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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

Musings from the Hag in the Woods

by Rev. Deborah K. Hudson

Ah, musings… We are all allowed to muse – some profound, some silly, some insightful, some boring. I used to muse as the Mother Superior, but those days are long gone. Let me introduce myself. My name is Deborah Hudson. I am a Wiccan priestess, retired and withdrawn. I am an Elder and verily a hag (a good word for a lady of a certain age), I live surrounded by trees. Big trees. I was\ the High Priestess of the Aquarian Tabernacle Church for years before I assumed the position of Archpriestess which I held for more years.

I have MS. Multiple Sclerosis. Most of my symptoms are invisible. You would notice that I am wobbly, but probably put it down to age, not MS. My biggest issues are with my eyes and my facial nerves. MS can affect any nerve in the brain or central nervous system and everyone differently. We are all different. Anyway, my issues eventually caused me to back away from my duties, but after three surgeries, constant monitoring by multiple medical personnel, I feel ready to muse, so muse I will.

I used to muse about the Wheel of the year, but I want to muse about Wicca. I have been asked many times about both the definition of and the nature of Wicca. It seems people define it according to their own needs. TV and media producers see it as a woo woo, mysterious pseudo-religion, wait! Not a religion, a practice because it’s all abut the spells, the spooky Book of Shadows, the power. Unfortunately, this definition has found a real set of followers who have significantly eroded the spirit and soul of true Wicca.

Others define Wicca by a set of very precise rules. This is not a bad thing in terms of the spirituality for it acknowledges that Wicca is a Spirituality with a strong relationship between Gods and humans. it only becomes a negative when it focuses on the we/them thing and crosses the bounds into fundamentalism. Now, how do I define it? As a nature spirituality based on the pre-christian beliefs and culture of Europe. It recognizes a Goddess and God, the creative duality of nature and the world. It has a suggested set of ritual forms, guidelines, and practices. The most important of which are The Wiccan Rede and The Threefold Law (more later), it combines worship and spellwork.

Wicca has no pope, no board of elders or bishops, no other ruling body. It is very much an open way of worship. People can create what they want and call it Wicca.This, of course, is both good and bad. I am an old style Wiccan and have some strongly held opinions, but I also recognize that things change and must change.

She changes everything She touched, And everything She touches changes.

But within change the Rede and the Threefold Law remain. The Wiccan Rede (short version) status An it harm none, do what you will. Oh, a hard one! Think of “An” as “As long as”, so as long as it harms none, do what you will. No harming another person, living or not living thing, the earth, yourself. Think about it. An amazingly powerful dictum for ethical behavior. And the Law? Ok, who wants to throw power – any kind of power, thoughts, words, actions out there that is negative and will come back to bite you three times its power? Keeps you trying to be responsible, AND reinforces the Wiccan strong belief in one being responsible for on’s actions.

That being said, with the emergence of the strong LBGTQ+ community, Wicca has an opportunity to grow to truly serve this community. Wicca has always provided a safe place for people who for one reason or another do not find traditional religions fulfilling or accepting. The Wiccan belief in a Mother Goddess who accepts all without question, is very appealing. Accepting without question does not mean one forgoes the taking responsibility for one’s own actions which is a fundamental Wiccan precept. The rites and rituals of Wicca can be adjusted to allow for more diversity. I see this as a wonderfully creative opportunity for people. Perhaps a Wiccan Tradition (Wiccan Traditions are like sects of Wicca. The basics are the same [right! Define the basics!], but the rituals or other things may be different) can be built around a community that is more gender fluid. Frankly, I get excited just thinking of the possibilities.

Wicca can change and grow in other ways, too. While I think there should be a balance between spellwork and worship, perhaps there is room for creativity here as well. I do NOT think that focusing only on woo woo is Wicca. Wicca is a spirituality and that means a relationship with Spirit. And it is wise to be respectful of other religions/spiritualities. Norse deities are generally worshiped in Asatru, the Indian pantheon in Hindu , the Christian assembly in Christianity. I am not saying don’t do it, or it is wrong, I am saying be respectful, both of the pantheon and of the religions associated with them. Vodou has had a very powerful and respectful relationship with Christian saints for a very long time.

I am not sure where Wicca is headed and I recognize that the Wicca I have known and loved may be disappearing, but the beauty of this Spirituality that I have loved and lived has been and is a glory to me. it fills me with grace and my deepest joy is sharing that grace with you.