It is autumn here in Texas, the days still impossibly hot, midday thunderstorms waging war with the waning sun over the hill country. The air is singing the praises of the approaching season of Water, and I can feel life stirring in the wind even as the year begins its slow decline.
This is Wicca: my breath caught at the beauty of a fall day, the mad whirl of a butterfly's gossamer wings, and my bare feet in the grass, on lookout for anthills. This is Wicca: taking the hands of my friends beneath a low-hanging Moon, singing the names of the Lord and Lady with all of nature in accompaniment, and breathing in a wreath of incense smoke and whispering into the still night, "Blessed be."
This, too, is why I wrote The Circle Within.
Spirituality of any flavor is all about connection. Deep down, where our very cells pulse together in the rhythm of the infinite, we are bound completely with Deity, with nature, with each other—and we understand they are all the same thing. In this world we have created, that connection is buried beneath finances, obligations, media overexposure, the frenzy to get ahead. The first thing the Goddess taught me was that this connection has to be remembered, fostered, and above all, cherished in order for the soul to thrive.
I didn't find that lesson in a book; I had no teacher to remind me that the quest for the sacred starts in our own skin. It wasn't long before I realized that precious few people in the community ever felt the wonder and love that the Lord and Lady had shown me. If they did, it was often a fleeting thing soon forgotten amidst the insanity of mundane living. Too many Wiccans practice their religion but don't really live it. As the years passed, I developed a strange longing to see the spark of the Divine in people's eyes, the pragmatic joy that comes from eating, sleeping, and breathing our spirituality. Finally, I yielded to the call and started writing, hoping to share something of that joy and by the same token, deepen my own.
I knew that I wasn't somehow better or more advanced than others—perhaps, I thought, it hadn't occurred to many people that there was more to Wicca than spells and festivals. Most of the recent literature has focused on the basics of our religion without delving into the deeper spiritual meaning of it all; maybe the problem wasn't a lack of awareness, but a lack of direction. One of Wicca's greatest strengths (and problems) is that it is mostly self-directed; our freedom to chart our own course leaves us without a map, and when it comes to deepening our relationship with the gods, many have no idea where to start. I wrote The Circle Within not as a map, but as a guide to creating your own.
I work plenty of magic, but I don't intend to write about it. There are shelves and shelves of spell books but few books about what I consider our great work—achieving unity with the Divine, bringing the grace of the Goddess and God into our lives and therefore, into the world. That communion is what fuels the truly powerful and life-changing magic; without the touch of the sacred, even the most elaborate spells are merely shadows of what we as Wiccans are capable of.
The Circle Within is the product of a blessedly imperfect life. Even after ten years as a Wiccan, I am still striving toward the very goals I speak of in its pages. Living Wicca takes a winding path up an already steep mountain, and there are stumbles and tumbles galore along the way, but as many sages have said, the joy is in the journey. I would like to think that my words could be one of the myriad guideposts on the road.
This is Wicca: the rustle of oak leaves, the drowsy scent of honeysuckle on a midafternoon breeze, words wandering across a page like birds across a winter sky, and a priestess in a coffee house in Austin, hoping to do something worthwhile with the pen in her hand.
Dianne Sylvan (Austin, TX) has been a practicing Wiccan since the age of sixteen. She is co-founder and President of Blessedways, a Wiccan educational and spiritual organization based out of Central Texas. Through ...