Let Freedom for all religions ring across the land! Witches of the West
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    Amber Alert

     
    Who is Rev. Eric Roberts...?
     
    In the beginning..
    I was born on October 19th, 1968 at Mt. Sinai Hospital in Chicago, IL. I lived in the city for the first ten months of my life, until my parents purchased a house in west suburban Lombard. That was to be the family home for the next 10 1\2 years. It was a beautiful two-story home with a full basement situated on two lots of land. The eastern side and the backside to the south were lilac bushes, while the front was lined with spruces, junipers and other pines. The center of the open lot had a huge juniper surrounded by a moat. I used to use that as my fort when I was a kid. When I was two, my parents got divorced and my grandparents moved in with us to help raise me. My biological father abandoned us when I was five. Later on, I came to find out that he had settled in Florida near Tampa and served as a fire marshal there until his death in 1994. He never remarried. I was never to see him before he died. I had some emotional problems as a child that caused issues in school...but i survived and surmounted my challenges.
     
    Other than the emotional problems I had as a child, I had a pretty normal childhood. Lombard was a working class town populated mostly by Germans, Italians, and Eastern Europeans. It was small, by Chicago standards, having about 30,000 residents at the time. I grew up listening to Billy Joel, the Four Tops, The Four Seasons, and the like, then later moving on to harder stuff like Kiss, Black Sabbath, and Led Zeppelin in the mid 70's. Back then we could run around the neighborhood unsupervised and our parents didn't have to worry about us. It was a pretty good childhood.
     
    My Grandfather was of Italian descent. His parents emigrated here from Naples, Italy in the late 1800's and settled in the city of Chicago. My Grandmother was a Polish/Lithuanian/Czechoslovakian Jew. She gave up Judaism and nominally converted to Catholicism when she wed my grandfather in the 1930's. My great great grandfather emigrated here from Warsaw, Poland by way of Canada. My great grandfather settled here in the city of Chicago. They were as much my parents as my mother was. I learned a lot about family and faith from the two sides of my family. I was lucky to have a very supportive family that stuck with us through thick and thin. No matter what, they were the for us...even if just for moral support. While I was brought up originally Catholic, my mother and I went to a few different churches to find our place spiritually. I never found mine until I was an adult.
     
    In 1976, I joined cub scouts. That was the start of a 10 1\2 year career in scouting, culminating in my working as a staff member at Owassippi Scout Reservation (an easter egg for those of you who had the pleasure of camping at Owassippi...I worked at a few different camps...you will understand *grin*...ZAXIE! MOHAVE! GO! BAHOOKA!!!) near Whitehall, MI. That was the summer camp for the Chicago Area Council Boy Scouts. Those were some of the best years of my life. I would say that my experiences in Boy Scouts... especially the Order of the Arrow, one of the highest honors in Boy Scouts...second only to being an Eagle Scout...led me on the path to being pagan. All the camping and learning about nature and how we interact opened my eyes to the energy out there. It would still take the gods giving me a couple of more hints before I finally got the message...more on that later.
     
    When I was about eight or so, my mother met my step-dad. He met my mother at a bar while she was out with her best friend and partner in crime. They fell in love and married in 1980. He adopted me and I changed my name from my birth name, Kruspe, to Roberts. We moved to unincorporated Glen Ellyn. First renting a house, then a couple of years later, my parents bought the house next door. That is where they live to this day. I was to live there until shortly after I graduated high school. When I was 13, my eldest brother was born and when I was 15, my youngest brother was born. That was a big change for me. I grew up an only child, and now I had these screaming babies in my life heheeh. I love my brothers dearly. My oldest brother is studying to be an Urban Forester and younger brother is studying film making. 1986 rolls around and I graduated from Glenbard South High School. Shortly afterwards, my grandfather died. A year before he had a stroke and it pretty much crippled him. He could still move around, but very slow and he couldn't do the things he used to. He was a very active man up until them. The effects of the stroke killed him more than anything. So I moved into my former residence in Lombard with my grandmother to help her out. At the beginning of my Junior year, I had enlisted in the United States Army's delayed entry program...originally as an airborne ranger...but I got smart and settled for a combat medical specialist. I lived with my grandma until the day after Thanksgiving in 1986, when I left to go to boot camp at Ft. Leonard Wood in MO.
     
    After basic training, I went to Ft. Sam Houston in San Antonio, TX for my medical training. My permanent duty station would be at Ft. Polk in Louisiana with Headquarters Company, 4th Battalion, 6th United States Infantry (Mechanized). I was defiantly not military material. I never did make a good follower. I remember one incident that I got an Article 15 (non-judicial punishment) for...we were digging foxholes with our little entrenching tools while 20 feet away there was a back hoe. Now inquisitive me thought this was pretty dumb... not to mention very inefficient, so I inquired as to why we were wasting our time with the entrenching tool when that back hoe right next to us would get the job done in about 5 minutes. I thought my sergeant would appreciate my blossoming leadership ability and my thinking of better and more efficient ways of doing things...I was wrong...he didn't. I got an Article 15 instead of "good thinking private Roberts" so much for military life *grin*. Life at Ft. Polk was very boring. Seeing as it was nestled in the southern end of the Kisatchie National Forest, it was a very beautiful area...just absolutely nothing to do. We ended up pretty much drinking and going to topless bars. That got pretty old after awhile.
     
    Here's where the major "hints" from the gods started to happen. I had always been a fan of role-playing games like Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. My favorite character class to play was none other than the Druid. In wanting to be able to be more "in character" when we played, I researched what the ancient druids were all about. I found that many of their beliefs were the beliefs that I had. I had been playing AD&D since about 1980. My junior and senior year in high school, we had a rather eclectic physical education class that included relaxation therapy (We call it meditation hehehe). That eventually led me to the New Age Movement. I was beginning to find a spiritual home. Christianity just didn't do it for me. It left me spiritually empty. While in the Army, I even did the "Born Again" thing a couple of times...both times it fizzled after a couple of weeks and the rush died out. Still nothing. The New Age Movement started to fill that void...but not completely. The more holistic approach to spirituality is what appealed to me. So by the time my last year in the Army came around, I had been meditating for several years. Phase back into the summer of 1989. We were out on a field training exercise early in the summer...I remember it was June, but not sure if it was the Solstice or not...but it would have been close. I was on guard duty one night. The moon was full and I was sitting underneath a huge oak. By this time I was looking into paganism...so I called out to the Irish Gods to show me my path. I looked up in the tree and saw my name written with moonlight in the leaves. I still didn't totally get the hint, though i was catching on.
     
    In late august of 1989, we got deployed to Panama to replace a unit sent down there back in April. This was part of Operation Nimrod Dancer, which in December of 1989, would become Operation Just Cause...it was the military operation to remove the Panamanian dictator, Manuel Noriega from office and arrest him and bring him to the US for trial on drug trafficking charges. It was a different situation...we actually had a purpose...it was almost nice... it would have been nice if it weren't a combat situation. Panama was such a beautiful country. We were encamped on a small outpost just off of Farfan Naval Air station...nestled just above the Panama Canal near the Bridge of the Americas, on the opposite side of the canal from Panama City. We would run "harassment" missions into Panama City...we would send a company of armored personnel carriers accompanied by a few hum-vee's (hummers) and drive through Panama City, scarring the heck out of the Panamanian Defense force soldiers. Many would just put their weapons up in the air then lay them down in a gesture of surrender as we passed by. It was pretty intense. On October 10th, 1989, several of Noriega's generals, at the behest of the President George Bush I, staged a military coup to remove Noriega from office. President Bush promised them that if they did this, we would assist, a promise that he did not keep. We witnessed the execution of these brave leaders. That was a wake up call for me. It really shook my world up and caused me to question a lot of things. Especially questioning my government for not following through on a promise that led to the death of some brave and honorable people. This was probably the birth of the political me. Prior to this, I was pretty Republican...a "kill a Commie for Mommy" gung-ho...watched Rambo a few too many times kinda guy. In high school, I was voted most likely to start a revolution in Central America hehehe. That all changed. Ask any veteran who has been in combat or in a combat environment and they will tell you that it radically changed their outlook in life. It is so against our senses that it's almost like going into shock...and when you come out of the shock, you are much different. It instilled a greater appreciation for life in me.
     
    Enough of that...Panama...the rainforest that surrounded us was intense. Every sunday, each platoon had a section outside the concertina wire (kinda like barbed wire, except it had razor blades instead of spikes...nasty stuff) to clear out 50 meters (keeping the edge of the clearing just outside of grenade range) in case we were attacked... which was a possibility. We had a problem with infiltrators, so when on guard duty, we were armed with a loaded M-16 and a set of night vision goggles for night duty. One night in late October, I was on guard duty... yes...even the medics had to pull guard duty. I heard some noise in the wire, so I switched on the night vision goggles and radioed it in. I didn't see anything...the officer in charge contacted me and i cleared it...no infiltrators. After I got off the radio and took off the goggles, I turned and there was this gorgeous female black panther. She just sat there for about 20 minutes and watched me...then got up and disappeared into the the darkness of the jungle. I was awestruck...as well as having my loaded M-16 aimed at her just in case she got a little too close...I wasn't in the mood to be a panther snack *grin*. Later on she kept appearing in meditations. I knew I had found my familiar/totemic spirit. She has been with me ever since...guiding and guarding me.
     
    On December 1st, I was shipped back to the states and back to Ft. Polk so I could get ready to ETS from the Army. On December 10th, 1989, I officially became a civilian. YAY!!! I think it took me all of about a microsecond to adjust back to being a civilian hehehehe. I was dating a girl from Lake Charles at the time, so I moved in with a couple of friends of mine in Lake Charles. Unfortunately, we broke up shortly afterwards...but I stayed. One of my roomies was also a New Ager and she used to go to this Crystal/Metaphysical shop called the Enchanted Forest (hi Tony!!!). I met a guy there who was Wiccan and we started talking. I had finally found my spiritual home. I got involved with a small group of solitaries...we all pretty much as ignorant as the other, though a couple of them had been pagan for a couple of years...they were the "Elders" of our group. A couple of years later, we found out about a Summer Solstice ritual/festival going on just outside of Dallas, TX...called Celebration of Summer. It was run by Pattalee Glas-Koentop (my the gods speed her journey to her next life). She was a dynamic priestess. I learned a lot from her. That first COS, I had the pleasure of circling with Dr. Ray Buckland. I was in awe. Imagine...little ole newbie Wiccan me getting to meet Ray Buckand. It was incredible. He was so down to earth and so willing to impart his knowledge. He is definitely one of my role models. He even sat down and talked to me for about 2 hours. I was impressed. We attended a couple of COS festivals...they were awesome. I made some really good friends there and learned a lot about what it meant to be pagan.
     
    I attended McNeese State University while I was in Lake Charles. When I got out of the Army, I wanted to go into Nursing. After a year, that didn't work out. I was tired of the politics and the discrimination against male nurses, so I switched majors and began to study anthropology, focusing on North and South American pre-history. On the Summer Solstice of 1992, I was ordained through the Universal Life Church and started my first coven, Our Lady of the Isle of Avalon. The membership was pretty much a bunch of solitaries, so it wasn't a coven in the true sense, but it was legally incorporated via ULC. In February of 1993, I performed the very first marriage ceremony ever held on the MSU campus. I was very open about being pagan and of course in very conservative, very Fundamentalist Christian Lake Charles, that did not make me the town favorite hehehe. I was even blacklisted because of it. I got involved in the Society for Creative Anachronisms, Inc. (SCA), a medieval historical society (Silvanus of Blackmoor Keep, at your service *bowing with a flourish*). I learned some interesting stuff in the SCA. I was squired to His Grace, The late Duke Sir Andrew of Seldom Rest. Through him, I learned the fine art of armored combat. It was a blast. I also his apprentice as a blacksmith. I also learned leather working. As a history buff, I really loved it. As a warrior...nothing beats armored combat... what a rush heehhe. The SCA was like a big family to, so I made some wonderful friends...some of whom I consider family. The Lady Anastasia...the Shire "Mama" took us all in. She was like a mother to me and her husband Mark was like a father. One of my best friends was their daughter Karen and their younger daughter Sarah. The son Marc was one of my best friends as well. Oddly enough, his wife(Stacy) was one of my best friends before I met the them... it's funny how things work. I miss my old Shire and the camaraderie we had. Those were some good times.
     
    In July of 1993, we had a public demo. We put these on to educate the public as well as try to get more people to join the shire. They were fun. I was one of the fighters. My persona was that of a 5th Century Pict. The Picts were the aboriginal people of Scotland. They inhabited Scotland before the Irish tribes...the Scoti, Northumbrians, Caledonians, etc... invaded and settled Scotland. The Picts are only known by their Roman name...Pictae...which means painted people. They would paint symbols and the like on their naked bodies, before going naked into battle. The first time the Roman legions encountered them, they turned tail and ran. I was impressed when I learned about this. You have to have a lot of respect for a group of people that can cause the most powerful army at the time to turn tail and flee. The Romans did not know what do when they encountered these naked blue demons that were attacking them. The Picts were never defeated by the Romans. They were eventually absorbed by the Irish tribes, but their spirit is still seen in the highlanders. The Romans never conquered Scotland. Emperor Hadrian built a wall with a series of forts along the southern Scottish border to keep them out. It marked the farthest reaches of the Roman Empire. I digress...
     
    So we are having this public demo. At the time I had long blonde hair. I was one of the fighters in the demo. I had green leather Roman segmented armor complete with segmented skirt. I was fighting with a short sword and a small round shield. In walks these three girls. One asks her cousin if she saw any cute guys and she responds by telling her about me. A little while later, one of my squire brothers (means he is also squired to Andrew) calls me over to talk to a girl, because he is interested in her friend. I was game. I just broken up with my girlfriend of three years back in April (Here is a poem I wrote in my fit of depression) and I was looking for someone new. So I go over and start talking to her. Her name was Desereé and the one my squire brother was talking to was Rachel. We hit it off pretty good. We talked in between me being on the field of honor (aka the field of battle). The next day the four of us got together again. Rachel was driving so she dropped us (Dan and myself) off at Lady Anastasia's house. As we were leaving though, I went to go give Rachel a hug goodbye and she laid on me a long soulful kiss...w00h000!!! Two months later she had moved in with me and on New Year's eve, 1993, I asked her to marry me. About three months later, she became pregnant. We married on Beltaine, 1994. In August 1994, we moved to the Chicago area and lived with my parents, while I found a job. In October, we moved to Westmont and two weeks later, our daughter Morgaine was born.
     
    Shortly after moving to Westmont, I finally got a computer and got online (AOL to be exact). I loved it and have been hooked ever since. When AOL opened up to the internet, I saw all these web pages and I wanted to learn how to do that. So I got regular internet account with one of the best providers in Chicago at the time, MCSnet. I taught myself HTML and Witches of the West was born. A little bit about the name...I had got together a small group of people and we formed a coven...Caer Ddraig. It was a short lived group. I had got a job as a shipping and receiving clerk and was working ungodly hours, and the high priestess had some family issues, so the group fell apart. While it was together, I met Michelle. We came up with the idea of starting a web site to help people in the Western Suburbs of Chicago find others. So as she is very drama oriented and a writer...she thought to the Wizard of Oz and thought a play on the Wicked Witch of the West would be good...hence the name Witches of the West (or more fully...Witches of the Western Suburbs). As I networked with others both online and off, I had links to site all over the country and even a few in Europe... so the Witches of the West experienced some serious scope creep hehehe. It now covers the midwest with a major focus on the Chicago area. In early 2000, I registered the domain name, witchnet.org and created the more advanced version of Witches of the West, utilizing the power and flexibility of the Cold Fusion programming language. It has seen a couple of incarnations since then. A few years after registering witchnet.org, I took over the Midwestern US Pagan FAQ from Jef Benner. Jef had worked really hard to build up a site with links to groups and events in the midwest broke down by state. Because of family and job obligation, he lacked the time to maintain it, so I had talked to him about taking over maintenance of the site. I had already begun my career as a web developer and would be able to do something with it. He agreed and handed over his code...asking only for a blurb giving him credit for starting it. Fair is fair and I like to give credit where credit is due. We have a very active community in the Chicago area and Jef is one of the leaders responsible for much of what this community has become.
     
    About a year before that, I had become part of the Midwest Pagan Council...one of the few solitary members of the group. It was quite an honor to be asked. The group was founded by Stan Mozdryk in mid 70's. Stan is High Priest of First Temple of the Craft of WICA...one of the oldest groups in the United States. MPC hosts Invocation in west suburban Lisle during the first weekend of October every year and also host Pan Pagan in northern Indiana. Pan Pagan is one of the longest running pagan festivals in the United States...2002 marked 25 years! About a year after joining, I became involved with Temple of the Sacred Craft. I was asked to join the group as her High Priest. It was originally based in south suburban Mokena, IL. The founding High Priest and High Priestess, Gene and Nancy Lidel were forced to move to Michigan to care for Gene's terminally ill mother. Candi Thomas took over as High Priestess at the Winter Solstice of 2000. During the spring of 2001, Candi moved to Florida. The covenstead was then moved to Lisle. At the Summer Solstice, Candi passed on the crown of the High Priestess to Rachel. On the Winter Solstice of 2006, Rachel passed the job over to Bebe, who is our current High Priestess. In December of 2002, the Covenstead moved to it's current home in Naperville. For more info on Temple of the Sacred Craft, go to http://www.sacredcraft.org.
     
    Bebe and I, with our daughter, Rhiannon, live in Naperville's Historic district in a 1920's Sears home. We have a great backyard for rituals and a fire pit to have some pretty cool revel fires. Rachel and our daughter, Morgaine, live with Rachel's significant other, Mike, and thier 2 sons Rowan and John.
     
    I have my own Consulting company, Three Ravens Consulting and do independent consulting. I have worked for companies like the American Medical Association, ADP, AT&T, John G. Shedd Aquarium, Discovery Channel Education, and many others. I cureently host and develop this site, The Midwestern US Pagan FAQ, Temple of the Sacred Craft homepage, The Pagan Headstone Campaign homepage, Kind Heart Intregrative Bodyworks, The Chicago Freedom Fighters, and Held in Her Hands Doula Services. If you are in need of a web page...contact us ;-).
     
    The story continues....as We live it hehehe.
     
    Here are some pictures of my family and myself over the years...