I was lucky enough to be born in a priestess household, with a mother who followed an eclectic and devoted spiritual pathway, with a particular dedication to and embodiment of Ishtar/Isis; which manifested through incantations and immense sexual magnetism, and a charisma which either drew people to her or caused them to lash out in jealousy.
In my childhood, the warning was always "Don't tell them we're witches!" to conceal your power in case it led to being run of town by a mob with flaming torches. In the 1980s, it was still taboo to discuss witchcraft or paganism publicly, and a lot of fear in the general population was rampant from satanic child abuse scandals in the media. I had witnessed this shunning for being magical happen enough times to Mum to know it was possible to be burned for shining too brightly. I saw her claiming sovereignty in her life, work and relationships, fighting to be respected, and choosing to say NO in situations where, at that time socially, the acceptable thing at the time would have been to grit her teeth and suffer through as a meek, conformist woman.
I feel lucky to have had the chance to grow up in the 80's with this glamourous, sexy, powerful and magical parent. Unfortunately, this lineage initiation was never fully congruent, as Mum was frequently working overseas, and would come home deeply wounded from the difficult undercover assignments she was undertaking in her work, taking many months to heal herself. What I did have access to was her spiritual and historical library, her altar and the wonderful ceremonial costumes she left behind at home in those times we were apart. I absorbed these gifts like a sponge and learned what I could from spending time in nature and listening to the wisdom that came through dreams.
My spiritual path was eclectic as a young woman leaving home, heavily influenced by the psychedelic trance and free party / festival scene I had become a part of at a young age. I explored Tantric Hindu and Buddhist lineages, became attuned to Reiki and Pranic healing. It was clear that the healing gifts I carried were around healing, touch and sacred sexuality, and that the majority of my own personal learning needed to happen in the realm of relationship - family relationships, friendship, romantic, and also the relationships with my teachers. I qualified as a holistic therapist, working in different settings, and also began teaching workshops and leading ceremonies at festivals and rainbow gatherings with the encouragement of pagan elders. I had worked with and dedicated to several Goddesses including White and Green Tara, Elen of the Ways, Hathor and Isis, and been involved with my local grove of Druids.
I had been badly burned in several toxic and abusive romantic and sexual relationships, and experienced betrayal from those I considered friends, as well as beloved teachers. There came a point where I began to question my ideology of loving everyone and seeing the good in them, my trust in life to support me and faith in others was at an all time low. It seemed that the more I tried to follow my heart and flow with life, the worse my situation became. I felt a great deal of shame around the bad choices I had made, and began to wonder if I was really a terrible person who deserved to be rejected or stabbed in the back.
Around Summer Solstice time in 2015, I took a priestess pilgrimage to Crete with Katinka Soetens, and connected with the ancient temples of the Minoan Culture. This was a profound and magical journey where for the first time I sat in circle with other priestess sisters and was welcomed and seen as an equal. The sharing that happened each day over dinner opened my heart and my eyes to so much, including some harmful behaviours I had. We journeyed deep into the cave labyrinth, and I did feel on returning that we had received an initiatory blessing from the Earth Goddess. Later that year I was lucky to train in Social Permaculture with Starhawk and other teachers, and realised that my life focus was also community healing and sustainability, as well as personal and relational work I had done for so many years. In 2016 I began hosting women's circles at my home in Owlpen and building connections with other magical women in my local area.
In 2017 I travelled to Egypt on another temple pilgrimage, and met other women who had initiated as Priestess with Katinka. I found a deep connection with my ancient priestess self on this journey and again healed the mistrust I had in other women through the sharings and adventures shared with my sisters on this journey together. The following year, Katinka invited me to join her training course, Sacred Sexual Priestess of Rhiannon, with the Path of Love Mystery School. I joined the course not really knowing what to expect, I had attended so many different workshops and retreats on spirituality, tantra, healing etc over the years and wasn't sure that anything original would be found, but I liked the taste of sisterhood I had experienced in Crete and felt that this path may help to empower the work I was already doing in a similar vein. The first year of Priestess of Rhiannon was powerful and forced me to confront many of my patterns of behaviour, hidden feelings and wounded places to really begin to release the trauma I had been carrying throughout my life, and had led me many times to confuse anxiety and fear for love. I began to see how this had played out in my relationships, and to assert better boundaries in my relationships, with friends, teachers and lovers. The practices involved movement, energy awareness, invocation of goddess, and partner or group work, using touch, visualisation and shadow hunting. I began volunteering as a Temple Melissa at Bristol and Glastonbury Goddess Temples. I took part in the Glastonbury Goddess Conference, serving as a reception assistant and taking part in the large ceremonies with Goddess loving people from all over the world participating. I also visited Malta with Katinka that year and deepened still more into the energy memories of the sacred temples of the ancestors in this honeyed land.
The second year of the Priestess of Rhiannon training enabled me to deepen my connection with Goddess through offering more advanced practices and ceremonies, and gave me more confidence in my chosen path as Priestess in this lifetime and I believe many past lives. I was supported by her to begin making my practice as a Priestess of Love more public, encouraged to put on workshops in public settings and Goddess Temples, and to conduct ceremonies myself such as handfastings, menarche celebrations, mother blessings, croning and queening rituals. I also began having meetings with a committee in my local area to plan the creation of a Goddess Temple for Stroud, and Gloucestershire Goddess Community. Katinka's mentoring gave me confidence to shine the light of Goddess out into the world through acts of service and creating community. I volunteered again at the Goddess Conference and this really inspired me to continue the work within my own local community. After so many difficult and toxic relationships, I met a partner in 2019 who is my equal and now have a loving, supportive and stable home and family life. In the autumn I led my first women's retreat on the island of Gozo, Malta, and visited sacred sites with my group.
During the pandemic, I was offered the chance to co-ordinate the Wellness Sanctuary for the online Goddess Conference, and also developed my own continuing priestess development course, the Lunar Womb Temple Training, which Katinka was supportive in affiliating with the Path of Love Mystery School. I found my feet with working and teaching online, and was supported all the way by Katinka to create my own style of Priestessing in alignment with my gifts, which shone through from the wounded places I had begun to integrate and do shadow work with through the practices of the Rhiannon priestess of the Labyrinth postgraduate year training. I was able to support the Orchard of Avalon group and Glastonbury Goddess community by attending and assisting with equality, diversity and inclusion meetings, deep listening circles and grief tending processes.
This year we held the Goddess Conference both online and in person in Glastonbury, and I achieved a lifelong dream of presenting talks and workshops to participants, as well as coordinating the Wellness Sanctuary on site and online. We are finally about to open a town centre premises for Stroud Goddess Temple, after 3 years of planning and dreaming. I know that I would not have achieved so many things or freed up the energy to create so much magic and beauty in my life had I not made the choice to devote myself to training as a Priestess of Rhiannon with Katinka Soetens as my teacher, mentor and elder spiritual sister in the Path of Love. I would recommend her training courses to anyone who wants to authentically face their wounded places and catalyse change, through the alchemy of transformation through devotion to and connection with Goddess in healthy relational dynamics of sisterhood, relationship and wider human life. Katinka will challenge you to become your best self, look at and own your own bullshit, and become a clear shining lantern for the love of Goddess in this world to radiate through.