Monday, November 18, 2013

Pilgrimages are for Witches

So I have returned… which I am saying tongue in cheek. You see, I left. Now I am not talking about blogging, and I can understand the confusion there, because I did leave that and sorta started back up again now that the burnout has run its course. I, however, digress; and feel there has been enough vague beating around the bush. In short, I have returned from my pilgrimage.

I know these aren’t words that commonly come forth from the mouth of a Witch. Pilgrimages are not the crux of the modern Craft, but any denial that deliberate spiritual journeys can and are fulfilling transformative experiences would simple be wrong. For many reasons, of which I will attempt to sum up shortly, I found myself making plans to travel across the country to a place I had never been and staying with people whom I had never met.

As a general disclaimer, I should point out that there is much about my trip that I cannot explain, the mysteries work that way. Additionally, there are some things I choose not to talk about, although I could if I chose to discard oaths, the confidences of close friends, and the place where silence sits and joins us to spirit.

The Why of the Backstory

Let us get straight to the bone. The reason I traveled 2,900 miles (4667.1 Kilometers) was to meet some people. That is the short of it anyway. Fret not, there is more to the story and I am going to briefly go over it.

I have made no secret that I am an Initiated Witch. What I have not discussed too much, because I am not one to put such out on the public table for all to poke at as they will, is that I am initiated formally into more than one Tradition. In regards to one of these Traditionic (I dub thee a word!) threads, a couple of years ago I moved to a different State and doing so I also moved away from the Coven in which I was a member. I cannot speak for everyone’s experiences for whom have moved away from a Coven before, but it has been my experience that one remains a member of the family, albeit far away, regardless of the distance between. Of additional note, during that period away almost all of the Initiates of that Coven moved also. In short, life stuff happened and people moved.

As it so happens most, but not all, of the Coven’s initiates moved back to the area where the other Covens within our Line* are mostly located. As a result of my moving and our Coven having branched from the parent thousands of miles away, though I have met others in the Tradition of different lines, I had not physically met the various other Witches, outside of my Coven, within the Line I received initiation into. This greater family is whom I wished to meet, outside of social media that is, by means of this pilgrimage.

The Stuff of Which Pilgrimages are Made

Not all pilgrimages are colored the same, but there are a few features that they all share. Just possibly this blog and a better understanding of how a pilgrimage can play a role in one’s spiritual life will be a catalyst for others in the Craft to embark thus, which is my motive for sharing this story. I wish for others to possess their own transformative experience, as I have; the berries in yonder bush are indeed sweet and fulfilling, perhaps you should go and taste of them?

The first trait of pilgrimages is that they are devotional in nature. Additionally: They can either be small, large, or anywhere in between.  They also have some destination in which involves a person (or people), a place(s), or thing(s). The travel to or at this destination needs to have an added focus of effort on part of the individual in order for it to become more than just a mundane trip. Most importantly, the experience is meant to transform.

Essentially, any trip that has all of these qualities can qualify. Let’s say that there is a particular tree in the park near my house (it is less that 100 yard walk to the park) and that I choose to engage that tree spiritually. Then I can make the short walk over into a pilgrimage. I have a destination, and now all I need to do is intentionally make the process one that is devotional with the goal of allowing personal gnosis to bestow some Awen (divine inspiration) onto my metaphorical plate. There are lots of ways this could be done. For example, I could decide that I want to walk to the tree, at which I will sit, invoke the Genii Loci, and use the tree as an ally and gateway for an introduction to with the local Genii Loci, and subsequently beginning a new spirit relationship the experience of interacting with will shape my own existential sphere.  It is common in villages across the world for people to routines make short pilgrimages to local shrines, places, gurus, etc. There are also many that make much longer journeys are well.

There should be no doubt that there are many forms that pilgrimages can take.

Sitting in a Pothole

In magick and in those practices in which incorporate it as a method of self-realization there are a number of traps or pitfalls, metaphorically speaking, into which the practitioner can fall. This is part of why Coven work is so valued in the Traditionalist community. With a Coven, and older Covens and Elders in the upline** (and greater Tradition for that matter), there is a pool of experience of people that have walked the path and can warn of these potholes in the road. Not to mention, group work often involves honest and frank critical conversation. It is not always easy, but it is one of the Craft’s methods of allowing an individual to work these issues. I should also note, there are many praxis based parts of the Craft as well that help to guide Witches around such.

Sometimes though, people fall into one of them. People are not perfect, and the Craft is composed entirely of people. The problem with these traps is that the people in them don’t know they have fallen into one. Though others may be well aware and even have had said something to the individual about it, it takes that person seeing through the illusions/delusions/etc which they have built into a barrier around themselves. Usually it takes some catalyst to open their eyes tot eh situation. Sometimes these are small catalysts, and some times that are life shaking.

Shortly after my last blog post, and deep into writing two others, I had blinders ripped from my eyes. I at some point walked into one of these metaphorically traps, got comfortable, and continued to perpetuate the delusion unto myself. The pothole in which I had found myself was an old one, one I long had thought I had climbed out of and left in the past. Well, as these things happen, I was wrong in my thinking. There is a saying that is used in the Craft when talking about others and having flaws, “A Witch, warts and all.” As one of my own Teachers likes to say, “I have feet made of mud.”

This sudden realization of all of this would end up playing a role in my pilgrimage.

The Trip

I had long ago decided that I would make this a pilgrimage of meeting my extended Line family. This trip would be my own act of devotion to the path in which I tread, to the Craft community, and our Lady and our Lord. I started putting the money I would need to the side roughly a year and a half ago. I settled on the timing of the trip based on there being a Grand Sabbat*** planned for our Line. I was there for roughly a week. Here is a short list****:

The Sisters

I do not think my trip would have been the same if it were not for a pair of Sisters. Thank you, if you are reading this. You see, two of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, whom are partners, and that I had only known via social media, offered me not only a bed but would provide some transportation and would act as hosts for my trip. Did I mention I am deeply grateful? I know that they went to great lengths to ensure my trip was remarkable… and it was.  

Pressed Coffee

The first full day there, I was to have several hours to myself, which was great. It gave me time to relax, read a bit, wander on my own, and sit in solitude and simply be in the place. That first morning my seeking of a cup, or three, of coffee had me sitting at a locally owned coffee shop not far from where I was staying. It as a charming little place that was literally, and unbeknownst to my hosts because we talked about it later, the place was decoration in painting of runes, bones & skulls, mirrors, and pendulums. It felt as if the whole coffee shop had been steeped in Seidr. The baristas unfortunately were not able to tell me anything about it other than that it was all from a local artist.

I spent most of my time reading and sipping coffee, French pressed coffee that is. This was my first experience of the local culture. To elaborate, I did what I always do when ordering coffee, “I’d like a large black coffee, please.” I did not receive drip coffee (Albeit from quality beans, it was a coffee house after all.) as I expected. Instead, I was handed a mug and directed provided with French press, order by the cup. I did not want French Press, or I would have ordered such. This was the best accommodation I would get too, they only had French Press. This is important. *****

If you want to know a place and people, eat the food. As you see, over the rest of my trip I walked into a different coffee house each day, and all there was to have was French press. Why? The local culture is one of perceived quality, individualism, and accommodation to such. Allow me to explain a bit. The tone of the local city is partially about quality, that is to say what is perceived as the best. Why have drip coffee when you can have French Press. Combine this with the intense focus on individualism that abounds and you get a culture that focuses on trying to have so much accommodation for it that they try to make it the best… all of it. There are many things they do well and that I really liked. Like every place and culture though, there are some flaws. I noticed that they strive to be so accommodating in some areas that whole other areas are mostly ignored.

From this observation, I was given a lesson of my own ideas of accommodation of others.

Rout and Tout

The next day I was taken on a tour of the city and all of the awesome local places.

The morning started with a bus ride, yay for great public transportation.

Doughnuts were had, other than the bacon and maple in the frosting my normal eating habits were obliterated.

Next, more French Press coffee, which what I was given every time I asked for a large black coffee (except for the one time we got coffee to-go for a fast-food place).

Then it was off to the statue of the Matron Goddess for the city. Yes, you read that right. The city has its own Goddess, and statue. Next, time I shall take flowers.

Have you ever wanted to lose yourself in a used bookstore the size of three or four Barnes and Noble? I ain’t joking; there was an entire wing just for New Age, Religion, and spirituality.

After acquiring several volumes that have been on my wish-list for a few years, it was off to lunch with my Initiator, whom I had not seen in a very long time.

That night: Witchcraft.

So many lessons.

Finn

When checking out some of the local wilderness, I saw live and wild salmon in a stream. It was a profound moment for me. In fact, of the only two pictures I took during the whole trip one was of a salmon.

*silence*

Grand Sabbat

The day was a multitude of events all centered on the Sabbat, and the celebration of such with all of those that could attend. I am glad to have met each and every person there. I will not speak on the events any more than to say that I found it all serendipitous; like being tossed a rope when stuck in the bottom of a hole. In fact, it was just like that.

Done

So, I left out significant parts and events, almost whole days. This does not mean that they did not mean a whole lot to me… they did. With that said, the flight home came early and though I loved the whole trip, it was time return from where I had come.

Rebirth

No pilgrimage is complete without change to oneself. It did not disappointment. I feel different in many ways and although I found myself just before the trip in a pitfall, I am climbing out, partially thanks to all of the lessons learned in this short period of time.

------

Go on a pilgrimage; be surprised at how you are shaped.

Boidh Se!

-SM

“Lost in a thicket bare-foot upon a thorned path.”


*For those unfamiliar with the form of Traditions: A Tradition is a loose association of initiated Witches that share a common praxis and linage. There is NO central authoritarian leadership within Trad Craft, with each elder being autonomous and accountable only to the Gods, peers, oaths, obligations to students, and their heart compass. As such, over time a large Tradition will branch out and although the core practice is the same, stuff gets added that makes different groupings within the Trad that are different. Think of it like apples, I might have seven types of apples in a bucket, but all the fruit in the bucket are apples. All of the Witches in this Tradition are Tradition Initiates, but there are several different stylistic embellishments therein. Each of these different lineage based groupings, because the praxis is passed via person to person, becomes its own Line over time. The older Trads even have names for some of their Lines.

**Upline: Refers to the Covens and Initiates from which one’s linage descends. Subsequently, “downline” is the other direction.

***A Grand Sabbat is when several Coven converge together in celebration of one of the Holy Days.

****An abbreviated version of a very short list. In short, it is ridiculously short.

*****Do not misunderstand me, I like French Press coffee. It, however, was not what I asked for. I am using the coffee in this scenario to illustrate my point.

1 comment:

blausternschlonge said...

It is good to have roots, and great you were dedicated enough to save the money to go the whole way out there, and it seems to have been good for your soul too. For most witches my age our initiators have passed on, and can only be glimpsed in vision or in dream.