I can barely remember the circumstances of the day as I travel through the web of my mind. When you’ve gone through a lot of trauma and have physical brain damage, it’s hard to piece things together. The testament of our friendship, between my best friend and I, isn’t that I remember how I got there that day or why I was there, it’s that I can remember that interaction. Sometimes you meet people in your life and time just stops still and stays in your mind forever. The day was clear, a bit chilly, and crunchy leaves littered the ground around the Oak Grove of Deeply Rooted. There was a fantastic ADF ritual going on and I was not enjoying myself one bit. A few times during the course of my relationship with Deeply Rooted, I walked away because I couldn’t handle folks. What it really was, is that I couldn’t control myself and as a direct result of that, I began the path of isolating myself in a large group of people. I don’t know what made me go to Deeply Rooted that day, yet I did despite the protests of partners concerned for my mental well being. Somewhere deep down, I knew that I needed more socialization to become better, not less.
I went to Deeply Rooted accompanied by my two partners and our twin 7 month olds, Phoebe and Miranda. I had never brought a child to Deeply Rooted for very long before this and I had my reservations. I was worried that they would act out and I would be judged as a terrible parent. No one was of course saying this to me out loud, most of the abuse I suffered at this point in my head was tapes of the past replaying themselves over and over again. During the ritual that we attended, I remember my daughter Phoebe squirming something terrible and I did my best to comfort her. As a first time mother, I was banking on my pride and arrogance to get me through the moments and each time that reality struck, I felt myself sinking into a pit of self-doubt when one of my techniques failed to soothe the child.
“Here, let me hold her,” A soft, deep voice rumbled beside me like gentle thunder. I hadn’t noticed the women before and yet I was already handing my precious baby over to a complete stranger. I was a little angry at myself for being so trusting with my child because my own trust had lead me to disastrous results in the past. As I was inwardly cursing my being, I was watching this new individual interact with my child. Intense, icy eyes some how warmed into liquid amber and I saw my usually shy child come to life in her embrace. That’s the day I met my best friend, Brandi.
In Paganism, we have some pretty powerful beliefs that lead to some really fantastic manifestations. One of those special privileges we get from being Pagan are the allies and friendships we make in this world, as well as the next. When you befriend a fellow Pagan, especially one you find in a large community, it changes everything. Soon, after hanging out with Brandi at Deeply Rooted, I felt my social anxiety begin to melt away. Finally, I had a friend who I could relate with on many levels. She was a mom, she was intellectually bold, and intensely outspoken.
Pagan communities are nothing without the people that make up that society. When Pagans become friends, we create an environment for ourselves that is more powerful than any fancy crystal you find in a metaphysical store. Those friendship foster the entire experience for us as social creatures. If we’re going to a community, standing around in a ritual circle, chanting words with no meaning…then how are we really leaving the Christian roots behind? When we interact with each other, be it late night phone calls full of laughter or sobering conversations that make us turn inward and repair past damage, we begin to form a Magickal link to each other.
During a deep depression two years ago, my friend Brandi couldn’t make contact with me. I was socially isolating because I felt shame for my actions in another situation. It affecting my entire community and I felt responsible. Without knowing how to deal with that pain, I kept myself from others, especially my good friends. Brandi persistently tried to make contact with me. Through mutual friends, she could gauge from the outside about my mental state. Few folks would have that commitment and this is truly a tribute of the bond we share at Deeply Rooted. When I realized to myself that isolation wasn’t suiting me any longer, I came back to the Church and saw my friends. When I saw Brandi, I couldn’t help hoping into her with a hug and almost pushing her over with my enthusiasm. I felt safe again. The path to healing spread out before me and became actual reality even though I knew I had so much more to face. I knew I wasn’t facing it alone and that enlivened me.
I realized that it’s important to have land in which to build communities yet it’s even more important that those Magickal friendships that we Pagans have be allowed to continue to grow. Isolation is a wonderful tool to discover truths about yourself that you would not normally have the opportunity to experience. Isolation also breeds fear, mistrust, insanity, sadness, and more mental illness that is only alleviated by social interaction. That social interaction as to be healthy to foster this and sometimes you aren’t given circumstances that are perfect.
My friend Brandi and I naturally attracted to each other’s lives because we share a lot of the same challenges and also the same ambition to heal ourselves. Obviously we’ve lived two separate lives, although our challenges all boil down to the same thing when you looks at the end result. When you have a friend whose as passionate as you are about causes, like I do, you find yourselves butting heads more often than not. Intense individuals make for intense debates, arguments, and lots of misunderstandings because the both of us are looking at a bigger picture.
It sounds hectic and like a lot of work right? Well, it is. Anything worthwhile is a lot of hard work and dedication. Yet talking to Brandi and working to communicate with each other has helped me become better in many ways. Parenting, Clergy, relationships with spouses, and of course my writing is all influenced by the opinions and advice of my friend. Allowing yourself to trust in a Magickal friendship is more than just words. The power of the words that you share with your friend becomes real and manifests its self through every effort the two of you share together. Suddenly it’s not just talking about being a better person, it’s actually put to the rest and you find yourself riding on a runaway train. I get the ability to face my worst fears and my greatest joys through our connection. When I’m gasping my final breaths as I pass between the veils, it’s our interactions that will be swirling through my head – a final offering to my Gods and thanks for all that was my life as I lived it.
Reality is, that when my friend and I fight, it’s more like a mental brawl. Equally intelligent, and a match for each other in ways that compliment and contrast, our arguments are something of legend. At the end of that though, I am a better person and I have a deeper understanding of myself. Brandi is my muse, she is a sharpening stone that keeps me on my toes, she is a lady with an enchanting stare that leaves me unnerved and she is my match when it comes to debating topics about Paganism. She is infuriatingly humble and doesn’t take credit for things like she should, and she’s also the one that gave me my title in Paganism. Cheerleader. Never has a comment about my character stirred me into action. I began to own the thing that I had been doing naturally my whole life and that was in part because of my friend.
I even see Brandi as an extension of Kali. She pointed out to me one day that my devotion to Kali was shallow. At first, I felt resentment towards Brandi and then I realized that it was ego. Instead of being angry, I worked on actually being the person I said I was and as she put it, “More of a devotee than a witness” to Kali. Putting aside pride and anger, and stopping the memories of the past from haunting me, I could look beyond the words and at the intent that was behind my friend’s actions.
In Paganism, we tend to say that having Pagans work together is like herding cats. I think we’re automatically setting ourselves up for failure when we think in such impossible terms. Let’s say Pagans are a bunch of wild, head-strong horses and with time we can train ourselves to work as a herd. A herd of horses isn’t just one horse in charge with a bunch of brainless dolt animals following. A herd works together to survive and in the process, one becomes much stronger through the many. Liken us to wolves in a pack, crows in a murder, or whatever other analogy you’d like to use in place of horses. It matters not the words you use, what matters is the force behind it. Pagans are social creatures and we need our friendships to overcome the challenges we face.
All of my friends are like fables from Aesop’s tales. Their lives have meaning to me beyond mere stories. They are all spiritual lessons which I hungrily take in when I am starving intellectually. When I look at Brandi, the lesson I hear throughout the course of our friendship is this, “If you don’t have a voice for yourself, then who will speak for you?” This blog, my children, and my community would not be the same without Brandi’s lessons.
So there’s a little glimpse behind the veil of Paganism and what it can be. Yes, there are hardships and painful moments when being social, yet without giving up there’s also the notion that whatever is happening is happening because it’s meant to be a lesson to what lies ahead. Thanks for reading. – Shining Quill the Unicorn, the Cheerleader, and Friend of Brandi.