Wicca is connection

I’ve really been enjoying Deporodh’s series over at Swangrove Coven about eight qualities in the Charge of the Goddess: beauty and strength, power and compassion, honor and humility, mirth and reverence. Her most recent post is on humility, and I want to pull this excerpt from it:

…if you boil Wicca down to a one-word core concept, it is “connection”; (K.C.’s example for Christianity was “forgiveness” or for Buddhism was “mindfulness”). Humility joins people, and that junction, that connection, so key to the love and trust intrinsic to Wiccan magic & Wiccan ritual—that connection depends on the equalizing effect of humility as much as it depends on that love and trust.

This… this is a beautiful core thing that I want to hold onto. Without getting too deep and spilling out too much of my needy inner self, I can say that connection is one of the driving forces that brought me to Wicca and keeps me here. I’ve been solitary, as a baby Pagan and as a more experienced adult. I’ve been part of a small group that met literally down the block from my own apartment, I’ve been part of a slightly larger group that met hours away from where I lived, and I was far away from blood family and my home state both times. Now I’m finding myself home, still living far enough away from my group that I only make it to a few events, but also part of a group with 20+ regulars attending public full moons. My goal is to build a group that will actually meet in my home, which is going to be an entirely new experience.

The connections that I’m building now are part of being in a tradition. I’ve always been very aware of my self, my personality, my thought patterns and habits and experiences, and able to analyze them and make changes in my life. Yet I’ve recently concluded that this ability is only half of the story. If I can’t give voice to those understandings and tell about those experiences, what good does it do anyone else? How can I be connected to other people? What value do I bring to the table, and what value can I get as part of a functioning group? It’s all of a piece: willingness to speak my piece, showing why anyone should listen to what I have to say, how someone could connect to me and why they might want to be part of a coven with me.

And then there’s connection to the gods. We help Them and They help us. We’re connected to them and to each other at the level of the divine soul, and physically here on Earth, we’re all part of many ecosystems. All connected.

(All this said: My lesson is probably to have more self-esteem and only as much humility is appropriate. It’s what I’m fighting against by learning to stand up, metaphorically sometimes, and say my piece.)

Resources for pronouncing Old Norse

I’ve recently discovered Dr. Jackson Crawford, a professor of Old Norse who posts YouTube videos about the language, the runes, and Norse myth and sagas (as of today, there’s 61 videos on that playlist, so enjoy). If the Norse gods are at all part of your Paganism, here’s a few that are worth a watch.

Pronunciation of Old Norse Gods’ Names, Part 1 (Part 2 is here)

Introduction to the Norse Gods and Goddesses

The Names of the Runes (Elder Futhark) — also interesting are Runes: A Two-Minute Introduction and Where Do the Runes Come From?

The 9 Worlds of Norse Myth — from this one I really like the point that “the medieval Norse did not have a concept of a planet in space. These Nine Worlds are more like realms with a very vague geographical relationship to each other.” To me, it seems that they’re more like the astral realm, which may have its own geography but doesn’t necessarily map to the physical realm.

Dr. Crawford has a Patreon to continue making these videos, so if you enjoyed them, consider signing up to support him. (These are not affiliate links and I have no connection to Dr. Crawford personally; I just think this is quality content.) He also has a contemporary English translation of the Poetic Edda available on Amazon, which you might be interested in if you found Hollander’s a bit, um, challenging.

And if you were wondering, no, he’s not Asatru or Pagan. I know. I’m disappointed too.

A statement on Kenny Klein and sexual abuse

Time for a serious moment. I may not be the best person to speak on this, but because I have publicly (here on my website) stated a willingness to host circles and to take on students, I feel the need to say something in the interest of transparency. Potential attendees and students should know where I stand. (However, please note that I cannot and do not speak for Blue Star as a whole.)

On Thursday night, Kenny Klein was found guilty on 20 counts of possessing child pornography. His sentencing will take place on April 20. Kenny was a traveling musician and a priest of Blue Star Wicca.

News reports truthfully characterize Kenny as “a nationally known Wiccan high priest, musician and author.” The first article linked above is accurate to the best of my knowledge, describing Dr. Tzipora Katz as “a former high priestess who co-founded the Blue Star tradition of Wicca that Klein discovered and joined during the 1980s in New York. The couple left New York in 1988, starting a four-year odyssey in which they performed music at Pagan festivals and Renaissance fairs around the country while primarily living out of a van.” During those four years, they also began study groups across the United States that later developed into covens. Kenny and Tzipora’s acrimonious divorce in 1992 caused much damage to Blue Star.

There are many discussions happening now in the tradition. We have no governing body and no official spokesperson, so I doubt any sort of blanket statement will be made. In general, however, these discussions condemn Kenny’s actions and consider the jury’s verdict just and fair. Kenny’s crimes do not represent Blue Star, and I state emphatically that sexual abuse is not part of the tradition or part of Wicca as I know it.

To the adults who testified on Thursday that Kenny sexually abused them while they were children in his care: I believe you. Everyone should have believed you then. I will work to make Blue Star a safer place for children and for adults.

When Kenny was arrested in 2014, many initiates and elders signed public statements, two of which are available at Sabrina Mari’s blog. One mentions waiting until Kenny’s case has been decided by the judicial system. If additional statements are published now that a guilty verdict has been returned, I will link to them. For now, The Wild Hunt has a summary of the case that ends with statements from Kenny’s fiancée (hers is the only statement I’ve seen that defends him) and from one of Tzipora’s children, noting that Tzipora herself was unavailable for comment. However, she has said that she left the Pagan community after divorcing Kenny “because allegations she and her children made against Klein at that time were not believed, and they felt unwelcome as a result,” according to The Wild Hunt.

[Update, 4/10/17, 1:24 pm: This piece from Kristin Barton, a Blue Star Third Degree and High Priestess, is a brilliant summary of the situation and a plan for the future: Kenny Klein Blue Star High Priest, Guilty: The Aftermath and Going Forward: An Opinion Piece by a Survivor, Containing Strong Words and Well-Placed Profanity]

Revoking initiations and elevations is not possible. Neither can Kenny’s past contributions to Blue Star be erased or his initiates disparaged solely because he initiated them. It is not helpful to say that he wasn’t a real Wiccan; he was, and his initiates are good people whose grief this week is deep. Kenny may not have abused them, but he betrayed them just the same.

I came to Blue Star in 2007. I never met Kenny, though if he’d visited covens on the East Coast when I was available, I undoubtedly would have, simply because he’s a big name in Blue Star. Instead, because he’s a big name in Blue Star, I heard stories about who he was — and those stories painted him as creepy, as not quite worthy of trust, but as someone who had nonetheless made worthwhile contributions to the tradition and was grudgingly tolerated because of them. Some Blue Star elders have known Kenny since the 1980s. Some initiates and students met him in the last 10–15 years and were still studying with him. At some point, Kenny seemed worthy of their trust and friendship. Without those stories warning me away, I may have come to the same conclusion.

Again, I cannot and do not speak for Blue Star as a whole; I speak only for myself when I say the following:

I will not tolerate even a whiff of creepiness in the members of any coven or other group I may run. Not Kenny himself and not anyone else like him. Moreover, I am the mother of two little girls, and I will not extend trust to anyone who might hurt them. Neither will I wait for such a person to act before kicking them out and barring the door. This is one of the lessons I’ve learned from Kenny’s arrest and trial — and from other high-profile sexual assault cases in which victims were not believed and people continued to give an abuser chances.

I hope that I and others in Blue Star will be watchful to prevent abuse in the years to come. If you feel unsafe while attending an event that I host, I will believe you when you tell me so, and the person or situation that is making you feel unsafe will be removed.

(On the other hand, if you are concerned that you might be seen as creepy, Captain Awkward has a lengthy discussion with links and other resources for what you can do about it. If your group has a creepy dude problem, I offer even more advice from Captain Awkward.)

Kenny is now in jail awaiting sentencing, and he could be in prison for the rest of his life (a minimum of 105 years if his sentences are consecutive, but 10 years or less if they are concurrent; he is 62). Although there is a conversation to be had about reintegration and the risk of re-offending, I think this conversation should wait for the least bit of remorse from Kenny. Conversations about safety, consent, and the right to bodily autonomy are more important.

[Update, 4/21/17, 12:13 pm: Kenny’s sentencing was postponed after his lawyer filed 11th-hour motions seeking a new trial, NOLA.com reports. Prosecutors have until May 4 to respond. If the judge does not grant a new trial, he will impose a sentence on May 12.]

[Update, 5/12/17, 6:39 pm: Kenny was sentenced to 20 years in prison: the 20-year sentence for the most severe count and a minimum sentence for the other 19 counts, served concurrently. Upon release from prison — if Kenny is released before he dies — he will be 82 years old and will have to wear an ankle monitor for the rest of his life. According to the NOLA.com article, the judge “had never before received so many letters both in support of and opposed to leniency for a defendant before a sentencing decision.” May those who hurt find healing.]

[Update, 7/15/20, 5:30 pm: Kenny Klein died of pancreatic cancer on July 11, while serving his sentence. The Wild Hunt has the facts of his death and a statement from Tzipora. I stand by the content of this post and reiterate: May those who hurt find healing.]

[Update, 7/15/20, 8:16 pm: Wellspring Coven & Grove has updated their statement from 2017, which provides another Blue Star perspective. I’ll continue to update this post with any further statements and comments from Blue Star folks.]

[Update, 7/17/20, 7:42 pm: Sapphire Coven & Grove has updated their statement from 2017, Serenity Coven & Grove has updated theirs, and Haven Song Coven & Grove has made a statement signed by coven leadership and other Blue Star initiates. For the link-averse: These statements are acknowledging Kenny’s influence on Blue Star as a tradition of Wicca, condemning his actions as abusive and intolerable, committing (or recomitting) to standing against abuse, yet recognizing that those who knew him are having complicated feelings about his death. (Scarlet Magdalene, a Blue Star initiate, posted When Should We Speak Ill of the Dead? to explore some of those complex feelings more generally.) Although, as noted, Blue Star has no central leadership by which the tradition might universally denounce Kenny or any other abuser, the voices of these Blue Star initiates speak loudest and most in concert. Few continue to support him or consider his memory a blessing.]

Wands update

I’m having fun with this, even as I’m learning how much I don’t know. Then again, I’ve always thought it was more fun to be a beginner because you’re not expected to know much. If you screw up, somebody will laugh and show you a better way or the proper way, if there is one. Once you’ve been taught, though, you’re responsible for knowing what to do, and that’s what I’ve always found difficult to handle. Naturally, that’s the space I’m in right now.

So, let’s talk about the thing I’m a total beginner at.

The blisters I thought were no big deal lasted a good 10 days. The skin still isn’t totally healed, but at least my thumbs don’t hurt anymore.

I opted to buy a better knife. I’d been using my husband’s secondhand Leatherman, and it’s never been sharpened since he owned it. I did a little research on whittling knives — I could have sharpened the Leatherman and kept using it, but it bothered me to make a magical tool with a borrowed knife — and I chose an Opinel No. 7 with a carbon steel blade, which I’m very happy with so far. I also bought mineral oil to keep the blade in good condition (they tend to rust and pit if they stay wet for even a few hours) and a sharpening stone, though I haven’t needed to use it yet. I also appreciated that if I’m good at sharpening the blade, I can use this inexpensive knife for decades, but if I completely screw it up, I’ve still screwed up my tool but I didn’t pay a lot of money to do it.

I watched a few videos that showed different kinds of whittling cuts. This, plus the actual hands-on whittling, reminded me that I’ve done this before — at least, I was able to take a knockoff Swiss Army knife and sharpen random sticks to a point to cook hot dogs over a campfire. I mean, I’m not doing advanced carving here.

Whittling Basics – D-I-Why Not? from www.KORDUROY.tv on Vimeo.

So, I’ve got my sticks, my knife (and mineral oil for the knife), fine-grit sandpaper to smooth the surface, and my linseed oil to finish it.

I started with the smallest maple sticks, thinking I’d make wands for the kids and be sure I knew what I was doing. It took me about 45 minutes to carve the bark from the first stick, cut off one splintered end and roughly round it off, and sharpen the other end to a dull point (here, it helped that I had a wand tip I wanted to imitate). The second stick took me maybe 15 minutes to do the same. Then I sanded both with 100-grit sandpaper. This took maybe another 15 minutes.

I’d say I don’t quite know how to put into words what I learned during this process, but the point of this blog is to try, so here goes: I saw the layers of the wood and learned how to take off only the dark brown parts. I learned how to make long, slow cuts, in the direction of the grain, and saw the grain appear as I carved and shaped. How to hold the blade at a small angle, like peeling potatoes with a paring knife; these were thin sticks to start with, and they ended up thinner when the bark was gone. I’d say they started as the size of my index finger and ended up the size of my pinky. I tried the different cuts that I saw on videos, especially the channel cut, which I used to shape the rounded ends. At some point in the process, it began to make sense, and I relied on my intuition to shape the final product. It wasn’t hard anymore — I mean, it was pretty simple to start with, but I can certainly make things harder and more fraught than they need to be — and I was more confident in reaching for what I needed.

The next step is 220-grit sandpaper, and if I’m happy with how smooth that is, I’ll start putting on coats of linseed oil over time.

However, I think that the bigger stick I picked up for a staff isn’t going to end up thick enough to use for that purpose, so I’ll probably cut a thick segment out of the middle to make my wand. With photos of the process, maybe.

Being Maewyn on St. Patrick’s Day

I’m not Irish and don’t particularly celebrate St. Patrick’s Day besides wearing a green shirt and making sure I get a shamrock shake from McDonald’s (hey, I’m a mom now; drinking and carousing comes at a high price), but as the owner of Maewyn dot net, I probably ought to have something to say today.

It’s about chosen names and growing up.

As is wise in this day and age, I’ve long had a Google alert that brings me any mention of the name Maewyn on the intertubes. Mostly, it had news about an Irish pub named Maewyn’s in York, Pennsylvania, which opened in 2010, closed in 2014, and is now a seafood restaurant called Rockfish Public House. These days, the alert is normally quiet but picks up again in February and March. The fact that St. Patrick was born with the name Maewyn Succat livens up many a St. Patrick’s Day history post.

I didn’t name myself after him, though. I made it up, or so I thought, by combining the name Mae with the -wyn part of names like Eowyn and Bronwyn. Voila, Maewyn. I Googled it to see who or what else might be using the name — this was 2002 or very early 2003; we did have The Google, but only just — and in my journal, I wrote that at the time, the results included an exotic cattery, a female gamer going by MaeWyn, and listings for a male UK government official named Maewyn Cumming. Most of the results were about St. Patrick’s Day.

Here’s what I wrote about it back in 2004:

Three of the better Google results: a 1996 CNN posting on St. Patrick’s Day, a holiday guide (scroll a bit, St. Patrick’s is the first listing), and a kids’ holiday-info sheet. I seem to remember also coming across the name Maewyn in St. Patrick’s Confessio, though I’m not sure if I actually found it there, or just read it looking for the name and didn’t find it.

A confessio is a medieval autobiography. The link above is the version I borrowed from the university library; I don’t remember reading anything remarkable from it. The name Maewyn really doesn’t appear in it, I can tell you, now that the whole Confessio is online and searchable.

However, there’s an added dimension to using Maewyn as my Craft name (well, technically, it’s just the name I use in online Pagan spaces): the antipathy many Pagans have toward St. Patrick because he’s credited with Christianizing Ireland.

Here’s my younger, more enthusiastic self in a 2004 post:

We’ll start with the usual anti-Christian sentiment among Pagans, that St. Patrick is widely celebrated as a Christian hero but there’s also the story that St. Patrick drove the snakes (symbolically, Druids) out of Ireland, St. Patrick was antagonistic toward the Druids, etc. So for those of you who don’t want to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, call it St. Maewyn’s and you’ll be fine. Personally, I haven’t found anything substantiating the “snakes = Druids” story, and there are no snakes in Ireland because Ireland is an island, so it would be difficult for non-aquatic snakes to get there in the first place. That, and I think Pagans spend entirely too much time angsting over and persecuting Christians anyway…

So there ya go…Happy St. Maewyn’s Day!

I posted “Happy St. Maewyn’s Day” every year for a few years. From what I wrote in 2003 (one’s own journals hold a wealth of embarrassment), the CNN article linked above had the offhand comment “Good thing he changed his name. St. Maewyn’s Day doesn’t have the same ring,” and — feeling that I’d invented the name before I’d ever heard this history, therefore it was mine — I decided to take March 17 for myself. I read the Confessio because I didn’t want to “make a fool of myself (unintentionally, that is) when I start declaring March 17 St. Maewyn’s Day and my own personal worldwide holiday.”

Well. I hereby forgive my younger self for trying to make St. Maewyn’s Day a thing. I am grateful that it didn’t catch on with anyone, that my friends graciously let it roll on by, and that I eventually stopped saying anything about it in public.

What has caught on in some Pagan circles is calling today “All Snakes Day,” proclaiming “Bring back the snakes!” and wearing black, as if St. Patrick slaughtered Pagans by the thousands. Ian Corrigan, a past Archdruid of ADF, wrote about this “St. Patrick’s Fakelore” on his personal blog in 2015:

Let’s be very clear – St Patrick was no friend of Pagans. However he is in no sense responsible for a genocide of Celts, Pagans or Druids in Ireland. Since the bad folklore that circulates on the internet has trouble distinguishing between those three terms, let’s start there.

Corrigan goes on to mention, also, that the snake legend was borrowed from legends of other famous saints and that snakes were not a metaphor for Pagans in it. He links to Morgan Daimler, who traces the possible origin of the connection. (Also, National Geographic suggests that the most recent ice age kept Ireland too cold for reptiles, that the surrounding seas kept them out afterward, and that there’s no fossil record of snakes ever having been in Ireland in the first place.)

All that said, I’ve now gone by Maewyn for about 13 years — I had begun to use it before I started my journal in April 2003, but an entry on July 15, 2004, marked the “official” change — and it’s as much my name as the one I was born with or the one I married into. I give very few flying figs about St. Patrick or snakes in Ireland, but I took a name that was once his, so I have this awkward connection to March 17. And it is, in its own way, a story about where I come from and who I was, how I’ve changed and how I’ve stayed the same.

If you came to this blog to find information about St. Patrick, I hope the links in this post will be useful to you, because they’re all I can provide. If you’re here for musings, natterings, and the odd bit of navel-gazing, drop your email address in the Subscribe box below, and welcome!

Sticks and wands and making

Today I’m discovering just how often I use the pad of my right thumb. It’s got a blister I acquired yesterday in a few minutes of slicing the bark from a branch that’s going to become a broomstick. (I’m not done yet. I sat down with it once in January and took off bark from about five inches on one end, and my left thumb got a blister that took more than a week to heal. This time, I got about halfway done, and my left thumb doesn’t have much of a blister — it’s mostly healed already — and my right thumb has an impressive one.) I also collected some maple sticks blown down in recent wind storms that will hopefully become a staff and at least one wand, but they need a few weeks to dry out first.

I’m not a woodworker, so this project is also an exercise in discovering what else I don’t know. Are my fingers unused to handling a knife, or is my knife dull? Am I using woods that are harder than others? How do I sharpen my knife? Where in my small town do I get small quantities of boiled linseed oil? At what point do I need to stop researching the best way to do something and just give it a try?

That’s a metaphor for my practice of witchcraft, I think. I spent years reading books and discussions about tools and how to create them; I read people saying that a wand is not much more than a stick of wood and people debating what types of crystals and wire are best to wrap around a wand and how. I read arguments for the wand being a tool of Fire and for the wand being a tool of Air.

Yet I don’t even think I owned a wand for the first five or six years I was a Pagan. My oldest one, passed to me from a friend who was getting rid of her things, is all crystals and wire wrapped around a glass rod, no wood in it at all. (It doesn’t resonate with me and I’ve never used it, but I’m happy to keep it. Maybe one of my wee witchlings will like it when they’re older.) The one I use now, I bought a little more than a decade ago from a wandcrafter in the UK; it’s hazel, which isn’t native to North America, so I rather had to buy it.

Thus it’s taken me this long to simply choose a stick from my backyard and begin making it into a wand.

Not just any stick, to be fair. I have an affinity for maple trees in general and this maple tree in particular, and the branch called out to me for days before I went out and picked it up. But still… a stick. My backyard. That simple.

My staff, on the other hand, dates from the earliest days of my being Pagan and was indeed a large stick I got in the woods behind where I lived at the time. I’ve slowly chipped the bark from it and kept the surface natural, and thus it remains.

It’s all a spiral. You come around back to the place you were before, but you’re changed and it’s different, yet somehow the same.

Housekeeping note

As part of my site update, I deleted the old WordPress installation and started fresh. This somehow sends a flashing FRESH MEAT sign to spammers, who come and register as users in order to… I still don’t know, frankly, but they’ve been doing it for years. I guess it somehow results in profit. ???

Anyway, if you registered here on Maewyn dot net sometime in 2017 and you are a human, feel free to re-register, and use the Contact form to reach me if you’re having problems. Security tools sometimes work too well and keep out people as well as robots.

A new platform for Pagan bloggers

I’ve just backed the Pagan Bloggers campaign on IndieGoGo.  They’ve got four days left to reach their stretch goal!

I heard about this campaign after following some kerfluffle over Patheos’ new contracts, in which Pagan bloggers were asked to agree not to disparage Patheos or any of its related companies. John Halsted, now a former blogger at Patheos’ Pagan channel, laid out the problem with “related companies” this way:

This is potentially the most problematic part of the contract. For example, one of the other writers here brought to my attention that the American Centre for Law and Justice (ACLJ), a group founded by the televangelist Pat Robertson, is a partner with Affinity4, which is itself listed alongside Beliefnet and Patheos on the BN Media page. The ACLJ lobbies for the death penalty for gays in other countries. Under the new contract, ACLJ could be considered a “related company” that we’re not permitted to disparage. (And that’s just one related company that we’ve discovered in less than 24 hours.)

Patheos has since amended the contract slightly, but it seems that the damage has been done. Although some bloggers accepted the terms of the contract and remained at Patheos, Halstead and others have walked away.

Personally, I’m still trying to get a sense of where the Pagan community is online. When I was last involved in the community, Yahoo! Groups was just starting to fade, lots of people were actively blogging, and Twitter, Facebook, and other social networks hadn’t risen to prominence quite yet. Patheos was one of the first places I found the Pagan writing I was looking for when I came back. The place always did seem a little corporate to me, however. I follow a few recommended Patheos Pagan blogs but I didn’t get a sense that there was a thriving community there.

I’m interested to see what PaganBloggers.com will be like when it launches. Throw them a few bucks in the next four days and help them reach their first stretch goal!

It’s the all-new, all-beautiful Maewyn.net!

If you’ve checked out the text on the Home page, you’ll see my apology for this messy site (although, really, that page is all that’s messy at the moment) as I dragged Maewyn.net into a new, much less mopey age.

Why? I have had it in my head for a number of years now that I’d have a coven someday. Which is weird, because I don’t want to lead a coven. I’m a socially anxious introvert. Maybe I only want a coven so I can have circle without leaving my house. Still, for whatever reason, I’ve had this particular bee in my bonnet long enough to cycle through two possible names, buy domains for one (which lapsed after a few years of nonuse), and spend most of a day (today!) creating the website for another one. A joke name — Coven of the Forest Moon of Endor — but a name nonetheless. Even the placeholder text said, “This coven doesn’t exist, but if it did…”

By the end of the day, though, I wondered, Is this ever really going to happen? Am I honestly ever going to use this? I didn’t think so.

But I’d found some really nice stock photos (shoutout to Pixabay) and compiled a Resources page. And my goal, my original goal, was to establish Wicca in West Michigan because it wasn’t there when I’d gone looking for it. (If I’d looked a little harder, or in different places, maybe I’d have found it. It was here all along. Just very well hidden.) So, now I want to curate a list of resources for anyone who’s in the same boat as I was, and maybe along the way I’ll be able to start that coven.

A decade-long cycle of growth and regrowth

On the old version of this blog, I wrote (somewhat poetically) about my experience of waiting. Let me say a few words about it in a little more depth.

From 2007 to 2010, I was actively studying Wicca on the East Coast. I sought it out, found Blue Star, and for much of that time I circled with two different Blue Star groups, one in the city where I lived and one further south, where my teacher lived. As a shiny new Dedicant, I had many new experiences, learned a ton from a lot of people, made friends, even survived a falling-out or two. So much growth happened in these years! I expected that things would just always be like this, now that I was “home.”

At the end of 2009 and heading into 2010, there were major changes all around. I made a difficult decision to leave one group. I thought an elevation to Neophyte was coming, but instead, doors seemed to close all around me. My teacher’s family had to move, and they struggled to find a safe, secure new place to live. I was laid off from my job. My husband’s disability became severe enough that he missed the safety net of family and friends back home in Michigan, and after a few months of job searching didn’t yield much for me, we decided to move. By the time we arrived, I was pregnant, and preparations for baby plus a new job with a long commute took up much of my time. Our daughter was born in 2011; about a year later, I deactivated my Facebook account over some privacy setting, and I stopped updating my LiveJournal because I no longer had time to write or read there. As a young working mother, I no longer had time for the lengthy, ponderous online discussions I used to love or the same round of 101 questions that often cropped up in Pagan discussion groups, and I stopped participating in those places too.

And thus I was cut off from the community I’d taken for granted. Now I was too far away to visit regularly, and I had (perhaps unwisely) removed the easiest ways to keep in touch. I was lonely and isolated; I thought that having a baby was a kind of isolation I’d chosen, but I was devastated and hurt when life went on for my community, and I didn’t see that there were ways I might have continued to participate. All I saw was closed door after closed door.

Every Blue Star elevation announcement made me bitter. It should have been me, I thought. I was ready.

Time has since mellowed some of that bitterness. I wasn’t ready — even at the time, I thought, if I’m feeling this way, I probably do need to wait a bit longer and do some self-work — and the people closest to me weren’t ready, either, though I didn’t know this at the time. Their stories aren’t mine to tell, but I can say that I wasn’t the only one who experienced major life upheavals.

This is the part of the story that’s still weaving itself together. By 2013, I’d changed jobs again, had another baby, and moved to the rural spot we live in now. My first attempt to fit in with a Grand Rapids Pagan community hadn’t gone well, and I was too disheartened to keep trying. Why? I now implored the gods. I’m ready. Why am I out here? Why am I still so lonely?

The Craft can wait, I had heard; the Craft will be there. So I waited. And then I had a battle with postpartum depression to fight.

In late 2014 and 2015, I started therapy and I started running. Slowly, the gray clouds parted. They’re still not gone, but I learned how to cope, how to function when there didn’t seem to be any point in it, and then I learned to find the point.

I started to wonder if the gods hadn’t thrown me into the wilderness just to see if I’d find my way back. So I decided to come back.

I reached out to a new Grand Rapids Pagan discussion group, one that hadn’t been around when I searched before, and I found enough of a fit to attend a circle or two. They were active on Facebook, so I activated my account again, and just like that I had my network of family and friends and acquaintances back.

In 2015, a treasured priest of Blue Star suddenly became very sick, and he didn’t have much longer to live. The community rallied around him to share their love and ease his passing, and because I had learned from him and circled with him and feasted with him, I shoved aside the last of the bitterness that I still felt and I joined in. At this point, I had been away from the community for years, and the hurts that seemed fresh to me were ancient history for everyone else involved — I wasn’t even sure that I’d be remembered.

It turned out that I was remembered, and I was loved, and I was welcome.

Through 2016, I took baby steps toward restoring my sense of community. I renewed my relationships with close friends who I’d lost touch with. I attended a couple of circles with the discussion group and participated on Facebook. I brought my children to Grand Rapids Pagan Pride and participated in the rituals. And in the last days of the waning year, I started participating in a new Blue Star group aimed at connecting those of us who were solitary and lonely and feeling isolated. Simply the knowledge that I wasn’t alone — that others had rows as tough as mine to hoe — let so much of my grief and heartbreak fall away.

This is the part of the story that has yet to take place. I feel that I’m on the cusp of something new, that other doors will soon open, and that I have to really absorb the lessons of the past decade. I’m not sure what will happen next, but I am here. I’m still here.