At this point, it would surprise me if there was anyone in the American pagan scene who was not at least passingly familiar with Doreen Valiente's Charge of the Goddess. It is a greatly-beloved prayer that appears to have started within a particular Coven of the Gardnerian Tradition, but then made its way all over neo-paganism.
This prayer is so beautiful, so evocative, so powerful, that it has spawned what I can only call the "fanfiction" of pagan prayer writing. Many different groups have their own Charges of the Goddess. Starhawk has written one. Z Budapest has written one in the Holy Book of Women's Mysteries. And many, many others have as well (feel free to post links to yours if you like, or others you enjoy, in the comments section, giving credit to the author).
CAYA Coven uses the Z Budapest Charge of the Star Goddess in our full moon rites, but we have also written our own Charges as well. We have a Charge of the Sun God that I wrote, a Great Charge which is the interspersed tandem reading of the Charge of the Star Goddess with the Charge of the Sun God. Most recently, we have a Charge of the Dark God by Gatekeeper Jey (which I am hoping to be able to link to soon) and a Charge of the Dark Goddess that I wrote.
I feel that the structure of this prayer, along with its pedigree and variety of iteration, is one of the core Mysteries that unites many of us as pagans. Though we may not all walk paths that embrace this particular prayer, like the song "Amazing Grace," it still touches a place within many of us as even just a fond memory from one of the first circles we attended, or in reminding us of a dear friend who loves it, etc. This prayer, when recited as originally written or when honored with an alternate interpretation, immediately commands a very significant power. That power is free for us to use, of course. But the prayer asks things of us as well.
It asks for "Love unto all beings."
It asks us to "Keep pure our highest ideal."
It asks us, "Let my worship be in the heart that rejoices."
It tell us that the mystery can only be found within.
It asks us to embody, "beauty and strength, power and compassion, honor and humility/pride*, mirth and reverence."
*Z's version says "honor and pride" rather than "honor and humility." My coven sister Wishbringer Molly Blue Dawn says, "True pride and true humility are the same thing: they are just YOU, being YOU fully, knowing and accepting who YOU are and being that as best YOU can be. And knowing this to be true without pushing it onto anybody." I agree. Molly's logic is usually flawless, as far as I am concerned.
On a daily basis, I take these as my guiding principles. They serve as a strong ethical base for me. I stand for many things, but love, high ideals, joy, beauty, strength, power, compassion, honor, humility and pride, mirth, reverence, and self-knowing are as good a place to start as any, so I do.
These points of self-exploration and striving toward my vision of who I want to be lead me on a constantly-evolving path. Last Thursday, I set an intention and made a change in my spiritual practice with my sisterhood, the Bloodroot Honey Priestess Tribe. In fact, we then went on retreat with our Coven's entire Clergy (except for a few beloveds who could not make it) and we made a GOOD MANY magical and practical changes that will allow us to evolve as a whole community. It was one of the most powerful magical weekends of my life. Literally, in ritual, laughing and crying and carried on a breath of joy, shaking with the power of it, glowing and on fire and collective visions and heat rising from within till I felt warm and dissolved like honey in hot tea and MAAAAAAGGGGIIIIIIIICCCCC. You know what I'm talking about. In CAYA, and I am not bragging, but am so very grateful, we enjoy various tastes of that kind of energy all the time, because of our wonderful coveners and the love that goes into each ritual. But even we, who offer about 50 rituals per year to thousands of people, were shaken up and moved around a good bit by this weekend's magic. Good stuff.
I got home from the incredible weekend on the mountain and found that, predictably, there are those who feel personally threatened by my decision to evolve my practice from Dianic Wicca to being Pan-Dianic. I do understand why some might feel this way, as I have noted human beings take a lot of things personally, even when not directed involved. Though I have received nothing but support and kindness from my sisters who are remaining HPS' in the Dianic Wicca Tradition, there are still uninvolved parties who wish to share their opinion. I get it. It's a public issue, and a hot one right now. I could have just done it quietly, but I did feel that with the strain and difficulty that has enswathed this issue, demonstrating a both/and model might be healing and helpful, and I stand by that. I know it to be my best personal course. I have listened and thought about it and talked it over and gone within and spent a lot of time in contemplation about this.
A Dianic woman said on Facebook, "Very disappointing, Rabbit. To denounce your Elder and High Priestess. A very sad day in the Dianic community. Another loss to the patriarchy. Sister, don't you see? It's male power-over wanting to get into anything they want. I support anyone's right to put their tits on their back if they want, but surgery does not make a woman. Only the Mother Goddess makes women. Shame on your pride."
My first thought was...But, but, but...
I have always supported Z's ventures dutifully, personally, financially, and with my energy as an honored Elder, and I acknowledge her significant impact on my path, personally and in writing, even in my statement of retirement. Doesn't that mean something?
I am a powerful woman who has already created and sustained a matriarchal, Goddess-centered community with loving support from her sisters AND brothers, doesn't that mean something?
I don't use the word "tits" to refer to the sacred vessels of the Goddess, especially in messages with people I don't know. I honor them more than that. Doesn't that mean something?
I could go on, but you get my drift. I had a lot of defensive feelings. However, I have more powerful feelings than these, inspired by the prayers that guide my way, by my divine indwelling spirit, by the community I serve, and by my love for the Goddess.
If true pride and true humility are the same thing, and they are both about being true to yourself and humbly owning that with a sense of personal agency;
if self-empowerment toward the greater empowerment of all is my work in myself, my community, and the world;
if spirituality is a personal matter that I am pursuing with the deepest sense of reverence and honor that I am capable of;
and if that means checking in with love unto all beings, pursuing my highest ideals, and the virtues set out by one of our community's most beloved and powerful prayers, well, then...
I think it would be an honor to be guilty as "Charged."
I have no fight here. Honestly, I don't have the time to fight with anybody. I have a personal life and a spiritual process and a lot of social responsibility to my community, and they are where I am putting my energy. Blessings to all, and thanks to many people for a warm outpouring of support. I speak on behalf of my sisterhood when I say thank you to those who have been part of this journey in whatever fashion thus far, and those yet to come to the journey that is still unfolding, who are willing to share their joyful hearts.