Thursday, November 20, 2014

What do you do when you are stuck in quicksand?

"When you are stuck in quicksand, you stop struggling.  The more you wiggle, the more you try to get out, the deeper you sink, the quicker you smother, if you ground, you breathe, you meditate, eventually someone will come along and help you out. "

Sometimes, even I feel like I am stuck in quicksand.  At Mabon, I was sitting at a table with Elders and I heard this from one of them.  This totally goes against my natural instincts.  I am a mover, a shaker, a thinker, a runner.  I move, I swim through space, I burn bright!  Of course this means, when hit with pain like grief, betrayal, or loss I do not ever stop and let it process I just keep on going.  Which means one day I wake up and I am in a huge pot of quicksand.

I was never told when I was being taught to be Clergy that you will have days where you feel like yelling at your Gods.  So let me say.  There will be days, when you feel like cussing out your Gods.  I have had many of those days; but not until recently did I finally do something about it.  I got in my car, I drove up the road and I yelled a string of obscenities that would make birds fall from the sky.  I shook my fist, and stomped my foot.  I screamed, I yelped, I howled my grief, I cried so hard I did not think I would stop hiccuping.  I did not ask for reasons for going on, I demanded them.  I did not understand why the Gods would call you to do something and make life so hard.  It seemed to me they could choose someone else to torture or to "make feel extreme suffering" other than their Clergy; and on this day at this time I was threatening to hang up my robe and move on.  I was struggling in the quicksand and it was taking me down.

I felt guilty once I calmed down about yelling, and stomping my foot alone, and screaming and crying.  I had to drive off to do it because being a composed mom, and wife seemed important at the time.  I was worn out after that episode so I started to get back on the main road.  I could not, a Truck without a load had pulled up beside me and started honking.  I was so irritated, all I wanted to do was to get back on the road and finish my day.  Yet, I rolled down the window to a smiling truck driver.  Yes?  I said rather forcefully.  He said..."Your sticker said Honk, if you love Isis!"  It took me a moment, and then I remembered he was right one of my members had given me that bumper sticker and this stranger was reminding me of that fact.  I smiled at him, "Thank you" I said.  He drove off.  I pulled down the mirror to clean my face, and laughed.  I stuck my tongue out at myself.  Isis had just duped me, she had lightened me up, she had very quickly responded to my silly horrible outburst with gentle teasing....She had honked at me.  She heard me.

I stopped struggling and decided to just float.  I related this story to my Elder Clergy Rev. Terry Michael Riley.  He laughed at me.  Just howled.  I said, why are you laughing?  He said, "yeah well I do that myself know you cannot bargain with the Gods, but thank goodness you can tell them when you are pissed off".  I said, "so then that is not a bad thing to do?"  He says, "well no Mera this is how they know we need help sometimes.  Notice how Isis immediately sent that man to honk at you?"  I said, "Yes".    This means, "hang in there, Mera, she heard you now things will start getting better".  I was doubtful, but I held on to hope.

Sometimes things get worse before they get better.  Being human, I expected an immediate rescue! I wanted a wand that would be waved and my life would just be easier; and that did not happen.  A baby was lost in our community,  there was no logical explanation.  The founder of the ATC my personal Hero Pete Pathfinder died, and though he was elderly I feel his loss like all of us do for we looked to him for constant thumbs up, and pats on the back...he was our coach.  Though, Bella had already took the helm and was great at it, his passing made us sad.  People in our church come and go, I am sad when they leave and wish them well...but still I grieve.

I got a job working part time two days a week so that I could help out my community financially better and my family through the Holidays.  I started to listen to others, I started to find myself again the person before "Merhamet Miller HPS Co-founder of the Temple of the Sacred Gift".  I realized I was funny, funky, light hearted, loved people, and really really loved people!  Apparently this is why I became Clergy I loved people, and really wanted to help them!

The old house on Estridge Drive is being cleared out and what remnants are left they are being sold in a garage sale.  A short sale will be done on the home.  I could not feasibly afford it, and this was an easy though humbling solution.  I promised myself never again, would I let myself get in a financial bind but I concentrated so hard on the Temple and the community that I did let myself get in a financial bind...I took care of others so much, that I had expended myself.

We are the ebb and we are the flow, we are the weavers, we are the Web.  I went to Weavers.  After losing one of my best friends, my mother in law, learning to let go of people in my life that come and go...I was so ready for a women's retreat.  I got to lead the Veiled Isis mystery.  Isis, Dark Isis, the one that you cannot see or will not receive you unless you are bent, broken, lost, have experienced grief, pain or sorrow.  I followed a thread in my mind of sitting at an Old Crone's Table where she would not let me leave her side until I admitted that I had to embrace Dark Isis.  She gave me The Sea Priestess by Doreen Virtue.  I listened to her, but I wanted to concentrate on the beautiful Sun Aspect of Isis it seemed so much more safe. Of course, I had read the book a million times...and now the time was here; I would finally "pierce her veil".

Ankh if you love Isis  After all of the women had gone through the mystery finally I, myself, got to go through the mystery. They way we did this is that Angela, who had been the priestess played my part and was the oracle, and I got to take off my costume and walk through the mystery like a complete stranger to her mysteries.  I walked through the first veil, I saw the golden wings spread out, and I looked forward to see the veiled Dark Goddess sitting there....and I saw a beautiful woman with every color of hair so luminous she shocked me...I said without thinking (tears flowing down my face)  "She is a real woman!"  Angela, broke me from the trance and said..."of course, she is"  I smiled.  I sat down, and raised the veil and I did not see broken fractures of myself at all (this is what I expected like everyone else I was ready for my fear manifested) What I saw was every woman that I had come to love, and know, whether they had come in my life for a reason a season or a lifetime.  I sighed, and I looked over my shoulder for my friend Michele I felt her laughing at me.  I sighed, and I looked over my shoulder for that Old Crone, I heard her laughter.  Angela sat down on the bench next to me, her hand on my shoulder.  We laughed.

A hand came down and pulled me out of the quicksand it was Isis, it was all the women that had come into my life for a reason, a season or a lifetime.  She was real.....Well of course she was.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Hoof and Horn, all that dies shall be reborn

It is Lammas/Lugnassad depending on what part of the country you are living in.  Down here Tomatoes are a plenty, the eggplant is starting to get more purple and fill in, the peaches have already dropped, you are watering your plants plentifully every night so they can live through the grueling sun (100 degrees is average here now)...and the Pagans are all planning and gathering for their Sabbat rituals.  I look at Lammas as a good time to show you what it takes to survive down south because if you see the analogy of the grueling sun that is like a spotlight on us all here you understand that sometimes just walking around outside is horrendous and a burden.  Yet, we gather and we worship and this is why some of us prefer worshiping indoors!

The soil here in the south is interesting, red clay, light brown, or stony.  It needs lots of water, and minerals and supplements and many of us use mulch, and manure to get that soil just like we need it and a compost pile will smell up to high heavens real quick here because of the heat and humidity.  This is what we have to plant our seeds in, yet plant them we all do.  WE know our seasons, we know what it takes and it does not discourage us; for we keep on planting, tending, watering, weeding (it should be stated weeds don't thrive well cause we don't water them) and slowly but surely the fruit drops, and the plants mature.

Clergy here in the Deep South face these same issues and yet they have "green spiritual thumbs"  this is a hostile climate to anyone or anything different than them.  The South is notorious for being about 20 years behind in fashion, and everything else including education practices.  It does not mean, we hate where we live.  It does mean, to plant a community, circle, grove, here takes a dogged determination and a will power and tenacious spirit that many do not see.  This community is large much larger than you would expect and it has grown deep like a tree that has constantly been tossed to and fro by the winds around it.  The winds of Change have made this community dig down deep and grow roots that spread long and far and so groups, groves and circles are every few miles spread out and Temples and Churches are popped up every few cities.  Here in Memphis we have two churches that are Pagan...Two! 

I have visited and lived in more liberal parts of the country where the insulation makes it to where you do not have to worry if you are Pagan.  It is a wonderful experience and completely different from what most here have to walk.  To be "out" and Pagan here takes moxie, and most people here are "afraid" and rightfully so to be "outed" or to tell friends and family they are not Christian.  To be even Buddhist or Hindu would be shocking but to say "I am a witch.  I am a Wiccan.  I am Pagan."  Might as well be saying, I worship the devil, smear blood on myself, and devour least that is what we assume so most do not tell their friends or family.

The Climate is changing down here.  Temple of the Sacred Gift-ATC had a dream and it acquired a building to change this landscape.  With acquiring that legal 501c3 licensure we could assure people that their "spiritual path" was qualified as a "religion" and they could not be discriminated against.  No, you could not bring it up in court when a divorce came up.  No, you could not bring it up at a job.  No, you could not force our people to have a Christian chaplain at the hospital anymore.  No, we did not have to be buried and use "Christian" rites.  No, you do not have to hide.  When people say where do you go to church?  Since they will ask you this very quickly, you can say..."I go to the Temple of the Sacred Gift."  They smile, and nod and say nothing because this means you are going to church, and thus they are not concerned for your soul and it does not go one step further. 

You can come to workshops at our church and learn in a building that is in a good part of town, and not fear that you will be judged or that people will even know what you are doing!  You can come to our library and "borrow" a book and learn and grow and not have to go to the library fruitlessly searching for an occult book that is either out of date, or gone permanently due to the "religious" feelings of the "Board of directors".  The Temple has outreached and established after many years a strong relationship with the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center thus placing us on the map as a "supporter of"  non profits that socially and politically make a difference.  This year, we have expanded to include a relationship with MIFA, Memphis Humane Society, and a few homeless shelters and battered women shelters.  We do this because we believe that part and parcel of our path is to make a difference; we do this because the more we do this the more likely it is that we will establish in people's minds that PAGANS are people that CARE about our city; and that we live here also.  Few people are willing to hurt  people that which does SOOO much good!

At Lammas, we bake bread and we share it together.  The days of planting grain (other than corn) and threshing it, and separating the chafe from the grain is so far removed from us we forget this at times while baking the bread.  The sweat of the workers and the energy expended so that we could bake that bread is just "taken for granted" for we are so far removed from this at times we cannot remember that people worked sooo hard for us to have milled wheat, flour, grain.  We ingest and take in that energy. It mixes with our saliva and leaves a distinct flavor on our palate.  We will all gather and give to the Memphis Humane society from the "cauldron of prosperity"  (to show our Gods we are grateful we have so much).  We look at our own tree/self and we notice where we sacrificed, what limbs expanded, and what we need to work on and we Promise Spirit and our personal Lord and Lady we will "sacrifice" this and understand that parts of what we knew must die to go on.  Sometimes we forget we are "Forrest" we are too busy looking at our own tree!

I ingest the bread, and I look at the people and enjoy that air conditioning, and see the roof over our heads and I personally know some of the Clergy and Leaders that went before me making sacrifices, watering our souls for hours when we were parched, planting in the stony soil and despite obstacles yielding generations and generations of a Pagan community.  We have become so prolific and so scattered we forget, that in 1991 one of our own marched with snipers at his head for our rights.  We have become so prosperous we forget that one of our own went to court 7 or more times to just have the right to have an occult store in our town.  We forget the sacrifices made, so that we could have this building. We do not look at the Clergy standing in the middle of the Circle as farmers, gardeners, people who are planting their seeds under harsh conditions...but they are.  They must have incredible "green thumbs".

This Lammas, as you stand in circle.  Whether it be in someone's back yard, or at a Park, or in a building like we will be worshiping.  Take the time to think about the bread you eat.  We are not entitled.  It did not come for free.  Remember, that we are all connected.  That in some regions, we are grinding grain in rocky soil and live in no insulated climate where liberal ideas are the norm.  Let us look around, and know that at that moment all over the Bible Belt people gather under adverse conditions and are so brave as to take what they love and wear it proudly "out there" for all to see.  Let us sing, Hoof and Horn, Hoof and Horn, all that dies shall be reborn and realize it will be...WE are living it.  We are being born out of the death of "old ways of being". 

Today, I know of a new Occult store opening in this City.  Today I know there will be at least two Pagan Churches and four flourishing covens, a CUUPS group, and several groves and circles that will celebrate just in the city of Memphis alone.  WE are connected.  The sacrifices were made, and will still continue to be made.  Let us celebrate this Harvest!  The South has come a long way, and we are being reborn.

May your harvest be great, and may we all not take for granted those who tirelessly plant those seeds, and cull that wheat (separating the chafe from the good grain) so that we may stand where we are.  WE are a circle, and that circle can only be built from hard labor and sacrifices.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Preachers, Pastors, Prophets, Priests and Practioners

We all know people cannot be put into neat little boxes and neither can Wiccan Clergy Each just like every other human being are unique.  I am going to share with you some gifts or concentrations some of them find themselves working we call them "Missions" of "Life Callings".  Sometimes you just "fall into them" many people "just know", many find their occupational life and Clergy life overlapping (for example people with Psychology degrees that specialize in counseling).  Either way Wiccan Clergy find that they know they are doing what they do not for a "title" or for "fame or fortune" but because they feel "happiest" being Clergy.  That is the payment, it is like the Gods wired them differently they only feel "true bliss" working for the community and the Gods.

1.  Wiccan Clergy as Healers. 

 Many Wiccan Clergy specialize in a form of healing technique.  They are people that always are able to figure out what is "really wrong" with you and balance your energy using either Stones, crystal skulls, Reiki, Massage techniques, Aromatherapy, Acupuncture or Acupressure.  There are also healers that are Wiccan clergy that specialize in Herbs and make tinctures, tonics, teas, poultices, are holistic, and grow, produce, handpick, and know which herb you need or should use.  Wiccan clergy and healing seems to go hand in hand for people who are called to help others usually start off studying healing techniques of one kind or another. Their gift is that of a calm touch, cooling spirit, heavenly voice, and aura that shines like the moon.  They give and give and give until they are tuckered out at times; and they usually teach students all the time to continue and pass on their gift and love of healing. 

2.  Wiccan Clergy as Counselors

These are the people that are always listening to other people's problems. Marriage counseling, Friendship issues, Love issues, Self identity crisis, Job/Occupation questions these and just someone to listen to them about their lives is what is needed.  Clergy that specialize in this area are really good at listening and directing people to the answer or solution that truthfully lies inside of them and somewhere outside of them.  They ask the "right questions" never telling the querent what to do or what to say they let the person doing the talking hear themselves say what they really need to do.  These people have a gift, it is not just spiritual listening it is patience and wisdom. These people find themselves hard pressed to find time for themselves if they are really good at their job.  However, it is expected of most Clergy that they have "counseling sessions" for those who need it; and it should be noted that like any job some Clergy are really better at this than others. In this world that we live in listening, good listening is an underrated skill. 

3.  Wiccan Clergy as Teachers

These are the Clergy that just "light up" when teaching complex principles to people of all walks of life.  They can explain how to do put a washer in a sink to a person from China that speaks no English and manage to communicate exquisitely.  To learn from these Teachers is a true gift for they can always take complex issues and explain them in whatever way they have to for each individual person to understand.  They have a way for poking and prodding people to accomplish alot and do it in a method that makes the student proud of themselves.  For truthfully, that is what this type of Clergy is good at motivation, inspiration, and education.  They may never be the name mentioned on every persons lips at a Pagan Festival but they are the proudest Elder in the circle when they see their students do well, and are constantly animated and happy in the presence of knowledge of any kind.  They can learn from anyone even an ant, then they instantly want to share what they learned with you!

You usually find these Clergy like to write blogs, articles, teach workshops, and are surrounded by people at the Festivals for they have knowledge about all kinds of subjects and can match every learning style.  All Wiccan Clergy teach to some degree or another, many by just walking their talk.  But Wiccan Clergy who are Teachers; communicate,enunciate, and inspire the future generations.  Many Wiccan Clergy on this path feel they are "teaching Teachers to Teach" thus their legacy is an unusual one.

4.  Wiccan Clergy as Ritual Facilitators

These Clergy are really good at planning Main rituals and writing rituals.  They can plan in their heads what every person should say, what everything should look like, and leave just enough room in the ritual for wiggling because they know and understand that God and Goddess can never truly be completely planned out.  They make rituals look easy, and feel fun and before you know it you are singing their chants in the shower or stating their mantras on the way to work.  Not all Wiccan Clergy love writing rituals or even facilitating them; many find they serve so many people that one of the ways they feed their souls is through standing in the circle and having others lead.

Wiccan Clergy who "dispense the sacraments" of the Gods are truly unique for you will see them muttering even as they set up a circle, and their heads cocking at odd angles as if they are poised and listening to a presence you cannot see.  These are those that feed our souls every moon, every Sabbat they are the Priest and Priestess that remind us of Ancient times....and we hear the God and Goddess resonate through them from time to time.  Ritual Clergy always plan their circles for others, never for themselves, or for just one person; they have the perspective of a Hawk and always trust the Gods.

5.  Wiccan Clergy perform Rites of Passages

Rites of Passages are births, deaths, weddings, divorces, engagements, awakenings, graduations, birthdays, woman or men rites and deaths.  Depending on your tradition depends on what you call all of these things here in the Mid south we have Women rites that are :  Maidenings, Motherings, Cronings and we celebrate when women reach Menstruation or Menopause.  The Men's rites are Rovings, Fatherings, and Sageings and we celebrate when men reach 13 and call it a "manning" ceremony.  I have heard of groups celebrating 21st birthdays since they are legal age to drink then also.  Baby Blessings/Wiccanings are done differently here depending on the tradition.  Who created the tradition is usually an elder you never met (but whose ritual you are using because that is just the way it is done down here); or if you are lucky you studied under (I had that privilege) as you grow as Clergy if you find this is an area you like then you add on and alter the RITE of Passage your teacher gave you.

If you were not lucky enough to be handed a RITE of Passage someone else already wrote you can call another Clergy and they will share it with you or you can just "figure it out through trial and error" that is how the Ancestors did it!  I have been to some of the most touching Rites of Passages and the Clergy facilitating it had just "figured it out" and were very good at it.  I measure out how good a person is at Rites of Passages by how they say the words, how meaningful they are, and by the magick they use to have it become a mystery.  Truthfully this is what Rites of Passages are they are a mystery and a celebration tied together with a beautiful bow of love!  Wiccan Clergy that specialize in this area say they find themselves in cycles like the Planet we live on.  Handfastings at one time in their life, Wiccanings or Baby blessings at another time in their life,  Crossing overs, Funerals and Memorial services at another time in their life, doing Maidening and Rovings usually when they are younger, Motherings and Fatherings when they are middles aged, and finally getting the honor of doing Sageings and Cronings as they are Elders in the Community.  Either way Rites of Passages are a necessity in our Community and without these traditions our fabric would fall apart.  This is a skill very many of us take for granted; but none of us want to do without. 

6.  Wiccan Clergy :Prison Ministry

The Clergy that serve in this capacity have a generous heart and giving spirit they serve those that are incarcerated.  They usually spend alot of money out of their own pockets in expenses to travel to the Prison that they have chosen to serve, buy books to add to the library there, teach classes for free, offer counseling for those that need it.  However, anyone I have met that serves in this capacity is definitely different than most of the other Clergy I meet.  They are glowing, and transformed in a way that few can understand.  Clergy that help with this ministry thinking it is a "one time" thing usually find themselves finding out they really want to do more; then the next thing they know they are serving the people in the Prison also.  The need for Wiccan Clergy in this ministry is great; and the people that are there appreciate the service and the love so freely given.  If you had to pick one area to support more with time it should be this one.  Just think of all the various groups, and ages that have needs in this and spiritual wants in this "tough time" in their lives.  Clergy that serve in this capacity are definitely called and their staff is usually them and one other (their mate, Highpriest or Highpriestess).

7.  Wiccan Clergy as Interfaith ambassadors

Many Wiccan Clergy just concentrate on trying to fan out and participate in as many interfaith dinners, lunches, business meetings, panels, workshops, talks at colleges, and are always finding a way to share, blend, and mix with Religions Spiritual Leaders of other faiths.  This is an important and very tough job because it takes a really special personality gift; that of sincerity, and social aptitude.  You must be eloquent and down to earth, well educated, but not cocky, serious, but not too serious, and let insults roll of your cannot take it too seriously.  People in this world even Religious leaders of others walks of life do not know that much about Wicca even in the 21st century and so you have to make sure you are not "thin skinned" if this is one of the ministries you find that you are called to serve.  Yet, we as Wiccans do not proselytize; so we find ourselves in a strange situation.  How do we share our faith without trying to manipulate and convert others?  Clergy that have this specialty do it and do it well ( think Selena Fox).

Clergy that serve in this capacity realize that they have to visit School boards, and City halls, and get to know and socialize with judges, lawyers, and city officials.  They want to be on radio interviews and pray publicly before a city hall meeting.  They understand that they more they can "get out there" and share what they believe with the pubic in a sacred way the more likely we are to have Joe Pagan and Jane Wiccan not persecuted for being a little different.  These Clergy dream of a day, when opening a prayer with Lord and Lady will not be even blinked at.  They serve in the public so that those who still have to live in "the closet" do not have to "stay in the closet" because of persecution.  In short, they are sacrificing their private life for the good of the WHOLE community. 

8.  Wiccan Clergy as Hospital Chaplains
 They go and visit the elderly in the nursing homes, they sit with the sick they are always in the hospice.  They visit those in the hospital and sit by their beds even when they are sleeping.  They walk the halls and make sure that people know they are not alone; they give love and counseling to strangers and the relatives of those in the hospital.  They lead hospital staff in prayer.  They give the last 'rite of passage" to one of our faith; or the last "rite of passage" to someone of another faith because their family member asked them too or because they were childhood friends.

They are there at a time in your life when you really need someone to care for you  and love you.   Sometimes they bring magazines, flowers, candy, stuffed animals, junk food or just a joke.  Either way these Clergy have a special calling they are those that are there for you when you are in a dark time in your life.  Their gift is healing, and giving and as the number of Wiccans increase the need for those who are legal Clergy to visit them in the hospital increases..  Serving on the staff of a hospital for all the people in the hospital is a real possibility now for our faith now that we too have become legally ordained; and have received the proper licensing and training in this area.  Some states require a special licensing to serve on a hospital staff, some do not but either way jobs in this area are even on the internet and in newspapers aplenty and are a distinct possibility for Clergy of our faith.

9.  Wiccan clergy as Church founders and Leaders

Here where I live in the Mid south almost all of the Clergy here have to do a little of all of the above and still keep a roof over their communities head that they helped bring together.  Thus you find they are usually learning about non profit stuff, the legalities of Wicca, the legalities of religious rights and freedoms, keeping up to date on Tax laws, filing paperwork, looking for ways to raise funds for their community, and still keeping appointments for counseling, leading rituals, teaching classes, helping in an outside ministry of some sort (Prison, Homeless shelter, Gay and Lesbian and Transgender community, etc).  They are always getting phone calls from radio stations and new stations around Halloween our Samhain and hardly ever getting coverage when they donate to the local food bank.

They serve a community of around 50 people on average, and have a roll of around 300 or 400 people that are members on their books.  Like all churches they are supported by an active 5 percent of the congregants and yet they love all the people in their community equally and for different reasons.  These Clergy serve for a future they will never see but know in their hearts they are securing for the future generations and so they strive and constantly give for buildings, land, property for the children coming up just like any parent of grandparent does for their offspring.  Wiccan Clergy that serve as Church founders are held up to a standard like any Church founder an unrealistic one at times but you knew this when you took your oath to serve and you agreed to the community and your Gods that "your time was not your time anymore but always theirs".  It is with joy they serve, but they can get worn out since they wear so "many hats" this is why it is so important that they get time "off" and "mini vacations" and they always are praying for "New Clergy" to come up in the ranks.
If you look at all the many jobs that are required of our Modern Day Wiccan Clergy, then you understand why the "burnout" rate is so high and why it is so important we train more to work in this capacity!  There are more people to serve than there are Clergy to serve them. 

How do you know which one of these types of Clergy you will be?  Well you don't at first of course!  I think you first have some of these qualities when you "hear the call" of Clergy and you start from there. Personally, I also feel as a community we need to be patient with new Clergy we measure them up to an Elder that has been doing the job a long time or weigh them up the a "stereotype" created by the media of Clergy that walk a different path than us.  If we do not support our new Clergy then they will 'quit" before they discover what their "true gift" is.  They need the time, love and support just like ministers of any other faith to find themselves and I feel that this cannot be emphasized enough.  Wiccan Clergy are called, and are not paid at all for what they do they just feel a need to serve....and that is a wonderful thing!

I have also found that many Clergy start off with one role let us say healer, learn another one (counselor), then explore another option (rite of passage leader), and as the years pass and tick by they end up finding out they are able to balance these many different roles; or they are able to teach New Clergy how to find their gifts and so they delegate and train their Clergy to all serve different functions for the community.  In a modern Wiccan Community this would be a wonderful way for it all to pan out; each of us getting to use the "gift" that we have and honing it to a fine precision.  We are not there yet, but we will be very soon.  As more and more Wiccan Seminaries (Woolstein Theological Seminary) and Universities (Cherry Hill Seminary) are starting to offer training online and in person (most legal Wiccan Churches serve in this capacity also) to people of our faith; it is only inevitable that our Clergy will be more and more proficient.  We too will become "preachers, pastors, prophets, priests, and practitioners" of Spirit.  (this is accredited to a lecture given by the Unitarian Universalists at their Graduation ceremony in 2009).

*********It should be noted that even as I write this I realize there are some roles I have forgotten or might have overlooked because the Pagan/Wiccan community is so large.  Please share one of the many roles you see I have overlooked below if you would like.  I feel this is a topic needing to be discussed and cataloged better for our future Clergy and for those who are just starting out on this path as Wiccan Clergy.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

How Clergy Evolved naturally in the Land of Cotton

 "A dream doesn't become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.” - Colin Powell

There are many different types of Wiccan Clergy here in the South where I dwell and this gives one many options as to how you might work as Clergy as a Wiccan minister (I will try and share the different types next blog).  Many of us here evolved from being Highpriests or Highpriestesses that ran covens to people that decided to "found and form" Wiccan Temples or Churches.  Now before you get all blustery on me and "high and mighty" look at where we live.  WE live in the BIBLE Belt.  People here are harassed if they are different.  One of the first questions people ask you here when they meet you is "what church do you attend" and when you answer if it is a church they do not blink and eye, but if you say "Coven of the Raven Stinger" they definitely would shudder and cause a ruckus. If you use a language they understand, they leave you alone; and if you worship in a building they see you as hardly any different from them; which in many ways we are not. This is good; I have never met anyone that wants to live their life fighting and hiding!

Here where I live Pagan/Wiccan communities are not new in fact this is the logical reason why we grew into and formed Temples and Churches.  Covens and that model could no longer serve the needs of the people, at most Sabbats we were averaging over 50 and most new and full moons 30 to 40 easy.  Most of the people here know one another, it is that "small town" mentality and many have grown up in Wicca from their teens!  But like most of the landscape in America, Leaders in this faith and teachers are much scarcer than you would think.  Many people have a first degree status; but we find this is where most are comfortable at and this is where they stay.  They are active they go to almost anything and everything but first degree is their commitment level.  (Just in case you do not know first degree means the person has undergone at least one year and a day of training and iniation; it usually implies more than one year on average two; and for some who stop and start due to jobs and college and marriage and kids it can take much longer). Thus we have more people in the community than we do leaders but it should be stated the Clergy and Teachers are fiercely on working on changing this ASAP.

When you want to worship here in the South you can worship in the backyard at someones home or a park.  That is it.  When I first moved here no one worshipped in the back yard at someones home; and when I asked why I was told many had tried it but after a while people got tired of taking care of so many people and having their house run down and trashed.  I could see it...but what option did we have?  To go to a park, means you might have to reserve something,and pay for it and let them know you are coming (not a good idea).  Or better yet, get up at 5 am or 6am and go there with a sleeping bag and sit in the pavilion until time for worship since many parks here are FIRST COME FIRST SERVE.  Then if you do get the park, you get to put up with the glares and stares and just feeling darn uncomfortable while people take their kids to soccer games, walk their dogs, or just walk the tracks in the park.  Not a very happy warm trusting feeling is it?  I thought we wanted to create a warm, friendly environment to worship in....well at least I did.

Back to the two choices, Brian and I decided we would build a circle in our back yard of our brand new "first home" and a big altar and have our Church over at our home until we could do better.  We had a beautiful back porch, and an open carport and a privacy fence.  My home at the time was 3 bedroom and one bath it had a dining room, living, room den, and kitchen.  It also had a double driveway to park in.  So when we founded the Temple we decided that we would get people used to the idea of worshiping at a home, a building, and use the circle outside for rituals.  The plan was to do this until we could raise enough money to lease our first commercial space.  This we did for two years, and it was very tiring the upkeep was immense, the utility bills out of this world, the plumbing was always being patched, the yard was run down quickly, and we had to pay the city extra to pick up trashcans and recycling bins we had so many.  Every plate I had, every piece of silverware, every glass, and every tray, table and piece of furniture, and my bathroom was no longer mine it was the Temple's....though technically I took care of it; and technically I owned it and paid for it.  This was hard work, and stressful to say the least for a woman who worked full time and had a new baby.  But it worked!  Eventually the sacrifice of one's home and yard, led to us saving enough money to move to a commercial space.

Other Southern Clergy in the Mid south have open circles on their property too, and many have structures that they have built for people to dine in or have workshops in so let me state my sacrifices were not unique they were similar.  Some have managed to even build wonderful outside bathrooms and showers and kitchens.  This way their own home is their "own home" or the "parsonage" if you will.  But they all started out with people just coming over to their homes, and worshiping in their backyards until they could raise the money and materials to do more.  This is amazing, considering when you look back only five years ago this was not standard; and definitely not the way most people were accustomed to worshiping Down South. 

I am sure if you are reading this, you do not have to be told that the amount of money, sweat, blood, back breaking work it takes to build not just a beautiful circle, but a library, an shower house, a Pavilion where you can have workshops and study groups is a lot of work.  It takes time, and sacrifice on the part of the Clergy involved because most of the time they are doing most of the work by themselves with just one or two people helping them when they can drop by.   Most of the Clergy that do this were not carpenters in their previous lives and so it takes time for them to learn the skills and time for them to gather the materials, and definitely time to raise the money with their congregation to get the buildings raised, painted, roofed, and completed.  I should also state that most of the Clergy are not under 45, so this is a time in life where you probably don't have the physical stamina you once did. Did I mention that many work "real jobs" and their "clergy jobs" and run circles and Teach classes, and run and manage festivals and help other communities with their festivals while still hammering away one nail or board at a time on their "Temples to the Lord and Lady".

I have never met one Clergy in this area that does not pay the majority of the cost for anything they do out of their own pocket...not one. I have also not met ONE Clergy in this area that gets a salary or makes alot of money (and no I don't think this keeps them" honest" I think it makes them poor, lean and hungry).  Yes, they do have raffles, and workshops, and ask people to help during circles or have a volunteer crew at Sabbats, but in our religion we expect people to understand that you cannot have anything without a little sacrifice for the greater good; just like the God we worship who has an aspect we refer to as the "sacrificed one".  Thus, many people do not upgrade their cell phones, or have full cable, they do not buy newer cars they keep what they have and we learn how together pitch in our funds so that we as a community can have better for ourselves in a safe environment.  One less cup of Starbucks means five dollars to put in on utility bill that we all use!

Slowly, but surely we all have gone from having no where to worship at all to having safe structures to worship in!  In the more rural areas they have built worship buildings and have beautiful circles with statues and altars.  In the more urban areas we have rented commercial space and have erected Altars for all to light candles at and move our circle into place every ritual, while using the space for workshops and events during the week to raise the money needed to keep the roof over our heads.  Wicca is changing, we as a civilization are changing, and the Goddess "changes everything she touches'.  It is a good time to be Wiccan Clergy, for we are part of the Change definitely not against it; and it is a darn good time to be part of a Wiccan Temple here down South.

Maybe your communities have grown so much you also need Temples.  Some people ask how do you all have worship spaces; hopefully this share with you how it is done.  Lastly, remember that the next time you hear Wiccan Temple or Pagan Church it is more normal than not down here.  The landscape of our religion is changing with the times; and using the laws to our favor.  I pray that this post is clearing up some misconceptions about our path and workings.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Why Wiccan Clergy?

Well I could answer this whole blog with WHY NOT?  To be fair though, I asked this question myself when the proposition was postulated to me about me just taking the leap from coven "Highpriestess" to Legal Wiccan Clergy.  Many people have misconceptions about the role, or even what the job entails and so for me the point of this blog; is not to convince you are even change your mind on the position of having legal Wiccan Clergy in our Midst(They were there before me and are already thriving).  It is however, to show you to some extent what Wiccan Clergy does, on a teeny scale, on a midling scale, on a large scale, and on a very large scale.

We (and yes I am making a claim of we here praying my other Wiccan clergy I know will not get upset at me for this) are normal everyday Pagans/Wiccans who give every ounce of energy we have to the community, to people, and to our faith.  We love our Gods and Goddesses, and we try to the best of our ability to help people.  Goddess knows it is not a "power over" thing that will sustain you as Wiccan clergy for you are definitely not working for power.  You are working for people, you are working for your Gods and Goddesses, you are working for you grove, temple, church, circle, you are aware you are representing your faith for people that may never meet another one of "you" (people say this to me all the time when they meet me).

We spend our mornings working jobs full time or part time so we can work our other full time job (that of being Wiccan Clergy) during evenings, nights, and on weekends.  We are available for counseling almost 24/7, we listen to people of all walks of lives and faiths.  We go to hospitals, we call those who are depressed, or need help when we hear it or see  it.  We teach classes (some of us online and in person) workshops, organize and run festivals to raise money for our community, and we always actively work in political and social arenas for our faith and for the cities we live in. We also represent our faith to the public every day, it cannot be hidden for once you are Wiccan Clergy you are "outed" and live in a goldfish bowl.  My favorite part of the job is the rites of passages: Crossing overs, Funerals, Maidenings, Motherings, Croneings, Rovings, Fatherings, Sageings, Baby blessings, Iniating Students, Handpartings, Divorces, Baby Blessings, and Handfastings/Weddings.

There are no trappings I can see, or "glamour" involved with being Wiccan Clergy.  It is not a paid job, though I feel it is like being a Mother and housewife definitely "assumed" and very "underappreciated".  The rewards of the job is the smile on people's faces, the love you feel when you walk in a room, the hugs you get every day, the sun rising, and the children laughing, and knowing that when you die you tried your damndest to leave the world a much better place.

The purpose of this Blog will be to share the day to day, or month to month, or possibly little "impertinent" things that come to mind or that I can share with you as I walk my walk along with many others.  I was trained by Elder Clergy, and if you must know in this job not only are you constantly "supplementing your education" with other books, classes, but you are also being taught the job as you do it, and if you are lucky (and I am very very lucky) you are supported and surrounded by Elders that in the 60's and 70's were radical Pagan/Wiccan/Witchy people that grew into seeing the practicality and good old fashioned need and sense of becoming Legal clergy for their people. 

I looked for blogs on Wiccan Clergy when I was becoming one over five years ago...there was nothing, nada.  I looked for books, and there was only one at the time.  A very good one, but only one (Kevin Gardner the man's amazing btw).  I was trained by a series of different elders for the job, one has crossed over, and the others are still working and walking the talk.  I hope to honor them and their teachings with this blog and shed some light on those of us who "take a beating and keep on ticking" and "live in the trenches" within the community serving them constantly whether it be on a phone call, hospital visit, or helping them get a job, or just lending them a couch and giving them a cup of coffee.  Wiccan Clergy are a need of the community, for as our numbers grow we too need ministers to serve the people and to administer rites of Passage, and to dispense the sacraments of the Gods. 

Lastly, ask yourself one question...WHY NOT Wiccan Clergy?  Why not?