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The Blue Cloak

When we had the “brick and mortar” Red Raven, we held ritual on all the Full Moons and pagan Sabbats.  We were intent on NOT having one Priest or Priestess, or touting one spiritual tradition.  We were not a coven.  We were a gathering of the tribes.  It was important that we had elders of various traditions lead rituals so that people could see how similar we all are, rather than our differences.  And these were always open to the public.  Anyone, pagan or not, could come and participate.  It worked.

When I came to The Red Raven, I had always been a solitary practitioner.  Jeani, and Elaine, showed me how they had been hosting Open Circles for years.  I was impressed.   They began to nudge me to lead Circles, to which my reaction was shock and surprise.  I always shook my head and walked away.  But as time passed, I really had to consider my place in The Red Raven, and where I stood, there.  I had never thought of myself as a teacher, or as an elder, or certainly as a Priestess or Gythja.  In fact, one day, Jeani  handed me a beautiful blue cloak, with Raven knot work on the inside, and said “I’ve read that Norse “priestesses” wore blue cloaks, and, I want you to have this one”.   “Gythja”, I said.  (Gythja is the title of female Heathen spiritual leaders, and Gothi is the title of the male spiritual leaders.)  Jeani also told me that she had a back strip of a female wolf (one of my totems) that was given to her by her spiritual mother who had saved the large strip of fur from a she wolf who had been hit by a car, in Alaska.  Saving the fur (feathers, atlers, shells, etc.) and using it in spiritual purpose is a way to honor the animal, and helps the one wearing it to connect to the spirit of the animal.  Jeani wanted to attach the wolf to the blue cloak for added power.  Again, I was shocked and surprised!  “I can’t wear that”, I said, “I can’t wear the blue cloak of a Gythja!  I’m not a Gythja!” “Why not?” She asked.  “You’ve clearly been called here, you ARE the elder of your tradition here, and the Heathen kids look up to you.  What makes you think you have not been called to the cloak?”  She knew to leave me with my thoughts, but in the following weeks and months, continued to nudge me to lead a Circle.

After a LOT of thought and conversation with my Goddess, Freyja, and even more reading, and study, I came to the conclusion that I could, indeed, come to the cloak while still retaining my Warrior status.  I could add the responsibility of Gythja, with sacrifice.  I saw it all in my mind.  A vision.  And I knew that because I SO respected the blue cloak, I must make a physical sacrifice that would show me, every day, that I had taken this responsibility.  Something that could never be taken from me, and would show that I could never walk away.  Ever.

So, I went to Jeani, who is an amazing tattoo artist.  I told her that before I could don the blue cloak, I must be tattooed with a blue crescent on my forehead, and that the pigment must be WOAD.  She smiled.  Now, if you have never heard of woad, or why the Picts and various other tribes used to paint their bodies blue with the stuff, go read up on it.  It’s an incredible plant, and dye.  Jeani knew where I was going with this, and agreed.  After some initial discussion, we agreed that on the day I was to lead my first Circle, she would shave my “widows’ peak”, then tattoo the crescent.  Eventually, the hair would grow back, and only those who were meant to see it, would ever know it was there.  (The woad tattoo disappeared after a few days, so Jeani tattooed over it with real tattoo pigment, so, it is, indeed, permanent.)

Tattoos on the head bleed profusely.  The tattoo took about 10 seconds; the bleeding lasted a bit longer.  The effects of the woad in my bloodstream were immediate and lasted throughout my Circle, and because of this, I don’t really remember my first Circle.  But I had spent a lifetime of study for it.  I had prepared for it.  I had made my oath to it.  I had made a sacrifice for it.  And I had been accepted by my Gods for it.  So, when the she wolf collared, blue, cloak was placed on my shoulders for the first time, I was changed.  I have never taken the cloak for granted.  And, after Circle, when I place the cloak on its hanger, I pet the wolf and thank her.  And when I look in the mirror, I see the mark I chose to show my title, and give it a little rub.

So, where was I going with all this?  Well, it feels strange to have come this distance to the blue cloak, and leading Circles fairly often, to suddenly, now that the physical Red Raven gatherings are no more, being solitary again.  I have to admit, that since The Red Raven closed, I have not participated in any rituals.  Jeani invites me to go out to our outdoor altar, here at home, but I do not.  Once again, I find that I am trying to figure out my place again, here at home, on this sacred ground.  Change happens.  My Heathen kids have scattered to the winds, and I miss them.  But some things, in their own way, still stay the same.  I still have my voice…it is just slightly more silent.  And, it’s OK that no one will be here but my Goddess, and maybe a God or two.  Sometimes, being solitary gives one a whole new perspective.  I will find my place again.  I will find my voice again, whether it be as a solitary or public Gythja.  Freyja will nudge me until I get there.

Shi Wolf

Woman. Warrior.

The two words really DO go together, although society tries to make us think otherwise. We’re told, from an early age, what is for girls and what is for boys. If you’re a girl who climbs trees, runs like the wind, and skins knees, you’re called a “tom-boy”. Later in life, if we work outside the home, where we must show some form of assertiveness, and/or aggression, then, we’re called all kinds of things, like “ball buster”, “women’s-libber”, “man hater”, or “lesbian”. Whatever. So what!

The names are never quite that easy. Being who we are, by our own definitions, is the hard part. The reality of being a woman is that, sometimes, you have to be a warrior, just to step out of bed. There’s a lot going on in the bodies and minds of women. Being a Warrior, carrying that title next to your name, is just one of them. But that’s what I’m going to focus on in this blog.

I’m constantly going to tell you to be who you are, whoever that is, and, go ahead, get WARRIOR about it! Go ahead and project the person you want to be today, and be HER. Stand up to those who defy you. Don’t take their put-downs to heart. You know better, IF you’ve put some thought into who you ARE. That’s where the spiritual part comes in. Consider, if you will, WHO you ARE, in your speck of this vast universe. Consider you. There is no one else - no one -- like you. Allow yourself to enjoy that.

The other day, someone used the word “fierce” to describe me. I was taken aback by it, in a way, because I don’t think of myself as fierce, but, yeah, I can see how others see me that way. I definitely have an attitude. (wink) I have a way of looking right through you, and you’ll know exactly what I’m thinking. But then, my wife calls me her Marshmallow Warrior, because she gets to see my gooey center…that part of me who cries at ALL weddings, even if they’re on TV…or, sappy movies…all that. She knows the inside, the woman side that nurtures. She watches that part of me who kneels down to get eye to eye with children, so that we can look into each others eyes.

But what we project to the outside world, I think, is our strong, warrior aspect. And don’t kid yourself…to live in this world, you have to be strong. But, we are very different from male warriors, and we know it. I am very much a woman. ALL woman, as a matter of fact. I enjoy being a woman. I enjoy the magic of being a woman, with all the responsibilities of it.

But, I am also a woman of the sword. That’s one of them, right up there. When I see, or hold, that sword (or any one of my blades) I am reminded of who I am in this world. I am a Shi Wolf, and all that that entails.

So, I’m going to talk about all kinds of things in this blog. Perhaps it will spark things for you to think about. If so, you’ll keep coming back to read more. If not, you won’t. So, pull up a chair, pour a glass of something, and I’ll point out some of the truths I’ve noticed along my path. I don’t know where we’ll go, together, but I think it’ll be fun! You never know what we’ll find!

It's always darkest...

Friends of our shops (that we’re closing now) have been coming in to say goodbye and many offer up their words of wisdom, like, “when a door closes, a window opens”, and “every rose has its thorn”, and “the Goddess must have plans for you”, or “the sky is always darkest before dawn”, etc.  I know each person means well, but, I usually cross my arms (so that I don’t slap anyone), wag my head and respond, “so they say….”

People don’t know what to say to others dealing with death, or some sort of loss.  This has been a major subject for most queens of etiquette.  People try to think of something original to say, but, really, a simple, heartfelt, “I’m so sorry”, is usually best.  Offer few words, then no one will get hurt, as long as the words are sincere.

I want to tell each person that I am honestly unable to think ahead more that about 3 days.  I am absolutely unable to see, right now, what plans the Goddess might have for me.  All I can see is darkness.  Right now, for me, there IS no flipping DAWN.  And, when I slam that frigging door, the window is going to shatter!  I want to SCREAM it, out in the garden, where our outdoor altar once stood, where all the Gods and Goddesses once listened.  But, I can’t, because I know I’ll lose my ability to function if I break, so, I cross my arms, wag my head and say, “yes, so they say…”

I don’t mean to be pissy.  I really don’t.  I don’t want people to have to deal with my sadness.  But, this feels just like dealing with the death of a close relative.  You have a small amount of time to clear out, pack up, clean up…respectfully… and find a place to stash away this ‘life’, until you can think your way back into your own life, and move forward again.  Right now, I’m cocooned.  I’m processing.  And it’s a horrible, sad, angry, tearful, fearful, MESS in which you have just walked right into the middle.  So, no, I honestly don’t want to have fantasies of slapping you silly.  I really don’t.  Just bear with me, and give me a little slack.  I’ll be back to my grumpy, loud-mouthed, outrageous self, oh, sometime around spring.  Until then, know that I DO appreciate your well wishes, even if I’m unable to do much else but wag my head.  It’s just how it is, and I hope you will understand until I’m back to my old self.


People keep asking us, ‘what are you going to do?’, now that we are closing our businesses.  The concept of running out to find a job is overwhelming.  My body wants to hyperventilate each time I look for jobs on-line.

So, I suggested to Jeani (my wife, and co-owner of our businesses), let’s take a vacation!

Nine years have passed without our taking more than 3 days away, and that was once for our Hand-fasting honeymoon, then another 3 days for our legal wedding honeymoon.  This time, I have suggested a whole WEEK to go to a few of the places we have wanted to go together, but have always put off because we couldn’t close shop for a week.

We have wanted to go to the Monterey Aquarium for ages, so we’ve found a great little B&B in Carmel, and will go to the Aquarium from there.  And I have never been to Big Sur (that I can remember), so we’ll stay in a funky little cabin in the redwoods, hike, and I’ll take artsy photographs!  I have also never been to Solvang, so we’ll spend a couple of days there, shop, and eat pastries!

So, to take our minds off the overwhelming fact that we’re running out of money; that our businesses will be gone; that we’ll have to find jobs so we can continue paying the mortgage; and, that our entire way of life will change…we’re going on vacation.  Hmmm, you might think, is this the best idea for your situation?

Well, sometimes one just has to take a two-footed leap into the void.  It’s the Viking way!  Sometimes, taking time for oneself, in the redwoods, in a funky little cabin is a great way to get ones berings.  It is important for a soul to satisfy the need for running off to see something new, to hold hands while walking through tourist traps, eat good food and drink good wine, and be in love.  We NEED to take time to let it all go, and, being at home will just make us edgier to figure out what we’re going to do.  That, I think, should come after we set our worries aside, for a week, recharge our batteries, and spend some quiet time together.

So, we’re planning our vacation, so we don’t have to think about reality.  Are we putting our heads in the sand?  Yes, on Carmel Beach!

We, for the most part, have always been “responsible” ones.  We have always been ‘there’ for others.  Most of our friends and customers knew just where to find us…at the shops…between noon and 7PM….ALWAYS.  Now, we won’t be there, and I wonder if all those friends and customers realize what this means.  We won’t be there.  Not there to suggest a good book, or to get herbs for your cold, or a candle for the Sabbat.  Not there if you’ve had an argument with your husband/wife and need some free counseling.  Not there leading ritual under a gorgeous full moon, when you don’t want to be a solitary witch.  Not there to HOWL with others.  Not there if you just want to hang out and talk to someone who cares.

It will be strange for all of us who realize what being a ‘raven’ (a regular at The Red Raven) means.  But for those who never really cared, they will just move on to another shop, or another set of friends, just because that’s what they do.  For a handful of us, it will be hard.  Like withdrawal.

Goddess sense of humor...

“Goddess sense of humor”.  My wife, Jeani, and I use this term often.  It means that when the most ironic things happen to make us shake our heads, reconsider our actions, or feel that we’ve been given a good slap in the face…this is “Goddess sense of humor”.

The Goddess, any Goddess, has her way of letting us know when we are on the right track, or the wrong one.  But, figuring out which track you’re on is the challenge.  If we have intentionally burned a bridge, like I have recently done, she may dangle a carrot, just to see how seriously we wanted that bridge burned.  My Goddess dangled a carrot at me, this morning, and all I could do was shake my head, and laugh.  At least I’m laughing.  Personally, I am dedicated to the Norse Goddess, Freyja, and believe me, she has quite the sense of humor.

Due to the crappy economy, and various other obstacles, my wife and I are presently closing the doors of both our small businesses.  We are in mourning.  It truly feels like death around here, and we are devastated.  Only a couple weeks ago, a friend e-mailed me her bitingly cruel opinion of our “pity party” and, well, made me cry…non-stop, for two days.  I don’t like to cry for a couple days, but, it made me reconsider our friendship.  So much so, that I ended our friendship, and told her “I’m done.  You’re out of my life.”  I doubt that this was a surprise to her, as the cruel things she said to me were probably her way of saying the same thing.

So, this morning, while doing my “let’s see what jobs are out there” ritual, I found that she has posted a job, that was my corporate forte’, years ago.  She works for a large company in San Francisco, and, coincidently, does the same kind of work I used to do.  So, my former friend is looking to hire someone to do a job in which I have extensive experience.

THAT, my friends, is “Goddess sense of humor”!

It’s a test.  It’s the Goddess’ way of testing our conviction.  She will watch us burn that bridge, then dangle a carrot on the other side, just to see if we will try to put out the fire, to get the carrot, or if we will walk away.  I can almost hear Her say, “have you REALLY learned this lesson in, not just friendship, but, in loyalty, and how people can lose their humanity, like you did, back in those days of corporate slavery, to become cruel shells of what they once were?”

Well, I sat back to think about it, which is, I think, always good to do when your Goddess is poking you or dangling things at you.  I learned, a long time ago, that if you ignore what your Goddess is trying to tell you, She will keep poking you.  The pokes get worse and worse, until something forces you out of whatever it was She saw as your downfall.  She WILL be heard, so, one must learn to see the signs.

For years, I knew that my corporate job was killing me, spiritually…poke.  But the money was good…poke.  I liked the job, but many of the people with whom I worked, had no souls…POKE.   Then, I found that I had become one of the zombies…POKE.  But, I ignored it.  And so, the job was taken away…POOF.  I was horribly humiliated, just for good measure, then, tossed aside.  The signs were all there, but I ignored them, so Freyja stepped in.  There…that’s it…done.

This time, I recognized it!  It shows that I CAN be trained!  So I sat down and thought:  Owning my own business is over.  I want to continue living in my house.  So, unfortunately, I have to find a job, or something that gives me money to pass on to the mortgage company.  My former friend posted a job.  I need a job.  The money would be good.  But it’s a job with a long, expensive commute.  Many hours a day would be spent commuting.  I would hate that.  Could I do the job?  Sure.  Would I like it?  I might like it, but I’d probably hate it if I had to work with zombies like her.  And, well, it would feel like I’m going backwards in life, not forward.  And, REALLY, would I want her to be my boss?!  Oh, HELL no!  Besides, she’s out of my life…right?  Right.  I’m letting that bridge burn to the ground.  Let’s char some marshmallows!

So, my point is:  When you’ve been slapped with “Goddess sense of humor”, take some time to think about what it is you’re being told.  If you’re on the wrong path, VEER OFF, QUICKLY!  If your conviction is being tested, either, stand by it, or take it off the table and hide it in your pocket.  Period.  Choose your battle.  Fight it.  Then move on to the next…there will be more.  Live it.  Live your convictions, or step aside.  Learn from your mistakes, or you will be taught.  It is harsh, but, it is the way of the Universe, and, certainly the way Freyja handles things.

But, do I hope that someday this friendship can be rebuilt?  Yes.  I do.  But it will take both of us to rebuild it, and, frankly, I’m not holding my breath.  Would I listen, if she were to call?  Yes.  And I hope we would work out these hurts.  But, I also know that we both do not feel the same love toward one another.  That bridge has burned down.  It will never again be warm and soft to the touch.  Only a new bridge, with all its cold edges, can be built, and, well, it would be…new.


Several people came into the shop today to buy and wish us well.  All were very nice, which was a nice respite from the “pity party” comments.  These people understood how sad we are here, and they are sad for us, and, I guess, they may be sad for themselves too, since we will be disappearing in our own puff of smoke.

“You don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone”, one said.  Indeed.  I wonder, after we’ve closed, how many will stop, surprised to find our doors locked; the roll-up door locked down; our sign gone.  With no way to find us, or us find them.

Sudden disappearances have happened many times in my life.   The day I knew I was being laid off at the corporation, I had typed up a good-bye e-mail to all the people I had known, only at work, for many years, and I was prepared to send it.  Just hit ENTER, and have it go out to all of them.  When I got back to my desk after being canned, my panty-waste boss would not allow me to send my memo.  I told him, it only goes to people I know, and gives them my address and phone number so they can call me if they’d like to keep in touch.  ‘NO’, he said.  And with one word, all those people were lost to me.  I guess if any of them had really wanted to find me, they would have, but I choose to think otherwise.

Now, I think of all who will be lost again.  After 9 years of being here, we won’t be.  Will they find me?  I hope so.



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