To Be a Witch… A Life of Ritual and Devotion

It’s a common thing to hear that there’s a difference between our magical lives and our mundane lives. In reality, we have the ability to step into ritual and devotion each and every day.

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Losing Persephone. Becoming Demeter

The room is mostly empty. A strand of Tibetan prayer flags dangles listlessly from a single thumb tack. The white walls are punctuated with tiny pinhole dots, the last reminders of where posters and photos once lived. A thrift store desk, repainted many years ago, sits empty. The lack of homework and hair scrunchies and change hurriedly deposited there makes it seem even older and somehow smaller.

The offering bowl filled with cleansing herbs floats alone on a sea of beige carpet. The charcoal is lit. A single, curling tendril of smoke rises from the center, and I close the door.

Burning Herbs

Burning Herbs

Sometime later I return with a laptop, a monitor and a tangled mess of cords and plugs. I manage to place everything on the desk, although given the angles and precarious nature of the piles, it seems like it might all fall off at any moment. I sit on the floor, reaching for an extension cord, when my eyes begin to well up. There’s a catch in my throat as I take in far too short of a breath and the tears start. And they continue. You know that kind of crying, right? Taking huge gulps of air, snot running down your face, mixing with the salty wetness pouring down your cheeks, I’m a total mess, kind of crying? Yep. Like that.

A week ago my daughter, we’ll call her “Kore”, packed up her stuff and moved out. She’d been planning this for a while. Her boyfriend and a couple of co-workers she attends college with found a place, not too far away, that was in the right price range and zip code.  I carried a few boxes to her car. Perfectly normal. Plenty of smiles. Well wishes. No drama. Exactly the way you’d want a child to leave home.

And then there was that empty room that had somehow become the office that I didn’t want to go into.

You see, Kore had played there in that room. She’d struggled through challenging high school classes and navigated first break ups in that room. She had laughed with friends on so many phone calls and hung dried flowers collected from dances and dates on the walls. To most it’s a simple room in a simple house, but this place is the sunny fields in which Kore gathered flowers with her maiden friends.

Kore and Demeter

Kore and Demeter

It would be easy to cast her boyfriend as “the one who receives many guests”¹, but that would be grossly unfair to him. The immortal that carried Kore away from this room might have been Hades, but if it was, he was disguised as Time or Growing up. Kore is becoming Persephone. Strong and independent, a sovereign queen in her own right, learning to stand in her own power, absolutely everything a parent could hope for.

But if Hades is really the passage of time and Kore transforms into Persephone, then I too must recognize that there’s a place in this myth for me. I am becoming Demeter. She is gone and I cry. I miss her smile and our walks in the neighbourhood where we’d discuss and plot and plan. The daily check-ins about college classes and who is dating who and what’s on the horizon for her. It literally and physically feels like my daughter has disappeared. And like Demeter, I am bidden by others – “goddess: stop your loud cry of lamentation.”² And like Demeter and Persephone, we’ve struck a deal. We have a regularly planned evening together and we hike when our schedules allow and she calls and texts, but still I miss her. When she calls or stops by it’s just like the Spring is coming back and all is right with the world for a while and I can forget that she’ll be headed back to her own queendom soon enough.

There is no chapter in the book “What to expect when you’re expecting” that deals with this. Most of my friends are still coming to terms with sleepless nights and diaper changes and school meetings and play dates. They have no concept of the rite I’m going through. There’s very little in our culture and our myths and the stories of our goddesses and gods that tells me what it’s like when the daily work of being a parent suddenly changes and isn’t really needed anymore.

So I turn to one goddess,Demeter, for she is revealing to me the way to perform the sacred rites of separation. She is pointing out “the ritual, the holy ritual, which it is not at all possible to ignore.

Kore is gone. Persephone is Queen. And I am learning to become Demeter.

 

 

  1. Reference to Hades from line nine of the “Homeric Hymn to Demeter” as translated by Gregory Nagy – http://www.uh.edu/~cldue/texts/demeter.html
  2. Reference to Demeter from line eighty-one of the “Homeric Hymn to Demeter” as translated by Gregory Nagy         – http://www.uh.edu/~cldue/texts/demeter.html
  3. Reference to the Greater Mysteries from lines 476-478 of the “Homeric Hymn to Demeter” as translated by Gregory Nagy         – http://www.uh.edu/~cldue/texts/demeter.html
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I've been a practicing witch and ritualist within the Reclaiming Tradition since 2003. I love being in service with this community of witches and world changers.   My own practice, my own way of changing the world is through devotional practice. It's my belief that we can re-enchant our lives by re-framing the so-called "mundane" as sacred and divine. By imbuing the familiar with a sense of wonder and infusing daily life with acts of magic, we choose to consciously make all of life devotion. Whether we engage in large, public rituals or sink sumptuously into the pure ecstasy of eating a delicious meal by ourselves or meditating at sunrise, our daily rituals can draw us back into harmony with the world and each other.  

Comments

  • Annika Mongan
    Annika Mongan Wednesday, 23 March 2016

    This is not an experience I will ever have, but you wrote it in such a way that it becomes real and raw and relevant to me nonetheless. Thank you for sharing this moment and this journey with such beautiful words.

  • Gwion Raven
    Gwion Raven Wednesday, 23 March 2016

    I imagine that we all get to be Persephone and Demeter at some point in our lives, whether that's with children or a business or a dream that's gone or our own journey's taking us from home.

    And thank you for saying that my words were "beautiful." Thank goodness we writers and bloggers have places to write these little mind doodles and without being told what we should or should not write. :)

  • Courtney
    Courtney Sunday, 27 March 2016

    This was good for me to read. My oldest is 14 and I'm already freaking out about the day she leaves. I'm only 34 so I can imagine years and years of childlessness ahead of me. But on the plus side, that hopefully gives me many years to enjoy her as an adult. Anyway, thank you for your words.

  • Gwion Raven
    Gwion Raven Tuesday, 29 March 2016

    Hello Courtney,

    I remember being in my early 20's thinking about how young I would be when my kids hit 18 (ish) and were likely to move out. And then it happened and I was like "WOW! What am I supposed to do now?" I became so used to being a parent that I wasn't sure what to do next.

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