I was born on the full moon in September 1955. Having a Virgo sun and Pisces moon made me a mix of an inquiring mind and a dreaming soul — a mixture of “Why?” and “Why not?” in equal measure. I started reading when I was three, always thirsty for more words, more ideas, more questions. When I was seven, my mother came in one night to find me still reading in bed when I was supposed to be asleep — reading the dictionary. According to her, I said, “This is a good book!” (I still think it is.) Greek mythology captured me at an early age, the tales of Athena and Artemis and Persephone. Nature and weather held great power for me, as they do for all children. Everything I read fed my imagination and my belief in worlds unseen. The fairies visited me nightly, as I wandered in a bedtime otherworld at the edge of dreams.
In 1973, when I was 18, I moved from my family home in Southern California to Santa Cruz, a place known for its counterculture and spiritual openness, and found community there, other dreamers, other seekers, though it took me a while to identify the twinges of longing that signaled my own spiritual awakening. I was strongly intuitive (there’s that Pisces moon!) and I always felt there was something more beyond the everyday and the mundane, but I didn’t have a clear idea of what form that would take for me.
Eventually I had the good luck to fall in with a group of friends who had been Unitarian Universalists in their youth and who had maintained the UU open-mindedness about religion and spiritual growth. Through them I was exposed to writers and teachers whose work began to pull together the swirling disparate pieces of my inner longing. Ram Dass in particular stands out in my memory of those years. “Be here now” — what could be simpler and more profound?
One day I was suffering from a backache, and one of my housemates, Amara Karuna, helped me with a healing massage. As she applied her hands to my back, she told me, “Breathe God into it.” In pain and frustrated both physically and spiritually, I replied that I had no idea what that meant, really. Breathe some bearded old man into my back? I’m just not getting it! Amara said, “Just imagine the most sacred thing you know. Visualize the most holy.” And instantly in my mind’s eye there appeared the image of the full moon. I was puzzled by this, but duly reported it to Amara, who said casually, “Oh, that’s the Goddess.” It was obvious to her, but it was a concept that exploded my being into consciousness. Yes! A big cosmic Yes. I had found Her.
There weren’t many resources available about the Goddess at the time or about the sacred feminine in general. The Goddess movement was just emerging out of the feminist movement. Starhawk had just published The Spiral Dance. Merlin Stone’s When God Was a Woman had been published a few years before. Carol Christ’s Womanspirit Rising was greatly influential. The list of women who pushed at the boundaries of patriarchal religion to find their own path was growing, and my spirit was kindled by these sparks. I was fortunate to live in the same neighborhood as Shekhinah Mountainwater, one of the foremothers of Goddess spirituality, whose radical and passionate love of the Mother was just what I needed. I studied and worked with Shekhinah one-on-one for several years, and she recognized the priestess in me, urged me to take vows and commit my life in sacred service. I knew I was in love with the Goddess, knew that it was for life, no question. But vowing as priestess is a serious step, and I knew that I had to wait until the time was right.
Around this time, the Motherpeace Tarot was published, created by Vicki Noble and Karen Vogel, and it became another powerful portal to the sacred feminine. I had been working with tarot since I got my first deck at 16, so combining the tarot with the Goddess was sublimely profound for me. My inquiring Virgo nature also found sustenance in studying the lore of herbs, crystals, astrology, dreamwork, psychic skills, trance work and visualization, a cornucopia of magical exploration. Shekhinah’s love of the Goddess was often expressed in song, so chanting, prayer, and poetry played a big part in my own devotions. The Goddess was preparing me to take that serious step forward in her service.
In 1986, a woman named Carol SheBear acquired the mailing list of the feminist journal WomanSpirit from its founders Jean and Ruth Mountaingrove, who were folding the magazine after ten years. Wanting to give something similar to its readers, Carol started a magazine called SageWoman. But after publishing three issues, she realized it really wasn’t something she wanted to continue to do, and word of this somehow came to Shekhinah, who urged me to take it over. Things fell into place just as the Goddess intended, and I bought SageWoman and began to change it to suit my vision. This was before the Internet, of course, and women who were awakening to the idea of a Divine Feminine often thought they were alone (and/or crazy). I saw SageWoman as a means to strengthen their faith and encourage them to follow their hearts. Because Virgos like to categorize, I began giving each issue of SageWoman a theme (Power, the Triple Goddess, Home, etc.) and this idea later became a key part of both Ninth Wave and Wisewoman Wheel of the Year.
In 1989, I moved to Los Angeles and met Joanna Powell Colbert, though we had connected through SageWoman when she generously offered her Goddess artwork to adorn its pages. Her generosity continued when she gave SageWoman a makeover, applying her design and layout skills to make it elegant and clean and easy to read. In that pre-digital age, I did all the layout for each issue by hand, with printed-out columns and photocopied art applied to grid boards with melted wax, the boards then carefully transported to the printer. There was plenty of time in this process to bless and pray and ask for guidance, and each issue was truly a labor of love for me.
Joanna also introduced me to the wonderful women of Long Beach WomanSpirit, with whom I worked on creating public Goddess events. I found in myself a great love of creating public ritual (and of course, of wearing fabulous ritual regalia!). Two women from LBWS became especially close friends, Callista Lee and MaryScarlett Amaris. Together we undertook the Cella Priestess training from the Reformed Congregation of the Goddess, under the guiding wing of RCG founding priestess Jade River. Through my work with SageWoman, I was fortunate to get to know many leaders of the women’s spirituality movement and call them friends and sisters. I felt so honored to help spin the web of connection among women who love the Goddess and to be part of that web myself.
Years passed. Things happened. Lessons were learned. I left Los Angeles and moved back northward. Anne Newkirk Niven took over the reins as owner/publisher of SageWoman and then as editor, and I moved on, though I wrote a regular column for some time. I felt a bit lost without SageWoman at the center of my vocational identity. The times of wandering in the wilderness are as important as the times of great purposeful strides forward on the spiritual path, though their gifts may not be understood at the time. But I knew I needed to be of service. MaryScarlett and I came together to create the first version of Ninth Wave and offered it together to a chosen group of nine women, the first “boat” as we called it.
My feet had found the path again and my vocation was clear. I was ready to take my vows as priestess at last, and Brigid called my name. She also inspired me to work with art and craft, making goddess rosaries (Brigid is the goddess of metalwork) and collages, including my own collage tarot deck, Full Moon Dreams. In time MaryScarlett moved on to other priestess work, and I reworked Ninth Wave and then created another year-long journey, called Farther Shore (now Wisewoman Wheel of the Year). In October 2001, Brigid gave me a new assignment, and the Sisterhood of the Silver Branch was born, an enclave of priestesses who are vowed to offering their personal excellence in sacred service, however that calling manifests. As Grove Mother, I look forward to seeing how the SSB evolves in the years to come. For more information on Ninth Wave and Wisewoman Wheel of the Year, please click the link above for The Goddess Path.
And that brings us to the present! I moved to Portland, Oregon, in 2011 and am finding community here (Portland people, do get in touch!). My serendipitous Goddess path continues to unspool before me. I have not kept close count (there’s my Pisces moon again!), but several hundred women have taken the Ninth Wave and Wisewoman Wheel journeys over the years, as solitaries and in circles. I’ve made and sold more than 600 goddess rosaries, each one a joy and blessing to create. My love of tarot has led to creating the Victorian Fairy Tarot, illustrated by Gary A. Lippincott, and published by Llewellyn in September 2013. In the spring of 2014, my Mystical Cats Tarot will be published, also by Llewellyn, and illustrated by Mickie Mueller. And in 2015, my book Tending Brigid’s Flame will be published by Llewellyn, an offering of love on the altar of my Goddess.
As I head into my Crone years, “be here now” takes on an even more powerful meaning. Far fewer days lie before me than behind me, and each is to be welcomed with gratefulness. Whatever is meant to be given to the world demands attention (thank you, second Saturn return.). I am in service to the Great Mother, and to her daughters, and I am ever grateful. If I can be of service to you, please let me know. Blessed be.
(The drawing of me is by Renée Mc Elwee, 1993.)