To Mark A Passing

Today I attended the memorial service for Dr. Sjanna Johnston. Sjanna was a remarkable person with a vast amount of dignity and intelligence. Before her death on April 21st she had participated in a rich life both professionally and personally. Until now I couldn’t also say that she was the High Priestess of a coven I had worked with over the course of several years.

Dr. Sjanna Johnston

At the memorial many stood up and gave moving testimonials and personal stories of their experiences with Sjanna. For me the most moving part was when a current coven-mate of hers stood up and spoke of her as a Pagan. It was then that I realized we were not going to skirt around her faith for the sake of those who did not share it. As several others who had shared worship and ritual with her stood, I felt an immense pride that on this day she would be remembered for all the parts of her life.

Sjanna and her husband had hived off from a Blue Star Wicca coven long ago and were living in the broom closet in my community due to bad experiences in more conservative areas of this country. Luckily a fateful encounter with a future coven-mate brought me and many others in contact with her and her husband. That local coven they formed exists still today though I am no longer a part of it.

For those who never knew her I would hope the thing I can convey is that modern Pagans are full, active, and caring members of your community. You can never truly know who all of us are, because many hide our faith(s) for fear of reprisals in our community or jobs. But Pagans are doctors and healers; they are farmers, lawyers, cops, soldiers and teachers. They are here, in America, in every walk of life, quietly doing the best they can to make this world a better place. For those who would de-humanize us and marginalize us, I would ask you to think of this caring, strong, sensitive woman who loved books, gold jewelry, and working as a healer.

We are not the fringe, we are not just an assortment of freaks, old hippies and rebellious teens (though we can be those things as well). We are you. We are your neighbors, friends and co-workers. We follow a faith that speaks to us and calls us to worship gods that may seem strange or “diabolical” to your frame of reference, but we are just trying to be true to our hearts, minds and souls.

I learned much from time in worship and friendship with Sjanna and I’m glad that her suffering here is ended and that her body has returned to the elements and her soul to its personal journey. I’m glad that in death she can be “out” at her own memorial service before her former co-workers and associates in a way she never felt comfortable being in life. I’m glad that my life and hers for a brief time intersected. Blessed Be.

Jason Pitzl-Waters