For the past 2ish weeks I’ve been residing in New England. The lovely Christopher Penczak and his beautiful partners Adam and Steve (all of The Temple of Witchcraft) welcomed me into their home in New Hampshire and I have spent a lot of blissful time catching up on human indulgences such as watching all of Season Three True Blood, catching new episodes of Glee and enjoying great food and wine. I also had events in Braintree, MA and Salem, NH before heading to Salem, MA, for 3 days at the end of last week.
Salem, MA was hugely intense for me both on an external and internal level – and of course they mirror each other. I conducted two workshops in Salem hosted by the Museum of Witchcraft during the October/Witch season. I was lucky that the town wasn’t over-run by tourists until our last day. On Saturday I could barely move and I was gritting my teeth on more than one occasion.
I was invited by Ed Hubbard and Rev. Don Lewis of Witchschool.com and of the Correllian-Nativist Tradition to run workshops and to sign books. I spent quite a bit of time at their newly-opened (as of this year) Witches of the World Museum. If you are ever in Salem, please do visit the museum as it gives a perspective the other museums in the town don’t – it speaks of Witchcraft as the spiritual tradition, as the practice, and is not afraid to talk about hard-hitting issues like religious discrimination, hysteria and our own history. The Correllians have also given homage to Tituba, the first ‘Witch’ accused in the Salem Witch Trials, and have named their new shrine in the Salem Chapel after her – The Tituba Witan-Shrine (on its way to becoming an official temple).
I met several amazing witchy people in my time at the museum – Danielle Young (the maiden priestess of the Tituba shrine, and a truly natural vessel of the spirits), Katrina (a potent and very grounded woman with a zest for the ‘other’) and Traci (a Correllian Arch-Priestess, an initiate of Ifa and a generally awesome witchy woman). Of course I re-united with Don and Ed, who I originally met at the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Melbourne late last year.
The workshops I ran in Salem were on consecutive days. On Thursday I ran Drawing Down the Gods: Pagan Trance Possession and on Friday I ran Initiation and the Path of the Shamanic Witch – both topics generally take up most of my focus in terms of ‘work’ spiritually-speaking. Both workshops captured the essence of the ‘other’ insights, revelations and transformations that were occurring on a personal level as well. I also had the distinct pleasure of witnessing an electric-charged full moon ceremony in the Salem Chapel conducted by Danielle Young and Lex, and I also participated in a seance and ouija-board demonstration led by Rev. Don Lewis. Interestingly, the spirits seemed to be dismissing the ouija and would not spell (apart from spelling out the alphabet)…after 5 or 6 people attempted to communicate this way with Don, I decided to see what would happen (having never worked with an actual ‘ouija’ before). The spirits spelt very clearly for me, and I enjoyed the ‘xo’ remark from whoever that was.
Being in Salem, I couldn’t really avoid being impressed by the manifold occult and Pagan stores that were in their prime! I ended up buying two beautiful statues – one of the Kore, and one of Hekate in her triple form from New Aeon. My favourite stores would have been Hex on Essex Street, Bewitched in Salem on Essex Street and New Aeon on Pickering Wharf. Of course, the World of Witches Museum also has a well-stocked gift-shop and much of Don Lewis’s stunning Pagan art can be found there.
Previous to Salem and New England in general, however, I spent a week in New Jersey, staying with another friend I made at the Parliament – Michelle Mueller – who is very involved in Interfaith and the Pagan/Wiccan community at large. Michelle, currently, is working as the director of Religious Education at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Cherry Hill, NJ. I actually took part in a service there on a beautiful Sunday morning. It was my first UU service and I found it hugely welcoming of diversity and also very spiritually-politcally stimulating. Of course, UU makes it absolutely known that they accept all life-affirming paths of life and are hugely supportive of GLBTIQ rights (and they don’t just talk, they walk!). Pagans also have their own chapter of the UU…CUUPS or the Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans. I also visit Philadelphia. I think I would need more time in the city to truly appreciate its value, but I did enjoy South Street and the various murals around the place! The history alone however is something that one would need to savour for days, rather than just glance at.
For an interview with me in Salem (I speak about my experiences with the Spirit of Salem and Don and I wax eloquent about the validity of family traditions and histories that go beyond Gardner):
As of tomorrow I will actually be on the West Coast of the States! First stop San Francisco for Samhain! And check out my two events in the SF area in my Appearances section.
Deep and Wild Blessings and happy Samhain or Beltaine depending on where you are!