Yahoo Groups shutting down

I’m breaking my silence here with the news that Yahoo will be deleting all Groups content on December 14, 2019. According to a Yahoo support document, which also explains that files, photos, message digests, and message history (among other content) will be deleted, you won’t be able to upload additional content as of October 28 — that’s 11 days from now — and all groups will become private or restricted instead of public. Groups will still technically exist, but new members can only be added by invitation. And, of course, a group’s archives will no longer be available.

This is relevant because Amber & Jet, which was once a great resource for seekers (and one I link on the Resources page) is still on Yahoo Groups. A&J has existed for 20 years now, and although the days of hundreds of A&J messages sent per month were a solid decade ago, the archives yielded wisdom for seekers willing to deal with Yahoo’s terrible search features. (They were barely usable even then. The better solution was to sign up for the list with a Gmail address, read messages as they come in for a few years, then use Gmail’s search features to find messages in your email archive. Alas.) Teresa and Eddie, the owners of the A&J list, are downloading the archives and looking for somewhere to move the list; in a post this morning, Eddie assured list members that he would not let the information gathered on the list over the years be “vaporized” on a whim.

So, where the hell is everyone these days? That’s a question I’ve been somewhat lazily asking for the past five years or so. I don’t know that there’s any similarly central location. Plenty of folks have moved to Facebook, although there are also folks who refuse to have anything to do with Facebook. (Let’s just say it’s not the place to be if you have any concern about being outed as a witch. Facebook does not respect that boundary and will show your racist, bigoted uncle that you’ve RSVP’d yes to next weekend’s Full Moon event or suggest that your Christian friends add you even if you’re posting under a Pagan pseudonym, to take two real-life examples.)

The thing to do is, likely, find BTW folks on whatever platform you’re already on. If you’re not on Facebook or not joining Pagan groups there, check out #witchesofinstagram and #wiccansofinstagram (and similar hashtags on Instagram), (which may be absorbing a number of groups from Yahoo), and r/TraditionalWicca on Reddit, which may end up more active now and has seen several blogs and resources posted in the past week. I’m honestly not sure about Twitter, YouTube, Tumblr, Discord, MeWe, or the state of the Pagan blogosphere beyond Patheos Pagan, but you can likely follow some breadcrumbs in these resources to find something worthwhile.

If you are on Facebook, you have some more seeker-friendly options, listed from very general to Michigan-specific:

When you request to join, be sure to answer any questions that may be part of the joining process; you don’t have to write a heartfelt essay, but do be sincere and represent yourself honestly. Once you’re a member, in all of these groups except Tarot Nerds, you can post that you’re a seeker (include your location) and someone might be willing to connect you with whatever BTW folks might be nearby. Again, however, the answer may be that the closest groups to you are several hours’ drive away — for example, the Gardnerian group has a list of covens willing to talk to seekers; some states have 5–10 listed, and some states have none at all.

I should also mention the Michigan listings on Witchvox (or look for your state, if you’re not in Michigan). Witchvox is of a similar vintage as Yahoo Groups, and they don’t verify or even weed out old listings, but there are listings for covens and groups that still exist and welcome seekers. Pagan Pride Day season has passed, but events are held annually in August and September in Detroit, Lansing, and Grand Rapids. Each PPD event has open rituals to attend and vendors to shop at and chat with.

Again, my Resources page has some more info for seekers; I’ll be adding some of these resources to that page. More news on A&J as it develops. (And, hey, maybe some more regular posting from me. I’m starting to get the itch again.)

Spring tidying and catch-up

I’ve definitely been feeling the rising tides of spring. Serious housecleaning started last fall, when we adopted a kitten who was likely to get into all sorts of small hiding places if I didn’t clean and move things to reduce the number of hiding places. It continued in November and December, when the plan to have family over for holiday dinners created an intense need for the house to look absolutely perfect. (I have kids, so it doesn’t ever reach perfection, but you have to try.)

So things were ticking along nicely when we had a series of family health crises: in January, my dad was hospitalized for about two weeks with heart problems (he’s now recovering well at home); in February, my husband’s grandmother had cancer for the sixth and final time; in March, my mother-in-law slipped and fell on some ice in her driveway, breaking her knee (she’s also recovering at home). Each event has been a pretty damn big deal.

The past few months have been instructive for me in caring for people I love, for maintaining family connections and support networks, and also for not immediately rushing to solve everything and do all the heavy lifting myself. (I was really glad I was starting from a mostly clean house, though, instead of coming home and freaking out about the mess.)

In the meantime, I’ve taken over the writing and performance of regular public Full Moon rituals at Artes & Craft. Because of family stuff, I’ve only performed one of the three I’ve written so far, but they’ve all been well received. On Saturday, my husband (Hlevang, who has stepped up to be my working partner) and I led the Vernal Equinox ritual, part of the Provider Cycle, a Chthonioi-specific bit of liturgy. I’m kinda still processing my experience of that, but the short version is that I feel like I’ve leveled up as a priestess, both for being able to pull off the ritual (attending to all the details, from baking cakes and buying flowers to coordinating ritual roles and blocking) and for the actual magickal experience that the doing of it gave me.

Which brings me to one of the reasons I’m writing here today. I’m busier than I ever have been, but because much of this work involves other people, I am far more hesitant to blog about it. I still think and process by writing about things, but I keep that writing private these days. Much has changed, in me personally and in the world at large, since I started this blog. I’m not really sure what the direction of it should be — except I do still want some sort of signpost out there, some way for seekers to find me.

I’ve done some site updates and added some dates to the Upcoming Events calendar. What happens next, I’m not sure, but I’ll say that my weekends are pretty well booked for much of 2019.

A nine-month update

It’s been a bit! I said in my last post that the beginning of the year would be quiet, and that certainly seems to have been the case. This year I’ve been doing more than thinking, planning, or writing, which is a much-needed step in my own personal growth. I’m very Air-oriented and live in my head a lot of the time, and I occasionally need reminders that visualizing a spell or a ritual that should work is not the same as physically performing the spell or involving other people in doing the ritual. (I’m thinking of two instances this year in which I had grand plans that looked excellent on paper, but in reality, they didn’t end up happening the way I envisioned. This is fine, though! This is experience, and learning, and the accumulation of wisdom to do things differently next time.)

In the spring, from March through late May, I did a daily working for self-confidence that was centered on the solar plexus chakra. (In April I finished a year of daily meditation with the Insight app, and a lot of my meditations worked with chakras, so this was a natural extension of that.) This was a solid, well-timed working and did what I wanted it to do… except I didn’t plan a big finish or really any kind of ending, and it just sort of petered out. I’d like to revisit it in the waning year.

Since my intensive work with Tarot last year, I’ve acquired some skill, and I continue to read publicly on occasion (usually on a Saturday at Artes & Craft when my coven sister, the regular Tarot reader, isn’t available). I’ll be doing Tarot readings this coming Saturday at Artes & Craft’s booth at Grand Rapids Pagan Pride Day.

Other parts of my work in the past few months have not been glamorous: coordinating coven events, doing some of the cooking for those coven events, helping with setup beforehand or cleanup afterward. A covener died unexpectedly this summer, so there was much to do to honor her life and mark her passing (and Samhain is still to come).

And — I’m burying the lede here, yes — this month I was initiated and am now a first degree in Cththonioi-Alexandrian Wicca. *confetti toss* I’ve told the story of my seeking many times; altogether, it was about 13 years from my serious pursuit of BTW to initiation. (I’ll clarify that from the start of my seeking to finding Blue Star and beginning study was pretty fast, only about a year, although I moved cross-country in that year. But I wanted initiation, and there were other twists, turns, delays, and detours along my path to that goal.) I would say that I’m still adjusting — that’s a long time to say not yet, I’m not, not yet, not yet — but I have a whole lot on my plate right now, and it’s starting to feel like the gods are saying, “You’re here, excellent! Now it’s time to really get to work.”

On Saturday, MoonFire will be presenting a Dionysus ritual at GRPPD. On Sept. 22, the following Saturday, I will be leading a public Full Moon Esbat at Artes & Craft; the next day, Sunday, Sept. 23, I will be co-leading a public Harvest Home ritual, also at Artes & Craft. These are excellent opportunities to come talk to me in person, if that’s a thing you would like to do!

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.

An update on Saturday Night Witchcraft

I had little nibbles of interest but none rose to the level of “Let’s meet up, I’d like to attend,” so I’m suspending Saturday Night Witchcraft for now. I’ll still meet with anyone who’s interested, but I won’t plan to open my home on Saturdays, as I was doing.

Perhaps it’s not the right time. It could be that folks nearby aren’t ready to take the step of attending classes (or interested), or that people don’t trust the classes because I’m not an initiate yet (I am super self-conscious about teaching without being an actual initiate), or maybe it’s just the time of year (Saturdays in November and December tend to fill up quickly).

Or perhaps it’s the coffee-shop meetup requirement that’s putting people off. People might prefer to wander into a public class held at a store rather than commit to attending something held in the priestess’s home. (The counterpart Wicca 101 class at Artes & Craft has gone on as scheduled with several attendees.) However, I’m not going to budge on this, and my HPS and one of our coven’s Thirds have also advised me not to budge. It’s a safety thing, and for seekers, it’s also a very small test of commitment and follow-through.

Perhaps I didn’t advertise well enough. I did put up flyers (or ask to put them up) in what I thought were key locations, but I don’t know how many people saw them, or whether the shop customers or library patrons who saw them were interested in Wicca 101 classes. For me, this butts up against the whole “we don’t proselytize” thing, though. The flyers only say “hey, classes exist, here is info,” and while that’s not the same as proselytizing, it still makes me feel like I’m crossing a line by asking to post the flyers in public places.

So, I’ll leave the Witchvox listing up — as a seeker, Witchvox would have been one of my first stops, and the listing is getting views — and beyond that, we’ll see, I guess. To be continued.

Wicca does not cost money: A position statement

First of all, I don’t think this is a controversial opinion. There used to be banner graphics posted on, like, coven Geocities pages that said “Trad Wicca does not cost money,” or some such. (I went to find one today but had no luck.) This debate appears to have been settled, and it might now be common knowledge that teachers of Wicca don’t charge their students beyond small fees to cover handouts, candles, or other consumable items used in the course of classes or rituals. That said, consider the following a position statement.

Traditional Wicca does not cost money. 

I’m making flyers for Saturday Night Witchcraft, and on them I was thinking about noting that it’s free to attend. However, I struggle with how much to emphasize that “free” here actually means that money will not be required of you at any step in order to learn Wicca. It’s not “free” as in multilevel-marketing “girl time party,” in which you don’t have to pay anything to get in the door but the entire purpose of the party is to sell you stuff. Neither is it “free” as in “here’s a taste, but I’m holding the good stuff back and you’ll have to pay to get it” — for example, I get mailings from a popular Tarot site that has just rolled out an expensive certification program, and while the free booklet I got for signing up for the mailing list was useful in my study of Tarot, the mailings since then have been nonstop advertisements for this certification program.

This is not what Saturday Night Witchcraft is about. When I say it’s free, I mean I don’t have anything to sell you.

You will not finish my free classes only to find out that the next level has a price. I didn’t pay to learn at any stage; my teachers freely gave me counsel, instruction, coaching, and friendship, as their teachers gave them, and this is what I will pass on. You will never have to pay me or anyone else in order to keep studying Wicca or to be initiated. If you’re considering studying with someone who does charge, think twice and do some research before paying, because this is not common or expected.

Granted, a certain amount of money will be involved as you study. You’ll have to pay for gas to get here, you’ll be expected to have your own set of tools someday, and you’ll probably want to buy books or jewelry or witchy clothes, too. But the key point here is anti-guru. You can buy (or make!) whatever tools you like from whatever source you prefer, not from a charismatic person with a catalog. You can borrow books from the library or from friends, or you can buy them from a local bookstore or from Amazon — your money goes wherever you direct it. Also, you should not have to choose between paying your electric bill and buying some shiny witchy thing. Keep the lights on; the witchy stuff is all optional.

As a side note: If you have plenty of money, buy whatever you want! Have custom tools and ritual robes made by the best artisans you can find. Drape yourself in jewelry and rare stones. Amass a staggering library. Fly to every festival and convention. But the fact of the matter is that you will still not be spending money in order to learn Wicca.

Instagram aside, we don’t judge who’s wisest or witchiest by their clothing, by how many crystals or Tarot decks or altar tools they own, by how big their library is, or by the number of events they can afford to attend. (Have you seen some of the items left behind by Gardner and other elders of Wicca? They’re simple, not flashy.) What matters is the power you can raise and wield skillfully in ritual — and that can be done with dollar-store tealights and a stick from your backyard. Spiral notebooks and a pen to write notes with. The rest is theater.

And you won’t have to pay your Wiccan teacher in order to learn it.

Saturday Night Witchcraft: What to know

It’s common to have concerns about attending an event for the first time when it’s held at someone else’s home, especially if you have health concerns: Can you eat the food that’s put out? What should you wear? Should you bring meds? Can you even get in the door?

Here are a few details that might help ease your mind (or just sate your curiosity), besides the what and when posted earlier and at Witchvox.

Directions: The house is not difficult to find! It’s one turn off a main road, not down winding back roads or anything. Once you’ve contacted me and shown interest in coming, I’ll tell you at that coffee shop meeting how to get here and/or provide my address (Google Maps is your friend and mine). We have a wide driveway to provide plenty of parking, and the roads are usually well plowed in the winter.

Food and allergies: Feel free to bring something to drink and a dish to share, if you’d like. We will provide some drinks (water, tea, etc.) and appetizer-type food (which may expand to a full potluck meal, depending on how many people attend, but right now the plan is light snacky stuff). If you are veg*n and/or have food allergies, let me know ahead of time and I will make sure that ingredients or potential allergens are labeled and that there will be something there you can eat; you’re also welcome to bring food, either just for yourself or to share. (On her Seekers site, Jenett talks in more detail about how to decide what to bring.)

Clothing: Street wear is fine. Again, Jenett has excellent guidance on choosing what to wear to a Pagan event.

Kids: We have two children, ages 6 and 4, who live here full-time and will probably be very interested in participating in Saturday Night Witchcraft (or who will be encouraged to play quietly in another room). If you have kids about the same age, you are welcome to bring them along.

Pet allergies: We do have cats, including one long-haired cat (who is shy and will hide in the basement while people are here, but her dander may still be an issue if you have cat allergies).

Access: The main entrance has four stairs; there is also a ramp installed in the garage, but the entrance to the garage itself has a steep incline that may be difficult to navigate for wheelchair users. (Hlevang, my husband, uses a cane, so accessibility modifications were made with his ability level in mind.) There are also some lips at doorways. The bathroom is on the main level of the house. Classes are seated; rituals involve standing, but chairs are available for those who need them. Both are scheduled from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

If I have left out anything that’s a concern for you, send me an email, or ask when we meet prior to class!

(Further reading for seekers: Check out Jenett’s tips for learning about a new group and the Advanced Bonewits Cult Danger Evaluation Frame.)

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.

On handwriting material

My Tarot journaling has had an interesting, unintended effect: I’m rediscovering comfort with handwriting.

I type fast. I’ve wholeheartedly embraced computers as a whole and Word documents and apps like Evernote and blogs and online journaling; in fact, one reason I was successful at journaling online (I was a terrible diarist as a kid) was that I could finally write as fast as my brain supplied the words. So, here in 2017, it is perhaps not surprising that I hardly ever handwrite anything. There are even apps for grocery lists.

Tarot journaling, on the other hand, is almost always a handwritten task for me. I don’t take notes when I read for other people, but when I read for myself, I prefer to sit at a table or on my bed, lay out the cards, and write by hand in a notebook. I sketch the spread, note the meaning of each position, write which card appeared in each position, and add a short interpretation. I’m also working my way through the deck via daily one-card draws, and those get handwritten in a different journal. In fact, I’d been writing like that for at least a month before I realized how much effort I’d been putting into penmanship and how little I used those muscles anymore.

But why handwrite, other than the vibe? Why not type?

To answer that, I need to digress a little more.

I’m currently reading Merry Meet Again by Deborah Lipp; I’m working my way through lots of Craft biographies and autobiographies lately. In Chapter 10, Lipp describes working on a coordinated healing ritual and adds a practical note — these appear in each chapter — suggesting that a well-illustrated anatomy book, a medical dictionary, and a medical encyclopedia belong on the bookshelf of anyone doing healing work. “Most spells must, in order to succeed, manifest themselves in the physical world, so understanding the physical reality of healing is a necessity,” she says. And for the medical dictionary, Lipp suggests some good online sources but, she says, “I like having a book on the shelf that coven members can read from, pass around, and bring into ritual.”

Why can’t you just bring your phone into ritual and use it to look that stuff up? This book was published in 2013; people have smartphones now, so it’s not like you need to drag your laptop into ritual space.

There are two main reasons, I think.  For one, the energy flow inside the circle functions much like an electrical current, and electronics sometimes fail or don’t work right inside a cast circle. Particularly intense circles can short them out or break them entirely. And I’m not speaking mythically here; a grovemate of mine once forgot his phone in his pocket during ritual and it wouldn’t turn on afterward. He had to get a new phone. Will that happen in any circle, no matter what? Probably not; it has a lot to do with the quality of the circle casting, the energy raised, the work done, and so on. But do you want to depend on risking your phone to access information you could have just written down, printed off, or gotten from a physical book?

Another reason, and perhaps a stronger one where regular practice is concerned, is that the presence of electronic devices can interfere with the suspension of disbelief that goes along with theater (and ritual is theater). It’s incongruous. Allow Alexander Hamilton Lin-Manuel Miranda to demonstrate:

My point: To preserve the bubble of sacred space that you’ve spent so much time and effort to create, whatever you bring into circle should be handwritten (or at least printed off).  I don’t have a whole lot of Pagan ebooks because I might want to bring the book into circle (or loan it out, but that’s another digression entirely). I may type up my rituals, but I’ll print them off and bring the pages into circle, not my laptop or my phone. And I handwrite my journal of Tarot readings so I can bring the entire notebook into circle, do a reading in sacred space, or carry the notebook and cards with me so that I’m not dependent on wifi or a battery to write.

And, also, the vibe.