Spiritual Biography

It used to crack me up when people claimed they’d been a Witch since childhood. Children grow up in the religion of their parents and it seemed fake & presumptuous to make a claim like that. After all, Wicca and Goddess Spirituality have only been a part of the modern, cultural fabric for roughly half a century – and there are only 2-3 generations that could have been born into them as of 2017. In considering writing my own spiritual biography, I assumed it would start in my teen years as I discovered Wicca/Paganism for myself. The deeper I thought about it, though, the more I realized that natural witches & pagans don’t need the dogma of a religion, and they’ve been around a lot longer than 60 years. When viewed through that lens, I’ve also been pagan since early childhood, and I need to eat a whole pie of crow to make up for my judgements of days gone by.

A love of, and reverence for, the natural world is a hallmark of pagan religions; connecting with spirit in the church of the forest, cathedral of the mountains, or temple of the seas. I was a ‘tomboy’ as a kid, spending my time out of doors alone. I made forts, hugged trees, and followed paths only I could see in the forests of northern Georgia. I brought home feathers and rocks, and was always drawn to crystals in the Discovery store in the mall. The rays of sun shining through the clouds were more divine than any church my parents took me to. I loved unicorns with a passion most little girls reserved for actual horses. My room was wall-papered in it, and I had statues and plates and stuffed animals. They were as real to me as any other animal, and I truly believed in their magic. In the manner of children, or maybe it’s just me!, I accepted the experiences I had in nature but never went much in for the philosophy of it.

As a teenager, I finally found the words to label myself, at least partially. Movies like Practical Magic and The Craft were my touchstones, and easy access to the internet led to ‘research’ on GeoCities and Yahoo home pages about herbs, crystals, and Wicca. I started telling my friends I was Wiccan, and occasionally left milk and bread out for the Fae. I still went to church when I visited my father and step-mother, but found nothing in it except rote memorization. The summer I turned 16, though, my entire life turned upside down. My half-brother, Will, who had just turned 6 in April, passed away unexpectedly. The entire family was devastated. People find solace from grief in different ways. What I couldn’t stand was the constant “It’s God’s Will”. Making a pun on his name AND feeding me a line of shit? It must have helped some of them, otherwise they wouldn’t have parroted that trite crap, but it solidified my leave-taking of the Christian church. The first Sunday I was with my dad that year, when he woke me up for Church, I told him that I wasn’t going anymore and it was inappropriate for me to sit there and disrespect his religion in the pews. I don’t think I had ever considered myself Christian up until that point, but this was definitely the end of it.

As an adult I began reaching out to find Community. Meetup.com was invaluable to meeting the greater San Diego pagan community. I was a regular at The Village Witch for many years. We did moons, sabbats, and classes. These were my friends, and as the mission changed and grew, so did we. We held book club and did Stone Soup once a month. Those of us who attended classes most regularly were never an official Coven, Alan & Valera weren’t Wiccan and after a while I realized I wasn’t either, but we called each other Littermates – we cuddle puddled and did Work together, held the container and did the Journeys. During the same period, I found Sacred Mists online Wiccan college. I don’t know what they taught beyond Degree 1, but since the information they offered I already knew I focused on the message boards and interacting in the games, journals, and ‘extension classes’. The community is so warm and loving, that I haven’t cut ties entirely simply because it always feels like home – it doesn’t fit quite right, since you can never go back, but it sure is nice to visit!

Books I read informed my personal beliefs & practices and were just as intimate for me as the people I Circled with. I’ve been a bibliophile my entire life, with books as some of my closest friends growing up. The Invitation by Oriah Mountain Dreamer pushed me to break open and be vulnerable in my relationships, and to expect the same in return. The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz gave me the tools to interact with the world in a way that gives me control of my experience. The Secret Life of Water by Masaru Emoto showed me that intention, and the energy behind it, is everything. The Red Book by Sera Beak gave me irreverent humor and a juicy, heart-filled connection with divinity – she spoke to me in the place I live. Lastly, though it is fiction, Anne Bishop’s Black Jewels universe gave me a reference for masculine energy as it relates to the feminine, where women are gentle but fierce, and it is a man’s privilege to protect and serve, yet be held by the depth of that feminine strength.

I connected with the wider community too, attending events at The Goddess Studio, The Tree of Life, and discovering The Red Tent movement. I even co-hosted Red Tents with my dear friend for a year. Setting a woman-only space where we could hear & be heard and talk about the tough subjects was really important to us. I found Circle Sanctuary online, as well as Pagan Spirit Gathering, and creepily stalked their Facebook pages for a couple years. I found a healing modality called Chakradance, and became hooked after one class. I’m currently in facilitator training for this, and am vacillating on whether I want to pay for licensure to host classes for others, or just keep the practice as a personal practice for myself. Pantheacon was also a big part of my spiritual growth and education over the years, teaching me about everything from ecstatic breathing to deepening my Journey work, while providing the opportunity to meet Patrick McCollum & hear about prison ministry, and introducing me to the Sisterhood of Avalon.

Those last two were some of my biggest influences. The Sisterhood of Avalon was founded by Jhenah Telyndru, based on the Welsh mythic cycle (the Mabinogi), and provides a container for women to remember, reclaim, & renew. Following a healing cycle of the year, the SOA has pushed me further on my path to personal Sovereignty than anything else. I continue to maintain my membership and work the cycle each year. Some years I go deeper than others, but it is always worthwhile. Just this year in 2017 I’ve had the opportunity to gather and circle with my Sisters in a deeper, intimate way. It has been so inspiring to sit and chat, giggle, and hear their stories. I love the Sisterhood dearly and know that they are with me for life.

In the interest of being in Service to community and divinity, I have volunteered in many capacities. Sometimes that looked like donating blood or being a Big Sister with Big Brothers Big Sisters. The biggest piece of my soul is dedicated to prison ministry, though. I read an article by Patrick McCollum, though I can’t remember now if it was Circle Magazine or W&P Magazine, and was in attendance at a panel at Pantheacon where he and others talked about their experiences. I read the callouts from inmates in Circle Magazine, just people hoping for anyone to reach out and connect. The opportunity to volunteer came when I apprenticed with a mentor at MCAS Miramar’s brig. When job concerns took him elsewhere, I took over the program and volunteered there each week until I moved to Wisconsin. The men and women I met there changed me for the better. They deepened my own connection to Spirit and inspired me to always try harder, do better. The sincerity of their experience, the rawness of their time in the military, in deployment, broke down barriers and turned on the waterfall of compassion. A genuine attempt to do better, to find paths and connections that inform a healthy life, should be supported in any way possible. Being in Service behind the wire was amazing, and something I hope to volunteer at again.

After moving to Wisconsin fall 2014, it took me a couple years to get my feet back under me. I began attending events with Circle Sanctuary at Welcome Fall in 2016, and have jumped in to volunteering and getting involved! Circle was part of why I looked at Madison, when it was time for a change. I cannot wait for my first Pagan Spirit Gathering this year, and am loving the relationships that are starting to develop with local pagans. Since starting at Circle I’ve slowly begun to feel the call to specific deities. Looking back on my life through this lens, I’ve realized now that for most of my life I have been a non-theist pantheist. I was never really called to Serve any particular deity, never developed relationships with any. Brigid, Arianhrod, and the Morrigan have been present in my meditations and Work recently, with a little bit of influence from Sekhmet. I see my Practice changing, and am excited where it is going!

As part of these recent changes, I picked up a book by LaSara FireFox (author of Sexy Witch) called Jailbreaking the Goddess. This book has been a transformative experience. Her 5-fold archetypal model for connecting to deity speaks to me on such a profound level – much deeper than the 3-fold, uterine utility ever held for me. I’m currently in a 9-month intensive with LaSara and a dozen other women, as we work through the book and concepts together. For the first time, I feel like I am constructing the tools of my path – I’ve created my own Wheel of the Year, integrating all of the most meaningful concepts I’ve encountered in my life, insuring my personal correspondences are represented instead of something taken from a book somewhere. I am nothing but ecstatic to delve all the way into this Work!

The Journey never stops, but this brings the narrative current. 2017 has started off as an incredibly abundant year for spiritual growth, and I hope that I ever need to step off the Path again, that I get on it a little quicker next time.

About the Author

Grace is an avid reader, geek, and gamer living with anxiety and fighting against depression. She volunteers when she can, in as many avenues as possible. Grace loves attending cons and festivals, but also values her time at home with fur-babies and her books. An eclectic pagan since childhood, Grace has studied as a Chakradance facilitator, level 2 Usui Reiki healer, and has been a member of the Sisterhood of Avalon since 2012. She credits Phyllis Curott and Edain McCoy with her introduction to Wicca, and The Chalice & The Blade by Riane Eisler as her introduction to historical concepts of paganism. Other inspirations include The Invitation by Oriah Mountain Dreamer, The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz, The Red Book by Sera Beak, and Avalon Within by Jhenah Telyndru. Her (current) greatest shero and ladycrush is Michelle Obama <3. Facing hard topics dead on is Grace's signature, asking the questions no one wants to hear, and rustling the jimmies to get Change made. It has often said that you never have to wonder what Grace is thinking! She is currently fleshing out several writing projects, and hopes to pitch those soon.

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