The Author's Corner
The Whimsical Tarot Book (2001)
Bud, Blossom & Leaf: A Magical Herb Gardener's Handbook (2001)
Living the Craft: A Witch's Book of Shadows
[which includes a complete set of the lessons I taught my first year students]; and The Craft Companion [a lined, semi-blank book with a short spell, affirmation, or meditation on each page]. (2001)
In Praise of the Crone:
TWPT: When was it that you first suspected Wicca would be the path for you and what events in your life led you to this point?
DM: The Ancient Arts have had a hold on me ever since I can remember; in fact, I'm not so sure that magick wasn't interested in me - instead of the other way around! Chuckle! As a child, I saw auras. I never thought to discuss it with anyone, because I thought it was a normal thing; i.e., I just thought that everybody was "colored on the outside." I found out differently in first grade, though, when my teachers insisted that I not color outside the lines. There was such a ruckus that my parents took me to the doctor to have my vision and motor skills checked! Chuckle!
There were other things, too, but probably the most aggravating to my parents was the fact that - even though I was raised as a Catholic child - I absolutely refused to pray to Jesus. It wasn't that I thought he was unimportant in the scheme of things - it was just that I saw it as a waste of time. I simply couldn't understand why anyone would spend undue time asking him for something when it was just as easy to go to the supreme source; that, of course, being his mother. Looking at it from the view of a six-year-old, I reasoned that even Jesus wouldn't disobey his mother. That being the case, the Goddess and I developed a firm relationship early on.
Twelve years later, I discovered Wicca. I suddenly felt a sense of belonging, and the days of feeling abnormal were gone. It was like the religion had been calling my name since the day I was born, and I'd finally found the source.
TWPT: Do you have any advice for those who are just setting foot on the Wiccan path? Things to be careful of or things that you should be doing in that early phase of your spiritual growth?
DM: You bet! For one thing, it's very easy to be excited over finding the path; so much so, in fact, that newcomers seem to want to shout it from the rooftops. And while there's nothing wrong with that sort of joy, it does tend to put others off a bit, and can actually present a potentially dangerous situation for those new to the religion.
To start with, most people are afraid of the unknown - and while some folks believe that "education" resolves this, that isn't always the case. Why? Because many people don't really wish to be educated and when that's the case, forcing the issue not only won't help, but often results in harm to innocent people.
The other thing is that most people truly don't care what religion their friends or acquaintances embrace. Case in point? When's the last time you met someone and the first thing they said to you was, "Hi, my name is Sam and I'm a Methodist." It just doesn't happen that way; in fact, friendships often last lifetimes without a word about religious preference.
So...my advice is to remember that religion is a very personal thing.
Just like the sex life, it seldom truly warrants discussion! :)
TWPT: What was your first contact with the Wiccan community at large? Was it what you expected or were you surprised at what you found?
DM: Oddly enough, my introduction to Wicca came by way of a professional tarot card reader. What I didn't realize was that the party she invited me to was actually an "after coven-meet" party - so I was taken totally off-guard. When it finally occurred to me that everyone in the room was a Witch, I was absolutely terrified. (Of course, I knew nothing of Witches other than the accounts written by the Brothers Grimm!)
Once I finally understood that I hadn't been invited as a sacrifice for the main event, though, I settled down. And what I discovered was very surprising - so much so, that eventually embraced Wicca, myself.
TWPT: Tell me about the Georgian tradition of Wicca? How was it that this particular tradition became the one that you felt was the one for you?
DM: The Georgian tradition was founded in Bakersfield, California by George E. "Pat" Patterson in 1970. It was first chartered by the Universal Life Church in 1972. Later, in 1980, it was chartered again as The Church of Wicca Bakersfield. Very eclectic, the Georgian beliefs are based in Gardnerian, Alexandrian, and British Traditionalist traditions.
They are God/dess oriented and perhaps the most individualized of the Wiccan traditions. Georgian groups are both magical and religious in practice, and members are encouraged to learn from any and all available sources. For this reason, rituals and practices vary from member to member.
Since no one way is the only right way for Georgians, this tradition holds great appeal for me. Ever the non-conformist, it allows me to be who I am while constantly allowing me to stretch the boundaries of personal creativity. And while there's certainly nothing wrong with any of the other traditions, most of them are just a bit dogmatic to suit my personal path. :)
TWPT: In your eyes what is it that constitutes a "tradition"? Are older traditions any more valid than some of the newer ones?
DM: All traditions have common roots - celebration of a higher power, a definite spiritual path, and a firm foundation in the Ancient Arts. That being the case, I believe that all of them are valid regardless of age. New traditions are born every day - and all of them are born of creativity. It's a matter of differing opinions, varied solutions, and new ideas. [At one time, I actually toyed with the idea of starting my own. But then I realized that Georgianism was still the best route for me.]
TWPT: When did it become apparent to you that you were going to be a writer? Was this a lifelong desire or was this something that became clear after you became a Wiccan?
DM: I can't remember a time when I didn't write. And after winning a few state competitions in extemporaneous writing, I truly thought I'd found my niche. My father, however, was a very wise man. He insisted that I'd starve to death before I ever saw my first royalty check - and he was right. For that reason, I went developed other skills that kept me from being hungry, naked and out on the streets.
I was forty years old before I ever took a stab at professional writing - and that came about on a whim. I sent a few articles to Circle Network News. They were published immediately, and my writing career began. I branched out a bit after that, and for several years, worked as a staff writer for several bowhunting magazines.
Lest your readers think that writing is a glamorous profession, though, it's important to note that it was five years before I was ever able to quit my day job. And even now - with eight books [two of them award-winners] and a tarot deck under my belt - it's still very hard work. In fact, it's much more difficult than working for someone else ever was!
TWPT: Could you describe how you went about getting your first book published?
DM: I've always lived a charmed life, and in this case, it became very apparent. I'd had an ongoing friendship with Trish Telesco for many years, and it was at her suggestion that I penned Magical Needlework.
When it was done, she helped me get a foot in the door at Llewellyn. It wasn't easy to keep that foothold, though. Fact is, I rewrote that book five times before it was ever accepted.
I learned a lot during that process, though. For one thing, manuscript guidelines are there for a reason and need to be followed to the letter - no matter how difficult they seem at the onset. Secondly, publishers know more about their markets than the author can ever imagine; so when they ask for changes - no matter how silly they may seem - it's always for the good of the book. Third and most important, though, I learned that it's imperative to hook the publisher with the very first sentence of the cover letter. It's that little bit of magic that brings your manuscript into their hands - and keeps it from falling by the wayside. :)
TWPT: Tell us about what inspired you to write Magical Needlework? Were there other works on this topic that sparked your interest or was your book the first to address the magick in needlework?
DM: Magical Needlework was actually based on a lesson in my 2nd Degree teaching plan, and I wrote the book at the suggestion of my friend, Patricia Telesco. At that time, the only published mention of needlework as a viable magical tool came by way of a short chapter in Pauline Campanelli's Wheel of the Year. The long and short of it was that I found needlework to be a very powerful magical tool, and I felt its value to the Ancient Arts had somehow been forgotten over the years. It was time to re-introduce it, revitalize it, and renew its place in the Craft.
TWPT: What kinds of spellworking would be appropriate for this format?
DM: Since there are many forms of needlework - and each has its own field of magical expertise - the possibilities are endless. Take patchwork/quilting for example. Every fabric texture - and printed pattern - provides its own type of magic. This fabric, which already holds a magic all its own, is then cut into magically symbolic shapes.
We stitch it together, and then quilt it [often with magical designs] to reinforce the magic. For this reason, a quilt designed to ensure a good night's sleep might also be infused with protection, romance, prosperity, and an assortment of other magical intentions. It's a little like having a blank canvas. The possibilities are restricted only by the imagination and intent of the artist - and this makes it a very magical medium, indeed!
TWPT: Do you still have time to practice your needlework as much as you would like?
DM: Sadly enough, no. Since I normally work six days a week to fulfill my writing obligations, it now takes a year or more to complete something that, at one time, might have only taken a few weeks. That doesn't deter me, though. In fact, I'm currently working on an appliquéd wedding quilt that I really wanted to have finished by our first anniversary. While I don't think it will be ready by then, that's okay. We'll just enjoy its magic whenever it is. :)
TWPT: Once you got past the "trauma" of your first book and the multiple re-writes, were you daunted by the prospect of starting a new book project?
DM: No. But that's probably because I didn't have the same expectations that I had with the first book. I actually had sort of a "what will be will be" attitude. Of course, I also had a foot in the door at the publishing house by then, so I'm sure that colored things a bit. I figured that - at worst - I'd have a great little tome to pass on to my grandchildren some day.
TWPT: Tell us how Everyday Magic came about?
DM: I'd sent off a proposal on another book I wanted to write. It was turned down, but the publisher really liked a spell I'd included. To that end, I was asked whether I'd be interested in writing a spell book. I agreed, and Everyday Magic was born.
The key to writing Everyday Magic, though, was that I knew it had to stand out from all the other spell books on the market - and there were plenty. That being the case, I dug through all the spell books in my office to see what they were missing. I came up empty-handed. Finally I just sat down at the computer and began to write the sort of book that I - the woman who hates to stand in line and won't wait even fifteen minutes at the doctor's office - could sink my teeth into and use on a regular basis. Something that dispensed with the idea that mysterious powers, superior intelligence, or obscure spell ingredients were necessary for successful magic. Something simple that I could use even in today's fast-paced world. It must've been a good call, because Everyday Magic is now in its seventh printing and being produced not only in English - but in Spanish, Russian, and French as well.
TWPT: When was it that you founded the Coven of the Crystal Garden and why?
DM: I founded the Coven of the Crystal Garden in 1986 - a working/teaching group - for several reasons. For one thing, many of the groups I'd visited or been involved with seemed very restrictive; students were expected to forget everything they'd learned and do exactly as the High Priest/ess-Teacher saw fit. There wasn't much room for the creative process. No one was ever encouraged to think, much less write their own spells or rituals. I thought this was awful, since the personal creativity process *is* magic.
I also founded the group in an effort to make the Craft a little less mysterious. At that time, most groups delighted in enveloping the Craft in a shroud of fear and mystery; everything was a secret that only an elite few were allowed to share. I didn't agree with that. Truth is, there's nothing mysterious about the way magic works. Though props and focal points may differ, magic and all it entails is synonymous with prayer. The Coven of the Crystal Garden and its members reflect this way of thinking.
TWPT: When was it that you became initiated as a Wicca High Priestess?
DM: Even though I've been an avid practitioner of the Craft for over twenty years, I didn't receive my first and second degree initiations until the mid-eighties, or my third until early 1990. The reason wasn't a lack of formal education in the Arts, though. It was a matter of the Pagan-time attitude - that annoying whenever-I-get-around-to-it attitude - embraced by many teachers at that time. Sadly enough, I actually had to move all the way from Texas to California before I found someone who not only had the time to teach on a regular basis, but who was actually able to find the time to schedule the initiation rituals! Chuckle!
TWPT: Your bio mentions that you teach the Craft to students in 7 states and Australia, how did this get started and how do you keep in touch with your students?
DM: Actually, I don't teach anymore. Teaching takes a lot of time, and with writing deadlines and promotional travel, I no longer have the time it takes to teach properly and well. The long-distance teaching came about when I moved from California to Missouri. My west coast students still had lessons to complete, so I handled that by correspondence.
Degree initiations didn't cause a problem, because I had friends in the area who were able and willing to perform the initiation rituals when the time came.
About a year after the move to Missouri, though, things got really busy in the teaching department. The Internet wasn't popular yet, and it was the time of bbs's. Through that medium, I met tons of folks who were avidly seeking a teacher. Since correspondence had worked well before, there wasn't any reason not to try it again. It wasn't long before I had twenty students - all doing their lessons and turning in homework. It was quite a job - and provided for a very busy time!
Again, the degree initiations didn't present a problem. The Lord and Lady always provide, and my path was paved with seasoned and qualified practitioners who were more than willing to handle the rituals for me. :)
TWPT: I understand that your writing was not totally confined to books. What other kinds of material have you had published and how did you ever find time to work on things other than books?
DM: Writing careers don't just take off overnight, so in the beginning, there's always more time than you think. It's important to put that time to good use, though, if you're serious about writing. And the best way to do that is to put your name in the public eye. That being the case, I wrote lots of free articles, rituals, and poetry for Circle Network News, SageWoman, The Crone Chronicles, and many other pagan magazines and journals. Folks became familiar with me and with my work, it paved the way toward a successful writing career in the Wiccan/Pagan/New Age genre.
Of course, people also have to make a living - and I was no exception! Chuckle! It just so happened that early in my writing career, I was also a well-known bowhunter and held several state championship titles as a tournament archer. I definitely took advantage of that, and signed on with a couple of bowhunting/archery magazines as a regular staff writer. This not only helped to bring in money, but provided me with an opportunity to help others while promoting the ethical and responsible practices that make the ancient art of hunting a sacred ritual.
TWPT: Were you happy with the response that you received from these other avenues of publication and do you still write material other than books?
DM: I truly was - but I have to admit that the response from fellow archers was more than just a little overwhelming. Because there weren't very many female archers at the time, the archery industry was very interested in women who not only knew what to do with a bow, but could make it perform to full advantage. This brought about a lot of promotional activity and before I knew it, my name and photograph was everywhere. If this had brought women into archery, that would have been wonderful. Instead, though, it brought an onslaught of men who wanted to pick my brain and share trade secrets. Even though I certainly didn't mind the camaraderie, it brought its own set of problems. I found myself longing for a private life - and it seemed that I had none.
Fortunately, those days are long gone. When my shoulder went out, I stopped shooting - and with that, the archery-related articles came to an end. My books also started to sell, and between new projects and promotional travel, I no longer have time for additional work. I did, however, manage to reclaim my private life - and that's something I hold very dear, indeed.
TWPT: Your next book was In Praise of the Crone, tell me about the events that led up to that book being written.
DM: Our society has led women to believe that once they embark upon the menopausal journey, they are, for all practical purposes, washed up.
They're also led to believe that they're no longer sexy, appealing, or in any way attractive - and this simply isn't so! Of course, I learned this the hard way when I was tossed headlong into the transition at the ripe old age of 32. What I discovered was that I not only still had life to live and that the best part had just begun, but that it was the biggest party I'd ever attended! I wrote In Praise of the Crone to share the news, and to help women understand that regardless of age, they are still fabulous people and valuable assets to humankind. How couldn't they be? Menopausal women are, after all, the Goddess Incarnate!
TWPT: What kinds of reactions have you gotten to your writings from your readers?
DM: My readers are truly the most wonderful people on Earth - and every book I write is geared to help them on their personal journeys. I've learned to share my experiences, my joys, and even my worst mistakes with them, and I've never heard from a reader who didn't seem to appreciate that.
So when I get a letter that says, "In Praise of the Crone saved my life," or "I never truly understood how simple magic was until someone gave me a copy of Everyday Magic," I know that I'm in the right line of work.
TWPT: Do you consider yourself a teacher when you write your books and does this change the way that you express your ideas in written form?
DM: Yes, I do - though I've been told that I shouldn't! Chuckle! What many authors don't understand is that they have a direct responsibility to their readers to relay clear and accurate information - especially when their writing involves Wicca or Paganism. That's because many folks don't have the luxury of a teacher at their fingertips; in fact, the chances of finding one in their area is often slim to none. That being the case, the only information that many people ever gain is in the books that we write.
On the other hand, no one likes to be "preached at" while being educated. To that end, I write just like I talk. I like to put my readers at ease and make them feel as if they're simply chatting with me from across the kitchen table. They learn more, retain more, and hopefully, come away with something they hadn't thought of before.
TWPT: Tell me about the Gallows Hill Project and what you hope to accomplish through this?
DM: This project came about when some of my friends and I discovered that there was no memorial marker whatsoever at Gallows Hill - the place where many innocent people lost their lives during the Salem Witch Trials. That being the case, we decided to have a granite memorial erected on the site. We're currently working with the City of Salem Park and Recreation Department for approval of our plans, and with any luck, we'll be able to have monument in place and ready for a dedication ceremony sometime in Spring 2001.
TWPT: What should we be looking for from Dorothy Morrison in the future as far as new books and projects are concerned?
DM: I have several projects due for release very shortly. Yule: A Celebration of Light and Warmth will be on the shelves September 1st, and The Whimsical Tarot [illustrated by Mary Hanson-Roberts] is due out in October. Releases for 2001 include The Whimsical Tarot Book [a parent's guide to teaching their children to read the Tarot]; Bud, Blossom & Leaf: A Magical Herb Gardener's Handbook; Living the Craft: A Witch's Book of Shadows [which includes a complete set of the lessons I taught my first year students]; and The Craft Companion [a lined, semi-blank book with a short spell, affirmation, or meditation on each page].
And - as every author does - I have a few projects brewing on the back burner! One that's very close to my heart is an effort detailing a tried and true system for finding the perfect love. I hope to have it in the stores by early 2002. :)
TWPT: I know that you make some personal appearances, are there any upcoming appearances that you would like to mention?
DM: The Witches Ball in Columbus, Ohio is a terrific event put on by A.J. Drew, author of Wicca for Men and proprietor of Salem West - and one of my favorites. It's two days of Wiccan fun and celebration, workshops, seminars, and lectures - and it's all free for the taking! Of course, I'll be there. Other guests for this year's ball will include Sirona Knight and Patricia Telesco.
Aside from the Ball, the rest of this year is going to be very busy for me travel-wise. Since my tour schedule is much too lengthy to mention here, folks can check my tour page to see when I'll be in their areas.
TWPT: Any last thoughts you'd like to share with our readers?
DM: I think it's important for people to understand that life is truly what they make it. It can be one long, happy, fabulous ride - or it can be the biggest downer ever conceived. My life wasn't always this wonderful. In fact, if someone had told me five years ago that I'd be enjoying the success and happiness I am today, I'd have thought they'd lost their minds. It truly was that bad!
The point is that life is full of opportunities. Doors open. Doors close. And the biggest mistake we can make is to stand still and do nothing. So when a door flies open, take a chance. Rush through it to see what's on the other side. Grab every opportunity that life has to offer. Yes, you'll make some mistakes. But you'll never make a mistake that isn't worth making. For from those mistakes you'll gain experience - and it's that experience that truly brings our most treasured successes.
TWPT: Thank you, Dorothy, for taking the time to talk to us and we wish you many blessings with your career and along your path.