Monday, 21 October 2019

The Pathless Witch.

Merry meet sisters and brothers.

I was on social media, browsing the posts in one of the groups I belong to, and somebody was asking for advice because they feel like they lack a sense of identity in the Craft; they do not have a specific path to follow, and because of this they feel like a fraud.  Now my first thought on this is that you do not need to follow a particular path at all, or that one may come to you when the time is right, even that you may change paths at any time if that is where your development leads you.  However I thought I'd share my experience because I know this is a common sentiment amongst many.

My Flamma Vesta, 2019
I finally acknowledged I was a witch back in 2001 after the breakdown of a long-term relationship.  As I tried to find my way, through books and intuition (the internet was still fairly new back then), I really struggled to figure out what gods and goddesses I should work with.  In fact, as a life-long atheist I struggled to believe in them at all.

All the introductory books had chapters on different styles of witchcraft, so I learnt about the bones of Gardnerian  and Alexandrian Wicca and knew they were not the paths for me.  I read about hereditary witches, of knowledge passed down from mother to daughter, and knew I did not qualify for that, but the simple title of Solitary witch suited me and my need to keep things uncomplicated.

But then there were so many pantheons of deities you seemed to need in order to work magick, and things got so much more complicated.  I've always intuitively felt that to even attempt to work with gods I had no familial connection with was fraudulent, I guess what we would now call cultural appropriation, but I had no obvious guidance.  If I had Welsh, Scottish, Irish, even Cornish ancestry, I might be able to connect with the Celtic gods, but I did not.  If I had grown up in an area covered by Danelaw I might have felt drawn to Norse gods, but I grew up in Surrey, an area once of farming and trading and outside of the rule of the Norse.  From a historical perspective that would mean my allegiance was with the Saxons, but they were Christian so early in the Dark Ages as to be irrelevant to me, or it was Buckland's work which created a witchcraft for them in the 1960s and 70s.  As a side note, in 2015 I even did a DNA test to see if that would give me answers, and funnily enough I came out as quite the mongrel (which you'd expect, being English) but I was more Scandinavian than anything else - just!  So I did do some research, but it all felt so alien I struggled to embrace their gods fully.  About a year or so later Ancestry gave me an update which took away all my Viking ancestry and made me 96% England, Wales and Northwest Europe (basically Saxon) and 4% Celtic, so it was back to the drawing board.

However back in 2007 I had something of a breakthrough while visiting the Roman baths at Bath - in fact I had a moment of such beautiful spiritual clarity, of a connection to those who had stood in the mud of a steaming portal to another world, that I cried.  A bit embarrassing when surrounded by tourists of all nations, but there you go.  Great, I'd found my pantheon!  Except for one small thing... I'm an atheist, and try as I might I just can't quite get to grips with worshiping anything.

So what is the point of all this, if I still don't have the answers?  Well for me, the solution is as simple as I thought it complicated: I don't worship anything.  However, what I do is I study the concept of a deity I wish to work with.  Let's take Vesta as an example.  She was the most important deity in Roman society; she was the only one to be worshipped at a state level as well as in every home, and the Vestal Virgins were the most revered and honoured of all those tending temples.  Vesta was the goddess of hearth and home, of safety, provision and all the emotional attachments associated with that.  If the Flamma Vesta (the eternal flame in the temple in Rome) went out, then Rome itself would fall.  And it did.  So I read up on this, I discovered there is a new community of people who honour Vesta as a way of bringing their spirituality away from churches, temples and clergy and back to the home, the family, and creating a sanctuary for yourself where tending to each other is at the core of your daily practices.  This I could get behind, so every home has had a place for a candle to be lit, a few words to be said, and my intention to create a sanctuary for all those within the walls, both residing and visiting, has been set.

A simple candle, California

My family altar, Maryland

It has taken me almost 20 years to get to this point, and it's just one goddess amongst millions, but that is ok.  Maybe my path will always be vague, maybe I will find other Roman or Romano-British deities that call out to me.  For a while my lack of label bothered me, but now I know it is ok for me to not have all the answers; part of the fun is the journey and not the destination.

Blessed be )0(

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