The year ahead: building

It’s the season for Year Ahead Tarot spreads (if you didn’t do one at Samhain). Here’s one from The Wild Unknown, which is also a deck I got for Yule! I laid down the cards one space to the right, so they go around like the numbers on a clock face, and mine actually looked more like a diamond so it was easier to see which cards were reversed. But this is a pretty spread image that gives you the general idea.

I won’t spend hundreds of words talking about my cards here, but there was a pretty strong Wands influence and a theme of power and authority. Which, since I don’t wield a whole lot of authority in other aspects of my life, made me think of this not-coven I’m building.

Honestly, it doesn’t look like this was the year it will come together. I didn’t see or intuitively sense any other people in the cards. And yet… what else have I been working on here?

So, this year, I might be talking more about building and creating. I might post more in general and find something to talk about at least once in the month. (The first half of the year might be pretty quiet, my cards say.) There might be more literal woodwork, as well; I’ve got a broom and a staff to work on, and yesterday I was talked out of building a bookcase because the temperature has been in the single digits and the garage is not only not heated, it has some gaps big enough to see daylight through. I’m also considering creating a fiery oil to dress candles with and encourage that Wands energy, which doesn’t come all that naturally to me.

We’ll see where 2018 takes us.

Wicca 101 classes beginning!

The next step on this not-coven adventure is that I will be holding weekly Wicca 101 classes at my home! They will begin in conjunction with Wicca 101 classes taught by my coven sisters at Artes & Craft in Hartford.

Saturday Night Witchcraft begins on November 11 at 6:00 p.m., either meeting at my home or traveling to Artes & Craft for Sabbat rituals (and to hang out with the larger coven). We’ll start with the basics of what Wicca is and what witches do, likely with many digressions full of nerdery and comparison, because I am a huge fan of context and background. On New and Full Moons, we’ll have esbat rituals based on an Alexandrian structure with additions from published sources. Beyond that, topics will depend on the needs of the class or my current magickal interests. We’ll talk theory, we’ll make stuff, and we’ll do magick.

If you’re local, contact me to set up a coffee-shop meeting prior to attending class.

(Why a first meeting in a public place? Showing up at a stranger’s house for the promise of Wicca is a risky thing, and it’s wise to take precautions for your own safety. That said, Saturday Night Witchcraft is an affirming, inclusive space where all are welcome — except Nazis and their ilk, who are very specifically unwelcome — and I invite you to verify that in a way that’s safe and comfortable for you.)

Need more detail? Read Saturday Night Witchcraft: What to know.

Pagan Pride Day 2017!

I had a blast at this year’s Grand Rapids Pagan Pride Day! This year I was helping with Artes & Craft‘s booth and offering Tarot readings. (Kids in tow, once they were done with Saturday morning’s soccer game. Being a soccer mom and a witch at the same time is a special kind of liminality.) I’m glad I got the chance to talk to so many old friends and new people!

Time really is a spiral, and you really do come back to the same points over and over again, changed as a person. Two years ago I was here with a different, looser Pagan group. MoonFire put on the main ritual, and I only heard about it afterward. A year ago, I came specifically to ask about joining MoonFire, an introduction from an elder having paved my way; I’d read Tarot on and off for years but always with a book and only for myself. This year, I was here as a member of MoonFire, and I’d studied Tarot enough to read for others. Maybe next year I’ll be back and something else will be different.

Merry Beltane!

This weekend I’m off to MoonFire’s Beltane celebration. There’s so much going on! It’s like a mini festival! Which is doubly exciting for me because I don’t usually get to go to festivals (from some combination of brokeness, lack of ability to take time off work, and anxiety about traveling there or attending alone). This time, however, I’ll be there! Possibly with bells on, in a very literal sense!

In other news, I’ve borrowed The Witch’s Athame by Jason Mankey, The Witch’s Broom by Deborah Blake, and The Witch’s Wand by Alferian Gwydion MacLir (all from Llewellyn’s Witch’s Tools series) from my local library, and I’m currently reading through that last one. All three are tools that I’m currently making or working with, and I’m enjoying the deep dive.

Spring cleaning also continues, possibly a little harder because the whole family will be away this weekend and I like to come home to a clean house (as much as possible with little kids; I’ll settle for being caught up on the laundry and the dishes before we go). When I was at the library I saw The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up on the shelf, and the KonMari trend has mostly passed (I think?) but I hadn’t actually read the book yet. I’m giving her folding method a chance — so far I kind of love it; every time I open my dresser drawers, it’s like picking something new from a store, just because every piece of clothing is now visible — and I’ve gotten a little ruthless about tossing or donating items that we don’t need. (Like sheets. We do not need 10 sets of sheets. Five or six of those sets are just taking up space.) And as many jokes as the “does it bring you joy?” thing has spawned, I honestly love the animistic approach Marie Kondo takes to considering each item in your household and where it would best be happy and useful. If you are the least bit sensitive, you can make this same kind of connection to your stuff and think about who you are, deep down, and whether you need or want this item, what its function is in your life. If it’s worn, you can thank it for its time in service to you and send it to the trash; if it’s still useful to someone, just not you, release it to the Goodwill bin or maybe an eBay buyer with gratitude. (Also I totally am throwing out my electric bill. I don’t need to keep the past four years’ worth of bills — and shouldn’t I be getting them as PDFs anyway? Go online and click that e-statement option.) And I do personal transformation as sort of a hobby, so the challenge for me right now is to go through all my stuff without the pressure of moving, to reinvent myself while remaining rooted to the house and the family I’ve worked hard for.

OK, back to packing. Overnight bags for two adults (for a ritual weekend) and two kids (at Grandma’s) are about as much work to pack as a camping trip for one adult.

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.]

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!