par with dancing with the Devil. Yet, if there was no higher purpose to life, why bother?
At around thirteen years old, I lie in bed wide-awake one night when the room seemed particularly moonlit. Clearly in my mind’s inner dialogue I admitted my worst adolescent fear: “There is no God. I am a freak. I am absolutely alone and this is all pointless.” Immediately, my senses were arrested. I lost control of my body and was pressed into the bed as though the gravity of God Almighty was in the room. I was unable to move, heart beating like crazy; flooded with adrenaline, I became hyper-aware. The room became ten times brighter, filled with bluish moonlight, the silence screamed and my mind rang with the surety that I was NOT alone and I DID have a purpose to fulfill. This did not come as a voice or in words and gave no clues to its identity, or gender. I struggled against this force until I gave in and admitted, “OK, maybe there is a God!”
A quickly as it began, it was gone. I was released and all returned to normal. Still panting and tingling, I looked around at the ordinary room with the ordinary darkness. I moved my fingers and stretched. My rational mind kicked-in, skeptical. I thought, “I’m losing it. God did NOT just speak to me.”
I am here to tell you that the whole thing repeated itself again twice as strong; I was taken hostage by my own body! The moon light intensified once again and this time a voiceless scream rang through my head. I surrendered with, “OK, OK, I believe!” And it was all over.
“Hello, I’m Aphrodite” might have made the interpretation easier, but no, that is too easy. What I got was that it/he/she was BIG, INEFFABLE, and POWERFUL. What I heard was, “Shut up and listen, kid: THE UNIVERSE is ALIVE.”
Today I believe that the greatness of the Universe quickened within me, and spoke through my body and Spirit. At the time, I thought I’d been “called” to Christian ministry. I was horror-struck. I started running from that fate by exploring just about any forbidden thing my mother warned me about.
. . . But I digress. This story is about a night when I was 19. It was May of 1993, as I drove back from a freshman year at Marlboro College in Vermont, to my home town of Greenville, South Carolina. It was a hard first year out on my own. My parents separated just as I left for college. To escape the drama, I’d chosen a school as far from home as my father would finance and lived through a six month long, snow entrapped winter for the first time in my life. I thought I was there for Creative Writing, but I’d mostly studied religion and anthropology.
I’d crawled out from under my mother’s protective rock in the bible belt, and into progressive New England just in time to enjoy regular mind-blowings, including the study of neo-paganism and Wicca. As the rite of passage for all witches of the nineties I’d read Spiral Dance, Drawing Down the Moon, and many others, but I was still in a confused, reactionary state, and by this point had laid that aside as well.
My problem was that I was trying to replace the patriarchal form of “We are the only right way” with an even older matriarchal form of “We are the only right way.” Of course, Witchcraft doesn’t play that game. It’s metaphors, and non-dogmatic, “seek the truth from within” approach, would not give me the same comfort of absolutism in which I’d been raised. I was still too much the “sheep” to take the needed responsibility for my own path. What if I were wrong?
That year, I’d also fallen deeply into a sick and twisted love. We’d even played a short game of “engagement.” After six months I barely pried myself out of the black hole of partying and insanity to which my lover was already lost, and cried “uncle” on New England. I couldn’t wait to get back home but with my family now broken and moved away, there wasn’t much of a home left. This wasn’t my first heart-break and it wouldn’t be the last, but it felt like the end of the world. I was in deepest mourning and I didn’t have a clue who I was anymore.
As I drove down Interstate 85 that starry night, just past Charlotte, my mind churned in an anguished, lost pleading for answers. Why even bother to keep living; to keep opening myself up to loss and anguish? Was this just one long monotonous parade of day following day, months repeating themselves, seasons repeating themselves, suffering the relentlessness of staying alive until at last I would succumb to nonexistence?
For what purpose? Why not skip all the bother and just go ahead and snuff out? I was young and I thought I was faced with a life of nothing more than constantly battling the inherent forces of entropy and decay for no other reason than to make another generation who would just continue the struggle. In short, I was deathly afraid of meaninglessness.
Beside that black highway, I passed by this peach shaped water tower in Gaffney, South Carolina, that looks like an enormous ass glowing in the night. It is a ridiculous spectacle, totally unnecessary for the purpose of being a water tower. It is also fantastic in it’s over-the-top expression of pride for being in peach country.
The moment of gnosis that bloomed within me was like a fourth of July grand finale. The point, I realized, was that we decide to give life meaning beyond the mundane. WE DECIDE to celebrate, to make art, and to live beautifully. Not just functionally. We CHOOSE to throw fabulous parties, and to revel in the sumptuous delights of existence along the way. We make wild, juicy, orgasmic love; not just procreate.
We gather the tribe and share feasts on the holidays; not just sustenance. We eat birthday cake. Why? Why not?! We make the key points along the never-ending cycle sacred. Why bother struggling against the cycle when you can celebrate it, flow with it, glory in the sureness of the dawn and the spring and the new babe?
It occurred to me that life truly was in the details. The efforts we put into making life grand and enjoying it are worship. We decide to give it meaning, then we back that up with effort and trappings and it has meaning. The struggle balances the reward; the gain balances the loss; the love balances the fear.
“Religion” shouldn’t be about being “right”, or serving “god” or duty, or heritage. It should be about fulfillment, growth and love, (and chocolate…everything should be about chocolate on some level.)
I choose if this is heaven, hell or purgatory. Do I focus on suffering, sacrifice and atonement? OR do I focus on love, balance and attainment? These were choices. I opened my eyes and saw that it is ALL Divine and the Divine is LOVE. I changed my mind, and the world around me changed; I emerged from fear into wonder and “god” was everywhere, saturating the world in delight.
I choose to live a life of love. I make cake. I throw parties. I decorate. I dance and make love, all as worship. What I sought, I found it within, and I was saved from fear.
I love; therefore, I am.
I’m Jason, I usually write most everything here at Raise the Horns but I’m far away from home (most likely at Stonehenge this morning if everything is going according to plan). Because I’m on the road with no time to write I got some of my friends to help out with the old blog. One of those friends is the author of this piece, Michelle “Heron” Jenkins. I met Michelle at the Sirius Rising Festival in 2012 where we became fast friends (we certainly hung out enough). This past Summer I got to visit her bookstore, The Sojo, and had a most excellent time. Michelle is an amazing Witch and an even better person. Thanks for helping me out Michelle!
Heron is a Modern Witch, priestess, mom of two, artist, reiki healer, clairvoyant, business owner, neighborhood pariah, caretaker of The Sojourner Whole Earth Provisions, a metaphysical store, in Greenville, NC, through which she teaches Modern Witchcraft. She is a frequent lecturer at local colleges, universities, and festivals, and participates with the interfaith community. She is available to see private clients for past-life retrievals with reiki healing, tarot card readings, spiritual/magickal consultation and, for something completely different, Mehndi (Henna) temporary body art. Between all of that she sometimes finds time to writer at her blog, Heron’s Rook.