Archives For Stacey Lawless

Welcome, 2014! The calendar New Year may be the only holiday celebration that nearly the entire world experiences or collectively recognizes. Despite this universality, our New Year’s traditions are as diverse as our world cultures. Therefore this unique period of time offers the opportunity to witness and compare foreign practices that have a similar meaning and purpose to our own. This includes cultural traditions that are not normally in the global spotlight.

Such is the case with two New Year’s celebrations that have very clear esoteric foundations:  Brazil’s Festa de Iemanjá and Cuba’s ceremony dedicated to Eshu-Elegbara. Both are products of regional African-based religions:  Candomblé and Umbanda (Brazil) or Lukumi (Cuba).

Iemanja on a Brazilian beach. The man is performing a New Year's tribute to the Sea Goddess. (Photo courtesy of Link)

Iemanja on a Brazilian beach. The man is performing a New Year’s tribute to the Sea Goddess. (Photo courtesy of Link)

Festa de Iemanjá

Over the years, Brazil’s Festa de Iemanjá has become a major secular tradition – one that attracts tourists from around the world. On New Year’s Eve, thousands of locals dress all in white and head to Rio de Janeiro’s beaches in order to honor the Goddess Iemanjá. Images of the Sea Goddess are everywhere as participants throw roses or gifts into the water and feast on the beach. In addition, they “jump 7 waves” to wash away negativity while making wishes for the New Year.

Link, an American Pagan who has lived and worked extensively in Brazil, compares this love of Iemanjá to the American devotion to Santa Claus. He says:

You can probably find roots to Pagan Scandinavia, but [Santa] is permanently engraved in the secular celebrations of the holiday… Those two ideas are totally separate.  And thus is Iemanjá — prime deity of a very esoteric culture, as well as a part of every common person’s New Years Eve. Pour Champagne into the ocean?  For Iemanjá!

Link

Link

This esoteric culture is that of Candomblé and Umbanda, two syncretic religions which developed out of the West African Yoruba religion. After finding its way to the Americas by way of the slave trade, the West African spiritual system merged with Catholicism. Like other syncretic religions, Candomblé and Umbanda now thrive as distinct minority faiths.

Within these traditions, Iemanjá is called an Orixa, not Goddess, and is considered a primary deity. Despite the secular appropriation of the Festa de Iemanjá, the practitioners of Candomblé and Umbanda continue to honor her in their own religious ways. While living in Brazil, Link was fortunate enough to attend a private Candomblé Iemanjá ritual. He recalls:

I asked a few questions about the ritual when I got there, and one guy said “I don’t know.” Another guy said “I don’t know – ask him,” pointing to another man. That man told me. “Tudo aqui e segredo.” Everything here is secret. After that, I stopped asking questions and just enjoyed the evening. It was a valuable lesson … Understanding is very rational, but religious experiences are just that – experiences. Rational thinking can limit the experience sometimes.  

Despite the secular popularity of Iemanjá, both Candomblé and Umbanda practitioners are still largely marginalized. However, times are changing.  Denise de Santi, president of IBWB church of Wicca and Witchcraft in Brazil, notes that although “Brazilian Witches and African Traditions do not mix,” we often stand together in defense of religious equality.

A Feb 2nd processional devoted to Iemanja (Photo Couresty of Flickr's  Sabrina Gledhill)

A Feb 2nd processional devoted to Iemanja (Photo Couresty of Flickr’s Sabrina Gledhill)

Iemanjá may actually be helping. In regions where Candomblé and Umbanda are strongly rooted, Iemanjá festivals are most popular. In Bahia the festivities are held Feb. 2, and, in Sao Paolo, they happen in early December. However, the Rio New Year’s celebration gets the most “press.” This year, news reports are stating that participation was up by 15,000 people. Moreover, the Rio Festa de Iemanjá was reportedly broadcast in Latin America and the United States for the first time via the Fox network.

The growing popularity of all of these festivals, secular or not, does call attention to these minority religions, highlighting their very real presence in Brazil. Does the secularization of their Orixa ultimately help or hinder their spiritual work?  That is a discussion for another day.

Eshu-Elegbara

Unlike the Festa de Iemanjá, the Cuban New Year’s ceremony has not been co-opted by secular culture. It is strictly a public religious ritual for those practicing Lukumi, more often called Santeria, another syncretic religion based on the West African Yoruba traditions and Catholicism. As reported by The Associated Press:

About 200 believers and onlookers thronged Havana’s most important market, Cuatro Caminos, for the ceremony dedicated to Eshu Elegbara… In a central courtyard at the market, people sprayed rum from their mouths at a 2 foot tall cement stone statue of Eshu Elegbara… At its base, they left offerings of coconut, watermelon, candy and flowers.

The article goes on to say that this was the first year that market administrators allowed the religious statue to be permanently erected after 18 years of practice. American Stacey Lawless, an aborisha (practitioner) of Lukumi, said:

I’m glad the Ocha community got permission to build the Eshu-Elegbara shrine at Cuatro Caminos. The shrine looks cool itself. I think it’s important to stress that it is a shrine, not just a statue. That “icon” is actually an embodied manifestation — an avatar if you like — of the Orisha Elegbara. So now he’s present in the Cuatro Caminos market in a very material way.

Stacey Lawless

Stacey Lawless

The administrators’ show of support has allowed the “Ocha community” to take a step forward in its own quest for greater global understanding and presence. As Jason reported yesterday, the Lukumi New Year’s tradition also includes a divination ritual performed by the babalawos, a specialized priesthood devoted to such practice. Their yearly predictions make international news.

With a shrinking world through the evolution and speed of mass media, we are able to witness these unique cultural practices and their New Year’s traditions. As attention is drawn to their rituals, to their Orixa, to their divinations and their people, attention is also drawn to their religions and their very real presence in our global society. In this way New Year’s celebrations, which are largely considered superficial, can also have a very profound purpose in the movement for social change.

(Important Note: Photos of the Eshu-Elegbara ceremony are under AP copyright. To see them, please click on the link to see a slide show of these engaging photos.)

Ghosts have become popular in the last decade or so. Paranormal investigation, or “ghost hunting,” shows chronicle the adventures of people armed with an assortment of sensory equipment, most of which is easily available online in case you want to start your own investigative team. Or you can apply for admission to one of the many teams already in existence. For those who want to dabble in exploring hauntings, but not jump into the life of a researcher, there are scores of haunted sites and ghost tours you can pay to visit.

What has stirred up this interest in ghosts? One theory is that the availability of sensory devices like EMF readers and the ovilus have made it possible for more people to go out in the field and pursue their interests in the paranormal. That doesn’t answer the question of where the interest comes from, though. Is ghost-seeking simply another manifestation of America’s current interest in the occult? Is it an attempt to scientifically evaluate the existence of spirits (rather like some forms of 19th century Spiritualism)? Some investigators seem to be doing a grown-up version of legend-tripping, armed with gadgets instead of candles and incense.

Other investigators, though, have gotten involved because they want to help the dead.

Ahmadi Riverwolf

Ahmadi Riverwolf

I spoke with two women who work with Cressona Paranormal in Pennsylvania. Ahmadi Riverwolf is a Yayi Nganga in Palo Kimbisa (a Yayi is a full priestess, Palo Kimbisa is another rama of Palo – a different denomination from Mayombe, so to speak). Jhada Addams is an Omo Yemaya (a Santera crowned to the Orisha Yemaya). Both had mediumistic tendencies before initiating into their respective African Traditional Religions, but have since discovered a calling to help the dead. Ahmadi has been on a couple of investigations with Cressona Paranormal, while Jhada has served as a consultant on one.

Jhada: For me – my entire gig is trying to give the spirit what it needs to elevate. Light. Prayers. Songs. If it needs to go, I help it break free so it can go. If it wants to stay, I then have a conversation with the homeowner about how to live in harmony with the spirit.

Ahmadi: They want to be acknowledged, they have unfinished business, or they need help to be elevated. Sometimes they want to leave where they are and don’t know how.

I asked Jhada and Ahmadi how working with the paranormal team fit their religious practices. Both stressed the deep importance of the ancestors in the ATRs.

Jhada: In both Palo and Santeria, ancestors are VENERATED. Appreciated and incorporated into daily life. You have to remember that from which you came. It’s ESSENTIAL. There are so many spirits out there, cast adrift because so many people in this country can’t handle death – it’s heartbreaking.

Ahmadi: They deserve respect, honor, acknowledgement. We would not exist without them.

I asked them to expand on this a little. There’s a difference between ghosts or restless dead and ancestors in the ATRs – ancestors have “crossed over,” to use the common phrase. They can and do act in the lives of their descendants, but are refined, profound spiritual forces, not the confused shades typically encountered in true hauntings.

Jhada: I’ve run across urns that people had simply dropped off in antique or oddities/bargain shops – with just a rime of ashes in the bottom. The family member didn’t even care enough to wash the urn out properly.

Ahmadi: That just sickened me.

There was a time I found a headstone carelessly chucked into a rubbish heap in a local cemetery. I picked it up and could hear a woman cry that she had been forgotten. The loneliness of the spirit was palpable. I took her home and she’s been on my altar ever since, decorated with bling and happy.

Jhada: I do what I can to ease their spirits, and their crossing.

By working with Cressona Paranormal, Ahmadi and Jhada explained, they benefitted from all the perspectives the team brings to their investigations – including practical experience with things that go bump in the night for entirely mundane reasons, like plumbing.

Jhada Addams

Jhada Addams

Ahmadi: Sometimes our beliefs can color our judgment. We need to approach these cases with a spiritual, yet clinical eye sometimes. We are going into people’s houses. ANYTHING could happen. Many are things not paranormal at all. Or magic.

Calming people down is sometimes the biggest challenge.

Ahmadi also noted that many physical conditions, allergies, and pharmaceutical side effects can produce symptoms that may seem like spiritual activity.

For those who think they might be interested in working with the dead, Jhada and Ahmadi stressed that the best first step is start honoring the ancestors.

Ahmadi: Anyone can set up an ancestor altar and light a candle and a glass of water. Set up a spot with mementos and pictures.

Jhada: And, honestly, everybody should. If nothing else, for their own dead.

Ahmadi: And if something happens like flickering lights or an opening door, say Hello!!

Legend-Tripping?

Heather Greene —  April 14, 2013 — 26 Comments

Under the light of a full moon, four teens creep through the crooked iron gates of a long-forgotten cemetery hoping to witness a vampire emerging from his scared crypt. They carry candles, matches, and a package of dime-store incense…

By Kabir Bakie via Wikimedia Commons

By Kabir Bakie via Wikimedia Commons

Does this story sound like the beginning of a teenage thrasher film?  A Scooby Doo episode? It’s neither. The narrative is actually an example of a very common-place phenomenon: “legend-tripping.” Gail de Vos, storyteller and adjunct professor, defines legend-tripping as:

…an organized journey to an isolated area to test the bravery of the group when faced with supernatural phenomena. The trip experience involves the telling of appropriate legends… Sites include cemeteries, tunnels, deserted and “haunted” houses, and remote lanes and bridges. (From Tales Rumors and Gossip, 1996)

Have you ever gone legend-tripping? Think back.

When I was seventeen, my friends and I heard a story about an old stone tower eight miles north of town. The structure was supposedly an inverted cross built by the Satanist who owned the surrounding land. The blood of his sacrificed victims stained the floors of the locked tower gates. If you drove around the tower backwards, you could hear Satan’s spirits speak.

Courtesy of Flickr's  Scaramouch

Courtesy of Flickr’s Scaramouch

The call of this legend was absolutely irresistible. We stuffed our teenage-selves into an old VW Scirocco and headed north. After several visits to “Devil’s Tower,” we finally had the nerve to drive around the tower but certainly not backwards. We weren’t going to tempt Satan. What would he do to a bunch of Jewish kids who didn’t believe in him?  Needless to say we were scared s**less grossly unprepared. On the very last excursion, one of my friends was drunk brave enough to creep up to the iron gates.  After he got back in the car, that beat-up old Scirocco never accelerated so fast.

What does legend-tripping have to do with Paganism? A whole lot. Most trips involve the seeking out of the paranormal or the Occult (e.g. The Blair Witch Project.) In many cases, the teens use what they imagine to be magic in order to intensify the experience. In Aliens, Ghosts, and Cults: Legends We Live (2003), Bill Ellis explains that “teens often fabricate evidence of cult sacrifices, even to the extent of killing animals and leaving occult symbols behind at the site.” (Page 162)  He includes legend-tripping examples such as this one from Ohio which “focuses [on five] small cemeteries [which] contain the graves of witches and therefore serve as a meeting place for black magic.” (p 223) These cemeteries reportedly form a geographical pentagram.

Athens Ohio Cemetery Pentagram

Athens Ohio Cemetery Pentagram

This teenage rite-of-passage grazes the “outer banks” of Paganism through its connection to the Occult. As such, we need to be aware of its practice. On the one hand, the legend-trip may be the first way a teen, as a genuine seeker, experiences the Craft. On the other hand, the Occult connection may perpetuate negative stereotypes about Witchcraft and associated Pagan religions.

Wild Hunt contributor, Stacey Lawless shared this memory:

 I was hanging around with three friends one night and the talk turned to the Occult.  We decided to go to “The Thread,” a waterfowl impoundment in Durham. It was a patch of woods and swamp off the highway with an eerie atmosphere.  Jim went on ahead and vanished into the dark. He’d only been gone a few minutes when Steve started looking around wildly as though he heard something. Megan staggered and had to catch herself against me and I felt a strange pressure in my head. We bee-lined it back to the car. Jim caught up with us wondering what was wrong. “ Didn’t you feel anything?” Steve asked. “Nope,” said Jim. “There was a big spirit guarding the place, so I challenged it to a duel, but nothing happened. And then you guys freaked out.

Stacey and her friends may have had a genuine supernatural encounter. For most kids, the sensations would be written-off as a product of the “fear” (or “beer”) factor. However, for others, this first “contact” may ignite or be the result of an Occult sensitivity. Inexperienced teens with limited resources may use legend-tripping as a doorway to Witchcraft.

Unfortunately, authorities and media also confuse Satanic-themed teenage fun with honest Pagan religious worship which can result in a dangerous backlash against local Pagan practitioners. Criminologist  J Hayward tried to disentagle “Satanic” vandalism from legend tripping in his 1998 article entitled, “Occult Crime: Satanic Evil or Legend Trip?” He wrote:

There is belief among some that the desecration of churches and cemeteries… animal sacrifice and mutilation, and various indignities done to the dead can be attributed to persons committed to and motivated by occult or satanic beliefs. The extent to which this belief is correct is not easy to gauge… only a few are suggestive of anything more sinister than library book dabbling, legend-tripping, intoxication, adolescent misbehavior, and varying degrees of psychological instability.

While reporters and the police attempt to separate Satanic practice from teen pranks, we are attempting to differentiate ourselves from the both. What’s left is a messy tangle of confusion with Occult at its center.

There is yet one last relationship between Paganism and legend-tripping. This teenage activity is part of a broader anthropological concept called “ostention.” Gail de Vos defines ostension as “the process by which people act out themes or events found within folk narratives… The legends are believed and acted upon and then the new stories are told and retold to validate the original legends.”

Pagans at Stonehenge.

Pagans at Stonehenge.

By that definition, some academics consider all newly emerged Pagan religions to be products of ostension. In Legend-Tripping Online:  Supernatural Folklore and the Search for Ong’s Hat, Michael Kinsella writes “Occult texts strive to develop authenticity and authority by claiming, if not outright boasting, direct lineages from ancient cultures…Wicca has quite successfully written its own history.”

Is he right?  Are we just trying to relive a legend or myth? Does it honestly matter? Mythology and legends are social texts that have been used to teach cultural ethics and religious beliefs for centuries. What is the Bible but a series of stories from ancient cultures that contain truths for Christians?

Kinsella goes on to say, “By applying the frames of supernatural legends and occult texts, individuals and groups may discover and create… new ways of thinking of themselves and interacting with the world.” As such, ostension contributes to social evolution. It allows us to perpetuate and experience our world – even religiously. Through legend-tripping, teens use ostension, or legend-tripping, to test the boundaries of everyday life. We use ostension to go beyond the boundaries of everyday life.

 

 

Kinship and community

Stacey Lawless —  March 22, 2013 — 31 Comments

Although I came back from Pantheacon with lots of anecdotes and experiences (most of which were extremely positive and fun), I find that the only story I have to tell you right now is one I didn’t want to tell. It won’t leave me alone, however. It’s just this: I had a dreadful time with the Morrígan devotional ritual, “The Heart is the Only Nation.” I know many people who attended absolutely loved it. Teo Bishop, in particular, seems to have been deeply affected by it, and I envy him. I went to the devotional hoping to be moved by it. I guess I was, although not in the way I wanted.

It’s a quirk of my personality that I react badly to being asked to identify with a group. Damned if I know why. If I voluntarily align myself with said group, that’s okay, but being confronted with any sort of team-building, identity-merging activity irrationally unnerves me. It feels like an attack. When I was a kid, I had recurring nightmares about being infected by zombies or assimilated up by Borg-like collectives. I don’t have that kind of a strong reaction anymore. But, unfortunately for me, the Morrígan ritual pushed my fear-of-loss-of-self button, hard. Maybe if I’d been expecting it, it wouldn’t have thrown me, but I wasn’t. So, suddenly, I went from opening up to the ritual to slamming closed, feeling threatened, depressed, angry, bitter, alienated. And I was much too far from the door to make a discrete exit.

So, I breathed and tried to work with the emotions, and went through with the ritual. It was a rite about deepening the bonds of kinship and community. I value these, so by gods I was going to grit my teeth and be in community. To try to be gracious and as open to the experience as I could be, even though what I really wanted to do was crawl away into a dark corner. It never occurred to me that I could have just stepped back from the circle into the darkness at the edge of the ballroom. I didn’t want to distract anyone around me from the work they were doing, so I worked too.

I spent the rest of Pantheacon, and a good part of the following month, mulling this experience over and thinking about religion and kinship, so I suppose the Morrígan devotional did its job even on my cranky self.

Anyway, this story really is not all that important. It wanted to be told, but I think the real reason to tell it is because it gives me space to say that sometimes, being in community is the worst. Doing anything with other humans is too often a real drag, and sometimes you can’t escape. You have to grit your teeth and go through with whatever it is you’re doing with all these people just because it has to be done. The reason I’m stating the beyond-obvious here is that I’ve been thinking about the post yesterday about Yana, and kinship, and solidarity with other Pagans. The costs of being in community, and the effort it can take to return to the work of building and maintaining those bonds again, and again, and again.

As Jason said, Paganism is international now. And I hope it’s not speaking too strongly to say that now modern, international, post-Drawing Down the Moon Paganism has a martyr.

After I post this, I’m going to light a candle on my boveda for Yana in her journey to her gods. Then I’m going to meditate on what I bring to this community, to “Pagandom,” as I like to call it in lighter moments. What I can do to contribute to the ties of kinship and affection and religious experience that strengthen this community. What work needs to be done for our safety and well-being. I haven’t done a lot of interfaith or intrafaith or outreach work before, so this is all going to be new. Will you walk with me?

In the past decade I’ve noticed a rapid increase in the number of modern Pagans who have taken initiations in African diasporic religions like Santeria, Vodou, and Palo Mayombe. Likewise, a growing number of elders and teachers in those traditions have started to attend Pagan events like PantheaCon in San Jose, California. I’ve long been interested in the shared struggles our faiths face, and find the increasing interactions a fascinating and under-studied phenomenon. What will this growing trend mean both for modern Pagan religions and for the African diasporic faiths?

To address some of these questions I’ve interviewed Stacey Lawless (Ngueyo Ndumba Kunayanda), who lives in the Southeastern United States where she is currently reinventing herself. A Pagan for most of her life, she is also an aborisha in Santería and an engueyo in Palo Mayombe. She writes, draws, paints, and has recently started a blog. Stacey is in the process of finishing a Master’s degree in American History and is considering a move to the West Coast. In addition, she wil be starting a monthly column here at The Wild Hunt about her journey into Palo Mayombe.

Palo Mayombe working altar photo by Osvaldo Sesti, 2010.

Palo Mayombe working altar photo by Osvaldo Sesti, 2010.

Let’s start with your religious background, how did you come to modern Paganism, and was there anything from that time that presaged your interest in Palo?

Oh hell. I kind of hate talking about my background in Paganism, because I essentially spent two decades trying to figure out what I was doing. I wish I’d been deeply rooted in something cool and become super-competent in life and magic, but nope. I came to it in high school through a love of nature, plus a love of folklore and the occult, but mostly I read a lot of books and made art on Pagan themes. I did dabble in a few traditions, especially Asatru, but nothing ever clicked for me. I was so hungry for something, but I couldn’t figure out what it was for way too many years.

Asatru did, in a way, foreshadow Palo for me. Something about the runes and the lesser spirits – the disir and huldre, especially – were close enough to whatever it was I was searching for that I kept trying to convince myself I was on the right track, even when I didn’t actually practice the religion any more. I probably drove all my Heathen friends nuts over the last few years as I just couldn’t quite let go . . .

Renee Stout - Eyes of Legba (monoprint) 2002

Renee Stout – Eyes of Legba (monoprint) 2002

What started you on your path to Palo? Was it a gradual process? Did it emerge from a dissatisfaction with what modern Pagan religions had to offer you?

Art started me on this path. I walked into an exhibition called “Dear Robert, I’ll See You at the Crossroads,” which was a series of works by Renee Stout about Robert Johnson and hoodoo, and it blew my mind. I’m still a huge fan of her art, and it’s had a lot of influence on mine. From there I got interested in African, African-American, and Caribbean arts, especially pieces made for religious use. I read about Haitian Vodou and Santería (or as many of us call it, Ocha), and for a while in the ‘90s I thought I wanted to go into Vodou. But I had no idea how to find a house (and was nervous about it anyway) so I let the idea go. (I confess I did try mixing it with Wicca, but that felt like an insipid way to approach the lwa, so I stopped.)

Mostly, though, I dug in my heels and went into heavy denial of the fact that there was a current of African-influenced something-or-other that tugged at me. I wanted to be Pagan, I wanted to learn the Old Ways of Europe, and I had no earthly idea how I might actually enter one of the Afro-Caribbean religions – not that I tried hard to find out. I just flirted with the idea and kept telling myself that it wasn’t really for me.

In the middle of my Heathen years, I met the man who became my partner, who at the time was a recently-made aborisha (someone with the lower-level Ocha initiations, but not a priest), and we started talking because I recognized the elekes he was wearing. (As a friend of mine put it, “Aw honey, now they’ve sent you a boy.”) We started dating, I joined his Ocha community and became an aborisha myself, and the Orishas began opening doors for me. A year ago, Eleggúa told me in divination that I needed Palo.

And I still dug in my heels and resisted. I did try to join a friend’s munanso (Palo community), but the plans we made for my initiation fell apart dramatically, and I seized the chance to proclaim that maybe it was all a mistake and I didn’t really need Palo. (I can’t recommend this approach to Orisha religion, by the way. They give you advice for a reason.) Luckily, I’d met my Tata-to-be online shortly after that mess, and luckily, he’s a fairly patient man. I finally got over myself and made rayamiento, Palo initiation, in November.

(And, of course, Palo turned out to be the thing I had been searching for all those years. I don’t think anyone who knows me was the slightest bit surprised.)

Stacey Lawless

Stacey Lawless

Is it easy for you to balance your now-dual religious identity? Do you feel like both a Pagan and a student/initiate of Palo? Does one identity dominate?

This is a tricky question to answer. I’ve felt like a Pagan for my entire adult life, despite never finding a home in any Pagan tradition. I thought that Palo would put an end to that, but quite the contrary. I’ve been gaining clarity on what Paganism might mean to me, and some doors have recently opened onto the community that I would never in a million years have expected. I don’t know what the future has in store, but it seems that I’m not done with Paganism yet.

My perspective on it has changed, though. I no longer see Paganism (or Palo or Ocha, for that matter) in terms of beliefs, cosmologies, or ritual forms. I see them in terms of serving gods and spirits in the ways in which they want to be served. So it’s really not a matter of balancing identities or religions; it’s more about maintaining relationships.

I do have a couple of spirit allies from my Pagan past, and the way my relationship with them has changed since the rayamiento is fascinating. I had such a heady, intellectual approach to them before, like I was always half-consciously doing comparative religion around their characteristics. Now they’re beings I know and spend time with.

There seems to be a growing interest in religions like Santeria, Vodou, and Palo among modern Pagans, having lived this process, what do you think drives it? Is there a yearning for authenticity there?

That’s a tough one. I know a number of people who came to Santería from Paganism; some shed their Paganism, others still practice a Pagan religion alongside Ocha, but all of them felt a spiritual calling to Ocha. On the other hand, from what I’ve seen online, there are clearly Pagans out there who are just cherry-picking what they like from the Afro-Caribbean religions and inserting it (sometimes with hilarious results) into their own practices. Neither approach seems to have a lot to do with a hunger for authenticity.

I don’t know. People have always been drawn to these religions for many reasons – the lure of power, a desire for healing, academic interest, involvement with the community, following a significant other or parent in, or even just love for the religions. Maybe some Pagans feel like they need something “realer” than what they’ve got, but I hope for Paganism’s sake that that’s not the only attraction.

What do you think your future with Palo will be like? What do you envision for yourself as you continue to assume the identity of a Palo initiate?

I hope I learn what I need to learn well, and hope I become a good healer. Almost everything in my life is undergoing change right now, so I’m just trying to navigate by what I hope for and let the journey carry me forward.

I think it was Anne Lamott who said, “If you want to give God a laugh, tell Her your plans.”