SANTE FE, N.M. — When Wendy Rule led a full moon ritual on Jan. 1 at her home in Santa Fe, some 1,200 people took part as the Australian-born Witch tapped her snake-emblazoned frame drum to invoke the spirits of air, fire, water, and earth.
But those 1,200 ritual participants didn’t have to crowd into or around the 1930s adobe home that Rule shares with her husband, Timothy Van Diest, below the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
Instead, Rule said, her fellow ritualists were participating through their “crystal balls.”
Those ritualists watched as Rule, a musician who proudly identifies herself as both Witch and Pagan, picked up her guitar and performed her gentle ballad “My Sister the Moon.” Then, over the next hour, Rule continued to weave music, myth, meditation, magic and magical affirmations before closing the sacred circle by expressing gratitude to the Goddess, “moonlight, sunlight, the light within us” and . . . the Internet.
The ritual-cum-concert was the first in Rule’s year-long, live-streamed full moon series, and was broadcast from her Santa Fe living room with her husband Tim as technical producer. Rule appeared alone before the camera – her fellow 1,200 listeners-ritualists joined her through what Rule playfully labeled “our crystal balls, our little computer windows that allow us to remember we’re all connected.”
Rule’s next live stream will be her Leo-Blue Moon concert on Jan. 31. The full moon will be in Leo, and it’s a blue moon – the second full moon to fall in a calendar month. And there will be a lunar eclipse that night. She plans to perform a live-streamed concert during each full moon of the coming year.
Those wanting to view Rule’s full moon events must register via her website,wendyrule.com. Donations are welcome but optional, Rule said. The first live stream was plagued by a few technical hiccups, but Rule promises such bugs have been cast out. (For anyone who views that first event on YouTube, fast-forward about an hour to get to the beginning of the presentation.)
Though Rule and her website refer to her full moon series as concerts, “[she] definitely sees them as having a ritual element,” she noted during a phone interview from her home, as her accent revealed her Aussie roots.
“A big motivation for me in sharing these full moon concerts is to enter into ritual myself every full moon, and really encourage other people to do it. I want to remind people that these lunar cycles or natural cycles or just connecting with nature, with earth and sky, is at the core of not just the Pagan journey but a human journey.
“It’s very much ritual, and that’s actually going to be increasing. By March, support booklets adapted from my original Living a Life of Magic online course will be available for download, as well as support for guided meditations that people can tap into before the live streaming and be a little more informed – maybe set up their own altar, or think about where they want to place their energy as we’re raising energy together across the world.”
Rule’s live-streaming techno-Paganism is just her latest venture in a life that has seen her combine music, magic, nature, and teaching.
As a child growing up in Melbourne, Rule recalled, “I was always into magic and otherworldly stuff. Very trance, very able to cross over into the realm of fae, lots of what people call imaginary friends – which we call fairies.”
In her late teens and early 20s, she sang in jazz groups and “various, pretty crappy rock bands in Melbourne” while she earned a college degree in secondary teaching.
Meanwhile, she said, “I yearned for some sort of spiritual path and just couldn’t find it. Eastern religions didn’t do anything for me. Too cerebral — not cerebral but transcendent, and I’m a very earthy person. A part of New Age stuff appealed to me, but again there was that kind of separation from the earthy, ground-y, sexy, practical stuff.”
Then, when Rule was 25, two things happened.
“During my pregnancy with my son Reuben and after his birth, I got this epiphany of this epic flow of magic and a really strong connection with Goddess,” Rule said. “Which of course makes sense – pregnancy and birth and all that kind of thing.
“And it just happened to coincide with my discovery of a witchcraft store not far from where I lived. I went in a couple of months after Reuben was born and I overheard someone talking about witchcraft. I’m like ‘What’s this?’ And they’re like ‘Read this book.’ ”
That book was Positive Magic by Marion Weinstein.
“Suddenly I realized, ‘Oh wow, there’s actually a community of people,’ ” Rule said. “I read that book and applied its teachings, and I’ve continued to teach myself and learn and grow and screw up and get back on the path again (laughs).”
Rule’s new found path in Witchcraft naturally bled into her music.
“All these songs just came pouring out of me,” she said. “I wrote my first album in a matter of months. I decided to write a song for every card of the major arcana in the Tarot and set myself that task, and that became the seed of my first album, Zero.”
Since the debut of Zero in 1996, Rule has released six other studio albums including The Wolf Sky in 2006, Guided by Venus in 2010 and her latest, Black Snake, in 2013. The latter features Rule’s earthy voice, which occasionally tiptoes up to ululation, backed by son Reuben George Bloxham on bass, organ and ambient electric guitar, husband Tim on Native American flute and electric guitar, and guest musicians on cello, violin and marimba.
Black Snake, written mostly in the New Mexico wilderness before she moved there, celebrates “universal themes of death and rebirth, of descent and re-awakening,” Rule said on her website.
She also has released three meditation CDs, including a collaboration with her husband titled Vox Solfeggio, plus a live album and a set of classic jazz songs that includes “God Bless the Child.”
Rule has been visiting and touring the United States yearly since 2001. She moved to Portland three years ago before relocating to Santa Fe a year ago.
Along with her music, Rule began sharing her knowledge and experiences in workshops and classes, first at her home then at festivals and now online.
“I love to teach,” she said. “I’ve been teaching things like mythology, all that core stuff like connecting to nature and remembering to honor the cycles in our lives, honoring the healing darkness, things like that.
“Once I was on the road so much and I couldn’t have a steady coven or a steady teaching circle in the physical realm, my husband Tim and I created an online school eight years ago called Living a Life of Magic. Then last year I thought, ‘I need to shake things up and keep it interesting for me.’ I wanted to get these teachings out in a much more easily accessible way to a much wider community. That became these one-hour presentations every full moon.”
And what would Rule say to someone who claims that trying to connect magically via a laptop is too cold and distant? That you have to breathe fresh air, feel the Earth under your feet and be near other beating hearts for group ritual magic to happen?
“I’d say give it a try, and you’ll realize it can work,” Rule said. “I definitely agree that if I had the choice of grabbing a thousand people and being up on the mountain and sitting around and singing there – I’d take that, definitely.
“Given that that’s unlikely, this is a really good alternative and it works. We’re working with energy – it transcends time and space. Even if you’re connecting via your computer, if that’s your window, if that’s your access point, you’re still on Earth. The very first thing I did in that full moon concert was get people to ground and connect with the part of Earth exactly where they happened to be. We’re connecting in real time via this magic, crazy Internet thing, but we’re all on Earth, and that’s our starting point in the universe.”