Five Year Old Rituals

Last week my son had his 5 Year Old Rituals. What does that mean? Let’s start at the beginning.

My son was born prematurely and spent the first month of his life in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit). It was easily the worst month of my life. Son, B, was born healthy and strong, though very, very small. He has grown to inherit both his mother’s and his father’s emotional intensity, so while he’s a bright, healthy, empathetic little guy, he’s also combative, struggles especially much with impulse control, and wants all the attention all the time. (Some of this is typical to the age, some is very clearly inherited personality.)

Me and my son, 24 hours old. He's less than 5 lbs.

Me and my son, 24 hours old. He’s less than 5 lbs.

Adam and I have wondered if some of the emotional intensity of our son is due to his month in the NICU. Surely, infants have no memory of such things? He was cared for, relatively healthy, and I was with him nearly 24/7. Two years ago our suspicions were confirmed. Sitting around the table in Wales, eating breakfast one morning, Adam and I were discussing when we would move. B was just shy of 3 1/2 years old. “Don’t leave me!” he said. “Of course we wouldn’t leave you,” we responded. “Don’t leave me like you did in the hospital,” he said. Now, B knows he spent a month in the hospital, but we’ve never given him the details. What he said next blew my mind. “You left me in the hospital and I was lonely. I tried to take my stickers off, but the doctors wouldn’t let me.” And here he touched the exact places on his torso where the monitors had been attached. He had indeed tried to rip them off repeatedly. He successfully managed to rip out his feeding tube two or three times in the first weeks as well. Besides showing me that even pre-term infants have the capacity for feelings and memory, this confirmed that his early experience was exacerbating the intensity of his emotions.

Fast forward to this summer.

At the Gathering I attended in Canada in May I had the pleasure of meeting a family raising their kids in their tradition (I think it was a branch of Wicca). Their eldest child, a male, had recently undergone his Coming of Age Ritual. I asked many questions, heard the story, their reasoning, and I witnessed how self-possessed their 14-year-old son was. I was really moved. Something else they told me was that they had been building up to it over years. It hadn’t come out of the blue, but had a context. Coming of age meant something specific for their family and also for the community they circled with.

My husband and I have talked off and on over the years about the lack of rituals in our Western world. We have them, but we don’t call them out as rituals, of course. Adam and I would like to have Coming of Age Rituals for our kids, but that context starts long before 12 or 14 or whenever they’re ready. So we decided to start at 5.

When I was pregnant with my son, we were living in California and the state had a big advertising campaign for healthy kids; 0-5 years were the ages covered. How could all of those ages be lumped together? I was confused. How is an infant and a 2-year-old and a 5-year-old similar? Now that I’ve got my own kids I see just how appropriate that grouping is. Only recently has my son left all the traces of babyhood behind. The leaps of emotional, intellectual, and physical development that occur through out these years are huge and consistent. And at five kids in the United State start kindergarten. Five felt like the right age to start rituals.

Over the course of the summer we’ve been talking about B’s ‘Five Year Old Rituals.’ He seemed excited. He couldn’t wait! Adam and I have been planning out what to do, what might have meaning for him, etc. We wanted an element of surprise. We wanted to incorporate a few aspects of ritual as Adam and I experience them. We wanted to bring in some of our spirit allies. We wanted a few tasks that would mark the end of an era and the beginning of something new, using the strengths that B has. And we would celebrate!

Last week he finally had them! And it was NOT what we expected.

After putting both kids to sleep, we woke B up and had him get dressed again. He had only been asleep for 10 minutes, but he sleeps deeply and did not want to wake up. We told him there were cupcakes waiting for him at the end of the ritual – that did the trick! While I set up a few things outside, he had to help Adam build a fire in the fire pit. He carried the wood and learned to light matches. He was awake and happy at this point. We sat on the ground and did a little grounding meditation. I said the Holy Mother prayer and called to Ganesh and our Ancestors for guidance.

Fire, made by my son and Adam

Fire, made by my son and Adam

At this point B was sitting on the ground with his hands over his ears. He didn’t want any of the prayers. I brought out some special spirit food incense and he was more than willing to help sprinkle it into the fire.

Then everything devolved into a nasty mess of name calling, tears, and yelling.

The backyard was dark, except for the fire in the pit. B ran around the backyard telling us our fire was an ‘idiot fire’ and it was weak because it wasn’t burning up to space. He was angry and crying. Adam and I were a little stunned. Hadn’t he been looking forward to this? We had to reinvent our three tasks and rethink the ritual.

For the first task we had planned to recreate a womb with our bodies and have him push out. Like the armchair psychologists we are, we hoped that maybe this would give him some sense of closure and empowerment around his birth story. In the end we didn’t do this, but there was some physical struggle, since he came up and starting trying to tip me out of my chair, hitting me and trying to throw a brick at me. So we held him tight and he screamed and pushed us away.

His next task was to jump the fire. While I held B and tried to get him to stop yelling (it was 10 at night, midweek, and the neighbors were trying to sleep), Adam started jumping over the fire. This got B’s attention. We told him his task was to jump the fire. He didn’t believe he could do it. We told him we’d help him and explained that it was ok to be scared. Finally we were able to convince him to try. We held his arms as he ran and when he jumped, we lifted him up over the fire. This scared the crap out of him and he started crying some more.

At this point we decided to move inside, so as not to wake the neighbors. I carried things downstairs to Adam’s office and altar. Adam and B put the fire out. Once downstairs we sat and grounded again and then asked B to tell us his story so far. He’s very articulate, with a great memory, but he wanted our help. We coaxed him and he told us the events of his life that he remembered.

Finally I anointed him with water from the jug in which I have water blessed for Kali. He wiped that off immediately. We said we were proud of him, that he was no longer a baby, but now a boy. We gifted him with his own statue of Ganesha, and with a little incense holder and incense matches. He giggled with delight at the statue, hugging it and crying out, “My very own Ganesh!” We finished with tiny cupcakes. Exhausted, we all tidied up and got ready for bed.

New Ganesh murti

New Ganesh murti

Was this a traumatic experience for him? I wondered if this might only make things worse. What a confusing and far more upsetting experience than we had expected or hoped for. Did we do the wrong thing in thinking this was appropriate? Tucking him into bed that night, he said he wanted me to sleep with him, that he didn’t want to be a boy but to stay a baby. Then he rolled over and fell asleep.

What was fascinating is that the next day he woke up and proudly told his sister that he had had his Five Year Old Rituals. We went out for a celebratory lunch altogether. Two kids, aged about 5 and 7, were sitting next to us. B said they’d probably had their Rituals too. His grandparents came over unexpectedly that afternoon and he proudly told them about his Rituals.

B practices lighting incense

B practices lighting incense

Later Adam told me that B had apologized in the morning for calling us names, saying that he was scared and he had wanted to shut down the things that were scaring him (the ritual), but he didn’t know how so he called us names.

In the end, this was a very different experience than either Adam or I expected. We learned a lot about our son. We learned that ritual with children is never going to go as we plan it. But it also served its purpose. Our son feels like he did something Significant and he feels proud of himself. Those are great things to hold in his heart as he heads off to kindergarten in two weeks time.

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The Stories We Tell

Attempting to process one’s life in public is difficult. It’s challenging to avoid details that risk exposing other less public people, or details that get too intimate for my comfort. Yet how to explain my story? I fear I might have misrepresented myself in my last post. The likelier occurrence is that in attempting to present my experience safely, I actually created A Story.

What’s a ‘Story’? It’s a narrative of events that we tell ourselves to make the confusion neater and tidier, to wrap up loose ends, to put one’s self in the best possible light, and to make more comfortable the uncomfortable.

Recently the wise John Beckett wrote a post called Change Your Story, Change Your Life. We have the power to reframe the stories in our lives. For example, in May I realized that I’m actually an introvert. This realization reframes every awkward party and sleep over I’ve had. This reframes group dynamics for me. When I look back on my first marriage, I used to tell a story about how I was really a lesbian, you see. Only that’s not true. At the time it was the best way I could make sense of my experience. The story I now tell about that marriage’s demise is one I think is more truthful: an ill-fitted match of two people with no tools to deal with conflict or communication, and one party (me) deep into the throes of major depression.

Our stories evolve over time, and I’ve no doubt that my understanding of what I’ve been experiencing this summer will evolve as well.

The problem is that we try to create Stories at all. How often do we cling to a narrative that may or may not be true? I realize that creating a narrative is but one way we can process our experiences, and it can certainly be a necessary part of communicating that experience to others. However, in the last few years, and especially in the last few months, I’ve seen how limiting clinging to those stories can be. My experience is my own, but it may not be the ‘truth’ of the matter.

In writing my previous post it seems that a few people saw some victim mentality in what I wrote. That was not my intent at all. Yes, I used the word ‘hazing.’ That certainly implies a victim being bullied. I chose that word because that’s how I feel about only a small part of my recent experience, not because I think that is the truth of the situation. I would never be in relationship with any bullying entity – lover, friend, or god.

I also do not think that either my Feri training or the Feri Current are to blame for what is clearly a situation made all the worse due to my personal failings. And yet, I do think both of those things play a role.

First, any intensive spiritual work is bound to facilitate conflicts. Why? Not because chaos is cool, but because facing our fears and realigning our patterns causes chaos. Using the tools we’re given to stand taller, speak truth more boldly, move more strongly, create firmer boundaries, love more deeply, etc, will cause conflict with those that expect us to be just as we always were. And then there’s the general awkwardness of learning to function more healthily. This summer has exposed some major weak spots of mine and highlighted patterns of mine that need some serious realignment.

Secondly, I think the Feri Current is a living entity. It isn’t in my control, but is part of a grand give and take. I certainly don’t think it’s out to get me. Nor do I believe that tapping into a living Current absolves me of my free will. It’s a dance, where I feel the wave and choose and respond. Maybe the Current isn’t a singular entity, maybe it’s more a conglomeration of the various Feri gods. I don’t know. There’s some theology to unpack here; I’ve been focusing on my experience of it, rather than trying to nail it down in concepts and fancy words.

I’m no victim. I’m just a flawed person, working out my patterns in a somewhat semi-public fashion, in relationship with other flawed people, who are also working on their issues, all the while we try to connect with our gods, spirits, and communities. It’s really uncomfortable and exposing. Being vulnerable and held accountable by my partner, friends, teachers, and gods isn’t easy, but it is necessary. Hopefully those two things, vulnerability and accountability, will keep me from being paralyzed by my Stories.

What do you mean by ‘scary’?

I’ve met a new friend. We jumped right into some deep waters. She’s made some less than conventional life choices and has faced the consequences of people she loves telling her that she needs to get right with Jesus. I can relate, I told her. I’ve given many people many reasons to stop talking to me. Not only did I get a divorce in my early twenties, I ran off with a younger woman. Two good reasons for excommunication right there. But, I added, now I practice witchcraft and blog publicly about it, too.

Upon hearing this, my new friend asked ‘scary witchcraft or just pagan stuff?’ After an amused silence, debating in my head what constitutes ‘scary,’ I said: I definitely practice the scary stuff. See, she’d known someone who practiced witchcraft and he started cursing people. I wonder what ‘just pagan stuff’ means. I’m guessing it means nice nature worship and white light blessings. And yet…. even nature worship can be, and often is, scary.

So what exactly is ‘scary witchcraft’? If it’s about using power, cursing and hexing people, then I’ll own that. Plenty of people abuse power, and plenty of people are scared by power. There’s a witching maxim I’ve seen around: that which cannot hex cannot heal. I take that to mean, if you don’t have the power to hex (or curse) then you likely don’t have power to heal either. If your magic only works one way then I’m going to doubt you’ve got magic at all. I’ve never cursed anyone, but I want to reserve the possibility to do so should I feel it is necessary. I have kids, and this mama bear would fight tooth and nail and use any means necessary to protect them. You better believe that includes magic!

But what the question is really getting at is: how do you use your witchcraft? What are your ethics? And that is a much more slippery question. The tradition I practice is big on ethics, not morals. There is no Three Fold Law, where whatever you put out automatically comes back to you three times over. In many ways this is true. We almost always reap the consequences of our actions in some form or another, so ideally that is a deterrent to any unwise action. Yet, we’ve all met plenty of people who do awful things in the world and seem to get rewarded, living the high life; just as we’ve met many wonderfully kind people who have endless obstacles in their path.* Power is merely a tool; it’s how we wield it that matters most.

Morals imply inflexible, black and white rules from without, the opposite of which is immoral. Something is either moral or immoral, good or bad. Whereas ethics imply a set of values determined from within that allow a person to respond to situations as they arise. I choose to have strong ethics and that can appear amoral to many people. That can also be very scary to people.

I’m drawn to the ‘left hand paths,’ traditions and practices that fall on the mystic side of things. Mystics are often perceived as dangerous – even Christians have their mystics! The Tantric branch of Hinduism is perhaps a left hand path, but even within Tantra there is a left and right hand ‘side.’ I can’t say why I’m always finding my way to the left hand side of things. A cheeky response is that I’m so very left-dominant! Even I am amused at my predilections. I’m a happy, mainstream-looking, family gal! Why should I adore Kali, Ana, and feel most comfortable in the dark half of the year (among other things)?

I guess I see the world, nature and the divine as ‘red in tooth and claw.’ It’s not always safe. I don’t think humans are at the utmost pinnacle of importance in our world and therefore set aside for Super Special Status, with a god who has a specific plan for each one of us. I think we decide on our plan and work with the Larger Forces That Be to make those plans happen. Taking our lives into our own hands is scary work, indeed.

*While I do think intent can help us achieve good things, both material and otherwise, I am absolutely no fan of prosperity gospels or The Secret type ideas. It is horrible, terrible theology.

What is magic?

Magick is the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will.

This is one definition of magic, by Aleister Crowley, from his book, Magick, Liber ABA, Book 4. While I’m not a fan of Crowley, I do have respect for his daring and determination to push the boundaries of magic. Or magick, with a k, if you prefer. Which I don’t. But I do agree with this statement on magic.

Is it magic when I pick up my cup because I want a drink of water? Not really, even though it fits a literal interpretation of the definition. Will is spelled with a capital W. Will is the intention of our highest selves, it is the force that pursues our Work, as opposed to will, which is a lot of wants and needs and desires that are important for doing our daily work of living. Causing change, and Big C Change, perhaps more like evolution, is a very important part of the magical life – of any life! The Buddhists will tell us all is change, nothing is permanent. One of the things I like about Paganism/s is the embrace of that in its theologies; for most strands of Paganism, the gods evolve too. We all want to feel that we have some power in our lives, some control over a life of constant change, and I think this is where an understanding of magic comes in.

For me, I view the world and my life through magical lenses. I see the world as enchanted. What I am about to say may annoy more than one hard scientist, but I totally think that science is magic. Am I confusing a sense of wonder with the idea of magic? Absolutely. I am a fan of science. I think it is a Good and Right Thing. Perhaps what we think of as magic now will have rational explanations next year. I know that a thousand years ago if I had talked about washing one’s hands regularly to avoid the germs we can’t see in order to maintain health, I would have been mocked as a weirdo or witch or worse! But let’s talk about two things, two every day items that I always use in this sort of discussion: airplanes and eyeballs.

Airplanes fly all the time and almost never fall out of the sky. I’ve flown more times than I could possibly count and I know they are completely safe. I know that air currents blow over the top and bottom of the wings and cause lift. Engines propel us through the air. And yet I still cannot help but think that physics are part of magic. I mean, a huge metal tube weighing a ton manages to fly through the air, transporting hundreds of people from one side of the world to the other in less than a day, and does not just fall out of the sky.

The eyeball is another amazing, biological creation that makes me gasp in wonder. You can talk all you want about neural synapses and retinas and optic nerves, but let’s just get real: this gelatinous ball allows me to see bright colors, shapes, textures,  and actions far and near in consort with their occurence.  I think that’s pretty damn magical.

Do not even get me started on the cycle of life and death! There is nothing like growing a human being in my own body and birthing it into the world to blur the connection between science and magic.

Our everyday, biological existence is pretty darn magical. Life perpetuates itself and struggles to thrive.

I think this carries over into our energetic and spiritual lives as well. Some people are psychic, and I think this is a form of magic. Sometimes I just know things, but I’m not psychic. I don’t hear or see dead people or spirits. I know several people who do, some by no effort of their own and some using magic: using their will and skills to make it happen.

Spell and ritual magic are techniques to hone one’s energy and Will to cause change in the physical or spiritual or energetic worlds. There are many different kinds of spells and rituals. The skeptic might insist that this is just psychological games and the effects are nothing more than placebo effects or mere coincidence. I disagree. Even if the only person or thing changed is me, then Will has caused change. I think prayer is a form of magic too. I’m reminded of the quote from the CS Lewis movie, Shadowlands, where he says, ‘I pray, not because it changes God, but because it changes me.’ My family uses magic in the forms of prayer, intention, and spells to make our way forward in the world. We have most certainly been changed by doing it, and for the better, and that alone is pretty magical. But we’ve also seen the manifested fruit of our magical workings in the larger, physical world, and that’s pretty exciting.

Humans want to control their world in the face of so many forces, like Time, over which we have no to little control. It’s a human desire – whether we use magic or science – or both! – we work toward changing our world. I like to think of magic and the magical world view in terms of re-enchantment, bringing the numinous to the forefront of every day. It’s hard to do. There’s a zen book titled, After the Ecstasy, the Laundry, and that title about sums it up. My next post is going to talk a little bit about how I try to connect with the numinous in the midst of the everyday.

For further reading, here is a great article called ‘To Re-enchant the World’ by Sharon Knight.

Perhaps: a post about the gods

Most witches and pagans are polytheists – or agnostic to greater or lesser extents. I’ve yet to meet anyone who calls hirself a pagan that is monotheistic, at least not in the way that anyone of the Abrahamic faiths would recognize. Plenty of people I know have patron deities or are henotheistic (honoring one god to the exclusion of the rest, yet acknowledging that other gods do exist). For a while I thought I tipped into the polytheistic non-dual (a description I first heard from T Thorn Coyle). In my mind that was a radical interpretation of monotheism, but I may have trying too hard to keep with in a Christian framework. A few nights ago a passing two sentences in a Feri initiate’s private blog got me thinking: what if the gods aren’t Gods? What if the gods are just little g gods? A form of entities different to us, bigger than us, but subject to their own forces and to the Ultimate Ground of Being, much like we are?

Victor Anderson said ‘God is Self and Self is God and God is a person like myself.’ That always rubbed me the wrong way. I didn’t make any sense in my theological understanding. I can talk endlessly about the potential of divinization of the human person. I believe, firmly and utterly, in the inherent goodness, fullness, and dignity of the core of humanity and all of creation. I believe that humanity carries the spark of the Divine within, the breath of Life is present in each breath we take. ‘God is Self and Self is God.’ I believe this was part of what Jesus Christ was trying to teach us; I think this is what Tantric Hinduism is getting at. We are not separate. The Holy Mother who is the Ground of Being, that from which all of creation came and to whom everything, everyone returns, is our Creator. We are part and parcel of the wider whole. Recognizing this – knowing it in all our parts – is the goal of enlightenment and is liberation.

I may know this key to enlightenment with my brainy bits, but I certainly haven’t grasped it in my entirety. I’m not sure I can and still parent small children. I’m not sure I could handle the depths of compassion that embracing the Entirety of All would require. Hell, I still pat myself on the back when I laugh at my 3-year-old accidentally dumping a half-gallon of milk all over the floor, rather than swear and yell and grumble. I’m not sure I’m ready to embrace the power that being in concert with the G/gods would take. Baby steps, right?

So if we are not separate from the Ultimate One, then what’s all this talk about gods – plural? What’s with polytheism?

When I read the Iliad in school we discussed ancient Greek culture and talked about the gods. This was filed away under Mythology and Primitive Belief and we assumed that no one really believed in them then, nor does anyone now. From the generic Judeo-Christian point of view, who would dare believe in gods that were just as petty and ridiculous as us ‘mere’ humans. If those Greek gods were real then I thought the stories were demeaning, indeed. But I think I get it now. The gods are like us, only they are not of our material. Whether you want to think that the gods exist in a different parallel universe (like in the movie Thor, where they say that their world is different enough from ours that we think them gods) or maybe you like the idea that maybe they exist at a different frequency that we just can’t readily perceive (like how certain insects see colors we don’t), the issue is one of perception and understanding, not one of reality.

Until I moved to Wales I felt pretty agnostic about the gods. Were they just symbols? Projections of our best selves? Archetypes? How could all these different families be simultaneously real? I mean, the Greeks, Norse, Yoruba, and Celtic pantheons seem to have some overlap, but also seem to be their own coherent systems. How could they all be true? I’ve since learned that the Gods are real. I liken this experience to learning to kiss (or have sex). When I was a pre-teen and had my first kiss, I remember thinking, ‘THIS is what the big deal is about??’ A few years later I kissed some one else and discovered, oh my, yes, that is exactly what the big deal is all about. The same thing happened with ritual and the gods. Sure, I’d been to ritual – I’d even had a great time and quite enjoyed myself! But then, I circled with two other witches in Wales, on a dark, damp Welsh night and oh my. I discovered that the Gods are real. The Arddu showed up, swept through the front door and front hall and into the living room. He looked around, smiled amusedly, and went on his way. That experience has changed me. It wasn’t intimate. He didn’t pass along any knowledge. There was no exchange of pleasantries. But it was a moment where we met and I realized that this witchcraft stuff is not some figment of an overactive imagination. It’s the doorway to a new way of interacting with the world. The gods are real.

If the gods are people like myself, then the another of the Anderson’s sayings is crucially important: never submit your life force to anyone or anything. This is not saying always be strong, always dominate. This is not some kind of Ayn Rand power trip. This is about maintaining one’s dignity and integrity, one’s sense of Self. There are as many ways to submit one’s life force as there are people and combinations of people. Choosing to serve others is not submission. Even submission in a BDSM context is not necessarily submission in this context. Feri admonishes us not to bow down before the gods. This may seem the height of arrogance to those from other religions. I admit, it felt that way to me too for a long time. We honor the gods, we do not worship. It’s like the technical hair-splitting the Roman Catholics do with the Virgin Mary – hyperdulia (excess veneration) vs latria (adoration, reserved for the Holy Trinity). We can split hairs here too. Am I only honoring the gods? Might there be some adoration in there too? I think the human heart is messy and doesn’t split these hairs as cleanly as our minds would have us do.

Many grimoires and wise, experienced witches and magicians caution us not to worship, follow or even get friendly with just any spiritual being that introduces itself. If the spirit world is made up of a variety of things that are just on the edges of our perception, and if those things are not God Hirself, and if they are like us in any respect at all, then it behooves us to get to know any entity before we offer our allegiance and loyalty – just as we do in ‘real life.’ We do not submit our life force to anything or anyone. We insist on equality, respect, mutual trust and mutual loyalty.

If the different pantheons are different families or nations, like we humans are, what does this mean for syncretism or for finding ‘our gods’ in a relatively godless world? I don’t accept that Yahweh is The God. After years of biblical studies, on devotional and academic levels, I think Yahweh is just a patriarch in his own divine family. In all the years I spent trying to be a Christian, Yahweh never spoke to me, nor did Jesus. I felt a deep connection with something Big, but it never, ever seemed to line up with Yahweh. I never heard much from Jesus either. Listening to that still, small voice has obviously led me away from the Church. Perhaps those guys just aren’t my clan. Coming from a Judeo-Christian culture, but a secular family, I don’t know who my clan is. I’m definitely seeking them out. I read, I think, I meditate, I ask. I think some gods are particular to place. Who will appear when I move to Olympia? Will Ana and Arddu follow me there? Ganesha has made himself right at home with us and he is not ‘of’ Wales. Can a person have a Hindu god as a patron ‘saint’ of the family and still look to Old World European gods?

Changing my thinking about the gods from Big G gods to familial, clan gods has opened up my mind to so many new possibilities. All of a sudden pantheons make much more sense to me. It even helps make sense of Christianity. The gods are people like ourselves: messy, inter-related, powerful, limited, individual, cruel and kind, evolving in this world, all held under the hand of That Which Is. I think ‘polytheistic non-dual’ might still be the best way to sum up my theology at this time. Who knows what I’ll be thinking in a year’s time. Stay tuned.

What is Feri?

Feri is……

Feri is a form of traditional witchcraft. That’s right – witchcraft. It’s an American-born, syncretic tradition, informed by Hoodoo, Voudoun, Huna, Wicca, Yoruba, Gwyddon (Welsh witchcraft), Appalachian folk tradition, and probably more that I just don’t know about. Victor Anderson saw himself as drawing on ancient commonalities, the current of the ‘small dark peoples of the earth.’

Feri is non-dual. There is no ultimate God and Goddess parity, except when there is. I cannot speak about the many ways the Gods are known, as I don’t know them (and I wouldn’t if I did!). But the core belief is of the Star Goddess as the foundation of all existence, who made love to herself, and brought forth the Twins. Duality exists in unity. Victor said, ‘All gods are Feri gods.’ There is an element of universality in this statement, but this doesn’t mean all gods are the same thing. We are all human, and therefore the same entity, except I am not you. From a species point of view, you and I are not that different and represent much of the same thing to other beings. But we’re not the same. Kinda like the Gods.

Feri is paradoxical.

Feri is ecstatic, sexual, and creative, but isn’t concerned with fertility. Cycles of the seasons of are important, but only in the sense that we connect to where we are; there is no monolithic mythic adherence to seasons and their festivals. The only central holidays that all Feri practice are Samhain, as honor of the Ancestors is an important part of the practice, and Beltaine. Ritual connects us with the spirit world. Energies of god and goddess, goddess and goddess, god and god, and god/dess and god/dess in any combination are embodied and expressed in our lives. Sexuality is a creative expressive of life force; creativity is a form of sexual energy springing from life force.

Feri is experiential. Theory is great. In fact, I have found Feri/Faery folk to be among some of the brightest, boldest, most impressive and well-educated people I’ve met, particularly in the pagan world – so a good theory, some new bit of lore or myth to chew on will suit just fine. However, if that lore or theory doesn’t move you, deepen your connection with gods or engage your practice – if you just don’t practice at all – well then, all that theory is useless.

Feri is mystical and practical. If you can’t use your craft where and when you need it, what good is it?

Feri is black magic and white magic. ‘White magic is poetry. Black magic is anything that works,’ according to Victor.

Feri is often called amoral. Most people hold different nuances for the words ethical and moral (even though they mean the same things), so I like to think of Feri as highly ethical, but devoid of external morality. It has virtues (we’ll get to those in a few posts), but very little is off-limits. Consent and integrity are the foundation of its ethic. ‘Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law. Love is the law. Love under will.’ Feri and Aleister Crowley might agree upon this.

Feri is really quite simple, though not simplistic, and quite complex.

Feri is an initiatory tradition. There are teachers who teach via distance or over the internet. There are workshops and group rituals that are based on Feri concepts and tools. These are a great beginning. But the current is only passed in person.There are no levels, there is only one initiation.

Feri is a priesthood; ideally there is no laity. All Feri initiates are shaman priest/esses. There is no hierarchy.

Feri is powerful and awesome.

The Left Hand Path

Today is all about change. This evening I leave the US to fly back to my current home in the UK. I said goodbye to Hinduism last night (bittersweet) and this morning I woke up enthusiastically embracing the Feri tradition.* A discussion of the ‘left hand paths’ is an appropriate segue between these two traditions. They might appear radically different, but you might be surprised. I was!

Like all dualities, the split between left and right hand paths is a bit of a false dichotomy. Each side has elements of the other, but the designations are somewhat useful. Mostly, the left hand paths are associated with the occult and right hand paths with othordoxy. As I read more deeply about Tantra, which is often considered a left hand path within Hinduism, I read that it too has its own left and right hand paths. Right hand Tantra is more dualist, more Vedic, and less concerned with the siddhis, paranormal powers. In the witchcraft world, Feri is often seen as left hand, with is emphasis on the personal, ecstatic tradition, its relationship with deities often considered (in a Judeo-Christian mindset) diabolical, and its perceived lack of morality. What’s interesting to me is that much of what I read about Tantra sounds like things I’ve encountered in Feri. The two are FAR more in tune with one another than I ever expected.

Both Tantra and Feri are highly mystical, relying on one’s personal experience with Gods/God/Deity (pick your term). Trance, entheogens, meditation, chanting, these are some of the ways used to obtain connection with the Spirits. While the ultimate goal of Tantra is divine union, Feri embraces an autonomy of personal space and power, while also acknowledging that all comes from the ultimate Source, the Star Goddess, and eventually returns to Her as well. Both traditions embrace the body. Our physical existence is not something from which to flee or ‘ascend’ but a gift on our journey; it is a tool. Immanence is taken seriously.

The concept of guru or teacher, as well as lineage, is important to both traditions. Both consider themselves conduits of a powerful current, which is passed through physical transmission upon initiation. While anyone may prepare themselves for the current by practicing certain techniques and opening oneself up to the Gods, if one’s physical and psychic containers are not strong, great harm can come to the dabbler – but also to the initiate who isn’t fully prepared (I have seen this to be true). This is why initiations are not frequent or easy. Concepts of rigorous purification and radical transformation are foundational to both traditions, although their methods and reasoning are often very different. Because of these things, having a trusted guide is crucial.

Both traditions prefer to be secretive. Partially this is because they perceive their work as not for the many, but for the few, given their demanding qualities and the possible risks. However, both traditions struggle with remaining private and growing more publicly. On one hand they have much to offer, on the other hand there are risks – not just to would be practitioners, but to the intimate nature of the traditions themselves. Secrecy is also important because within their wider traditions – Hinduism and Neo-paganism – Tantra and Feri stand on the margins. And within a Judeo-Christian milieu, the Hindu and Neo-pagan are already on the fringes. Personal safety can be a legitimate concern.

Because of this last point of secrecy, I harbor some qualms about speaking publicly about Feri. However, because I am not an initiate I will not be revealing anything that isn’t already publicly available in some capacity. I ask the Feri ‘elders’ to give me a heads up if I stray into problematic areas.

I anticipate some bleeding over of Tantric practices into my work with Feri. It seems fitting and structurally sound.

On a personal note, I amused with my fascination with left hand paths. It’s about as ‘rock star’ as I get. The occult, the gothic, the left hand – I love these things at their philosophical and applied best. Occasionally I love their aesthetics too, but that unfortunately seems tipped more toward the Hot Topic side of things, and well…. I’m a jeans and t-shirt kinda gal. On the surface I’m pretty heteronormative, middle class, average – not a bad thing! Just not particularly ‘freaky.’ But dig deeper and you’ll find a blackening heart beating in my chest.

*A note about my use of Wikipedia sources. I intend these as an easy place for more information. Wikipedia is never the full story, but rather a good place to get the information one needs for further learning.