As we stood on the steps of my AirBnB in Berkeley, my hostess Yvonne told me she was heading to a story slam. She’d been working on an essay for weeks and would probably tell the story of a cad she once loved if her name was picked. A bright ascot stylishly tied at her neck and black hair shorn close to her head with silver streaks at her temples, Yvonne confessed that the story she yearned to tell was of the powerful friendship between herself and her cousin.
As a child, she would help Evelyn her cousin with elocution in hopes that would stop her aunt from beating Evelyn. I thought I was helping my cousin, Yvonne said, but I now I know sitting with Evelyn provided the comfort I needed, too. They helped to mend each other’s broken parts with Philia, the Greek word that points to the love of deep friendship.
It takes great courage to tell stories of the heart, much more to perform these stories that have formed who we are. I, my ego that is, doesn’t like to think of myself as performing for my book signings or events. I want to believe I am being my authentic self, calling the Divine Light forward to evoke others to awaken to their potential. Yet the definition that describes “perform” as acting or merely playing a part or a role is the fourth, after “execute,” “carry out” and “fulfill.” As my publicist Felix recently reminded me, as an author, I am the authority on the subject for which I wrote. To perform my authority as a Witch is to realize or make manifest a command, promise, or undertaking.
I met Connie DeMasters, Elder High Priestess of the Crimson Dragon Druidic Craft of the Wise, at a WomenSpirit Winter Solstice fair. I don’t know exactly how she found my number, but she called and asked me to come visit her. I don’t remember the conversation verbatim either, but I remember the feeling that I was being offered a shelter in a storm and I was stunned honestly as to why Connie was doing this.
I had just turned thirty, and had attended several Sabbat rituals designed in an eclectic Fae tradition and I had taken many classes on Wicca at an intense, old-school Witch Shop in Long Beach called The Eye of the Cat. I had written spells and rituals for The Wicca Cookbook and The Teen Spell Book by matching the magickal correspondences or qualities of herbs, crystals, moon phases, days of the week, seasons, colors, animal totems, Gods & Goddesses, etc., with the quality or feeling of the desired outcome. Then I wrote a rhyme to speak to the creative, right side of our brain that will help us attract our wishes.
I asked what I could bring and Connie suggested a grande Carmel Macchiato and maple nut scone from Starbucks. And so began many years of weekly visits where I sat at my High Priestess’ knee and asked every question about Magick and life that I could dream up. Once I told Connie that I really wanted to learn tarot, I felt the lessons were going too slow and I rather preferred a quick download of the wisdom. In her sly way, Connie suggested that I sleep with a major Arcana card under my pillow so that I would dream about this archetype and I should write about my dreams and impressions every morning. I got to the tenth card, the Wheel of Fortune, before I admitted this route was like trying to get a drink of water from a fire hose at full blast.
I started to worry that as an author of Wicca, I was a fraud, which is an unfortunately common feeling among authors. I hadn’t attempted to get any cords, the traditional hierarchy offered for Wiccans and Witches, kind of like karate belts. Connie told me the Magick was in my blood, many lifetimes, and if I wanted a cord, she would give me whatever color I wanted. We laughed then, both knowing I didn’t need it.
Connie was Greek, a Yia Yia, a grandmother, and behind her chair where she always sat was a picture of a wolf standing in the mist beside a tree. Learning from Connie was like having the great pleasure of speaking to a wild animal who has risen from the mystery to speak with you.
Today I feel it is my calling to carry out the sharing of wisdom and Magick that Connie gifted me for the next generations. I was very lucky that a High Priestess sought me out – not everyone will get the great fortune of receiving an elder’s wisdom in person, so instead I write books of empowerment that are self-help books disguised as Magick books. Sitting at home in my mountain studio, it’s easy to recall the wisdom I was taught and write it out. Coming down off my mountain and standing in front of others as the authority is another matter.
We don’t always feel up to the challenge to perform. My ego sends me to stuck places, where I stubbornly resist the idea of performing because it rings disingenuous – like I am nothing more than a trained circus animal. Oh, how that ego likes to play tricks to stay small and hidden.
When I remember the Philia between myself and my High Priestess, I gain great heart, great courage. I take ownership of her confidence in me to be a spokeswoman for Magick. The day before Connie passed from this world to another, she read my tarot cards. She giggled her effervescent laugh as she turned over three cards: Sun (success and creativity), Wheel of Fortune (opportunities, choices) and Star (time to shine your full potential). Her student was ready for the road.
I have learned a lot on this chock-full road trip. I am reminded that my ancestors, like Connie and my two Nanas, are where I must begin every event. They are my foundation. I will perform rituals and welcome in the Four Directions as if we are in a forest glen. I will fulfill my role to show people who are hungry for the paths back to their connection to Magick. Afterall, most of us learn by doing or at least watching. I carry that confidence with me now when people ask if I am a trained Witch.