The Ohio State University

Pagan Student Association

An Interview with Author Macha NightMare

M. Macha NightMare, Priestess and Witch, is a Pagan organizer, ritualist and writer who co-created, with Starhawk, The Pagan Book of Living and Dying: Practical Rituals, Prayers, Blessings, and Meditations on Crossing Over, HarperSan Francisco, 1997. A member of the Reclaiming Collective for all of its existence (17 years), she now teaches and leads rituals throughout the country, and was recently a featured presenter at the 10th annual CUUPS Convo in Salem, Massachusetts. She was interviewed by SilverPeace by email.

Do you have a chosen Tradition that you practice?

     (I practice) Witchcraft. I celebrate the feminine divine. Theologically, I experience Goddess as immanent, She is everything. I see that we are all interconnected and interdependent, all part of Her divine web of creation. I identify with those who are less conventional, outside of the mainstream - dreamers and visionaries and activists. I also identify with the oppressed, in particular with the millennia-long marginalization and disenfranchisement of women. I value the intuitive and experiential as highly as I value the rational and demonstrable. I practice magic, the art of changing consciousness in accordance with will. The techniques I employ to do this are rooted in Western ceremonial magic, alchemy, psychology, and folk tradition. I work in a consecrated circle, honoring the cardinal Quarters and the Elements associated with them, as well as their other correspondences. My deities are many and varied. I always call a goddess presence into my sacred space and often a god as well, sometimes several deities. My matron is Kali Ma. My magical practice is inspired by feminism and a concern for the health of our planet, and is informed by Celtic, Hindu and Tibetan practices, the sacred art of tantra, and the magic of enchantment. I believe all these taken together can fairly be called Witchcraft. I am a Priestess and Witch.

Where did you go to school?

     After I was graduated from high school in 1960, I entered San Jose State University (at that time, San Jose State College). After three semesters, I had to drop out for personal reasons. I returned to college at what is now called San Joaquin Delta College but then was Stockton College, a junior college, part of the vast California community college system, from which I received an A.A. degree. When I was in my thirties I returned to college in the Adult Degree Program (ADP) of Goddard College. Goddard is based in Plainfield, VT, although this ADP was held at Asilomar in Pacific Grove, CA. The West Coast ADP was terminated and remaining students like me returned to the Vermont campus to complete the program. I received a B.A. in creative writing from Goddard College in 1979.

Were you a member of a Pagan Student Association?

     There was no such thing when I went to college. People who called themselves Pagans were not apparent. I didn't call myself that then either. There were no Witches or any other kinds of Pagans at all. Everyone was either Christian or Jewish, with the few exceptions of foreign students who might be Buddhist, Moslem or Hindu. There were a few mainstream student religious organizations on many campuses at that time, but generally speaking, spirituality was not given much attention.

     Around 1991 a Craft High Priestess named Judy Harrow in New York City was asked by some students to serve as religious counsel for a group they wanted to start at the State University of New York at New Paltz. Judy was to serve in a similar capacity to the way that a Catholic priest would with the Newman Society or a rabbi with Hillel. This particular group was never realized, but in the years since the Covenant of the Goddess has developed an associates' program that can be helpful to student Witches. Check for details.

     Another CoG program, mainly for younger students but useful as well to older ones, is the Hart & Crescent Scouting badge, a religious award similar to the badges that can be earned by Christian and Jewish Scouts, mentored by an initiated Priest/ess of the Craft.

What do you consider "Issues at the forefront of the Pagan Community?

     I think it's important for Pagans to become better acquainted with each other and to respect each other. Much effort is expended in defending perceived "territories" and excessive and unnecessary secrecy. We need to foster trust among ourselves.

     We are an emerging collection of spiritual traditions and religious practices. Until recently we have been isolated from one another. We have much to offer each other in terms of ideas, skills, training, specialized areas of study, ritual styles and the technology of the sacred. All of this can be done without sacrificing autonomony and individuality.

     I think it's fair to say that most Pagans share important values, especially the value of preserving and maintaining a thriving planet. The more we come together in solidarity as Pagans, the more energy we have to direct towards addressing our common concerns.

Where do you stand on those issues?

     I've dedicated much of my life to building Pagan community, to fostering understanding, respect and solidarity, to helping diverse Pagan groups work together toward common goals.

     In addition, I've worked with the Biodiversity Project Spirituality Working Group, a small representation of individuals from various religions and from ecology and conservation groups, to formulate strategies to awaken awareness in people involved in religious communities, and thereby to encourage their activism in areas of pursuit that preserve biodiversity.

     I also work with professionals in the fields of dying and death to assist their understanding of Pagan beliefs and practices around those issues. I present workshops to Craft and Pagan clergy on working with the dying and their loved ones, and creating effective funerals and memorials which employ prayers, techniques, chants, songs and other aspects of ritual which assist mourners of Pagan and non-Pagan faith traditions in sharing their loss and processing their grief.

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