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Part Three: New Moon

In a thread on my Facebook page, we're having a thoughtful and heartfelt discussion of what LGBTQII (H? A?) means and how we get past the alphabet soup and down to real human beings and their experiences in the world of the world. (I shared a story from the Sacred Space Conference in which I had carefully said all the letters several times. After the talk, a young person came up to me and actually patted my arm. "Mama, we usually just say 'queer.' ") That thread is civil but not shallow--probably because we mostly know each other and there is a level of affection and even some trust. But there is hurt there, too, and anger.

I am concluding this written exploration of these ongoing challenges with this post but am continuing my own study and discussion and mostly listening--to my co-religionists, to my heart, to the Divines, to the Ancestors and Beloved Dead.  I find that listening is both compassionate and safe--a good place to watch and learn, too.

We are in a time of great change, both as spiritual movements and as cultures.  We are finding the words we need to use but we are also feeling our way through a dominant culture that informs much of what we do--from our actions to our thoughts.

I have come to a temporary resting place by reflecting on "Women's Mysteries", that catch phrase that describes the gentlest and blandest of circles as well as this complex set of circumstances in public and private sacred spaces. 

I arrived at this refuge after viewing the discussion that took place at Pagan Spirit Gathering between Selena Fox, Ruth Barrett and Melissa Murry.  Viewing that from here in the mountains of the southern highlands, I realized where all the pain and anger and talking could go. We could begin finally to speak in terms of how one comes to the Women's Mysteries (if one does), how one processes through them (if one does) and how we discern our place in this jumbled and beautiful mess we call modern Paganism. More talking--but to each other, not at each other or about each other.  Less "othering" and the exercise of what is, for me, a sacred obligation of hospitality--we do that by building relationships, by honoring our fear and grief and seeing it in the eyes of those around us.

There are still questions, for me, about safety in community and in ritual and that will always be of great importance to me.  Having experienced physical threats on more than one occasion, I bring my own history into the mix and must myself discern where fear and security are truly required.  For me.

For me.

And this may be the crux of it all, from this writer's point-of-view.  To do the sacred work I do, I set my own parameters. From my training and experience, I insist on the facilitator of the ritual (in my case, the priestess) being the one who decides who stands in the ritual circle. Old-fashioned, I know, but in my world the priestess takes on a spiritual caretaker role as she stands at the altar and must be safe and strong enough to hold a space of grace and power between the worlds for all those present.  And so the ultimate authority of who stands in that circle comes down to her discernment and her choice.

Thanks for bearing with me as a write through all this thinking and feeling.  O, and blessed Lughnasadh! May our harvests be bountiful and our voices always strong.


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H. Byron Ballard is a ritualist, teacher, speaker and writer. She has taught at Sacred Space Conference, Pagan Unity Festival, Southeast Her essays are featured in several anthologies, including “Birthed from Scorched Hearts“ (Fulcrum Press), “Christmas Presence“ (Catawba Press), “Women’s Voices in Magic” (Megalithica Books), “Into the Great Below” and “Skalded Apples” (both from Asphodel Press.) Her book Staubs and Ditchwater: an Introduction to Hillfolks Hoodoo (Silver Rings Press) debuted in June 2012. Byron is currently at work on Earth Works: Eight Ceremonies for a Changing Planet. Contact her at,


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