Last month, a fabulous new book was released. It’s called Merry Meet Again: Lessons, Life & Love on the Path of a Wiccan High Priestess, written by Deborah Lipp. In case you don’t know who Deborah is, in a nutshell she is a 3rd degree Gardnerian Wiccan High Priestess who has written several books for Llewellyn on witchcraft and magic, and one on James Bond (not published by Llewellyn!). She was encouraged to start writing after years of experience running a coven and giving presentations at Pagan and Wiccan festivals by a well-timed tarot reading in 1999, and has been at it ever since.
In her memoir, she has a lot of stories to tell; things like finding Wiccan training before the Internet, using the Descent of the Goddess myth to deal with crippling grief brought on by the loss of her fiance, seeking coven members and running her own group, travelling America, Australia, and Brazil to teach, having eye-opening encounters with goddesses, raising a Pagan child with her former husband, the late Isaac Bonewits, and much more.
It was actually about a year after Isaac passed away in 2010 that Deborah contacted me with the idea of writing her memoir. I didn’t know then that it was part of her way of coping with this loss, but I’m glad that it inspired her to take the first steps on this journey. The book is not about Isaac, although he’s certainly a big part of it as the father of her only child. It’s about her own journey of growth, from the time she was a precocious girl in Hebrew school who fantasized about keeping a kosher home, to praying to Artemis at age 15, to becoming an initiated Witch and priestess. It concludes with her fiftieth birthday and another trip to Brazil, and the birth of a new love affair is attested in the epilogue.
I asked Deborah to share her thoughts on writing this memoir, and I added a few photos from the book. Please enjoy this guest post by Deborah Lipp.
Your life is not a story.
Life is a lived experience, it is in the moment, and the very act of writing down those moments subtly changes them. Shaping a narrative—even the most honest and self-effacing of narratives—alters the experience.
I learned a lot from writing about my life. You might like to apply some of what I’ve learned to a diary you keep, or to journaling as a spiritual or therapeutic exercise.
When I decided to write about my life, I realized that the knowledge that every word is somehow a distortion can be crippling…or it can be freeing. For me it was the latter. Once I understood that I was writing a story, with the same constraints as any story, I was free to edit, shape, delete, and rearrange. I did this all within my commitment to honesty: There are no fabrications in my memoir, Merry Meet Again, no fiction, no little white lies. If I was wrong or foolish, I say so, and I didn’t select only the stories that make me look like an angel (there are so few of those!).
What I did was select the narrative focus of my book: The life of a High Priestess. With that in mind, there were a lot of stories, including some very funny, interesting, and dramatic stories, that had nothing to do with that focus. There is little to nothing in the book about my political involvements, my upbringing, my career, or my romances. Things from other parts of my life were left in only where they contributed to my overall narrative flow. Of course, I had to do that when writing a memoir, unless I wanted a a thousand-page tome.
There’s a meditative quality to all this, a profound introspection. First, there’s the part where you realize you’re turning your life into a story. That’s a meditation on Being, on how moments are only themselves in their fleeting, ephemeral, non-captured state, and how capturing them changes them. That’s a worthy meditation, and I invite you to try it. Then there’s looking back: You will find, if you research your own life, that you’ve remembered some things incorrectly, and completely forgotten other things that, at the time, seemed unforgettable. There’s an awakening to the richness of things your memory has hidden from you.
Why did I do this? My book was, in part, an outcome of bereavement counseling: When my ex-husband, Isaac Bonewits, was in the last days of his life, and after he died, I found myself looking back on my years with him in a way that cried out for organization, and I organize myself by writing. In part, because my path to Paganism is a path that is at risk of being forgotten: The pre-Internet, deeply closeted, ‘is there anyone out there?’ years are no more, and a journey that was meaningful to many thousands of people risks being treated as fiction. I wanted to document it. I capped off my book with my fiftieth birthday; it felt like a bookend; it felt apropos.
Finally, I wrote Merry Meet Again because I felt I had something of value to share. As a student of the Craft and then a Priestess, as a Pagan mother, as someone who has traveled throughout the international Pagan community and seen its growth, I felt my perspective had value. I’ve survived some terrible ordeals and have come to know that we can give to others by sharing that they are not alone; our experience has meaning when it can comfort someone else. I hope you can find something in its pages that is meaningful to you.