In mid-March, Archpriestess Belladonna Laveau got on /r/Wicca and did an Ask Me Anything. There were a number of great questions on a variety of topics. In case you missed it, the transcript is below!
A special thanks to all who came out and weighed in. Additional questions can be sent in through our contact form.
Dusty_Dionne: A little proof of Person https://www.facebook.com/events/606448922762589/?previousaction=join&source=1#
iBMCi: What texts/books would best be for one, such as myself, that wishes to learn to better connect with my self, spiritually.
Belladonna_Laveau: I believe if it grows out of the ground it’s sacred. But, each person has to make their own choices about the paths of power they wish to ascribe to for ascension. Oh, and in regards to music, anything that helps you connect with deity is holy to me.
Skyfae: What is the single best reason in your opinion for someone to go to a larger gathering like this – what is the single greatest challenge? For a newcomer to a large event the Cost involved can be a little staggering – what makes this an essential thing to save for in our community?
Belladonna_Laveau: Well, you get 8 paid-for meals, as well as indoor accomodations for 4 days of magic. But, what you really get is the experience of Eleusis, and the ability to interact with the Gods. One of the favorite experiences is the opportunity to get to visit with the Gods in their Shrines. Each God has Shrine attendants who build and decorate a shrine for the deity they serve. On Saturday morning, festival attendees get to visit with the Gods of their choice to give offerings, receive blessings and ask for guidance. Every time I have had the honor of speaking to a God, it have been life changing, and their words stay with me forever.
majorpain70: Merry meet Bella, This is Veronica. I have a question. As you know I am a Witch on training wheels. I would love to know any good books or links that can guide me on this journey.
Belladonna_Laveau: My book, “Awakening Spirit” will get you on the right track. Also, I recommend reading the English Classics, The Farrar books, Doreen Valiente, etc. Look at the bibliography of the books on the shelves, and read the titles that you keep seeing over and over. Too many books on the market today are peoples opinions of the what they have read in the classics. Going to the beginning gives you a stronger foundation to build your practice upon.
Throwaway223334455: Why did you do Wife Swap?
Belladonna_Laveau: We decided they were going to try to make us look kooky as Wiccans, so Pete and I discussed it and decided that I could at least control what information they got, and give them things that were not sacred to us. So we gave them broom rides, fire spinning, and a chalice ceremony. Silliness that satisfied their desire to sensationalize us and routed them away from anything that would be harmful. No real magical tools were destroyed during the show. Thanks for asking. I hope you found it entertaining.
outonthetown: Did you enjoy the experience? Can you give us some basic feedback on it?
Throwaway223334455: Followup question – How do you answer the accusations that as recently as 1999, you were seeking instructors, and then less than 8 months later you claimed to be a 3rd degree initiate, and your “puppy papers” never checked out?
Belladonna_Laveau: It’s easy to make stuff up online, when you don’t like someone. People always like to question someone’s credentials when you can’t find anything else to throw at them. I never asked for teachers for myself. The only time I’ve asked for teachers, was to hire them to staff my schools. To know a real teacher, look at their works. Find out for yourself. Don’t let the haters and gossip mills make your mind up for you.
Roadglidegirl: I am attending the Mysteries this year and I am very excited. I heard that we will have visitors from across the USA and maybe even from other countries. Do you know where they are traveling from?
erifeaf: What is the one thing you hope attendees take home from the festival?
Belladonna_Laveau: The festival is about change and initiation into something the connects them to the Ancients. We encourage participants to create positive change in their lives and recognize that all that happens to you is for your growth and betterment. We hope you leave feeling empowered, and connected to deity. The Eleusinian Mysteries specifically is about loosing the fear of death in our lives, and that undercurent, while I cannot speak about it in detail due to the oaths of secrecy taken by all initiates of Eleusis, is also present within the ritual experience.
Joy-fu: How would you say Spring Mysteries differs from other festivals? What makes you want to keep at it for 10 (or 30)years?
tianas_knife: As someone who has been going to the Mysteries for a long time now, I have to echo and ditto on bella’s response. I’ve also met people who were not impressed by the mysteries. Spring Mysteries Festival bowled me over the first time I saw it, and every time since. It did that because I put my whole heart into the festival. SMF amplifies and gives back to you what you give it. If you put your whole self into the endeavour of having a life changing religious experience, you absolutely will get it and more.
lydiatrebond: Any research or reading you recommend we do before we attend the Mysteries for the first second or tenth time?
ZuluPapa: I know nothing about you or your religion. Forgive me. How did you come into your position in your organization? (Sorry if that isn’t the official term for your group/religion)
thatsnotgneiss: What is the biggest mistake you ever made?
rileysweeney: Also – favorite Pete Pathfinder story – everyone has one.
gerryhanes: What’s the best thing you’ve ever done, in any context?
Belladonna_Laveau: That’s a loaded question, I want to answer /u/Dusty_Dionne, or maybe that I had three wonderful children. Or that I was once asked to be a GLOW Girl. lol The best thing I’ve ever done professionally is built the first state recognized Wiccan Seminary. I am still Dean of it today, and I enjoy my service there very much.
Dusty_Dionne: This ^
tianas_knife: Wait, GLOW as in Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling? Cause that is absolutely my favorite franchise. Did you get asked or did you audition?
Belladonna_Laveau: I got asked, and turned them down, because I wasn’t sure I wanted to be seen that way. lol Maybe that was the biggest mistake of my life. I was 21, and wanted to be taken seriously.
tianas_knife: OH MY GOD I AM SO MARKING OUT RIGHT NOW. Also, probably a good decision, considering that GLOW was only really famous for a little over a year, and they all are still having to deal with the physical ramifications of Professional Wrestling.
rileysweeney: Best awkward question you have received from a mystie at the festival?
thatsnotgneiss: How long have you been attending the festival? Is this something for more advanced pagans or is it beginner friendly?
Belladonna_Laveau: I have been attending for a decade. First time attendees are initiated into the rites of Eleusis by the Gods of Olympus at a special ritual on Saturday night.
RackaFrakkin: Which gods? There are a lot of them.
wolfanotaku: Merry Meet, We’ve been hearing a lot about your Temple here in /r/wicca and it has prompted me to do some research. I find your idea very interesting. I’m curious, how do you feel about the other ways that Wiccans have become clergy in the past — and still do? That is to say, what do you think of the traditional coven training up to HP/HPS and then clergy? Other than the academic angle, what do you feel are the advantages and disadvantages of each? Also could you please address the lack of clarity when members say “[WTC] is one of two degree offering Wiccan/Pagan seminaries in the United States”?
Belladonna_Laveau: Merry Meet, I’m not sure I am clear on your question, but I’ll try to answer it. Let me know if I miss your point. I am a traditionalist. It’s important to me that the traditional ways that covens train witches is perserved and perpetuated as we move ahead with technology and the number of people interested. Wicca is growing faster than competent clergy can keep up with it, and so we have developed ways to help more students faster. Yet, I stick to the traditional training methods as closely as possible. Academic degrees within our school are for working in the public world, such as prisons, hospitals, military chaplains, etc. We provide the opportunity to pursue traditional initiatory degrees, but you have to add the personal component to it, to get the traditional training that cannot be done over the internet, and to get your initiations (we do not do initiations over the internet EVER). So, rather than leaning towards one or the other, we have both, and they work in harmony. Students can find a supervising High Priest/ess through the ATC that is local (We have churches all over the US and many other countries) who will help you with your initiation, or you can travel to the teacher of your choice. Initiatiatory degrees are for those who wish to become initiated and pass on initiations. Academic degrees are for those who wish to work as chaplains within public institutions. As far as the lack of clarity – I’m not sure who WTC is, do you mean ATC? and do you mean “we are one of two degree offerings seminaries?” I don’t know that the ATC officially promotes that kind of exclusionism. I can’t help what members say. I find people will say just about anything, even after you’ve told them not to. lol I do know of another school who insists they are the only pagan college, but that is not us. Again, I’m not sure what you were asking, I hope I got close. Thanks for your question.
wolfanotaku: Thank you very much, Lady Bella, for clearing up those points. Being that I have worked in marketing before I realize that sometimes the language used on a website or in a pamphlet can be a little cold and tries to paint a perfect picture. I teach 101 in my area as well as run a private Traditional Coven and I have been getting a lot of questions about your temple. That and seeing so much of it here on /r/Wicca caused me to really seek to better understand it so that I’m passing along the correct information. It sounds like you are trying hard to do good work in high volume. I know how difficult that can be! I was a bit weary of marketing material that sounded like you were passing out degrees, but having talked to you personally I see now that that isn’t the case. Thank you for setting me straight. [You said] “I’m not sure who WTC is, do you mean ATC?”
Sorry the quote in question used the term “Woolston Steen Theological Seminary” but I was replacing a pronoun when I used the brackets in my quote and I made a mistake in typing out the acronym WSTS. My understanding what that you were related to that Seminary as well as ATC in its Temple form (do I have that correct?).
Belladonna_Laveau: Thank you so much for asking and giving me the opportunity to address your concerns. Yes, WSTS is the same school as WiccanSeminary.EDU, which is my preferred way of referencing it, and it is sponsored by the ATC. There is quite a lot of marketing information that predates me, and is old. It might have been correctly said back then that there were only two schools. But, today, we try to work with the other schools that are up and coming, and teach students that the Pagan community can do more by working together than by throwing rocks at each other. My personal belief is that each school exists to fill a need, and therefore is important to the children of the Goddess. WSTS is not the right school for everyone, we are very specific in what we are trying to accomplish, and ask you your spiritual goals right up front. We try to help people realize that if they find we are not the right school for them, that’s completely ok, and they can move on blessed for the experience. We absolutely aren’t passing out degrees. If you have a degree with us, you earned it. Our classes are college level, and rigorous. We expect you to grow, and be competent as a minister, when we are done with you. I’ve met people with internet initiatory degrees that can’t comfortably stand in a live circle with others. I don’t want that for our students. Our goal is to provide training and guidance that allows our students to grow in an accepting, safe and loving environment, but still get what they need to be successful as ministers. I want people (and I mean all people, not just pagans) to be able to respect our graduates and their works, and I want our religion to thrive, with capable loving ministers to serve and help create a better world for everyone. I do this work, because I love the Lord and Lady and her children. I do the best I can everyday, and when I find a better way, I do that. Our teachers are volunteers who receive a small honorarium, but do their work out of love for the work. Building a college is a huge and difficult endeavor, and it’s been a long journey. I’m proud of what we have accomplished, but we still have much to do. Please come check us out anytime, we have plenty of activities for our students to serve the public, and for you to see what they are doing. As a matter of fact, we have public ritual at 7pm PST tonight and Sunday night. We’re at Sacred Cauldron on http://secondlife.com, or your can visit our website at http://WiccanSeminary.EDU
buster2416: What is your funniest fart story?
Belladonna_Laveau: This makes me wonder if you’ve already heard it…. lol When my children were very young, I was pushing Tatianna in our super duper double baby stroller through a furniture store. Kenny, my husband at the time, had walked off to look at a particular piece, and I was alone with the baby and Luaxanna, who was about three. I have no idea what happened or what she heard, but Luaxanna turned around, pointed at me and yelled accusatorily “You Farted” and started laughing, which startled me and made me start laughing. I told her no I didn’t, but she inisisted, and kept saying, very loudly in the store, as people were walking by, “YOU FARTED” pointing at me, laughing and saying it over and over, inisisting that it was true. This was cracking me up, and I shook my head no, but that only made her more insistent. I started laughing so hard that it made me need to pee. I couldn’t run to the bathroom, because of the huge stroller, and I couldn’t leave the kids, and I had completely lost the ability to control the situation. I couldn’t do anything but stand there, cross my legs, and bend over with laughter, while people were walking by and my baby was yelling “You Farted”. When my husband came up just a few moments later, to rescue me. I had tears streaming down my face from laughing so hard. I didn’t say anything, but ran to the bathroom to pee. To this day, it’s the funniest fart story I have.
Occasita: No question, I am just stoked to see an AMA here from such an esteemed figure! Saving this so I can read all the answers later.
Belladonna_Laveau: Thank you for the support. I hope you enjoy the reading.
PhoenixMask: What advice would you give to someone trying to find his patrons and get in touch with them? Also your tattoo is very cool. Does it have a special meaning?
Belladonna_Laveau: Hi Phoenix Mask, Look at the heros from your childhood. Who are you drawn to? Whose stories do you like? Then see what kind of archetype that character is drawn from. When you hear about a particular deity do you think “S/he is SO cool”. The ones you like are the ones that are also calling out to you. Then pray and meditate and see who comes to you. Work with the ones you like. Let them speak to you. They usually are right under your nose and you take it for granted. My partner, /u/Dusty_Dionne, worshipped Dionysis for years before figuring out his last name was derived from Dionysis. I’m glad you like my tattoo. It means I’m a Priestess of the Goddess. It was inspired from the Mysts of Avalon. I know many priestesses with the moon tattoo now, many of them are ATC, but I’ve met women from all kinds of Goddess traditions that have them now. I am excited that it has become a movement, and I always am glad to meet a fellow “Sister of the Moon” It helps people find us in public. I get approached all the time by people, who need help, who say “I know you’re a priestess, because of your tattoo, can you help me?” It’s kinda like a Catholic priests collar, and I’m proud to wear it.
FruitHat: I know I’m late to the party here but I had to say something. After some very traumatic things happened to me a few years ago I found the guidance of Venus (Aphrodite) and I have been serving her and her son Eros ever since. I know that I have found the path that I’m supposed to follow. What does your event offer for someone like me? What kind of things happen there? When is it?
Belladonna_Laveau: Aphrodite and Eros are both present at Spring Mysteries. Aphrodite has quite a lot to do with the mysteries, and has a large following there. She does dedications for attendees, and holds a private audience with people who visit her shrine. It is a very healing and transformational experience. To learn more about Spring Mysteries festival go to this link http://www.aquariantabernaclechurch.org/spring-mysteries-festival
hotakyuu: Do you believe in the deities as actual beings or personifications of the human journey?
Belladonna_Laveau: Both, I believe they are entities that are immortal and eternal, and that their stories personify the human journey and help guide us. As above so below, as without so within. We are each a microcosm of the whole, so they exist outside of us, and also live within each of us.
hotakyuu: Thanks for the reply.
rice_pan: Blessings, wise Archpriestess. Thank you for doing this AMA. What first drew you to the Old Path? I realize this may be a very personal question, and I apologize for any offense.
Belladonna_Laveau: Hello, thank you for your question. My father used to use magic on me all the time. When I was twelve, he caught me using the wind to make a pile of yard refuse burn faster, so I could finish my chores and go play. I was raised very devoutly Mormon, who talk about a Heavenly Mother, and taught me that God was real, and prayer can make miracles happen in your life. So when I stumbled upon Wicca, I was fascinated. My teacher would talk about the “GodDESS”. He emphasized the second syllable because he was British. lol And I listened intently. Then I prayed and meditated about it, and she spoke to me. Many gods spoke to me. I could not deny the magic that I experienced in my life, through working with my High Priest and the Wiccan Gods. I was reborn, and I came to know who I am. I began to recognize the magic that had always been in my parents, and grandparents, and I knew this was my path. She speaks to me everyday. All day long. She has since I can remember. I first heard her voice when I was five, and for a while it became masculine. But, then I found her again, and I have followed her every where.
rice_pan: Thank you for answering. This was beautiful to read.
ILurk4u: I’d like to know what the word ‘Wiccan’ means to you personally. I don’t tie myself to any religion particularly, but I do agree with certainviews from many. Is Wiccan a religion, is what I believe I’m getting at. *Excuse my typos from typing on a phone.
Belladonna_Laveau: This is a great question. Thanks for asking it. Wicca is a religion, in the hearts of those that practice it, as well as legally recognized by the US Government. For me it’s a framework within which I can explore what I believe, and my personal relationship with deity. We have such a broad belief system because we agree that everything is true in the heart of the worshipper. We all agree to some basics that help us relate to each other, but at it’s core Wicca is a personal practice that gives one the tools to reach God, in whatever way God manifests itself to you.
majorpain70: Thank you for such an eye opener in the Wicca religion. As I stated I am a witch on training wheels (as I like to say). Before today I was very scared to ask questions, not really knowing if I would come off as a bother. You have really helped me in my own journey. Blessed be, Love and light to you. <3.
Belladonna_Laveau: Thank you for your wonderful questions. I’m happy you had the courage to join in the conversation. You’ve been an asset, and not at all a bother. Excited new students keep the path fresh for those of us who have walked it for decades. Seeing a new witch blossom and grow gives satisfaction to those of us who have put so much into it. Blessings to you and your path.
_Adrena_ : I have read Awakening Spirit and refer to it often….Do you intend to write any more book in the future?
Belladonna_Laveau: Thank you. I am glad you enjoyed it. I do have the Sophomore class ready to turn into a book, which is a journey into self-discovery. I hope to get it to publication soon. My writing has been curtailed by first building a college, and then by settling into the Archpriesthood. I have many books to write that are loosly outlined. I’m sure I will get to them within a few years.
HMARS: Why Index, Washington, of all places? I’m in Seattle and it always struck me as a weird choice.
Dusty_Dionne: Just a couple pictures to illustrate how beautiful our little hamlet is.
http://imgur.com/2DIqTHF,0RH32z1,Fe9EOgt – this picture is of the river in town in Index, and a view of Mount Persus.
http://imgur.com/2DIqTHF,0RH32z1,Fe9EOgt#1 – This is the standing stones we stacked at the river as it passes directly in front of where we live.
http://imgur.com/2DIqTHF,0RH32z1,Fe9EOgt#2 – this is Bella standing about a half mile from our house, looking up at “The Wall” which is in the “Forks of the Sky State Park”
Belladonna_Laveau: This is where the Goddess put us. It’s where the Moonstone Circle is. I didn’t choose it. I just inherited it. But, honestly, it is beautiful and amazingly magical out here in the shadow of these majestic mountains, on the bank of these two powerful rivers feeding into each other. I think the reason she choose this place will continue to reveal itself to us, as we grow In Her Service.
majorpain70: Do all of the Covens as you mentioned in the Seattle area, do they follow the same teachings as you teach? Is the ATC the mother church of all the Covens in the State?
majorpain70: I am not sure how to word this so i will give an example. I was raised Roman Catholic and I was baptized into the church, How does one become part of a coven or church such as yours? Is there a certain initiation?
Belladonna_Laveau: Wicca is a mystery religion. Knowledge builds upon itself. Great magic can be done with people who have developed a strong working relationship. Certain rituals are saved for those who have the perspective to understand and appreciate the mysteries shared, and have cultivated the working relationships with others to be able to effectively achieve the desired effects. It’s similar to asking the difference between being able to administer first aid, and conduct surgery. More training and a sterile field is required for surgery. Someone attending, not on the surgery team, could kill the patient, altogether.
majorpain70: There are so many Gods and Goddess, How do you know which one to follow or which one to call upon in a specific need or situation?
Belladonna_Laveau: That’s funny. I asked my own Initiating High Priest this same question. You just have to work with them. As you start to write rituals, Gods will call to you. You research them, and learn about them, then years later, you have developed a practice of going to certain Gods for certain things. It happens over a lifetime. In the beginning I worked with the Mother Goddess, or the All Mother. Then as other Gods and Goddesses appeared or came to me, I would ask the ones that I had come know about specific things. These names change over the years, and each witch develops her own favorites.
Belladonna_Laveau: Thank you all for your awesome questions. Our AMA is officially closed. I am so excited about the work we are doing at the ATC, and am grateful for the opportunity to talk about my experiences and invite you all to Spring Mysteries. I was really wonderful connecting with all of you on here. I look forward to doing it again.