The Wiccan & Faerie Grimoire of Francesca De Grandis:
defining on-line spirituality and web culture since 1995.
A Vision of Service, Comments on Spiritual Respectability,
and an Indictment of Pagan Priest(esse)s, Not to Mention
a Personal Look at the History of This Site
and Its Guiding Principles
by Francesca De Grandis
So I was surprised (duh!) when the Grimoire started getting lots of attention from the on-line spiritual community, not to mention the mainstream web folks.
When I was notified of having received the Netguide Gold Award for best of the web, I thought it was a promotional letter. Then a friend said it was a real and coveted award. I asked why I would have received it and he explained that my site was high-content. Others weren't? You can better understand my oblivion if you realize that I am off in my own world: I live in a world of my own creation, in which the priority is beauty (I am a musician and poet), and healing others, as well as educating folks. The healing and helping is not done out of any selfless nobility. Far from it. I do it because helping others feels sooooo good, it feels better than just about anything. Anyway, I am so involved in this world that I sometimes forget to step back and get enough of a bird's eye view of it to realize that someone might notice that 1,000s visit me in this world I have visioned, that I have had a far reaching impact through what is in this world: my face to face teaching in the US and Britain, this site and my HarperSanFrancisco book, Be a Goddess!, my psychic readings, my music, and so on. Weird of me to forget that, huh? Hm, maybe not, I would like to think I am so into what I am doing, so focused in the moment, that I am a bit oblivious of the definitions thereof. I'll have to check in and see if that's true. If I ever have time. :-)
Nowadays, I see a lot of pagan sites with rituals and other real content instead of just links or info about their organization -- and that's so wonderful. I hope I inspired it. The funny thing is, I've realized after years of being the first person to do something, that once you innovate, folks take it as a given, and follow suit without even thinking about it. In any case, I hope I helped create this, because the web has so much potential for education, and it is instead far too caught up with America's typical preoccupation with bells and whistles. (Boy, it's great to be able to get away with saying that -- no-one can say its sour grapes on my part since my site, and the rest of my work, have always done so well despite bucking the trends.) I don't expect to change the American focus on flash and form over content; but I am having a hell of a good time helping folks out with my teaching and healing work.
When The Web (a hard copy magazine with a distribution of 200,000) ran its first feature on me I was happy. And shocked. Then they called me to interview me for a second feature. This is a wonderful affirmation for me that bells and whistles are not where it's at. What's important is: do you have something to say? Are you opening your heart by sharing your own personal experience? Are you helping someone other than yourself?
I don't want to hide behind flash, or theory and rhetoric or a mega-business structure. I had a teacher once -- his name was Kush -- who explained that folks talking about what is really going on in their lives is true culture. I bet that's why Be a Goddess! is so successful. A spiritual path is about individuals, one by one, finding their way towards personal satisfaction, God(dess) and service. It's not about theory or mega-business structures like the Catholic church.
The site has cost me far more than it may ever earn. So what! It helps folks. The letters I get, that are generated from the site and from Be a Goddess!, are so affirming. Folks often write just one line, but a line that tells me I've touched something important in them.
I am very low-tech. Maybe I lie: I live at the computer. I answer tons of email. I am a strong presence on the Web and a leader in the spiritual Web community. But, just as I am more impressed by hand puppets used effectively to touch the heart and lighten the spirit, than I am by computer animation doing something technically outstanding but without spiritual merit, so I tend to often use simpler tools so that the time spent learning and using the more complex tools can be spent instead on getting something done for folks. If its not clear yet, I am rabidly devoted to helping folks (which is why I never join committees!) and, (this is just for me) I find the simple web master tools I know enough to serve the community. The huge volume of mail I get, from folks telling me how much the site helps them, is proof enough for me.
I am not denigrating link pages or the fine mastery of web artist like, for instance, my friend S. C. Hickman. But his outstanding and awesome technical expertise is, in my opinion, outstripped by his devotion to service and his personal revelation. That guy is on-line because of vision, and I wouldn't care that his site is so cool looking, if it didn't touch folks' hearts.
I am a serious techno-phobe. I have a learning disability that makes using a hammer and nail a challenge for me. :-) But anyonecan learn html. (By the way, I have always done my html by hand, and only now have finally gotten it through my head that it might be easier to buy some sort of program to help me. And someday when I have a free minute (yeah, right!) I will go get one.)
The Wiccan & Faerie Grimoire of Francesca De Grandis is in a new phase. I am publishing a lot of essays, poems, and rites from other people. I have always solicited contributions, but now more folks are actually giving them to me. I have a very high standard for what goes on the site. I am also usually specific as to what type of material I publish: even my best friends are told that I will reject what they send, even if its great stuff, if it's not in the spirit of this site. I think what I most want is the heartfelt, and personal revelation. Enough with the latest spiritual trends! Instead, tell me what the Goddess is telling you. Visitors to my site have said that they look for on-line info and see the same ideas over and over on all these different sites and that my site has different ideas. I worried about printing that last sentence, then thought, both in jest and in earnest, "I don't earn enough to refrain from saying what I want." :-) So, a deep breath, then into the breach:
Paganism is supposedly a religion of free thinkers, but too often it is instead a series of trends and fads, not to mention an all-consuming preoccupation with gaining respectability. I am not saying there is anything wrong with respectability, (though I am too busy to worry much about it myself) but too many pagan groups spend all their efforts on it. And I don't like it when folks think the way to respectability is by telling everyone, "We're not really witches, we're just like Christians, honest, expect we call God 'Goddess.'" Nonsense! Shamanism, (I am using shaman and witch as synonymous) is not a metaphor for Christianity, magic is not a metaphor for psychology, and I don't want a God(dess) who is just a symbol; I want a God(dess) who is a real and present aid throughout my every day.
If you're trying to do something to change a culture at heart, and are proposing concrete (rather than theoretical) ways to change the conflicts that cause so much misery in this world, you are gonna be telling folks that personal sacrifice is a necessary component to real change, and that message will never gain respectability.
My rant about respectability also relates to what I wrote above about mega-business structure. Folks are so shocked when I answer my own phone! I'm defined as an international spiritual leader and guess what? I'm available. But you can't very well minister to the community if you define community as solely the folks who have dinner at your house. Another example: whenever I pass a bookstore I stick my head in and ask if they would like me to sign any copies of my book that they have in stock.The funny thing is: the clerks at the chain bookstores express real gratitude at my stopping by. But I also stop into small metaphysical shops and small bookstores, because not only does it help my book sales, but I really want to support those folks -- small business owners have such a hard time of it -- and they more often than not treat me with suspicion. Be a Goddess! is enjoying great sales, (it's in its third printing after only a bit more than two months in the stores,) but they seem to think I am a desperate soul looking for a handout. Like I said, trying to help others will never gain respectability.
Here's another example: I recently contacted the organizer of a pagan conference at which I was scheduled to do a concert. I was thinking I might put together a back-up band for the concert, so asked him about getting band members in for free. Without missing a beat he explained I couldn't that, and had to perform solo, in a tone of voice that expressed "You are trying to get away with something. You are trying to trick me into free tickets" I was shocked. I wasn't being paid for the concert, and was doing it as a act of service. I wanted to do a great job for our community, and had he said yes I might have brought in one or more other professional musicians, one of whom worked with Ricky Lee Jones. Dig it, this guy doesn't play for free, but he supports my spiritual goals, and maybe would have sat in on the gig for free, this would have been of real benefit to the organizer's conference! Pagan conferences can rarely get musicians like this. But I wasn't about to insult my friend by asking him to pay his own way in.
I also find that accessibility is considered as disreputable as service and sacrifice. A sentiment seems to be that If I'm accessible, my time must not be worth much, I must have nothing better to do. People who hold this belief have no idea what a darling I am considered in the publishing industry, they cannot conceive this might be the case, because in their minds if it were true I would be a snob, spending all her time focusing on the big bucks.
For instance, I had the following experience with a festival organizer. To understand this story you need to know I used to play top clubs as a musician, and I've enough corporate skills to make oodles of bucks but instead I took a virtual vow of poverty for ten years to focus on teaching shamanism and being a shamanic healer. (The ten years are up!) So, I was willing to appear at her festival without being paid big bucks for it because it would serve the community. I guess she figured this meant I wasn't able to make it in the real world, because this festival organizer tried to play hardball with me over my fees for appearing at her festival. Like I must be too dumb to notice just because my priority is service, not profit! Yes, like service, accessibility will never be respectable.
By the way, I won't work with either of those organizers again. I believe in an economy of love, in which money, service, and respect for self and others, all go hand in hand.
Stay off community committees for one year and you actually might get something done for the community. Stay away from large organizations for a year, -- even pagan ones - and you might get something done. Don't get me wrong, I am a member of Covenant of the Goddess and Fellowship of Isis, but organizations that seem respectable and sound impressive aren't enough! It's not enough to call yourself a priest and impress the world with your respectability: as a psychic I am a pastoral counselor; I've spent a life counseling folks: high functioning happy folks who want more passion and spiritual depth in their lives, rape survivors, pregnant teenagers, and so on, all of whom gain real solutions from me. And it's very lonely doing this: I would like to see so-called pagan priests focusing on that instead of solely on respectability or debating the root of the word "Wicca." I want to see more so-called priests putting themselves on the line the way, for instance, Starhawk has with her political actions.
I pray for folks who can only suspect those totally driven to serve the community. Their accusations mean that they cannot conceive of a life devoted to something bigger than one's own survival, and that makes them very impoverished. If they insist my motive is selfishness, ego, or money, or that I can't do "better," they are mirroring the underlying principles that drive their own lives, and I feel compassion for them.
I publish lots of stuff on my site from folks I don't know, folks with no big name; it is not an in-group here. Or rather, its the most exclusive club around: only those who are trying to touch the Goddess or help the earth or serve the community or find an authentic personal revelation need apply. Shamanism is not about debating the root of the word Wicca, or about impressing someone with your fancy new robe. Inclusiveness must be a guiding principle.
Wow, this article was gonna be a history of the site, and ended up including my own personal journey as well as some rants and an indictment of paganism. But that's the real history: our own stumbling toward the Goddess. Išve written things here that I could have worded more carefully so as to not be misunderstood. I love my community and hope they will not think I truly believe the overly simple and black and white picture I have painted here. But you know what? Though the topics I've touched on deserve and demand far more development than is given here, if I wait until I have time to do that, this might never be finished. And the very things that make it important to do a better job than I have are the very things that demand at least something be written. So here it is, and it is less important I be understood than it is I create dialog about service. Too many are suffering for want of pagan ministry. Blessed Be!
copyright, F. De Grandis. 1998
The main page of The Wiccan & Faerie Grimoire of Francesca De Grandis
Learn about BE A GODDESS!, a book about applying spirituality to your daily life so that you can be happy!
Visit with Francesca for Shamanic Counseling (a Psychic Reading)
this page was created 4/98