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The Author's Corner

 



Arin Murphy-Hiscock

Visit Arin's website

 

Out of the Broom Closet: 50 True Stories of Witches Who Found and Embraced the Craft

 

The Way of the Hedge Witch: Rituals and Spells for
Hearth and Home

 

The Way of the Green Witch

 

 
 

Solitary Wicca for Life:
A Complete Guide
to Mastering
the Craft on Your Own

 

Power Spellcraft for Life

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Solitary Wicca For Life:
TWPT Talks to Arin Murphy-Hiscock

©2006TWPT


TWPT:   I was just reading through your bio on your website and it talked about a creative writing project that you were working on a decade ago that led you to discover alternative spiritual paths. Tell me about the theme of this writing project and what it was about the research that you did that was so compelling to you that led you further in?

AMH:  I was researching the background of a character for a cooperative oral storytelling project with friends. In this case, the occult and the supernatural figured largely in the plot proposed by the person who initiated the project. Once Iíd decided that my character was going to be a witch, I went out to do my research in order to write a full profile on her in order to help me get a handle on who she was, and develop her fully. For any creative writing project I like to get lots of material down in black and white to help me get to know my characters really well: I write up background, life story to date, life philosophy, biography, and so forth. Because the story was set in the modern everyday world, I looked into modern witchcraft. 

On my first visit to the local occult bookstore I stayed for over three hours exploring what was on the shelves. I chose three books: Lid Off the Cauldron by Patricia Crowther, Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner by Scott Cunningham, and Everyday Magic by Dorothy Morrison. Looking back, I find it interesting that I chose three books that each address a very different aspect of neo-Paganism: Crowther focuses on theUK history and practice of witchcraft, Cunningham looks at American eclectic Wicca, and Morrisonís book addresses spellwork. When I read them the material made sense to me. Undeniably, one of the main attractions was the presence of the Goddess within the neo-Pagan paradigm. Iíd never had an issue with male-centered monotheistic religions, but the more I read the more I realized that the concept of a female deity figure was striking a chord deep within me, nourishing something I hadnít consciously understood was deprived. That there existed a spiritual aspect to modern witchcraft was a revelation to me, and ultimately itís the aspect that drew me to exploring the path further. And what these books also showed me was that yes, modern witchcraft and neo-Paganism advocate a certain amount of study to challenge oneself and constantly expand oneís horizons and knowledge base, but first and foremost it centered on personal interaction with and understanding of nature, and through nature, the Divine. 

When I become interested in something, I read as much as I can about it. I love to research! I went back to that occult bookstore and kept buying books, this time for myself. The cooperative storytelling project went on for about a year, four or five of us meeting once or twice a month, and while my original research had allowed me to create a believable character, it wasnít long before my continuing research showed me just how much deeper real witchcraft was. It is a way of life; it is a spiritual path. 

TWPT:  Did you have any predominant spiritual or religious views that had to be rethought as a consequence of what you found during your research and if so how difficult was it to begin to change those ideas and bring them into line with these newfound spiritual concepts?  

AMH:  Not really. I was raised Anglican, but not in a strict sort of way. My parents taught me to respect and honour the people around me, as well as nature. I was a church goer until my and active in the church community for years until in my late teens I was pressed to donate even more of my time and energy. Iím a shy person, and trust has always been a big issue with me. In this case what I finally realised was happening was that the community was drawing an incredible amount of energy from me, but I wasnít receiving an equal amount of support and nourishment in return, on either a personal level or a spiritual level. In fact, church had become simply a secular and mechanical entity that ate up time: flower guild, altar guild, nursery duty, youth groupÖ and what had happened was that there no longer existed a spiritual element to any of these things. I understand that every institution needs to be run by people, but I felt that I was valued only for my time and skills in these areas, not as a child of God with a soul and spirit. 

I never officially left Christianity; I just did what so many volunteers do when they burn out. I faded from the scene. I never rejected God, either. I still talked to the Divine, and felt joy when the spirit of the universe moved in such a way as to touch my life and remind me that moments of beauty and happiness are gifts from the Divine Spirit. Neo-Paganism was more of an ďAhĒ moment for me; it gave a name to many of the beliefs I already held, such as animism, immanent Deity, and pantheism. Iíd say my spirituality evolved over time, not that it changed as a result of any one event. 

TWPT:  Once you had worked through many of the issues brought up as a result of a change in spiritual paths did you have anything in mind as to how you should go about putting this new path into motion in your life and what were some of those beginning steps in your case? 

AMH:  As I wasnít an active adherent to an organized faith at the time, there really werenít many issues to work through; it was really a very smooth transition. It didnít entail a huge deliberate adjustment at all. Neo-Paganism very easily and gently just began to entwine through my life. Entwine is a good verb, actually, because it moved like roots and shoots and tendrils. It really wasnít much of a stretch when I discovered neo-Paganism; in fact, once I understood what neo-Paganism was, the rest of my life filled out and felt much more comfortable. 

What did present a challenge was the actual physical performance of ritual. I adore doing ritual now, but after the first couple of months of reading everything I could get my hands on and internalizing it, I understood that in order to actually practice this spirituality meant that I had to physically do something. Looking at a calendar and knowing that itís a Sabbat or a moment in a particular moon phase is one thing. And certainly, the root of any ritual you do lies in your thoughts and emotions. But in order to avoid the ďarmchair WiccanĒ syndrome, you have to get your nose out of a book and actually stand up and do something. One of the aspects of Wicca that Iím particularly thankful for is the focus on the experiential acquisition of knowledge. You can read and talk until the cows come home, but if you never try to connect personally with whatís out there Ė God, Goddess, the energy flowing through the world Ė the base and heart of your spiritual practice is going to be missing. 

Knowing this, it took me a good long while before I could get over the odd stage fright that held me back. Intellectually I knew that neo-Paganism was my thing. On paper, it answered so many of my needs. The idea of actually casting a circle and meeting my gods spirit to spirit scared the heck out of me, though. Was I ready for that sort of thing? It was a huge commitment, and was very important to me, so I thought about it for a long time. 

It took me months from the time I began reading to the moment when I finally did my first ritual at Imbolc. And I know that I must have waited for the right time, because it was a positive experience. I was filled with such a sense of joy and gladness and ďthis is rightĒ. It was quiet, but wonderful. 

TWPT:  Tell me about writing in your life. Did you always want to be a writer and when was it that you remember starting to write material on a regular basis?  

AMH:  Well, my high school graduate blurb in my yearbook says that my ideal future career was a novelist! Actually, it goes a lot further back than that. I was writing stories at the beginning of grade school. I was an early reader, and something about the written word has always fascinated me. And Iíve always had a facility with words, so the fact that itís not hard for me to write helps a lot as well. I wrote my first official novella at the age of twelve. I wrote cooperative stories throughout high school with a group of friends, as well as more novels that helped me develop as a writer. 

Iíve always been a creative writer first and foremost, so the fact that my third non-fiction book is about to be published in spring 2006 amuses me as well as being somewhat ironic. I still write fiction, too. And before I was a writer, I was a reader. I fully believe that the amount of writing Iíve been exposed to since birth has helped confirm me as an author. 

TWPT:  How is it that your educational background prepared you to be able to open up to what you found along your current path? Do you think that those who are predisposed to seeking knowledge through universities are just as open to alternative spiritual paths regardless of whether they represent a majority view or not?   

AMH:  Wow, what an interesting question. 

First of all, I donít think someoneís level of education limits their spiritual potential at all, no matter what religious path they choose to follow. The neo-Pagans I know are a well-educated lot, but that may be a reflection of my circle of friends being both neo-Pagan and university-educated. I do believe that the more you learn, the more open-minded you have to become in order to absorb and hold various (and sometimes less-popular or minority) points of view.
Thatís not necessarily a byproduct of university education, however; that can be from life experience as well. 

That being said, the ten years I spent in university doing literature analysis and criticism taught me an awful lot about different points of view, and I can appreciate them without agreeing with them. I think I would have been just as open to neo-Paganism even if I hadnít already completed a university degree, simply because of the kind of person I am and because the time was right. I do know that my academic background provides me with the ability to start reading something and know almost right away if itís crap or not! It also gives me the ability to read weaker stuff and pull out the bits of valuable information. And I certainly do my part to search out more academic and fact-based books for local neo-Pagans to read and include in their material for study. Thatís one of the aspects of being a teacher that I love: introducing students to new authors, new ideas, and material that they can really use as a good solid base for further research as their spirituality develops. 

TWPT:  How is it that you came to be involved in theBlack Forest Circle and Seminary since you are inCanada and they are inPennsylvania?  

AMH:  Through a small series of coincidences I ended up working at the occult bookstore through which Iíd made my original discovery of neo-Paganism. For the shopís tenth anniversary, we brought in a series of authors for lectures, workshops, and signings. Silver RavenWolf was one of those authors, and I had the opportunity to sit down and have dinner with her. I discovered that her personal views on spirituality and occult practice were much more complex and challenging than her new generation witchcraft series of books presented for the general public, and after a few months of thinking and meditating, I accepted her offer to join the Black Forest Clan to explore the body of knowledge and practice they offered. 

I and four others ended up training long-distance, with one or two long visits toPennsylvania each year or a shorter visit with our teacher when he traveled up toMontreal. Distance learning was an enormous challenge. It challenged our commitment to the work, our confidence in our own methods, and our ability to discipline ourselves. Ultimately I think it created five extremely strong and well-grounded individuals who learned to trust their own instincts. We taught ourselves a lot, and shared the richness of the experience with one another. Weíre very close, and now that we all have our own covens, the five of us still meet alone for magical work or administration-type discussions where we work out problems together. 

TWPT:  Ultimately you became a 3rd degree Wiccan High Priestess within this group. What was it that this initiation brought to your spiritual path and how did this fit in with your solitary practice?  

AMH:  My third degree initiation served two purposes. First, because itís a tradition initiation, itís awoken and solidified certain tradition-specific things inside me. Being oathbound I canít go into detail, of course, but ultimately while the experience of the initiation itself was incredible and opened my eyes to a few different things, it hasnít impacted my existing spirituality in any sort of headline-making way that I can see right now. I think itís going to take a few more years before Iím in a position to look back and focus on the tiny ripples the elevation made throughout my life, both spiritual and mundane, and what sort of changes those ripples made. 

Second, the third degree elevation introduced me to a new experience: teaching others privately within a coven environment. In the new coven my husband and I formed for this purpose, we discovered that itís a lot more difficult to train someone personally than to teach a course once a week through a structured program where you know whatís coming next. Itís also hard when someone comes to you for answers, and all you can do is facilitate their own search for the answer thatís correct for them. Thatís another aspect of what my third degree elevation is teaching me: when to be hands-on, and when to be hands-off. I have a tendency to encourage everyone to find their own truth, but at times thatís not the type of help people approach me for. 

Everyone gets something different from an initiation or elevation, and to be honest, my third degree elevation is teaching me more about administration, training others, community, and handling interpersonal issues as regarding spirituality and religion. And that affects my whole life, not just my work within my tradition. 

TWPT:  Tell me about your first book Power Spellcraft for Life. When and why did you decide to write the book and how was it that you ended up at Provenance Press?  

AMH:  I was working with Provenance Press as a consultant when the editor suggested that I write one of the books in the For Life series. She proposed the spellcraft title, and as Iíd been teaching a two-part course in spellcraft for a while and had material that I could use as a basis for the book, I agreed. It was the first book I wrote for publication, and it taught me a lot of important things about the process. 

So I didnít set out to write a book on spellcraft. A book for people whoíd worked through a couple of Wicca 101 books and who needed something intermediate to expand the basics had always been the book I thought needed to be written. (I never thought Iíd actually do it, though, and I donít flatter myself that Iíve written the be-all-end-all of intermediate Wicca books in Solitary Wicca for Life, but when the publisher asked if I could do it in an emergency, I did.) So Power Spellcraft for Life was one of those mysterious domino-like effects in a string of pleasant coincidences. Iím very pleased with the book, though. It was certainly a different experience than writing the Wicca book. I found the spellcraft book easier to write because it was about mechanics, whereas the Wicca book is about spirituality. Itís a lot easier to talk about nuts and bolts than about an individual-specific eclectic mystery religion! 

TWPT:  One of my first questions about your new book, Solitary Wicca for Life, is can a lifelong solitary practitioner have as satisfying and fulfilling spiritual experience as their counterpart who spends all of their time practicing in a coven environment? 

AMH:  Absolutely, and I cannot stress this enough. Different personalities require different structures within which to work, and as a result a practitioner may gain more from one or the other based on their temperament, but you canít point to one environment and say, ďThis is the best way for everyone to practice.Ē 

The experience will be different, not better or worse. Itís like comparing apples and pears. You may have a preference, but there isnít more intrinsic value in one over the other. There are certain formal traditions where you have to operate within a coven environment in order to receive the information and knowledge being communicated to you, of course, but thatís not generally true of eclectic Wicca, and obviously not of solitary eclectic Wicca! 

TWPT:  Your book jacket says that you spent 5 years of your 10 on this path as a solitary practitioner. Does that mean you've spent some of your time in a coven environment? For you personally what did coven life/practice offer you that solitary practice did not? 

AMH:  Working within a coven offered me reinforcement, community, feedback, and the ability to learn how to work with others. Like most solitary practitioners, I doubted my own knowledge base and intuition. Once Iíd taken the step to go out and take a public class, I realized that I was more than fine on both those counts. I would have been content to going back to being exclusively solitary, but I was coaxed into teaching what I knew, and that was the end of that! It was through teaching, working in the local occult bookstore,  and doing Pagan community work that I met the people who eventually formed the first coven I worked with. 

I began as a solitary, but I certainly didnít stop working on my own once I began working in a coven. In practicing alone I can work with concepts that I want to explore, which the group as a whole may not be interested in doing. For me, the two environments supplement one another. 

Some people have told me that I canít be both a covener and a solitary, and Iíve never understood the either-or mentality. If you believe that you can only practice in a circle environment with others, then I think youíre missing one of the points of Wicca, which is to make it a way of life. In my coven, I work with others within the structure of a tradition; alone, I work in a much more free-form fashion, but I still work within the Wiccan configuration. I celebrate sabbats and moons both alone and with my group. I find I get different things out of each method. In the end, it all comes down to you and the gods, after all. 

TWPT:  What were some of the goals that you wanted to accomplish with this book when you started to write Solitary Wicca for Life? 

AMH:  The market is absolutely flooded with 101 books, and thereís a dearth of 200-level texts. Thereís a reason for this: itís very easy to address the basics for someone whoís starting from scratch, but in a personal experiential mystery religion like Wicca, itís hard to know what different people will require as the next step to further clarify what theyíve encountered in introductory books. The biggest problem with a concept like ďintermediateĒ is that everyone defines it differently, based on their own needs or experience. I thought about the questions lots of people have asked me over the years after theyíve worked through a few 101 books on their own, the common obstacles that people encounter, and went from there. I really didnít want to repeat the very basics that are easily found in other books, so apart from doing a review of what Wicca is, and a necessary brief restatement of the basics in a couple of places before further developing the topic, I looked at things not usually addressed: how to write your own invocations, how to break down a published ritual into different sections, how to aspect, how to enrich ritual, and so forth. 

In addition, I wanted to create a book that explored the ďwhyĒ we do certain things. So often a 101 book tells the reader ďwe do this step in ritualĒ but rarely does it add the second half of the thought, ďbecause it serves this purposeĒ.  I also wanted to suggest a couple of techniques or slightly different methods that people may not have come up with on their own. A solitary path is about developing what works best for you, and a lot of people feel awkward about coming up with their own versions of different things. A solitary practitioner often needs the encouragement to develop their own liturgy, their own style. I wanted to encourage them to try a couple of techniques that they may not have felt they could do, to get them to write their own invocations instead of using ones found online or in books, to get them to really feel out their position in relation to their gods. And in a sense, a lot of that has grown out of the classes I teach. Sure, there are times when I lecture, but more often than not Iíll give a bit of information and then encourage those present to get going on a project or assignment that explores how they feel or actively puts into practice a theoretical technique theyíve been given. We learn by doing in Wicca, and thatís why throughout the book I suggest trying this, trying that.  Itís about practical spirituality. 

TWPT:  Are there other books out there that take this approach to practicing the Wiccan path as a solitary? How is your approach to this topic unique when compared to others who have written about this subject matter? 

AMH:  If you practice as a solitary, your approach to Wicca is going to be unique as a result, because you donít have to subscribe to someone elseís details beyond the basic Wiccan structure. Youíre creating your own path within the larger Wiccan borders. So in a way, every authorís approach is unique, as is every readerís. This is one of the reasons why itís interesting to read various 101 texts: you can see how each author takes a different view of a certain aspect of practice. 

But in general, I think the focus of most books is on the Wicca part as opposed to the solitary part. It can be frustrating to pick up a book as a solo Wiccan and come up against rituals written for more than one person. My solution for that has always been to simplify the ritual so that you can do it alone (providing you donít lose the thrust of the ritual, that is), but then, Iím a big fan of kitbashing, and I have no reluctance in taking a bunch of speaking parts myself! Solitary eclectic Wiccans get so much of their source material from books that I wanted there to be a book that said, ďItís not all about the books, itís about you.Ē Iíve encountered people who say ďI canít do thatĒ when they read a ritual or a technique in a book, for whatever reason: too many people, too complex, too challenging. If you really think you canít, then youíre right Ė you canít. But what if? What if you tried? Or what if you wrote something else that you could do? Eclectic Wiccaís not about the rituals in books, itís about you and your relationship with the gods as you practice the Wiccan way. Discovering what your own personal way is can be so wonderful. And that discovery never ends, because we grow and change and our practice must evolve with us to continue meeting our needs. 

TWPT:  Tell me about how Solitary Wicca for Life is laid out and was there a reason for covering certain ideas in a certain order? 

AMH:  A lot of it was intuitive. It just made sense to begin with a review of what Wicca is, where it came from, and what the underlying philosophies are. From there the next step was sacred space, working with circles, then energy work that goes on inside a circle. Then I turned to the various parts of a basic Wiccan ritual, writing ritual, working with deity, and so forth. I like to go from the general subject down to the more specific topics within that subject area, and in as linear a fashion as possible. 

When I write a book the chapter order that gets published is never what Iíd originally planned, though; things get moved around as I write in order to present the smoothest and most logical flow. My outlines and proposals usually have fewer chapters, too. Some chapters tend to split early on into two or three very distinctly different ideas as I begin to write them, which have to be separated in order to address them correctly. In fact, most of the chapters in this book could be books themselves! 

TWPT:  Is your book aimed at a certain skill level for the reader to be able to use it effectively? (beginner, intermediate, etc.) 

AMH:  The book is written with certain assumptions in mind, namely that youíve at least read a couple of beginner texts and tried your hand at some rituals. While I do mention basics in passing to make sure every readerís on the same page before we go on to focus on something specific, I donít belabour them. 

Actually, Iím regularly surprised at how many people have practiced for years but have never truly grounded, or attempted to connect directly to the Divine by aspecting in ritual, or have written an original ritual. To seasoned practitioners these things may seem basic, but thereís a lot of people out there who havenít gone beyond a very basic circle-cast and seasonal observation for various reasons. I wrote Solitary Wicca for Life (and Power Spellcraft for Life too) for those people who have gone through the 101 books, and feel that they need something to help them get a handle on how to truly make their solitary practice their own. 

TWPT:  When you practice as a solitary you have to depend on yourself to figure things out. When someone runs up against a wall and has questions they can't find an answer to what advice do you have for them?

AMH:  Meditate; perform divination; ask the Divine. Read, read, read about whatever youíre blocked on! And in the end, trust your gut and create your own answer based on your meditation and your research. Developing your own solution is how new techniques are forged and new discoveries are made. 

Trusting yourself is a huge thing as a solitary. We worry about doing things incorrectly, offending the gods, hurting ourselves somehow. Weíre stronger than we think, and we know more than we think we do. Iím not advocating slapdash ritual or energy work Ė far from it! Ė but when you canít find an answer to something, necessity requires your creativity to rise to the occasion. 

TWPT:  Does the information contained in Solitary Wicca for Life have any particular leanings as far as traditions goes? Or is it more neutral so that it would blend with any person's path that picks up your book?

AMH:  I purposely wrote a book based in eclectic Wicca because thatís what most solitaries practice. If someone is studying within an established tradition, then theyíll have material to work with already, and likely some sort of mentor with whom they can communicate. Which is not to say this book canít offer another way of looking at an element of their formal and tradition-specific practice; I hope it does. Iím a fierce advocate of keeping an open mind and learning whatever you can from wherever and whoever you can, and not making blanket judgments based on what you believe or how you practice personally. If you ignore material for whatever reason, then youíre cutting yourself off from any potential idea you may discover as a result of interacting with that material. Thereís always something of value that can be taken away with you, even if itís just a glimmer of a new idea formed in response to disagreeing with the material. 

What it comes down to is that by writing my books, I want to make people think about what theyíre doing and how they approach it instead of doing it ďjust becauseĒ. Iím not interested in telling people what to do; Iím interested in helping them see what theyíre already doing in a different light. And if even only a handful of people read one of my books and discover something new, or think about a single aspect of their practice in a slightly another light to get a different view of it, then Iíve accomplished something.

TWPT:  Having spent time in both the coven environment and as a solitary practitioner, what advice would you give to a person who is looking to become involved with a coven, and secondly, what advice would you give to a person who wants to reinvigorate their practice on a solitary path?

AMH:  Iím a believer in the whole ďthe opportunity arises when you are readyĒ phenomenon.

If youíre looking to work within a coven, thereís the whole mess of locating an open group and so forth, or of starting one yourself with people you know; both avenues have their difficulties. But when joining a working group, an important thing to focus on is the group dynamic, both on an interpersonal level and the energy dynamic. Does it feel comfortable? Is it nourishing? Is it supportive while being challenging, so that you can grow? Trust your instincts in the initial evaluation of the group; if anything at all gives you pause, think long and hard about working with them. The experience of working with a group isnít worth going against your instinct. In the end, if youíre willing to give it a go, working in a group is a trial and error sort of thing. Iíve had the honour of working with individuals who are marvelous people, and with whom I work well on a one-on-one basis, but who just didnít fit into the energy of the working group as a whole. And you just donít know until you try. 

If youíre a solitary looking to revitalize your practice, my suggestions are simple. My first is to take a class of some sort. It doesnít have to be on your actual path; in fact, those can be hard to find. Instead, take a class on mythology, literature, or a religion of a culture that interests you. Let it raise associations in your mind about your own spiritual path. My second suggestion is to go back to the basics. What was the first thing you did as a Wiccan or Neo-pagan? Go back and do it again. Take note of how you feel, what you do differently. Hopefully you took notes or journaled your experience the first time around, so compare and contrast. Continue retracing your first steps. Meditate on how your views and approaches have changed since then. And third, take a good long look at yourself and your path, and honestly re-evaluate your needs and what your path provides for you. We donít do this often enough, and as a result we often become mired in the same old same old. We change, after all; our practice should evolve with us. Think about what drew you to the system and path originally, and how you see the path now. Sometimes we forget about the simple heart and soul of our spirituality. 

TWPT:  Readers tend to learn something new when they pick up a book with an open mind but did you as an author learn during the writing of Solitary Wicca for Life?

AMH:  Thereís nothing like writing something thatís going to be published to really force you to define what you believe in. I deliberately donít try to push my own beliefs on others, but in order to talk about Wicca in any way you have to think through how you see the path, and then try to put it into words. One of the things I strive to do is to get people to readdress their foundations instead of charging onward, so in essence this was a re-evaluation of how I perceive the foundations of my own practice.

TWPT:  Tell me about your involvement with Crescent Moon Spiritual Learning Centre. What is it that you are hoping to achieve with this Centre and how successful have you been so far?

AMH:   CMS was founded by my colleague Scarlet Cougar, and itís her baby. Her ultimate goal is to get it to the level of a Pagan collegium, but for now itís a structured four-level program studying various aspects of religion and spirituality such as mythology, cultural methods of worship and magic, crafts, leadership, and all sorts of things, some of which are obviously connected with the field of alternative spirituality, some of which arenít obvious but that are important supporting material nonetheless. Itís full of practice and theory, and it really turns out some solid, grounded, well-educated individuals who then go on to do wonderful things in our local Pagan community. Scarlet invited me to be a core teacher in 2000, and since then Iíve managed to teach every level at some point (most of them concurrently, at one point!) as well as functioning as the assistant co-ordinator for a while. I had to take a sabbatical last spring because of writing both Solitary Wicca for Life and The Way of the Green Witch, and then because of the baby, but Iím back again as a teacher for the two upper levels. (More information on the CMSLC can be found at http://www.mtl-magicalcircle.ca/crescentmoon/index.html .) 

TWPT:  As a resident ofCanada how do you feel about how Wicca/Paganism and other non traditional spiritual paths are treated within Canadian society as a whole? Do you feel it has gotten better over the past 10 years and if sowhy? 

AMH:  There are some important things that have been happening in the past five or so years here inCanada. The National Pagan Conference is in its second year, a convention also known as the Gaia Gathering that is designed to help people from across the country meet, network, share ideas, and promote unity between the various provincial communities. (You can find more information on this conference at www.gaiagathering.ca .) There are conferences happening on the local level as well, meetings designed to share information, address problems within the local community, create new working relationships between disparate groups. 

Thereís currently a new Canadian pagan census being done by Dr. SŪ‚n Reid of theCarleton University department of Sociology and Anthropology. Her first was done a decade ago, and she hopes to do a census like this every ten years in order to track the pagan movement inCanada.

New age shops have opened up all over Canada over the past five or so years, something I saw happen while working in the local metaphysical shop that supplied wholesale products across North America. Thereís obviously the need for these shops, so someone moves to fill that need. If the need is there, then the Neo-pagan movement is alive and well, and tolerated well enough in the Canadian public opinion for these shops to open and, in the majority of cases, thrive. 

TWPT:  Earlier we were talking about your new book Solitary Wicca for Life but you are about to have an even newer book in a few months. Would you care to share with our readers what they will find in The Way of the Green Witch?

AMH:  In The Way of the Green Witch book I approached the whole nature-honouring concept from the point of view of the people over the years who have asked me for techniques they can use to connect with the earth when they live in a city. Neopagan books do have a tendency to rhapsodize about communing with nature, and the reality of it is that most people live in urban areas these days, and donít necessarily have obvious places to go for that sort of communion. Being a green witch in the contemporary urban world is certainly a part of it. Itís also about how to walk a nature-honoring path outside the standard Wiccan structure. A lot of people default to Wicca instead of resting comfortably in the general Pagan/nature spirituality camp, and thatís not necessary.

TWPT:  Will you be taking a similar track in directing The Way of the Green Witch not at the 101's but at a little more advanced practitioner? 

AMH:  The Way of the Green Witch is an overall look at the practice, not aimed at any one level.

TWPT:  You've written several books over the past few years. Are there any lessons that you have learned that you'd like to share with budding authors out there about how you juggle family life and writing chores while still turning out some great books?

AMH:  I was extremely fortunate to get the bulk of my most recent book finished before my son was born early last summer. He stayed in the hospital for a month, and while that was stressful it was also an opportunity to write hard in order to finish it off before he joined us full-time. Since we brought him home, Iíve been able to write practically nothing Ė even finding time to do interviews like this has been a challenge! When it came time to do rewrites on the copy edited manuscript, and then again when the proofs came to me for correction, I had good friends who took turns coming in to play with him for a couple of hours daily while I worked in the next room. Iíd say the keys to balancing family life and a writing career is an understanding life partner who is able and willing to handle things like household chores and shopping and food preparation, and having a small selection of really reliable friends who can drop in once and a while to give you a break. I think itís also important to understand that you canít do everything at once. As my high priestess once said to me, if Spirit has given you the task of raising a child, then thatís the task Spirit wants you to focus on right now. Itís a thought thatís helped me through writing withdrawal over the past ten months. Iím looking forward to easing back into writing when my son is a bit older.

TWPT:   Do you ever go out on the road promoting your books, lecturing or just getting up in front of your readers and sharing your wisdom live? Is there any place that your readers might get a chance to see you in the flesh in 2006?

AMH:  Iíve done a lot of it over the past five years locally, but Iím taking some time off because writing three books within two years, moving, and having a baby really drained a lot of energy and didnít leave much time for the workshops and classes I usually teach. And now, of course, I donít have much time or energy either! I was originally supposed to be a guest at the Canadian National Pagan Conference in May 2006, but I recently had to cancel the appearance for family reasons. Like the actual writing, itís going to take me a couple of years to get back into the live appearance thing. Iíve had a few local offers to have events and signings for The Way of the Green Witch when it comes out at the end of May, so that will be a gentle way of easing back into things!

TWPT:  How would you like to see Wicca evolve over the next few years and what are some of the main challenges that you see that need to be overcome for that to happen?  

AMH:  Bearing in mind that we donít direct Wicca, it evolves as our needs change, there are a lot of things Iíd hope to see happen worldwide in the Wiccan community. Iíd like to see more freedom of expression, and the freedom to practice the religious system of oneís choice. Iíd hope people outside Wicca be more tolerant of diversity of Neo-pagan belief and practice. Iíd hope to see more respect for personal choices within the Wiccan path, as well. Iím continually stunned at the lack of respect shown to other people, no matter what their religious choices. Putting people down because they practice a different way hurts everyone involved, and itís petty. What a waste of energy one-upmanship is. 

Speaking of energy, Iíd like to see people of different paths working together instead of apart, sharing knowledge and theory with one another. Iím not talking about mashing everything up in one big puddle, destroying the uniqueness of a path or system, but a respectful sharing of non-oathbound information that can enrich everyoneís path. Iíd like to see an increased awareness of the evolutionary nature of Wicca, and less of the myths that are created and perpetuated in order to lend modern religions a sense of validity. And of course, Iíd like to see an increased awareness of actual history, basis and foundation of various traditions and families within Wicca.

TWPT:  Finally, are there any words of wisdom that you would like to share with TWPT's readers and with your own readers as well? 

AMH:  There will be times when your spirituality seems stalled. Youíre not alone; everyone goes through periods of retrograde, an apparent cessation of motion or seemingly backwards movement. Itís frustrating, and it can lead you to think that youíve gone as far as you can go on this path, but itís part of a cycle. We need these times to chew over where weíre at, to reassess where we want to go, and how we want to get there. Theyíre no fun to work through Ė Iíve had my share, and will have more! --  but theyíre just as important as those times when everythingís flowing and you feel as if youíre moving in harmony with the universe around you. 

If the books have helped you, Iím glad, but you donít need them or any other book in order to practice. Rely on yourself and your intuition. Find your own groove and believe in it. Enjoy your relationship with the gods, and know that theyíre always there for you.

TWPT:  Thanks so much Arin for making time for this interview in your already crowded schedule and I want to take this opportunity to  wish you much success whether you spend your energy/time on your family or on future book projects. I appreciate your participation in The Wiccan/Pagan Times as will the readers who get a chance to take in this interview. Be well.

 

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