I am a muse-ical mystical magical woman who loves the Goddess and women, a foremother of the Womanspirit movement, a teacher of Women's Mysteries, and a priestess of Aphrodite, Goddess of Love. All the things I do - rituals, thealagie, classes, Tarot, writing, poetry, WomanRunes, moon calendar keeping, and inner politics... stem from the musical ecstasies that are the soul of my craft.
I consciously received the Goddess in the mid-1960s to early '70s, in part, when my children were dancing to my songs. I was experiencing ecstatic trance states evoked by the music and movement of our bodies and spirits. I had been exploring many spiritual pathways in those years, from Hinduism to Occultism to Christianity, to innumerable esoterica, and 'round again.
My parents raised me in their Marxist/Atheist frame, and while this gave me the vantage point of sociopolitical dissent, it offered no explanation for the spiritual epiphanies I'd had from a very young age. It did, however, give me a clean slate with none of the psychic rapes many of my sisters have had to deal with in their conventional religious backgrounds. My Jewish roots, Celtic affinities, red-diaper-baby beginnings, and feminist spiritual choices have all played a part in my thealagical synthesis.
Hinduism gave me mantra, reincarnation, karma, and the realization that Self/God is All... things for which we in the States had little language back then. Buddhism gave me meditation. The Builders of the Adytum (a mystery school in Pasadena, CA) gave me many of the principles illustrated in Tarot and Hermetic Kabbalah; the power of symbols, "as above, so below."
Jungianism gave me archetypes, the anima and the animus, synchronicity, and the
collective unconscious. Christianity gave me the seasonal cycles as exemplified by the dying-and-reviving savior, which I would later come to understand as the female rites of passage of Inanna/Persephone, and Women's Blood Mysteries. I passed through many doors in my spiritual questing, and learned something important behind each. But always there was something missing - the affirmation of myself as woman.
Finally I arrived at the Goddess Gate, recognizing Her as a very old friend, and have never parted from Her since.
Subud in particular was to be a significant step on my path. This is a world-wide nondenominational practice born out of Tibet, with a strong influence from Islam. It involves a meditation called the "Latihan," and an initiation called opening." I was instructed to surrender to the Latihan, and told that this was "God entering me." I didn't know then to call it a trance, but I loved the blissful peace of the Latihan. Eventually its energy came into my music, and I was flying out on song and sound. Since many of my compositions are mythic, droning, and modal, they make a likely vehicle for this marriage.
Audiences, if they were open to it, would sometimes join me in this delight. The practice was beautiful and profound for me, and I devoted my life to it. When my children began to dance with me, the miracle deepened as we created and performed together. Not that it was a "performance" - it was more like a sharing, or a ritual. We were sometimes compared to Isadora Duncan and her schools of dancing children. I named our family troupe The Sybil after the oracular women of ancient Delphi, who sat upon a tripod over a gaping hole in the earth and breathed the trance-inducing gasses that emanated there. Priestesses (and later priests) would interpret their babblings in answer to the questions of seekers. "Poetry is the babbling of our tongues," my son Frey would explain in our introduction, "beauty the fume that intoxicates..."
We had no idea that we were invoking the Goddess until we met a very special woman. Sara was a closet poet and a retired school teacher who had literally lost her voice. When she saw us "performing" at the Troubadour down in Los Angeles, she said in her whispery croak, "You're the hope of the world!" What on earth did she mean, I wondered. "Read The White Goddess by Robert Graves," she kept insisting whenever I asked, in her unforgettable scratchy voice.
Our little family moved north, following the fairs and our Muse, settling in the coastal rain forested mountains of Santa Cruz. It was then that I found a used copy of The White Goddess in a second hand bookshop. On the cover was an ancient Greek seal, showing the Triple Goddess handing the Eye of Poetic Inspiration to a young male acolyte.
Graves taught me that all poetry, all theatre, began as invocation of the Goddess. In my openness and innocence, I had stumbled upon a spiritual a practice that had once been the sacred rites of thousands. I had always sensed a loving Source; had called Her "God" simply by default. Upon receiving the revelation of this book, it was a small matter to add "dess" to Her sacred Name. I took vows to serve Her forever.
Soon after that, women began coming to me, asking for teachings. I hadn't much formal education except for theatre training at the High School of Performing Arts, and a year and a half of college as a drama major - plus extensive input from my amazing self-taught and brilliant mom. I didn't think of myself as a teacher, but I was channeling like crazy, and women wanted to be a part of the beauty I was delighted to share.
We were living in a yurt in the woods while the women's movement was burgeoning around the world. (A yurt is a small wooden tepee-like house, originating in Tibet.) On full moon nights, we would offer concerts there, and people would either squeeze into our tiny space, or actually watch us through the windows! Sisters would come up the mountain on Monday nights, and since our space was round, we of course sat in circle. I called our groups Moonday Circles, and our home, the Moonhut. Later I found out that this name too was ancient; moon huts were the menstrual huts where women used to go when their bloods came, for ritual, communion, learning, and community decisions.
Back in Los Angeles, I had participated in feminist consciousness-raising groups, so I knew to use their techniques in facilitation. We would "pass the rattle" - actually a Native American tradition - and take turns speaking our truth and listening well. I saw how circular process could heal us in so many ways, and how it could heal the world.
The Moonhut was located on a Tibetan Buddhist community in the woods. Everyone around there was chanting OM in their circles, so I naturally thought it appropriate to chant its opposite; MA, for calling in the Goddess. Ma, the universal Mother cry, is now chanted by Goddess-lovers around the planet.
I had learned at the Builders of the Adytum about visualizing the rainbow colors in alignment with the seven primary chakras. As I ardently pursued my studies, I found the Witches' Cone of Power. This, combined with the rainbow, the chakras, seven ascending notes of MA, our visioning, sounding, and breathing synchronized, became the now widely used Rainbow Cone Meditation. (See the back of Cycle 1 in my book Ariadne's Thread.) The Cone of Power is a psychic vortex of energy that swirls around the circle and comes to a peak above its center. The Cone is usually used as a projector of intention and vision, for the purpose of casting spells with real results.
Most of the Moonday circles would convene for nine months or moons. Among our varied projects was the Pact; our collective statement of ethics, which we would compose and then sign in blood, at midnight, on Hallowe'en. As far as I know, I was the first facilitator of Goddess circles to emphasize the development of ethics for our current movement.
In these circles, we went to the same liminal spaces as the Sybil; a soaring, ecstatic high. We were possessed by the Goddess, in love with each other, flying in the magic. Practical activists may think this practice of no use in undoing real oppression, but they may not realize it is the basis of all shamanistic powers of magical transformation and the unification of our spirits for the building of true community.
Such years those were, as the Goddess drew me through one initiation after another. I knew She was going to sweep the planet, but there was still so much I didn't know. She sent me a woman lover, and so the mystery expanded and deepened, as I saw the connections between sisterhood, spirituality, politics, and sexuality. Our passions were intense and soulful. That same magic appeared in lovemaking that I had found in ritual and music. This too was a Goddess channel and it was only a matter of time before I dedicated myself to Aphrodite, Goddess of love, beauty, passion, and poetry. Inevitably I have had to face Her dark side as well: the pain and death and rebirth of love; the transformations that wrench the soul, yet bring so much healing and empowerment; the need to be fierce and to risk much for one's Muse. Years later, I also consecrated myself as a warrior to the Dark Goddess, chose my magical weapon, and made my shield. For me, Aphrodite and the Dark Goddess (the Faery Queen) are two aspects of the same archetypal being.
The Goddess sent me many lessons about gender, feminism, patriarchy, circle energy, and sisterhood, as well as herstory and history, mythology, and thealagie. Yet through all my development as bard, author, thealagian, priestess, and activist, I have always sought to maintain those early muse-ical ecstasies in my circles - to find the language and thealagie that would impart their importance across our gaps of estrangement and unknowing. Years later, I was to publish my book Ariadne's Thread , now considered a classic in the movement, and still going strong.
I am a pioneer on many fronts. Having been raised in poverty with a Marxist influence, I bring a vision of class-absence to my spirituality and teachings. My theatrical and ecstatic beginnings take me beyond standardized ritual. My openness to a kind of tribal intimacy brings a special way of connecting deeply in circles of every size. My music permeates everything I do, which makes my offerings unique. My non-linear thealagie and politics compel me to introduce new ways of understanding archetypes, gender, and circle work.
Looking forward... What manifests, begins in the dreamtime with our inner concept of reality. Outrages and atrocities - those things we MUST change - are commonly addressed and dealt with in the "real" world. But consider this: we will only make lasting change when we alter the thought forms and inner grids that bring our reality into being. Many have seen the truth of our situation on this planet; many have analyzed it well, struggled valiantly to name it aloud, and worked to undo it through direct action. But few have presented alternative inner systems to address our reality at its source. This is a major aspect of my work. Remember the teachings of Native American and Bardic wisdom: there is much power in magical song. We are the vanguard of the movement, and the models for those who come after. I know the Goddess brought me in as a wild woman for a purpose. Life is at times a struggle, but She gets me through, and I have seen Her influence take hold through my work. And still those limerant states embrace me when the Muse is aroused and the song is full.