If you haven’t read Sara Ann Lawless’ latest, revealing post, you really must. It’s called “So Long, and Thanks for All the Abuse: A History of Sexual Trauma in the Pagan Community.” It’s long, raw, and has the potential to trigger. If you are up to reading it, I highly recommend it out of necessity.
The experiences she described should never have happened. I look back on my own history of finding and growing in Paganism with amazement. I somehow got to where I am without facing the extremes she and others endured. My worst experiences have been uncomfortable conversations, lingering stares, and, recently, realizing that the founder of my tradition behaved in a way that was not honorable toward women. (I also had experiences outside the Pagan sphere, of course…) Somehow, I have been pretty lucky in life. I say that not to brag, but with a sense of astonishment given what so many friends and family have experienced. I thank my watchful parents for some of that, but also my husband. I started to date him when I began visiting covens, circles, and groves. He tirelessly accompanied me, always supportive and protective. As grateful as I am for that, I recognize how sad it is that I felt I needed to rely on him. Truly, I would not have gone to Muin Mound Grove had he not agreed to join me. Going to a home with a bunch of strangers for a ritual? I would have never done that without my 6’6″ partner by my side just in case.
It sucks that it has to be that way. What if I had been single? What if I hadn’t had any friends interested in exploring with me? Thankfully, the first Pagan circle I joined was run by a woman more concerned with fellowship and communal learning than power. Thankfully, Muin Mound was, and is, a family-friendly, safe group. Decisions are made by the members, not one person. I flourished in both places. What if they had been toxic environments? Who would I be today? Thinking of some other groups and individuals I met who gave me red flags, I shudder …
The news is filled with stories like Sarah’s, but on a more global scale. Women (cis, trans, etc), are voicing our pain, our worries, our stories. Watching my daughter grow, I worry for her. I can only keep her safe for so long. A large reason I work to create a safe, family-friendly grove is for her and the other children of my Pagan friends.
It is hard, very mundane work. Some of the most important protective magic you do will be that way. When I started down the Druidic path, I didn’t envision myself writing and reviewing bylaws. I didn’t consider the importance of introducing myself with a pronoun. I thought we’d get together and meditate, but we also come together to chat about the importance of safety, inclusion, etc. It can be grueling and challenging, but it’s necessary. Each time, the protective sphere around the grove strengthens. Sometimes cracks form, and everyone needs to buckle down and repair, or else everything will shatter.
I’ve found myself drawn to Macha lately. A little over a year ago, she came to me during a trance. She reappears from time to time, but her voice is getting louder. With everything going on in the political realm of America, the Me Too movement… it’s no wonder. This sovereignty goddess cursed the men of Ulster, cursed the patriarchy that wronged her. She’s a warrior who perseveres, and I’m curious about others who hear her call.
I’m particularly drawn to her because, as my grandfather’s genealogy research found, I have an ancestor from Armagh Co, which was named after Macha (Ard Mhacha).
Today, as the Senate prepares to vote, I felt compelled to make offerings to Macha. I prayed to her and asked for omens. My daughter joined me and made an offering to Brighid, which was also very appropriate. My little one doesn’t know what’s happening, so she was perplexed by my words. I pray that Brighid wraps her protective mantle around the young ones. I pray that Macha lends me her strength and, in time, lends that to my child when it’s needed.
For more inspiration on how to protect your groves, covens, and circles, I suggest reading Rev. Melissa Hill’s “Ways to Protect Your Community from Sexual Predation.” If you don’t already have bylaws in your group, begin to work on them collectively. Actively promote inclusion and begin to explore the concept of, and work to promote, a culture of consent.
I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on that myself. How many times have I said or done something that I probably shouldn’t have? There wasn’t any intent other than to have a chuckle with my friends, but people may see it differently. There are times I know I made someone uncomfortable with a joke. Even as a woman, I have to think of my own behaviors towards others. I want to be a better example for my child, for my grove, and community. May that work spiral outward.
Macha, I hear you.