A Bit About Me
Scholar, opinionated, leftist, liberal with my affections, a dreamer, Faerie-blooded, naturally curious, and a bit of a moon-gazer.
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Currently living in Western Massachusetts.
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I was born in the caul, under a Dark Moon, in 1975.
I do not remember this of course.
My first real memory is of The Storm:
I had to be about 4 or 5 years old. My mother, sister, two brothers, and me, were all sitting together, one evening, watching TV in the living room of our very modest lakeside home (it was a cottage, a shack, really) in rural Western Massachusetts. It was a typical evening, with nothing special going on. There was talk during the commercials, and lots of snacks. I was cradled in my sister’s lap, on the couch, which I always loved; she’s the eldest of all us siblings and the two of us were very close; she was more of a ‘mom’ to me in my younger years than my mother was.
I don’t know what came over me, but I kept seeing—“seeing,” meaning visualizing, or seeing inside my mind—a great blackness. I saw myself and my family completely enshrouded in a darkness so thick that I couldn’t even see my hand in front of my face. At such a young age, I couldn’t understand how or why I could ‘see’ two things at once—complete darkness and chaos in my mind’s eye, and, in my line of actual eyesight, my family watching TV in our brightly lit living room.
I started to cry in confusion.
Because I was so young, I wasn’t able to fully articulate my confusion and discomfort. I babbled something about it being “so dark,” but then stopped crying because I could clearly see that all the lights in the house were on. No one really understood what I was trying to say and, now, when I look back, I’m not even sure I, myself, understood, in that moment, what I was trying to say.
I was eventually soothed by my sister and became distracted, again, by the TV, as many a child gets, completely engrossed and transfixed by the moving, colorful, images on the screen. My nerves were settled, my outburst was over, I became quiet, and we all continued to watch TV together.
During the evening, a storm developed. It wasn’t too bad at first, but, as the night progressed, the storm became an all-out rage, with boisterous claps of thunder, and lightning streaking across the sky, illuminating all the widows of the house. I could hear the trees, outside in the yard, whipping and creaking, as they swayed with the storm’s winds. The storm upset me; I think small children and animals are often frightened by the power of storms. But, my entire family was with me, so I wasn’t too scared, just on edge.
All of sudden, there was a loud crash of thunder, a bright flash of light that seemed to fill all the windows, and all the lights in the house went out completely. We lost power.
For the first few seconds of darkness we all just sat, quietly, in what seems like that brief moment of silence that follows a power outage, perhaps as people adjust to such sudden stimuli. The storm continued to rage outside, and lightning flashes illuminated the windows in eerie bursts and flickers.
All night, in my mind’s eye, I had been seeing my family and myself sitting in total darkness. And, here it was: total darkness. I was living what I had foreseen.
Well, that was all just too much for me, and I burst into tears, wailing at the top of my lungs.
My family tried to console me, but I was just not having it. I was fit to be tied.
Eventually, all worked itself out. Either the storm subsided, or I was finally able to be soothed by my family. I don’t remember much more from that night. But, I do remember this night and the storm, because this was the first time in my life that I really knew that there was something ‘weird’ about me. I had seen something that others had not. I had known something that others had not. And, I knew, perhaps more than a 5-year-old child should, that I, myself, was something that others were not. This night marks my first memory that something about me was ‘different,’ and, despite the fact that I was only a child, I knew that whatever this ‘it’ was, it set me apart from others, as an outsider, either to my detriment, or my benefit.
My ‘outsider’ status only continued, as I grew and developed:
I had a different relationship, than that of my peers, to my environment. I grew up in a rural farming area, so being attuned to the seasons and the land was not altogether uncommon. But my relationship with the world around me, the entire universe really, had an intimacy that I did not see in other people’s relationships to their environment. I remember as a child I would climb trees, as most children do. But, to me, the trees were live, sentient, beings. I didn’t just climb them; I crawled up them the way a small kitten may crawl up a person, and settle into their lap, dozing, safely, against their warm body; there was a connection. As I sat in the highest branches of a tree, I felt myself held, consoled, in its strong loving arms. And I felt we were communicating. It was a silent, unspoken, communication, but it was nonetheless very real; a flow of energy, of contact, was passing between the tree and myself. We kneweach other. And, in my childhood, I came to know many trees, flowers, groves, fields, ponds, streams, rocks, and all the squirrels, birds, fish, and rabbits that inhabited these places. They were a part of me, and I of them. We shared something. There are no other words I can say about this. It’s like being in love; you can try to describe it, but until you feel it, there’s just no way of really conveying what it feels like, or what it means.
But, suffice it to say that I noticed, fairly early on, that my peers, friends, and family, did not seem to forge this type of deep, intimate, relationship or connection with their surroundings. They noticed the beauty of a sunset, or a flower, this is true; but they did not communicate or feel the thread of connection (I guess I’ll call it that) between themselves and what was around them. This made me realize that, again, there was something different about me that set me apart from other people, but not so much that I was a complete pariah; instead, it was almost like I was always in a dual position: part of me was in the here and now, with whatever or whomever I happened to be with at the time; and, yet, another part of me was somewhere else, or perhaps I’d even say more here than they were, noticing details and feeling connections to things that others didn’t.
Around 5-7 years old, I realized something else about myself: that, as a male, my attractions and desires gravitated towards other males. Now, as an adult, I just use the word “gay” or “queer” to describe myself; but then, I didn’t have such a vocabulary. Not only was I lacking the vocabulary, but I also didn’t see anyone else around me that was the same. No one on television was attracted to men, I didn’t see men holding each other’s hands in the streets, I didn’t hear any man speak about desiring another man, nor did I hear anyone speak about any man, that they happened to know, who desired men. This was terribly confusing, because what I felt was real; yet, I had no outlet, no models, no input, no information, about why I felt this way and what it meant. What was I supposed to do with these feelings that didn’t match anything else around me? At the time, I didn’t know what to do; but I knew this was not something everyone felt, and I got the distinct impression that this was something that stood outside of business as usual. Even at my earliest signs of desire and longing, I realized that these desires were something, yet again, that set me apart from other people.
When I was in my early twenties, I went hiking in Cornwall, Connecticut (I was actually exploring the ruins of a haunted place called Dudleytown, or “The Village of the Damned”), and I contracted Lyme’s Disease. I got bit by a deer tick, and did not see it soon enough in order to pull the tick out in time, which would have avoided Lyme’s transmission. This 48-hour period, in my young twenties, would be a pinnacle moment that would affect me for the rest of my life, even to present day.
The thing about Lyme’s Disease is that it is tricky to diagnose (it took doctors 11 years to figure out what was wrong with me) and it can also be an invisible illness (meaning, if you entered the room, and I was sitting there, you would not know, just from looking at me, that I am in pain from the nape of my neck to the soles of my feet). I think so many other people share this ‘invisible illness’ experience, those who live with lupus, fibromyalgia, some cancers, arthritis, MS, depression, etc. These are ‘invisible illnesses’ because they intensely affect people’s lives; but, just looking at us, you would not know.
Living with an invisible illness is like walking through a liminal space; I know that I’m not feeling well, but I also know that others don’t know that I’m not feeling well. Add to that the fact, that, most of the time, I want to somewhat hide that I’m not feeling well; no one likes a complainer. And, then there are those looks that I get when people learn or realize that I am sick; they start treating me like a frail flower. Or, even worse, I can see the doubt in some people’s facial expressions; they don’t really believe that I’m sick at all, because I look too good to be sick. And, of course, if I even crack a smile, well, then, how sick can I be, right?
Invisible illness, and the ways it has manifested and played itself out in my life, is an amorphous ‘in-and-out’ position in relation to general society. I’m like everyone else; but, beneath the surface, in my muscles and joints, I’m so very much not like everyone else. And, I’m made very aware—during various times throughout the day, and in various ways—of how this sets me apart from other people.
My education is another in-and-out positionality that I straddle. I was lucky enough to attend university. I say lucky, because I am more than aware that not everyone has that opportunity. Coming from a background of abject poverty, I also use the word lucky, because I believe that university was the key to my upward social mobility. Attending university opened doors and opportunities for me that I would not have had otherwise: I am, today, a trained anthropologist, seasoned by years of research and writing.
Yet, I was at odds with academia during my whole time in the academy. I performed research, wrote publications, and presented my work at conferences. But, what I always noticed was that scholarship never left the academy. It was almost like we were just having a discussion for and amongst ourselves, as academics. When I returned home, or hung out with friends who were not academics, they did not have the information that I had, nor did they understand the jargon which the academy produces in order to talk about social life. This is not to say that my family and friends did not have critical thinking skills, nor were they unable to produce and defend an argument; what I am stressing is that academia seemed, to me, to be a closed circuit. The actual dissemination of information, gleaned through research, was not reaching the masses. Instead, it was getting published in academic journals, academic books, and other sources, to which the masses either didn’t have access, or didn’t know to access.
I found this very disenchanting.
In fact, I spent years disenchanted in the academy, appreciating the opportunities for learning and growth that academia provided, while simultaneously feeling like my skills would be better put to use outside the academy, on the ground, dealing with the every day lives of people, and actively working to make the world a better place.
This precarious position was, yet again, another way that I was set apart from other people: within academia I was set apart from other academics, who felt that their work within the ivory tower was very poignant and produced social change; outside the academy I was treated as elitist, by people in my life who did not have the same educational opportunities as myself, and I felt like my education actually created more of a barrier than a bridge between them and myself.
These experiences that I am describing are but simple anecdotes, upon which I will elaborate in this blog; but, the point that I’m trying to make is that being ‘set apart’ from other people—navigating a liminal, in-between, in-and-out social space—was the strongest running theme in my developmental years, and, most of my life, really. And, it has been the case, for me, that, through both beautiful and terrible moments and experiences, my differences are always “brought to light, laid bare” somehow (in the words of Myrtle Snow), through the vectors of health/illness, sexuality, witchcraft/worldview, and education.
Now, as an adult, I find that I am still different from most people, in my values, my behavior, what I think is important in life, etc. Except, now, the sting and uncomfortable or isolating feelings that came along with being different are not there. I am at home in my difference. I have claimed it. And, I have found and made community with other people who are also different. Even better, I have found many people who, despite our differences, continue to engage with me, and I with them; we have bridged the gaps between our differences, finding some middle ground upon which to meet and build great relationships.
I think this speaks to time-periods in one’s life. To be a child, or teenager, who is different, can be isolating; whereas being an adult, who is different, does not quite feel so isolating; it feels liberating. As an adult, when people don’t like me, or react to my difference in intense ways, it just doesn’t affect me the way it used to when I was a kid. I stand on my own two feet now; I need nothing from anyone else; I have my own home and pay my own bills; I am free to cultivate community where I see fit, and ignore or leave behind those people and things that do not support or serve me well.
Not everyone gets the privilege of having me in their life.
I came to realize, as many a ‘strange child’ does, once they grow up, that, in adulthood, things are less black and white than they are as a child. There’s a whole lot of gray area.
Now, I embrace that gray area, joyfully.
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I am an Anderson Feri initiate.
I jokingly and lovingly call what I am teaching “Talamasca Feri.”
“The Talamasca” is a folkloric society of scholar-witches, historians, anthropologists, and archivists—The Great Record-Keepers of Culture. Their duty is to study magic, as well as watch over and protect Walkers Between the Worlds, particularly witches. Their motto is: “We watch. And we are always there.” The word “Talamasca,” itself, means “animal mask,” and is a term used to describe a witch or shaman.
Talamasca Feri is a New England flavored American Traditional Witchcraft with strong ancestral roots to the Indigenous populations of the lands now called “Europe.” The focus of Talamasca Feri is personal empowerment, strong ancestral relationships, community-building and community-healing, all achieved through an orientation and attunement to the strange within the familiar of everyday life. Talamasca Feri is simultaneously intellectual (focused on science, anthropology, and history) and sensorial (focused on direct experience, affect, and body-centered sensorium).
Teaching ‘en masse’ will never be my style. Training is done in-person, one-to-one, “apprentice-style,” and involves rigorous work and daily practice. No money is exchanged for training; instead, the exchange between myself and an apprentice exacts its price in time and energy. Any student who does not devote and display adequate investment in their training will be amicably released from their apprenticeship.
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I Love Books
When I go to someone’s home and they have bookshelves, one of the first things I do is peruse their books. There’s something about looking through someone’s books that feels like I am getting to know something intimate about them, their interests, how their mind works, what their passions may be…
My home is filled with plenty of books…
Here are a few of my favorites, selected for obvious reasons:
Berger, Helen A.
1999 A Community of Witches: Contemporary Neo-Paganism and Witchcraft in The United States. University of South Carolina Press: Columbia, SC.
Brown, Karen McCarthy
1991 Mama Lola: A Vodou Priestess in Brooklyn. University of California Press: Berkeley, CA.
Budapest, Z. (Zsuzsanna)
1989 Grandmother Time: A Woman’s Book of Celebrations, Spells, and Sacred Objects for Every Month of the Year. HarperOne Publishing: San Francisco, Ca.
1989 The Holy Book of Women’s Mysteries: Feminist Witchcraft, Goddess Rituals, Spellcasting, and Other Womanly Arts. Wingbow Press.
1982 Practical Candleburning Rituals: Spells and Rituals for Every Purpose. Llewellyn Publishing: St. Paul, MN.
1996 Advanced Candle Magick: More Spells and Rituals for Every Purpose. Llewellyn Publishing: St. Paul, MN.
 Raymond Buckland’s Complete Book of Witchcraft. Llewellyn Publishing: St. Paul, MN.
1990 The Power of the Witch: The Earth, The Moon, and the Magical Path to Enlightenment. Delta Publishing
1988 The Power of Myth, with Bill Moyers. Anchor Books: New York, NY.
2013 The Picts: A History. Berlinn Ltd Publishing: Edinburgh, Scotland.
2013 The Makers of Scotland: Picts, Romans, Gaels, and Vikings. Berlinn Ltd Publishing: Edinburgh, Scotland.
2006 Her Hidden Children: The Rise of Wicca and Paganism in America. AltaMira Press: New York, NY.
Clifton, Chas and Graham Harvey
2004 The Paganism Reader. (Eds. Chas Clifton and Graham Harvey). Routledge Press: New York, NY.
1989 Wicca: The Old Religion in The New Age. Harper San Francisco: San Francisco, CA.
1985 Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs. Llewellyn Publishing: St. Paul, MN.
1989 Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner. Llewellyn Publishing: St. Paul, MN.
2002 Earth Power: Techniques of Natural Magic. Llewellyn Publishing: St. Paul, MN.
2002 Earth, Air, Fire, Water: More Techniques of Natural Magic. Llewellyn Publishing: St. Paul, MN.
2002 Living Wicca: A Further Guide for the Solitary Practitioner. Llewellyn Publishing: St. Paul, MN.
2002 The Complete Book of Incense, Oils, and Brews. Llewellyn Publishing: St. Paul, MN.
De Grandis, Francesca
1998 Be a Goddess: A Guide to Celtic Spells and Wisdom for Self-Healing, Prosperity, and Great Sex.
2003 Seasons of the Witch. Ulysses Press: Berkeley, CA.
2011 Practical Protection Magick: Guarding and Reclaiming Your Power. Llewellyn Publications: Woodbury, MN.
2003 The Stars Within The Earth. Mystic Dream Press.
Farrar, Janet and Stewart
1987 The Witches’ Goddess. Phoenix Publishing Inc.
1989 The Witches’ God. Phoenix Publishing Inc.
[????] Psychic Self-Defense: The Classic Instruction Manual for Protecting Yourself Against Paranormal Attack, revised edition. Weiser Books
1998 Embracing the Moon: A Witch’s Guide to Rituals, SpellCraft, and Shadow Work. Llewellyn Publications: St. Paul, MN.
 Witchcraft Today. Citadel Press.
1997 In the Land of Winter: A Novel. Avon Books, Inc: New York City, NY.
2009 The Anthropology of Magic. Berg Publishing: Oxford, UK.
1999 Hereditary Witchcraft: Secrets of the Old Religion. Llewellyn Publications: St. Paul, MN.
2000 Italian Witchcraft: The Old Religion in Southern Europe. Llewellyn Publications: St. Paul, MN.
2002 Wiccan Magick: Inner Teachings of The Craft. Llewellyn Publications: St Paul, MN.
2011 Old World Witchcraft: Ancients Ways for Modern Days. WeisserBooks Publishing: San Francisco, Ca.
2014 Grimoire of the Thorn-Blood Witch: Mastering the Five Arts of Old World Witchery. WeisserBooks Publishing: San Francisco, CA.
Hopman, Ellen Evert
1994 A Druid’s Herbal for the Sacred Earth Year. Destiny Books Publishing.
2014 The Picts. Wiley Blackwell Publishing: West Sussex, UK.
1999 Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft. Oxford University Press: Oxford, UK.
2014 A Tapestry of Witches: A History of the Craft in America, Vol 1. Hierophant Wordsmith Press: Tacoma, WA.
Leland, Charles Godfrey
1899 Aradia: Gospel of the Witches (Reprinted). The Lost Library Publishing: Glastonbury, UK.
Lewis, James R.
1996 Magical Religion and Modern Witchcraft. State University of New York Press: New York, NY.
Luhrmann, Tanya M.
1991 Persuasions of the Witch’s Craft: Ritual Magic in Contemporary England. Harvard University Press: Cambridge, MA.
2004 Witching Culture: Folklore and Neo-Paganism in America. University of Pennsylvania Press: Philadelphia, PA.
Marlborough, Reverend Ray T.
1986 Charms, Spells, and Formulas. Llewellyn Publications: St Paul, MN.
1998 The Magical Power of Saints: Evocation and Candle Rituals. Llewellyn Publications: Woodbury, MN.
2001 Earthly Bodies, Magical Selves: Contemporary Pagans and the Search for Community. University of California Press: Berkeley, CA.
1990 The Witching Hour. The Random House Publishing Group: New York, NY.
1993 Lasher. The Random House Publishing Group: New York, NY.
1996 Taltos. The Random House Publishing Group: New York, NY.
1973 Modern Witchcraft Spellbook, by Anna Riva. International Imports Publishing.
1974 Modern Herbal Spellbook. International Imports Publishing.
1975 Secrets of Magic Seals, by Anna Riva: A Modern Grimoire of Amulets, Charms, Symbols, and Talismans. International Imports Publishing.
1980 Anna Riva’s Candle Burning Magic: A Spellbook of Rituals for Good and Evil. International Imports Publishing.
1982 Powers of the Psalms: 375 Ways to Use Psalms for Love, Power, Revenge, Success, Blessings, Prosperity, Protection, Etc. International Imports Publishing.
Roberts, Scott Alan
2012 The Rise and Fall of the Nephilim: The Untold Story of Fallen Angels, Giants on the Earth, and Their Extraterrestrial Origins. New Page Books Publishing, Pompton Plains, NJ.
2002 A Book of Pagan Prayer. Wiser Books: San Francisco, CA.
2011 A Pagan Ritual Prayer Book. WeisserBooks Publishing: San Francisco, CA.
2001 The Grimoire of Lady Sheba. Llewellyn Publishing: St. Paul, MN.
1974 Where the Sidewalk Ends. HarperCollins Publications: San Francisco, CA.
1981 A Light in the Attic. HarperCollins Publications: San Francisco, CA.
1979 The Spiral Dance: The Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Great Goddess. HarperCollins Publishing: San Francisco, CA.
1987 Truth or Dare: Encounters with Power, Authority, and Mystery. HarperCollins: San Francisco, CA.
1986 Earth Magic: A Dianic Book of Shadows. Phoenix Publications.
2002 The Crone’s Book of Charms, 2nd edition. Llewellyn Publishing; St. Paul, MN.
2002 The Crone’s Book of Magical Words. Llewellyn Publishing: St. Paul, MN.