In the Fencerow: The space where wildness meets the everyday.
A fencerow is the uncultivated land on each side and below a fence, or even an uncultivated strip of land found dividing fields without the presence of an actual fence. Join me as we explore the spiritual fencerows and beyond. We will discuss lessons and observations from the countryside including herbs and herbal lore, relationship with environment and nature, finding Goddess in all Her aspects, and so much more.
One of my grandsons is going through that phase of wanting all tags removed from his clothing. It is almost as if he is having his own little rebellion against labels. Those labels may be scratchy, or perhaps they tickle the back of his neck. Just their mere presence annoys him. Don’t we all find ourselves at odds with labels at times? We go through life acquiring labels, discarding the labels that do not serve us and often trying to figure out which labels best fit.
I have been thinking about how to label my path or if there even is a single label. This is something that everyone who wanders a winding path comes to terms with at some point. As a matter of fact, it has been a topic of discussion and dissension forever. Does one call herself a pagan, a witch, a traditional witch, a green witch, a hedge witch, a conjuror, a rootworker....does one work in a Hermetic tradition, and Egyptian tradtion, Strega, ceremonial, and the list goes on and on...
So, just when did the labels first come to be important in spiritual practice? For example, if we go back to the days before organized Christianity, what was a pagan? Was that even a word that described a spiritual or magical path? According to the dictionary the word pagan is derived from the Latin word, “paganus”, and it referred to a country dweller, or peasant. Later, pagan became those "low life, ignorant people who are not (insert whatever religion fits here).” Now the modern definition indicates a person who is not Christian, Jewish or Muslim. The labels get changed over time and redefined by people based on their own beliefs and biases.
Indigenous peoples had their own beliefs and practices that came about from daily interaction with nature and regular life. They were further developed by oral histories and stories of legendary times. Their beliefs were not borne of being told by a few what was written by unknown people in a book. It was interaction with the world around them that developed their practices of everyday natural magic. Did they spend time labeling it? I doubt it. When one has to work from sun up to sun down there really is little time to get wrapped up in labeling what one does to survive and thrive.
Imagine a man in a distant land that has not yet been visited by the new Christian religion adherents. The man places milk at the four corners of his field before plowing. He wouldn’t have said he was doing a “pagan practice.” He was just doing what he had learned from past practice and what seemed to work. Later the land is visited by the Christian evangelist. The “enlightened” visitor declares that it is a pagan practice and therefore should be stopped as it is “wrong.” The man who has been minding his own business in accordance with his ideas of right and wrong suddenly finds himself labeled negatively by another.
Labels are not always put upon us by another person though. We also place labels upon ourselves. People identifying themselves as pagan (or some other label) may feel that they are doing so in opposition to the Church or organized religion even while using the very labels given to them by that religion! Labels and definitions are the result of the human desire to organize and understand. They can be used to adapt, change or even shame others.
What is in a label then? It is the same as asking what is in a name. As they say, a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. So now I come back around to the question I have been pondering...how or if I label my own path? Perhaps this is a question that has no strict answer since the path turns and twists. I like the idea of calling my path a "wise woman" path. It defines all and nothing in particular. That seems to suit me just fine.
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