forgiveness Tag - PaganSquare - Join the conversation! http://witchesandpagans.com/latest.html Tue, 23 May 2017 10:25:07 -0700 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb I Used To Be Transphobic http://witchesandpagans.com/pagan-culture-blogs/cross-and-pentacle/i-used-to-be-transphobic.html http://witchesandpagans.com/pagan-culture-blogs/cross-and-pentacle/i-used-to-be-transphobic.html

Recently I have listened and read and watched the Pagan community face transphobia. Again. Denora wrote a summary here and offered the challenge “How will you enact change?”

I wasn't around in previous years. I long to see our Pagan community become a healthy and welcoming place free from transphobia. I have no easy answers but I’ve been encouraged to tell the story of my personal struggle with transphobia. I used to a fundamentalist Christian and that meant also being misogynistic, homophobic, transphobic, a creationist, and then some. So I offer here a glimpse of my own struggle and transformation.

I briefly lived in San Francisco, or “sin city” as we called it, with a Christian Outreach group over a decade ago. Someone in said group once warned me not to go to the “wrong side of the Safeway”, beyond which lay the Castro, the place where “the gays” lived their sinful lives. I once crossed over to eat at a Thai restaurant and felt frightened and guilt ridden the entire time.

 

During that time I worked at Starbucks and often took on fill-in shifts at a different locations. Once, I worked next a tall person with a stubbly chin who was introduced to me as Monica. I didn't know what transgender was at the time, but mis-gendered Monica based on her appearance. I refused to refer to her by the correct pronouns, so I avoided contact with her in order to not have to address her. When I came home after my shift I complained about the confusing situation I had been thrown into and made mean remarks about Monica. I then was taught about “the sin” of gender transitioning and felt angry that such a “sin” even existed.

 

Nearly a decade later an evangelical Christian friend of mine came out as a transgender woman. The reactions in our Christian community were horrific. The theory I heard most often was that her therapist talked her into being transgender. There was also plenty of discussion about the possibility of demon possession. I quickly rejected the latter explanation, didn’t know what to think of the first, and felt deeply confused. Most of all, however, I was appalled by the lack of a desire to understand among our Christian friends.

 

A few days after I had heard the rumor from others, I received an email from Sheena Renee Adams introducing her new name and gender pronouns. In it, she described how she had always known she was a woman, how as a child she used to ask God to make it so she could grow up to become a mommy. The suffering she went through, and the courage it took to come out after so many years and to so much animosity moved me deeply.

 

I responded to her email, admitting that I was confused, but telling her how much I appreciated her personal story and that I considered her my friend no matter what. We began emailing each other regularly. Sheena sent me links to resources about gender transitions and I devoured them all, then found more interviews, documentaries, and articles online.

 

I'm sending something I just found about finding a transgender gene. Something I've been telling others is I've been trans since my earliest memories. My family, including [my wife], thinks I'm just mental,” Sheena wrote. Searching for scientific evidence for predetermined biological gender dysphoria was a gateway toward understanding for both of us. Later I read and learned about gender as a social construct and the importance of honoring choice when it comes to gender identity.

 

Layer by layer my thinking shifted, and other views were turned upside down. Dismantling my transphobia led to the dismantling of my homophobia. Both led to a wider understanding of gender and sexuality. I read and listened and re-evaluated my views. Eventually my community changed. I was no longer surrounded by cisgender and straight friends only. As I learned and grew, I became able to relate to people of other genders and sexual orientations.

 

When I moved to California after my divorce, I went on a my first date, ever, never having dated before. The date was with Mik, a fellow I had just met at a potluck. After our first kiss I took him up on the offer to visit his place and on our way we passed a Safeway that looked vaguely familiar. We crossed the street into an unfamiliar part of San Francisco. A few dates later, I woke up at Mik’s place and finally connected the dots. Here I was, in bed with a bisexual man and his other girlfriend, on the wrong side of the Safeway!

 

Even though my thinking had shifted significantly, I carried with me the weight of guilt and shame for my transphobic days. I talked to Mik about the only trans person I had met while I was steeped in transphobia and how I wished I could apologize to her. Mik listened to me carefully, and told me what I already knew in theory. I needed to forgive myself. If I wanted to be an ally, I would need to change more than just my thinking. I also needed to change my relationship to myself, to accept my old self and forgive her. No one else could do that work for me. By beating myself up for my old sins, I was doing a favor to no one and focusing only on myself.

 

Through Mik I met many bi-sexual men and women, an erotic gay clown, and other queer friends of his. The old us-versus-them mentality was disintegrating before my eyes. I came to love “the wrong side of the Safeway.” I felt grateful that I was given a second chance and that I had made my new home with “the gays” and “the sinners”.

 

One day Mik and I went to Dia de los Muertos in the Mission District. While we perused altars in a city park, Mik said hello to an acquaintance. She and Mik talked about mutual friends and events, and then he introduced me to her. Her name was Monica. I hadn't been to San Francisco in a decade and thought the coincidence would be too great. But I asked her anyways. Did she by any chance work at Starbucks, about a decade ago? Yes, she did. I stammered that I thought I used to work with her.

 

She smiled at me, warmly, and told me she had worked with many people and that she was sorry she didn’t remember me. Before I could find any additional words, she reached her arms around me and pulled me into a hug. Then another friend walked up, she had to leave, and I never saw her again.


I walked away from our brief encounter realizing how often we don't want to admit that we are wrong, in part because we don’t want to deal with the guilt for the harm we have caused. Meeting Monica again taught me to not make it all about myself. It is true that I had wronged her, but in focusing on my own shame, I was making it all about me. She didn’t even remember me. It was my responsibility to not only unravel my transphobia, but also to do the work of forgiving myself.


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gypsika@gmail.com (Annika Mongan) Culture Blogs Thu, 19 Nov 2015 11:50:40 -0800
Forgiveness http://witchesandpagans.com/sagewoman-blogs/tantra-in-practice/forgiveness-1.html http://witchesandpagans.com/sagewoman-blogs/tantra-in-practice/forgiveness-1.html

Ksama in Sanskrit means forgiveness. An indispensible word on the spiritual path at practical and cosmic levels, ksama is a virtue that, perhaps more strongly than any other, binds us to a tantric life. Its practice requires that we move beyond our ego and take sanctuary in the naked truth of reality. It is a gateway to Her through relationality (one of the five-fold qualities of the Dark Goddess), a way of creating connection across divides of difference on inner, outer and causal levels.

At times, forgiveness means making a choice to be present with another. It can also mean holding a space of respectful distance in order to let truth unfold. In its many manifestations, the path of forgiveness is a tall order in a world filled with insecurities and vitriol. So many of us harbor terrifying yearnings to be loved—terrifying because we fear we are unworthy of another’s love or worse, somehow unlovable. But as a mechanism for unleashing the power of unfettered love—the antidote to much of our struggle—forgiveness is worth taking the time to understand and practice.

Ritual is usually the first place where the explicit task of forgiving arises. We learn a mantram or technique, for example, and must practice over and over to get it right. We learn to say, “ksamasya,” meaning, “please forgive me,” because we know that our heart’s desire has not yet been achieved. This is not about method, as some think, but rather about the creation of beauty. Much like the fragrance of flowers provides a key to unlocking the deeper meaning of puja, the practice of ceremony allows us the opportunity to give from our heart to the divine. As we learn to be increasingly free in our efforts, our expressions of beauty unleash passionate remembrances of truth that light our inner fire once more. In this way, we engage cosmic events in the world and create stepping stones—some grounded in acts of forgiveness—toward a unique unfolding of ourselves that is less reliant upon ego for survival.

As we progress, taking ritual into the living of our day-to-day lives, the next task of forgiving lies in our personal relationships. Through them, we move from the humility of asking for forgiveness to welcoming self-forgiveness to a culminating other-forgiveness that fully reconstitutes us. Here the ego has a lot to say, preferring to keep us shackled to our habits and agendas lest we kill the self we have come to know so well. But in time the first lesson arrives, and we may see the possibilities that allowing forgiveness to be present within us provides. Staying open takes fortitude. This is not to say that we must forgive for the sake of forgiving, or forgive foolishly, or collude with wrongdoing; rather, in consciously striving for a disposition toward forgiveness, we enter into a valuable process of personal reflection and the flexing of emotional muscles (as when we discover that there is more that awaits beyond our anger) that can lead to greater insight.

Awareness here takes us to a deepened relationship with compassion, for to be genuinely with a loved one’s suffering releases our ego’s self-centered stance and gives us room to witness a soul’s painful cry for healing. Awareness birthed of our fortitude can also unlock the point of our relationship in this lifetime with the one to be forgiven, and we are changed in precious ways with this knowledge. The tantra of forgiveness then lies in our willingness to start small and with an open heart. These stepping stones do lead us somewhere beautiful.


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chandra@sharanya.org (Chandra Alexandre) SageWoman Blogs Sat, 04 Jul 2015 23:45:21 -0700
Forgiveness http://witchesandpagans.com/sagewoman-blogs/forgiveness.html http://witchesandpagans.com/sagewoman-blogs/forgiveness.html b2ap3_thumbnail_rise-to-standing.jpgI'm clearing out the clutter in my studio when a scrap of paper pops up with a poem I must have written years ago.

Reading the piece, which sports the title "Forgiveness," I wonder: What does belly wisdom have to do with that?

The Woman's Belly Book: Finding Your True Center for More Energy, Confidence, and Pleasure includes two poems, but this isn't one of them.

Searching my computer for a file that might contain the poem, thinking I could copy and paste the words here for you rather than type them out again, I find files labelled Forgiveness.0, Forgiveness.1, and Forgiveness.2.

Turns out, back in 1995 — twenty years ago — I guided people through a Ritual of Forgiveness in a workshop that was (if I remember correctly) part of a Sufi conference on healing.

The ritual involves moving through the Honoring Your Belly sequence of power-centering gestures — twice, in fact, each time with a different narration.

Apparently I wrote the two narrations for this Ritual of Forgiveness sometime after writing the ones that inform the Rite for Reconsecrating Our Womanhood and the Rite for Invoking the Sacred Feminine. The Reconsecrations voice a sequence of affirmations tracing the heroine's journey; the Invocations present a series of body prayers addressing the Feminine Divine. In each case, the words imbue the 23 gestures they accompany with personal meaning.

Likewise, in the first round of this Ritual of Forgiveness the 23 movement and breathing exercises enact "Decomposing the Old, Conceiving the New." The same gestures, in the second round, animate "Gestating and Generating the New."

Both rounds involve drawing out images emerging from the body's center: first, what we're willing to release; then, what we welcome to take its place.

Twenty years ago, I discovered that energizing the belly and activating its wisdom with movement and breath could contribute mightily to the process of forgiveness. I believe I'm ripe for exploring that connection again.

How are you with forgiveness — needing to forgive, resisting forgiveness, knowing how to forgive — in your life?

Here's the poem that sparked a twenty-year retrospective that, for me, is oh-so-timely today. I hope it's a pleasure for you.


Forgiveness

pulls you out of the muck with a pop
sets you on your feet here
where the ground is sturdy
and the footing's firm
turns you around to face the
dawn-rising horizon
brushes you down, proclaims you
good as new
sends you on your way
with a scarlet smudge on your sacrum
and a turkey sandwich on rye
and a note safely pinned to your lapel:
moving forward


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news@loveyourbelly.com (Lisa Sarasohn) SageWoman Blogs Sun, 14 Jun 2015 08:09:15 -0700
Finding Blessings in the Crazy http://witchesandpagans.com/sagewoman-blogs/her-sacred-roar/finding-blessings-in-the-crazy.html http://witchesandpagans.com/sagewoman-blogs/her-sacred-roar/finding-blessings-in-the-crazy.html

I was invited to guest minister at the Goddess Temple of Orange County in southern California the morning of Sunday, November 23, on the theme of "Our Blessings" and on that very day, my husband, Roy, and I were celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary and renewing our vows before our beloved feline Mother, Sekhmet.  I thought I'd share with you the message I delivered to those gathered:

I know sometimes it doesn’t always feel like it, but we are so lucky, we have so many blessings, and none of them have to do with money, though that’s what our culture would have us believe is one of the things that count most -  but truly, does having wealth bring us love?  No, certainly not. 

Does having money help us grow as better human beings?  Not always.  Sometimes I think not having wealth is more of a blessing.  Out of necessity, we have to learn to connect and interact with each other because we depend on each other so much more. 

So I’m here today, with Thanksgiving around the corner, to suggest we each peer into the window of our life as if we were standing before a department store window.  Take stock and I bet you’ll  marvel at all there is inside the “store that is our life” because I think sometimes there is so much clutter inside we stop seeing the blessings.  And it looks different for each of us, just as every storefront we walk past in the mall has different and wonderful things within.  Our blessings are all so diverse. 

But there are blessings many of us  have in common, too.

We are so blessed to live in a blue state and not be at risk of vaginal probes, personhood amendments, and loss of control of our reproductive health.  We are so blessed to have this brick and mortar temple where we can gather to express the oldest religion on the planet - without fear.  We are so lucky to have such a brave, dedicated and talented community, like so many of you here, including Ava and the women and men who keep this temple thriving.  We are so lucky for the internet and clean water and advanced medicine.  It’s easy to forget everyone doesn’t have that.  We are blessed we aren’t forced to kill our girl children at birth because we can’t afford their dowry later in life.  We are blessed because we can vote, although too many of us don’t.  We can disobey male authority without paying a price.  But we forget so many of these things.  We’re human and we kind of take them for granted sometimes.

But as you put your nose on the glass of your own storefront - and I hope you will - to peruse all the goodness inside,  I hope you’ll also be courageous enough to lift the lid of your challenges, disappointment and pain because I’ll bet there are blessings there too.  I know Roy’s heart attack made him start to take his health more seriously.  My mother’s death helped me deepen my ability to forgive.  And sometimes it’s the bullies in life that teach us the most about who we are and what we’re made of.

And don’t overlook the little blessings that make us smile.  See the blessing in the brave little hummingbird at the bird feeder, the beautiful and perfect roses in the garden, or the smell of bacon in the morning.  Myself, I cherish that fleeting moment  between being sleep and fully awake, feeling the cool sheets in the dim light of morning.  Maybe your cat is sleeping next to you and you feel the softness of her fur as you hear the alarm go off and there’s beautiful music on the radio.  Don’t overlook either sweet  memories or your feisty friends who challenge your thinking and help you grow. 

I know I feel blessed and Roy does too, that so many of you drove all this way so early in the morning to be here today with us.  You too are our blessings and we love you.  Thank you for being in our lives. 

So this week and as often as you can, try to take inventory of your blessings like a good shopkeeper so you know the value of all the assets in the store of your life. Be sure you look in all the nooks and crannies.  We can really find the blessings in the craziest and most unexpected places as I was reminded recently.

You see this “scholar” had blown me off because he saw me as a disillusioned advocate of Marija Gimbutas theories, but we talked, and talked - and to my surprise he’s offered me a private showing of the valuable artifacts within his goddess collection.  Dare I hold out hope that crack in the door will swing wide enough for him to fully embrace Gimbutas herstory?  Who knows.  We shall see. 

So think about that next week when Uncle George who parrots Fox News is talking crazy round the Thanksgiving dinner table.  As he goes on and on setting your hair on fire next week, making you choke on the green bean casserole,  maybe he’s helping you grow patience and tolerance.  Who knows, you might even find a kernel of truth in all the crazy that can lead you toward bridging the gap.  We can really find blessings in the craziest and most unexpected places sometimes


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karentate108@ca.rr.com (Karen Tate) SageWoman Blogs Mon, 17 Nov 2014 15:54:01 -0800
The Power to Forgive http://witchesandpagans.com/sagewoman-blogs/awakening-goddess/the-power-to-forgive.html http://witchesandpagans.com/sagewoman-blogs/awakening-goddess/the-power-to-forgive.html

I had so many things to be angry about.  So many people had wronged me, from my biological father who molested me, to my beloved grandmother who’d bailed him out of jail and brought him home to live with me after he shot my mother in the head, to my mother who taught me that I was worthless and unlovable, to the so-called friends who had used and betrayed me over and over.

They wronged me.  They hurt me.  They deserved to suffer for what they did to me.  How could I possibly forgive them, especially if they were not even pretending to be sorry?

Worse – what if I did deserve to suffer?  What if it was really all my fault?  The anger I felt toward myself morphed back and forth between guilt and horror at the things I’d done and an outraged sense of powerlessness.

The anger twisted my stomach.  It hurt deeply, everywhere.  It made me tense, gave me headaches, an ulcer, sore shoulders and a stiff jaw from clenched teeth.  I knew it was hurting me, and not hurting the people with whom I was angry.  I wanted to forgive, and I started to ask for help.

Some people advised me to let it go.  How the fudge was I supposed to do that, exactly?

Other people advised I turn to Christianity, or Buddhism, or seek counseling.  None of those options worked for me.

One friend, who had once worked as a social worker with troubled teens, recommended I read You Can Heal Your Life, by Louise Hay.  I did.  The book claimed I could change my life by changing what I thought.  It seemed like crap to me at the time.

A year later, I hit rock bottom.  Homeless and desperate, I had only one thing left to lose – the most important thing in my life, the only thing that I loved unconditionally and that I believed love me the same: my 18 month old son.

He did not deserve anything I was putting him through.  He deserved a loving, healthy mother.  So for him, I was finally ready to try things I’d only read about before.

I read You Can Heal Your Life again, and I started practicing affirmations.  I started the companion workbook, which has been reprinted as Love Yourself, Heal Your Life Workbook.  I copied down a whole page of affirmations, every affirmation I could apply to myself, and I sang them to myself every morning upon waking, every evening before bed, and several times in the middle of the day.

I used the affirmations and my will to change my beliefs, starting with the most important one: I convinced myself that I could, in fact, heal my life.

I looked for evidence in my life and observations that supported every belief and affirmation that Louise Hay spouted in her quintessential book, and one by one my beliefs changed.  And so did my life.

Within a month of doing that workbook, doing those affirmations, consciously changing my beliefs, thoughts, and perspective on how the world worked, a loving, wonderful woman opened her home to us, giving me the space to heal.  Within six months, I realized the depression that had ruined the first three decades of my life was completely gone. 

In those 6 months, I finished my MFA degree in Creative Writing, published my first book, and found an entire community of lovingly accepting people who supported and encouraged me.  My dreams were coming true left and right.  I became the featured reader at a local spiritual store, a headliner at the Florida Pagan Gathering, an organizer of psychic development and creative writing retreats.  I started making a living doing what I loved.  I did not make much at first, but it got me started – and three years later I was able to almost entirely support my family doing what I love!

The most powerful affirmation from that book, the one that kept coming up in healing classes I took and taught, was the one that taught me how to forgive.  “I forgive you for not being the person I needed you to be, and I set you free.”

There were many other forgiveness affirmations that led up to that one.  In order for me to forgive, I first had to find my compassion.  I had to see that the people who had wronged me had been wronged themselves.  They were doing what they had learned to do, because others had done the same to them. 

My parents abused me because they were messed up people who had been abused themselves.  My friends used and betrayed me because they were messed up people who had been used and betrayed themselves.

 I was a messed up person who had been, used, abused, and betrayed, and I had done the best I could with what I had – and most importantly, now that I had the tools to heal my life, I could do better.

I forgave them from not being who I needed them to be, and I set them free – I set myself free –  from the bonds I’d created between us with my anger and hurt. 

Before I learned how to forgive, I gave people the power to hurt and anger me.  Once I learned to forgive, I took my power back.  I made how I felt my responsibility.  I gave myself the power to feel better no matter what anyone else said or did.

It took practice.  I had to forgive the same people over and over, on different levels, for different offenses.  I had to forgive myself over and over.  Every time I went through the process, I felt lighter, stronger, and happier.  Sometimes I needed to go through the process several times a day.  Other times I could go months without getting angry.  Someday I’ll be able to say years.

 

If you are ready to change, if you are ready to take your power back, I highly recommend you get You Can Heal Your Life or either version of the workbook, or find another tool that you can use to change your thoughts and change your life.


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authorashleyrae@gmail.com (Ashley Rae) SageWoman Blogs Thu, 21 Aug 2014 20:07:49 -0700
Keeping Calm v. Carrying On http://witchesandpagans.com/sagewoman-blogs/awakening-goddess/keeping-calm-v-carrying-on.html http://witchesandpagans.com/sagewoman-blogs/awakening-goddess/keeping-calm-v-carrying-on.html

The other day I was gifted with the opportunity to practice what I preach.

I received a shock that left me hurt, angry, and more than a bit anxious.  My tummy churned, my breathing became shallow, and I slipped into negative thinking – angry thoughts towards myself and others, fearful thoughts about finances, dark humor.

I could have lashed out with my anger, told off the person who upset me.  I could have carried on, ranting to every one who would listen about how unfair it was, throwing a temper tantrum.  But that's not my style.  (Not anymore, anyway...)

I recognized that feeling angry, hurt, and anxious wasn’t helping anything.  One of my mantras lately is: “Everything is easier when you feel good.”  I recognize that everything is harder when I feel bad, and that feeling bad programs my brain to seek out more stuff to feel bad about.

So, in the midst of my anxious spiral, I caught myself and asked, “What do I need to feel better right now?”

In that moment, I was babysitting two toddlers, the older of whom was fighting with my preschooler.  All three boys were crying loudly, the older toddler hitting and kicking me.  So my first goal was to simply keep my cool.  My second goal was to calm down each child and connect with each, which meant shifting my focus from my own needs to meet theirs without losing my temper and making things worse for all of us.

It wasn’t until 2 hours later, on my drive home, that I had the space to really assess my own needs.  I was proud of myself for keeping my cool despite my inner turmoil, but that wasn’t enough to get me smiling.

I needed to get myself laughing.  Laughter would send endorphins through my system, chemically uplifting my mood.  Laughter would help me expel the anxious and angry energy, and help me heal the hurt.

I couldn’t watch funny videos, search for funny images, or read funny blogs or books since I was driving, so I tried to bring up some memories of things that always make me smile.  That got me smiling.  Then I started fantasizing, creating entertainment in my mind’s eye, but my fantasies were tending toward vengeance and drama, so I switched to singing along with the radio, diverting my attention to other things whenever the negative thoughts cropped back up.

Finally, I spent the evening watching Doctor Who with my best friend, and went to sleep knowing I’d feel better when I awoke.

Sleep and laughter did their job.  My stomach was still a little churny the following day, but I could breathe deeply.  My thoughts tended towards plans and goals rather than fears and anger.  Sitting outside in the gorgeous Florida weather also helped.  The bad feelings were still noticeable, but so much weaker.  The good feelings I’d been consciously cultivating were much stronger and about ready to bloom.

How different, how much better, did I respond to this conflict than I had a year previously!  In January 2013 when someone I loved and trusted treated me badly, I lost my temper and burned bridges.  I don’t regret it, because the toll on that particular bridge was too high, but I would much rather consciously choose to burn a bridge than to do so reactively, out of pain and anger.

This is what I’ve learned:

Fear makes me want to isolate myself, keep quiet, and fall into old patterns.  It comes from my animal brain, the part concerned with self-preservation, and it is not reasonable.  Understanding why I should not be afraid is not enough to neutralize fear.  Fear is an emotion that results from being separated from people, behaviors, and things that make me feel safe and loved.

To heal fear, I need to make myself feel safe, happy, and loved.  Because my brain responds to my thoughts, memories, and fantasies the same way it responds to my physical reality, I can use memories, fantasies, affirmations, and consciously changing things in my physical reality to heal myself and change my life.

 

What is stressing you out right now?

What do you need to feel safe, happy, and loved?

 

How can you give that to yourself?


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authorashleyrae@gmail.com (Ashley Rae) SageWoman Blogs Sun, 12 Jan 2014 05:00:43 -0800
Building Bridges http://witchesandpagans.com/pagan-culture-blogs/49-degrees/building-bridges.html http://witchesandpagans.com/pagan-culture-blogs/49-degrees/building-bridges.html Building BridgesTwenty years ago, there was no Pagan community to speak of in the Okanagan Valley.  My sister in spirit Rowean met a girl named Unruhe, and they started talking about forming a Yahoogroup for Pagans in the Okanagan.  Rowean had come from Prince George, where a couple who had been trained by the Wiccan Church of Canada in Ontario had opened a shop and formed a community years ago; and Unruhe had moved up from the Coast, where there was a very large and established Pagan community; and they missed it.  I was a solitary from the time I was 14 years old and the idea of connecting with other Pagans appealed to me.  I knew a few others from the Society for Creative Anachronism and so I encouraged Rowean to call Unruhe up.  We met in a coffee shop - I think a Tim Horton's, but don't quote me on that - and discussed the idea.  Unruhe and her friend Perchta formed the Yahoogroup, I was the third person on it and Rowean was the fourth.  We decided to meet for Sabbats and the first ritual was at my place, led by a Celtic Witch named Havoc.

Over time, the group split over the typical ideological differences that split Pagan communities, compounded by the fact that most of us went through the stuff that I would now, as a Witch, refer to as "Second Degree ego issues," all at the same time.  There were hard feelings and bad blood.  Some people bowed out of the community for a long time.  Some spread rumours about other groups.  Some bowed out entirely and disappeared.

Most of us who were the "core" organizers of the original "Okanagan Pagans," however, continued to trudge along doing our own thing.  My husband and I organized a couple of covens.  From a Women's Mysteries' group that Rowean and I had begun, a Women's Ritual Group sprang.  A group of Druids coalesced and began doing their own thing.  Ritual magicians started doing their own thing.  And eventually, what we ended up with was a lot of small groups doing very compartmentalized sorts of activities.

I tried to reach out, and one of the things I did to reach out was to try to organize Pagan Pride celebrations in the Valley.  People would *usually* come out if they were specifically asked to, but they left it to me and whoever I could round up to do the work and set it up, rather than doing things in the way I would have preferred, which would have been to organize a committee and a task force to take on individual jobs.  I guess it's likely because they were afraid of stepping on my toes.  But I wouldn't have minded.

Others tried to reach out too.  Some of the local people from the Women's Ritual Group and the Druids combined efforts to create the Western Gate Samhain Festival, and they invited me to come and present, even though there had been some tension between me and some of the other people involved.  I was happy to take them up on it and I went and I had a great time.  The work they did was spectacular and the festival was a big success.  But because some of the other people they'd been relying on bowed out at the last minute, leaving them with a big bag to hold, they retreated from the community and focused on their own thing again for a time.

One of the things that I did was to join a group (the Congregationalist Wiccan Association of BC) that had legal accreditation for clergy with marrying credentials in our province (a whole different ball of wax in Canada than in the US, requiring a lot more work).  I joined it because I wanted to be able to perform legal Pagan weddings.  My own wedding was solemnized by a member of that group because it was important for me to have that right and to provide that right for others.

I performed about twenty weddings over the years.  The "peripheral" members of the community were, more often than not, the ones who took advantage of my available services.  They were solitaries, Witches, Wiccans, Neo-Pagans and Druids.  They came from all over the province.  I got to travel a great deal to places in the province I'd never been and eat some great food and meet some great people.

But over time, my temple waxed and waned and eventually it began to fail, because I was left to do the jobs of several people by myself, and with my writing taking off and my other responsibilities, I simply did not have time.

At last when faced with a crisis point - namely, the Temple being put on provisionary status until I got my reports and paperwork organized - I finally figured out that if I wanted to serve the community, I could not do it alone.  And so when a local heathen who'd been involved in supporting the community over the years named Graeme came to me with an offer of help - and a practical solution for how he could contribute and what could be done - I took him up on it.

We decided to expand our work to be more inclusive to the community as a whole.  We came up with a name that we thought reflected that inclusiveness.  We started a blog and a conversation on Facebook that included everyone we knew as an organizer in the community, and invited everyone to come together to a public meeting.  We offered the existing accredited organization branch as an aspect of the community's needs as a whole.  We offered to support the ADF in its bid for accreditation when the local organizer of the Druids (Solaren) mentioned that this was a need.  Graeme laid out his plan for a way to reorganize everyone as part of an "interfaith council" that would try to serve the needs of all the Pagans in the community.  I told them if they wanted to use the existing organizations to serve our needs I was happy to do that, and if they wanted to start a new organization and hold on to the other ones until they were no longer needed, I was happy to do that too.  I was even happy to contribute to the eventual reorganizing of the existing organizations to serve a more Pan-Pagan need; whatever the community thought was in its best interest.  A meeting was also set in the South Okanagan and one was planned for in the Kootenays.

I expressed my desire to be a *community,* to work together towards common goals.  I expressed my desire to advance one of us in order to advance all of us.  I expressed a need to have *one* community Sabbat instead of sixteen separate ones.  I apologized for my ego issues and my garbage.  Above all, I asked earnestly for help and support, and offered my own, and forgave any sense of having been wronged from the past and asked for the forgiveness of all I had wronged in the community as well.

The response was overwhelming.  When the community learned that we needed five CWABC members to maintain our accredited clergy but that we couldn't afford it, two new people signed up for membership and donations flooded in to cover the clergy's membership fees in entirety.  When people learned I needed help to do reports, three people volunteered to do reports for me.  When we heard the ADF needed three members to be an accredited group, three people volunteered to at least hold the places.  We discussed ideas for how the council should work and how to best be as inclusive as possible.  People who hadn't been involved for years got involved, and lots of new talent came to stand up and shoulder the burdens.  Everyone decided that instead of doing their own Sabbats they would go to the one in Winfield that was being organized by one of the Women's Ritual Group organizers (soon to be CWA registered clergy as well). I offered to carpool and so many people took me up on it that I have to bring a second vehicle.

Tomorrow is the community Samhain in Winfield and I am really looking forward to seeing old friends and new friends and being part of such a group.  It seems a great time, at the end and the beginning of the year, to be building bridges.  The next meeting is on the third of November.  I can't wait to see what the future might hold!  I have hope again and I am delighted to see my community once more come together because so many good people are willing to put their differences and their egos!  Happy New Year indeed!


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Sable@sablearadia.com (Sable Aradia) Culture Blogs Tue, 29 Oct 2013 15:57:40 -0700