[This month, we sit down for an interview with Francesca De Grandis, the bestselling author of Be a Goddess! A shaman, teacher, and healer, Francesca was raised in a traditional Strega family tradition that has Celtic shamanism in its bloodline. She practices an ancient European witchcraft that is a form of Faerie shamanism. Here, she discusses her spirituality, her teaching, and her future projects.]
ev0ke: You practice a shamanic Goddess tradition, the Third Road. First, if you could correct one misconception about Goddess spirituality, what would it be?
Francesca De Grandis: A prevalent misconception about Goddess spirituality is that it excludes men, if not downright frowns on them.
Since patriarchal religions treat women poorly, it’s easy to assume Goddess spirituality oppresses men. But Magna Mater, Great Mother Goddess, loves everyone. She doesn’t even expect you to be Pagan. (Everything I say in this interview refers only to the particular Deities Who visit me and the Goddess path I walk. And, for simplicity sake’s, I’ll talk mostly about Magna Mater, instead of various Goddesses Who are in my life.)
Much of mainstream religion lacks inclusiveness; clergy on high are polarized against group members below, allowing rampant sexism, classism, ism, ism, ism. Only the people on top are counted and get to feel included in decision-making, representation, and more. It’s as if only people on top are real, and everyone else is a cipher. Since this polarization exists throughout society, it’s easy to assume it’s inevitable in Goddess religions.
The idea of you as opposed to me, instead of you and I together destroys community wholeness.
When I polarize against someone, I divide myself in two, am polarized against myself, and thus destroy my own wholeness.
Goddesses I know nurture equality, wholeness, and camaraderie. My students are my fellow seekers. One reason I called the tradition the Third Road is to represent a path beyond polarizations. The spiritual practices my students and I do with the support of Goddesses help us walk that path.
My Father Herne and other male Deities also support our journey. Another misunderstanding of Goddess spirituality is that it necessarily excludes male Gods. Herne is the Great Mother Goddess’ Co-creator and equal.
He’s not the God of oppressive men who would stamp on my wholeness. Herne gives me His wholeness, that I might build my own.
ev0ke: The Third Road is a channeled tradition. What was it like for you to create that?
FDG: Though I channeled the material, I didn’t know I was building a tradition. Later, I realized I did everything needed to create a tradition. E.g., I spent years writing a cohesive body of rituals, along with a cosmology and philosophy that underpin both the rituals and the magical training I developed. But I did all that because it felt like the right thing to do. It was an attempt to be thorough, not to start a tradition. Then one day, my students and I sat in my living room, in shock because we realized we had a tradition.
Honestly, had I set out to start a tradition, I think it would’ve come from my ego instead of from a desire to do a good job. I worry when I hear someone decide to start a tradition. More than once, I’ve seen that cause problems for both the founder and their students.
Mysticism is alive and present today, not just in the past tense of one’s previous efforts. Though the Third Road is practiced worldwide now, resting on my laurels would be magically and spiritually dangerous. I’m always channeling new material for the tradition. I enjoy that work tremendously.
ev0ke: The Third Road has both written and oral elements. How might seekers join that tradition?
FDG: Different people need different approaches to the Third Road. Some prefer working with books, some like the oral branch, and some want to use both.
ev0ke: What sort of seekers or practitioners might be attracted to the Third Road?
FDG: What sort? Oh, my gosh, I adore the people who attend my classes. They’re individuals who really want to show up for life, keep growing spiritually, and serve their communities. I don’t necessarily mean Pagan communities, or serving by doing spells for people or teaching magic. Not everyone wants to do that. My students tend to have a spirit of service, whether as an office manager, celebrity chef, homeschooling parent, or professional artist.
ev0ke: You have published a number of books over the years, including Baba Yaga’s Apprentice, the Faerie Book of Shadows, The Modern Goddess’ Guide to Life, and the classic Be a Goddess! You’re a prolific bestselling author. Why do you also work in oral tradition?
FDG: When Magna Mater told me to move into corporate publishing, my response was “F*** no!” I wanted to continue to sit in my living room, where I could teach orally and do healings. But I don’t argue with Gods, at least not for very long, hopefully. They’re smarter, stronger, and eventually win.
My Gods know what’s best for me. In one of my past lives, I was a monk who ran from the mundane world. This lifetime, I need to balance my reclusive nature with more outgoing activities. Media is so of the world that it is a perfect vehicle for learning that balance.
Unless I have ways to keep my feet on the ground, my spirituality risks becoming pie in the sky.
Mainstream media was hard for me. It’s not how I’m geared. I’m pretty introverted. I also need to spend as many hours walking between the stars as possible; otherworldly spaces are simply where I belong a lot of the time.
I had to push myself hard to put my energy out past my living room and my mystical focus.
After a while, I pulled back from corporate media and the like. Some colleagues were puzzled that, once I had a bestseller, I didn’t spend all my time on the speaking circuit and what not, instead of continuing to teach small groups.
I did NPR, I did ABC, etc., etc. I did all that. It was good in a lot of ways. I do it again when it feels right. However, I want it to be a small part of my shamanic work in the community.
For one thing, given my reclusive Fey nature, I had to push myself too hard to be in media. It took too much out of me. It wasn’t worth it.
For another, oral tradition allows me a joy I find only sitting in my living room, leading a small enough number of people that we can be individuals to each other, in powerful rituals that work only in small groups.
I still need to maintain balance, since a large portion of my day is spent in the other worlds. Oral tradition is one of many ways I keep my balance.
Oral tradition, as my mother taught it to me, does not pit your mystical nature against your common sense. My down-to-earth mom had a hard life, overcame many obstacles, and maintained her Fey spirit. Doing a lot of mainstream media helped me learn more about how to apply the practical shamanism Mom conveyed to me. But I always need to learn more about staying down-to-earth while remaining true to my Fey heart. Instead of constant mainstream media, now there are other worldly things — and spiritual disciplines I try to maintain — that keep my feet on the ground.
ev0ke: I’d love to hear more about your oral teachings. I’m glad you’re open to discussing them. I wasn’t sure if that was a “public” part of your work, or something kept private for students of the Third Road.
FDG: I’m happy you want to hear about it.
Thank you for appreciating there might be private aspects to my work. Privacy is important, yet not respected enough. Yes, a lot of my oral teachings are oath bound.
One reason my heart is in oral tradition is because I was raised in it. It’s been in my cells since Mom carried me in her womb. Oral tradition is just who I am; it is the atoms that make up my body. So it’s automatically the way I teach when not writing books.
Well, it’s not only that I was raised in it. For years, I ran from my mystical heritage, until I realized it suits me to a T. I have a friend who was raised in a shamanic family lineage. My friend’s siblings were, like mine, blind to the lessons our mothers were passing down. Had our siblings been suited to the teachings, they would’ve noticed them.
I don’t want my devotion to oral tradition to make it seem like I don’t take writing books seriously. I spent eight years writing Be a Goddess! I take all my work seriously.
But I keep having a lot of fun with it. I am Pagan.
Traditional shamanism was taught orally. I do everything I can to convey shamanism on the page, but there’s so much that can only be conveyed in the spoken word, when teacher and student are in each other’s company. I teach my classes long-distance by phone, now that I live in an isolated area, yet we are present together in the other realms.
Sharing such times is one of the greatest joys of my life. I would never give it up for corporate media. I’m eternally grateful I had a mom who loved me so much that she raised me in oral tradition despite having to do so in the midst of the awful, constant struggles the world thrust upon her. There are not enough Mother’s Day cards in the world to show Toni—my mother—how much I appreciate her. May she rest in peace.
ev0ke: Where can people find your classes, books, and blogs?
Thanks so much! This has been a pleasure.