An Orange and Blue Witch

Lambhood, 1967

Baby Dr. PD

“A picture’s worth a thousand words,
But you can’t see what those shades of gray keep covered–
You should have seen it in color.”
Jamey Johnson, “In Color”

“I bleed Orange and Blue.  Auburn University made me what I am today–and I never turn my back on family.”  Dr. Privett-Duren

My heart is broken. And this is a really, really good thing.

As a little girl, I knew the difference between a skinned knee and real sorrow. Loss of blood had nothing on the latter. From the moment I entered your world, I grieved the impending death of my Grandma. At four. At ten. At thirty. At forty-two. Knowing that she would die became the foundation I grew upon, red and sundown yellow against whatever innocence I should have understood. Something in me knew she loved me better, harder, deeper than anyone ever would again. And so, I suppose, it was selfish from the beginning.

She broke my little girl Southern heart, from the moment I breathed air. And she was worth it. Some things, and some folks, just are.

I fell in love with Auburn University while she was still alive. For this, I am so grateful. I remember her, rocking back and forth on the porch and chewing her nails, trying to grasp the difference between being a doctor and holding a doctorate. Not that it made any nevermind to her: I had made it. The little girl she had taken in, over and over, since 1966. Her taterhead. Her baby had survived—and she was so proud of me. The feel of her rough country hand on my shoulder, her finger tracing my eyebrows that she was so fond of from birth, her voice in my ear . . . these things are all I have left now.   They now whisper in the wind, just memories I’m imparting to you on a computer. But, laws. You should have seen them in color.

I’ve never been loved like that since, and I expect, I never will. It made me fearless. It made me impenetrable. It made me witch.

And now, even though some might think they knew her better, I know she grieves with me. Grandma knew what it was to hide herself from the public eye—and she knew that what might seem, at first glance, to be evil can be very, very good. I promised to hold her secrets. And forever I shall. But I can still hear her, I still can taste her bravery in my mouth and I still know where she stood on “what tweren’t right,” and let me tell you: there wasn’t any gray area for that woman. She told me stories of bigotry in Alabama and how she subverted its spread, tales of love so wrenching there were not words for their demise and spun stories of “heavenly” grace that most Southerners would only comprehend in the abstract. We agreed. On everything that mattered.

But here I am. Without her. Struggling to stand again.

My story is about to be released in the news, and I suppose, that was inevitable. But before it does, let me say:

I loved teaching. It made me high. My students loved me and I loved them—and something truly magical happened in those rooms, cornered against Fitzgerald and Matheson and grappling with old dead white men. We . . . found our voices, albeit them innocuous to academia and the numbers on standardized tests. I loved them: Christians, football players, Muslims, sorority girls, outcasts, hippies, every one. We forged forts and valleys and ideas and memories. Sometimes, they would go on to be teachers, themselves. Sometimes, they went on to be lawyers. Always, they looked back and said: “It was Camelot.” Every single class.

Faculty pic

Faculty pic

And while this should have been enough, shoved up against my impeccable annual reviews, it wasn’t. Not when they found out that I was, am, a country witch. No one has bothered to ask what this means—although none of my students seem to care. After all, folks like me are in the Bible, advising and prophesizing and generally decorating the whole shebang. Either way, they knew me to be “good.” And this, in their estimation, was all that mattered. Well, that and teaching my arse off.

And they came damn smart close to loving me as much as Grandma did.

Screen Shot 2014-09-22 at 5.10.36 PM

I remember one review, about five years ago, in which my supervisor lamented:   “I wish we could take whatever you have and bottle it.” Ironic, really, when you finally understand that “whatever [I] had” was of a magical nature. Although, I suppose that in the end, they did try to bottle it.

My grandma would have their hide for that. After all, I had done my best, had won awards, had incited multiple students to go on for their graduate degrees and had overall sweated over their fields and prayed for rain. In the end?

Screen Shot 2014-09-22 at 5.43.09 PM

Here’s what I remember: desks scooting closer, books adorned with scribbles of thoughts and questions, eyes brimming with pain over a love over two-hundred years-old, arguments fueled by ancient rhetoric, frat boys grappling with concepts of justice, football players saddling up next to Dickens, ESL students following me to the elevator with hope. I can draw this for you, all day.

But you should have seen it in color.

The chalkboard art that awaited me, Fall "10, World Lit II

The chalkboard art that awaited me, Fall “10, World Lit II

I was Dr. PD. And it was Camelot. You will read a bit about what happened in the news soon, and for those of you who didn’t know, I’m so sorry if this upsets you in any way. What you need to know, if you find yourselves angry or confused, is really simple.

Two weeks before my termination.

Two weeks before my termination.

Yes, my darlings. I am, have always been, a country witch. And everything anyone has ever told you about what that means should have also told you that we love you. That we love a “Great Spirit/aka God/aka Goddess” just like you, honey. That we have ethical boundaries, believe in the power of love, count on faith and walk on dirt just like you. I may burn because of your confusion, but know this:

While I do, I will be blessing you. The “me” you loved is still here. Being a witch does not mean that I am evil, or bad, or vengeful. It just means that the sky blessed me once with a little extra something. And somewhere, deep inside you, the truth is there.

For Auburn University: You broke my heart. And you were worth it.

For my readers, I promise you: I am back. Being outed on this level was the impetus to my healing, finally, of my identity. I am no longer in the closet. I am the Southern Fried Witch, turning and spinning and loving out in the backwoods of Alabama. And I am, also and indelibly,

Dr. Katharyn Privett-Duren (Seba)

War Eagle!

 

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Bedtime Stories


velvrab

“To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark.”
— Victor Hugo, Les Miserables

“Mommy, now do the voices.”  Jake, age five

I don’t know how old I was when magic tripped across symbols upon a page and flipped in the air to land in my heart.  I do know that it made me  hungry for something my birth had forgotten and that I felt certain that the moment was somehow a tragedy, as if I had found a hole that would never be full.  I was right.

The day I found Stephen King, I felt both victorious and ashamed.  After all, I had been raised on the elite of literature (Black Beauty, The Sword and the Stone) and now, I had strayed to the “horror” section of the library like a bastard child.  And was fed, heartily.  I remember asking my mother if I could check out Carrie (at the time, I had eaten through the children’s section and had nothing left).  She was too busy, or tired, to double check the cover.  And my fascination with the “other” side was born.

But–this is not the subject of my post tonight.  Indeed, I have read voraciously my entire life (after all, I hold a doctorate in literature) and that, my friends, is neither here nor there.  I suppose it gave me a foundation or platform on which to perform, to rethink, to consider, to rebel against and with all of my Southern upbringing.  I suppose that–at times–it saved me from the abyss of my own blackened mind.  It gave me . . . empathy.  Hope.  A healthy cynicism in a conservative, Christian land.  In the time before the glitz and suddenness of Facebook, it afforded me a sincere lack of ignorance to a stranger’s plight.  And still, this is not the subject of this post.

But this is:  an outed witch in a land of Christian dogma, I have been thoroughly and quite unceremoniously fired from my job as a teacher.  The fact(s) that I have won awards for my teaching, have copious letters from former students affirming my positive influence upon their lives and (apparently) the current desperate need for qualified teachers at my former institution have had no bearing upon a political dean and a nasty little witch hunt. Regardless of all logical reasoning (and legal sense):  I am currently and effectively fired.  All of which is unfair, somewhat illegal and wholly unethical:  but, there it is.  Aside from a thick and convoluted lawsuit upon the institution that deemed me worthy of a doctorate, I am without recompense.  (Yes, yes.  There were “uncool” factors that pushed this action along–but still.  Even those are not totally to blame.  This one lies squarely upon the heads (ahem) of university bias.  I know better than to blame the actors and let the director walk.)   And still . . . I am not yet centered upon the subject of this post.  Let’s try harder.

I think that losing the job had something to do with gaining my soul back.

A long time ago, I lost my love for reading.  After hundreds of memorized books and comprehensive examinations, I couldn’t bring myself to read again.  The words had been stripped of their heart-thump and laid to rest alongside theoretical propositions and critiques in French, German and high-falootin’ New Englanders.  Not much was left standing of the salt and meat that had fed my frame as a child.  Be warned.  Upon passing through the Ivory Gates of Academia, they beat the living shit out of your passionate heart and leave it bloody on the steps of “who you know” and “publish or perish.”  I’ll be damned if even then you won’t know your ass from a hole in the ground unless *they* approve it and call it “ass.”  Or “hole in the ground.”  You lose your way.  But worse, you lose . . .

And so, I stopped reading.  Even magazines.  Damnable things would slip up on you, arguing for “right interpretations” of recipes, sewing, whatever until everything smelled, tasted and sounded like dogma.  Dry, no salt, intensely dense and tall without sauce.  Like sex with an audience and perfectly shaved legs when all you long for is some sweaty, inappropriate screw against an oak tree.  Y’all know what I mean.  Reading had become . . . a duty.

Until tonight.

On the phone with my spiritual student (and her very pregnant belly), I remembered.

The most magical moments I ever shared with my children were while reading.  Bedtime stories became this liquid translator of my heart to theirs, all messy and with “voices” and those “eyebrows up, eyebrows down” places.  Runaway Bunny.  Like Butter for Pancakes.  Strawberry Girl.  The Velveteen Rabbit.  Analogies and euphemisms snuggled up against the push and pull of time while my child snuggled closer and closer, safe, against sleep.  There was a “letting go” that had to happen.  Y’all know what I mean.  That tiny slip between the footing of the daily world and the stars of the story world as we walked toward dreams, unafraid and totally our most base selves.  Like that.  Totally like that: losing our mom/dad selves in their wonder and innocence and finding truth there unlike anything we could put our hands on in the light of day.  And this thing, this wondrous transference of reality for something more real had been buried within my chest for so long that, when it shivered, it drove me to my knees.

“When I say to a parent, ‘read to a child,’ I don’t want it to sound like medicine. I want it to sound like chocolate. ” — Mem Fox

I was starving.  The flesh of my soul was hanging from my proper bones, gnawing at the cardboard of academia and an approved life.  Yes, I have the doctorate.  Yes, yes.  I know the theories.  But I had forgotten:

Everything.  The way a new book smells like the one you left behind, so many lives ago.  Sawdust and ink, lost amongst electric bills and frozen dinners.  I had forgotten the magic of reaching out with the typed word and finding the carve of springs and caverns, oceans and broken hearts.  My first love, thrown into boxes.  I had followed them to a finish line of sorts, but left them as only markers.

And I’m sure this post seems like nothing.  Perhaps it is only the ramblings of an aging woman who has spent too much time nursing idealism and sharpening an oyster knife when the water has turned to sand.

But I remember something else.  I was seventeen–a huge pain in the ass–and had moved back in with my Grandma.  No one else would take me.  One night, after drinking too much and smoking too much and acting a complete eighties bonafied fool, I came home very late and tried to tip-toe down the hall.  Grandma (who never slept until her chickens were safe) called out from the hall and asked me to lie down beside her in the dark.  And I did.  Whiskey on my breath, thinking about some hot Alabama boy I can no longer name, I did.  And, there in the dark, she did the unthinkable and the totally uncool.  She said:

“Once upon a time, there were three little bears . . .”

I am forty-eight but I still remember the last time a story weaved itself into the air, up in wispy webs, down into my heart.  Transference, complete.

“Goodnight stars, goodnight air, goodnight noises everywhere.”
Margaret Wise Brown, Goodnight Moon

And the older witch loved the little girl she had been, somehow forgiving all of those who had hurt her along the way.  For none had hurt her as badly as she had, herself.  So, she picked up a book and told herself a tale of living and dreaming and starting over.  It began with . . .

The End.

Seba

 

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My Lover’s Quarrel (with the world)

Growing the Zinnias-And Eating Them, Too.

Growing the Zinnias-And Eating Them, Too.

I had a lover’s quarrel with the world.
Robert Frost

“In retrospect, this seems to summarize all the insanity of that time. Guy is standing on top of a burning building. Helicopter arrives, hovers, drops a rope ladder. Climb up! the man leaning out of the helicopter’s door shouts. Guy on top of burning building responds, Give me two weeks to think about it.”
Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft 

Leave it to me to get exactly what I asked for . . . and then be confounded by the answer.  How long had I whined:  I don’t want to teach anymore . . . I want to stay home and grow things and write things and cook things.  Long enough that the echo of it is still haunting me.  And:  I cast for it.  Stood right there in my corn field and threw my hands into the night sky and did what any real witch would do.  I simply said: GO.  Not: go, but only if it’s a Tuesday and I am wearing polka dots.  Not: go, but around this corner, then stop here.  No, no, no.  I know better than that.  Energy truly understands only one command and everything else clusterf***s the system.  And so, I knew that real magic meant real risk.

Does this mean I didn’t sit my ass down and think first?  No . . . I’ve learned (especially in the last two years) to think very long and hard about these things.  To not be so damned impulsive, so ludicrously careless.  As an Aries, it’s no wonder I was almost fifty when these lessons finally sunk in to my bones.  It was wondrous for me to find that the thinking part was a magical process, in and of itself!  If it was worth doing, it could wait until the time was right . . . reminds me of waiting for a good wine to “peak,” a process that can and does often take decades.  My favorite moment from Sideways (a movie I both detest and adore, strangely) is thus:

How it’s a living thing. I like to think about what was going on the year the grapes were growing; how the sun was shining; if it rained. I like to think about all the people who tended and picked the grapes. And if it’s an old wine, how many of them must be dead by now. I like how wine continues to evolve, like if I opened a bottle of wine today it would taste different than if I’d opened it on any other day, because a bottle of wine is actually alive. And it’s constantly evolving and gaining complexity. That is, until it peaks, like your ’61. And then it begins its steady, inevitable decline.  Sideways 2004

 

And this is all true.  Except . . . if it’s taken in, all that sunshine and love and work, right into the blood stream of just the right human on just the right day, where it continues to breathe.  Demise, halted.  Life, continued.  This was where I was, that fall eve.  Uncorking a wine that I had crafted . . .  and I drank the whole blessed thing in bare feet under the stars.

But, as we do, I then went about the earthly business of washing dishes, crafting stews, mending ends and (depending upon the day) fighting with/having sex with my husband.  Like you do.  Time marched on.  One day, I won an award where I worked–an event that my numerous students celebrated–the next day?  I was done.  (As a Southerner, I know the rules about discussing the ins and outs of this on social media.  Let’s say that it was inevitable, considering the evolution of our department, and that I had a little *push.*  Can’t thank that moment, enough.)  Was it fair/ethical/legal?  Nope, nope, nope.  But laws, was it ever fortuitous.  And the wine was alive in my blood.

Now, I’m not saying that I haven’t ached over this loss/gain.  Some days, I wake up and sob, blame others, rail and rant like a chicken without a head.  But, others?  I remember that this is the risk I took that day in the corn.  The muggle in me wants justice.  The witch in me is dancing nekkid in victory.

Let’s hope the latter whoops the former’s ungrateful ass.

Because this is what I asked for, and ultimate justice is a life lived well.  Bogging my old heart down in revenge and gnashing at the result only resonates as a lack of gratitude to my Big Momma, Mother Goddess and constant teacher.  Because in the end?

I reconnected with old friends, rejuvenated my passion for my husband, found out what I was made of and grew a backbone.  My Tribe became stronger, my time became more meaningful and . . . I started reading again.  (A big deal.  I gave it up after my doctorate.)  As a bonus, I am now reconnecting with the Pagan community after a long hiatus of discord and fracture–a necessary step that I had resisted for way too long–in hopes of leaving a healthy legacy for my son and Tribe.  And, finally after dreaming for five years, I have started a business that feeds my soul and my table.

But more than anything: I am becoming again.  Nothing major or earth-shattering, just this slow, purposeful awakening into the baby Crone I have always seen just around the corner.  I finally know where my lines in the sand lie–but more importantly–how to clearly mark them out for others before it’s too late.

In the end?  I found myself.  The road led all around the world and landed right smack back at my own front door.  And I am so glad to be home.

I guess many of us think of magic as if we were watching a cinematic, special-effects topography of our lives.  Nothing could be further from the truth, really.  It’s more about what we are willing to lose, how serious we are about the gain and how present we are willing to be when we get what we asked for–or at least, that’s what I have reckoned.  Because this is the exact and direct result of my cast, I know better than to blame Karma or Fate.  Those two have already had their way with me, and we’ve recently had a cup of coffee and reviewed one or two things.  Funny, isn’t it?  How some folks refuse to own their own “magical children” when they arrive, all bruised and battered at the front door.  I used to be one of those folks–but no more.  I know all too well the consequences of refusing responsibility.

And, recently, I have finally learned the benefits of drinking my own wine.  There are moments, notes of sun and pain, laughter and work, spice and fruit.  It is magical, all on its own.  So Mote It Be.

(Somehow, my Southern voice didn’t want to play today.  Not sure what that’s about.  But I’ve learned to listen to my gut.)

Blessed Be,

Seba

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Lamb Country

Lambhood, 1967

“I didn’t have any food, any water and it was very cold, very cold. I thought, I thought if I could save just one, but… he was so heavy. So heavy.”
The Silence of the Lambs

“I’m a survivor. And like the moon, I have a feeling it would take a truly spectacular event to keep me from taking my place in the scheme of things, waxing, waning, and eclipsing notwithstanding.”
Janet Rebhan, Finding Tranquility Base

“You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep Spring from coming.”
Paulo Neruba

And then . . . it was spring again. Funny how it always seems to be so far away.  This year, I was convinced that it had taken the last train to Georgia, then hopped a boat to Jamaica.  I reckon most of us magical folk knew something was beginning.  As always, beginnings are the harder part for me–mostly on account of they always ensure endings.

For me, there was this . . . noose I wanted rid of, and fast.  It had choked and clogged my magic, dampened my faith in humanity and variously had become the plaque in my witch arteries.  Twasn’t easy.  Some nooses become embedded a bit in the folds of the neck, so much so that they become a part of how you breathe in and out.  I knew that dislodging it would cause some bleeding–even dangerous bleeding–but I also knew that I could no longer bear its clutch.  To begin again, I had to face an ending.

And I have paid dearly for that freedom. My life was worth it.  And now, I am faced with nurturing the wound, bearing up against infection, and assuming the permanence of a scar.  “Shit fire and fall back in it,” my Grandma would say, ‘ary time.  We know we are daring the flame when we dance in unholy ground–regardless of our reasons, justifications and rationalizations.  Denial, methinks, is the luxury of youth.  And my time in that realm is long gone.

My priorities have shifted their rather voluptuous asses directly in front of me, and now, I can see everything clearly. I remember Grandma, biting her nails and spitting them across our front porch, leaning into my naiveté and pushing against my carelessness:  Anyone who asks you for everything is trouble, baby.  Anything that asks is already asking too much.  I wonder at our human impulse to give past our reserves.  How often do we do this, this depleting of our own life blood, in some misunderstood attempt to assuage our own bleating and torn childhoods?

I find irony here. Very Silence of the Lambs, as Hannibal asks Clarice:  “And you think if you save poor Catherine, you could make them stop, don’t you? You think if Catherine lives, you won’t wake up in the dark ever again to that awful screaming of the lambs.”  Yes, she says.  Yes, I said.  Against all logic and sense, I think we all are just trying to stop that awful screaming from our innocence.  If I could just save one . . . And somehow, we don’t consider ourselves as an option. We trim our leaves too thin, wear the bark of our core down to tender, all in that valiant effort to stop the screaming of the lambs.  It’s a good intent, I suppose.  Noble, even.  And stupid, stupid, stupid.

Lesse, what’s that rule again?  Don’t take more than a third of the plant if you want it to live?  Something like that, if I recollect it straight.  When I stopped the cull of my own spirit, there was very little left.  Sort of betrays the mission, yes?

But I did stop it.  Both feet down, arms crossed, against the wind and with very little green left in my stalk.  And it had nothing to do with me.  Turns out, my kin think that I’m integral to their lives.  My children have suggested that I have yet to fulfill the title of “Grandma,” my own self.  My husband, fallible and innocent in his own way, balked at the inhumane theft of his time with me.  Somewhere, in the razor edge of a winter gone unnatural and vengeful, I decided to accept the scream of the lambs.  To live with it, to accept its tenacity and to accustom my ears in such a way as to hear the sounds of crickets and laughter over its tenor.  Tiny shoots have reappeared along my heart this month, although I should not have survived this winter.

First Green in Alabama

Must be magic, I reckon.  That noose broke against the growth of my trunk and all that is left is a scab.  A permanent reminder, of sorts, of the nature of nooses.  Beginnings are always at the altar of endings; sometimes, we need the scar to mark them.  My first lesson lies somewhere in lamb country, circa 1975:  when I was very small, my mother had a cactus.  And I loved that cactus.  It flowered from time to time until one day, someone ran slap into it.  I remember that the diagnosis was grim.  It was to be thrown out into the fall air, done for and over–all were in favor, except for one little girl who found a box of Bandaids and cast a tiny spell that it would heal.  It would be strong again, even taller for its pain.

When I last saw it, it was five foot tall.  At its base was the scar: brown and knotty and deep.  Every inch below it looked thin, and every inch above it was thick and full of milk.  Proof of life.   Sometimes, the scars push us to stronger places.  I’ve heard that broken bones knit themselves concrete thick where they are fractured, a belligerent testimony to the efficacy of energy.  In the end, it has something to do with nurturing our bones, saving a little something back for the fight of life and . . . magic.

This post will be short as I am learning to parcel myself more carefully.  Supper’s on the stove, y’all (Cherokee succotash, roasted chicken, mashed taters and cornbread, yum yum!) and I’m swamped with grading, phone calls and, um, “stuff.”

But more than anything, I am healing.  If life has taught me anything about the process, I’ll be flowering by late summer.

And on the way home, I bought ground lamb.  (I always did love a good Irish stew, y’all.)

Blessed Be,

Seba

*My own childhood was rife with nightmare and pain.  Grandma always silenced my lambs.  Now I must do this for myself.  Bless you, my soul mother.  You will never be forgotten.

Posted in Life Lessons, Teaching, Uncategorized | 12 Comments

Complicity in the Faith

silence-poster

Makes me that much stronger
Makes me work a little bit harder
Makes me that much wiser
So thanks for making me a fighter.
Christina Aguilera, “Fighter.”

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only love can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
Martin Luther King Jr.

I remember it like it was yesterday.  I’ve blogged about this before, but today: I feel my friend standing behind me.  Skinny. Blond.  Troubled.  Bullied.  And now, gone.  But I feel him, and I remember the first time I stood up for someone.  It wouldn’t be the last.

If for no other reason, I loved S.W. for his tenacious refusal to stop eating lunch in the cafeteria.  I will never fully understand how bullying plays out in other regional arenas, but y’all: in the South it is brutal.  All our mommas knew each other, got their “hair did” together, and all our daddies played golf together.  And so, when S. W. sat there–slowing pulling away piece by piece of his publicly-funded pizza, spit balls flying around his head like heart-breaking falling stars, tears running down his face–and kept chewing like a man on fire?  I knew then.  I knew then that I would lose my “group,” lose my date to the middle-school prom and lose my heart to fight for him.

And I did. You see, it had gotten around my slow, sleepy Alabama town that S.W. was, in fact, gay.  Now, we didn’t call it that then.  I wouldn’t speak the filth that deemed him different anymore than I would desecrate his grave.  His crime was, in all actuality, not about this strange and alien condition in Alabama, but rather that he had stood against an injustice the week before.  Had cowboyed right up, firmly on those scrawny white legs, and thrown his arm around a black friend during kick-ball.  And that was all it took.

S. W. was popular.  He was from a “good” family (heavy denotation in the Deep South), and had incited quite a well of discontented jealousy from other boys in our community for his blond locks, blue eyes and fresh fashion.  Poor thing, he was asking for it, I reckon.  Standing out like that, making others feel all green.  And so, the day he stood against a team of bubbas–those large-nosed, pot-bellied boys who blamed him for their lack–it was all over but the crying.  They had their “crime” to justify their rage and insecurity.  And shit got real, y’all.

The truth was, he was gay.  Now, until this moment: that was all fine as rain.  See, in the South, there’s this quiet acceptance of the homosexual male, long as he stays in the beauty parlor or the antique shop and adopts the position of “quaint.”  Don’t ask, don’t tell.  He’s just a little “funny-like” and decorates the deacon’s house, etc.  That is, until he gets a bit uppity and calls on those friendships.  And then . . . A firey little powerhouse of a sprite decides to call bullspit on the whole thing and sit with him in the cafeteria.

It was my very first Gay Pride moment.  Parade of two.  And: bite me.

Now, he knew what I was: a little witch who played in streams, cast in dreams and drew pentagrams on my math book.  And he held that secret, even as he was drowning.  Mostly, on account of (as he said then at thirteen): Stand together.  Fall separately.  (A strange and Southern mutation of All for One, One for All.  Or United We Stand, Divided We Fall.  The boy read entirely too much legend and took words too literally.)  I took him at his word.  But I think part of me went with him to the Earth.

I thought of him today.  I think of him often.  So thin and brave and more intelligent than the lot of them.  So alone, even as I held his hand in a spit-ball rain.  Strangely, I now think of my friend, Joe.  (What a lunch crowd in my head.  Breakfast Club: Deconstructed.)  Joe: devout Catholic.  Disagrees with me on so much, worries for my soul, stands beside me with his sword drawn on premise.  I suppose, I have become his S.W.–although he would disagree with his homosexuality, as well.  What strange bedfellows religion and politics create for us when hearts don’t align with heads.  Joe gives me faith in the lost values of Christianity, he does.  He doesn’t have to agree with me to love me.  And he knows a bully when he smells one. But that’s just it.

And brings me to my idea today.  Complicity.  How many nobel moments have met dust for it?  How many times have we all thought to ourselves “not my problem?”  How very alone I feel–not for lack of love, that is for sure.  But for lack of comradery.  Where have all the warriors gone?  We see injustice, know its smell, know its footprint across sacral ground, and then rationalize: I could get hurt, too, if I attempt to assuage this path.  They will be fine, we assure ourselves.  I will just be there if they need a shoulder, they say to themselves.

To those who think these (rational) things, I would tell them: you might be right.  You are certainly within your rights.

But then?  I would tell them that S.W. killed himself.  I alone was not enough, at that young age, to give him the support and conviction he needed to build a strong front against bullies.  Sometimes, I lay awake in bed fantasizing about what ifs.  What if the cheerleader, the nerd shaking in a corner, the black football player and the teacher had joined us at that table?  What if it had been enough in his world to know that he was not alone?  What if, later in his life, he had remembered that solidarity and had become someone who did the same thing?  Oh, I’m sure.  It is not our fault.  So many other factors, right?? Right??

On my birthday that year, he wrote me a note.  It simply said: “I wish there were more of you.” Today, I send S.W.’s note out into the world.  Complicity is worse than aggression.  For in it, there are more choices and more chances for change.  As magic folk, as Pagans, we hold the power to become the powerhouse, the voice that breaks the backs of monsters, the arms that rock the future of our children.  What we don’t do will be much more damaging, and historical, than what we do.  

100MEDIA$IMAG20011

Circa 1982.

Y’all know I am not making light of our situation.  Our gatherings, events, circles and Pride days are lovely.  We wear our t-shirts, put badges on our sites and stickers on our car.  It’s just that: it ain’t enough, y’all.  How will we be part of history?  How will our names be remembered in the tapestry of human struggle?  Shall we be complicit, safe and granted immunity in order that our lives remain peaceful and smooth?

Funny how that answer suddenly changes when it’s our ass on the line. (And believe me, the echo of crickets and silence is the loudest sound.)  As for me, I cannot inhabit the spirit of Witch, nor echo that of my ancestors, in complicity.  I reckon: you don’t have to be a warrior to know when to fight for justice–nor be that “adept” to recognize complacency where there should be action. And sometimes, just drawing up a chair is enough.  I see a lot of empty chairs ’round here.  Just sayin’.

I will wait for you in the cafeteria.  Look for the witch child with spit balls in her hair.  (And, S.W.: I am trying to become more.) Seba

For all of us who forced us to fight.  We thank you.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PstrAfoMKlc&feature=kp

 

Posted in Teaching, Uncategorized, When Seba Goes Full Tilt | Tagged , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

The Cost of Outing Pagans in the Bible Belt

scales_20of_20justiceY’all, I wanted to write about my new Czech peppers.  Or my impending granddaughter.  Or anything, other than this.  But: I am done.

Since I began this blog years ago, I have dealt with my own personal antagonist.  (Although, we all have these.  This one is special.)  While I have been very careful up until now not to disseminate any information on the WWW, we are now asking for help.  I’m sure many of you remember when I took down my blog in a last-ditch effort to create peace for many months.  (Although I never explained, and I am so sorry.  It just wasn’t polite or proper to drag that hot mess out here in public.)  I am no longer willing to be bullied.  After suffering a heart situation that landed me in the emergency room a few days ago, I am finally, finally standing up to this harassment.  (The ER doc actually said to me:  no more stress.  Hokay.  I’ll get right on that.  Sigh.)  I had hoped that if I went away, wrote nothing, left the community and tended my garden this would all eventually just end.

But.  Obsession has no logic.  And so, I’m coming out.

My real (government) name is Kat Privett-Duren.  I had always hoped to have a coming out day of sorts, something that I felt ready to do and had prepared for in a sacral manner.  Regretfully, I no longer have that option.  It has been stolen from me and I can never get this moment back.

So, damn.  Hi, y’all.  I’m Dr. Katharyn Privett-Duren.  But I’m also Seba.  And I wish this moment was more beautiful.

We have been harassed and bullied, blackmailed and threatened for years, but we are done.  According to my antagonist, my very presence on the web (and apparent horrendous slander that neither I nor you have ever actually seen)  has caused undue harm to her and her husband, their sex life and his ability to continue his household duties.*  “They” are (again) threatening to sue us for $50,000.  I cannot imagine in what context I have ever had that kind of power, nor can I imagine why anyone would desire it. It is unfathomable to me, as we have not had any contact with them for years.  What I do see (and can legally prove) is that: we have been dogged at every moment.  They appear to want me silenced, ruined, and run out of town.  (An actual quote from one of our attorneys of his assessment of the situation after meeting with them for hours.  He wrote this of his own accord after we chose another lawyer to continue our battle, because “I’ve never seen this level of viciousness in my life.”)  This is not a Witch War, as I am not at war.  This is an extreme effort to survive in my Bible Belt community, raise my son, worship in my own way and publish my thoughts.  We have contacted Lady Liberty League, several attorneys and are awaiting the go-ahead for a news-release to the media if they persist.  This is, in effect, the product of obsession, jealousy, gossip and (of course) a modern day Witch Hunt.  Far worse than Witch War, my friends.

And I am asking for support.

Forgive this commercial interruption, but we have set up a legal fund to make the pain stop.  Please share far and wide.  We will no longer suffer in silence.  Help us to stand up to this inconceivable bullying?  This time, they have included my sisters and my tribal (pregnant) daughter in their onslaught.  It’s time to stop them.

Kat/Seba

To Help click here.

*This* was about you.  Nothing else, just this.  Leave our family alone.  Go away.  Find something that makes you happy enough to let me go.   This will only end badly if you continue.  Go. In. Peace.

*We possess the legal paperwork of their vexatious threats and are only citing from that legally disseminated document.

*And no.  I still will not “out” them.  Don’t even ask.  I will hold to my nobility, even if it kills me.   My children have been harmed, but I would never want that for theirs.  Aho.

I'm learning.

I’m learning.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 54 Comments

Hinoeuma: Warrior Witch

The Fire Horse (1966)

The Fire Horse (1966)

The two worst strategic mistakes to make are acting prematurely and letting an opportunity slip; to avoid this, the warrior treats each situation as if it were unique and never resorts to formulae, recipes or other people’s opinions.”
Paulo Coelho

“Generally speaking, the Way of the warrior is resolute acceptance of death.”
Miyamoto Musashi

 “The basic difference between an ordinary man and a warrior is that a warrior takes everything as a challenge, while an ordinary man takes everything as a blessing or a curse.”
Don Juan Matus

I’ve always known I had no choice about one thing in my life.  While others mitigate, ruminate and speculate I burn. An Aries according to Greek astrology, the rare Fire Horse according to Chinese theology, I am fire.  Period, end of story.  And I, according to legend, am cursed.

Isn’t legend quaint, y’all?  While some folks get lost in the analogies of movies, novels and myth, I understand myself to be a story writing itself.  A reflection, yes.  An echo, of course.  But while others may carry the burden of wyrd as the predetermined, inherited curses and blessings of their ancestors–I factor choice, married to circumstance, as a viable component, even an interrupter, of those energies.  Lessee:  I am fire.  I am a warrior.  I am headstrong, tenacious, Southern, stubborn and intelligent.  I reckon, I’m a bit dangerous.  After all, there is nothing more dangerous than one whom cannot be swayed by fear.  Yet, I can be swayed.  But we’ll get to that, in time.

As a witch, I am forever dismayed at the lack of value placed upon a Warrior Witch.  I reckon?  It most likely has to do with love and light: that ethereal ideology of sparkles and wondrous warmth in which we can all walk–skip?  And, of course, my feet like the ground there, too.  Who wouldn’t?  Nice and cozy.  Until the sky darkens with flying monkeys, that is.  And then . . .

Okay, I get it.  We ain’t all warriors.  That wouldn’t make sense, really.  Who would keep the home fires tended?  Who would water the garden?  What of the children?  Balance is everything, y’all.  But what I’ve noticed is that we all want someone to fight for us, as long as we don’t have to get our skivvies bunched or our pointed shoes muddied.  Sigh.

Not gonna cut it.

I wonder.  Is there something in the warrior that we fear?  That they will turn their fiery sword to our own chest?  Or is it that we cannot be assured of our own truest selves, our own inner nobility, that lurking, incomprehensible doubt that we are not worthy of their service?  At the end of the day, I doubt that it matters.  True warriors care not for your fallible heart, but for its innate intention.  And that, Batchildren, will save you every time.    This is the path my mind wanders when I consider the Fire Horse–that cursed/blessed warrior horse of Chinese legend and the image that is blazed across my birth year.

And there is very little to pull upon.  The Legend of Fire Horse Woman  written by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston is one literary revision of the sign as a curse.  Drawing from the past and its knee-jerk fear of a woman born under this sign, Houston portrays her lot as:

“They were powerful and cunning; they acted independently from the family and could not be controlled by men.  Always beautiful, with elegant tastes . . . with a sensual exterior that cloaked an explosive nature, they were strong as females, and thus to be avoided as wives at all costs.” [1]

Ah.  Strong women.  Shiver!  And so, I did more research.  From the extraordinarily minimal (frustrating!) available research online, I found this:

“The power of cultural myth is strong as evidenced by the decline of births in the year of the Fire Horse. The birthrate in Japan during that year is down a half million as compared to the previous and succeeding years. In China, Tibet, and Korea there is also data of a plummet in birthrates. Stories of infanticide of girls from this period persist. You can be sure that women born in 1966 are not quick to reveal this in public.” [2]

That led me to two audacious warrior women and entrenpenuers.  Venita Coelho and Deepti Datt, who founded and own Firehorse Films, explain that:

“1966 was the Chinese year of the FireHorse. The Chinese believed that FireHorses were headstrong and potentially dangerous to the social order. Both of us are born in 1966, and both of us have a strong mind like the FireHorse. Our banner will encourage creative women in India and around the world, who are unafraid to question the status quo and push the envelope. More power to them and their work for which FireHorse Films will provide a platform.” [3]

And that’s when it hit me: a memory, of my mother, telling me to “hide [my] sexuality, beauty and power.”  She was concerned for my safety, it seems.  But all I remember feeling was: then, I will die.  To win the battle, but lose the war, I shall die.  Or rather, my fire would be suffocated, in lieu of merciful comfort for those who could not bear to stare within its depths.  Hmmm.

I think the roof is on fire.

Eh.  If my very existence keeps someone up at night, one has to wonder: what are they wrestling against? Are strong women, especially in the Craft, dangerous simply because they are in tune with their sexuality?  Their creativity?  What of other women, especially in the Craft, who gnash their teeth at the strong female witch?  It occurs to me that some gals need to tend to their own gardens, their own partners, their own tribalsteads instead of spewing venom night and day toward another’s blaze.

And then there’s this *other* thing:  when I take my blaze away, leaving another’s soul to face the dark and icy world that they have earned, well.  Katie bar the door.  From a Fire Horse perspective, it’s simple: I am leaving you back on the threshold of the world from which you came.  Not harming, not injuring, just leaving.  My hubby likes to remind me to be more empathetic; after all, sitting at a campfire encourages a body to forget the cold.  And I try.  But, still it seems to me that–when the fire is taken away–some souls cannot bear to see the smoke in another forest.  Rather, railing and war and asshattery commence, simply at the sniff of burning embers from afar.  (I contend: they shouldn’t have acted a fool.  But, empathy I will continue to embrace.)  Which brings me ’round to Fire Horse:

If the revitalization of its legend and revisitation of its source holds that the Fire Horse is dangerous because you cannot control it, what–exactly–leads humankind to want that control?  Fear?  Jealousy?  Insecurity?  And, if it could be done, what would warm your bones?  Who would defend your most sacred thresholds?  Ah, the incurable plight of humankind: to control Nature in order to reap its glory.  Has anyone read the Goose and the Golden Egg?

I am a Warrior Witch.  Let’s interrogate SKW on that a bit, shall we?

I will not harm children nor animals in an effort to satiate my own lack.

I will not cast against those whom I do not know, nor anyone who has not harmed me or mine.

I will not pretend to be anything else.  You will not see me quoting Christian scripture, shifting religions/paths or hiring myself out online.

I will not “cover” my sexuality, my intelligence or my power to make others feel more secure.

I will not engage in ridiculous, teenage drama within the Witch/Pagan community.

I will walk from anyone who breaks my spirit, descrecrates the Sacred Path or harms others for entertainment or self gain.

Now, for the other hand:

I will fight for justice, children, animals and my beloved Mother Earth.

I will stand against gossip, cruelty and even complicity in these moments.

I will tell the truth, even if it makes others uncomfortable.

I will never, ever lay down until I am struck dead.  For I am a Warrior Witch, a Fire Horse, a descendant of a balanced and beautiful slice of native peoples who knew nobility as they knew their own skin.  I suppose, then, that I am dangerous.  I certainly hope that I am dangerous, to the livelihood of bullspit, bigotry, falsity, racism, power mongers, sexism, religiosity and political agenda.  I simply do not lie down well.  So be it.  But: it is not a curse.  And oh, it is not a blessing.

It is simply, and perhaps fittingly, just who I am.  Apologizing for my nature would be akin to apologizing for summer.  Everyone wants you to arrive.  Everyone needs you, until the heat and the sweat become too much.  On this one?  I turn to Gran.

If it’s too hot, y’all know how to leave the kitchen.  (But leave the cornbread for those of us who sweated for it.)

For all of my fellow Warrior Witches:

Blessed Be and Aho.

Seba

*It has come to my attention that a rumor was propagated last weekend about the legality of our land lease and an impending demise in ownership.  While most of us balk at such nonsense and childish banter, for any of my friends who have worried: nothing could be further from the truth.  We are fine, thanks for thinking of us.  But: love your suit.

1.  Houston, Jeanne Wakatsuki, The Legend of Fire Horse Woman.  Kensington: New York, 2003: 9

2.  http://voices.yahoo.com/the-strange-fate-fire-horse-women-3335014.html?cat=37

3.  http://www.goanvoice.org.uk/newsletter/2003/Jul/issue2/supp2/FireHorse.html

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 10 Comments

Sweet Landslide

Gran Kitty!

Gran Kitty!

Oh, mirror in the sky
What is love?
Can the child within my heart rise above?
Can I sail thru the changing ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?
“Landslide,” Stevie Nicks

“Some fates are guaranteed, no matter who tries to intervene.”
Alice Hoffman, Practical Magic

I remember the first time I saw my daughter’s face.  I remember that season of my life.  The sterile smell of a cheap hospital room, the glow from hospital-grade night lights, the hum of machinery running along the wire.  And in that world, two liquid brown eyes.   We were all alone.  Nothing but my two boys ever came that close again to living; nothing ever will.

I think.

Just over two months have gone by since I found out I was to be a “Gran Kitty.”  The name was carefully chosen by the mommy, and myself, in reverence to my government name.  My grandbaby was cast for under a pear tree last September, just as the last fruit hit the ground and a chill was beginning in Alabama.  Real magic, done right.  The earth vibrated so beautifully under our fingers–not an uncommon moment with my beloved Trillium, my dedicated Priestess-in-Training.  Ever loyal, ever faithful to her path, she has watched others come and go and stood (sometimes weeping) firm to her oath to our Tribe.  This was her moment.

But this one, here in this post, is mine.

Letter to my grandchild:

Your mother well knew the trouble you would be.  She foresaw it all.  Your stubbornness, your tenacity, your rebellion.  And she chose it all.  You, Gangani Babe, will drive us all to a reckoning of your witchy will.  And I cannot wait.

Mommy and Me, circa 2012

Mommy and Me, circa 2012

You should know that your momma has given up everything: caffeine, alcohol, tobacco and even bees.  (Your momma was in beekeeping class when she found out.  Your Gran Kitty put a moratorium on bees until your birth.)  You should know this because one day you will turn to her and scream “you don’t love me!” and you will be wrong.  She loves you more than herbology, more than baby kittens, more than her reputation.  She has steadied herself for the unbearable disappointment from her upbringing, community gossip and your formidable teen years.  She says good morning to you before her morning milk and sings to you before she slips into sleep after long shifts at work.  You, my dear child, are already loved beyond reason.

Mommy and Gran (One year exactly from your magical spell)

Mommy and Gran (One year exactly from your magical spell)

And you shall be magic.  We have argued/agreed/compromised through half of your life in our planning.  (Just so you know: at Gran Kitty’s, there will be chocolate cake for breakfast and fairy wings.  I won that one fairly easily.)  You will be raised “witch”: growing and drying herbs as soon as your chubby fingers can grasp them, drumming around fires, spinning webs in twilight and worshipping with the morning sun.  And, my darling, there are some things you will find in the world you have chosen to grace:

Our faith is old, but rarely tolerated by the majority.  This will make public school problematic (for *them* as well as you), and mommy and I have plans for that, too.  We want to spare you from those sad souls who would call you evil, but we know better.  Therefore, we shall invest into your life a thick and tribal pride of the legends from which you came.  You will know your history, sweetie.  Never let anyone make you feel shame for understanding energy, for nurturing magic as your divine inheritance or for revering the Earth and its creatures as sacred.

I’ve told you how Mommy feels–the rest is hers to reveal.  Let me me tell you how I feel about you, these short months before your arrival?

When you are older, someone may say that you are not my blood.  Let’s review how to answer that, baby.  You see, I wasn’t blood for half my line.  Yup.  Gran Kitty was half mutt!  But I had a Grandma who made up for everything.  She saw my flaws, my muck and mire, and stroked my hair: you are wild, baby.  You look like Aunt L.: Cherokee, big spirit, wile chile.  Folks like us need lovin’ that deep: it sinks in where the rips and tears gape and make a salve, babe.  And this is how I intend to love you.

Gran in 1966: raised on barbecue

Gran in 1966: raised on barbecue

Remember this:  you are right.  I do not have to love you.  You are right.  I can call this not my problem.  You are right.  Our blood is not the same.  But you will be wrong if you think that any of that mattered the day I cast for you, too.

We are Cherokee, my sweet.  We adopt.  The bond is impenetrable.

You and I are the same.  We both have a grandmother who loved us beyond all damn walking sense.  We will dry mugwort together, raise strawberries,  fall asleep under family quilts after a night of legends and lemon balm tea.  I will be your ancestor: and that is mine to decide, my dear.  And if anyone ever tells you otherwise: turn to your cousin, Ian, and ask him if DNA mattered.  Ask him if he remembers a life before this family, without love and forever, and see what he says.  (Also, ask him what happened to those who desecrated that love.  Your momma was smarter than all of those muggles.  Fertile as a bunny, that one.)  This is it, baby.  I choose you.  You choose me.  And if anything gets in the way . . .

Grand Kitty has a really sharp hatchet.

Now, you will inherit enemies.  They ain’t got nothing on you, chile.  They gnaw and gnash at every sparkly, buttery thing we grow: and it does them no good.  Don’t you pay no nevermind to that noise.  It’s a hindrance, like yellow jackets and fire ants–but that’s all.  Like your brother J, you are to be born into this wondrous witch family and jealousy is a natural condition of your birth.   Besides: we will prepare you for that mess.  In time, you will find that–while the buzz will disturb your Tuesdays–nothing takes away that feeling of throwing your fingers in the air with a family of witches and the trees as your audience.    Nothing ever shines brightly without drawing the attention of some butthead with a bucket of water.  (But don’t worry, sugar.  We don’t melt.  We grow.)

And finally, you should know something else.  You should know that silly Gran Kitty had a baby growing in her own belly in 2012 and that the strain of age and asshattery (don’t use that word until Momma says it’s okay) took her back to the stars.  That night, I had to grow up.  I had to understand my impending status as Crone.  And as far as I’m concerned:

Your birth is proof that my job isn’t over.  Yet.  You are already making Gran a better person, a better witch and a better friend.  We all fall from grace, hon.  Gran has done it nice and messy-like over the years.  I have suffered my landslide.

But there you are, growing in Mommy’s belly.  Waiting for us all to climb again.

(And don’t worry about dancing in the moonlight, honey.  “Nudity is optional, as you well know.”)

I cannot wait to meet you.  I’ll be the one with funny hair, a sailor’s mouth and a wooden spoon.  Whether you like it or not, that country witch standing there that day, crying and laughing, is your . . .

Gran Kitty

Note to my readers (Trill, never let her see this part until she is grown):

We also lost our sweet little girl, Riley, in 2009.  Unimaginably, it came to our attention that a small group of witches within our community made a “poppet” of sorts with my identifiers and stuck needles in the belly of said poppet.  Hopefully, this was just a rumor (although, never smelled like one) and is not an issue we should worry with this time around.  However:  I beseech all like-minded witches everywhere, in the olden custom, to cast protection for this pregnancy against malicious attack.  Thank you.  And Blessed Be.  Seba

Posted in Life Lessons, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Pagan Privilege and the Dinosaur

DSCF2369

“A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both.”
Dwight D. Eisenhower

“Even in the face of powerful structures of domination, it remains possible for each of us, especially those of us who are members of oppressed and/or exploited groups as well as those radical visionaries who may have race, class, and sex privilege, to define and determine alternative standards, to decide on the nature and extent of compromise.”
bell hooks, Talking Back: Thinking Feminist, Thinking Black

“It took him a long time, and a great many more parties, to realize that they didn’t live that way, that it was all strangely unreal, a kind of beautiful dream the white folks were having, a lie they were telling themselves: that goodness can come from badness, that it’s possible to be civilized with one another without treating as human beings those whose blood, sweat, and mother’s milk made possible the life of privilege they led.”
Alex Haley, Roots

No matter how long I hang around, I am always stunned at the bad manners and shoddy home training of the general population.  I’d like to attribute this phenomena to un-Southern-ness, but truth be known, I have some down-home Northern, Western and non-American brothers and sisters who would never consider rudeness/crassness as an alternative to productive conversation.  I reckon, the only Southern element gnawing here is: my hurt-ass feelings at human cruelty.  But even that can be attributed to the condition of being human.

Today I put up a meme.  As usual, I assumed that the overall message was one of ponderment: does privilege denote separateness from human despair?

The meme that caused a flip out.

The meme that caused a flip out.

Now, I suppose (if yor’ panties were ripe for wadding, if yor’ conscience was twisted, if argument for argument’s sake is yor’ digs) this was a little more of a landmine than I had weighed.  To me, it held racial connotations.  Sexual orientation connotations.  Poverty connotations.    But to others?  I received the following commentary:

“Privelage [sic] does not come into this……are you saying only privileged people can make a problem not a problem. If so, you must be the dumbest person I know. Anyone can make a problem not a problem, simply by leaving the problem or *sliding* [my emphasis] away from it.”

(Good “slide,” my brother.  Excellent work at evading the real issue.)  I banned the asshat (primarily because of his verbal *assault* and refusal to be civil), but am left with a bad taste in my mouth.   How, as pagans/witches, have we come to the point of nitpicking/mudslinging as a substitute of investigative conversation? Again and again, I see articles that pit Wiccans against Heathens, family trad against papers, race against race and gender against gender within our own beloved community and my hands are up.  Seriously???  We don’t have to fight enough?  We don’t have enough working against us in 2014?  Then, what hope do we have??

Privilege.  Lessee.  I pass as white on the daily.  I am not afraid, nor too politically nervous, to admit this fact.  I am educated.  While in the poverty range, I hold (at least for now in this economy) a job while others starve.  I am (somewhat) straight.  I am married.  Do I have privilege?  Why, HELL YEAH I DO.  Do I feel guilty?  NO.  Am I on point, listening, learning, watching, adapting to a world that suddenly questions the guarded silence of privilege?

What do you think?

Why we are so unwilling to look at the places within our lives that we hold privilege, I do not understand.  For when they are located, they may be examined.  Shared.  Reshifted.  What are we protecting?  And, much worse: why?

I have watched as  my “good liberal friends” bemoan racism, homophobia and economic stratification while refusing to condone their daughters marrying black men, disowning their gay children and then giving their maid a raise a Christmas while patting themselves on the back.  And I fear we are not willing to do the work of change.  As long as it doesn’t affect us, we lament the ills of our world . . . but do very little of the footwork.  We give to the local food bank at Christmas, fly our FB status equality signs, but rarely show up to a soup kitchen or a gay pride parade.  My heart is sick at the lack.

But then, to see my brethren rip each other to shreds in public forums, a brethren born of olden ways and respect and oathes and honor, I am broken.  We are infected, at our arterial core, with drama and backstabbing and power-grabbing.  (I know, I know.  No one wants to look at this.  I am not afraid of examining; I am, however, terrified at the prospect of refusing to do so.)  Whose papers trace back the farthest, whose coven holds court with the most notable, whose tradition is most honored by the Universe has replaced conversations about kinship, equality and nobility.  Pagan privilege has usurped Pagan ethics on too many sacred grounds. [1]

And we cannot afford it.  It’s too expensive.  Perhaps the most horrendous of ironies for the privileged is that: the tables can turn.  But when they do?  We have already made our stand.  We were right, we were more pagan, we were more witchy.  And now . . .

We are more humbled.

I stand by that meme.  I can’t afford *not* to do so.  As a pagan, as a witch, and as a sacred being: my brethren’s problems ARE my problems.  Good gravy grief, I thought that was clear.  Why, even my enemy’s problems are mine, in certain circumstances.  When did we become so uppity that we forgot the tapestry of energy?  The primacy of Universal Law?  Worse, when did we forget that privilege always costs us something?

Mayhap we all just want to be the next Supreme.  Ahem.  And WTF.

I pull away, more and more, from public life.  I have seen my spells (fewer cast than one might think) come to fruition.  I know my life and my being to be magical.  Yet, I await a world in which we can be the great teachers, the levelers, refusing ego and rank for something more tangible.  More lasting.  More real.  More sacred than privilege.

All that energy we spin . . . can you imagine if we used it to win against pain?  Poverty? And if this is the world I have joined, thinking that I had sisters and brothers, perhaps I shall go back to my woods.  I have bigger, more worthy battles to fight than ego-driven “witch wars” and first-world-drama.  Little lives are being born into this.  What will they find?

If we could start fresh, sit at a round table, and fashion a world for them: I would hope that it could be livable.  Honest, even if it smelled funny.  Noble.  A world in which we tell the truth of our human condition and ask our children to do the same.  A place where shame couldn’t find root, where codes and honor held the value of money and where telling the truth was the most beautiful, sacred act one could give or receive.  The world that was before, that we swore to nourish, that we are vested to repair.  But . . . that’s just me.  Horribly idealistic, I suppose.

DSCF1713

I am a dinosaur.

Stay warm.  Tell the truth.  Love someone.  Fight privilege.  Forge something worthy of blood and bone.

BB, Seba

1.  I am certainly not saying that we should hold court with folks who break the law, hurt each other, enact asshattery or the like.  I’m sure you all remember my refusal to attend PPD last year. I am, however, saying that our community needs some common ground that would not even hold court with such unsacral energy  and work towards encouraging others to hold to a higher ethical ground.  Pissing on already urine soaked dirt is redundant.  We need to grow something.  Hold the bar higher.  Remember who WE ARE.  And hold our brethren up to the light so that they must do the same.

Posted in Life Lessons, Rants, Uncategorized | 27 Comments

Sacral Acts: The Real Thing

My vulture shows up every time I work a healing spell on our lost daughter.  I've become accustomed to the pain.

My vulture shows up every time I work a healing spell on our lost daughter. I’ve become accustomed to the pain.

“Out of the thousands who are known or who want to be known as poets, maybe one or two are genuine and the rest are fakes, hanging around the sacred precincts, trying to look like the real thing.”
Leonard Cohen

“Being challenged in life is inevitable, being defeated is optional.”
Roger Crawford

“Gossip is just a tool to distract people who have nothing better to do from feeling jealous of those few of us still remaining with noble hearts.”
Anna Godbersen, Splendor

“And when one of us is gone, and one of us is left to carry one, then remembering will have to do.  Our memories alone will get us through. Think about the days of me and you.  You and me against the world.”
Helen Reddy

Y’all, I’m swamped.  Teaching online and live at a university and homeschooling a teen, all while teaching/running a Tribe, has slapped me silly.  And it’s not even gardening season yet.  This post will be more of a “what the hell happened to SFW” than a blog post, so hang in there.

So, as planned, the hubby and the witchling and the 3rd degree student (who had been chomping at the bit about this for over a year) finally hit beekeeping classes!  While they run off to geek-farmer nirvana every Tuesday, I huddle around the wood-burning stove sipping rose tea and teaching deployed writers.  This little slice of peace is usually mud-stomped by their return and breathless accounts of “and then the queen like KNOWS where to go!” and “for real, though!  They have a common meeting place in the yard!”  As this winter has been especially hard on my summer bones, their excitement has the smell of garden dirt and sunflowers and warm rain.  And I take it in, like breathing tea.

The Witchling petting a dormant bee.  And taking notes, for once.

The Witchling petting a dormant bee. And taking notes, for once.

Last night, after practically drooling over the dormant bees the teacher brought for “show and tell,” my son was the lucky (?) recipient of said bees.  They came home in a jar–I was forced to “pet” one (lawd) and then?  Tears.  Away from their hive, the instructor had noted to the boy, there wasn’t much hope for survival.  Of course, by morning (despite his desperate and noble attempts of sugar-water and energy “tents”) two of our little friends had passed.  Serious chewing of the ethical fat followed and rehoming commenced this afternoon–and momma is still pondering the lesson for Friday’s group.

That boy vibrates from his noble core, regardless of well-meaning farmers.  He is my hope for our Tribe, this man-child witch.  He is an Aries: fights formidably, questions himself consistently, rams through what others see as fate and carves possibility.  In him, I see a real future.  He saves me, his Aries momma, every day.  This witch, Batchildren, is the real thing. And nobody saw him coming.

This son of mine has eased a deep and abiding grief in my heart, even as he suffered the same.  He’s fond of telling me:  “You are a good momma,” something seemingly so innocuous and so very primal to my healing.  And, he may be right.  After a year of unholy attacks upon our family and Tribe, we are recovering nicely.  Any given evening at Indigo Sky, there are planning meetings for our Annual Gathering, renewal and strengthening of friendships and kinships that had been unethically (and unnaturally) knocked off-road, strange (but welcome) financial recovery, and . . . let’s just keep that last squea private for three more months.  Our focus has shifted, heavily, toward family and faith.  We may not be the *party pagans* in this neck of the woods–but laws, y’all.  The real thing is hard to beat.  Literally.

And all the riff-raff can have at the leftovers.  We’re cooking with butter, not margarine, y’all.

“Men often applaud an imitation and hiss the real thing.” Aesop

Let’s chew on that one for a minute, shall we?  The real.  Thing.  Hmmm.  Lessee.  I left Crisco for leaf-lard of foraging pigs this year.  How could I not?  The real thing was healthier, heartier, had a better burn rate and (as a carnivore) resisted non-sustainable cotton seed like a boss.  Margarine has been outlawed in my kitchen for twenty years now.  And, folks?  This kind of living led me to marry for love, not money.  Renewable energy?  Oh, hell yeah.  When my witchling struggled with a Bible Belt mentality and a gripping dyslexia that sliced him out of the “upper sect” of our town’s educational report card, I did not shiver or shake at the prospect of homeschooling.  (Nor did I have to plead or console his father.)

And when a tribal member literally spat on all of her loved ones in 2012–we knew what to do.  We also knew what would follow.  But none of us trembled at the prospect; rather, we hunkered down for the fallout.  And survived.  While others might concede to her pleas of victimhood and Miss Misunderstood: we knew that she had broken oathe, horribly, and had desecrated everything sacred and beautiful that she had once held dear.   Whomsoever took her in denied her chance to resolve that injury, and we watched in horror and grieved as she sidestepped the lesson and became a pawn in someone else’s game. [1]  But here’s the crux: we were the real thing.  Those tribal promises, those moments that bound our souls, were real.  As were the injuries, heinous and vicious, that we sustained.

There’s so much talk out there today about forgiveness, conflict resolution and acceptance, but I fear that there is a lack of talk about the sanctity of one’s word.  The tether of one’s oathe.  As witches, my heart aches at the lack of community support for these nobilities.  Why, I would rather fall on my own sword than to take in an enemy’s child, if for no other reason than the dishonor of the act.  Rather, I would hope that I would see past my own resentment in hopes that my own child would never escape the most pertinent lesson of all: Owning Your Word.  Honoring it in a world that only values money and status.  Because, Batchildren: it makes you the real thing.  The realest thing you can hope to be: honorable.  

And I’ve lost children to this sort of manipulative, “come here chile and I’ll give you chocolate, yor momma is so mean” tactic before.  But I have to wonder: what has become of a Pagan community that would condone such behavior?  How much more noble to stand, even against an enemy, and weigh the authority of a sacred bond?

These are the lessons I hope for my son.  If he lost his damn mind, violently turned in a chaotic, self-destructive tornado of betrayal and dishonor, I hope that my community would hold him accountable.  And if they did not: I would.  You see: this is what makes the real thing.  Not popularity.  Not who you will lose as a “friend.”  Not a small victory for your ego.  Rather, the thick, olden respect of one soul’s promise to another.

The real thing.  I think of those sweet, tired, dormant bees now doomed so far from their hive, struggling, foraging, barely alive.  And I think of my son, torn at their fate, desperately trying to carve an alien home for them in a tattered winter garden.  And, though I know my readers look to me for inspiration . . . I grieve.

I always will.  For lessons lost, for children lost, for community honor not upheld, but more than any other: for the desolution of the real thing.  I’ll be back, I promise.  Our lives have picked up and so many blessings, much like Job’s, have been thoroughly restored.  With a vengeance.  But still, when I close my eyes at night, I wonder:

When gods and goddesses convene over sacred acts . . . can we discount them?  Even if our community disregards them in sacre (the French word for both sacred as well as bloody and damned) methodology?  Are we no long accountable, even if the one with whom we shared our word, our bond, has dishonored and forgotten everything?

Once upon a time: this was important.

Once upon a time: this was important.

And worse: what of those whom have aided in that effort?  What becomes of their souls?  Who becomes the sacrifice to desecrated sacrimonial acts?

Six of the dormant bees were still alive tonight.  I reckon?  I await Spring for resolution.

BB,

Seba

1.  While rumors abound, we have never held court with/fully found resolution about who/what took her in.  We only know for certain that it was within our community.

The last song I ever whispered to her, while she slept, that last night.  Hoping that she would fight.

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