Musings from the Hag in the Woods

I have been musing on paths. When I was first learning about Wicca the word ‘path’ was often used. I didn’t really know what it referred to; it was not explained. I was intrigued and wanted desperately not just to know what was meant, but to be on it. I didn’t really understand that Wicca was a mystery religion/spirituality and that there were things I needed to figure out for myself. What was this Path? Who would teach me how to walk it? Where did it go? What did it mean? I wanted clear, precise answers. 

Not happening.

There were two things going on: Wicca was still mostly underground. People were at risk of losing jobs, custody, etc. if it was found that they were Wiccan or Pagan, so euphemisms were used. The other referred to the spiritual work that Wicca required one to do. So someone could say that they were on the Path and they simply meant that they were part of the Wiccan or Pagan community. I really wanted to be part of that community, but it was an unknown to me how to go about finding a way in. I eventually did, recognizing that it took a combination of work on my part and established members of a group to know and approach me. I eventually found myself in a group that was wonderful, but I was still not really walking the Path.

A Mystery Spirituality means that a good part of the interior and exterior work is not explained – it is not able to be explained, it must be felt or learned within one’s self. A priestess or priest in Ritual provided the space and working for a spiritual experience to occur between the Gods and someone on Circle. They do not intercede or do the work of a person on Circle. That’s a hard thing to learn or to do. When I first began to walk this Path, and I didn’t really understand that I was walking it, I couldn’t really understand that and automatically felt that I was a spectator in Ritual and the Officiants would do the work for me. To truly walk this Path – and I’m talking old style Wicca, not the strange thing that passes for Wicca today, you must let your shields down, make yourself vulnerable, lose your preconceptions, and experience. That is one part of the Path.

When I was learning the basics of Wicca, the Elements, the forms of Ritual, various Pantheons, I was creating the building blocks and form of both my own Path and the Path found within my Tradition. The Path winds before you (Wicca is not a straight Path). You stand there creating the sides and base of the Path, but there is no journey until you move, and everyone moves differently. This a good thing, but can contribute to confusion if you come from a tradition that tells you how to move and where to go.

As I progressed in my Work, I learned that there are many Paths. There is the Path of Witchcraft, spellwork, Ritual and the Priest/esshood, service, herbalism, divination, solitary, etc. I can remember walking down a physical Path at Fort Flagler for Spring Mysteries singing “The river is flowing…”. We were creating a beautiful Path of purpose and celebrating the beginning of our Festival and powerful Ritual Drama.

 All these are part of The Path. They flow and run, sometimes fast, sometimes slow, but always moving. And it is not one Path. It is as many as are in Wicca or Paganism or your Tradition. Each individual Path flowing around, over, under, on top of, under. I see it as a beautiful and amazing Celtic knot. It can also be a glorious tapestry, a shining woven rug, a maze. The important thing is that each strand is respected, honored, recognized. 

Our Path is what we make of it. It should always be ours. And a combination of choice, study, learning, experience, willingness to see other ways and perhaps “walk in their shoes”. Respect for other’s Paths is absolute. We may not choose to walk that Path or to be part of that tapestry, but we should always respect others right to choose. I find this sometimes very hard to do, but I find to be honest I must. This does not and never will mean acceptance of anything that causes harm to another. “An it harm none…”

I enjoy Page-a-Day calendars. My favorite is Ireland – I like seeing the places I’ve been. But last year I got one about Paths. There was a photo of a path with a quote on each page. The photos were lovely with some unbelievable paths above the sea, along raging streams, through lush forests and ancient gardens. You could imagine yourself walking on these paths, making them imaginary manifestations of your own path.

 I’ve kept many of the photos and plan to make my own book out of them. But I won’t buy the calendar again. The quotes were all over the place, some encouraging learning from different paths, others chiding one from the slightest variation of a specific path. It drove me nuts and made me think. One Path, never varying? Or being open to others to learn. I find I like a mix: have one’s own personal Path and journey, but experience others to learn and enjoy. Why not? 

The magic of a Path is what you will find and learn. Sometimes it’s straight and sometimes it’s twisty. It’s what you make of it and how you see it. Enjoy. And may the Gods be with you.

The Hag

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