I’ve been reading and enjoying Margot Adler’s “Drawing Down the Moon.” Several people in my protogrove decided to read it towards various ADF study programs and to honor Adler as an Ancestor. I know I’ll have more to discuss when I’m finished. For now, I’m nearing the end of the section on Feminist Witchcraft. I consider myself a feminist, but I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not very informed on the philosophy. Basically, I want women to have equality with men, and I want us to live in harmony. A lot has happened in my family the past couple of years that has only made me feel stronger about this, yet I’m not a political feminist. Perhaps I should be? Perhaps I will be one day. To me, it seems inextricably linked to environmentalism, which is something I’ve been somewhat political about. That said, I don’t feel like I have the vocabulary to fully explore these thoughts yet. There’s a lot in the chapter that both resonates with me, but there’s a lot more that makes me uncomfortable or uncertain.
Despite these dubious feelings, Adler’s anecdotes made me nostalgic for a time when I belonged to a small, eclectic women’s circle. When I say small, I mean it was myself and my budding interest in Irish polytheism, a friend just starting to explore Greek polytheism and Heathenism (R), and another who was very into the Reclaiming movement (K). Each of us took our spirituality seriously and valued experiential learning, creative expression, and scholarship. This was, and continues to be, a rare combination in NeoPaganism. We clicked right away. Every so often, another woman would join us for one or two meetings, but usually it was just the three of us. This was before K started her formal study through a coven, before I officially joined ADF, before I was engaged… K had had 5-10 years of experience more than myself at the time, but she never lorded it over us. She acted as a guide and encouraged us in our own journeys. As a first “teacher,” I was very lucky in that she wasn’t interested in a power trip or manipulating us. I learned so much from her just with regards to facilitating a group. We meditated, explored energy, did some very focused magic, and even tried some trance together. Yes, we occasionally talked about very feminine topics like our periods, but it was so much more than that. We laughed a lot, learned a lot, and drank a lot of tea. All three of us became very close friends.
Eventually, the group evolved into a gender-inclusive coven of sorts. K was working her way through three degrees of priestesshood in a coven a few hours away, and her talent was growing. A few more people got involved, including K’s husband, another married pair, and two other young women. Shortly after this, my schedule grew tight due to work and an internship. I joined ADF and, since those rituals were philosophically more meaningful to me, I decided to attend those rituals rather than the eclectic Wiccan rituals the group was doing. Then I moved away.
I continue to stay in touch with my friends from Utica, especially the two women who helped me build a solid foundation. Both took time out of their busy schedules to take major roles in my wedding. R is also an ADF member, so we have bonded a lot through that. We continue to see each other from time to time at ADF events. The small coven-like group stopped meeting because of schedule conflicts – mostly because K went back to college, yet we touch base online and at other Pagan happenings. (Thank goodness for Pagan Pride, right?)
My experience with this women’s circle was so important to my spiritual development. I think our lives are a spectrum of intense spiritual learning and just as intense hibernation, like the waxing and waning of the moon. My time with K and R was one of a couple intense periods that I’ve experienced so far. I learned so much from them that has helped me organize Northern Rivers Protogrove. I sometimes think about trying to organize a small women’s circle for the core female members of our group. I don’t know when we could ever meet since we’re already so busy, and planning open meetups for everyone is difficult enough. I guess I just miss that intimacy, and that intense feminine bonding that took place. It was easy to relax and be myself, which meant we could raise a lot of energy. I rarely feel that in open Pagan gatherings. There’s too much shielding and feeling out newcomers. With regards to men, it’s not that I’m against working with them on intense magical projects… but none of the active men in the group are as into it as the women. It’s rare for me to meet men who are as interested in magic and spirituality who I also agree with philosophically and intellectually. I also admit to having trust issues with heterosexual men, so if you’re not attached to a close female friend I trust, or if you’re not in my family, it will take me some time to feel completely comfortable with you!
Weird, huh? And so I come back to my original uncertain thoughts about feminine witchcraft and exclusive women’s circles. I suppose I find them necessary, but not the basis of my spirituality. Clearly, I embrace the idea of open, gender-inclusive, family-oriented Pagan gatherings because I embrace ADF. Perhaps I should explore the concept of occasional retreats with the women in the group*?
*For me, this would include anyone who identifies as a woman.