Shedding Hair and Shedding Fear

I have wanted to shave my hair since high school, when I met a beautiful, free-spirited friend who sported a perpetually shaved head.  I have decided to shave it now because, after finishing my PhD at Stanford and having my first child, I now know that I can take on much more than I had imagined, and I’ve been trying to put everyday fears aside.  

I’ve been attempting the things I have always wanted to do, but have been too afraid to try.  Following one lifelong dream, I tried out for a punk band, failed, and then helped form my own.  On the career front, I aimed my thesis paper for the highest impact journal and negotiated for a bigger salary. In general, I have been working to live a life free of the fear of things that don’t warrant my fears.  

Additionally, as a parent, I have been working to teach my little son to trust himself, to distinguish between the crucial, elemental fears that help him to survive and the useless fears that prevent him from living a life full of boldness and new experiences.  I am preparing to teach the same to my in-utero daughter someday.  All of this to say, it was time to face the fear of exposure I had always felt at the thought of shaving my head.

After reading my sister’s brave and honest post about the experience of shaving her own head, I started to think more about what that fear signified for me.  It wasn’t only aesthetic or practical.  I don’t often worry about being insufficiently feminine, and pregnancy has gotten me past many of my fears of a dramatically changing body or appearance.  

What I fear is being seen by others as dangerous, untrustworthy, or unfamiliar in a threatening way.  I realized that I have worked hard to keep up the appearance of normalcy, modeling my career, aspects of my personality, and my relationships to avoid appearing too “fringe”.  

Why?  Because when I was 14, after periods of major depression and a few destabilizing manic episodes with elements of psychosis, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.  At the time, I was told by people whom I loved and trusted that having a mental health label would mark me forever as an “other”, unlike the people around me, and this planted the seed of the shame I have carried about my diagnosis.  

Compounding this, before learning to manage my disease, I was outwardly marked by it.  In middle school, when everyone was striving for normalcy or a way to fit in, my lack of impulse control and sometimes erratic behavior made it hard to cultivate and maintain friendships.  

High school was easier – I found a niche that fit my unpredictability, learning to channel it into a type of apparent fearlessness that attracted friends.  But the cost was a perception by my peers that I could not be trusted, that I was flaky and spacy, that I had chronically poor judgement.  My erratic behavior led one friend to quietly ask another why I constantly acted like I was on drugs.

 In addition, I was cutting myself regularly, but trying to hide the scars from friends and family.  I wanted to be perceived as “fun crazy”, not “crazy crazy”.  This continued into early college, culminating in flunking out of my freshman year and a suicide attempt that landed me in the ER for several days, first unconscious, then incoherent.  This prompted an intervention by my panicked family that resulted in a several month stay in a dual treatment rehab clinic for mental illness and drug abuse.  Afterwards, I spent several years in and out of inpatient psychiatric treatment facilities.

 For the first time, I recognized that people I loved were afraid for me.  Their fear felt like a daily burden, and I was determined to turn things around and show everyone that I was fine, that I could function and take care of myself.  However, after several years of stability, I had an extended period of psychosis that introduced a new, more deeply internalized fear.

 At the time, I was working as a teaching assistant to middle schoolers, struggling to keep myself together and trying to reconcile my irrational thoughts and feelings with the real world around me.  Years of hearing terms like “bipolar” used to describe someone unstable and irrational, of hearing stories of young people with mental illnesses doing dangerous and violent things, of media and popular culture feasting on tales of unstable women who harmed their partners or children, had left me with the sense that I might be someone who could not only be feared for, but be feared.

 Now I felt that I could no longer trust myself and my perceptions, and I became convinced that if I were exposed, people would literally be afraid of me.  After recovering from this psychotic episode, I found a medication that provided long-term stability, discovered running as a way to dampen the remaining highs and lows, and went back to school to become a scientist.

(photo Constance Brukin)

 I now work in a profession where dependability and trustworthiness are my most essential assets, one that relies on careful and methodical thought and analysis.  In addition, I have become a parent, one of the greatest responsibilities a person can undertake, one that requires consistency, self-control, and again, trustworthiness.

 I am privileged that by now my disease is, for the most part, hidden, that I can pass unnoticed through most of my life.  But when a senior scientist with no knowledge of my diagnosis makes jokes to colleagues about my “having a mood disorder”, or when I make errors that call my dependability into question, I feel panicked and unmasked.

 Similarly, dyeing my hair has always seemed a bit risky and potentially unmasking, but it is increasingly socially acceptable.  To be a woman with a SHAVED dyed head seemed to represent a much more dramatic non-conformity, a way of renouncing societal norms and intentionally standing out as someone who goes against unspoken rules of fashion and gender.  It seemed like something that could out me as fundamentally different from those around me.  

I did it anyway.  Here is why, and here is what I have learned.  First of all, while for practical reasons I must still sometimes tread carefully when talking about my mental illness, in shaving my head I am renouncing the shame of this disease.

 I am powerful, I am a survivor.  My experiences have given me a perspective that is unique and important.  As I have increasingly outed myself, I have met women who share my symptoms as well as the fear of what their disease will mean to others in their lives.  THEY are powerful, THEY are survivors, THEY have taken their lives and transformed them into enriching, successful, connected existences that anyone would be glad to call their own.  

Like me, every one of them has been afraid to talk about their own experiences, and every one has been inexpressibly grateful that someone else is talking about theirs.  We are afraid of owning one of our greatest accomplishments, surviving and thriving with this disease, because we live in a society that questions womens’ emotions, experiences, and perceptions, and pounces on any excuse to invalidate them.

My beautiful naked head symbolizes a shedding of my fear of who I am, and a symbolic shedding of the fears of all women with this disease and other mental illnesses, of the stigma that keeps all of us (your friends, your neighbors, your parents, siblings, and other relatives, and maybe even yourself,  millions of your fellow Americans, over one billion people on this planet) hidden away from the world cowering in fear of discovery.  As the brave, beautiful, and bipolar Carrie Fisher demonstrated with her words and her example, we are all many things; for some of us, one of them happens to be mentally ill.  Or, as Walt Whitman wrote, “I contain multitudes”. I am a mother, a scientist, a runner, a musician, a wife, a sister and daughter, a friend, and someone with bipolar disorder. And I am not afraid.

Check out Brook’s Transformation from a few months back HERE.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Season of the Witch: When Something Awakens

 Welcome back to our next edition of this series. A few months back, after publishing our first 4 interviews, an outpouring of interest came in from women in this community who wanted to contribute by sharing their words, experience and perspective. Holding a space for these women to tell their stories felt like a real honor to me.

I am continuing to publish the words of some of my favorite Witches that I have personally reached out to, as well as readers of HTHG that I have not yet personally met, because it feels IMPORTANT and I will keep doing it until it leads to something else.

HTHG started out about simply DIY HAIR and has taken us down a portal deeper into identity and empowerment. The question of what it means to be a WITCH is simply a facet and a stop along the journey, a moment to dive into a subject that obviously touches many of us.

The process of producing content that is authentic and meaningful has been very much like following a single firefly deep into a big dark cave. Occasionally, the firefly enters a small chamber, and illuminates every aspect of its surroundings. There, we stop to look around.

Please enjoy this interview with HTHG reader Sarah Choquette. She read some of our past interviews and heard the call to share her own story. Her path has been recently illuminated by some major life changes, igniting a powerful fire to seek truth and balance and own her power. Today she shares with us her thoughts on the topic of what it means to be a witch. 

Preceding her interview is an email she sent me, answering the call to contribute her words and experience. It really touched me and reaffirmed why I continue to strive to hold space for the truth and identity of others.


………..I replied to your invite to contribute knowing I was called to it, but I wasn’t ready until now.

2016 I spent voraciously learning, being recalled to my truth through old interests that grabbed me or made my heart sing, and new paths my brain needed walking. Mythology, divination, moon and woman magic, questioning the religious establishment, and always, my beloved crystals.

Since the start of 2017, Ive gotten to put it all into practice. We uprooted from our Southern town and Christian community, are in an RV with our daughter and headed ultimately to Washington state. And, that act of self love Spirit led me to? A choice to initiate a miscarriage. I had an abortion one town over from where we moved. A very polarizing choice in any circle it seems, but without our consent word got out to our previous community of friends, and now few remain after casting bombs of religious judgment. Its been agonizing to lose so much, we never intended to cut ties even though we felt our paths branching. And especially not in this way. It’s affected my family too, since my brother and his family were part of the same organization… Ive almost given up several times, wanted to walk out into traffic or ask my husband for his gun. (Just some

very hard moments, no real danger. I’ve turned down Death too many times already, the jerk just knows the way to my door too well, lol)

The Universe kept me going with the support of my husband and my own blessed Fire energy that just wouldnt let me quit no matter how many waves washed over it.

And yesterday, I gave in. To own my power, my story, my place, and everything else I finally had words for that tumbled out like a flood into this email.

I just wanted to say… having this email sitting on the shelf to reply to has been a catalyst charm for me. A touchstone. Not to be dramatic, but something to come back to. I knew it was time, it was real, and I wasnt crazy or wrong.

Having the other interviews to read has been such a balm as I am bereft of community so recently. I had not bonded or agreed with anyone for a long time, but had really opened myself up to one woman, who it turns out wasnt in the same place I was and in her pain and confusion at my choice spilled everything to the religious leaders.

Ive been asking the angels for faith in humanity and to trust people again.

Reading the witch interviews, I felt so warm and hopeful of one day enjoying and trusting women and community again.

Im so grateful all of this is happening now. I know there’s a reason for every part, and Im coming home not just to Washington but to myself, and The Mother.

-Sarah Choquette


What does the term Witch mean to you?

Wise. And unafraid of the dark. Of any darkness. In nature, themselves, or the cosmos. The old Saxon and Celtic terms swirl for me, as I imagine a heiritage embodied by someone who is wedded to the Earth, cognizant and alive to its secrets, rhythms, history, and power. Today, this may take the form of energy geekery or crystal nerdship, green living or full on BAMF manifesting. But it is always and forever about the Earth. And about Balance. A witch is someone unapologetically walking in their truth and/or power.

How would one know that one was a witch? 🙂

Oh, when you know, you know! For me, and others I have seen. You may have run for years, rejected or recategorized it, refused to inhabit that space marked with THAT name. But there comes a day with your flirtations with the trappings, sentiments, stories, and beliefs just isn’t enough.

Other people’s experience may look like beginning to try out new modes of thinking, rituals or the like, and gradually find themselves at home in a way nothing else ever fit.

Usually it starts with curiousity, interest, and research. Even with tweezers and gloves on.

Talk about intention and manifestation…..How do they work together, and can you recall the first time you experienced their power in action?

I am still fairly new to this, both using it and recognizing it. I began while in the framework of a Judeo-Christian background, giving credit to those archetypes. But at the time I needed them, to give me confidence in what my heart purely wanted, and to believe something powerful enough could make it happen. I would say the very first was Spirit journaling when I was a teenager. I wrote out that I would get married young, and my innocence would be a blessing to a man who had been hurt. That was at 16. Three times I thought I knew who the man was, and three times I was grown and matured into who I needed to be to meet and marry my husband, at 19. I am his second wife, and in every way that dialoguing scribble in my Spirit diary came true.

The biggest thing I can add to that, coming from the background I do, is that manifestation does take action, however small, on your part. Christians and those from that mindset often “leave it to God”. That has been an interesting belief to rewrite, for me. Taking that it does not mean Spirit and Source are any less willing and able to help, but that it is a partnership, and I truly have a powerful action to bring to the table.

Also the belief that the intentions of your heart are pure, and worthy of manifesting!!!

How do you think that a collection of witches is magnified in power to an individual witch?

That is a difficult question for me. Currently I am called to a solitary path. Yet, I do know and believe and enjoy the power of a collective. I have witnessed amazing energy among groups of like-minded people coming together for a passionate purpose. Any people! I imagine a gathering of witches, for the compassionate intent of Earth’s affairs or humanity’s, to be definately powerful. 🙂 Personally I believe it can be most effective in clear and guided meetings, events such as Spiritweavers for example. Or the Stand with Standing Rock demonstrations, days of prayer, global healing connection at 11:11, the Women’s March on Washington.

You get enough magical people together, good shit happens!

Where would you direct a woman who is interested in exploring her inner witch for the first time? (books? Plants? etc)

Honestly… science. I began with the film What the Bleep Do We Know?! It takes quantum physics, belief, perception, and the powers in ourselves and makes it so clear and unmistakable!! Very easy to understand for the most part.

Next, ask yourself what you have always been drawn to? For me it was crystals and rocks, but a good dose of herbs and flowers and colors. And angels. Research and explore what your heart is leaning towards! Throw in some music at 432hz while you are at it, and notice how you feel.

Books books books! The Biology of Belief by Bruce Lipton may be a bit heavy, but benefit some. The Game of Life and How to Play It  by Florence Schinn or The Path to Wealth by May McCarthey (about more than money), great way to break into intention and manifeststion. Especially for those dealing with anxiety from religion.

I cannot recommend enough Meet Your Soul by Elisa Romeo and The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.

Aside from those practicalities, I would say to look at what you shyed away from. That may be the very place you need to start. Healthy sexuality. A pagan or Spirit fair. Researching Native American symbolism. Harry Potter. Seeing a psychic or metaphysical healer. Start dabbling, there is something for everyone! Keep at it till you feel your heart lighting up, then follow that!

How do the facets of our souls (shadow side, sun-lit side, good, evil) effect the process of owning our power?

Gah, my 2017 so far in a nutshell. And I started rereading I Am Morgan Le Fay by Nancy Springer, so I’ll just say it like it hit me there. Only when you embrace every part will you be whole, and free to choose what parts you truly want to focus on growing into.

I didn’t want to be able to tell when something was marked for death. Whether it be a pregnancy, illness, relationship, or venture. That tends to make you pretty unpopular. Especially in a religous circle where positivity and life is prized.

But, as I have looked backwards into the memories of wise lives before me, I and my gift are necessary. It is a mercy of Divine Compassion to have someone within a community who is bold enough to tell when a heart should take time to prepare for a grief that’s coming. And, that’s not the only facet of that gift. It works the other way, too. Pregnancies, marriages, good job changes afoot. I have predicted a lot of them. But there is a Balance to be trodden. And that is where the power of a Witch lies. Between seen and unseen. Spirit and Physical. Death and Life. In owning the Balance in ourselves we can more easily see it in the world, and do our part to correct it or share with those who need to see it too.

Why do you think it is so hard for some of us to own our power, speak to the woman who knows she has it but is afraid to use it.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Marianne Williamson

This was the first gem that thundered into my path of awakening. It is truly the best words I could hope to offer.

Tell us a little bit about your personal witch journey. ( if you want:)

I never wanted to be a Fire sign. I never wanted to be angry about things, that got you noticed and corrected. I never wanted to be contrary, troublesome to authorities. I never wanted to be on any deity’s shit list. I wanted to skate under the radar in life and have people like me. I tried to change my results on internet quizzes, I wanted to be Water, Air, Earth!

I have spent my whole life miserably trying to make others like me, keep others happy, and do what was expected of me. Ignoring and piously shunning my hunger and pulse for crystals, moon mysteries, energy, and pleasure. At the cost of denying everything built into myself. Numerology wise, I am a One. I am meant to be a leader, and I spent my first 20 years after childhood looking for someone else to tell me what to do.

Depression has been a near constant companion since my childhood. After the birth of my daughter, my adrenal system was so taxed it was barely functioning. At the same time, I started asking myself what I was going to tell my little star-child about the world, as she grew. This led to me examining what I had professed to believe about pretty much everything. With low adrenals, postpartum anxiety and depression almost took me out through suicide. And I was DONE. I was done with a half-life. I had never been able to please my mom, or the other authorities I brought into my life. I only felt alive when I was stirred up about something, and I was adult enough to not be able to sit through misinformation or opinion in my religious circle anymore. I could see how it was hurting people, how it had hurt me. How it was keeping us all controlled. How as good as the people leading us were, they were teaching from a broken and flawed system. And after a lifechanging decision I made for my own self, the biggest act of self-love Spirit has guided me to yet, I broke my shell. I came face to face with my own power, smiled, and asked it to dance.

I think a lot of my depression came from ignoring my heart for so many years, and avoiding red, passion, sensuality and pleasure, avoiding confrontation or responsability, avoiding tarot, avoiding books I loved and mysteries I felt drawn to, avoiding leading or creating or being noticed. Physics has explained reincarnation enough for me to believe I was hiding because parts of me remembered being killed or outcast for my gift and beliefs before.

But I learned that Unconditional Love exists. I am the only one that can live my life. And it’s a darned interesting and important one.

I am a Phoenix. A Dragon. A Goddess. A Witch. I used to smirk and cringe when other women used those terms, I see you there. But I understand now. These words are important. Our power is important. May you know. May you be.

What is our role now, as witches of the world, and how would you like to see us collectively using our powers to heal?

There is ignorance to be taught, fear to be overcome, injustice to be called out, treasure from the ancestors the world over to be explored and relearned. Start with yourself. Start at home. Heal yourself of misperceptions, fears, and ignorance. Find others who are doing the same and lift them up! Take time to actually comment instead of just liking something, share your energy. Own your truth and speak up about what makes you come alive, that is what the world needs. Examine what you have believed, and why. Be open to changing.

Women are under attack in the world today. The Feminine energy needs to be nurtured, shared, celebrated, and deep gratitude sent into the Earth wherever women are free and safe. Find out what can be done tangibly in your community for the homeless, forced prostitutes, prisoners, the abused, the elderly. And for other nations, buying Fair Trade or supporting women’s businessess when you buy gifts. Giving to schools for girls. Raising awareness about war situations and giving to reputable charities and rescues.

Connect, whether through meditation, online, in person, whatever! with fellow witches to send healing and cessation towards tumultous areas. There was a female psychic named Krystyna Skarbek who worked for British Intelligence in 1944. She was sent to France ahead of the liberation of Europe, and using just her energy and words she convinced whole battalions to disable their guns and desert their stations.

Maybe you don’t think you can do that, but what if you pictured a soldier intent on harming someone and pictured yourself standing between them, saying “Stop! You are better than this! This person did nothing to you, take a moment and wake up to how your government is using you and forcing you to murder! This isnt who you are, or who you want to be, and you have a choice to stop.”

You might be amazed at the power of the imagination to cross time and space. Be open to being used in this way for the sake of the World.

I feel this is so far in the future it almost is pointless to say, but…

as those wrongs are righted, be a keeper of Balance that we do not swing too hard in the opposite direction and become opressors. It can be tempting for those who have been victims. The way of the Witch is to make and keep Balance.

 

Please Check out more of Sarah’s musings on her blog here.

 

Season of the Witch with Erin Merriman

moon

( Photo by Filth and Beauty)

Defining a Witch is to me like trying to explain the personalities of my children. As their mother who grew them, birthed them, I see them as everything all at once. They are good and bad, they are big and small, old and new, and all the things in between. One may be shy at times and bold at other times, one is fearless yet scared at the same time. And then they change. They are slippery. How to define them? Little witches, I guess.

I have kicked around definitions of many things, but squirmed and wiggled when called to define myself. ‘Mother’ is one of my definitions and I’m okay with that because I chose it and there is no escaping it so here I am, I accept my motherness. ‘Artist’ I will claim because I can’t seem to contain the creative flow. Woman’, hmmmm okay. But I like to think of gender as being much more fluid than Woman/Man so I will hold off on defining myself by my gender for the sake of further shifting gender consciousness.

Feminist?’ I’ve been put to the test of defining myself as a feminist and felt like it was a word that separated and limited me in a way that felt uncomfortable. I require something much more inclusive and expansive. Something with lot’s of space and room to create and heal and bend. Something that allows me to throw down for womankind and the entire web of life, known and unknown, past and present.

I need a better word. We need a better word. A word without hard and fast rules, something that leads us both inward and outward, connecting instead of separating. Something that allows time and space for us to flatten out the well-worn grooves of collective consciousness, smoothing them back to divine, limitless, undefinable possibility.

Witch is the word.

I have spent many years mulling over what it means to be a witch, and how to talk about it.  It has felt to me in the past like the possession of a divine secret, a quiet power, alive in a knowing glance to another witch where you both understand something undefinable in a moments time. And that thing you understood together is always there with you. But for years I have felt like it is something I am not supposed to talk about.

This past Summer, a dear friend of mine Sophia Rose sang me a song about being a witch and it opened up the flood gates. I realized I had to talk about it. Sing about it, even.

PLEASE, before you read on, click over and listen to this song as you read this post.


Witches I Love

 

This is the first of a series I have been afraid to share until now, affectionately called Witches I Love which aims to distill the essence of the modern witch by asking my favorite modern witches to chime in their wisdom and experience.

The purpose of producing this series is to help us open the aperture or our minds a bit wider to understand the power of living within infinite spectrums of brilliant color and depth, in a world which largely sees things in black and white.

A big thank you to all for being here and bearing witness, I hope these women’s words are both helpful and empowering to you, and we would love to hear your feedback and thoughts on the subject. Are you a witch? Please tell us about it in the comment section!

This first interview is with Erin Rivera Merriman, San Diego based Witch, healer of many modalities and conscious community creatress at Active Culture Family.

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(Opening Ceremony and Space Blessing for Bell Jar, Los Angeles, CA)


Season of the Witch: An Interview with Erin Merriman

 

What does the word Witch mean to you?

I’m so glad you asked. As a student of communication i’m increasingly floored by how often we think we are communicating, because we have this common vocabulary, when in fact each person is using the same words to mean different things. Words are very holographic, slippery, and alive. I think it’s really awesome that as this word “Witch” is being reclaimed, you are taking the time to attempt to establish some shared meaning around it!

I think of a witch as a female identified or female bodied person who believes that we dwell within sentient universe, and consciously engages the art of ritual and spell craft to symbolically communicate their intentions and desires for what they would like to experience in life, so that the plants, animals, and other cosmic energies around them who are a yes to her desires, who share a similar agenda or intention,  can participate in bringing them about in an expedited way.

moona

(Photo by Filth and Beauty)

A witch understands that her menstrual cycle connects her to the cycle of life and that by aligning her outer activities with her inner rhythm and adding in awareness of other influences, such as seasons and astrological circumstance, they can further amplify the effectiveness of their movements in the world. The term Witch is neutral. The question I always ask when relating with other magical beings is what energies are you aligning yourself with to empower your intentions, who do you serve, and to what end?

That said, there are all these different flavors of mystical feminine being, and it can be fun to find the label that most resonates…Witch, Yogini, Priestess, Dakini, Nun, Abess,…the list goes on, and furthermore we are always free to make up our own! As in the dialogue around any identity, like gender identity, its important to allow people the freedom to self identify, because they are the one having the complete inner experience, the only one who can say what concepts resonate with their way of life.  A label we choose for ourselves can be expansive and help us explore the world through a different lens. A label someone else puts on us is always limiting.karmaclearing

( Full Moon Ceremony, San Diego, CA, photo by Dori Varga)

How would one know that one was a witch? 🙂

So often people think “She’s a witch!” when something that can’t be explained through any rational process happens, but in reality, the universe is full of unexplained phenomenon, women just happen to be socialized to be more embracing of the validity of these unexplainable occurrences. I personally reserve the term Witch for women who both consider themselves witches and actively practices witchcraft. Magic is another word for the wild nature in us. You can also call this hormones, sexual energy, or Shakti. Its the uncontrollable aspect of the feminine, so all women are a little bit witchy. Often a natural intuitive ability, like having premonitions or seeing spirits, or unexplained phenomenon would lead someone to pursue witchcraft as a means of feeling empowered as opposed to burdened by their gifts.

It’s important to me the acknowledge the craft aspect of witchcraft. It is an art form. Being an intuitive, a clairaudient or clairvoyant is something that you just are. But being a medium means that you use that ability in a particular way. Being a witch to me means that you work with ritual or spell craft to interact directly with the natural world in attempt to empower your intentions, whatever they may be. Intentions that seek to influence the actions of others in any way without their express permission for you to do so is black magic. Intentions like “ I want to heal my relationship to my father” that have to do with yourself is white magic. And then there is the path of the Tantrika, which has a completely different vocabulary around engaging magic. We honor and worship and serve Goddess by becoming her. We don’t so much as ask her for help doing our will but surrender to the will of the divine, recognizing that the even greater pleasure than getting our own way is to surrender to the divinity and perfection of what is already unfolding.

Talk about intention and manifestation…..How do they work together?

When we are in very high vibrational environments, we often experience this idea of instant manifestation- that reality is reconfiguring everything at lightning speed to match our thoughts, words, and desires. I think this is happening all the time but at a level too subtle to notice. The magic is “there” but we are not “there.” I have felt this energy. Some cultures would call it Lakshmi. We often call upon it as “abundance” but it reveals itself to me as a column of beings, a kind of roving energetic wishing well, where all these beings are just waiting for a chance to get in the game, but the rule is, they have to be asked. So there really are these beings who just love us and are dying to help us out, but they need our permission, so when you say “I want”  or “I intend” or “I pray”  it gives them that permission to act on our behalf.

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(Photo Filth and Beauty)

For example, if you think you are having bad sex, and you think “this person is bad at sex”, and then you get a new lover and they are like “Tell me what you want?” and you realize you don’t know, you have no idea what you like, so your partners have a very small chance of pleasing you, because you are asking someone with very limited access to our ecosystem to show you something you don’t already know…it’s like that with manifestation. The people who are really good at it are seasoned at self inquiry, and then gifted at distilling and articulating their desire very very clearly. When the sentient universe/ Goddess knows what we want, it makes it much much easier for her to give it to us.

How do you think that a collection of witches is magnified in power to an individual witch?

Covens have always naturally formed. In Shakta Tantra we have these Goddess collectives called the Asta Matrikas and the Mahavidyas, that are made up of these really powerful feminine energies. In my experience, when they come together around a common intention, huge outcomes are possible. I feel this way about being part of the Spirit Weavers Gathering.  It is so many deeply devoted women in one spot, pulling for all of womankind to heal and cooperate and serve one another so that all may have the opportunity to bloom into their fullness, and the result is exponentially more that the sum of the parts. It really is a transformational vortex.img_4943

(Photo/ Spiritweavers Gathering by Filth and Beauty)

I have been shown that these covens/ Goddess collectives are initiation grids. It is alchemy when we gather. The container becomes this fully stocked pharmacy of vibrational medicine, where you are free to choose who in the group to spend more time with than others, and if you mix this particular blend of people’s individual medicines together, you get a prescription that is perfectly calibrated for your individual awakening needs.

Where would you direct a woman who is interested in exploring her inner witch for the first time? (books? Plants? etc)

screen-shot-2016-10-01-at-10-01-53-am(Kava Temple: Sacred Sexuality Ceremony at The BE Hive, Hollywood, CA)

In terms of books, Anatomy of the Spirit by Caroline Myss is kind of THE  primer for the spiritual journy if you are a true beginner to these explorations.  New Moon Magic is growing in popularity, and it is increasingly possible to find a women’s circle to sit with on the new or full moon to explore simple ideas around lunar magic. Robin Rose Benett’s Healing Magic is another great primer on the path of the Green Witch, through which I received my first formal initiations. If you are drawn to or already versed in Hinduism, Yoga, or Tantra, Laura Amazonne has a great online course called Mysteries of the Yoginis that gets really detailed about the Yogini Cults of ancient india, which were basically coven’s or groups of witches who banded together to practice magic in the name of Goddess and support one another in living life outside the matrix. 

Planting some Mugwort and taking time to meditate with her and cultivate a relationship slowly over time is another intuitive, organic way to begin to wade into these waters. As a sacred medicinal plant in many cultures, she is beloved among witches and herbalists around the world and well known for opening the veils between the worlds and strengthening intuitive and visionary abilities. You can smoke mugwort, chew her leaves, or sew her into dream pillows to enhance natural dream abilities.

A really fun beginner practice is to choose a divination tool to work with such as dreamwork, tarot, or a pendulum, and begin checking in with it for guidance at the beginning or end of each day. Don’t be discouraged if at first it seems like nothing happened. Sometimes it takes years of cultivation before psychic gifts really begin to blossom. And the truly powerful gifts tend to be bestowed upon those who demonstrate dedication and intention to use those abilities in service of the greater good.

How do the facets of our souls (shadow side, sun-lit side, good, evil) effect the process of owning our power?

As we become more empowered, we need to also grow our capacity for accountability of our words and actions. The shadow is all the parts of ourselves that we refuse to own or acknowledge, that we refuse to give love to. A great way to know the content of your shadow is to make a list of all that you are judging in another person. We cannot accept traits in others that we are unable to love in ourselves.

When working with big energies, our own emotional processing time is absolutely essential. I find that practitioners in particular need to really look at what feelings came up and what they were trying to communicate to us on a daily basis. If not stalked relentlessly, when we speak or act from that unconscious place as all humans do, the effects are more destructive. We see that we need to become more intentional with everything we do, when we understand we are holding strong medicine, and that if not consciously directed towards higher outcomes, can unconsciously do harm.

I think its exceedingly rare for someone to be truly evil in the sense of intending to do harm as primary motivation. I think it is more often when we cannot tolerate the vulnerability of a situation, when we act from fear, act to protect a wound, or under the influence of addiction, that we do the most harm.

Why do you think it is so hard for some of us to own our power? Speak to the woman who knows she has it but is afraid to use it.

I learned at a young age that power corrupts. I think we have seen people come to power and use it to dominate and we don’t want to do that. We all have huge egos and I know I have avoided the spiritual maturation processes out of fear that any power that came my way might be hijacked by my ego, might allow me loose touch with the struggles of humanity, might make me slowly loose my compassion for those who weren’t able to “manifest their visions.”

I have feared the increase in criticism that comes with increased visibility for your work. I have feared loosing friends as a result of my journey to embody unpopular philosophies which I have found to be part of the deeper truth of me. And to me empowerment is just about the ability to embody your truth despite the social consequences. I was bullied in a very relentless and creative way for all of high school. I received long letters filled with criticism about me signed by every boy in school. I now see that this was a necessary part of my training.

Sometimes it happens in life that every single person in your immediate environment tells you that the way you are is wrong. But sometimes, eventually, that very process makes you aware that the thing inside you that you can’t change no matter how hard you wish you could, that that is the YOU in there! That very thing is in fact your medicine, and it can go underground or be hidden behind a mask, or some become so convinced that it can never be shared that they leave early (as in teen suicide) but even that choice to leave is choosing the self, knowing that we do have the right to be what we are, even if some feel that there is no place for them here, on this planet, in these times.

To those who know it’s there but are afraid to embody what they are carrying, I say you have no other choice. If you are seeking health, weight loss, family or marriage healing, career success- none of that is possible while hiding your light. It is the only way to be happy, even if it involves a short or long period where it feels the world is burning all around you in order to begin living more authentically.

To those who are afraid to use it I beg you to stop effing around and move on to mastering your ability to share your gift with confidence and ease because these are challenging times and WE NEED YOU!

Tell us a little bit about your personal witch journey. 

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(Kava Temple at The Gaia School of Earth Healing, Los Angeles, CA)

I’ve always been drawn to the unorthodox, to people making uncommon choices. In my very small, sheltered town, it took me a while to be exposed to anything that really interested me. My mom really paid attention to what made me light up, and always nurtured me as an artist, driving me to yoga, and art classes, and accepting my increasingly weird outfit choices. She let me wear a pentagram necklace and combat boots to church.

Her unconditional love was probably the first condition for me to begin to open more psychically. In the beginning, when I started to really shake up my reality, it was always a result of a desire to creatively explore my identity through hair, make up, and clothes. It was shocking to me how opinionated and triggered people became by my desire to experiment with my appearance. I was dying my hair and giving myself piercings regularly. There was nothing else to do in our tiny rural town, and I wasn’t hurting anybody, so I didn’t get what the big deal was.

The most life changing thing was my mothers weekly ritual of taking me to the bookstore and letting me pick any book I wanted, no questions asked. I quickly discovered the small shelf at the back of the store market “occult” and that was it. Every week, I devoured different books on runes, tarot, moon magic, mythology…this coincided with my first heartbreak and the beginning of bullying, emotional trauma that triggered a genetic pre-disposition toward fibromyalgia, so my hobby like interest in magic, combined with a strong cocktail of hormones and heartbreak  marked the beginning of both daily migraines and the quest to heal them, a quest that would last for 17 years.

Thankfully, I met an woman 3 years older than me who was interested in the same things and we were able to just dive fully into exploring. It started with these play/ pretend rituals where we would just bring whatever seemed magical to the beach and build mandalas in the sand and make up mantras and chants. We thought we were just being a couple of bored, theatrical weirdos, but those early spells had long lasting impact, and at some point we had to have some distance from each other to go through our own trials and initiations, a lot of suffering and deep healing in order to really mature on the path and realize that its about awakening from the trance of mainstream and even alternative culture and realizing the true nature of the journey- that it’s a path towards doing healing work.img_9247

My own path has asked me to change just about everything from the way I was raised through divination, diet, yoga, acupuncture, shamanism, plant medicine (as herbalism and as teacher plants like Ayahuasca and Psilocybin.) The layering of all of these wellness modalities  has allowed me to learn to live from that ceremonial place more of the time. I pray for strength to continue to dwell in the half step, in the margins, not grasp for here or there, because to me this is where magic lives, in the spaces in between. Everyone has their own magic, their own medicine, AND, there is such sincerity and passion and unmistakable depth among those who are really living for this path, who have persevered through times of deep doubt, to continue living for something that most people agree isn’t even real!

I have been required to subsist on faith alone for long periods of time, and had to say, “Well, if I’m wrong at the end of my life, I’m wrong, but I am all in, come what may”, and that really changes the game, when you are no longer loosing energy to the question of weather or not you are going to turn back, take some anti-depressants and try to fit in.

I am currently most focused on studying my points of access to educational vibrational fields of consciousness through the dreamtime, and studying Shakta Tantra ( a more shamanic,  earth based, matriarchal means of liberation as compared to other lineages of Tantra) . The vocabulary and experiences spoken of in that tradition most closely match my inner reality so am choosing to be an apprentice in that house of magic right now.

My quadruple Aries fiery devotion can be a bit much for some people, and I find the best place for the full unmoderated  expression of my Shakti to be to pour that into a daily Sadhana practice, practice moon magic and sex magic…As I get older, there seem to be more and more opportunities for weaving ceremony into my day and in my everyday life, and more people walking alongside me. It’s a good time to be a witch.

Erin Rivera Merriman is a priestess, artist, and teacher of the metaphysical arts. Raised on a 100 acre tree farm in rural Connecticut, she was taught from a young age the importance of community stewardship and living in harmony with the natural world. Erin’s study as an Herbalist in the Wise Woman Tradition, combined with her training as a Zen hospice and prison chaplain, and recent studies in classical Shakta Tantra have shaped her unique, multidimensional approach to women’s health and empowerment.  Through ceremonies, workshops, coaching sessions and intuitive readings, she is honored to be with you as midwife at the edge of your comfort zone, as you conceive, incubate, and give birth to your own highest vision for your life. To learn more about working with Erin, visit www.activeculturefamily.com

 

Talking Vision, Inspiration, Society, and Hair with Brittani Sensabaugh

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I found Brittsense a week ago while combing through Losthairdressers, which is one of my favorite Instagram feeds for hair inspiration. I went to her website, and spent the next hour pouring over the photography of Brittani Sensabaugh and her Power of Melanin Project, feeling like I had stumbled upon a golden palace of shimmering, uplifting energy, vision, beauty and strength. I reached out, she graciously agreed to share some photos and some words with HTHG readers.

Stunned, I have no other words but to introduce Brittani Sensabaugh and thank her for sharing her art, her point of view, her mission, and her words with us. Please read on, then check out her work, and share in her potent vision of healing, empowerment and love.

All photos in this feature were taken by Brittani Sensabaugh

Talking Vision, Inspiration, Society, and Hair with Brittani Sensabaugh

Dear Nubian Empress, Every root of your hair tells a different story, Do not be fooled by fools that will tell you otherwise… It grows out like a bush because YOU are a reflection of the SUN.. It dances around because your MELANIN has soul & like Gold it will continue to shine. There’s no way to duplicate it which makes you one of a kind, Remain pure & Continue to Embrace it. Always wear your Crown of History Proudly because no one can erase it – Poem by brittsense

IMG_3809Her Vision/Mission-

I created the “Power Of Melanin” series to show the strength & different levels of beauty that my people embody. My people struggle physically but even more mentally. When you are raised up in broken communities without any resources or a blueprint in society to guide you through your journey, it’s much harder to maneuver & build a foundation. When you are ruled under a system that is meant to destroy you & not build you up, It makes you question your worth. When your identity has been erased and replaced with misguided truths, You feel lost & angry.

A lot of us are out in the world creating a foundation from nothing & that is something I will always give us credit for.

Whether your 9 to 5 is owning a business, creating art, playing sports, getting an education, making music or selling drugs, the common denominator is survival & trying to make sense of situations that make you feel hopeless. We learn from the individuals & environment around us & when that is constantly destroyed you feel defeated & trapped.

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 presetTHE MISSION of this series is to REMIND my people of the Power, beauty, strength, but most importantly the LOVE in the pain we may often feel daily. It’s to show you that no matter HOW MUCH we go through, WE still shine & will always shine in all that we do because MELANIN is Real Power. Our hair, Communication & everyday movement is because of the Melanin within our skin.

 Inspiration-

I became a documentarian once I realized the Power of Energy. The biggest gift the universe has given me is the ability to FEEL. I feel EVERYTHING & that has allowed me to connect with other souls that want to feel but are scared. I see so many people on this earth that walk around just existing because society has made them feel that being numb is the way to survive.

I started 222forgottencities to bring back awareness, but most importantly the ability to feel throughout every moment in your journey while being on this earth. I wake up everyday crying because there are so many emotions that flow through me constantly & I’m super aware of the energy around me.

Daily I’ve become truly thankful for all of my transitions & Emotions because I learn the balance of discipline, acceptance, patience, & Unconditional Love.

I have realized that whenever you submit your will to someone else’s opinion apart of you dies.

IMG_9657Society-

Society has a way to make us feel that in order to obtain a certain level of happiness you have to ‘believe in this, have this much money, know these many types of people, look & act this certain way, love this way, do things in this order’ & most times it leaves us feeling confused, disappointed, dissatisfied, & not worthy because it doesn’t happen the way we expected.

My biggest gift when documenting 222forgottencities is being able to be transparent with everyone I come across & showing each soul I connect with that it’s okay to not know & that we are in the trenches together despite how society makes us feel.

Showing them that they aren’t FORGOTTEN because their a reflection of me through all conditions, & that being numb isn’t surviving but it’s disconnecting them from the unconditional Love they deserve to feel.

I see & learn from them & they see & learn from me which is what makes US so powerful.

I see life in pictures & I freeze frame every moment I see in my head.

It’s almost as if I’m living in a motion picture.  Every since I was younger I’ve been able to feel the pain of the world but most importantly the Love. My camera allows me to balance out both energies.

Hair-

With all of my documentations my mission is bringing awareness to different aspects that are overlooked in society & Hair is one of them.

Hair has always been a big part of my life since I was a little girl, especially Hair braiding. I used to cry every time I got my hair braided because I was tender headed & super hyper so sitting for long periods of time was challenging for me.

I remember feeling really pretty though afterwards because my sister would braid my hair in funky styles that no one else had at school & everyone always wanted to touch the colorful beads on my braids.

I remember when I got my first perm & I cried even more because I didn’t understand why I had to put something in my hair that burned & made me feel super uncomfortable just to get my hair straight when braids were a style that I had already gotten used to. 

As I got older, when my sister did my hair not only was it beautiful to get all the funky styles but the process behind It was even more amazing.

IMG_9327-2I also realized that sitting down getting my hair braided became a way for me to build with my people.

My sister used to tell me that your hair is Love & you should always take care of it but most importantly embrace it. Once I became an adult I started realizing more how much my people are conditioned to believe that their hair holds no value because of Societies negative perceptions.

For years our hair has been talked about in such a bad light & my mission when documenting is to bring back the value & Importance. I want people to realize the creativity but most importantly the love & building behind hair braiding & the uniqueness of the texture that Black hair has.

My mission is to also bring awareness for all the little empress that don’t Overstand the beauty of their hair because they’re bombarded with Imagery that shows them differently. I wrote that poem for them.

When I’m not wearing my hair Natural, I wear it in protective styles such as Braids & Marley twists. Most of the time my hair is wrapped up in fabric which makes people assume that I’m Muslim, but I wrap my hair to protect my realm from toxin energy.

Visit her website: Brittsense.com

Tumblr – Brittsense

Instagram – @Brittsense

Thank you all so much for being here, and for reading and sharing this vision.

xo, HTHG and Brittsense

 

On Leaving Fear Behind

img112Dear readers: This post is not hair related, it is an offering to you of a personal experience that has helped me learn. I want to thank you all for being here, reading my words, and believing in what I do. Without you all, none of this would be happening.

Because of you, I have had the nerve to share myself in a way that has been both healing and empowering, you have accompanied me through the journey of the last 5 years of my life, and I am eternally grateful. I can only hope that you have gained valuable insight, inspiration, (great hair;) and knowledge as well……I thank you from the bottom and the top of my heart.

DSC03905This post is about following your heart, making the jump, opening new doors, leaving behind fear. The photos in this post are from our first ShamPHree shoot, several years ago at the buffalo river with a big group of wonderful women, jumping off bluffs in dresses. Photos are by me, with the exception of the black and whites, which were shot by Bob Cochran. I know, I know. You have already seen these photos if you have been reading HTHG for a while now…..They keep popping up. Why? because jumping off seems to be a central theme here at HTHG. ‘Stuck in hair, stuck in life;)’

On Leaving Fear Behind

You are such a selfish asshole. Also, you are a complete idiot. What makes you think that you should follow your heart, and do what every cell in your body knows you should do? I am the fear part of your brain.) You are firmly in my grasp. I dare you to defy me.I apologize for beginning this essay with such a graphic display of self-abuse. But this is the backdrop for my story.

It’s stunning for me to realize how much time and energy I spend beating myself up. Internally, I am constantly in a battle to try to hold down the voice of my own heart for no other reason than bad habit and a well-worn neuropath that depends upon fear. Fear seems to be my path of least resistance.

I spend a lot of time riding this well-worn road in my head, allowing fear to keep me stuck in life, holding me back from the goodness of letting go of old comforts in pursuit of unknown blessings.

img1256 months ago, my heart tried to stop traffic on fear’s busy 4-lane highway. Heart signaled that it wanted me to quit my job as a hairstylist at a salon which I have loved and for most of my adult life. Deep down, I knew that I had to pursue an impractical yet deeply imaginative and uncharted path of a free-lancing renaissance woman. A small but sure voice suggested that I rely solely on my own skills and ingenuity to create a distinctive career path allows me to create and give back and maximize output energy in meaningful directions. Once I heeded heart’s signal, everywhere I looked, I saw signs that it was time to move on.

While I felt deeply sure of this vision in my heart, the prospect of quitting a job I loved and that had provided sure and steady support for me and my daughters really upset me. It just didn’t make sense. Why would I leave something that I love? I truly loved my job. Sure, there were things about it that were frustrating, but that is par for the course. In my inner dialogue, the loud voice of fear shamed me for considering something as selfish and impractical as a heartfelt choice.

I began to spin out mentally. I knew what I had to do, but I was bewildered as the inner brawl between heart and fear played out in my Self. I felt paralyzed and restless at the same time. The rapid-firing fear was a desperate attempt to distract my heart from following the signs and making an imaginative choice. I was terrified to leave the comfort of a regular gig for an unknown world of independence, even though I knew that it was the right thing. Deep down, I was not only afraid of pursuing a new path but even of leaving behind the comfort of my own fear MO, the place where I go naturally……..I tortured myself for 6 months. I was nearing the edge, afraid to jump.

IMG_4548It seemed as though the closer I got to jumping off and following my heart, the louder the fear spoke in me, with more intensity and determination. Like a junkie, my fear-addicted brain panicked at the thought of being abandoned for the warmth and comfort of a heartfelt choice.

After chatting about my conundrum with a good friend, she said in a very matter of fact way ‘It is time for you to move forward without fear.’ Clear and simple………I remembered past advice from yet another friend, who once called the Fear-based radio station which plays in the forefront of our brains and background of our lives ‘K-Fuckd.’ She had read about it in a book. She found that by calling it this name, it became easier to metaphorically change the station. I carried these bits of advice and metaphors under my wings, moving even closer to the edge.

Several weeks ago, I met a woman who seemingly moved through life without the voice of fear to cloud her connection with her own heart, a woman who manifested her own visions with confidence, humility, and grace, creating a vibrant life of connection and purpose. That I though, is how I want to live. What a relief to follow the heart without fear.

Then, I talked to my mother. She listened, nodded, didn’t try and talk sense into me. She told me she believed in me to make the right choice. I silently vowed to remember this and show the same grace for my daughters when they stood on the edge in life.

The next day, I jumped. I quit my job. I vowed to myself to turn off K-Fuckd every time it started rambling in my head. I vowed to move forward with confidence. Say yes, give back, share with others, make connections, and accept abundance. I vowed to thank my friends and my mom for their words of affirmation. I vowed to stick with my heart through ups and downs, be more kind to myself, and to turn off K-Fuckd, or at least keep the volume turned way down.

IMG_4729Letting go of fear is scary. Fear is VERY assertive and sometimes feels like all we have to hang our hats on. Meanwhile, our hearts are speaking, too, trying to bust through the fog of fear. We can choose to listen, or we can choose to beat ourselves up for entertaining the selfish idea that it is appropriate to listen to our hearts. It can take major overhauling, un-conditioning, self-soothing, and rebuilding to allow ourselves to open that gift……the listening to our hearts gift.

Moral of this story: When you are stuck in life, with all signs pointing to ‘jump’ and all that holds you back is the voice of fear…….. breathe deeply, walk sure-footedly to the edge, jump, and let your heart carry you.

xo, HTHG

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