Wednesday, March 7, 2012

My Sisterhood: Evolution

Three years ago, I was wandering the halls of the Doubletree hotel in San Jose and trying to figure out what I would be attending for the evening session at Pantheacon.  I read one ritual description that mentioned it would be a skyclad rite for women.  It was being presented by a group called The Amazon Priestess Tribe. Skyclad? Amazon? I had to go.

Amazons and Naiads sing at the beginning of the Earth.

For a long period of my life, I felt like I was alone in being the kind of woman that I am.  It wasn't that I didn't know other women or that I wasn't friends with them.  It wasn't that I didn't know that women like the Amazons existed.  I just didn't know women like them, personally and I didn't know how to find them or even if I should.  Thankfully, The Goddess does know such things and she sent me to the right place at the right time.

"The Amazon Priestesses are a rowdy, intellectual, wily, beautiful, dangerous, sacred sisterhood of High Priestesses in the Amazon Tradition. We celebrate our wild natures as well as our poised propriety, we dance naked beneath the moon, sing in harmony and screech like banshees, and generally revel in the Blood and Womb Mysteries of the Goddess in each one of us...and in you." - The Amazon Priestess Tribe

Blood Sisters: Zafira (Bast) and I (Sekhmet). 
Kismet-Bast spreads mischief in between.
A year later, after attending rituals and events with this group of amazing women, I was on the path to joining this Sisterhood.  These were the fierce, strong, confident, funny, compassionate, beautiful, intelligent, loving, powerful and unique women that I'd been looking for.  The bonds that I have developed with these women are some of my most treasured possessions.  They have taught me many lessons of love, friendship, and sisterhood through good times and bad.  The past two years that I have spent with these women as an Amazon Priestess has helped to further define who I am.

Pantheacon 2011 was a lynchpin event for the Amazon Priestess Tribe. Individually and collectively, we were at the center of a controversy that we didn't even know we could start - how's that for a powerful bunch of women! The gender controversy that was sparked by our miscommunication in the program about the Rite of Lilith went up like a mushroom cloud over our Tribe.
Devi Zafira Stardust and Salamangkero Yansumi
await The Mother's Blessing.

Personally, as one of the Priestesses who brought Lilith into the ritual, I was surprised to return home and have one of my Sisters point out the controversy that was brewing online about us.  Here I'd spent three days at Pantheacon receiving hugs and tears of gratitude from a multitude of women who were deeply moved by the messages that Lilith brought to them through my Tribe's work and the voice I provided for Lilith to speak to them with.  I had no idea that people were so angry with us (or were about to be).  I was doing the work that my mamma Goddess asked for and wanted of me.  Honestly, the work in that ritual was one of my proudest accomplishments during my initiatory year.

Khotuns on the road!
It was an emotional punch in the gut to return home from PCon and hear the stories of how people were enraged over our ritual and the rumors that erupted about us.  When onslaught began our High Priestess and our Tribe took a beating.  This age of the internet has, in my opinion, led many people to be less considerate and compassionate.  I watched these flames explode online, watched people attack and condemn and all without ever once having come to the source.  I read after the fact about a group who seemingly made it their mission to condemn us at the end of PCon 2011 without even giving us the courtesy of appearing to defend ourselves.  Across the board, members of the Pagan community acted as though there were no living human beings on the other end of their scathing comments and blog entries and instead acted as though the only thing that mattered was their enacting revenge on a group they only knew through heresay, rumor, and outright vicious lies. Only through the tireless work of our High Priestess, leading us through the onslaught, was our voice able to cut through to those ears who had not forgotten how to actually listen without knee-jerk reacting first. Imagine the difference that makes!
Little Sisters of Manea enjoying the beach!
(R to L) Madame Hummingbird,
Maia Mermaid, and me.

The fallout from that ritual impacted me in many ways.  When I watched all this bad behavior going on, I had to fight the first inclination to simply join in on the bad behavior just like them.  I wanted to smash things and scream at people and bear my teeth at those who threatened us.  I wanted to turn right around, like a child on the playground, and scream right back, "You're a stupid poo-poo booger head!" just like I perceived our detractors were doing.  But wait a minute - that was just it.  I didn't want to be like those other people

It was through my priestess work with the Amazons and the women we reach that I saw what kind of woman I wanted to be.  When I needed help, I had but to turn to my sisters.  When I was sad, they cheered me up.  When I was happy, they shared in my joy.  When I was angry, they let me vent.  When I was out of line, they put me in check.  When I needed it most, they gave me laughter and love.  I wanted to be the kind of person who is able to give that back just because they can.

The Wisdom of Freyja: (R to L) Yeshe Rabbit,
Strega Manea, me, Mistress Ladybug.

I spent my ordination service year working on what and who I wanted to be in the world.  The archetype of the Amazon Warrior had called to my blood when I met these women.  The power of the Amazon got me through one of the toughest years of my personal life.  A failed relationship, a job of eight years disappearing, needing to find a new place to live - any one of these things can easily overwhelm a person but my work with the Amazon got me through all of these as they happened to me at the same time.  The Amazon taught me a lot about control - how to hold things together and power through.

When it was time to attend Pantheacon again, I was wary.  What would the Amazon Priestesses face?  Would we have people protesting our ritual?  Would we the recipients of nasty looks and vicious whispers?  Would we be attacked outright?  Would we be attacked after Pantheacon from under the cover of other people's computer screens?  So many questions and so much to prepare for.  What actually happened was different than what I expected and yet had a much greater impact.  The words and actions of others that we'd been affiliated with put us in the path of character assassinations once again.  This time, however, we were far more prepared to deal with the turmoil.

As a result of what came about at Pantheacon last year and this year, serious navel gazing has been going on in this Tribe.  The Tribe has recently met and around the table, it was agreed that the time had come for change.  This decision does not come lightly.  Surely we have all felt the benefit of working with the Amazon archetype over the last several years.  The energy of the Amazon has powered us forward, forging the initial way down the path that our Tribe walks together.  Based on recent events, we have felt that it is time for our Sisterhood to walk a new path. We have all decided that it is time for our Sisterhood to evolve.

Kismet-Bast (aka Duat Ka Neit Kismet) and I
at The Goddess Temple of Orange Count
You already know that in my eyes, being an Amazon High Priestess has been good to me.  You can imagine that I might have some feelings around the changes that are happening in our Sisterhood.  Personally, I am still working through my feelings on the change that necessitates that we move into working with the energy of a new archetype.  I still feel, in my heart, the call of the Amazon.  The Amazon calls to my blood.  The Amazon was at the heart of my song. 

I am warrior, I am Amazon
Diana before me, Aradia beside me
With my magic and my mystery
I transform my body and birth myself again

Some part of me is still reeling over the realization that it is time to change the way I work and resonate with this archetype.  What else do you feel over knowing that the hand pulling you out of the muck and grime is one you now have to let go of so you can forge your path forward?  There is anger, there is grief, there is sadness - all of these things factor into how I feel.  But nothing can overwhelm you if you don't let it.  I take comfort in knowing that I will always have that energy at my fingertips... no - within my very blood, ready to call up to service whenever it is needed.
My blood is sacred.  My blood is power.  My blood is life!

Kismet-Bast and Yeshe Rabbit
I feel good about the decisions that my Tribe is making as we step into our newest phase of growth.  I believe that we're heading in the direction we were meant to in breaking with the Z. Budapest branch of the Dianic path. I believe that we are coming rightly into our phase of working with the Sovereign Queen and attuning our energies towards creating a world that works for the highest good of all it's inhabitants, woman, man, child, and wild kindred.  I believe that we are strengthening ourselves by embracing the path of the Pan-Dianic tradition that, "respects the sovereignty and autonomy of each person or group who wishes to honor the Goddess in any ways that best suit unique needs, individual(s), or circumstances ... We honor everyone walking their own paths of knowing and serving the Goddess, including all beings of all genders."*
Celebrating Madame Hummingbird's
Birthday at Furthur's NYE Concert

To me, the last year has felt as though it were a Rite of Passage - one that would test whether we would be crushed under the pressure of being unyielding to change or if we would flourish by incorporating the energies of change into our Priestesshood.  This decision, to me, sends us on the path towards the latter - our Sisterhood continuing to live a healthy life by infusing itself with the energy of necessary change. I think it bodes well for this Sisterhood that if we can come to the consensus once that we need to change that when the need comes again we can do so as swiftly and easily as we have done now. (Though I'm sure that many of my Sisters would say there was nothing "easy" about making this change.)
Mother Help me / I'm gonna break
Mother Heal me / these chains that bind
Please release me / I'm gonna break
From all things worldly / these chains that bind
That do not serve me / I'm gonna break, break!
Mother Love me / these chains that bind
Yes I will break these chains that bind!
I'm actually excited about the potential that this change brings even as I process my own feelings of some sadness around this.  What excites me is that in working with The Living Temple of Diana (another Pan-Dianic Tradition based group) on the Rite of the Bear Mother at this year's Pantheacon, I've had my eyes opened.  Two groups, both holding the Goddess as whole and complete unto herself, who do things differently but have many similar goals, who recognize and respect the other's sovereignty, came together and created some amazingly powerful, transformative, and healing magics for those hundreds who came to seek it.  If we can do that, what else can we do?  I am excited that these changes will keep our Sisterhood and Mysteries intact while still allowing for us to work magic in new ways that are beneficial in new ways and places.  We take off the heavy mantle of battle armor to don the crown - perhaps no less heavy in the responsibility that it carries but something that tempers us, differently, in good ways.

- Q'desha Yansumi Diwata, High Priestess of Music in the Bloodroot Honey Priestess Tribe

*Noted from above: This is an excerpt from a statement that our Tribe, now known as the Bloodroot Honey Priestess Tribe, released this week detailing the direction we are headed in. 

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