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The Author's Corner


Esra Free




Wicca 404: Advanced Goddess Thealogy
by Esra Free














Wicca 404: Advanced Goddess Thealogy:
TWPT Talks to Esra Free


TWPT:  Tell me about how you first discovered the Wiccan path and what it was about this path that convinced you that it was what you wanted your spiritual life to move towards.

EF:  There's a great tag-line in the kid's movie Shark Boy and Lava Girl that goes something like, "Everything that is or ever was began with a dream."  Way, way back in the early 1980s, at a time when I was in my twenties and knew nothing about Wicca, or even that pagan religions were still practiced in the modern world, I woke up one morning from a dream that was so vivid and emotionally charged that I can still call it up in shining Technicolor in my mind's eye today, just by thinking about it.  There was no "action" in the dream at all, just a scene laid out before me.  A gigantic woman with long, flaming red hair and a deep forest green dress that swirled around her hips and legs and spread across the ground to become the grass stood with one arm stretching high up into the sky. Her raised arm was somehow, at the same time, the twisted limb of a tree… Hey, it was a dream…  Anyway, I looked up to the sky to see what she might be pointing to, but in fact, she wasn't pointing at all, she was reaching, reaching, with tremendous passion and longing for what I could now see was the ardently down-stretched arm of a giant man in the clouds – a man in military uniform, who, oddly, looked a lot like Prince Charles…  Silly resemblances aside, the tension between these two giants was so erotically, romantically, ecstatically charged that when my eyes popped opened and I found myself awake, I was literally gasping for breath, shaking all over, physically, emotionally, even sexually alive in a way I had never experienced before.  I was on fire, tingling all over, and most of all, ravenous with a strange, driving hunger to find these giants in the waking world.  I had not yet learned to "think like a pagan" or what have you, but I knew in my in my heart, in my gut, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that while, sure, a dream is a dream is a dream, this dream was something very different from any I had experienced before.  This dream was showing me a brand new possibility for my life, pointing me toward a new way of being in the world, a path of radical aliveness, passion, ecstasy.  And this was no "gentle nudge."  This was a five alarm fire, like, "Wake up, Esra!  Don't waste another minute! Find us now! Your life depends on it!"  I literally felt that if I could not locate these dream characters in waking life, I would die.  It was that forceful, that potent.

As I said, at that point in my life, I knew nothing about Wicca or neo-paganism.  But I'd studied a lot of things, including at that point some Jungian Psychology, and I actually thought the thought in the moment, "These are Archetypes. These are gods. This is how the gods speak to people."  I raced to the library and spent the whole day pouring through every book I could find referencing Classical Mythology, ancient cultures and the like.  I checked out several of those dry, academic, but also very wonderful tomes on ancient pagan beliefs by H. R. Ellis Davidson, and took them home to test my eyes against their endless, tiny print, searching, searching, searching…  I took in a lot of information, saw and felt a lot of things that were definitely "in the neighborhood" of the giants I'd dreamed about, but it all seemed so ancient, so old, so dry and disconnected from anything my admittedly somewhat shallow twenty-something self could identify as alive, as real, as even potentially relevant to my 1980's single-girl lifestyle of the time.  I was not finding THEM, and to my great dismay, the tension, the passion, the erotic fire was gradually draining out of me.  The urgent blaze the dream lit in me was fading into a memory.  It was like being able to hear the telephone ringing somewhere in the distance, but someone has hidden the receiver, and after looking frantically around for a while you realize that, even if you find the phone now, the caller will have probably hung up by the time you can answer it anyway, so you start thinking about turning up the TV instead…

I gathered all the dusty tomes I'd borrowed and took them back to the library.  I plunked them down on the circulation desk, smiled at the librarian, heaved a heavy sigh, and turned to leave…  And right there, on one of those low display racks they keep at the front of libraries, was Starhawk's The Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Goddess.  Of course, in the real world, it's a normal-sized book, but I swear, to my eyes, in that moment, it appeared to be ten times larger than all the other books around it.  I think it glowed, too, though I wouldn't swear to that one in court…  It was that word Goddess that ensnared me like a fishhook.  Yes, I thought.  Goddess.  The Goddess.  THEE Goddess…  The word rolled and danced on my tongue, and I felt that strange, erotic, ecstatic flame rising again inside me.  Goddess, Goddess, Goddess… Of course I checked out the book!  There was no visual image exactly like my dream in Starhawk's book, but her description of this strange new religion "Wicca," of Goddess and God in balanced embrace, dancing and romancing the Universe into being, infusing all that is with love and lust and passion and raw, raging LIFE so matched the feeling-tone of the dream, the flavor that had so captured and enlivened me, that I knew I had, in the eleventh hour and on the very brink of surrender, succeeded in my quest.  I had found THEM, and would never again suffer their absence from my life.  I've been Wiccan ever since.

TWPT:  When was it that you decided to start writing and what were some of the forms this desire took before you wrote your first book?

EF:  In all honesty, I have never considered myself a writer.  Even with Wicca 404 published and out there in the world, I still don't.  I am a High Priestess.  A humble explorer along the Path and a weaver of the Craft, and that's enough for me.  Prior to writing Wicca 404, in my role as High Priestess for the Cosmic Goddess Coven, I wrote a great deal as far as our common Book of Shadows, lesson plans for new initiates, our internal newsletter and the like.  It was in these venues that I worked out, in relationship with everybody else and happenings within the coven, the basic thealogy that is expressed in the book.  My husband, Jack Preston King, who actually is a writer, read all that material and at a certain point said, "Esra!  You need to publish this stuff!  The world needs this.  Wiccans everywhere need to read this."   Jack is not an official member of the Cosmic Goddess Coven, but he's very Wicca-friendly, very open to all kinds of spiritual ideas and, in the present political state of our world, he's also very concerned about Humanity's future.  I absolutely agreed with him that bringing our coven's "Cosmic Perspective" to the larger Wiccan community stood to benefit Wicca, and maybe even Humanity, as a whole.  I was less sure that anybody would want to read any book written by me!  But I trust his judgment, so to the word processor I went!  Readers will have to judge the results for themselves!

TWPT:  Did you find the quality and depth of information contained in the books that you used to learn about this new path to be adequate for teaching you the basics of Wicca?

EF:  The v-e-r-y basics, yes.  Traditions surrounding the Sabbats, techniques for casting a circle, some fundamental concepts of magick and its uses, that sort of thing.  There is true and valuable information hidden between the covers of many of those horrifically-gaudy "Beginner's Bestsellers" that sparkle in every imaginable shade of purple from bookstore shelves everywhere, though you surely don't need more than one or two, at most, in your collection.  They all say pretty much the same thing, anyway.  Wicca 101 is what it is – the ground floor, a place to start, a very necessary stage of learning and development all Wiccans must pass through.   But I think a lot of people get stuck on that ground floor and never evolve past a beginner's relationship with the Goddess, just as a lot of adult Christians maintain the same basic childhood understanding of God and Jesus and the Bible their whole lives, never stretching their knowledge or experience of their religion beyond the immature "Big Daddy In The Sky" or "I believe because it comforts me" stages.  In Wicca, our tendency toward "stuckness" in the most basic of the basics is, at least in part, I believe, a result of the sad dearth of Wicca 202, 303 or 404 books to be found out there.  They exist, but they're seldom purple, and there are no buxom women in diaphanous robes draped seductively across the covers.  Read Margot Adler's, Drawing Down the Moon, Raven Grimassi's The Wiccan Mysteries, books by Janet and Stewart Farrar.  Then – and this is important! – turn to those books' bibliographies, and go read their sources, and those books' sources, and those…  The diamonds are out there, but you have to dig for them.  Or just buy Wicca 404 

(Laughs) Just kidding there.  My book is not an "end all, be all" either, of course.  In truth, I can say with absolute certainty, from many years experience as a practicing High Priestess, that ninety percent of Wicca is not learned from books anyway.  Books are the "key" most people use to open the door to a living relationship with the Goddess and the God, but to make that relationship real and alive, you have to put down your books and walk through the door.  You.  Personally.  There's a lot of research and scholarship that goes into developing the kind of systematic, intellectual theological groundwork any religion needs if it hopes to root and grow as a stable social structure in our ever-changing world, but Wicca is not, in practice, an intellectual exercise.  In practice, it's about all those things writ large in the dream that launched me onto the Wiccan Path in the first place – love, life, passion, ecstasy, sheer erotic, interconnected aliveness.  You can't find that in a book.  You can't write it into a book, and I won't claim it's in mine.  My ambition for Wicca 404 is that it work as something more akin to a roadmap readers can follow to a personal experience of living Wicca, without pretending to be the thing itself.  That's a personal discovery each of us must make for ourselves.  Wicca is a lifelong learning process in which books certainly play a part – but the important stuff is learned by putting your feet on the Path and walking, day by day, side by side with the Goddess and the God.  They are real, and they teach this stuff willingly, and for free.  If you let books fill that role instead, you cheat yourself.  Don't do that!  Read, study, learn, of course.  But don't forget to live, to experience, to be a witch, and not just a perpetual "trainee."  Don't just read about the Goddess, LOVE HER, listen to Her, reflect Her as the Earth and Moon reflect the Sun.  Don't just study Nature, put your hands in the dirt, your feet on the forest trail, turn your face to the wind and breathe Nature in and out of your lungs.  Feel the connection.  No books required.

TWPT:  You confess to a number of non-Wiccan influences on your understanding of Wicca – Christianity, Buddhism, Taoism, Gnosticism, Shamanism, Gurdjieff, Jung – Is "your Wicca" really Wiccan?  How so?

EF:  This is exactly why 404-level knowledge is so crucial right now to the continued relevance of Wicca as a living religion in our world.  As long as we continue to see all of the various Paths out there as fundamentally different, and even opposed to one another, the result is going to be more of exactly what we see in the world today – Christians hating Moslems hating Jews hating whoever…   Ideological conflicts are not the product of the specific things people believe, but rather of the people who do the believing.  Beliefs don't kill people, people kill people…  The great promise of Wicca as a reconciler of all this conflict is it's – when practiced wisely – almost scientific objectivity beyond all that either/or thinking.  There's only one thing going on in the whole Universe, and that's the wholistic, organic life of the Universe, of Nature, of that being we Wiccans call the Great Cosmic Goddess.  Everything going on everywhere, from galaxies crashing together to birth new stars in deep space to the digestive juices going to work breaking down my lunch as we speak are a part of that process, are microcosmic echoes of Her body/mind/spirit that serve Her processes and purpose, whether they know it or not, whether they like it or not.  Nothing and no one is outside of this reality.  There is no "outside."  There is only the Goddess and Her organic life processes.  Whether we are Wiccans, Christians, Buddhists or self-styled New Age mystics is irrelevant.  We are natural beings playing our natural role in Her life.  Any insight, exercise, practice, etc., regardless of Tradition, that awakens us to a conscious experience of this wholistic reality is a good thing, and we ought not to push Truth away just because we're personally uncomfortable with its source.  By the same token, anything that leads us to feel like individual, disconnected, unique and cosmically entitled "Lords Over Nature" or what have you – and plenty of Wiccan books preach this same sad line when they try to hook readers with promises of "MIGHTY SUPERNATURAL POWER!!!" – is delusional superstitious nonsense we need to discard, even if its source is a shiny purple book with cleavage on the cover…  Or a leather-bound Bible, a Torah, a Koran, a Tao Te Ching...  Keep what works, trash the B.S…

Which is a great shorthand definition of eclecticism in Wicca, especially amongst Solitaries – and covens of Solitaries, which is what the Cosmic Goddess Coven is.  Keep what works, trash the rest.  Let you personal experience define that word "works."  There's a whole chapter on this kind of eclecticism in Wicca 404.  It is, in my opinion, a fundamentally Wiccan concept.  Other religions tend toward dogmatism.  "Believe X or suffer the consequences!"  Wicca is a pragmatic Path that knows "I'm right, you're wrong" is a waste of time and energy.  "This works, that doesn't" makes magick.  It awakens minds.  Anything less is putting shackles on the Goddess, is saying, "Okay, I'll open to you and let you teach and guide me, but you'd better not throw any of that freaky Christian/Buddhist/Taoist/Shamanic/Jungian crap my way!  I won't listen!"  The trick, I guess, is to open to Her and stop right there.  Let the Goddess do the rest.  The great 1960s social activist and Cultural Revolutionary Abbie Hoffman once wrote something to the effect that we should live life like a screen door in a hurricane – let everything wash through you.  Resist nothing.  The important stuff will be what sticks.  That sounds very Wiccan to me.  Remember that what preserves the screen door is its openness, its ability to let the storm's fury pass through.  A closed door gets blasted to smithereens.   If we think of our personal, intimate, experiential relationship with the Goddess as the doorframe, as that which maintains our "shape" throughout the storm, solidly framing our identity and integrity as followers of the Goddess while the flood of life passes through our "screen," what do we have to fear from other Traditions?  What "sticks" will always be intrinsically Wiccan, regardless of its original source, because that's who we are, who we have chosen to be.  That style of radical eclecticism is not only a very Wiccan concept and spiritual practice, it is, arguably, our religion's greatest strength.

TWPT:  Do you feel that the same information is being discussed over and over again in books that are currently being published without breaking new ground? What effect does this have on the community in the long run and on those who are just now discovering this path for themselves and are looking for material to grow with?

EF:  "Wicca 101" has become something of a cottage industry out there, producing a seemingly endless stream of near-identical tomes that quote and reference each other ad nauseam until all original thought and scholarship has been utterly obscured.  That sounds harsh, I know, but come on – we all know this.  These are the purple-covered "Beginner's Bodice-Rippers" I've been poking fun at all along here.  The effect on the community of all this is the surrender of Wicca to the seventeen and under crowd.  Ever wonder why the media always reports on Wicca as a "teenager's religion?"  "Teens and Wicca!  Witchcraft in the classroom!  Film at 11:00!"   It may have something to do with the fact that a disturbing percentage of Wiccan books in print are, intentionally, I must presume, written on a fourteen year old reading level, and overly concern themselves with puerile fantasy nonsense like love potions, money spells and self-esteem.  If those books were my only source of information on Wicca, I'd belittle it, too.  "It's like Dungeons and Dragons, right?  A game teenagers play…"  Of course, you and I know that view of Wicca is the real nonsense.  The problem is, it obviously sells.  To teenagers, no doubt, but also to a lot of adults who are okay with being Wiccan on a teenage maturity level.  I'll probably piss off some of the people who will read this interview, but that's the truth of it.  If we mature adult Wiccans want our religion to be taken seriously by our culture and other world religions, it's not enough to decry this trend.  We have to take charge of the situation.  We "elders" have to step forward and stand up for who we are. We have to actively define a mature Wicca to the larger culture.  We have to write, publish, purchase, read and openly discuss the thoughtful Wiccan books intended for adult consumption that the present free market is simply not producing.  We should also consider the possibility that it may well be less the flood of  101 books creating a problem for the Wiccan community, as it is that our "stuckness" as a community at a teenage stage of development is supporting the continuance of a 101-level cottage publishing industry.  If it's a game of "You change first… No, YOU change first… No, YOU…", well, then it's obviously ludicrous to expect Capitalist publishing companies, whose stockholders do not expect them to represent Wicca fairly, but rather to make money, to "change first!”  It's our religion!  We have to take the first step!

TWPT:  Is your 404 book your way of trying to introduce a new depth to the thought, discussions and teachings of the W/P community?

EF:  Yes!  I am stepping forward!  One reason I am very grateful for the opportunity to do this interview with The Wiccan/Pagan Times is that, when it gets posted on the Internet, it is likely to be read by a whole lot more people than will probably ever find or buy my book – and maybe, just maybe, it will be enough to get this discussion started in the Wiccan community.  Who are we?  What do we stand for… together?  Do we have a Wiccan identity as a community, as a religion, that is different from the image portrayed in the "Bodice-Rippers" and Teen-witch tabloid news stories?  Are we ready to take our place in the Congress of World Religions?  Once seated, how will we introduce ourselves?  What do we believe that unites us?  That is universally Wiccan?  Some of the folks at that table have been there for thousands of years, like Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam…  Are we ready to speak up for the Goddess with a strong, equal voice?  I'm more than ready.  I'm downright impatient to get started…

TWPT:  What do you mean by a "systematic theology" of the Goddess?  Systematic, how?  Does Wicca really need that kind of complex theology?

EF:  Wikipedia defines "systematic theology" as the attempt to formulate a coherent philosophy which is applicable to the component parts of a given faith's system of belief.  If Wicca is a wholistic religion, then all the parts, all the beliefs from which it is constructed, should serve the whole, should be at least understandable within a larger context everyone within the religion can agree on.  There is a startling diversity within Wiccan belief, which I by no means desire to quash.  I seek, instead, to unify that diversity on a higher level, while preserving it below, in the lives and free choice of the individual Wiccan.  For example, many Wiccans experience the Goddess and God in a straightforward duo-theistic way.  The Goddess.  The God.  Others see the Goddess as monotheistically preeminent, with the God as a sort of internal spin-off or lesser companion.  Dianic witches don't do the God at all.  Others don't use any of these terms, focusing instead on specific named Goddesses and Gods from Celtic, Greek, Roman or Teutonic pantheons, and the like.  Instead of seeking to "battle it out" and name one type of belief the one and only "True Wicca," an act which would almost certainly lead to "Organized Wicca's" persecution of its nonconformist "heretics" – and how many times have we seen that scenario play out, historically? – a systematic thealogy asks, "Is there another way to look at this apparent conflict and find a view from which ALL of these 'Wicca's' are true, connected, and co-equal contributors to a greater truth?"  The "system" part comes in when you take the next step.  Having envisioned a Wiccan thealogy large enough to encompass, embrace and even celebrate the vast diversity of our beliefs, but which still makes sense, still meaningfully reflects and coherently organizes our human experience of the real world, of what we know about the real workings of Nature and the human mind/body/spirit, the next task is to build a step-by-step, rational philosophical bridge from the 101 level on which most Wiccans are functioning to this unifying view, without sacrificing anything that is intrinsic to the Wiccan religion, or to the real Goddess with whom we are all striving to establish a deeper relationship, in the process. 

And for the record, Wicca doesn't need a "complex theology."  But it does need internal coherence, otherwise it too easily devolves into disconnected fantasy, a silly game teenagers play.  When anybody can believe anything and call it "Wicca," Wicca is dead.  A word that means everything means nothing.  So we want to avoid being that nondescript about our beliefs.  But we also want to avoid fundamentalism, persecution, or placing restrictions on our very free religion that will leach the life, fun and passion from it, transforming Wicca into something our kids will dread the way a lot of us, growing up, dreaded church on Sunday morning.

It's a tall order.  Wicca 404 is my attempt to fill that order.

TWPT:  In your mind what is it that separates 101 or beginner teachings from the 404 material that you have included in your book? Theoretically when is it in their studies (general time frame) that a student of Wicca should be looking for more advanced study material in order to push themselves to the next spiritual level?

EF:  The second part of that question is easier to answer than the first, so I'll start there.  When is someone ready for post-101 material?  When they get bored with 101 books.  It really is that simple.  This could be after a single serving of Scott Cunningham or Silver Ravenwolf, especially if the individual has taken the initiative to actually work through those books, and has not settled for simply reading them.  All the books in the world, on any level, are useless if you just read them.  The goal of Wicca is not book knowledge, but rather, awakening to the reality of the Goddess, opening to Her presence, establishing relationship with Her.  Once you've cast the circle a few times, cast a spell or two that  worked, encountered the Goddess in ritual or visualization, etc., what is to be gained from going over and over the same old material, as if you don't trust the fruit of your own experience?  Move on!  Mature!  Evolve!

I am probably coming off like I hate 101 books…  Okay, I DO hate some of them, especially the more lurid "gimme! gimme!" types that are all about gaining power over love or money or what have you.  But all in all, 101-level Wiccan material fills a critical need within the community.  Everybody has to start somewhere.  It's a lot like learning to drive a car.  When you're sixteen, somebody has to tell you, "Put the key here, now turn it.  Great!  Now put your foot on the brake, push this button, and slide the gear shift forward into drive…"  Without that instruction, you would never learn to drive.  But once you've got the mechanics of the thing down pat, once it's automatic and you no longer need an instructor in the car with you, its time to get your license.  It's time to open the engine up on the highway and see what the car can do…  Wicca 101 material is exactly analogous to driving lessons.  The goal of driving lessons is to learn, technically, how to operate a vehicle, and to gain some minimal experience actually doing so.  The larger goal of driving, however, is to get somewhere, to pursue a destination, to go from where you are today to someplace you want to be.  You needed the lessons, first, in order to be capable of freely transporting yourself to a meaningful destination later.  But, as every sixteen year old knows, to stay in Driver's Ed even one day longer than is absolutely required is an imposition on your freedom.  Why do that?  Well, as we've already discussed, we do so, in part, because Wicca 202, 303 and 404 books are hard to come by.  Hopefully, that's changing.  But we also get stuck at immature levels of accomplishment, very often, because of unacknowledged fears and insecurities regarding our ability to r-e-a-l-l-y drive that car, cast that circle, work that magick…  We fear testing our skills, opening the engine up on the highway, and so we never find out what we really know, what's really possible for us.  That's a terrible, and unnecessary, limitation.  Becoming aware of, working with and overcoming such "shadow" issues is a big part of 202 and higher levels of Wiccan study.

Since we’re being honest here, I have to say that another very real barrier for a lot of folks is laziness.  The Internet is rife with 101 material, and a lot of people embrace that level of things and stop right there because clicking a few links is as much work as they're willing to do on behalf of their own spiritual development.  No insult intended to the people reading this interview on the Internet!  It's true of every topic.  Whether you're studying Wicca, biology, Shakespeare, economics or anything at all, advanced material is not going to chase you down and beg you to look at it.  In any subject, information you find effortlessly is likely to be commercialized, lowest-common-denominator stuff, because that's the nature of media – and the Internet, TV, and even books are all commercial media designed to sell you the least value for the highest price, and to thereby reap the greatest profit.  Free info on the Web is funded, like TV and radio, by advertising.  Advertisers buy space on the sites the largest number of Web-surfer's visit.  And guess which sites those are?  The simplest, most easily-digestible, lowest-common-denominator ones, of course…  This is a real problem.  Higher knowledge must be actively pursued.  If you're not willing to do that, you're probably not even giving the 101 stuff a fair hearing.  You've probably already stopped reading this interview…

TWPT:  Is Wicca, to your mind, an "escapist religion?"

EF:   To my mind, the term "escapist religion" is an oxymoron.  The purpose of all real religion is the just opposite of "escape" – Religions provide individuals and groups with a structure within which to actively grapple with personal and social limitations, in pursuit of individual and global transformation in the image of a higher order – in the case of Wicca, in the pattern of the cycles and seasons reflected in the healthy organic life of the Great Cosmic Goddess.  That's hard work.  That's changing the world.  No escapism involved.  There is, however, a very common brand of "pseudo-Wicca" out there that is not, to my mind, any kind of real religion at all.  It is quite literally a "game teenagers play," alongside, of course, a lot of adults who are functioning on a teenage level of maturity.  I am talking, of course, about "Weekend Witches," the folks who read one Silver Ravenwolf title and start wearing black, don a pewter pentacle and begin clicking their tongues and lecturing the rest of us about the colors of the candles on our alters.  I'm talking about the many, many "Witches" and "Wiccans" out there for whom Goddess religion is a form of "playing dress-up," Wicca as fashion statement, with no deeper thealogy attached at all, and with little or no commitment beyond the emergence of the next fad.  I am also, when I write in Wicca 404 about "Escapism in Wicca," referencing the renaissance festival crowd, and a lot of the "back to the land" folks, too, for whom declaring oneself a "witch" becomes a free pass for releasing the reins of the modern world, for stepping back in time to an imaginary "simpler day" and relinquishing personal responsibility for our planet's very real present moment environmental and human political and social states of crises.  That's not religion, that's fantasy role play.  That's a game, and a deeply self-involved one, at that.  In fairness to Wiccans, for every "pseudo-Wiccan" in the world, there are thousands upon thousands of "pseudo-Christians," "pseudo-Moslems," "pseudo-Buddhists," etc., who do exactly the same thing within the context of their own professed beliefs.  "Life was better before the Fall… So to Hell with you all!  I'm getting Raptured out of here!"  That attitude is the exact opposite of helpful, no matter what religious imagery it's couched in.  I am only competent and entitled to speak on the matter to practitioners of my own religion, Wicca, and so I am.  Again, I am stepping forward.

I think it's important to say, here, that, just as with the earlier discussion of the relevance of other belief systems to Wicca, it's not the specific beliefs themselves that necessarily cause the trouble, so much as the intent in the hearts of the people professing to be followers of those beliefs.  Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and Wicca are all legitimate world religions.  But the people who throw those words around as justifications for abdicating responsibility or pursuing selfish personal agendas are not real practitioners of any of them.  They are "pseudos."  So the short answer to your question – too late for that, huh? – is, no.  Wicca is not an "escapist religion."  In fact, I believe Wicca, as the prime voice expressing the Divine Feminine to a grossly over-masculinized contemporary world, has the potential to positively transform our entire planetary human culture, and may even be cosmically destined to do so.  But there are a lot of folks out there wearing pentacles and chanting "Goddess" who are just looking to get laid, to bolster their self-esteem, to gain "voodoo-zombie" power over others, to be "cool," or to psychically unburden themselves of the weight of the real present moment, in which their labors are sorely needed if we hope to create a future worthy of our Goddess and our humanity.  Too many folks are singing, "Tonight I'm gonna party like its 1599…"  Yes, those folks are decidedly "escapist."  They are not, however, by any serious measure, Wiccans.

So, is there anybody out there I haven't managed to insult yet?  Give me time!  Ha!

TWPT:  You stress in Wicca 404 that Wicca is routinely mislabeled an "Earth Religion," when, in fact, it is a Nature Religion, and Nature is cosmic in scope.  Can you elaborate on that a little?

EF:   This is a critical distinction that I really don't think gets made at all, let alone explained clearly, on the 101 level of Wiccan teaching.  Few Wiccans would argue against the understanding of the Earth as a living, super-conscious planetary being.  She – Gaia – is our true Mother, the biological as well as spiritual source of all Humanity, as well as of all the plants and animals and bugs and protozoa and even the "invisible residents" we often encounter in Wiccan practice, like Nature spirits, dryads, the Sidhe, etc.  We all emerge from Gaia's womb and return to it, physically as well as metaphorically.  Every moment of our lives, of many lives, play out within the comforting confines of Her warm and nurturing body.  When most of us use the word "Nature," we mean the Earth, forests, rivers, deserts, oceans.  We mean wildlife and wind, thunder and rain.  That's the Nature we most directly experience, in which for thousands of generations the human species has evolved.  We are all quite comfortable practicing an Earth religion centered in our mother's fond and intimately familiar embrace.

But Gaia does not live on Earth.  She lives in Space, in intimate relationship with the Sun, the Moon, all the planets of our Solar System, the Milky Way Galaxy…  That's "Nature" from Her perspective.  The distinction matters because, just as we make our spiritual journeys here on Earth, it is in the context of that larger "Cosmic Nature" in which Gaia makes Her home that Her physical and spiritual evolution as a super-conscious planetary being is being worked out.  And to the extent that we remain willfully or unconsciously blind to the fact that Gaia, like us, is walking Her own evolutionary Path, for all our love and good intentions, we are creating a roadblock to Her development with our dependence.  Our Mother loves Her children – but part of loving Her back means accepting the necessity to grow up.

It's exactly like the transition we experience regarding our own parents, as we age.  As small children, we see our parents as gods, all powerful, all knowing.  Down deep, unconsciously, we also experience them, with that unique, obsessive, infantile self-focus that is natural and appropriate to early childhood, but which, hopefully, we eventually outgrow, as ours, as extensions of our selves, as existing solely to meet our needs, with no understanding whatsoever that they have real lives of their own that have nothing to do with us.  They say a newborn infant believes that, by crying out, she literally creates her mother anew every time she feels hunger or thirst or a bubble of gas moving through her intestines.  Cry, and Mamma appears.  Feeds.  Gives comfort.  It's like casting a spell…  Older children experience tremendous frustration as they become aware that their parents have jobs, friends, hobbies, whatever, and that when the child's presence and these adult pursuits conflict, here comes the babysitter.  Johnny does not get his way… Tears, tantrums.  The gods must be crazy – what about me?  By the time we're teenagers, we've mostly figured out that our parents are fallible human beings – though as teens, we seldom add the appropriate "just like me" ending to that sentence, because we have some distance to go yet before we'll become fully cognizant of our own foibles.  We think we're perfect, and our parents just suck.  They're wrong about everything.  Oh, how can they be so stupid?  This is the stage I believe we humans are at as a species, an adolescent stage of development.  We're like teenagers living at home with Mamma, criticizing everything she does, rolling our eyes at every indication that maybe our own misguided behavior is causing larger problems for the family than we want to think about or take responsibility for.  Mom can't do anything right.  We know everything, she knows nothing – yet we've never held a job or paid a bill in our life.  We throw our dependence back in Mamma's face, and the only reason we get away with it is because she loves us and knows we'll grow past this stage…  And as individuals, we generally do.  In our twenties, we not only come to realize that Mom and Dad live in an outside world we knew little or nothing about the whole time we were dependent on them, we become independent and join them in that world.  We establish careers, find mates, start the whole process anew by bringing our own children into the world… We become adults.  If we're lucky, we then establish a whole new relationship with Mom and Dad, a relationship of equals.  When we no longer expect them to be gods or extensions of ourselves and our needs, we are free to fall in love with them all over again as the funny, fallible, endearing real human beings they really are, and always were.  It's not they who have changed and matured.  It's us.

What this means in relation to Gaia, the living Earth, our true physical and spiritual mother, is that we humans have reached an age as a species where it is no longer appropriate to see Mamma Gaia as an extension of ourselves, as a possession, as existing solely to feed, comfort and clean up after us.  She has her own life, and it's time for us to grow up and let Her live it.  It's time for Humanity to join our mother in the Cosmos, the natural world in which She lives and moves and has Her being.  It is, at the very least, well past time for us to expand our understanding of "Nature" to include the greater Cosmos that is Her home, and to work toward aligning our behavior with Her needs in that context, instead of only within the scope of our own narrow, self-involved view.  Wicca as "Earth Religion" falls short exactly the way a well-meaning child who loves her parents but never develops the strength to leave home, who justifies staying in the nest with "Mamma needs me!,"  or worse, "I just can't!" in the end cripples her parents as well as herself.  She doesn’t grow up and move on, so neither can they.  Both generations get stuck in time, they can't move on to more appropriate roles. 

This sort of thing, kids never leaving home, is epidemic in America.  I think it's symbolic of a larger issue challenging or whole species, and through us, Gaia.  Just about every real world problem out there is a symptom of this retardation of our species – overpopulation, dwindling natural resources, food and clean water scarcity, environmental meltdown resulting from the burning of rain forest and uncontrolled industrialization, militarization, etc.  These are all symptoms of outgrowing our nest.  We're getting too big to stay locked in the "Green Egg," as Otter Zell so eloquently phrased it.  Our resources are only limited, and that limitation strangling, if we refuse to imagine life for the human race in a natural world larger than the Earth's thin Biosphere.  The whole Universe is made of resources.  Belief in limitation and lack is blasphemous on the cosmic scale.  If we fail or refuse to adopt a "Cosmic Perspective" regarding ourselves and the Earth, the most likely outcome will be the same as when a full term human baby in the womb fails or refuses to be born.  Mamma, baby or both will die.  That's a totally unnecessary tragedy that we can avoid, and I believe Wicca has come into being at this time in History for the specific purpose of ensuring that we do just that, that we avoid stillbirth and get ourselves born as a healthy, bouncing cosmic species.  We Wiccans are the voice of Mamma Gaia, here to slap some sense into our self-involved species before its too late…

Loving our mother, Gaia, at this stage in the game, means growing up, moving out, and letting Her have Her own life.  For humans, this may take a while, maybe hundreds of years, but we're talking geological time here – a hundred years is less than a blink on Gaia's time scale.  We can do this.  But we won't likely even begin to try, won't start moving in the right direction at all until we come to deeply understand and accept the need for change, and that understanding won't ever likely dawn while we remain content to identify "Nature" as embodying only those processes confined to the thin and fragile Biosphere of Planet Earth.  Nature is everywhere.  For ourselves, for Gaia, we must now embrace that truth.  If we fail or refuse to do so, no matter how much we insist we love the Earth, adore Gaia, worship Nature, our inaction does Her harm.  And you know what the Rede says about "harm…"

TWPT:  Here is a quote from Wicca 404: 

 Nor does Wicca posit any such wildly supernatural notions as male-only deity or, really (though many Wiccan authors use the term – in my opinion, quite thoughtlessly), a Created universe or an implied building-block creator of any kind.  Referring to the physical/natural world as Creation centers the discussion in a masculine, Judeo-Christian context, and I feel all Wiccans everywhere should stop using this term at once.

If the universe was not "created," then where did it come from? 

This is a critical thealogical point.  The real question Wiccans need to ask themselves is, "Are planets, stars, galaxies, etc. alive?  Are they conscious living beings?  Or are they dead rocks and mindless fire moving through space according to the push and pull of blind mechanical forces?  If we have no problem understanding the Earth, Mamma Gaia, to be a living, super-conscious planetary being, by what reasoning do we resist extending that same understanding to all bodies in the Cosmos, to superstructures like galaxies, to the Universe as a whole?  Mostly, I think, we just don't think about other planets or stars or galaxies at all.  Our interest in Nature ends at the edge of Earth's Biosphere – a misguided prejudice that we've already discussed at length.  One point I make in Wicca 404 is that every time Wiccans call upon the Guardians of the Watchtowers when casting a circle, they are summoning the attention of stellar intelligences, of super-conscious living stars.  That's who the Guardians are.  That the Universe is alive, is the physical body of the Great Cosmic Goddess, with all the galaxies and stars and solar systems and planets and planet-dwellers like us interconnected and working together as living organs and cells within Her body, is a core, pantheistic truth beating deep inside the living heart of Wicca.  101 books seldom, if ever, even mention this, which leaves sincere practitioners who get stuck at the 101 level for honest lack of access to higher-level teachings to walk a "path without heart."  I don't mean that as a put-down, an insult.  It's just a fact.  All the 101 who/what/when/where/how in the world simply cannot come together into a coherent, meaningful, life-and-world-transforming way of being in the world without this pantheistic, unifying cosmic why.  Our efforts as Wiccans to attune our minds and bodies to the cycles and seasons of Nature is a good example of this dynamic.  A lot of Wiccans, maybe the majority, I don't know, make such efforts because changing with the seasons, working with seasonal ritual, living mindfully with Moon phases, etc. makes them feel good.  It gives them pleasure, allows them to feel more connected to the Earth, puts them in touch with the magickal undercurrents of Nature and its forces.  There's nothing wrong with taking pleasure in these things – they are deeply pleasurable activities, and should be enjoyed – but our pleasure is not the reason seasonal attunement is important.  How we feel is utterly beside the point.  We work to bring our minds and bodies into alignment with the cycles and seasons of Nature because Gaia is alive, and we are cells within Her body.  By aligning our small human will with Her greater planetary will, by synchronizing our individual and group cycles and season with Hers, we become better functioning cells, better servants of Her health and well-being.  And when Gaia is healthy, She is better able to align Her planetary will with that of the Sun, and through the Solar System, with the Galaxy, and on and on all the way up  to the level of All That Is – the Great Cosmic Goddess in Her Fullness.  Remember that Gaia does not live on Earth, She lives in Space, and so Her work of planetary alignment and attunement is always in relation to the cycles and seasons of the Sun, Moon, Solar planets and distant stars – and therefore, so is ours, because we are not advancing our agenda when we perform Wiccan ritual and magick, but rather, Hers.  Note that all the Wiccan Sabbats mark cyclic changes in the Earth's relationship to the Sun.  All our Esbats center on the Moon.  When our wills are aligned with Hers, what we want for ourselves will very often coincide with what She wants for us – and happiness, love and security can certainly be among those things – and so our magicks work, sometimes spectacularly.  But never because we want things in a "gimme gimme" way.  That magick never works.  When we are out of alignment, out of "tune," we can do terrible injury to ourselves and to Gaia by struggling against all the forces of Nature to fulfill our little human ego needs, like the character of Gollum in The Lord of the Rings… "My P-r-e-c-i-o-u-sssssss…"  Look at what human greed, self-service and institutionalized unconcern for the welfare of the environment or other living creatures has done to the Earth.  We stand on the brink of global environmental meltdown because of it.  Greed and self-involvement are ugly, ugly things.  Service to the living Cosmic Goddess is beauty incarnate.  It's what Wicca is all about.

This is how reality works, and if this key pantheistic tenet is left out of an initiate's understanding of Wicca, the 101 stuff won't really make sense.  When we don't know why we do what we do, or what it is that we're actually being tasked to accomplish in our lives, our rituals, our magicks, we have a strong tendency to drift blindly into the rote repetition of empty forms, of rituals and traditions we may repeat word for word, move for move, flawlessly, but their impact for Gaia becomes minimal or nonexistent because our intent is not in them, or is scattered or mis-focused.  If we are simply in it for our own pleasure, for example, chances are we will not be directing our intent where it belongs, on Her, the Sun, the Moon, the pathways of power that connect and unite them at a higher level.  The repetition of empty forms without understanding of their inner meaning and purpose is an almost exact definition of the word superstition.  When Wiccans get stuck at a 101 level of understanding, their practice tends to devolve into the superstitious maintenance of static traditions.  "We must never deviate from the teachings of our ancestors!  Our Tradition is the one and only True Wicca!  Tarot cards must be kept in a silk-lined wooden box in the Northeast corner of the house…"  Blah, blah, blah.  All of that is meaningless superstition.  Utter empty nonsense.  But without the whole truth, how can falsehood be discerned?  So, again, the broad dissemination of 202, 303 and 404 knowledge is crucial for the survival of our religion.

You asked about origins.  I haven't answered that yet, have I?  But this discussion has been a roundabout way of getting to a place where a meaningful answer is possible.  The Earth is alive.  The Moon, Sun, planets, stars, galaxies and on and on are alive and function together as the interconnected and interdependent cells and organs of the body of the Great Cosmic Goddess.  Okay, we've established that, the fundamental pantheistic Wiccan view of reality.  Now look around, right here on earth, right here in the Biosphere, the green world we share with the plants and bugs and beasts that cover Earth's surface like a living, interwoven tapestry.  Can you find even one single living creature amongst the great steaming brew of life on Earth that was created by anybody?  Fiction aside, Frankenstein's Monster aside, can anyone, anywhere point to a single living being that has ever been constructed from "dead matter" the way a stonemason builds a wall, brick by brick by brick?  Of course not.  A wall can be created, but a wall is not alive.  Living things come from the bodies of female beings of the same species.  Always.  We can see that with our eyes every day we are alive in this world, watching real Nature in action.  This insight forces on us a fundamental thealogical choice.  Either the Earth, the Milky Way Galaxy, the Universe are alive, and were therefore in some way born in this deeply natural, organic sense, or they are dead matter, cosmic "bricks" to be stacked by some transcendent stonemason deity out there.  You can't have it both ways, you have to choose.  Even if you envision a transcendent female deity crafting the dead matter of the Universe, you still kill the body with this view.  The Universe cannot be both created and alive.  A dead Universe does not interest me.  It kills the magick, and I know from personal experience that the magick is very much alive in Nature on every level.  The Goddess is alive and magick is afoot, to paraphrase Buffy Sainte-Marie.  And living things are born, not created.

TWPT:  Let's take a dim view of the whole process and consider that the level of material never increases beyond 101 in the near term future. What would this mean for the next generation of Wiccans that are coming up behind those of us who have been on the path for a number of years now?

EF:   One reason the human social and political situation, on a global scale, is such a mess is that a disturbingly high percentage of self-professed followers of all the world's established religions know nothing about the inner teachings of the Traditions they claim to follow.  Christians, Moslems, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews… Everywhere on earth, most religious people memorize dogma and enact rote, empty rituals in service to the voracious maintenance of superstitious nonsense.  The fact that people all over the world routinely kill each other over nuances of belief is proof of this.  No one whose will is even marginally aligned with anything truly Divine would take part in such horrors.  Only ego would kill someone for being different.  Only self-worshipping human ego needs that kind of crazed defensiveness in order to justify and protect its existence.  In the real world, Wicca is still a far cry from being an "established religion" like Christianity or Buddhism.  This is a good thing because, at this point in our development, we still remember our soul, our truth, our inner teachings.  Taking a dim view, if Wicca grows to become an established world religion, but only at the 101 level, disconnected from the higher level truth in which the basics are and must remain embedded, well… watch out.  Expect 22nd Century Wiccans to be praying on a schedule, selling indulgences, burning effigies of Popes and Imams who are perceived to have insulted the Goddess.  Expect one sanctioned Holy Book of Shadows everybody has to live by.  Expect persecution.  That's what happens to all religions when the inner truth dies. 

But I abjectly refuse to take the dim view.  I have dedicated my life to ensuring that Wicca does not go down that path.  The inner truth of Wicca will not be lost because, by the Goddess, I'll write the damned books myself if I have to!   I will teach.  I will shout the truth of Cosmic Wicca from the rooftops!

TWPT:  How does Cosmic Wicca differ from the more Traditional Earth-centered Wicca most pagans are familiar with?

EF:   The central difference is understanding Gaia as a being whose home is the Cosmos, and who has Her own evolution to attend to, Her own Path to walk.  It's also understanding that Gaia, as much as we love Her, is not the Great Cosmic Goddess, the whole enchilada.  Gaia, like us, serves the life and inner processes of the Great Cosmic Goddess, whose body is the Universe.  We human beings are not planets, so our role and destiny in all of this is not the same as the Earth's.  We need to willingly play our part in ensuring Gaia's health and evolutionary success, but we also need to be planning to move on, to mature into fulfilling our own unique role in the greater Cosmos as an ascended species.

TWPT:  Are you talking about Humanity moving physically out into Space?  Like Star Trek?

EF:  Let's say StarTtrek: The Next Generation.  But, yes, I'm talking about Space.  We must become a mature, Cosmic Species, or we are going to die in the "egg."  Look at our world, our society, our global human culture right now, in the present moment.  Everywhere we look, we seem to be running out of something – oil, energy, land, food, water.  When we break into open hostilities, we usually try to justify our actions ideologically, telling ourselves and others that we are defending the integrity of our religions, our governments, our sacred "way of life" or what have you, but we all know we're really squabbling over "stuff" – oil, energy, land, food, water.  If the world's stuff is running out, and I want more stuff, then I have to take your stuff.  You have to die to make more room for me.  That's the equation if we remain locked in the "egg."  But resources are only limited from the perspective of the Earth as a closed box we're stuck in.  If we focus on a vision of the Earth getting more and more crowded as the human population grows, imagining everybody's slice of natural resource pie getting thinner and thinner, day by day, genocide becomes a no brainer.  Expect global plans for achieving "sustainability" to include murder on a mass scale.  Expect billions to die.  Over "stuff."

But that is a completely false worldview.  Earth is not a closed system, and once you come to understand Her relationships with the Sun, Moon and stars, that becomes obvious.  Once you enter into personal relationship with the Great Cosmic Goddess whose body is the Universal Cornucopia of All That Is, such visions are exposed as the heinous blasphemy they truly are, as the criminally narcissistic navel-gazing of a species bent on self-destruction.  If it turns out to be our human destiny to fight to the last man standing over the last drop of oil or grain of rice, it will be solely the result of a terrible failure of imagination on our part.  It will be because we "failed to launch," refused to grow up and leave home when the time for that stage of our development came. 

We need to replace this failed "closed system" vision of reality with one that stands a chance of successfully launching us into the next phase of our biological and spiritual evolution as a species.  We need a vision of the Cosmos as a grand table with a place reserved for Humanity, as a frontier in which we are valued, and in which we are free to expand and grow without limitation.  We need a vision of ourselves as magickal creatures entitled not only to survive, but to thrive, as beings capable of meeting the Universe head-on and of making a place for ourselves in it.  We need a vision capable of leading us to establish an adult relationship with Planet earth, to fall in love again with Gaia as the funny, fallible, endearing real planetary being She is, and has always been.

Cosmic Wicca meets all those criteria.  Now… Make it so!

TWPT:  Do you think that this 101 mentality is only an issue with Solitaries or does it also extend into covens and groups as well?

EF:  Okay, here I go getting ready to piss off your readers again.  I'm sorry!  But I have to be honest.  One major self-deception the Wiccan Community perpetrates on its own members is the strange legend that modern Wicca is somehow the creation of an invisible, unbroken lineage of covens that have preserved ancient magickal knowledge in their "secret circles" and carried it forward to the present day, intact, all the way from the Paleolithic era.  It’s a beautiful story, and I've heard it told with great passion and eloquence by people who, I am sure, genuinely believe it to be true.  In my work as High Priestess for the Cosmic Goddess Coven, however – which, as I have said, is a "Coven of Solitaries," a band of sisters and brothers bound together by a common desire to explore magick, heal the Earth and maybe even save Humanity, if we can… – I have interacted with dozens and dozens of covens across America, and if you count e-mail correspondence, all over the world, and I have never, even once, encountered anything close to the kind of coven described in that legend.  Not once.  Ninety percent or better of all the working covens in the world are groups of Solitaries who have banded together to work in concert toward their common spiritual and magickal development and toward bettering Wicca and the world.  What an amazing ambition!  The truth of who we are as a religion, as a social movement should be celebrated, not hidden away behind some silly legend as if we're embarrassed by who we really are.  Ninety percent of Wiccans, all over the world, are Solitaries, some of whom create or join groups or form covens who agree by common ascent to follow one denomination of the Craft, one Tradition or another – none of which, by the way, are genuinely older than 1951 and Gardner's publication of Witchcraft Today – or to launch a new Tradition of their own, grounded in the personal studies and experiences of the coven members.   The other ten percent…  Well, you know what they say about masturbation.  Surveys asking people if they masturbate reveal that ninety percent do, and ten percent are liars…

So, my point is that the common dichotomy within the Wiccan Community – Solitaries VS groups or covens – is a red herring.  It's nonsense based on some kind of cultural low self-esteem, some twisted psychological need a lot of Wiccans seem to have to find the roots of our religion sunk deep in the ancient past instead of in our own present-moment experience.  We don't trust ourselves.  If our religion is not more ancient than Christianity, we can't take it, or ourselves, seriously.  What utter bilge.  We are all Solitaries in the sense that we are all simultaneously learning and creating our Craft as we walk our unique life Path with integrity and grit, and that's one great beauty of Wicca that the more established religions no longer enjoy.  It's a big part of what makes Wicca a living religion instead of a dead form.  We ought to celebrate our aliveness instead of trying to cover it up!

Back to the "101 mentality" question.  Would everyone reading this interview who is not learning Wicca from books, or from someone who themselves learned it from books, please raise your hand.  I didn't think so.  Wicca is a religion that is anti-hierarchical, in the sense that, unlike any other religion on Earth – Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, etc. – it is not being handed own from "on high."  Starhawk writes about the necessity of moving beyond the "great man syndrome," our common belief that if spiritual truth is not handed down to us by some Buddha or Christ or Prophet somewhere, it can't really be "Truth."  We Wiccans are pioneers pushing back the frontiers of spiritual truth daily by our own courageous efforts of exploration.  We are our own Christs, our own Buddhas, our own Prophets.  Since, at present, we are largely disconnected from one another, geographically, we reach out and share the fruits of our explorations with one another by writing them down, reading each other's words, communicating across the distance by way of books, magazines, the Internet.  Isn't that amazing?  Isn't that the most wonderful kind of religion imaginable?  It's a whole new metaphor – religion as conversation, instead of pronouncement.  Experience over dogma.  A circle in which the center is everywhere.  And in the context of that amazing conversation, if we want our religion to live and grow and thrive and change the world, we must, I repeat must – let me say that a third time for emphasis, MUST – make sure 202, 303 and 404 knowledge is included in the conversation. 

Who came up with all these hierarchically-arranged levels anyway?  All these "degrees," and such?  The people pretending their Traditions flow from unbroken Paleolithic lineages, that's who.  I say we just chuck all the nonsense and get busy loving the Goddess, get busy evolving, get busy saving the world.

TWPT:  Could you explain your organic theory of magick as outlined in Wicca 404?

EF:  We've already covered a lot of this.  When we recognize the Universe to be the physical body of the Great Cosmic Goddess, and all the galaxies, stars, planets and people within Her body to be the living internal organs and cells from which Her greater life is woven, magick becomes a science of understanding the scalar relationships and organic connections by which the life and health of all bodies – that of the Great Cosmic Goddess, of Gaia, of individual human beings, of plants and animals – is maintained.  Cut your finger, and all the resources within your body are activated, routing coagulants and anti-bodies to the site of the wound, releasing endorphins in your brain to help manage the pain.  Similarly, drawing the attention of the greater body of Gaia to a human need is a matter of communicating that need effectively.  That's exactly what good ritual does, communicates need to the Goddess, on the appropriate scale – for human needs, Gaia, for Gaia's needs, the Universe – in such a way that a healing response is initiated.  Resources rush to our aid.  Our need is met.  This is also why performing rote rituals with unfocused intent produces nothing.  It's why working greedy, self-centered magick that attacks or seeks to steal resources from other cells within the body always backfires.  Magick is not hocus pocus.  It's cosmic biology.  It's a science.

TWPT:  In the end, you do come "back to Earth" in your exploration of "Gaia and Her Daughters" in Wicca 404.  Does that make Cosmic Wicca an Earth religion after all?

EF:  We humans are, first and foremost, cells within the body of Gaia, and it is to Her that we owe our first loyalty and obligation.  We do not exist to please ourselves, but to fulfill our designed function within Her body.  No one has a choice about this.  Our existence is inseparable from our function.  When we breathe, we transform oxygen into carbon dioxide, so plants can breathe it back into oxygen.  When we eat, we turn calories into compost.  We move resources in every direction across the planet, working to meet each other's needs without recognizing the underlying life-flow driving us.  On a more subtle level, when our brains process sense impressions, sights, sounds, touch, when we participate in conversations, dream dreams by day or by night, we are constantly transforming energies for Gaia's use, though, again, we seldom recognize what purpose our actions serve.  Our real choice in life is whether to serve Gaia willingly, to work to align our small human will with Her larger planetary will, to make Her health and well-being our priority and seek to function as cells within Her body at peak efficiency, or to deify ourselves instead, to worship our own little human personalities, our egos, as gods and, in our focus on greed and need and "gimme gimme," to make Gaia extract our obligation from us forcefully.  Phrased that way, why would anybody ever choose the later course?  And yet, that's exactly what the majority of humans on planet earth do, they fight Gaia instead of serving Her.  They pursue their own pleasures and the accumulation of "stuff" at the expense of the planet, and everybody on it – including, in the end, themselves.  Yes, Cosmic Wicca is an Earth religion in the sense that its practitioners love and willingly serve Gaia.  What makes it cosmic is the extension of that vision to include unselfishly serving and supporting Gaia in the pursuit of Her needs that have nothing to do with us, Her needs on the scale of the Cosmos in which She lives, in which She walks Her own Path of biological and spiritual evolution.

Cosmic Wicca is in no way about abandoning our mother.  It's about honoring Her by choosing to grow up, to make Her proud, to mature beyond our species' troubled adolescence and get busy making our own way in the larger cosmic reality She inhabits.  Cosmic Wicca is Earth religion with future-vision.  Its less about discovering who we are than it is about becoming who we need to be  in order to effectively serve Gaia's real needs and to become capable of fulfilling our highest potential as individuals and as an evolving species.

TWPT:  Your theory of the God is likely to be very controversial.  Are you saying in Wicca 404 that the God, as Wiccans and Pagans know Him, not to mention Christians, Jews, Moslems, etc., is merely a symptom of Gaia's having lost Her balance (or even Her marbles)?

EF:   The chapter in Wicca 404 about the God has actually proven to be a lot less controversial than I expected it to be.  In a nutshell, the chapter explores, in Jungian terminology, how the fact that Gaia is a female planetary being necessarily obscures our ability to correctly understand the God.  Most or all of our cultural representations of male deity – Jesus, Buddha, Allah, Yahweh, and even Thor, Odin, Ra, etc. – are burdened by this unavoidable obscuration.  The chance of our ever catching a clean glimpse of the real Wiccan God from the surface of a female planet are slim to begin with, for reason I lay out in great detail in the book.  Add to that thousands of years of cultural "noise" and misogynistic nonsense being added by angry or misguided humans to these already skewed images of the Divine masculine, and really, it's time to just chuck the whole business, to toss out every image of male deity we have and start over.  It's time to begin again from scratch.  I thought that idea would piss a lot of people off, would bring the angry townsfolk with torches and pitchforks to my door, but in fact, the vast majority of the people I am hearing from are not reacting strongly to that chapter one way or the other.  They're mostly saying, "Yes, that's true.  Let's do it!  Out with the old, in with the new!"  We're definitely not afraid of change, we Wiccans!  Another great strength of our religion!

TWPT:  You close Wicca 404 by defining Wicca as, "… a life of conscious eclecticism, lived in awakened personal relationship with the super-conscious intelligence of the Earth and Moon and planets and Sun and stars, and wholly devoted to spiraling, evolutionary growth up the ladder of being toward eventual union with the Great Cosmic Goddess."  Define "awakened" in this context.  What is "Wiccan awakening?"

EF:  As we use the term in the Cosmic Goddess Coven, to be "awakened" means to live every moment of your life intentionally, eyes wide open, a screen door in a hurricane, not babying yourself, making excuses or throwing up mental or emotional blockades against knowledge that challenges preconceived notions of yourself, the Goddess or reality in general.  To have a personal "Wiccan Awakening" is to come to understand the reality of the Goddess, of the living, intelligent Earth, of the validity of magick and of the cosmic-scale interconnections and interdependence that makes magick work on such a deep, personally-experiential level that it permanently changes the way you live.  It changes all the criteria you used to use when making choices and taking actions because all the self-centered terms in which you used to interpret the meaning of life are shone up to be the sad ego-games they really are, and always were.  That's one point Jesus got very right in the Christian New Testament – "Judge a tree by its fruit."  The best way to tell an "Awakened Wiccan" from a "pseudo-Wiccan" is to observe their actions, the choices they make, the "fruit" their life bears in the world.  Anyone calling themselves "Wiccan" whose values remain centered on service-to-self, to the glorification of personality and ego, to "gimme gimme" thinking and greed-driven choice is not only not "awakened," they're not really Wiccan, either.  Anyone whose values are clearly rooted in the Earth, in service to Gaia and the fulfillment of Humanity's highest potential is an "Awakened Wiccan" to my mind, regardless of the Faith they ostensibly profess.  I'd say Al Gore qualifies as an "Awakened Wiccan," though I doubt his advisors would ever let him stray far from his politically-safe Baptist label…

Nobody comes to Wicca already "Awakened."   It is our job, as the "elders," as the teachers of this Path, to guide new Wiccans to experience their own "Awakening."    If we fail to do so, they will, in their turn, become "elders" who personally lack the experience, who don't know '"awakening" is available and cannot therefore pass it on.  Wicca devolves into superstitious empty forms.  We must not let that happen!

TWPT:  What is it that you hope to accomplish with your 404 book in regards to this cycle of 101 level teachings?

EF:  With a little luck, I hope to bust the cycle wide open!  To put higher level knowledge into the hands of as many 101 Wiccans as possible, and to single-handedly transform the  whole nature of the conversation…  That's the dream.  My much more realistic goal is to at least get the conversation started, to get people talking about these supposed levels of knowledge, who assigned what information to which, and what price the Wiccan religion stands to pay for maintaining such strange, antiquated distinctions.  Even more, I hope to get folks thinking and talking about the future.  Do we have a common vision?  As Wiccans?  As humans?  Where are we going, as a species?  When will we get there?   The original working title of Wicca 404 was FutureWicca, and I may someday go back and expand on the book to make it worthy of that title.  Since I already mentioned Al Gore, remember the Clinton/Gore concept of "Building a Bridge to the Future?"  I believe Cosmic Wicca can be that bridge for Humanity, granting a powerful thealogical framework within which to, first, actively re-imagine who we are and what is possible for us as magickal creatures embedded in a living Universe, and then to live up to that vision.  To make it so.

TWPT:  Do you plan on expanding on this book with future books aimed at creating a repository of material that caters to those who are seeking to go beyond what they learned when they first stepped onto the Wiccan path?

EF:  Let's see how Wicca 404 does, first!  I am really not a writer by nature.  I'm more of a counselor.  I can talk talk talk these ideas all day, I can listen and guide with compassion and grace, but the moment I sit down in front of a blank computer screen, I might as well be in the dentist's chair pulling my own teeth.  Yes, I will write more books along these lines if no one else accepts the challenge, if Wicca 404 fails to light a fire of change within the Wiccan Community and start a movement.  I'll surely try again.  Or maybe, since talking is more my gift than writing, I'll go a different direction, and do "talking books," lectures on CD, or even start some kind of podcast Internet radio program.  The technological possibilities for reaching out to people these days are truly amazing.

TWPT:  Has the reception of this book been what you had hoped for in terms of folks eagerly looking to move beyond 101 teachings? Any feedback that you've received from readers in regards to this book that you'd care to share with TWPT's readers?

EF:  I don't think it's been out long enough to have been "received" yet, one way or the other.  News travels slowly.  The one review that I have seen of the book, posted by a reader on the Lulu Publishing website, says my sentences are too long – an observation anyone still reading this interview would probably second!   But he also calls Wicca 404 a, "Much needed book," and concludes his review by writing that "Free sounds a call for us to 'get serious' about true study in our faith, for internal consistency to our system of belief. It's a call worth answering."  I felt pretty good, reading that.  My first review, and the reviewer definitely "got it."  That's great!

TWPT:  Any other observations you'd care to make on how a practitioner, be they solitary or coven, can help themselves get off the 101 dime and begin to grow as a Wiccan towards their full potential?

EF:  It may sound strange coming from a person who has just published a book they hope lots of people will buy, but stop relying solely on books for direction in your Wiccan Path.  Wicca is not an intellectual exercise, not something you can get a PhD in and hang a diploma on your wall and announce, "I'm a Doctor of Wicca!  Respect me!"  Wicca is a way of being in the world.  Becoming Wiccan is a lifelong process, the long-term fruit of full engagement with life, of life lived in radical openness to the Goddess.  Accomplish that opening, and She will teach you.  You'll never need another book.  It is in that living, personal relationship with the Goddess, with Gaia, with the Cosmos, with Nature at every scale of being that our full potential as human beings is revealed.  No book can tell you who you are or what is possible for you.  Books can play an important role as maps of the terrain ahead that we must personally explore as we evolve and grow in our spiritual journeys, but don't confuse the map with the territory!  Put down your books and walk your Path!

That said, if Wicca is to survive as a world religion, as a global cultural movement, if our Faith is to evolve to become a potent force for positive change in the world, a shaper of human destiny, then, by golly, we need better maps.  101 level "Beginner's Bodice-Rippers" are not going to take us where we need to go.  Anyone out there with the knowledge to do so, PLEASE!  Write your 202,303 or 404 level Wiccan book!  I promise to buy a copy and to share it with everyone I know.  The most important thing, when talking about books, and this is true for everybody at every stage of understanding and development, is that we must actively seek out challenging, higher level material.  When we are swimming upstream, we have to swim, which means we have to work for it.  If we flip over onto our backs and float effortlessly, we'll wind up right back where we started every time, maybe even further downstream.  Spiritual development is hard work.  Don't shortchange yourself, your friends, your species or your Goddess.  Do your homework! 

TWPT:  Well Esra you have certainly given the readers of TWPT a lot to think about and a lot to discuss with one another in the coming months. I think that ultimately this is a good thing and will encourage the community to start thinking in terms of the future of Wicca and how the next generation of leaders is going to move beyond 101 thinking and encourage those along the path to use their minds and their relationships with deity to forge a path that is contantly evolving and never stagnating. Good luck with Wicca 404 and with any future projects that you might endeavor to undertake.