I’ve dreaded this discussion. As always, my “Big Momma” (Mother Goddess) has a plan for the pen, whether or not I’m gussied up and ready. No matter how I fuss, resist, deny or whimper there it is: her hand on my shoulder pushing me along. You know, I have a friend who enjoys this moment quite a bit, for she knows how stubborn I can be and how downright firm Big Momma deals with my collective rear. So, fine. But I’m not gonna’ like it.
My name is Seba and I break the rules. That’s right, I refuse to coven (I see this as a verb), I refuse to research other folk’s spells and rituals. I refuse to wear shoes during ritual unless it’s frigid outside, and then I just call those my ceremonial Uggs. I see my athame as an extension of my spirit, and in a pinch, will use my witchy finger. My herbs are grown in the yard, my wand has often been a recently-used wooden spoon (serves alright as an athame, depending) and I tend to shy away from festivals. I still say “lord” when appropriate, love Christians, think Jesus was a groovy magician and got framed, think fairies are cool but have never seen one, do not own a smudging stick but have four mortar and pestles, and find men fabulous, just full-tilt-boogie fabulous. In trouble yet? I’ll get there.
Lesse. I train one woman, three men and one of the latter is my husband. That’s right. I know the rule on that one. There’s just one sticking point for me that makes such an act righteous and solid: it felt right. You know what I mean? Like when you’re cooking a stew, let’s say, and the recipe (stupid things) dictates NO SALT due to the salt content in the bouillon or some such. But, it feels right, so you go for it and it’s the best damn stew you have ever tasted. Like that. You see, I traipsed my little self into Christianity once or twice and got out of there lickity-split because two things were always at war: what the rules demanded and what my heart was called to do. The way I see it, one of those was in touch with a pretty ancient and sacred force and the other was so political it couldn’t wipe its own . . . mouth. It has been my experience that, in Paganism of all sorts, these moments are antithetical to the primary premise of communing with the Sacred. If that was a bit uppity, let’s try this. A kind of Star Wars force, if you will, refuses to let me be. Now then. I did learn something in my Civil Disobedience course at the university. What is mutually agreed upon by institutions and the majority bourgeois is not necessarily what is sound and good for the individual. Therefore, I suppose it could be assumed that I break rules that are in direct affront to my soul force.
Let’s get a little “third degree,” as my friend would say. Look at it like this: as a Celt/Cherokee craftswoman, I am to believe (and I do) that there is a Great Spirit/Mother Goddess is both benevolent and, when need be, malevolent, mother and warrior, creator, nurturer, teacher and all things that we understand to be Sacred. Got it. Now. I am also to believe (and I do) that I am her child, loved and smacked around, taught and rewarded, and charged with caring for her Earth and her babes with reverence and forethought. Got that too. So . . . I need a rulebook? Wait. Like a Bible? Hold up. Now, something is smelling rotten in Denmark. Yes, yes, I see that the recording of histories and rituals and spells is a fine thing. I do it my own self. Yes, my path holds to an oral tradition that teaches the old things, the forgotten things, and the things we have discovered within our respected paths. As a teacher, I can only teach what I know. When they are done? Well. Now that’s between them and Obi-Wan Kenobi.
I’ve been called a “practical magician” by a friend and I kinda’ like it. I’m a little bit country, she’s a little bit rock and roll. I’m a little earthy, she’s a little sky. It’s all good, because these are the “barbaric yawps,” as Whitman put it, to which are bones and sinew respond. There are Wiccans and Faeries and Sorcerers and ascribers to Pantheons that are my dear, beloved kinsmen/women. I hold deep relationships with Muslims, Christians, EpiscoPagans, and Hindus. I am in love with them all, for they have sounded their barbaric yawp. They have responded to the Sacred. It’s groovy, man, in a deep, rebellious kind of way that I dig because they walk it and live it. Blessed be. As to me? I told you. I break the rules. Back to the husband, shall we?
My guy is an ex-Church-of-Christ-Alabama-good-ol-boy who is a whole fifteen years younger than myself. His childhood was dark and abusive and has left him little truck with authoritative females, or males for that matter. Two years in, he has finally found his voice, trusts that Divine well in his gut, and is responding to his fellow students in the craft after a drought of trust and self-introspection. When asked by two of my fellow High Priestess sugars if he would like to be trained, he declined (when the trembling stopped) the invitations. I believe it was a Saturday eve, ’round a waxing moon, when I sat drinking red wine and smoking way too many Pall Malls that I got around to doing the right thing. I asked Her. Now, let’s be honest here, folks. It is not conducive to a sexual relationship between a Southern boy and a Southern gal to skip willy-nilly into a teaching arrangement. No, ‘fraid not. Issues that have embedded themselves deep into our psyches will have their way, like power and the gendered performances of marital stratifications. In other words: I had to lay it down, he struggled quite a bit (one cannot feel up the teacher during a lesson) and it was altogether there for a minute a witchy clusterfuck. (By the way, what is up in Pagan publishing? As if we all don’t curse like sailors. Gimme a break.) My baby and I have always had a bit of a tenuous situation: I am an alpha female, he is a passive male. Regardless, we were born in the South and the performance must go on, as they say. So here we were. Here I was, kicking my own arse for thinking I could do this. I had broken the rules and who did I think I was, anyway? All those warnings. That was when it hit me.
It wasn’t my decision. Shit. (Have I pointed out that I get in deep doo-doo with Big Momma sometimes?) I had something to learn and she was not backing down. That moment on a Saturday eve? Yeah, that was a done deal. So, I put on my big girl panties and took a swig of port and we are still, he and I, trudging through one of the muddiest, fertile waters I have ever had the blessing to walk. See, I break our human rules, but I will not, cannot, break hers. Seems to me, that would be just outright foolish. And momma didn’t raise no fool.
I’ve found that, even as an academic, it just feels right to speak through my Southern roots, to curse when the situation asks for it, to cry mascara rivers when a university student tells you that you have changed their life, and to lean in–nice and close-to Big Momma when she speaks. Seems to me.
I’m finishing this on the night that I had a dear friend rip deep into the flesh of my leg to inscribe a symbol there. My tattoo, a rendition of the Cherokee star, reminds me that my elders didn’t have a rulebook. Rather, my great-great grandmother was taught to listen to the pines, the owls, and watch the path of the red-tailed hawk in the sky. I’m not about to screw around with that.