The Aquarian Tabernacle Church Outlines Wiccas New Rights under the Georgia Religious Freedom Restoration Act

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Author: Guest Contributor
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It has come to the attention of the Aquarian Tabernacle Church (ATC) that a new law known as The Georgia Religious Freedom Restoration Act has been passed by the Senate with an overwhelming majority, and is on its way to the House with hopes to pass just as easily. It is the firm belief of the ATC as one of the largest Wiccan bodies in the world, and the only Wiccan church with an Umbrella 501(c)3 legal status to create affiliate churches, that to help with the states transition to a more church-valued existence we should make it clear and easy to recognize the new rights of all Wiccans within your state.

We thank the state of Georgia for its forward thinking and dedication to religious freedom.  It has been a reality long-held by Wiccans that the laws did not extend far enough toward our own exercise of religion [50-15A-2. line 71] to be truly encompassing of our freedom to worship. The original Religious Freedom Restoration Act, as passed by our illustrious president Bill Clinton, was a landmark move that opened the door for minority religions, and small local churches to have more safety to worship within their communities than ever before. This new bill will create sweeping changes that will open the doors for the Wiccans within Georgian communities to worship, work, and LIVE their religion to its fullest.

The first course of action will be to itemize line by line, with bill precedents, the new rights of the Wiccans in state.[15-23]

1: Multi-Partner Wiccan relationships in Georgia (known communally as Polyamorous relationships) will now have legal right to marry. [43-49] Marriage is a religious institution. A uniting of souls before the almighty. It is also a way to legitimize heirs. Many Wiccans live in multi-partner households, and until now have been unable to realize their religious right to marry the partners they are in love with. Many of these partnerships have children from multiple partners all living under the same roof. SB 129 has now opened the way for those children to all be under family insurance/health plans, as outlined in lines [22-23]. And if lines [34-35] hold true to their intent, then the least restrictive means of enforcing this change, is a simple revision to existing policy.

(1a) The government (as defined within lines [77-83] of SB 129) will of course make the small changes needed to the tax code to allow for multi-spouse filing. As stated in lines [34-35] “Courts have consistently held that government has a fundamental, overriding interest in eradicating discrimination” and Government as defined above includes “[79-80] every department, agency, board, bureau, office, commission, authority, or similar body thereof.” Ipso facto, with SB 129 in place, it would be the burden of the tax bureaus to create a tax code that no longer infringes upon the rights of Wiccan Multi-Spousal Families. It will also allow for the abolition, or a general exemption of all cohabitation laws that may still be present, and effecting unmarried couples with children from separate marriages.

2: Wiccans have been, and will always be, a nature based community. Our followers feel an intrinsic connection to the Earth, and the plants and animals that dwell upon it. Historically our followers have been ‘Wortcrafters’ (Using plants in our practice and healing), ‘Wise Women’, ‘Sage Men’, and ‘Witch Doctors’. We have always been ones to learn about the sacred mysteries of plants and animals. Their healing properties, and the use of their parts as ‘fetishes,’ totems, and components is well documented through literature and academic works too numerous to list here. With the passing of GRFRA, the ATC will be informing all Wiccans within the state of GA that there are no longer restrictions on which plants they may grow, own, harvest, ingest, distribute, or refine into compounds that the practitioner finds need to use within their religious practice, so long as no other laws besides substance abuse are broken. Wicca is a peaceful religion, and it is not within the scope of our religious practice to purposefully cause harm. As Governments definition also includes lines [82-83] “authorities; […] or other person acting under color of law” it should be a matter of course to inform all officials to begin their refrain from detaining the practitioners for, and impeding the lawful use of said plants and animal parts. This includes, but is no way limited to this non-comprehensive list, all plants currently residing upon any list of banned substances, plus any and all animal parts that may be found on the property or in the possession of anyone practicing the faith of Wicca within Georgia State limits.

3: Wiccans believe in magick and intent. It is the belief of our people that we do not allow someone to have our hair, saliva, urine, skin, nail clippings, teeth, bones, or any other part, excretion, fluid, growth, or any other possible matter that may come from our bodies. The reason is highly spiritual, and personally held by each person within our faith. To allow someone to have these items, is to allow them to have our essence, or access to our essence. This means that all Wiccans are to be free to choose to be exempt, at the individual’s discretion regarding the sanctity of their essence, with no repercussions from Government bodies [77-83] upon an employer adhering to these inalienable religious rights, from urinalysis, blood tests, hair follicle tests, breathalyzers, tattooing, rfid chipping, or anything else that adds to or removes parts of our essence. This list should by no means be considered comprehensive, and it is with full awareness that we understand these rights are removed to some extent when a Wiccan is incarcerated. Hopefully with time, the scope of this bill will encompass those of our faith who are in penal institutions. But within the scope of lines [84-88] these rights should fully extend to anyone who is not yet incarcerated in a ‘penal institution.’

It is the full belief that these new rights for Wiccans fulfill the needs of the Wiccan people, as well as the letter of the new law. From striking a sensible balance between religious liberty and compelling government interests [28-29] through removing neutral laws that unknowingly put undue hardship on our practitioners [20-21], upholding the government’s fundamental, overriding, interest in eradicating discrimination [34-35], and finding the best way to fulfill the compelling need of the government to find the least restrictive way of furthering their interests, which has been reaffirmed, in part, as upholding a persons right to free exercise of religion [16-17].

This is sweeping news that opens many doors for our brothers and sisters of the Craft. It will be the burden of the government to institute the appropriate policy changes to infrastructure, and the training needed to properly uphold the new rights that Wiccans hold within the new truly religiously free state of Georgia. But we at the ATC will work hand in hand to help craft the new laws regarding the proper care of those that are our charges: the Wiccan Community. Blessings to you and may the Lord and Lady always shine their thanks upon you, the state of Georgia.

The American Council of Nuh-uh by Sara Amis

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Author: Guest Contributor
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Reposted with permission. Thanks to Sara Amis and Patheos. Links to original, below.

I remain convinced that Terry Pratchett must know some witches in real life.  He certainly has us pegged. Honestly, the main problem with the New and Improved Second Attempt at Restoring the Official Council of Cat-Herds is the lack of self-awareness.  It’s all very well to be bossy; we’re all bossy.  It’s the lack of realization and apparent surprise at the fact that other witches are not to be bossed. So much so, in fact, that we will react vehemently and negatively to the mere appearance of authority, self-declared, by a small group of people who have nothing more than a half-built website, a fancy and rather presumptuous name, and no real power to do or enforce anything.

An observant person might point out that I am in fact reacting vehemently and negatively to the witchcraft equivalent of Emperor Norton I, that there’s a long history of self-proclaimed “Witch Kings,” “Witch Queens,” “Official Witches” and other self-promotion, and none of them have in fact done us much harm other than being annoying.  Yes, I acknowledge all that.  Yes, I am. I had actually hoped to ignore them until they went away, and if you are making that choice for yourself I completely respect that.

So, what happened?  I was summoned.

Let me explain.  About ten years ago, Lady Belladonna (then the HPS of Covenant of WISE, now Archpriestess of the Aquarian Tabernacle Church)  introduced me to someone by saying, “She is the person in the Pagan community who says, ‘Aaaaah, bullshit!’”  I was charmed.  The truth is, I have had some major philosophical disagreements with Bella over the years, and my compulsion for pointing out parlor pachyderms has not always endeared me to the world at large.  It is a noble soul who can see and appreciate the value of that even when it occasionally gets directed at her.  I also think that if we could all master the trick of openly disagreeing without getting mad about it, the world would be a better place.

In any case, the other day her partner and HP Dusty Dionne sent me a message on Facebook.  He said, “You need to go talk some sense into the American Council of Witches.”

I said, “I can hear the Mission Impossible music starting up.”  Here’s a witchy secret for you:  if you see, know, and acknowledge the nature of a person or other force in the world, and value it, you can ask them to do stuff and often they will. Even the slightly cranky ones.

Sex in the Craft

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Author: Dusty Dionne
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The topic of this article and its contents are very important and sacred to me. Sex in the craft is a hot button, and I have some strong opinions on the matter. I am often asked about them. Some of you won’t agree with me, and that is okay. Some of you will agree with me, perhaps already having the same views as me. But by the end of this article, I hope you will at least have something to think about. I hope to let you see my true opinions on the subject, unabashed.

I am a Consort. I have grown on the path through the sacredness of having a teacher that was also my lover. It has been difficult. It has also been continually fulfilling since day one. Great priests who I know very well have been consorts. It is my belief that it is a sacred path, and that the training I have had is divine. So important is this part of the path, and so lost, that I have been invited to events strictly to speak on why my training has been so powerful, and what it has been like training under a powerful priestess, while also walking the Son/Lover/Consort mysteries. I have had the benefit of ten years of hands on training with a live-in priestess. Ten years of laying in bed and dissecting the universes of magick and possibility. I can’t help but know how wonderful my training has been. But don’t worry – I know everything isn’t love and light, everywhere. You will also hear my opinions on what I think is NOT okay. So strap in, and let’s take a ride through this one, and I hope to see you at the end.

Today we will be talking about sex, the craft, student-teacher relationships, and what does and doesn’t constitute using sex for nefarious purposes vs having consensual, adult sex.

Let’s jump right in. Sex is one of the best things ever. It can stand toe-to-toe with any single experience in the world, and it still has a fighting chance of being the better activity. It’s hard-wired into our systems to be one of our favorite things in the whole world. In fact, the act of having an orgasms is so important that studies have shown that the same centers that light up during orgasms, http://world.edu/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/orgasm300.jpglight up while we sleep. The pyramid of human needs even categorizes sex as a basic human need pertinent to survival. And in Wicca , it is one of the Eight Paths of Power – nestled right between the use of incense and dancing.

Sex is an integral part of a fertility religion.

Wicca is a fertility religion.

Ipso facto: Sex is an integral part of Wicca.

In modern magick we have tried to tell ourselves that the Great Rite just isn’t that important. Symbolize it, throw it into ritual to appease the Hard-Gard, move on.

The concept of sex within the craft itself has lost a large amount of favor due to the unsavory antics of leaders who abused their station. Like all things, a concept can be manipulated, twisted, tainted from its original purpose, and branded unsafe. We have people with “triggers,” rape victims, abuse victims, family of those who have been hurt from sexual encounters, and the well meaning but completely off-base pseudo-scholars who attempt to be the loudest voice on the subject. It is obviously a noble and powerful feeling to stand up for others, and against concepts that you may feel need a champion. Many of us, this author included, have people in their lives who have undergone abuse and want to help protect them. It takes a lot of courage to stand up and say that you think something is unfair.

Likewise, it is very, Very, VERY difficult to allow someone the freedom to live their life and to simply be there for them when it breaks down. It’s a learned skill to be able to understand that just because something has the power to be misused doesn’t mean it is bad. That even though something may be difficult for some people, that is their issue.

Wicca is a “teacher-to-student” spirituality. It is also a spirituality that puts the power of becoming a priest/ess into the hands of the people who worship. Wiccan Initiations have sometimes been referred to as a “Sexually Transmitted Degree.” This is because even when the sex is taken out of traditional degree elevation rituals, IT IS STILL SYMBOLIZED. Sex is so important to the understanding of projective and receptive energies coming together in the act of creation, that http://listen-hard.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/couple-in-love-2.jpgas much as some have tried to remove it from our worship, it is fundamentally entrenched. I would be willing to argue that it is more difficult to find someone that does not want a sexual partner in magic with whom they can delve into those mysteries than otherwise. Pagans come to the path because of their love of nature, longing to understand the human condition, belief in naturalistic energetics controlling the universes ebb and flow, and the desire to live outside the dogma of the Abrahamic religions. All of these things are what make Wicca a “Nature Based Fertility Religion.”

It’s a faerie tale of disillusionment, though. The hard working devoted seeker finally finds the teacher that suits them. The teacher works to empower the student, and peel away the programming that is based on shame, and victimization. The student evolves their perspective on life, finds their personal power, and becomes the God/dess that they are aspiring to become. Along the way the student has also sought to free themselves from sexual programming as well, and has come into contact with empowered, sexy, sacred, amazing, potential partners, only to have those partners be socially taboo ONLY BECA– USE they are also training to be magical. What kind of twisted discrimination is this?!? You want a magical partner, but everyone that you work magic with is off limits as a sexual AND/OR romantic partner SOLELY because you work magic with them. There is something mindlessly out of balance with this predicament.

It’s born from abuse. Many of the abused have the mind set that abuse can be situational, and if we remove the situation from the equation, then the abuse is far less likely to strike. That if we remove sex from the craft, if we make it taboo and against the rules, rules made up by some ambiguous group of witches that didn’t agree with the BOS, that the abusers wont be able to find a hold. That sounds like a beautiful idea. One that trades your freedom for security and your love for fear. You can lock down your world, but you will not stop the Universe from presenting you with the lessons you are destined to face – even if it means being confronted with an abuser.

It is a trap to make a blanket rule and restrict the world around you. It is far less abusive to deal with each instance individually. It takes more work. It takes more time. But when every instance is considered singularly on it’s own merits and flaws, then everyone gets a fair shake, and no one’s rights are stepped on in the name of universal “safety.” Universal Safety: A concept of which I believe to be a white knuckled response to fear, at best; or a dystopian horror dressed as a saving grace, at worst. When you remove the rights of one individual for the possible safety of another, especially when there is no actual law of the land in place, then you are acting in accordance with fascism. Literally an aggressive form of nationalism-like lockdowns placed atop an already accepted order of law. We have the Wiccan Laws. They are totally up to interpretation, the same as U.S. law – but they are there, and nowhere does it say not to have sex in the craft.

I was once sitting in a camper with a prominent Pagan leader. We shall call this person PL1. We were having a really great conversation. This person has been around for a long time, and has a great number of stories about other prominent Pagan leaders. One story in particular comes to mind. I was being regaled with a story of another prominent Pagan leader, and their beliefs on sex within a group. We shall call this person PL2. It should also be noted that neither of these leaders has ever been in any kind of embroilment over sexual discrepancies. Short and sweet it goes as follows:

   PL2: “It’s very simple PL1, magick is an extremely intimate practice. The only way that you can create the bonds that are needed to truly work magick, is for you and every one of your coven mates to have sex with every one of your coven mates, every day.”

PL1: “PL2, I won’t tell anyone you’re crazy. But you’re f@%^#ng crazy! Not that I have any problem with sex, but I don’t have enough time in my day to have sex with everyone in my group.”

Case in point, sex has a long and sacred tradition within the Craft. Have people misused it? Yes, but people misuse “An Harm None” to harm MANY, and to control people. So the concept of “is it safe?” isn’t entirely appropriate in this author’s opinion, either. Anything can be used to hurt someone. The printing press, television, candy, lead, the atom, sex. There have been people who have taken sex and tainted its sacredness, even our own leaders.

It’s entirely understandable that some people don’t feel safe around the idea of sex being an active part of the craft. Those people have places to go and groups to join that share their same beliefs. Just like a recovering alcoholic has the option to join an Amethyst Group (quasi traditional name for Pagan Recovery Groups) so as to be sure of alcohol free worship. But the alcoholic doesn’t expect the world to stop drinking. They know that their addiction and their issues with it are their own. Most AA members know they can’t expect the world to spin on a different tilt just because they have hadhttp://ih.constantcontact.com/fs186/1103359379814/img/346.jpg?a=1113427900339 bad experiences on this one. It is just another form of abuse. One that looks on the outside like it is filled on the inside with good intentions.

But we know what they say about good intentions.

With all the fear and judgement surrounding sex in the craft, we subjugate and demoralize an entire path of power. We also shame and judge an entire group of people. Wicca teaches us that we should seek out a working partner/s. A partner/s whom we connect with on a level so deep, we can do magick with them. The bonds that the initiate makes with their teachers and coven-mates can be so strong that a theoretical coven-mates spouse, who is not in training, can sometimes feel threatened. This is without any talk of sexual intercourse.

Wicca, as with many of the non-Abrahamic faiths, teaches personal responsibility. That means that my experience is not dependent on your experience. It means that I am solely responsible for how the universe interacts with me.

Yes, I said that sentence correctly. I am responsible for how I interact with the universe, but I am solely responsible for how the universe interacts with me. Everything I do to others, and everything others have done to me is of my own creation. Yes, even the really, truly, horrific parts that seemed to happen TO me. It’s called Relative Truth. It means you get out of your experience what you need to. And your truth is not my truth, your truth is not hers, theirs hers, theirs, zir, xyr, eir, vis, nir, or his. Everyone experiences the world differently. The pain of those who have experienced sex as a weapon is very real.

The problem with blinding pain is that you stop being able to see how your pain is removing the rights of others. Why WOULDN’T someone want to remove all possibilities of sexual abuse out of Wiccan society? That sentence can also be read as, “You may not engage in activities  that might bring you love, because these https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/03/70/e5/0370e5d7cf274f117ff1de0a0b65f484.jpgactivities might also bring you pain,” or “You may not decide to learn from someone traditionally, because it makes people outside of your personal situation uncomfortable,” or even better, “I don’t want others to have what I can’t have, so I will say that no one can have it.”

I don’t get cookies so neither do you.

I am allergic to cookies, so you cant have any.

I’m scared of cookies, so it’s your responsibility to make me feel safe by getting rid of all cookies.

Well duckies, no one ever said the path is safe. Hard? Challenging? Takes faith? Makes us face our darkness? Isn’t for everyone? Is a fertility religion? Has sexual initiations? Has sexual rites? Doesn’t have hangups on the human body, or the expression of desire? Yes. It says the path is all of those things. It is a sacred thing when you find someone that you can share sex, magick, and learning with. Not everyone can do that.

It is a sacred thing to be a part of a society that isn’t ruled by the Middle Eastern Dogmas surrounding sex, faith, and shame. Am I telling you to have sex with your students? If your student is an adult, and they want to have sex with you, and you want to have sex with them, then it is the opinion of this author, based on reams of Pagan writings and history, that it is nobody else’s business. We aspire to be able to practice magick as it was meant to be, without shame, without hang ups, and without pressure.

Another comment that comes up is that a student and a teacher can’t have a fair relationship outside of circle. That the teacher already has an unfair hold over the student/lover. I can understand that trepidation. I would say in response that I am blessed with being a pirate. On a pirate ship, everyone was equal outside of a conflict. Additionally everyone had a job. And when it was time to work, everyone did their job. One of those jobs was captain. So, for me personally, there has always been a clear delineation between my girlfriend and my priestess. In the bedroom, at the store, at my mother’s house, at her mother’s house, at a lawn party, at the bar, in the car, and everywhere not associated with my training we are lovers and equals. When it is time for ritual, or I have overstepped myself in the realm of spiritual training, then I am the student and she is the teacher. But everyone is different. What works for me, might not work for you, and vice versa.

It may seem easier to make a rule for everyone to follow, but people deserve to be treated individually with each issue as it arises. In Australia they call it “Getting a fair rub.” Giving everyone a “fair rub” stops people making blanket statements that lock down the rights of the people in our communities. One guy gets in a drunken fight at festival. Ban alcohol for everyone?

Um…no.

Deal with the drunk. Don’t punish the whole for the few. Really, don’t punish anyone at all. It’s not our jobs to punish people. It’s our job as Wiccans to help elevate our brothers and sisters into the realm of personal responsibility. Make the few responsible for their actions, individually.

I DO have a strong opinion for why someone should not have sex with a student, or within the craft. It goes as follows and I will format it in such a way as to simulate the intensity of my feelings over this situation:

It is COMPLETELY INAPPROPRIATE/ABUSIVE to hold someone’s training as a carrot in front of them FORCING them to sleep with you IN EXCHANGE FOR THEIR DEGREES and/or CONTINUED ACCEPTANCE in the circle. If you make someone feel like they can’t train unless they sleep with you, then you are ABUSING YOUR POSITION, AND THE PERSON. 

That being said, people break up. Things become unworkable between people. Getting in a sexual relationship with anyone is risky business. You start dating a guy in your social circle, you break up, and then you all of the sudden don’t feel comfortable around that social circle, precipitating you finding a new group of friends. The same thing can happen in a circle.

Too often we associate “pain” with “abuse,” but they are worlds apart. Pain and Change take up the same part of the brain. This makes change hurt, sometimes. Hurt makes us think of abuse. And so we associate change with abuse. People break up. Things change. Abuse is introduced when you start trying to control other people with pain. Abuse is introduced when you act without considering others feelings, or the impact your actions will have on them.

Like making blanket rules that all love and pleasure between members of a fertility religion, is wrong.

And so in summary, I would first like to say “Thank you.” You made it to the end of this article! I appreciate your diligence. If you didn’t read the whole thing, and you just want the TL:DR version (That means ‘too long: didn’t read’ for those not in the know), then I will summarize my opinion. Consensual sex amongst consenting adults in a fertility religion that was born of teaching its mysteries through sexual rites is not only appropriate, but desirable. Will everyone find it? No. It is closer to something to strive for, rather than an energy to be feared. Abuse stems from intent. If your intent is to subjugate wide eyed seekers into sexual conquests, or find short cuts to your degree by sexually manipulating your teacher, you will soon find out why that is a bad idea. If you have been abused by someone like that, my heart goes out to you and I wish you healing.

If you have found someone to share the most sacred mysteries of the waters, and the secret of the wine of life, and the cauldron of Cerridwen which is the holy grail of immortality, then blessings be upon you as well, and let naught stop you or turn you aside. For behold: all acts of love and pleasure are Her rituals.

Returning to Aphrodite by Belladonna Laveau

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Author: Temple of Aphrodite
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Aphrodite was my first Patron Goddess. She claimed me when I was very young. My first paper about Pagan deities was done in the 10th grade. It was a comparative study on the love goddesses of the Norse, Romans, Greeks, and Egyptians. It was an oral report. I sat there nervously for a week, through everyone else’s report waiting for my turn, and when it was all over the teacher asked if anyone had been missed. I raised my hand, and she looked at me confused. She said, “You volunteered to go first. You got an A.” I don’t remember doing it. I guess I said the right stuff. It was years before I realized I must have channeled that report.

I don’t tell people that I’m a priestess of Aphrodite. Because it’s often thought that her ministry is all about sex, and for some it is. My ministry is more about love. I talk about THAT often. I work to create a loving environment for everyone I meet. I feel that life is kinda pointless if people don’t give and receive love. I know that’s not everyone’s opinion, but it IS mine. Love is a driving force in my life, and always has been.

Invoking the Greek Gods as a member of the Eleusinian Priesthood is different from being a Wiccan invoking deity for ritual. The Gods come to you quickly and powerfully, sometimes even before you are told that you’re holding them. I come to this work a seasoned priestess. There are few times when the Gods have landed on me so intensely as during the months of preparing for Spring Mysteries Festival.

She started sneaking into my thoughts, changing my tastes, causing me to think more about my visual appearance, and having more desire to look nice than to eat that.  I found it amusing to discover she doesn’t like sour cream.  I would have thought she would.  She thinks there’s something very wrong with cream that has gone sour, Cow Goddess that she is.

There are aspects of Her that I have forgotten were Hers, and had come to claim them as my own. Such as my love of makeup, delicious foods, fashion, romance, flouncy skirts and being a living work of art.  Then there are aspects of her that I’ve forgotten to live everyday, like that love of taking care of yourself, the sheer delight of being in the flesh, the beauty of my delicious curves, and the lusciousness of playing with my hair.

Aphrodite is everyone’s lover.  She’s enamored with you.  She loves everything about you.  She wants to delight in your essence, and revel in your scent.  She loves the flesh that is you.  She loves the heat that is you.  She loves that you breathe in and out and that you exist in all your lusciousness.  She’s quick to correct you when it involves doing something to your detriment.  But, she makes up for it in the love she pours upon your spirit.

It’s been a wonderful journey reconnecting with her.  Embodying her is like stepping into my old self.  It’s easy, fun, and sexy.  I’m loving it, and I appreciate that she allows me to see you through her eyes more often than not.  It’s easy to see your beauty and to love you unconditionally, because she let’s me see through her eyes.  I’m really looking forward to seeing each of you through her eyes at Spring Mysteries.  This journey is incredible.

Mighty Aphrodite, I am Yours.

Just die.

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Author: Temple of Charon
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Facing the abyss.

 

Nothingness.

 

All of your life’s works become … merely a memory; and now that active memory is dead.

You are now GONE.

 

The books which extolled your greatness rotted, the monuments eroded, the statues buried in sand.  The very language used to describe your greatness now forgotten by whole societies.

 

The mist at the end of space and time embraces them all.

 

Now at last you are ready to meet me.

 

CharonFerryman of the dead.  Ev’ry thing dead.

People, animals, plants, worlds, stars, galaxies, the known universe.

 

I do not care who or what you were.

 

I do not recognize any of that.

 

Passage will be paid.

More than Persephone’s Mom by Mary Malinski Priestess of Demeter

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Author: Temple of Demeter
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Demeter and Persephone. Demeter and Kore. You can’t have one without the other, can you?

The two are forever entwined in the Mysteries and mythology. Their identities are so thoroughly intertwined that Demeter loses her mind with grief when Kore is abducted. She is no longer herself when she blights the Earth – her identity vanished along with the Holy Daughter.

And yet she wasn’t always Persephone’s mom. She had a life and identity before (and after) she was a mother.

Second born of Rhea and second swallowed by Kronus, Demeter played a role in the overthrowing of the Titans, and again in the uprising of the Gigantes, she was called khrysaoros, Lady of the Golden Sword.

She was known as a Giver of Law – Ovid tells us in Metamorphoses,

…she first gave corn and crops to bless the land; she first gave laws; all things are Ceres’ [Demeter’s] gift.

~Ovid, Metamorphoses 5. 341 ff (trans. Melville)

Demeter of the Golden Tresses is a woman beautiful and desirable in her own right. She had a lover, the hero Iaison. Hesiod tells us,

Demeter, bright goddess, was joined in sweet love with the hero Iasion in a thrice-ploughed fallow in the rich land of Krete, and bare Ploutos (Wealth), a kindly god who goes everywhere over land and the sea’s wide back, and him who finds him and into whose hands he comes he makes rich, bestowing great wealth upon him.

~Hesiod, Theogony 969 ff (trans. Evelyn-White)


As a mother, I can relate to Demeter identifying herself by her child. When I think about how to describe myself, “mother” is one of the first words that comes to mind. After giving birth to three (amazing) boys, nursing them and changing their diapers and helping them to grow, it is hard to see myself as “desirable”, or even as separate.

So much of my life and my choices involve what I need to do to support them. They are constantly in my thoughts and plans for the future. I often sacrifice my own needs and desires to accommodate theirs.

And yet I wouldn’t want to live without them. I can’t imagine – I don’t even want to think about – the heart-wrenching grief of losing one (or all) of my children. Knowing mothers who have lost their children, it is a pain that never truly goes away.

Demeter is lucky, her child returns. Here in the Pacific Northwest, we have had signs of spring since Imbolc. The Great Mother is ecstatic that her baby is coming home soon.

For Her, the cycle plays out year after year. For us living here on this Earth plane, we move through the cycles in more of a spiral, going deeper into our experience with each turn of the Wheel. We grow and change and learn.

I am a mother, and more than a mother. I get to experience the Great Mother’s loss of her child and her sense of self through Her Mysteries, so that I may learn and grow and build a stronger, more diverse sense of my own identity. I learn to make time to care for myself, and allow others to care for me, so that no one ending becomes catastrophic.

Thank you, Demeter, for sharing your lessons with me.

Spring Mysteries Festival: The Oath of the Eleusinian Mysteries

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Author: Dusty Dionne
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For the history of the Eleusinian Mysteries Oath is one of the most prevalent topics when discussing the Mysteries. The main reason for this is because without the oath, we would know exactly what was done in each part of the Sacred Rites. As it stand we know a fair bit about what happened in the Lesser Mysteries, but not so much as to what happened in the Greater Mysteries. Scholars, many of which have worked with the Aquarian Tabernacle Church, have pieced together a great deal of what they think happened, but that oath has stood strong to keep the complete mystery of the rites shadowed in time.

The Mysteries are known as a ‘cursed rite’ in that if one is to break their vows connected with the production and/or sanctity of the Mysteries and their secrets, they can have unintended consequences. It is said that in ancient times. when people spoke of what they saw to others, often they would wind up killed. This is why we have stories of what happened in the Lesser Mysteries, but not so much the Greaters. The people who would have been loose lipped were often removed from the equation.; leaving only the truly devout and honorable to live long enough to return to the great city for the second part.

At the recreation at Fort Flagler, these oaths are still enacted. In the Theater, before the Gods and your fellow pilgrims, you are asked if you are willing to keep the secrets that you are reveled. Three times the participants are asked if they will keep the secrets of the mysteries, knowing that to share them with those that have not experienced them would cheapen their own experience, as those that they attempted to enlighten would have not experienced the sacredness of their epiphany. Epiphany’s at their core are unsharable. Bolts of realization that convey a feeling through your bones of a new, and more profound understanding on a subject. How can you share that in a conversation with someone who has no context to apply it to? You can’t. You can only drain your experience of its magic as the person paints it black with their misunderstanding. As you attempt over and over again to explain how sacred the experience is, and they continue to reply with a simple “I don’t know. It sounds cool, I guess”

So what does that mean? Don’t talk about the people you see there? Don’t talk about the rituals? The food? The location? Don’t talk about ANYTHING??!?

Well that is a fine question, and one that in the past few weeks has been getting some attention as we get within just a few weeks of Spring Mysteries Festival 30. So let’s talk about it. When you take your oath you are asked not to reveal the things you see at the festival, but this doesn’t mean that you cant speak about EVERYTHING you experience. For many, the pilgrimage to The Pacific North West can be costly, and time consuming. The Mysteries throughout have always demanded the time, treasures, and talents of those involved and attending. It would further cheapen your experience if you couldn’t talk about your how much the event meant to you. So below are two lists of examples of things that would and would not break your oaths.

Oath Keepers. These are the things you can do that will keep your oath.

  • A person coming to the Mysteries is taking a pilgrimage that is highly spiritual. Even if she has never come to the festival before, and has no idea what to expect, the time and treasure involved have already made her connected to the energy of the rites. It is fully appropriate to tell the people around you about the experience you are about to embark on. Tell your social media, friends, family (considering you are open in your life with your faith, and comfortable with people knowing you are attending a Pagan Passion Play) and the person sitting next to you on the bus if you are so inclined. It is a beautiful thing to be proud of your spirituality, and you should express it as much as your comfortable.
  • There are many things that happen at the Mysteries that are not ritual. There is a Talent Show, Workshops, Auctions, Eight Wonderful Meals, Wild Animals, Hiking Trails, and an entire Fort to explore. These things are all open game to talk about. (With some restrictions that we will get into in Oath Breakers) Some amazingly talented, dynamic, and life changing events, acts, and items from the auction come across peoples paths. How better to honor your experience by allowing that sword you got at the auction to have it’s story told to those that ask about it? Telling them that you got it at a life changing event called Spring Mysteries Festival. That it came from a Priestess in the community and how you got in a bidding war, but it came home with you. That’s a powerful experience. You should share it.
  • Did you have a good time at the event, and you want your best friend to come with you? You are fully at liberty to talk about the festival with people. You can tell them they should come. It’s an amazingly life changing event that has 30 years of history behind it. You can tell them about the sleeping arrangements. We have barracks that we sleep in, as well as housing that can be rented for extra. The fort, itself. Fort Flagler is out in Nordland, WA on the Puget Sound. It was the long range gun battery that would have been the first munitions to fire at ships attacking from the Pacific during WWII. The amount of rituals. There are 4 parts to the Eleusinian Mysteries Proper: Parade to the Sea, The Lesser Mysteries 1 and 2, and The Greater Mysteries. There is also historically a Skyclad Ritual, as well as a tertiary ritual of some sort, depending on the year. The schedule. It is a Pagan Passion Play. So it is not a ‘sleep in and go to the workshops later in the day’ event. It is a ‘get up at 7am each day and interact in a highly participatory weekend long ritual’ event. The food. Eight wonderful meals. Meals are on a tight schedule to work with the ritual. Most food issues are taken care of. The headliners. Did you meet Selena Fox? Oberon Zell? Terry Riley? Sonya Hill-Miller? Willo’ Wellspring and Alfred Willowhawk? Share your experience. What did you learn from them? What did seeing them mean to you? The workshops (unless otherwise stated) Did you learn a lot? How was the teaching? The myth. The Eleusinian Mysteries are the story of the Kore’s abduction by Hades into the underworld, the blighting of the world by Demeter at the loss of her daughter, and the reemergence of the Holy Daughter as Persephone, Queen of the Underworld. This is not a secret, this is historic fact. Are there deeper lessons revealed through the administering of these sacred rites in ritual form? Yes. Can You talk about those? That brings me to our next part:

Oath Breakers: The things you cant do, or else you have broken your oath.

  • No. You can not tell people what happens within the ritual as it is presented at the event. You cant talk about any of it. The Gods, the presentation, the words spoken, the specifics of a particular God or their costume, or anything that happens in any of the secondary or tertiary rituals. Likewise you cant speak on any workshop that teaches a broader view of the mysteries themselves. These Workshops are always marked as sensitive.
  • Likewise we have 2 levels of participants. Mystai (Mist-eye) and Epoptai (EE-pop-tie). Mystai are those who have been through the Mysteries one time. They are able to see the Parade to the Sea, and Lessers 1 and 2. They are welcome to talk about their complete experience with any other Mystai or Epoptai.  Epoptai are those that have seen the Mysteries at least 2 times, and have been through the Greater Mysteries. They are only at liberty to talk about their experience in the Greaters with other Epoptai.
  • You cannot talk about the participants that attend with you. You never know who attends in silence without telling their world about their spirituality. It is their right to keep their activities to themselves, and so if a person is a simple participant, you should never talk about seeing them at them event
  • No Pictures. You can take pictures of you and your friends, by yourselves, with no person or prop in the background. Catalog your experience, but keep it your experience, and leave the other participants who arent aware of your promotions, out of it.

And there you have it. Now you know how to keep your oath. Now you know that you are fully open to tell people who you are, and what you do. Just keep the mysteries safe for those that long to experience them, and allow us to unfold the spirit of those that your stories have touched, who now long to attend. Children of the Goddess, it’s time to come home. See you there, SMFPilgrim.