I was thinking about the trees changing color in a last bright display before the world turned to neutral browns and greys. I thought about the relationship between the sun and color. As the sunlight wanes, so do the colors. This was not the first ritual I had done about the gift of color, but it was the first one I had one for the fall.
What was your experience with creating and implementing this ritual?
Writing it was so easy, it just came out of my fingers onto the screen without a pause. We did it twice, once outside with really big flags and once inside with the little flags I am sending you. Participants had a remarkable emotion reaction to the closing of the box with the flags inside. I was surprised that people were so affected.
What can you tell me about the circumstances that led to this remote healing?
Well, some friends of the folks in the circle were seriously ill and in general, we want to send the healing out to “all who need it and can accept it.
How did you create the poppet?
I drew it on the computer, printed it on cotton on my fancy printer and sewed it and stuffed it. That cotton prepared for inkjet printers is a great invention.
Were there any special rituals you did during the construction?
The poppet was blessed during the beginning of the ritual.
Can you describe the healing ritual? How many people participated, how it went, etc?
I should point out that my husband is a Reiki master and training in remote healing, but we wanted the power of the group to boost the effectiveness. There were six plus us, so 8 in total. We drummed up the power in the room, each person acting as leader for a time. When the lead switched, I lit a candle. At the end, we touched the poppet to hold the power. Then we raised the power in a traditional Wiccan raising and holding the poppet, we sent it out.
What does raising power feel like to you?
I can feel the power come up from the earth, through the floor into my being. I know it’s not real, but the illusion is very strong and it seems to be effective. Real is one way of looking at things.
My husband says about reiki (he is a reiki master) that he doesn’t believe in reiki, he thinks it’s a pyramid scheme, but he has seen it work. I feel that way about healing rituals
After my father’s first heart attack, my husband and I did a reiki healing for him and he survived, which no one expected. We did not tell him about it, but my father said afterwards that he didn’t know what we did, but don’t do it again, allow nature to take its course. So he knew something had happened.
Did you or anyone else who partook in the remote healing feel side effects after the ritual?
If any of us holds their hands apart and someone else put their own hands between them, the second person can sense the heat between their hands.
All the people we specifically did the ritual for survived their cancer, although one is still dealing with some aftermath of the treatment, but he is alive and functional. One person was told her chances were of surviving the operation were not good and she would be in the ICU for at least a week. A few hours after surgery, she messaged me with a photo of herself in a regular bed, not in the ICU. She is doing fine now.
I used to work for a Fortune 100 pharmaceutical company (As you can imaging, I fit in REAL well), I was sitting in a boring meeting doodling (I suffer from ADD) and I drew the original. I already had in mind what I could do with the computer to make it shine. I took it home and redrew it on my computer and used the computer to enhance to the light emanations.
Were you designing it for a specific ritual or season?
We did a “Drawing Down the Moon” ritual, with a slight change. Instead of the priest drawing down the moon into the priestess, we each empowered ourselves to draw down the moon into ourselves. This was used as the cover for that ritual.
Is there a particular philosophy behind this design?
Like the moon, we are all reflections of the sun. Like the moon, we live in phases, moving from child to youth to adult to sage. Like the moon, sometimes we shine brighter, but we are always beings of light, even at times when it is shaded.
I know that for some, Drawing Down the Moon is a staple of their practice. Is it a ritual you do regularly? Does it have particular significance for you?
We just did it that once. Mostly, we only do rituals once or twice (which is what I have 3 loose leaf books filled with ritual programs.) It was a moving ritual, but so was the Farewell to Colors, Descent into Darkness, The Magical Child and Sailing West.
A college girlfriend, Anita, (who, by the way, visited last week from Maryland) was a Wiccan and was studying with a priestess named Jackie. She invited me to a Beltane ritual and I realized that this was what I was looking for. Margot Adler describes it as a feeling you had “come home”, which exactly described my experience. This was in the 1980s.
When did you start writing rituals?
After Anita moved to Maryland, another friend approached me to create a Dianic circle with her. This group traded the role of priestess around and the priestess of the month usually got one or two people to help her create the rituals ahead of time. Because I had more experience that the others, I was often involved in creating the ritual and I was the person who created the programs for the rituals. Eventually, I found Dianic Wicca was not aligned with my ideas (my male cats were not welcome in the rituals…ridiculous).
I practiced as a solitary (still using my own written rituals) until a former work colleague asked me to form a circle and lead it. I create and lead all the rituals for this group… and create the programs. This was how the altar cloths came about. The programs all had covers with graphics. I was encouraged to make them available to a larger group, so I had them printed on fabric and sold them as altar cloths.
How has your ritual creation evolved over time?
I have always minimalized the role of humanized deity, preferring rituals that honor nature, celebrate the season, or further the spiritual development of the participants. I even tried to change the wording of the final invocation from “the peace of the Goddess” to the “peace of our love”, but it didn’t take… people are too used to the wording, so I left it.
I have moved from the idea of a dichotomy between male and female to the idea that each of us is both and that should be celebrated. In my version of the wand and chalice ritual, the chalice and the wand are passed around the circle and each person in turn holds the chalice while the person next to them places the wand in the chalice. Each of us takes the active role and each of us takes the receiving role.
Of course, in the last 18 months, we moved from in-person rituals to remote rituals over Zoom. I made little “ritual boxes” and sent out any “props” needed for the rituals. It worked pretty well. I may decide to sell the ritual boxes for people who want to do my more complicated rituals.
What, to you, makes a ritual a success?
Ritual should be designed to make non-mundane ideas accessible. I create rituals around one or two of those ideas… which might be scientific or mystical or self-exploratory. To do this, the ritual should show, not describe, the concept. It should be experiential to the extent possible. The ritual should also be participatory, Nothing is worse than having the priest or priestess standing around yammering on and on. Everyone should have a role. I have also come to understand the importance of singing. It raises consciousness in very palpable ways. (It helps that I have 3 former members of Sweet Adelines in my group and my husband is a musician.)
I’d love to hear more about your current circle, if you’re comfortable with that.
It’s a small group, about 8, all women, except for my husband. There are a couple of lesbians and a couple of straight women. A couple of them are more dedicated to the Goddess than I am, but it’s not a problem. It didn’t occur to me that I was creating a new form of Wicca until someone mentioned it and I realized that I had moved from a Goddess center practice to a more scientific/natural practice. She pointed it out because it was special to her.
How long has your circle been practicing together now?
Wow, it looks like it’s been since 2003! My mother used to come to the rituals (she’s passed now) and we lost a wonderful woman to cancer a few years ago. Her partner still participates.
Would you say your circle has roughly the same beliefs, or do beliefs within the group vary?
They’re pretty similar, although some are more Goddess-oriented and some are more atheistic. The political views are about the same.
I’d also love to hear more about your experiences with witchcraft in the US in the 80s and 90s, if you have anything to add.
Besides the “living room” circles I have been involved with, I have had some experience with CUUPS and found them delightfully eclectic and inclusive. Their rituals unfortunately often coincided with mine. A couple of them worked for a now-defunct center at Princeton studying non-conventional physics.
When I was six years old some of the older women from my community took me aside and showed me how to cart wool, they taught me some songs to sing while I carted and instructed me to cart wool, they then showed me how to attach my wool to a starter yarn on a spinning wheel (this was my first time being allowed to spin, but not my first time ‘playing’ with the spinning wheel) I was guided as I spun, I don’t remember everything that was said but I recall being told that my first yarn was a magical token and that it will hold some of my magical essence.
So when I was six years old I learned to spin, as you do. Specifically I carded my own wool, and then I spun it into a yarn. There is/was a belief that a girl’s first spinning has some of her magical essences? For lack of a better word. I was being raised female at this point, this is before gender roles and I had a falling out. So my first yarn was made into a bracelet for me which is supposed to work as an external storage of my inherent magical powers? That is perhaps a bad explanation, but I was in kindergarten at the time.
It was explained to me using chakras, because my friend’s mum is a Buddhist. I remember conceptualizing the idea of a shuraku as being similar to Buddha’s top knot being a place where he stored his extra chakra. I have absolutely no idea of the correct spelling. I was notoriously bad at spelling at that point in my life.
Can you say a little bit more about the community you were in/the tradition this was from, as you understand it?
The Corvallis Waldorf school was started by my parents and a couple other families and they, at the time, were kind of going their own way in terms of how they wanted to educate us. For reference as the school expanded and became more mainstream Waldorf the grade I was in and the grade above me (the original school) were separated out from the other part of the school and we split off again, so we were officially a Waldorf school, but the more I learn about mainstream Waldorf teachings the more I realize I was not actually taught many Waldorf teachings and I was instead taught something else. It was similar to Waldorf though.
There was a lot of emphasis on crafts and hedgewitchery type things. We literally had field trips to go hug trees, that was a thing that happened more than once. We had storytellers from the Oregon tribes come tell us their stories, because it was important for us to know and respect the local Gods. We had the entirety of the Bible told to us in first grade.
We studied the Nordic and Celtic Gods with equal fervor. When I was watching Midsommer, nothing in the rituals was foreign to me, other than the human sacrifice. We had a maypole at school. We learned to dance. We celebrated the eight high holidays of [definitely christian theology].
One of the founders of this group was a Basque man who, for political reasons, can’t return to Spain. One of them was a Buddhist. There was a Jewish family. Most were christian adjacent.
Our teacher was a witch. He was definitely active in a coven, and that was reflected in the altars he would make. But the altars and the seasonal changes are a core part of Waldorf theology, so it would’ve been hard to tell from a distance.
Do you remember any of the songs?
Oh, no, well sort of, but they’re not song songs, they’re more work songs. The one song I still remember/use a lot is the yarn balling song? The song I sing when I roll a ball of yarn.
You ready for it?
“I can roll a ball of yarn, a ball of yarn, a ball of yarn. I can roll a ball of yarn and this is how I do it.” Repeat.
When you get to the end of the verse you switch which direction you are winding the yarn. Or rotate the ball.
Did you wear this bracelet much once it was made?
Maybe for like the year I made it? But it was made for the wrist of a 6 year old.
The reason it’s a bracelet is because it’s cyclical. It represents the cyclical nature of … Nature. You can’t make yarn without a starter yarn, which is made by the people who come before you and you (theoretically at least) pass this knowledge on to the next generation.
Like with bread, you need yeast. There is a life cycle.
We also made bread a lot in kindergarten. And strung corn. Rituals surrounding the passing on of traditional crafts. Like growing and making food (we once made bread from scratch including growing our own wheat, harvesting our own wheat, shucking and grinding our own wheat), making clothing, the preservation of folklore and folk traditions.
The Dalai lama came to our school on his first trip to America. There was an emphasis on us learning the folklore of our respective heritages, but also the folklore of the place we live in now. We played dreidel for Hanukkah. We made wax sculpture replicas of events from the Iliad. It’s difficult to explain any of this coherently.
(About finding the spelling/details of this ritual)
I know that a number of the rituals were customized to us specifically. I also have no idea if any of the other kids did this specifically, as it was a thing that I did on my own, and I know some of the more private rituals were not universal, or were more tailored.
(Tests and rituals)
One of the weirder rituals that I went through that I was not supposed to tell people about involves me holding a bag of rocks and they put a special gem in it, and then I was given a series of tasks to do while holding the bag of rocks and at the end the gem was supposed to still be at the top of the bag.
Did it work?
Yes, I passed, and was allowed to graduate to the next level.
The second part of the test involved me drawing an illumination of a story that was told to me, without direction as to what parts of the story was important to be illuminated. I only mostly passed that one.
I didn’t feel like drawing a person in detail so I put them in the distance partially obscured by leaves. I got told off for this and they considered holding me back I believe. I was like 7 or 8 at the time, so my memory is going to be fuzzy.
But at the same time there were rules about how much detail you were supposed to put in and like we weren’t supposed to use lines, or at least not outlines. The style of art that most comics are drawn in was forbidden.
The Waldorf style of art. This is the type of picture I was supposed to have drawn, and I did a lot of art like this over the years. We did water colors, crayon drawings, pencil drawings and form drawing.
Those were the main tests, I was also asked some questions, which I presume I answered correctly or correctly enough.