Ten years ago – or fifteen, or some vague time around then – I first, and finally became interested in runes. I had grown up in a Christian home, fairly conservative, though not as bad as some people I have heard stories from. At first expressing an interest in runes, which was something I’d kind of been interested in for a while, felt very naughty. Very much like someone was going to tell me I was going to hell. Because like tarot it was one of those witchcraft-going-to-hell kinds of things that I shouldn’t mess around with, or else (fill in this blank with whatever God=Angry phrase you’d like).
Not that my parents ever actively went around preaching to me about sulfur and damnation, but in my later years at home, my dad was actually a preacher at their church, both of my parents were elders at the church and my mom had been raised Catholic. It wasn’t grim and sin all the time, but it was worked in enough that I felt like there was something wrong with being interested in the runes.
I moved a 20 hour drive away, into an apartment with my roommates – now sisters, then best friend, and person I barely knew – and lo and behold, the new person in my life had been raised by a C and E Catholic who was very into spirits, angels and tarot. She had discovered Silver Ravenwolf early on in her teens – who people may have a complaint about but who is a very good jumping off point for getting into paganism from a non-pagan childhood, because it’s not like people who read her books can’t read more books and learn the inaccuracies that are in her books, but moving on – and had become what one would call Pagan, though not completely Wiccan, definitely Wiccan flavored, as that is kind of the way of Ravenwolf. She began to teach us about grounding, and centering, and cleansing spiritually, and all kinds of other things her mother – who still professed to be Catholic – had taught or adopted in her ‘meditation group’.
And thus started my feet on this Winding Road I have been on ever since.
First I thought I was a Druid. Not the neo-Druids that wear white and cut down mistletoe with a gold knife, but a ‘real’ Druid, something evolved from Celtic myth and the anthropologic study of the peoples of that area in that time, and how they would have practiced spirituality. Yeah, totally arrogant, I know, but I was still basically a kid, mentally. Hadn’t quite grown up into understanding the way the world worked, or how to be less of a self-centered ass-hat.
As time went on, I connected less and less with the term Druid, because every time I saw it, I saw it linked to white robes, Roman-created stereotypes, and initiation-only practices. And none of that really linked into spirituality in my mind. I began to just think of myself as Pagan. But not a witch. While my roommate was a witch, in her mind, I kind of considered myself not to be one of those. The word just didn’t sit right with me, for some reason.
Then, a handful of years ago I found a book written by Raven Kaldera and Tannin Schwartzstein called The Urban Primitive. I read it from cover to cover twice in a row, and it just pulled at me. Called to me in a way nothing else had up to that point. Everything until then had been a kind of distant fit that didn’t quite fit. Everything until then had been focused on ‘getting into nature’ and ‘green goddess of the woods’ and ‘the city is a black hole of nothing that is taking over from mother nature and killing our planet’. And maybe that last is a little bit true. But when you’re living in a city, with no real way to get out of it on a regular basis, and you feel that god/spirit/universe is in everything the whole concept of ‘everything is god/goddess, except nasty disgusting man-made things that are poison and death’ is kind of repulsive, and disheartening. Urban Primitive told me flat-out it was okay to worship in the City. It was okay to worship the City. Every corner of the land has land spirits, and that includes the neighborhoods and areas of a town or a city or a village, or what-have-you. And something else it told me was it was okay to be a shaman who used man-made, and non-natural objects and places and things as part of my craft.
What a load off my mind. Because I’d been collecting random detritus off of the streets and sidewalks of my city for years by that point, with the intent for each piece to mean something, or eventually be used in a crafting. I have tons of tiny boxes and containers full of random stuff that people would usually call trash. I call it my Shaman Stuff. Because it is for my shamanic workings, and it is just stuff. Stuff that I need, stuff that I use, but not ‘tools’ or ‘artifacts’ or anything else that needs a fancy name. My practice doesn’t like fancy names sometimes.
And so Raven Kaldera – another author very vilified by many people, whom I read books by anyway – had opened the way for my realization about myself. Ironically this came with a sudden decrease in my asthma, and a sudden need to stop going to the ER for breathing treatments. He is very based, however, in Norse Traditions, and I’d never really cared about the Norse Pantheon that much. But one day, I found Neolithic Shamanism which focuses a lot more on connecting with spirits and elements, and parts of nature that are inescapable, no matter where you live. That was beautiful for me, because I’d already started to realize that my paganism, the spirituality that felt right for me, was far older than anything I was finding in books, or online.
Along this crooked path, I always, always, incorporate the study of the people who lived in the spirituality that I am interested in, because the only way to discover the context of their spirituality is to look at everything around them: daily life, weather, landscape, neighbors, histories, myths, culture, art, music, et cetera. And one day I was watching Time Team, on you tube (seriously go watch this if you have any interest in archaeology at all) and I saw one entitled Britain’s Drowned World – which I am watching again right now. I learned more about the marshy land between Britain and the Continent, that had been lost to the waters eight and a half thousand years ago, or so. It clicked with me so very fiercely that I couldn’t stop myself researching the probable culture of the area for months afterwards. I looked up everything I could find online, anything I could find that would give me a hint to their culture, their technology, their religion.
And I know, from speaking with my ancestors that some of my bloodline lived there, and escaped the deluge.
Over time, with lots of meditation, and personal studies, I began to slowly find my deities. Spirits or Gods that would have been desperately important to the people of the Lost Marshes. I have listed them on previous posts, and they are evolving – have evolved – into new concepts every day, because that’s what gods and spirits do.
Then one day, sort of in the middle of all of this I watched a video by the Four Queens, Six Principles of Chaos Magic. Which was a topic I had come across before and become interested, but hadn’t really thought it was me. Something that happens to me sometimes. I say ‘oh, that’s cool, but not really completely me’ only to grow, and realize later that it’s pretty much who I am now. I watched the video, and realized that each of these principles were something that I could connect to. I didn’t jump right on the bandwagon. I had to let it percolate for a little while. But one day I re-watched it and I said ‘yeah, this is me. Oh.’ Followed very shortly by finding a video by Eva’s House of Spirit called Chaos Magic & Me. And it all coincided to make me realize that, yes I was in fact a Chaote. Which really, I think Loki found more hilarious than I did. because he’s a jerk.
And do you remember how I always proclaimed I wasn’t a ‘witch’? Yeah. So that’s another one of those things that I thought I wasn’t and one day I just said out loud that I was a Chaos Witch. And I stopped, and looked at my roommate and said, ‘oh, I’m a witch’.
Which opened up a huge plethora of options for me. I’d heard a dozen kinds of witch, and never connected to them, because the word ‘witch’ was a word that made me look away automatically. But reclaiming the word – from my own mind – let me look differently at terms like Green Witch, Cottage Witch, Kitchen Witch, Hedge Witch, Garden Witch, and on and on and on.
Many of those terms seemed to click pretty well with me. To me the Hearth, the Home, the Kitchen, and the Garden have always been really important. I have a very Celtic home and hearth mentality when it comes to my spirituality.
Then, re-researching the term Hedge Witch – a term I’d looked up before that linked to a lot of herbalism, green witchcraft, and cetera – I found a website that went over the term haegtessa, and the concept of Hedge Riding.
A concept that came from the ‘witches’ in old England. A mentality of animism, spirit-worker, shamanism, witchcraft, and a little dash of chaote, that made me look at it and realize that it was everything I had slowly been bringing together, combining into my wandering path.
So that’s me, then. My Crooked Path has brought me through a long line of high points, and landed me on Hedge Witchcraft, and Hedge Riding, which is something I may eventually evolve from, but for now feel comfortable calling myself a Hedge Witch.