The Year of the Women

Artes & Crafts

Pat Camarena-Rose Barbary

This has been, for me, a year and a few months of the women. Whether it was in politics or in magickal communities, women have shown strength, courage and aptitude. I have lost wise elders, rekindled old friendships, and marveled at the fortitude, prowess, and gumption of the younger women. My journey this year was one of discoveries.  I discovered what life comes from death.  I uncovered the courage to run for political office. I marveled at how talented the women of all ages are in the neo-pagan movement. These were the many sad and bitter-sweet and euphoric experiences of my year and a few months to date.

To death, I have lost some great friends, starting with Morwen Two Feathers, who I have known since she was Paula Swilling in the early 80s. We were hand fasted to our partners and had our sons within a few months apart. We were involved in leading EarthSpririt workshops and clans during those same times.

She lost her battle to cancer far too young. And then but a month later, I lost Anna Pecora, friend and covener unexpectedly. 

Within a year of Morwen’s passing, I also lost Dorothy Emerson, minister and confidant. Dorothy was an author of many books on spirituality. Her last book, Sea Change: the unfinished agenda of the 1960s was just published in 2018. She hand fasted my late husband and I in 2009 along with a Gardnerian priest and priestess. She was the one legally a minister in Massachusetts who could sign the papers so that my husband Kirk and I could start our new beginning. She also was present at the ending of that era in my life. She presided over Kirk’s memorial in 2009. 

Then recently, came the loss of Sue Curwitz Arthen, an elder and adviser from the EarthSpririt Community. This was another elder who lost her battle to cancer. So many blows to my heart.

But it was a year of finding great gifts through the sadness. Through Morwen’s death, I rekindled my friendship with Kathleen Exar. You see, all three of us had weddings, and then babies together. Not to mention that our careers were in full swing. That was then. This is now. The Strength card in Jennifer Moore’s, The Healing Tarot, is Kathleen in her prime. Kathleen posed for and radiantly depicted the essence of strength and force of will during her days performing in a dance troupe. That was then. However, suddenly after Morwen’s death, Kathy’s path took on even more force. Now, retired from teaching dance in high school, Kathy got her dancing, performing and magick duds back on. She started doing readings and rituals and her own choreographed performances again in Salem. She is often at Nu Aeon there and is back in full swing. Best of all, now we chat again and cheer each other on like we used to, decades ago.

I could not find anything positive about Anna’s death until I started planning a forthcoming death workshop, we now call Death and Cookies. We had one a few months ago and we talked about the weird phenomena that occurs after death to survivors of the deceased. This move from the Death Café protocol of not having themed workshops, was inspired by Anna’s death. Later this year, when Anna’s house was being sold, some if her items were put up for sale also. It occurred to me that if we used her good china for the cookies and tea it would be cool, and she would have loved it. So. Thank you for that, Anna. You what have added Anna classiness to an event that needed some distinction. Thus, instead of Death Café it is Death and Cookies with real china teacups and dishes.

Dorothy and Sue’s passing rekindled my flame for Interfaith work, which has always curled my toes (in a good way). Their inspiration, Dorothy as a witch and Unitarian Universalist Minister and Sue as an active participant in the Parliament of the World’s Religions, reminded me that I have a cause I truly believe in…that all religions are valid to the practitioner and we must honor that. Much of the world’s despair and hatred stems from not respecting and acknowledging other religious paths. In a quest for truth, we ignore that it all goes to the same post office. This summer, my husband and I were asked to speak at an Interfaith event at a local Gay Pride.

This was the year of the very active and very much alive woman as well. I attended the Magical Women Conference in London, a now yearly event hosted by Sue Terry Erzebet Barthold.

This was an empowering experience, mainly because all the presenters were renowned women of all ages. Why is this such an important event?

This is why. Like many women, I too have been too have been subjected to the influences that patriarchy and its usual behaviours have exhibited. You would think that after over 30 years if being a witch and then a high priestess, these actions would not be prevalent in my life, but still they are. Sometimes at our store I am not asked for advice. Advice is sought from my partner first. Granted, my role is events coordinator and spell kit creator and blog post writer primarily.  And, I take care our mundane needs, such as pay bills, deal with Insurances, medications, health appointments and generally keep the household sane. However, to have others ignore the very core of my being which is magickal, gets exasperating at times. People seek out theory rather than practiced knowledge sometimes. And that is a facet of a patriarchal culture. Women do with heart. Men do with thought. Earth and water, Fire and Air. It’s easily relegated to the Queen and King Court cards in a Tarot deck, the Queens being Water (or heart and emotion) combined with the other elements; air, fire, earth). This is opposed by the Kings being Air (or intellect and thought) combined with the other elements, fire, water and earth).

Since all the presenters were women, the conference was empowering to the point of being overwhelmingly emotional. I found myself noticing the manner in which these women spoke. Incredible knowledge was shared but not from theory. It was not from a place of the head, but it came from the heart. The heart had spoken to these presenters and they had taken that heart sound and transferred it into the mind to present it through that filter. Not the other way around. This was the main focus. The heart was not just concerned with immediate desires but the fate of the many, the fate of the planet and her children. And also considered was what is to come, the fate if the Earth’s future and our children and their children’s children. Women spoke their concerns and fears in a heart song that was translated into thoughts; magical and mundane approaches; and practice and science.

Let me give you examples. At the first workshop I attended, Brontë Mansfield spoke about the late Margot Adler, whom I had met many years ago. This young journalist was researching the wise and wonderful NPR witch. I had tears in my eyes remembering Margot and feeling the strength of her influence on this young woman. It felt like a complete full circle as she had long ago inspired me as well. Brontë, a novice journalist, spoke about her fascination with Margot as someone she could relate to, from a heart place, to aspire to walk in her footsteps. Margot had paved the way of a witch renowned journalist whose mundane path included that of an Earth protector and advocate.

Soror Mimm spoke of the founding women of the Golden Dawn who played major roles in the movement with their strength and knowledge yet, who get little acclaim. She gave voice and recognition to those forgotten women who were inspirational in the development of this largely male fraternal order. She spoke proudly of the present women of the Golden Dawn and of her vision for women in the future.

Alkistis Dimech, who presented on body movement and trance was downright openly fearful of the future of mankind and pleaded for us to pay attention to what was happening. She told the audience of a frightful vision she’d had during her trancework.  I honestly wonder if the vision of what she saw was not a premonition of the burning Amazon rainforest.

Other presenters such as Rave Schwarz, a ritual and laboratory alchemist spoke of a new alchemy but based in the change within and stretching it into a change without. Changing the vibe of our planet’s group mind…one person at a time, beginning with the women. In her discussion, she pointed out that women are largely ignored as scientists and inventors. Women need to reclaim alchemy and make it our own. Like the other presenters, the future of the planet was foremost in her mind with change from a disastrous possible future to a positive outcome being the ultimate form of alchemy.

Dolores Ashcroft Nowicki spoke about the youth. She noted the lack of books we had to learn from as opposed to the deluge of reading matter out now for the 21st century common practitioner. She implored us to guide but to allow the youth to learn as they researched and to allow them to go forward without giving them too much scrutiny. She pointed out that progress is made in letting it happen. Change happens and it is a good thing. Dolores spoke as an elder not fearful of the integrity of future witches and occultists. The future after all belongs to those who come next, not us.

Chaweon Koo spoke of the Shamanism of South Korea and its influences on modern life. So ingrained in the very culture of the people is the magick practiced of old, that it has given rise to the acceptance of Western Magick. This has led to our impact on their music, art and dance in present day South Korea. In turn, their acceptance of such has begun to influence us in the Western world with the rise of Korean modern music and use of their healing remedies.

Liz Williams took us through the history of Jane Ellen Harrison, author of Themis: A Study of the Social Origins of Greek Religion, published in 1912.This book introduced the concept of one single great goddess suggesting the Earth Mother of the year god. This ideal set the stage for the modern Wicca of today.

And finally, I experienced a living spell for love.  An audio-visual presentation by Sharron Kraus left all with a feeling of hope and realization that magick works. At the end of the presentation she shared the outcome of this creative spell of music, song, art and vision as she named her partner whom the spell had manifested. The heart felt, the creative mind wove, and a love was revealed.

A main theme of the conference was those that have gone before and the legacy they left us. But in every talk was stressed a future we need to make definite. From the past, women learned and executed their dreams and vision such as those of Christina Oakley Harrington, founder of Treadwell’s bookstore.

Later this June, I had the opportunity to revitalize an acquaintance that developed into a friendship. This took me by surprise. I had known Phyliss Curott from my early involvement in NELCOG, the New England Covenant of the Goddess, a territorial faction of the Covenant of the Goddess. I had the opportunity to meet with her again.  And was it too much of a coincidence, that her focus after learning so many more paths of the Occult and being a Gardnerian priestess, had led her to focus on healing the planet. She too spoke to me of how it is in our hands, the women.

In conclusion, this is why women need to be able to exercise their creativity, visions, sciences and nurturing natures. We need more women leaders. There is a current right now. It is prevalent in our US Congress. It is the women that speak frankly, like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, whose fight for the Green New Deal focusses on our Earth and its preservation.

We come from the heart, from the gut and translate that into action for the greater good. Competing with men just gets us to where we need to be. But that is not the focus or the goal. The goal is to get to that heart place that nurtures our planet and her inhabitants, one and all.

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