Practical Insights May 2017
“Divine Love, Caritas, in the guise of the anima mundi, embraces the universe, with the human being at its heart. For each human being is a microcosm, a little world through whom the great world, the universe as macrocosm, comes to self-awareness.” Helen J. John, SND, “Hildegard de Bingen”, in Hypatia’s Daughters, ed. Linda Lopez McAlister
Shauna and Jason Swanson, photo by Steve Bartlett Photography
Story: Favor for a Goddess
Hera has always been one of my favorite goddesses. Forget the crazed and jealous wife stories! the Hera I know is the proud Goddess of Samos, the Mother of Lions, who took Zeus as her husband.
I’ve done devotionals to her as protector, as renewer of youth, and as my Goddess Mother. I find her presence to be powerful but approachable. She’s particularly interested in the family, in the bonds of affection that permanently unite lover with lover and parent with child.
Once during a devotional she asked me if I would do a priestess favor for her. Now, I know enough about deities to know that many will ask you to be Their Priestess and dedicate yourself or take on heroic feats. I’ve learned how to gracefully duck that sort of duty. In this case though she wasn’t asking me to forsake all others or to undertake a huge task. Just a little one, right?
A week later I got a call. “Do you officiate?”
That started my career marrying people. I haven’t ever advertised but people keep asking! My particular niche is magical nondenominational. If you’re a member of a coven or grove or lodge or church the group usually has a ceremony to use. However there are many people who don’t belong to a formal group but want a magical ceremony. They want to invoke their own deities or sense of nature, they want a mix of traditional and contemporary words and actions, and they want to be able to customize their ceremony without having to research and write it themselves.
I love writing ritual so this work suits me. When I am asked to officiate I have a consultation with the couple and ask them what they want, pull together material and give them choices, and keep working with them until everything is just the way they want it.
The marriage itself seldom takes more than twenty minutes. It turns out that the only thing that is actually required in the U.S. for a marriage ceremony is for the couple to say to each other “I take you as my (husband/wife).” Washington state requires two witnesses and an officiant. The officiant’s duties are to run the ceremony – the couple can’t officiate for themselves. So I guide them through the steps and words and ask them if they take each other. I help them light the candle or pour the water or jump the broom. I tie their hands together.
As I do the work I wear a necklace of Hera. I invoke the power that the couple wishes to call on, nature or life or heaven and earth. I announce the marriage by the authority vested in me by Covenant of the Goddess or Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica or the Universal Life Church. But the power that guides me as priestess is the power of the Goddess of Marriage.
It’s lovely work and I’m grateful to be able to do it. I probably should have asked the goddess what the favor was before I agreed, but I’m glad that it turned out to be such a lovely one. Every marriage is the renewal of love. It’s such a joy to be able to help make it happen.
Book in progress update
The working title for the book in progress is Soul and Cosmos. To explain the soul’s journey I’m bringing back the Ladies from The Woman Magician: Lady Tradition, Lady History, Lady Science, Lady Culture, Lady Philosophy, Lady Theology, and Lady Magic. It’s exciting to be working with them again!
Happy May Day!
New Release: The Witch’s Cauldron, the Craft, Lore and Magick of Ritual Vessels, Laura Tempest Zakroff
Get it here.
The Reading Room is at the heart of the British Museum. Built in 1857, it was renovated in 2000 and opened to the public. Many fin-de-siecle British esotericists spent fascinating hours researching ancient magic in this room.