“Please no tears, no sympathy”

I never do anything I don’t need or want to do. I never do anything for fame or glory. I do things for the experience and challenge of it. That is the reason I decided to be Summoner for the Toronto Temple of the WCC. (See previous blog entry entitled, “Change is Afoot – Something New”.) Make no mistake, I did it because there was a need for it, and I felt I could fulfill that need. Now that my term as Summoner is over, I suppose I can explain the circumstances that gave me the opportunity to become the first female Summoner for the Toronto Temple of the WCC.

As mentioned in “Change is Afoot – Something New”, the Summoner role is normally given to a male of the community and the Hand/maiden role is normally given to a female of the community. Last year, it was decided that there were no qualified female candidates for the role of Handmaiden and the role was given to a male of the community. The Handmaiden and the Summoner are required to perform ritual if there are no Priesthood available on a ritual night. As the WCC rituals generally require a Priest and Priestess, this means that the Handmaiden and Summoner must be opposite genders. Thus, as the Handmaiden role was given to a male (we were to call him the “Hand”), they required a female to take on the role of Summoner.

When I first attended the WCC seven years ago and heard about the roles of Handmaiden and Summoner, I knew I was meant to be one of them (I hoped to be both, but never expected to be). I was in actuality more drawn to the role of Summoner, as I had started training in martial arts that year. In my mind there was no reason that a woman could not perform the role of Summoner. (See “Duties of the Summoner” for more about the role.) Because traditionally only a male could be Summoner, I pretty much settled on the fact that I would only ever serve as a Handmaiden (which I actually did, for the semi-private women’s group – not for the public temple). Thus, I resigned myself to having served as Handmaiden and I never thought to lobby Priesthood for the chance to be Summoner. (Of course, for the women’s group there is an equivalent called a “Gatekeeper”, but as I said above, I do things for the challenge. Gatekeeper would not have challenged me enough.) There were apparently enough lobbyists for a female Summoner – there were both men and women who pushed for it – so I never bothered lobbying for it. Meanwhile, in the span of seven years I advanced in taekwondo because I just kept training – I loved it and still do very much – and last year I received my second dan in taekwondo. As it turned out, I received my second dan just two months before becoming Summoner.

Deciding to become Summoner was not an easy decision for me, but I already knew that I had to do it. Since they were looking for a female Summoner, I knew that if I did not try for the role I would have regretted it. I already knew that I was the only female there trained to deal with conflict and confrontations. I also knew that I had to try for it because being Summoner would be a challenge for me in many ways. As I wrote in my previous blog entry:

This is something I’ve always wanted to do for my community. I’ve been hoping for the opportunity, and now it is here. My installation ritual was last Sunday (September 17) and my term has officially started. This, however, means that I have to be at ritual every Sunday night. That is a big commitment, but one I was willing to take. I’m hoping that the year will be a positive experience for both myself and the community as a whole (there may be some people who aren’t receptive to having a woman act as Summoner). I’m relying on my experience in martial arts to help me not only in the act of defense, if required, but also in dealing with men’s preconceptions of a woman’s capabilities. I’m hoping that my experience teaching and training in martial arts will give me the ability to read people accurately and to judge their motives. The Summoner role requires someone who can welcome new people to the community (i.e, be a good PR person) as well as someone who can protect the community. It’s a big challenge and one I’m looking forward to overcoming.

I’m glad to say that I have not regretted my year. Yes, there were sacrifices. For me, it meant not just giving up sitting in Sunday circles, but it also forced me to pull back on my many projects (most importantly, this website, which will undergo some more changes to reflect my growth as a person – more on that later). Not an easy thing to do. For one thing, I’m a writer to the core. Always have been. I need to write. Although I have a blog, I keep a private journal as well. I also keep a separate book for creative writing. Let’s just say it’s been rough not being able to write some things because I was required not to speak of them as part of my Summoner duties. My term as Summoner has been a challenge, and I think I’ve overcome the challenges. There were nights when I just wanted it to be over with, but there were good nights too. Overall, I have enjoyed my term to the best that anyone can enjoy a duty, something I felt I must do. It was an honour. Below are words that I would share with each and every Summmoner who succeeds me in this role:

The Summoner’s role is not an easy one, though it offers you many rewards and personal growth. As a Summoner, you are bound by duty and honour along with the oath you shall make tonight. Duty and honour shall become a fundamental part of you. Your duty is of the highest importance – you are the High Priestess’ protector and she is your charge. You also have a duty to protect the sanctity of the circle. Ensure that no one enters who may wish to destroy that sanctity. Your honour is invested in your duty as it is a high honour to be chosen for this role. Know that the community will hear your words and see your actions. Let your words and your actions be guided by your duty and honour. Speak and act with full awareness.

The Summoner’s role may seem lonely at times. During your term, you are the one who is making a sacrifice – your self for others. Remember your duty and hold fast to your honour – this shall see you through to the end. It is only through sacrifice that you will reap the greatest rewards (even if your sacrifice may involve your death). Do this not, though, for the rewards at the end. Do this because it is the sacrifice you are willing to make to your community. Enter into this role with humility. Seek not fame nor glory. Seek only to do your duty and hold to your honour.

Keep your mind clear and unbiased in carrying out your duty, but know that your job cannot be done without heart or feeling. You must care for this duty and for the honour that comes with it. You must care about those for which you make your sacrifice for without them you would not have this duty. This role is not about the self but about all others around you. However, do not neglect your self. Let not this sacrifice and duty turn your love for others into bitterness for there is much to be gained.

The duty and honour spoken of here is to the High Priestess and your community. I shall not speak of your duty and honour to your gods – that shall be your own. No one should dare to speak of your relationship to your gods.

Prepare yourself for your duty each week. Throughout your term, remember the words I have just shared with you.

This duty and honour shall be yours.

Duty and my honour have held me through to the end of my term. Nothing more, nothing less. As I said to the High Priestess before returning to the circle as a participant, “It was an honour.”

However, in light of some of the issues that came up during my term, it was also something I needed to do in order to grow and move forward.

In any organization, there will be politics and political maneuvering – it’s to be expected. I don’t play politics and, try as people might, I refuse to be a pawn and will do only what I deem is best. After all, the Summoner must be unbiased. The politics, however, are not the main issues that came up this year. They were more of an underlying theme behind two other issues – chauvinism and manipulation.

In a religion such as Wicca that holds near enough the definition of human rights (the ideas of freedom to choose and “do what ye will” as long as it “harms none”) as a fundamental tenet, there is an underlying current of male chauvinism from a few of the men in the community. Strangely enough, although Wicca historically is goddess-centred and women are held in high esteem, Wicca has attracted men who don’t necessarily view women as equals. My own explanation for this is the obvious – where there is a large group of strong and powerful women, there will be a large group of male chauvinists who thrive on the challenge of trying to put these women “in their place,” so to speak. Of course, not all men involved with Wicca are chauvinists; there are just quite a few. The few men who aren’t chauvinists I hold quite dear to my heart. Then, of course, there will be some women around who are perfectly okay with subscribing to the ideals of male chauvinists without realizing it, as they may be desperate for the attention the chauvinists will give them in return. Eventually, this turns into a nasty spiral where the community consists predominantly of male chauvinists and women who allow such behaviour. This is a slippery slope that hopefully will be avoided.

The issue of manipulation came to my attention in a roundabout way, when someone raised the idea of using NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) in the context of public rituals. NLP is fundamentally manipulation if used on others without their express permission. Using NLP in a public ritual context leaves no room for people to give permission for it to be used on them – that is my issue with it. NLP is considered a pseudo-science by the majority of psychologists. It can be used by psychologists with their clients (who know beforehand that it is being used on them) or for self-help (which is not my issue; if you use it on yourself, you pretty much have permission from yourself). However, using NLP in a public ritual context is, like I said, using it on others without their express permission. When someone attends a public ritual, they are given the opportunity to decide if they wish to enter the circle. As Summoner, there is a Charge that is given before entering the circle. In it are conditions that one should meet before entering the circle. One of these is that the person must feel ready to enter (the state of “readiness” is described in the Charge). If not, they should not enter. There is nothing in the Summoner’s Charge that says one must enter the circle and, in fact, the last line of the Charge is, “Enter those who will.” The use of NLP removes the conditional aspect of the Summoner’s Charge and turns it into commands and an order ignoring a person’s right to decide whether or not to enter.

I ignored the issue of NLP (because the person initially promoting it had no authority nor opportunity to really use it) until I saw one person from Priesthood thinking it was a great idea to use NLP with the Summoner’s Charge (although he stopped short of saying that its use was required; in fact, if using NLP was required, I would have left my duties). I addressed my concerns to this person in Priesthood (let’s say “Person A”) as well as two others in Priesthood. Person A’s response was, let’s just say, not very receptive of my opinion. He was pretty much defensive, both of NLP and himself, although I was careful not to sound as if I was attacking him. (On a side note, I’m not sure if the lack of reception was “Oh, I’m in Priesthood and she’s not, so why does her opinion matter?” or perhaps maybe “She’s a woman; why does her opinion matter?”) In any case, I addressed the issue as a concern not just because I was Summoner, but also (and most importantly) because I am a member of the Church. Frankly, I don’t want to walk into a ritual and have someone use NLP on me without my knowledge. In the response I received by Person A, there was a statement to the effect that “leadership and manipulation are separated by very blurry lines.” My reaction to this of course is, “I see how this person got into Priesthood.” As a matter of fact, the lines between leadership and manipulation are not very blurry – not to someone who is a good leader. Good leaders, in fact, lead by example and do not need manipulation. I need only point out the many martial arts instructors I’ve had who never needed to manipulate their students; they only set good examples. I might also point out that the taekwondo Master I currently train under does not manipulate others. He asks or suggests. We listen because we respect him. Clearly, the person who feels that leadership and manipulation go hand-in-hand has some issues he needs to work out. From my perspective, if this person was able to get to Priesthood without dealing with some of these issues, I have to ask whether or not the process of deciding who gets into Priesthood is fair or just. I have to ask whether or not the process of training the public clergy there works. (That being said, there are some people I respect who are part of Priesthood. It just seems that you will always get a “bad apple” in a package.)

Like chauvinism, manipulation should not be any part of Wicca; both feel quite contrary to the beliefs of Wicca. For one thing, there is the idea of freedom of choice in Wicca. For another, there is the “harm none” principle (“‘An it harms none, do what ye will”). Manipulation, in my opinion, harms and takes away freedom of choice. One might ask, “If you don’t get this, then what in Goddess’ name are you doing as a member of a Wiccan clergy??!” The answer (if you are intelligent enough to see) is power. The position of Priesthood is that of public clergy and some people are desperate for the power that comes with being a member of public clergy. They see and envy the adoration the High Priestess receives (knowing the High Priestess well enough myself, she gets adoration because she is adorable, simply put; still, some may pretend to like her because of her position). Some people ride on the feeling of power they get when they think they know better than others or feel that they are more spiritual than others. This is not any reason to be part of public clergy. If it is, then some people have things to think about.

I started attending the WCC in 2000 at the same time I started studying martial arts. Both of these things have been part of my growth as a person. I initially attended the WCC not because I wanted to become part of Priesthood, but because I wanted to learn and grow. These are the same reasons I started martial arts – to learn and grow. I found that when you love something so much you keep doing it. You eventually earn your stripes, so to speak, and through that you earn respect. I see this more in martial arts (at least the one I train in) than I do in public clergy at the WCC. I have found that some people are advancing at the WCC only because they’ve done the homework, not because of their merits. As a matter of fact, since it was never a big priority to get to Priesthood for me, I did not get my Neophyting until last year just after I became Summoner. Why? Not because I didn’t know what I needed to know in order to be a Neophyte. Rather it was because I had not taken the time to meet with my teacher and finish up some of the work. My teacher can’t rightly make me a Neophyte if he doesn’t know what I can do. I fear I am rather the minority than the majority in that aspect at the WCC. Spirituality is not determined by your rank and how fast you can go through a curriculum of study. A person’s spirituality cannot be determined by another. It is too individual, too personal. My spirituality is my own.

It is for these reasons above (and many more reasons, including another that also goes against my belief in human rights) that I have recently decided that at this time my studies towards Priesthood at the WCC must end. I feel there is nothing more to be learned there. Spiritual growth happens in life, not through a curriculum of religious study. I may not ever do the Neophyting work (a year of rituals designed for the Neophyte), but I honestly feel I’ve learned more than some who are in Priesthood or some who are about to join Priesthood (assuming they pass Council). I am my own priestess. I speak to my gods and they speak to me. What have my gods been saying to me recently? It’s time for me to move on and to do my own thing. The Goddess of Mysteries says “Make big changes. Use your power to change now.” Such was the divination I had two weeks prior to me stepping out of the Summoner role. I was not entirely sure when I received that message, but now I am. I am done. I am moving forward and onward and returning to who I really am. My gods are still guiding me.

I am a martial artist. It’s in my blood. That is why the Summoner role was suited to me more so than the Handmaiden. It is why I feel I was fated to be the first female Summoner of the Toronto Temple of the WCC. The role itself was a challenge. On top of it, the “first female” adds a whole other level of challenge. While I may respect my predecessor Summoners, they will never truly understand what I went through, for they are men. Perhaps one day if there is another female Summoner at the Toronto Temple, I may be able to share with her my experience and my lessons. But for now, it is the martial arts where my heart truly lies. I don’t know why I ever doubted it. I’m a warrior. (Astrologically, it’s called having a Mars in Aries. Mixed with a Moon in Scorpio and a Sun in Leo, you’ve got someone who’s more than a loaded machine gun. According to Darkside Astrology, I can also start fights in “an empty throne room” – all by myself. Really, do you want me for an enemy? Do you want to stand in my way? Don’t really need the machine gun either, just need myself. Lucky for people, I don’t lower myself to vengeance.) Most people don’t realize how spiritual martial arts can be. It can be quite gratifying and when I’m training it can be quite meditative. I’ve missed it much this past year since I’ve also had to sacrifice some do jang time during my term as Summoner. (So many sacrifices!) But martial arts has never left my heart and soul this whole year.

This year has also brought to light something that I’ve always held true to – human rights. I strongly believe that if we can all see each other as equals, then much of the hurt and suffering caused by one to another would dissipate and end. I’ve held true to this ever since I was young. (Maybe it’s because I grew up during the Trudeau years – that great Liberal Prime Minister who gave Canada our Charter of Rights and Freedoms.) I still hold true to that today. It’s more important than religious views. In recent years, I’ve been feeling a restlessness in regards to human rights. I have a degree in Business Administration and a certificate as a Business Law Clerk. I wanted to attend law school — but for the tuition, I would. Were I to go to law school, I would be studying constitutional law and human rights, not just business law. However, I have found out recently that I can do something for human rights through Amnesty International. I mentioned that I am a writer, and I can write for Amnesty International. The organization relies on individuals like me to write “Letters of Appeal” in order to defend another’s human rights. This can be done simply at home in my own time. I have spent some time researching Amnesty International and will be doing more research into it. However, rather than jumping into another organization, I plan on taking my time and seeing where things lead. Writing a letter – that, I can do. (As a point of fact, I can do lots of things, such as start a corporation because it’s part of my training in business and business law.)

I know there are many people who may be concerned about my stepping out as Summoner, especially my predecessors. There is this thinking that it is hard for the Summoner to return to circle afterward the term of service, that the Summoner becomes disconnected spiritually. I disagree. Do not take my leaving my studies at WCC to be the result of some inability to return to circle. It is not. I am more than ready to return to circle – a good circle – but my spirituality does not rely on being in a circle once a week. It never has. I love the magic of ritual, but I carry my spirituality with me – and like I said, I have martial arts. In the past year, I’ve learned to love running. When I run, I think of nature since I run outdoors. It’s a good feeling, being connected that way; just me and nature. My spirituality is with me wherever I go. So to those who may worry about me, do not worry; “please, no tears, no sympathy”. I entered my role as Summoner happy to do the duties involved, and I leave happy that I have done my duty. I feel I have done all that I must and can do for the community. Dropping my studies does not mean I’m no longer pagan. It most certainly doesn’t mean that I don’t value some of the friendships I’ve formed over my years at the WCC. I do, and I certainly hope that my decision not to continue my studies towards Priesthood doesn’t affect my friendships. It’s just the way things must be. Plus, I’m really not that hard to find, really. See, there’s this blog, the Brigid’s Flame website, and email.

Having said everything I think I needed to say, I shall end this blog entry with some words that reflect everything that I am feeling. These are lyrics from VNV Nation.

“I asked myself was I content
with the world that I once cherished.
Did it bring me to this darkened place
to contemplate my perfect future…
…I can say that you’re losing me
I always tried to keep myself tied to this world
but I know where this is leading
Please
No tears
No sympathy
I can say that you’re losing me
but I must be that which I am
Though I know where this could take me
No tears
No sympathy”
Epicentre

“This world is just illusion always trying to change you” (Me!)
Illusion

“Grant me wings that I might fly
My restless soul is longing
No pain remains, no feeling
Eternity awaits”
Beloved

“I’m leaving ground, stepping into a new world
I’m leaving ground, stepping into a new world
Now I’m leaving home, leaving everything, leaving everything
I step into this new world leaving everything”
Airships

Lastly, much love and thanks to my (bitter)sweetheart, Nathan, for supporting me without being overbearingly protective. Thanks for stepping back and letting me do what I needed to do. Most of all thanks for being patient and for listening to me when I needed it so! “With you I stand in hope the gods will save us from ourselves.” “It’s just you and me now. It’s just you and me – against the world.” (Genesis and Testament by VNV Nation)

Peace and blessings,
Cassandrah
Brigid’s Flame

3 Responses to ““Please no tears, no sympathy””

  1. fey Morgaina Says:

    I must also thank Nathan’s sister and brother for patiently listening to me. I love you both like my own blood kin!

    [Reply]

  2. fey Morgaina Says:

    I probably should add that one major personal reason why I decided to drop my studies at the WCC is that I am truly a teacher and a writer. At one point I thought the WCC could be a forum by which I could teach as well as share my writing. However, I feel now that it is too restricting for me as I need to be teaching and sharing what I write now. Being part of an oath-bound tradition would deny me something I need to do to be happy. (Strangely, I feel like Gerald Gardner – if you know who he is and have read his books, you’ll understand why I say that.)

    Cassandrah
    Brigid’s Flame

    [Reply]

  3. Ecstatic Spirituality » A sense of normalcy? Says:

    […] Such is the conclusion I came to about two weeks before I finished my Summoner term (please see the blog entry just below this one). Letting go of something is never hard, especially when that something means letting go of […]

Leave a Reply