Ashleigh McSidhe, known for nearly 40 years in the Pagan Community as Moondancer, has been a student of the Craft since 1964.
“I first stepped formally onto this Path at Beltane 1973, into a Circle cast by Lady Aphrodite of the Georgian Tradition. (I’ve often joked that had Ed Fitch opened and responded to his mail more promptly “back in the day”, I might have wound up as a Gardnerian, instead.)”
Lady Gwynne was a source of Light on that Path, and over the years, she has continued to Illuminate my Path. Following the breakup of my original coven, I later began working with and studying under the woman who would later be known to many as Zanoni Silverknife, although at that point in time, she used a different name, and together we formed the coven called the Sacred Grove of Vril. Zanoni was also the founding Priestess of the Georgian Tradition, and Lady Aphrodite was the High Priestess of the second of the Georgian Covens. At a later date, Zanoni and I established what we called the StarBorn (Sothis), which is not exactly a Witchcraft practice, but has certain similarities to the Craft.
In 1975, I was elevated to 3° via the rites of the New York Coven of Welsh Traditionalists, which is likely the first known branching of the N.E.C.T.W. family tree. By 1975, my personal practice was focused more tightly on those things from Lady Gwynne, than of the Georgian Tradition itself. I wrote to her that year, seeking further teaching, but as I was soon enlisting in the US Navy, she declined, simply stating that if it was intended to be, then after I was out of the service, the way would be found.
Along the way I’ve had the fortune to meet a number of interesting people from other streams of the Craft, studied with a few of them and declined to do so with others. (“Back in the day”, I used to be able to say that I knew pretty much everyone who was public in the Craft at least by name. Times have changed -=a lot=- since then!)
In 1981, following that service, I met Raven, and made her the Lady of my Life; we’ve been together ever since, working together first in StarMist Cuveen, the second of the StarBorn Sothis Covens. In 1984, Raven and I met two Elders from the Tuatha de Danann Tradition, another branching of the NECTW Tree, and we were reinitiated/elevated to 3° “by the Old Rites” — meaning those of the N.E.C.T.W. itself, we began a process that resulted in the both of us being brought formally into the N.E.C.T.W.,
Shortly thereafter, we moved from California to Washington, and began a new Chapter. Around 1992 we connected with the Historian of the N.E.C.T.W., and in 1993, Raven was elevated to High Priestess and I to High Priest.
The years pass, visits happen. Covens grow, die, hive and rebirth. Over the years, some things became more pressing for me — my need to transition from male to female, something I have struggled with for most of my life. Discussions happen, more years pass.
In September 2019, Raven and I traveled to Rhode Island, where our Tradition is centered. I entered into Circle, I recalled those words from Lady Gwynne so many years ago, and came home again, and was made a High Priestess, in the presence of N.E.C.T.W. Elders, Priests and Priestesses each.
Additionally, besides the Georgian and NECTW traditions, I am also an Initiated in the Gardnerian (1997) and the N.R.O.O.G.D Traditions (1999), among other forms of the Craft.
Beltane 2023 marked the 50th Anniversary of my stepping into that first Circle back in Bakersfield, California, and the approximate 60th anniversary of when I first learned the words by which to call the ceremonies I had been performing in my back yard as a child in Carlsbad, New Mexico every month at the Full Moon..
As the Grateful Dead put it,
Sometimes the light’s all shinin’ on me;
Other times I can barely see.
Lately it occurs to me what a long, strange trip it’s been.
My personal practice is generally based around that of the N.E.C.T.W. with elements that I have adopted from some of those other people; however, our Coven Practice is strictly that of the N.E.C.T.W.
And just because the question has been asked before (and it is a very good question to ask!), sexual rites/initiation/elevations are not a part of either our Coven practice, nor those of the N.E.C.T.W. I personally consider gender and sexual orientation to be mostly irrelevant to the teaching and practice of the Craft. (For that matter, if we are about to engage in sexual activity, we should already know each other well enough that we both know what ours are.)