Thursday, May 25, 2017

New Book by Danielle Dulsky: Woman Most Wild

Woman Most Wild: Three Keys to Liberating the Witch Within, by Danielle Dulsky (New World Library, 2017) trade paperback, 6” x 9,” 252 pages. Also available as an e-book.
Although this book is mostly prose, Danielle Dulsky begins Woman Most Wild with a remarkable poem:
This Truth

 Snuff out the candles! Make the room dark!
I’ll cradle you close, star-shaped child.
Inside your heart’s ripe, red center— a spark!
When I speak of Her rhythm, this Woman Most Wild.

 She lives in a hut made of soft guts and hard bones,
She crawls out of your mouth while you sleep.
In the forest, the desert, She sets up her stones.
‘Fore bare-breasted swimming in the salty blue deep.

When She comes back to your body, Her hearth and Her home,
She’s tired, and filthy, and fed.
She hopes that you’ll notice the sand, water, and loam
She’s painted all over your bed.

Peel off her hard mask, the woman so mild,
And drink of the succulent moon.
You, my sweet one, are the Woman Most Wild.
You’ll swallow this truth whole and soon.
 (Copyright ©2017 by Danielle Dulsky. Used with publisher’s permission)

In an unusually personal and warm approach, Woman Most Wild focuses more on practitioners’ or potential practitioners’ needs and questions rather than on the history of Witchcraft, deities and mythology. Beginning with her introduction, Dulsky addresses the reader as “my love,” and “Sister-Witch.” In the introduction, she writes: “I will honor you as a high-level Priestess. I am neither above you nor below you; we sit at the same table.” She promises the reader that it’s okay not to be fully comfortable with naming yourself “Witch,” and that she will not ask the reader to let go of “any part of your belief system you hold as true.” Calling the reader to be a Witch, she offers instead of religion, “glimpses of how your soft and perfect being may be infused with the marrow of ritual, magic, and circle-craft.” She writes that although this book is “primarily for those who identify as women, your wild spirituality does not require a physical womb; it only asks you to honor the fusion of your body and psyche to your feminine spirit.”

 The book is divided into three sections called Keys that, per the subtitle of the book, are aimed at “Liberating the Witch Within.” Key 1, “Your Wild Rhythm,” begins with a poetic invocation, followed by an introductory few pages in which the author discusses embodiment and both the body’s and world’s cycles, writing: “There is no great chasm between your enduring spirit and your holy, sensual self.” She then relates this to her concept of “wild.” The chapters of this section include material related to the seasons; the moon , including a meditation, a prayer, and a ritual; material related to the sun and fire also including guided meditation; blood rhythms related to the moon; and the role of yoga and chakras. This and the other Keys’ chapters also include a feature called, “Verses of the Holy Feminine.” Key 2, “Your Wild Ritual,” includes chapters on circle-casting and its relationship to ecology; healing spellwork; Goddess ministry; pathworking, and prayer and meditation. Key 3, “Your Wild Circle,” includes discussion of magick and circle-craft, working with various energies in the circle; ritual and other ways of belonging in a circle. The last chapter in this Key is “Benediction of the Liberated Wolf-Woman.” The back matter includes an epilogue, an appendix, “Moon Rituals for Lone Wolf-Women and Witches Circles”; acknowledgments, notes, recommended reading, an index and an author biography.

Woman Most Wild is a beautifully written, empowering, and inspiring book. It is directed primarily to those new to this path and who have yet to identify as Witches. It is also likely to be of interest to those who have identified as Witches for years as well as those who, like me, may not identify as Witches even after many years identifying as Goddessians and/or spiritual feminists.

To complete this post, I’d like to share with you parts of an interview with the author provided by the book’s publisher.

How do you define the word “Witch”?
Danielle Dulsky: A Witch is someone who has affirmed their connection to the wild, claimed their right to handcraft their own spiritual path, established a flexible and personally relevant practice of embodying nature’s cycles, and realized their birthright as a global healer of the wounded feminine. “Witch” is not a name that can be given by any external authority, nor is Witchcraft solely the domain of women. It is the feminine—that soulful and cyclical energy within all beings that yearns for a meaningful relationship with nature, craves sensual presence and creative expression, and intuitively understands the role of ritual and magick in our world that can groundswell within us and urge us to claim the name Witch. To be a Witch means to see magick in the mundane as often as possible, to attune oneself to both inner and outer rhythms, and to know oneself as divine. In my experience, a Witch is also a change-agent, as every spell or ritual cast by the Witch’s hand is a reflection of the world in which s/he wants to live.

Can you tell us the story of your “coming out” as a Witch?
Dulsky: I am asked this question a lot, and I always wish I could pinpoint a single event or pivotal conversation that prompted my “coming out.” A large part of me has always known I was a Witch, though I suppose I did not call myself one until my mid-20s. I was raised attending a strict born-again Christian elementary school and similarly evangelical church. When I a little girl, I remember having many experiencescommuning with dead family members, seeing angels, and generally having magick-riddled dreamsthat I would share with my teachers or mother, only to be immediately scorned or invalidated in various ways. I have vivid memories of men from my mother’s church putting shaking hands on my shoulders to cast the demons out, all the while feeling like there was nothing really wrong with me. I remember hiding tarot cards under my bed, talking to tree spirits, practicing yoga, rituals, and chanting in secret, and numerous other signs that point to my being a Witch during girlhood, but I did not call it anything other than childhood. In my experience, women often have memories of being little Witches, as children are far more attuned to nature and feminine rhythms that are adults. In attempting to be contributing members of society and appearing to be in fierce control, we tend to spiritually conform and reject that which is most divine within us; I am lucky in that, as soon as I possibly could, I refused to practice anyone else’s religion. For a few years, I believed Wicca would satisfy my thirst for spiritual authenticity, but, alas, there are as many predators and narcissists in the Pagan community as there are in more traditional religions. I can say with certainty that I did not fully own the name Witch until I separated myself from all covens and hierarchal Pagan organizations. There is a necessary sense of agency that comes with claiming the name Witch, and I think most wild ones require a level of sacred solitude and personal practice before they are sufficiently empowered to liberate their Witch’s soul.
What is “wild woman spirituality” and how does that relate to being a Witch?
Dulsky: To my mind, there is no significant difference between following a path of Wild Woman Spirituality and being a Witch, other than the obvious need to identify as a woman. Gender is a social construct, but wild spirituality speaks to the feminine energy within all human beings. To be wild is to be soulfully awake but hardly immature or out of control. To be wild is to honor the ebbs and flows within you as well as those in nature, being particularly attuned to the relationship between those two forces. A Witch does all of these things, refusing to separate her sensuality, emotionality, and creativity from her spirituality.

How do your two sons feel about their mommy being a Witch?
Dulsky: Honestly, apathetic. They have lived with it their whole lives, so, while I think they have an understanding that not everyone’s mother is a Witch, they don’t really see it as anything special either. My older son is 11, and I think he just realized this past year that not everyone buries apples in their yard for their ancestors on Halloween night. I involve them in circle casting and spell work every so often, but only minimally. I am not raising them to be Witches, as I think everyone should have the right to choose their own spiritual path, but I answer every question they ask, to the best of my ability. If my boys grow up to stand against oppression and be open-minded, tolerant individuals, I will be a happy Mother-Witch.

Can you be a Witch and also religious?
Dulsky: A Witch follows her own spiritual path, and I do not believe religion and Witchcraft are necessarily incompatible. There are a number of religious traditions that condemn Witchcraft, however, and I do not believe a Witch should be forced to hide who she is in order to practice her religion. Importantly, though, Witchcraft is a practice and not a religion; it demands nothing from the practitioner other than what s/he is willing and able to give. There is no concrete dogma or contract to sign. You take what you like and leave what you don’t; this is the way of wild spirituality.

How does sexuality and wild woman spirituality intertwine?
Dulsky: A hallmark of wild woman spirituality is the refusal to separate the realm of the soul, that is the connection with nature, sensuality, emotionality, sexuality, and selfhood, from the realm of spirit. A wild woman honors her bodily autonomy and acknowledges she can be a sexually vibrant creature who is also spiritually awake and at one with the world around her.

What is your advice for people who are scared about coming out as a Witch?

Dulsky: My go-to advice is never to come out as a Witch until you are ready and confident enough in your identity that you can face any condemnation. That said, a Witch does not owe anyone her “coming out.” You are not made more Witch by telling the world you are one; it is admitting to yourself you are a Witch that is the real “coming out.”

How does your experience in a coven differ from your experience in a women’s circle?
Dulsky: Let me begin by saying I know there are very empowering and soulful covens in the world that are longstanding and hierarchically ordered; I was never a member of one of these organizations, however, and I will say that my experience in a manipulative and spiritually predatory coven is unfortunately a common one that keeps many young women from safely practicing the Craft. A women’s circle is a non-hierarchal entity that is a beautiful affirmation of feminine communication, women’s right to speak and be heard, and the importance of sisterhood. In my work, bridging the coven and women’s circle has been paramount, as I believe whole-heartedly in the genuine, healing power of women coming together, sharing their stories, and working magick together. I also believe younger/newer Witches are in dire need of a safe context for mentorship and support, where they are not in danger of being manipulated or exploited.

How does feminism play a role in witchcraft and wild woman spirituality?
Dulsky: Feminists are fundamentally against oppression, as are Witches. There is an element of vindication involved in claiming the name Witch openly, as most of the women prosecuted, tortured, and killed during the Witch hunts were not Witches but women who did not fit the socially validated role of dependent woman. They were women without support networks or independent earners. They were women who were isolated, and they were women who were vulnerable to prosecution because they represented aspects of the feminine that could not be sufficiently bound by the predominantly male-controlled social, political, and economic instruments in place. For the most part, they were oppressed people, not Witches. By extension, taking back the name Witch and claiming wild womanhood is a refusal to succumb to such deeply institutionalized prejudices again.

What do you love most about sharing your new book with the world?
Dulsky: I love that I live in a world where the wild feminine can speak and be heard, whether through me or through other feminist voices; I want to never take that for granted.

Danielle Dulsky is an artist, yoga teacher, energy worker, and founder of Living Mandala Yoga teacher training programs. She leads women’s circles, Witchcraft workshops, and energy healing trainings and lives in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania.
Interview copyright ©2017 by Danielle Dulsky. Excerpted and printed with permission from New World Library. You can find another interview with Dulsky about the book (of about 5 minutes) on the publisher's site

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Judith Laura

More blogs about /goddess/feminist theology/spiritual feminism/pagan/feminist spirituality/.