I fell to my knees in front of my teacher. She kneeled on hers to meet me. I had crossed a psychological boundary during the fire ceremony and was spiraling into crisis. Covering my eyes with trembling hands and wiping the tears away before they could fall, I gasped for the right words. “It isn’t safe for me to be me,” I said, as collective residual fear from hundreds of years of witch trials and ancient knowledge of the persecution of women that had settled into my DNA was warming my blood and coursing through my veins.

“I’m from a small town in the Deep South. I know in my bones there are still people out there who would have no problem tying me up, tarring and feathering me, and dragging me down an old country dirt road behind their truck as a witch and heathen. I don’t see how I will ever be free in a society that continues to condemn those with who it doesn’t understand or agree. It’s debilitating.”

She responded with an instruction.

“Inhale through your nose and send it down to your root.”

Her response caught me off guard and began to shake me loose from the grip of my anxiety attack. My attempt was meager, as I found it challenging, and it felt strange at first. I was accustomed to the inhale feeling uplifting and moving more into the heart, throat, and head.

“Good…now follow the breath as it rises on the exhale. Good…good…” she replied as I mimicked and matched her breath.

After a few rounds of conscious breathing, I began to relax. My reactionary response to the ceremony receded, and I returned to a grounded center. Now that I was calm and present, the most liberated woman I know replied, “It’s okay, I understand. Remember, I’m from Kentucky.”

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