She went through her ritual of looking out of the window and calling on the Old Ones to protect her and guide her and thanking them for the opportunity.
He was deep in thought. Half talking out loud and half talking to himself.
“You know I’ve been thinking about your list. I have one pretty similar to it, just unwritten.”
She smiled at him, waiting.
“I was raised Lutheran too, but I went to public schools.” He paused for such a long while that she filled in the empty space with, “Well New Orleans has a history of parochial/private education unlike most of the rest of the country. It is part of our French/Spanish colonial past and wrapped up in racism as well. Public schools were not available in New Orleans until John McDonogh endowed them in 1850. So attending a parochial school is really not that unusual, although a Lutheran one in so Catholic a city is different.”
Still deep in thought he says: “I lived in a place that allowed me to be close to nature. I grew up fishing, hunting, hiking with my family and friends. My education took me to the south. I was searching for something different. New Orleans was certainly different. After I graduated I wandered around the south working on various projects. Then I went home for a little while. I ended up back in New Orleans because Katrina woke me up to the fact that I was not completely happy. I am happy now. My family, who thought I was crazy to go back to New Orleans can’t complain about where I am today. I love what I’m doing and I am doing well.”
He seemed lost in a fog of memory and uncertainty.
The flight attendant came by asking about drinks. After they got them, she said:
“So your life is all good, then.” And because his mood seemed so suddenly heavy decided to lighten things up a bit with “What did you get your mom for her birthday?”
Snapping out of it he said: “Mignon Faget Fleur d’Lis earrings, just like the ones in your ears, so she can brag about me to her friends when she wears them.”
This seemed to break the fog and allow him to refocus.
“So how can I learn more about this heterosexual religion?” He said smiling.
“Well, there are books you can read that allow you to get a feel for the basic principles of Stregheria."
His brow furrowed ever so slightly and he said: "So you are going to tell me to ‘Read the Manual’?"
Laughing lightly she said, "No. Unwrinkle your forehead. You should get the manuals. You will want the manuals. But the tradition is an initiate tradition, so people are taught by another initiate."
"Oh, so you can teach me."
"Yes. Yes, I could teach you."
"Ah, but WILL you teach me?"
She breathed in so deeply and sighed such that he started to worry that she would say no. Why she would say no? He wasn't sure. He wanted her to say yes. Really wanted her to say yes. He'd dabbled for decades. Now that he had made some significant choices about where he wanted to live and what he wanted to do with his life, it was time to focus on the other aspects of his life.
Trust the Gods was what she was thinking. Then because she didn't really know how to be anything but honest, "To be perfectly honest, I've done a good deal of teaching. But most of it has been via Email. Email teaching is something that I can do in the middle of the night or in between the rest of my life responsibilities. It allows the teacher and the student to gradually get to know each other, to feel things out, for the student to have done some reading and have some questions and, well, it allows things to warm up gradually."
"What that cup of Earl Grey didn’t warm you up? How many of your students buy you Earl Grey?"
Laughing lightly she says: "The tea was great. And I did teach some face to face classes at a pagan book store in New Orleans for about a year before Katrina. It's not as if I've only had online students. It's just that taking up a new student is a significant commitment and you strike me as someone who will want personal attention and not be satisfied with Email."
"Well, you’re right. So will you teach me? We live in the same city you know."
"Yes, I know." But what she was thinking is 3rd degree was going to make for a wild ride.
"Was that a 'Yes, I'll teach you'? Or just a 'Yes, I know'?”
"It was a Yes, I'll teach you.” And his smile was impressive.
“I love the tradition I practice but I also know that it is not for everyone. New students start out filled with fire and sometimes this lasts and becomes a light that shines in them and sometimes they burn themselves out and realize that this is not the path for them. If I am going to teach you I need you to promise to be open and honest with me, always. Even if this means that one day you have to say this is not the path for you."
"I promise to be honest with you. I've dabbled in lots of things for years. But I've found a home and a career that I love in New Orleans. It seems almost fated that I would be able to complete the other aspects of my life there as well."
She smiled and said: "I've practiced this tradition with a very small group of others who are spread all over the U.S. We have to travel to be with each other and to practice the path and the rituals as they were meant to be, as a community, in the company of others. It is very tempting to think that I might be able to have a companion in New Orleans."
"Ah, good so now I'm tempting. That's better than before when I was a significant commitment of your limited time."
"'Do not be confused by Nature's duality.' Honey, You are definitely going to be both. What is your name, student?"
Wow. She was thinking Owen the Celt. O.K. Gods, you don’t have to shout, I’m listening. What she said was: “Interesting, very interesting.”
“What? My name? Yeah it’s odd. It’s said to be from the Belgian Celt Ambiorix, who fought against Julius Caesar, then disappeared rather than getting killed in glorious battle.”
"Well, that’s quite interesting too. But that’s not what made me say interesting. Let me explain and teach a little, if you don’t mind?”
“Not at all” He grinned. This was exactly what he wanted.
“The path I practice is a hereditary path, meaning that it has been handed down a family line for generations. The path came to American from Italy with an Italian WW II bride. The son of this family is who wrote “the manual” and has trained my teacher and my initiator. Now there are some in the pagan community who do not believe that it is possible to have a hereditary tradition. That is their right. There are others who do not believe that this tradition is a hereditary tradition. That too is their right. But I believe that the tradition I follow was passed down through generations of families and is therefore hereditary in nature. The link to the ancient past that I put in my wish list to the Gods is there, but not clearly documented. What is documented from the 1300s are the Words of Aradia, the Gospel of Aradia and The Wanderings, along with our rituals which could be from the 1300s and could have even older links. The Words of Aradia are something that we will study in depth over time. I learn something new from them every time I teach new student. The Gospel of Aradia tells the story of a real woman who was taught the Old Ways by her aunt, then had an epiphany and began to teach the ancient ways to others and fought for freedom for the common folk, the peasants. My kind of woman. The Wanderings are about the followers of Aradia and what happened to them after Aradia escaped the clutches of the Catholic Church and left them to their own devices. One of these followers was Owen the Celt.”
“Well that is interesting. So I’m your Owen?” He said smiling at her.
“Well Owen, my student, the important part here is that while this is a hereditary tradition, in addition to the oral history, part of the written history indicates that non-Italians, non-hereditaries, have been adopted into the Ways. I was. We’ll see if this path is the one for you after you learn a little more.”
He was sitting there looking at her quite smugly satisfied about the link to his given name when the term heterosexual religion popped back into his thoughts.
“Wait a minute, did you said you were 3rd degree?”
“Yes.” Uh Oh, some thing is under that tone.
“3rd degree in a heterosexual religion.”
“Hieros Gamos, sacred marriage?"
“Yes, I see you have read fairly widely.”
He leaned in and asked, “You really had sex with a man who was not your husband in a pagan ritual?”
She leaned back and said simply, “Yes.”
“Owen I think you may be getting the wrong idea. Let me clarify. Yes, there are sexual aspects of our rituals. And if you want to follow this path its better if you are 'cool with it'. And while in order to become 3rd degree I had to have sex with another 3rd degree initiate male, he channeled the aspects of the Gods so that I could experience the God fully and find the polarity in myself that would allow me to channel the Goddess and create unity. I didn’t just have sex with a male friend. There was a bit more to it than that.”
“I think it is wonderfully interesting and intriguing.”
She smiled and shook her head at him.
“Why don’t you tell me a little more about what you are looking for, your list, and we’ll see if this tradition really has what you are looking for.”
And so he told her what he really wanted was to find a group of like minded others, who weren’t fringe or fragile or freakish. He wanted this group of others to be thinkers, people who read widely, respected nature, who had open minds and who respected science and thought there were possibilities beyond what we know today.
“There are some books you should buy so that you can read up and have questions. In this path it is critical that the student have questions. But you don't seem to have a problem with that so far."
The flight attendant was passing by picking up their cups so he dug around and found his boarding pass and borrowed a pen from the guy across the isle and then said "O.K. professor, what books do I need?"
She wrote out a short list to get him started and talked about which ones he should get first. Before they knew it the plane had landed.