Though the Sorrow May Last Through the Night…

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I have been hated for many things over the years.  I have been hated for things I have done….things I have said….my belief system….who I am.  Through all of the persecution, I have always tried to be the bigger man.  I have always tried to reason with my brain and respond with compassion and love.

For some reason, though, the events that have bombarded the United States and the world over the past few months have drowned my heart in sorrow.  I am referring to the persecution of homosexuals in Uganda and Russia….also this “Turn the Gay Away” bill that seems to be rearing its ugly head in so many states.men-holding-hands-3CROP

I am a tolerant man.  I try to respect and honor all faiths. I try to respect and honor all races.  I try to embrace the differences that make us all individuals and make this world a more interesting place to live.  I try to surround myself with people who have the same kind of heart.

For those of you who don’t know, I served as a pastor for two mainline denominations for over ten years.  In those ten or more years, I was only met with intolerance once.  In that instance, the pastor of the church told me that he suspected me to be gay.  At the time, I was not out of the closet or quite as sure of who I am as I am now.  He told me that I needed to have an HIV test done and have the results submitted to him and his wife.  I had never been so humiliated.  In that moment, I hated myself for who I was and tried to hide anything about me that would give me away.

Fortunately, after that incident, I was hired into a large church in Charlotte.  I was met at the door with open arms and a love for any uniqueness that made me…me.  In time, I became more confident in who I was and more secure in my sexuality.  I remember one day when I went into my lead pastor’s office.  I had requested a meeting so that I might talk to him about my being gay.  He sat thoughtfully in his chair with his glasses perched on the tip of his nose.  I mustered all of my courage and said, “Pastor, I am gay.”  No reaction.  I said, “Pastor, perhaps you didn’t hear me.  I am gay.”  No reaction.  He picked up his bible and started thumbing slowly through it.  All I could think was that I was about to be blasted with scripture.  Instead, he turned to me and smiled.  He said, “Did you grow an extra head or something?”  I said, “No.”  He looked at me and laughed and said, “You are still one of the best pastors I have been blessed enough to serve with.  Now get back to work.”  With that declaration, he pulled me in for a hug, then put his hand on my shoulder and sent me back to my office….feeling more loved than I ever have.

There was a song we did in that church….the lyrics still come to my mind as I type:

I’m trading my sorrow
I’m trading my shame
I’m laying them down for the joy of the Lord

I’m trading my sickness
I’m trading my pain
I’m laying them down for the joy of the Lord

[Chorus:]
And we say yes Lord yes Lord yes yes Lord
Yes Lord yes Lord yes yes Lord
Yes Lord yes Lord yes yes Lord Amen

I’m pressed but not crushed persecuted not abandoned
Struck down but not destroyed
I’m blessed beyond the curse for his promise will endure
And his joy’s gonna be my strength

Though the sorrow may last for the night
His joy comes with the morning

Thinking of these lyrics today reminded me….it is only in squeezing or crushing the grape, that the sweetness of the juice is released.

I know that there are those out there who would call themselves Christian who would rather spew out hate and vitriol than take the teachings of the biblical Christ to heart.  My days in the church were not spent studying a Christ who belittled and hated.  I spent hours in my office composing sermons of a Christ who sat and ate and drank with tax collectors and prostitutes (the vilest of the vile in his day).  I became acquainted with a Christ who, when told that a woman was caught in an act of sin and should be stoned, looked down at the ground and said, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.”  He then looked at the woman with compassion and asked, “Where are your accusers?” She said, “There are none.” “Neither do I condemn you…go and sin no more.”004-jesus-washes-feet

My fondest memory of this Christ who receives the blame for so much of the hatred that spews from man….is the Christ who spent the night before his death washing the feet of his disciples.  He knew that one of them would betray him that very night….but he chose to take on the role of servant.  And again, I studied of this Christ….the one whom people blame for their right to picket soldiers funerals, and burn the sin out of people…this Christ returned from the grave to offer those who had denied him and spat on him and killed him, another chance for redemption.

So, if I have all of these wonderful memories of the church…all these wonderful remnants of who Christ was, buried inside me, why did I become a witch?  Because Christianity, to me, was limiting.  Why limit myself to one god….even if he was a three in one.  Gods and Goddesses encompass so much more than we are willing to give them credit for.  Humanity has always wanted to keep that which we don’t understand confined….if you don’t believe this, go to a zoo.

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My trip to the woods this morning was a heavy-hearted trip.  As Friz and I settled in, Friz could tell there was something different about my spirit.  He quietly licked my face. He nuzzled me…he stayed close by.  I called on the elements, the directions…and this time I did not stop at the Lord and Lady I normally call upon.  I called upon the Christ that I had been acquainted with years ago.  We chatted about those who are using his name to hurt and harm and hate.  We also chatted about those followers of his who actually “get it.”

It doesn’t matter what faith you pursue or what you believe….there is never a place for hatred.  Hatred only destroys.  It turns the hater into a predator whose thirst for blood can never be sated.  It turns those who are hated into prey…constantly pursued and never able to rest.

As I lay back onto the earth this morning, I saw Mama Crow perched in the trees above.  She has only ever asked one thing of me….”Be true to myself.”  I have not been able to hide who I am in years, and I do not intend to start now.

I will stand tall with my sword at the ready…not fighting for the sake of the fight, but so that change may actually be affected.  I will love stronger than I have ever loved, and with every swing of the sword, I shall breathe compassion and healing over any who become part of the battle.  I will never go back into hiding. Witch or gay, my true self will always shine through.

As I lay there this morning, feeling Mother Earth pouring her magick into me and the Wild Man of the Woods pouring his stamina into  me,  I looked to my side to see a grouping of daffodils…not yet bloomed, but the color of yellow just barely peeking through.2014-02-22 15.13.15

Though the sorrow may last for the night
Joy comes with the morning!

Blessed Be!

The Guardian and Teacher of Magick

1654277_274588706032475_775056099_nThis has been a full weekend.  All Last week, I was confined to my desk at home because of a snow and ice storm.  We got mostly ice here.  It was definitely an adventure every time I would take the dogs out to pee.  You see, I am not particularly graceful when it comes to winter weather….that is why I live in the south.  Even with the addition of Yaktrax (a gripping system that attaches to your shoes), I am still not graceful when winter weather hits. It doesn’t come from not being cautious…I move around like one of the hippos from Disney’s “Fantasia.”  I elected to stay inside by the heater.  I only fell once…the chihuahua always thinks I am playing and takes the opportunity to play trampoline on my more-than-bouncy belly that is pointed up in the air.

By the end of the week, cabin fever had set in and I was begging the elements to please give me weather that I could go out and explore in.  Yesterday, Saturday, was spent running errands and getting everything accomplished that I couldn’t do during the week.  It was also the day to take care of the animals regular needs….brushing, nail trims, baths…..all that wonderful stuff they hate and react to like a scene from “The Exorcist.  I am sure that because of the screams and screeches that come from the courtyard, our neighbors are sure we abuse them….needless to say, this is before they are even touched with the nail clippers.  I really do wish that there was a way to accomplish this magickally.  It’s always such a battle…..and of course, I am pouted at for the rest of the day.2014-01-29 21.44.31

My partner and I went out last night to celebrate Valentine’s Day at a local Italian restaurant.  After a lovely meal of pasta, wine, and cannoli…we drove back to the condo and took a short walk around the complex with Mama Moon smiling down on us the whole time.  I took this time to whisper blessings over us, our families and our friends.  Mama Moon was shining so brightly that it felt as though she was smiling down over us.tumblr_n0yphuLwD61rfxpjto1_400

Before bed last night, I applied some flying ointment to my temples and let myself drift off to that place that stays hidden between sleep and awake.  It is in that place that I was treated to a vision of a lush green forest.  In that forest were Wolf and Crow.  They were in a playful mood.  I watched and laughed as they played chase.  I sat down on the closest stump and watched as little sparkles of light glimmered around me.  I opened my arms and absorbed that energy.  I woke up this morning feeling like I had played and romped and ran all night long….but by now Friz had forgiven me for the travesties of yesterday and he was ready for a trek to the woods.

As we walked, I looked up because I heard a sound that isn’t a regular one among our winged friends here in the condo complex.  I knew the sound….I had heard it plenty coming from the fields back home growing up.  It was the sound of a hawk hunting for its morning meal.  That sound of ‘screeee, screeee’ is unmistakable.  I have heard way too many stories of small dogs being the target of the birds, so I picked up Friz and hid him under my cloak.  It was only moments later that I heard an even more familiar sound.  It was the sound of the crow…..but this sound came in symphony….not just one crow.  I looked up and saw many many crows criss-crossing in front of the hawk.  They weren’t making happy sounds…more of an aggravated announcement that the intruder was not welcome.  All I have to say is that Friz better be glad that Mama Crow has got his back.

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I remember from the teachings of my grandmother that crows are the messenger from the spiritual realm and that Crow is the guardian of magick and that Wolf is the teacher of the magick (or medicine).  As I walked toward the woods, I could feel something stirring inside of me.  It is that feeling that you have when you don’t really know whether to laugh or to cry.  It is neither a bad or a good feeling, but a feeling where you feel like you are at an in-between place.

As I sit down in the leaf strewn floor of the woods and place everything in its place on my earth-made altar, I am overtaken with feelings as I hold the skulls of Wolf and Crow and place them on top of the leaves.  My mind unites with my spirit and I am transported to that place between sleep and awake again.  I see Crow and Wolf play-chasing and dancing through that glimmering forest.  It becomes evident to me that the glimmering light is the magick which Crow has brought to me.  Sitting there with my arms outspread was me absorbing that magick which was taught and embedded into my spirit by Wolf.

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As I sit there with my eyes closed, I reach out my hand.  It is as if I can cup it and feel the magick filling it.  I feel the warmth of that magick as it radiates against my cheek.  As I sit there in the midst of the vision of magick, I feel the warmth of springtime radiating through me.  Though the air was brisk, this morning…there was a warmth surrounding me that welled up from the earth to my body.  In what seemed like one big raw emotion, I felt joy and hope and fear and anger.  I felt fear….that what we may doing to the Earth Mother may be irreparable.  I felt anger….that we had stripped her and raped her and left parts of her exposed and dying.  I felt hope….knowing that she has lasted longer than any human…that she was constantly changing and adapting and creating.  I felt joy….that she is thriving, moving, breathing, and that she is more knowledgeable and magickal than anything we could ever hope for.  tumblr_mx1brrspKL1rwcfrqo1_500

I called to Crow and Wolf.  I asked Mama Crow, if she saw me worthy, to continue to bring the magick to me….to continue to change me.  I asked Wolf to continue to teach me…show me how I may affect change around me.  In that moment,  quiet overtook those woods.  I listened closely and once again, I could hear a beat.  This time it wasn’t just the heartbeat of the Earth Mother alone…but mine alongside hers…beating in harmony.

Blessed Be!

I Am the Weathered Wiseman, and I Live at the Edge of the Forest…

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For as long as I can remember…I have always retreated to the woods.  It didn’t matter if things were good or bad….the woods called me to a place that I could not access anywhere else.

I remember when I was younger, 8 or 9, my mom would have my grandma tell me the stories about the Booger Woods to try to keep me from disappearing amongst the trees behind the house.  Little did she know that later on, my grandma was pulling me aside to tell me that as long as I walked hand in hand with the tree spirits, the four-leggeds and the winged ones, that they would never allow anything to hurt me.

Most of the time, I would pull my shoes off at the back door and make a run for those woods.  I have always been able to feel the call of the trees and critters that lived there.  I never knew any kind of fear of any of the animals there.  I can close my eyes and remember sitting there among deer and foxes and birds galore.  Isn’t it funny?  Children don’t know that they aren’t able to do things until adults tell them that it just isn’t possible.  I never knew that it wasn’t possible to carry on conversations with my four-legged and winged friends.  I would sit for hours talking to an old fox that my mom was quite sure was vicious.  I would take bread out by the buckets and feed the crows and all the other birds.  I never knew that a crow was supposed to be a nuisance.  To me, they were friends.  I remember how mad my dad used to get with me because most of the time I had a ton of birds following me.

One animal that always called to me as a child was the hedgehog.  I remember a cousin of mine had one and everybody thought that that little hedgehog was mean.  I have never been afraid of any animal…now that doesn’t mean that I didn’t approach carefully and with the utmost respect…and was absolutely enthralled with this little hedgehog.  I went over to my cousins one afternoon and we were sitting in the floor.  That little hedgehog was out running around.  He ran up onto my leg and curled up in my lap and went to sleep.  My cousin couldn’t believe it as I sat there and rubbed that little hedgehog’s belly as he snoozed on my lap.128326692466252947

I preface with all of that information, so that I could talk about my trip to the woods yesterday.  Friz and I slept in a bit yesterday, so the sun was already up when we headed outside.  I had my cloak on and the backpack packed.  It is so funny to watch how excited that little blue dog gets when he sees a loaded down backpack.  He took care of whatever business he needed to take care of before we plodded down the sidewalk.  As we got closer to the edge of the woods, the energy of nature itself bathed us from head to toe.

I unloaded the backpack and placed the candles and the skulls and my cauldron.  I felt that incense needed to be burned today, so I pulled out some the wonderful woodsy, earthy incense that a friend sent me.  As I sat there in front of the cauldron with my legs crossed, Friz crawled into the hollow that my legs made and curled up.  I should have taken that as an omen of things to come.  Wolf and Crow energy manifested quickly….but there was energy coming forth that had not been there with me before.  I recognized this energy from my childhood….it was hedgehog energy.tumblr_mn2bcgPhOW1sn1e5oo1_500

The woods seemed to dance around me.  The birds sang even more excitedly welcoming this new energy.  The trees swayed rhythmically to welcome our new friend.  I thought that it was no coincidence that Friz seemed to pull himself into an even tighter ball as he napped between my legs.   I leaned back and soaked up the sun peeking through the leaves of the trees above.  My hands were flat against the earth and I could feel her wonderful soothing heartbeat against my palms.  It felt as if I was seeing everything around me with new eyes.  I inhaled deep and could feel that wonderful earthy, woodsy incense pulling deep into my chest….building a strength and hope.  I could feel it pulling up wonderful memories of past times of playfulness and I had to take my shoes off and run my toes into the dirt of the floor of the woods.  Even though it was chilly out, there was something that kept pulling me closer and closer to the earth.

I cleaned up and Friz ambled around me smelling the incense and the skulls.  We walked leisurely  back to the condo and I settled down onto the couch….I had to look up hedgehog energy and symbolisms.  This is what I found:

The hedgehog is symbolic of fertility and being connected to the earth. It’s belly is close to the Mother (earth, that is) and this close proximity is symbolic of its connection to earth and all that is fertile. The hedgehog’s tendency to curl up in the fetal position is also a message of centering, and connecting with the source.

Further, central Asia and parts of Iran associated agricultural abundance, fertility and the gift of fire to the hedgehog. In these cultures it is considered a solar power animal, and is strongly connected to the energy and vitality of the sun. This may be further understood when we think of the hedgehog’s splayed spikes look much like the spanning rays of the sun.

Being a nocturnal creature, the symbolism of the hedgehog deals with intuition, psychic ability, prophetic dreams and visions. This is because the night deals with concepts that are cloaked in shadow – a realm that is not altogether clear. That the hedgehog’s active time is at night is symbolic of “second sight.”

Another testimony to its spiritual power is the hedgehog’s natural resistence to snake venom. This is carries extreme importance with many Native American Indian tribes and is seen as a symbol of victory over evil. This attribute is also a portent of resurrection, life after death, or defeating death completely.hobb5

This little critter packs a powerful punch!  So many things to learn from it.  I appreciate what the Lord and Lady have given me and helped me to nurture in my relationships with animals as I have grown in the Craft…..but I do miss sometimes the innocence of childhood.  I talk to the animals around me all the time, but fear of other humans and what they may do to them keeps them from getting too close.  I miss the days of lying barefoot under a canopy of trees and chattering away with the fox and the deer (and the one my mom hated) the snake.  I have had it proven to me over and over that their energy seeks me out, but still I miss the contact.  They teach me constantly.

Blessed Be!tumblr_mubrajT6PH1rjdnouo1_500

Imbolc: Fanning the Flames of Hope

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Tomorrow is Imbolc.  The wheel of the year seems to be turning faster and faster.  It seems that just yesterday we were celebrating the Solstice.  Here in Georgia, as I sat in preparation for Imbolc, we were hit by a snow and ice storm.

Most of Atlanta sat in gridlock because of lack of preparation….no blame to throw here…just lack of preparation.  I had friends who had to abandon their cars and walk five miles and more to get to shelter.  One friend walked eight miles, stopping for coffee at any open convenience store or grocer.  His husband tracked him on his IPhone as he walked.

Through this ordeal, the world either laughed at us here in the south…or they empathized and prayed.  To those who laughed, I have one thing to say. Just remember, “What is normal for the spider, is chaos for the fly.”  The one thing that constantly rang through the minds of many southerners was the hope of just getting home.  The time we were in our cars, walking, fighting the bitter cold….one thing danced in front of us, guided us through the fear…..the hope of the home-fire.

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I got home before my partner did that day.  I called him to see when he was leaving work.  He told me each time that it would be soon.  The last time, I told him to leave then….don’t question me or argue.  I sat on pins and needles knowing that some people had already been stalled on the side of the road.  I walked out into the courtyard and looked up between what I call my ‘Cernunnos Tree.’  I breathed into the icy air.  Please keep him safe….keep them all safe.  I stood there listening to the silence that only a snowfall can bring.  It is the only time that sound is absorbed into nature.  Our complex, which is normally noisy and boisterous and never silent, suddenly stood stock still…each person, animal, and machine bowing to the power that Nature herself holds.

Wednesday and Thursday, everyone waited in hopes of winter being melted away.  Schools were still closed….people still could not get back to their offices.  The cars they had abandoned were still glued to the side of the road by ice.  My own hips and knees were sore from navigating through the ice when the dogs had to pee.  My little blue chihuahua loves his time outside, but resigned himself to the pee and run….if he stayed outside a little too long, he started to shake all over.  The habit now was standing over the space heater holding him until he stopped shaking.2014-02-01 14.40.24

On Wednesday, I ventured out to see how the roads around the complex fared.  On my walk, I encountered a little bird sitting up against the snow shivering.  My first thought was that it was sick and would probably die, but I had to pick it up and try to help it.  It hopped on my hand and I placed it inside my coat, next to my chest to warm it up.  As it warmed up, it chirped.  I took it out of my coat and watched as he flew up toward one of the taller trees.  He just needed to be warmed up a bit.

Here in Atlanta, there were people walking the highways with hot chocolate, food and supplies for those who were stranded.  Grocery stores were staying open all night long to give those walking refuge from the cold.  Compassion ran rampant.  Even if bodies were shaking from the low temperatures….the hearts were warmed beyond measure.  Just one small offering is all it takes to start hope brewing.

This morning was the first day I have been able to get to the woods since the big ice-over.  I walked out with a little blue chihuahua wrapped snugly in my cloak.  Everything I needed was packed into my backpack.  We got to our place in the woods and the first thing I did was build a small fire in my cauldron.  I have a little pyre of rocks that I used to set in on.  The candles were placed to each side…the wolf and crow skulls given their normal places.  We sat directly in front of the burning cauldron.  As I closed my eyes, I could feel the heartbeat of the Earth Mother.  I could feel her belly brimming with newness….ready to be birthed.  I whispered to her that not once have I hated the winter or wished it away….it is necessary for the beginnings anticipated…but I thanked for what is to come.candles

As I sat there, I placed my hands on the ground.  I could feel the seeds, grasses and flowers yawning and stretching as they prepare for the coming spring.  The Earth Mother made them a promise…and she intended to fulfill it completely.

She made us that same promise.  I know you feel it.  There is something welling up inside of you….I know I feel it.  There is something new and wonderful and joyful ready to burst forth.  For some, this winter has been a season of sorrow….for some, a season of rest and regrouping.

For those moving through sadness….the universe has been working together with the spirits around you to help you walk out of the pain and crying.  You have to be willing to move past the winter.  I know from losing my own partner many years ago, that sometimes we become too comfortable in our mourning clothes.  There is joy around us, but we have to be willing to open ourselves to it.

For those resting….it is time to rise up and get moving.  There is magick out there ready for you to create it.  Put your hand against the trunk of the tree….that isn’t just the heartbeat of the tree you feel.  It is matching your heartbeat…it is joining in your magick to make powerful things happen.

I reworked my home altar today.  There were new things to be added…gifts from those who have added magick to my own life this year. There were things that had to be removed….gifts from those who have chosen to throw their magick to the side of the road.  It is a time for new beginnings.

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This Imbolc has given me something that I hadn’t counted on.  I have received a new hope for who I am.  It has purposed in me a reason for holding my partner just a little bit tighter…the gift of laughter and love and compassion.  It has shown me that things around me are always going to be temporal…I should cherish every moment, every person, every animal that comes into my life.  As I sit here typing with a little blue chihuahua on my lap licking at the side of my face, I lean into the warmth of the hearth fire.  I don’t look back in disappointment at the things that have happened, but I look forward in hope of the magick of things yet to come.

Blessed Be!2014-02-01 15.23.07