Thursday, February 2, 2012

C is for Crossroads

Today's piss-off from the PBP newsletter: the phrase "our Craft community". This is a Pagan blog project. Assuming any of the people participating are witches as a matter of course is insulting - not only that but there are many members of the "Craft community" who are not Pagans at all. The fact that there is some overlap is no excuse to throw around "Craft" as if it was some sort of fucking synonym for "Pagan". That's insulting to many Pagans and to many non-Pagan witches. I mean for some Pagans, the use of magic is impious!

This week's C could be "Craft community" for all the ranting I could do on the subject, but instead, it is "Crossroads". Ironically, given the first paragraph of this post, I am going to speak from the perspective of a religious witch. No it's not hypocritical! I'm annoyed at the assumption that all Pagans are witches, and that the Pagan and Occult communities are the same thing. I just happen to be a religious Pagan witch... And on top of that, I don't really feel like a part of the "Craft community". I feel like a part of the Pagan community, but most witches do things totally different to me, and the ones who do things similar to me tend to keep to themselves. Like a shadowy sub-community that isn't a community because there isn't much discussion or inter-relation. We're the scowl-y woman at the end of the village who everyone says is a witch even though they don't really know. We dress in black, keep cats and have nettles in our gardens to discourage small children climbing our walls in search of lost balls. We're Granny Weatherwax, and we can't be having with this "community" nonsense.

Anyway.

Nevertheless my witchcraft is spiritual, and it's religious, and it's Pagan - and the Crossroads has always been a part of it. So much a part, really, that it's almost a symbol of witchcraft to me. 

I have been enamoured of the Crossroads as a place of spirituality and folklore since childhood. Since well before I discovered witchcraft - because I was always interested in ghosts and the dead. A Crossroads seemed a place these entities might meet, as folklore prescribed a Crossroads as a good place to bury someone you did not want to walk. Apparently they would be confused, and not know the way home. If you wanted to be really sure, you could bury them face-down and cut their feet off. So I imagined the Crossroads as a place both of magic, and of the dead. I loved the dead. It's interesting that these people were usually "lost soul" types to begin with: criminals and suicides - "One more unfortunate, weary of breath". (And suspected vampires.) On top of that, the executed might be hung up in a gibbet at a Crossroads, one assumes so that they were seen by as many people as possible. Gibbets, torture and forms of execution were other childhood interests of mine.

Witchcraft is largely about the dead, in many ways - or Hedgecraft is, at least. Spirits and conversations with them, crossing to the Other Side... and a Crossroads is one of those places with a bit of spirit about it. It's like the Hedge, in a way, but unlike the Hedge it is not a barrier, but an open door. It's a place from which things radiate out, and come together; a place "betwixt and between".

Hekate, a goddess associated with witchcraft, is a deity of the Crossroads; she is portrayed as a triple goddess, her faces looking down each fork, for this reason. Offerings can be left to her at a Crossroads, perhaps buried, as she is a chthonic deity. She is also much associated with the Underworld, being a companion of Persephone. But is she associated with the Crossroads because she is associated with spirits and witchcraft, or is the Crossroads associated with spirits and witchcraft because of an association with her? My Greek studies are fairly limited; I do not know. There are other deities and entities associated with the Crossroads, such as Papa Legba, about whom I know even less.

The old Encyclopaedia Britannica says the Teutons used to erect their altars at a crossroads, but I'm not as sure about that.

To me a Crossroads has always been, in my mind, four-pronged, not just three. Three is interesting too, symbolising many things including choice, but when I imagine a Crossroads, it is always four. This may be related too to my attraction to the equal-armed cross - which in turn is related to the Nordic sunwheel.

The three-pronged Crossroads is also reminiscent of many stangs - but I won't speak at length on that, because to be honest, I've never been able to find much historically about the stang. I suspect it's rather a modern invention. (I see you there, Cochrane. I don't see any more reason to believe your craft is ancient than I do Gardner's. As far as I'm concerned you're as newfangled and modern as he is - "traditional" my arse.)

Speaking of equal-armed crosses - in my country, if someone dies in a car accident, there will often be a white cross erected at the side of the road, regardless of whether the person or their family was Christian, to mark the place of death. This serves a purpose besides remembrance: the more crosses, the more dangerous one knows a road is, and one takes more care. From their association with the graveyard crosses have become more than a symbol of Christianity; they are sometimes a symbol of death. And they are not uncommon at a Crossroads, particularly if it is a dangerous intersection. Along with books full of gibbets and burials, it is no small wonder I grew up associating the Crossroads with death. And not in a creepy way. In an exciting way.

As a liminal place it joins such areas as the cave, the shore, the marsh, the river... but it is also man-made, and therefore interesting: a liminal and sacred place created by humans. Like a bridge, and to a degree, a hedgerow. So, there: it's Border Country, so important to Hedgecraft, and it's a place associated with the dead, but it's not really associated with the God and Goddess of my craft. Still, They are hardly the only aspect of it; death has been an aspect of my spirituality long before I had any idea what spirituality was. And in a way, They are "passive" sorts of deities, and part of Their worship is fulfilling a certain role, walking a certain path. The Crossroads sums up all of that: the land of the dead, the dead themselves, the place-between-worlds, the journey. As such it may be the ultimate symbol of my spiritual witchcraft, and indeed the craft of many - but not, I think, that of any witch who wouldn't pick up a bone that had fallen from a gibbet.

Also I'm not sure why I capitalised "Crossroads" throughout. I started doing it for effect and then I had to keep doing it because it would be weird to chop and change between one and the other.

7 comments:

  1. Hmmm...do I know you? You seem a lot like a lot of the witches I know, what with references to Granny Weatherwax and getting frustrated at the claim that pagan=neo-wican. ;)

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    1. Well hey, it's always possible! ;)

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  2. Interesting reads on these PBP's so far, although I must say, seems to be agitating you quite a bit ;-) Not that I can blame you of course, does seem perhaps the newsletter could be a bit more choosey about how they word things and what not.

    On one hand I can understand some generalization is bound to happen, they can't know what everyone who would participate in the activity is into or not into. Although, I suppose, again, it sounds like they might could be a bit more choosey about how they words things or even perhaps give at least one other option for each topic in case the first given one doesn't really fit with those participating.

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    1. They don't give topic options, you can write about anything that starts with that letter. It's just that whoever writes the newsletters seems to think Paganism is really really narrow and limited so she'll say something as an aside or in passing that ends up being pretty offensive for someone.

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  3. Well I am glad to see that I am not the only one who feels this way. I sent my "tap on the shoulder" privately, but blogging about it is a good way to get folks in general to think about this.

    Anyhow, an interesting crossroads post as well. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. High five! :D

      I got all flustered and was unsure how to contact the person, or really whether it was my business to, so I vented my frustrations here XD

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  4. Ah, I gotcha now.

    Well, at any rate, I like what I've read of these from you so far. :)

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