As Tolkien says, this tale grew in the telling
and is now rather ponderous.
But here it is, for those who
would like to know more about my journey thus far.
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 second-wave feminist movement of the sixties and early seventies. 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 and affirming. 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 in the darkness.
One teacher of Goddess spirituality lived right around the corner from me, as it happened: Shekhinah Mountainwater, 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. 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. 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.
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.
Joanna introduced me to the wonderful women of Long Beach WomanSpirit, with whom I worked to cocreate public Goddess events. I found in myself a great love of creating public ritual (and of course, of wearing fabulous ritual regalia!). 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. I felt a bit lost without SageWoman at the center of my vocational identity. But 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. I knew I needed to be of service. MaryScarlett Amaris and I worked together to create the first version of a priestess training program called Ninth Wave and offered it to a chosen group of nine women, the first “boat” as we called it. I found that I liked to teach.
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 vowed to offering their personal excellence in sacred service, however that calling manifests. There have been changes there too, and I am awaiting the next instructions from the Goddess about that part of my priestess path.
In 2011, I moved to Portland, Oregon. My serendipitous Goddess path continues to unspool before me. I have not kept close count (there’s that Pisces moon again, la-di-dah, who keeps records?), 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 led to creating the Victorian Fairy Tarot, illustrated by Gary A. Lippincott, and published by Llewellyn in 2013 (it is currently out of print, alas). In 2014, my Mystical Cats Tarot came into being, illustrated by Mickie Mueller. In 2015, my book Tending Brigid’s Flame was published, an offering of love on the altar of my Goddess. My next deck, Forest of Enchantment Tarot, will be published in the fall of 2019, with art by Meraylah Allwood. I am finding great pleasure in collaboration with these artists and others.
As I serendipitously stroll 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.
I am in service to the Great Mother, 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.)