Seeking, and Seeking Liberty


I have a new Outer Court and (despite myself) it’s online again. Now that I’m over all the ‘wouldas’, ‘shouldas’, ‘couldas’, I’m glad actually.

I’m grateful to my first OC that I don’t have to reinvent wheel. And I’m glad to have conversations early about things like in-person initiation and training, seeking with other covens, and digital egregore – things that took me months to recognize as important topics with the last OC.

I’m sure I’ll make mistakes and screw up again. But we’ve had conversations about that, too, so it’s not an unknown. 

I’m better equipped to do online training this time around, and better equipped to face the unexpected and unknown.

Hammer head shark over pregnant woman

Around 8:30 am on June 24th, 2022, the Outer Court text message thread bobbled along pleasantly.

I shared a picture of myself from long ago, two trimesters pregnant with my son at the Atlanta Aquarium. A huge hammer head shark glided star-like over me as I rested tired hips and legs inside a transparent tube. I texted that I’d only been pregnant once in my life, had my son without trouble, and was glad for the experience, but also happy I only did it once. The conversation then wandered naturally on to other topics, both magical and mundane, in its own easy rhythm.

Two hours later, we were whip-lashed, devastated by the news that Roe v. Wade had been overturned.

Shocked, infuriated, grieving, unable to find the names for the emotions, we struggled to wrestle back any form of control by being able to name these emotions that raged. 

If you can name a thing, you have power over it. But how to name this feeling, name all these feelings?

Two days later, I’m still in shock, but the shock is dulled. The rage is thicker and heavier, the grief is more desperate. And the resolve is annealing, turning diamond hard.

“Contemplation of Justice” Statue on the Supreme Court Plaza by James Earle Fraser.

The first online Outer Court lasted roughly a year, from August 2020 to 2021.

I spent the rest of 2021 and much of 2022 focused on my own practice, on devotional work to Hekate, and on building and nurturing relationships with local ancestors, spirits, and gods of the land I occupy. A fellow Gardnerian was doing similar work during that time, and our occasional community of two – of two hermits sharing notes in the darkness – filled my socio-magical cup. My work was fulfilling, I was learning, and I didn’t really miss having an Outer Court.

At the time, I felt like I was hibernating, maybe even licking wounds.  In hind sight, I was gestating, growing, evolving into a more solid form of myself, seeing the lines of my practices more clearly so that I could identify the doorways of transgression.

A few months ago, I was elevated to third, and it has been a long process of unfolding. At this point in my life, I know that Wicca unfolds at its own rate, and that rate is usually measured in months and years, if not decades. And I’m glad for that slowness. But sometimes these gods are wily, and there are moments of furious action and activity. I want to stroll and meander, but things start nipping at my heals, start biting my ass. So, I pick up the pace, whining that I just can’t run that fast, it should slow down.

Better get in shape then, huh? it replies. 

Part of this was starting an online Outer Court again. Trust me, I resisted. I had my plans, I’d set down my groundwork. By god I was gonna be normal for once.

But sometimes there are just too many strands of fate moving in too many other directions. Sometimes you have to just accept that you are who you are, and other people are who they are. Sometimes you have to acknowledge that you’re good at some things and not so good at other things, and this is okay. Sometimes all your efforts to do the ‘right thing’ are just getting in the way of doing anything. Sometimes, you have to say, “You know what? Fuck it. Let’s go.”

And next thing you know, you’re Doing The Thing. 

Diana the Hunter (Brussels Belgium)

My gods are the gods of the Wicca. But southeastern coyote, fox, wolf, wren, red-tailed hawk, may fly, lightning bug, wolf spider, oak, hickory, red bud, cedar, granite, quartz, devil’s grandmother, pipsissewa, flea bane, chicory – these all weave in and out of everything I do, they weave in and out of Hawkfire. As long as I am naturalized to this land, it couldn’t be any other way. With an online Outer Court, there’s definitely major species migrations.

Wicca is a religion, a tradition, a ritual framework, and so much more – it is my magico-religious great love. And I will pass it down faithfully as it was passed to me.

But Southeastern Coyote has his own plans, as well. He’s part of the egregore of Hawkfire, and he sits beneath my fingernails at both my best and my worst. He hands me a box of matches and I go looking for tinder.

Coyote in Wilmington, NC.

In the last few months, silver Mercury Dimes have come into my life from seemingly disparate and unrelated sources, and are revealing their role in my own magical practice.

Cory Hutcheson gives a great summary of Mercury Dimes on his blog, and I strongly recommend Yvonne Chireau’s Black Magic for in-depth research. But, basically, Mercury Dimes play a rich role in Black American folk magic, and have become part of the rich bricolage of American magical practices over time.

The Mercury Dime was a silver coin was minted from 1916 – 1945 and depicts Liberty in a Phrygian cap, the symbol of emancipated slaves in ancient Rome. Because of the wings on the cap, folks called it the Mercury Dime. This double-symbology (plus the enduring power of silver) lent itself to protective folk magic among the economically and socially oppressed Black communities of the segregated American south.  Black Americans didn’t have access to the healthcare, economic resources, or legal tools of their white neighbors, and Mercury opened roads while Liberty endeavored for justice – even when a true liberty seemed impossibly far.

This justice and true liberty still hasn’t arrived for Black America.  And, as of Friday, it’s became even more distant for Black and Brown women, especially in the South.

When looking at abortion access maps of the U.S., North Carolina and Virginia appear to be standing back-to-back in a knife fight against the rest of the south. Coyote crouches, hackles raised, eyes darting, brain working.

As long as North Carolina retains its current laws protecting a woman’s right to abortion services, our fourteen clinics will be a beacon to women across the south. But North Carolina is no blessing.  North Carolina still maintains patronizing and dehumanizing laws, including required counseling, 72-hour wait limits, and public employees are barred for using their insurance to fund abortions outside of rape or incest. We must do better, not only for the citizens of North Carolina, but for women across the southeast.

***

Bendis the Thracian goddess of the moon and the hunt, wearing a Phrygian cap.

 I have a Mercury Dime, but I’ve been reluctant to use or wear it.

It possesses such a rich history in Black American magical practices —— used to access healthcare, protection, financial aid, and more — and these are easily accessed resources for me due to my privilege. But I keep it to honor the Black ancestors of the land I live upon. I look upon it and remember the crimes committed against them, and the power and glory of them and their descendants in fundamentally changing this country. I look upon it and think of our collective future generations, I pray for real and lasting Liberty and Justice. I look, and seek guidance in actualizing that reality.

Friday, I looked at Liberty-Mercury and saw something else.

Mercury: transgressor of boundaries, psycho-pomp, guide, trickster, aid. And Liberty: the cool yet fierce manifestation of foundational human right. Rights which all people should expect and receive. 

Suddenly, this tiny piece of silver was a giant middle finger to SCOTUS, it was a name and a face to the stony resolve forming in my muscles.  It was gas in my tank to help folks visit friendly aunts in other cities, and voter registration drives, and the rage of my mother and my grandmothers, or the mothers and grandmothers of so many others. It was my beacon. No conditions.

I’ll wear my Mercury Dime. And I’ll do my work on the highways and in the courtrooms, as my gods and ancestors have called me to do it.

***

Ganymede with eagle of Zeus

I didn’t think I would do another online Outer Court.

Don’t get me wrong — I still believe in its mission, which is to expand access to craft training for those who are truly called to this path and these gods but, for myriad reasons, cannot do so by ‘conventional’ means.

But after the first OC ended, I felt like maybe this wasn’t the way to achieve equity in this practice. Maybe it was one of those ‘Nice thought, Wren, but try something else.” Maybe I just wasn’t meant to perform this role within our craft and communities. Maybe I was better at being a Hermit. Introspection can be humbling.

But starting a new OC is reminding me that we never stop Seeking. Even, and especially when we’re Hermits.

Every Seeker is different, and I’m learning entirely new lessons right now. There’s a strong thread connecting the first OC to this one, but everything is nevertheless new, simply by the token of our respective different-ness. This new OC is challenging me, pushing me to find my spaces of comfort and break past them. So I find myself tiptoeing into social spaces I’ve largely avoided, and having conversations I’ve largely circumvented.

I’m making new mistakes. And I’m learning from them.

I’m seeing myself more clearly as a Seeker, as one who will always traverse lost highways with Hermes on one side and Hekate on another, a witch and a wanderer.

Promotional still from “Crossroads”

There’s no real ‘end goal’ with witchcraft, as far as I can tell.

In my practical life, I want full and unmitigated human rights for all people, I want reparations, I want liberty. Witchcraft continues to teach me how to point myself towards achieving those goals on both practical levels and magical ones.  It teaches me that “magical” and “practical” are artificial distinctions, if you’re truly Doing The Thing.

It teaches me to seek with a Beginner’s Mind. It teaches me to Seek.

I don’t know what the future holds for this new online OC. (Well, not past the next week’s circle, anyway.) And I don’t know what the future holds for the United States, for this land that I love with all my heart and body and soul.

When I cast the circle, and I ride upon the French Broad, which cools my spine even as it holds the ashes of my father. When I summon the Mighty Ones, I climb the trails of South Mountain and High Rock, my family, my loves, surrounding me.  When I perform cakes and wine, I feel the goddess’s love, as vast and clear and uncomplicated as the Carolina blue skies — she is ever in my heart, my heart beating, beating, beating, pushing my feet to run, and run, and run. This practice is British Traditional Witchcraft, yes. But it’s also of my own blood and bones, of this land I occupy – of all the lands of all who seek this Craft and these gods. Seeking, I learn the names of other mountains and valleys and rivers and lakes and skies. She is myriad indeed. She is there for those who Seek.

As a Priestess of the Wicca, I push through the fog, torches blazing, always Seeking. As a witch, I will manifest all my desires.

What happens when something ends? Something begins. From the Golden Oracle by Tres Henry.

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