This edition of the Student Spotlight features Erica Baron — Erica is a Witchcraft IV student in the online Mystery School. She was nominated by her mentor, Steve Kenson, who said that Erica “has shown consistent, steady progress and deep dedication to both her work in the Mystery School and her work as a professional minister. She faced the challenges of Witchcraft III and truly experienced the kind of transformation we look for out of that class, and she has shown real understanding of the occult lore in Witchcraft IV, doing all this in the midst of life changes like a wedding, a new job, and a move!”
Congratulation, Erica! And thank you for sharing a little about yourself and your work with the Temple.
Tell us a little about yourself.
In my professional life, I am a Unitarian Universalist minister. I serve a congregation in the Hudson Valley in New York State. I am also an avid quilter, and sometimes dye my own fabric using natural materials. I was married last summer to my wife, Rachel, who is a graduate student in public policy.
What class are you currently taking with the Temple? Can you tell us about the experience?
I am currently in Witchcraft IV, the online version. The experience of taking the online class has been very interesting. I feel like we have created a community online, and I feel that I know my classmates, at least a bit, even though I’ve only met a few of them in real life.
I started taking classes formally with Witchcraft II, and I am so grateful for the ways I have been able to grow as a person and in my practice through the Mystery School, from the basics of creating sacred space and moving energy through the journey, shadow, and spirit ally work of Witchcraft III, to the ceremonial rituals and the Qabalistic experiences of Witchcraft IV. I feel that I have changed and deepened as a person, which is wonderful.
What drew you to the Temple’s mystery school?
A friend told me I should check out Christopher’s books when I expressed frustration, both at the heterosexism I was encountering in some Pagan groups, and at the sense that although I was taking classes and reading books, I wasn’t really progressing at all as a person or as a witch. I was three-quarters of the way through The Inner Temple of Witchcraft on my own before it occurred to me to find out if Christopher was teaching at a physical location anywhere near me. Sure enough, I was living in Vermont at the time, and the Temple was in New Hampshire — not right next door, but close enough to attend a Sabbat ritual.
The first Sabbat I came to was Mabon. It was the first time I had been to a public Wiccan ritual where I felt that those leading the ritual were really well trained and experienced at leading rituals for large groups of people. I was impressed. Then, in the ritual, one of the Temple’s priestesses was invoking the Goddess Kore/Persephone, and I could feel that the Goddess was really there in her and with us. It was an incredibly powerful experience. I felt like something real was happening that I wanted to be a part of. The classes were just a little too far for a once-a-month trek, so I signed up for online classes, and here I am!
How do you use what you’ve learned in your daily life?
Right now, I am working on incorporating the techniques I’ve learned in the Mystery School into my life as a Unitarian Universalist minister. This year, we have learned the ceremonial magick rituals, and I have begun a practice of preparing the space in which my congregation will have services using these rituals. I also use a crystal grid hidden in the pulpit to distribute the energy of a stone that matches the intention of the service, such as rose quartz when I want to inspire love and compassion, or obsidian when we are delving into shadow areas. I have appreciated these ways to bring my personal practice and my professional life together, and I feel that they have made the experience of worship more powerful for me and for the congregation.
I also use magick when dyeing my own fabric, sort of a variation on potion technique where I ask the plants to send their magickal properties into the fabric during the dyeing process. And lately, I’ve also been making magickal jam. I like the places where crafts and the Craft intersect.
What’s next for you as a student/member of the Temple?
I will finish Witchcraft IV in a few months, and I am making plans to attend Temple Fest this August. I plan to continue on to Witchcraft V and then see where that takes me. I also hope to continue to serve as a mentor in the Mystery School.