My muse and I have an on-going disagreement of sorts. Well. I do. She is indifferent as usual to my thoughts and feelings. She clomps into my bedroom, Manolos in hand, Aviation martinis from the Lambs Club and a burrito from Taco Morelos on her breath.
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I've never been a Witch in the woods. The thing is, to be a proper Witch in the woods, villagers have to know where you live (no) or you need to do a lot of festivals which involves camping (no)....
One of the most important virtues a magician can cultivate is curiosity. While the old saying that curiosity kills the cat comes to mind, we should consider that such a saying really is a response to curiosity that favors the status quo. It discourages exploration in favor of keeping things the same. Such an attitude should be an anathema to the magician.
Curiosity is at the core of my spiritual practice. When I was much younger I was a born again Christian and I left because I realized that I couldn't find all the answers in one book and that allowing myself to be limited to what I considered to be a narrow perspective of the universe was not good. So when I discovered that magic was real I voraciously began to read books and I allowed my curiosity to explore and experiment with what I learned. Curiosity motivates me to discover my questions and answers and it is an emotion that I couldn't imagine being without....
I've written before here about how, in our household, Samhain starts early. For us it begins at the end of September, during the week when we've repeatedly lost beloved pets and on the day when, two years ago, I pledged my service to the Wild Hunt. This year, that day was marked with an inadvertent bloodletting when the Hunt, not satisfied with the efforts I had made thus far on their behalf, aided me in slicing open the knuckle of my right index finger almost to the bone with a pair of sewing shears. (Followed, of course, with a expensive trip to the emergency room and several weeks of limited ability to do anything--including typing and crafting--with that hand. The Hunt does not play.)
It continued the following week when I made a trip to one of the city's oldest cemeteries (and bear in mind that here on the west coast, "oldest" means the 1800s, and the most ancient looking monuments, crumbling with apparent age, are not truly ancient at all but merely rain-damaged). I brought with me home-brewed mead and bone meal, to feed the dead, and locally harvested apples for Sleipnir, Odin's giant eight-legged steed. (Eight legs, by the way; have you ever thought about that? Why does He--the horse, that is--have eight legs? Spiders have eight legs. So does a casket, when borne aloft by four mourners. Sleipnir is, indisputably, a horse of death, a steed to carry one to the land of the dead--which, throughout the Norse myths, is exactly what He does.) I discovered an area devoted to the Civil War dead, which startled me because it seemed the wrong coast for that, but the monument statue of a soldier in uniform and the plots of the military dead exuded an aura of welcome for me, a kinship with the "once human" contingent of the Hunt, with Odin's fallen heroes. Here was succor and support, and so it was here that I marked the stones with my blood, freshly drawn from my finger (not the one with stitches!) using a lancet. (The dead were especially interested in and enthusiastic about the mead, by the way!)
It has come as a surprise to me, considering my relationship with Odin (the Wanderer and hedge-crosser extraordinaire), but I have been discovering lately that I am far more of a hearth witch than a hedge witch. Don't get me wrong; I do love wandering through the dark woods at night, threading my way through cemeteries, or exploring the Eugene wetlands. I love to explore these liminal places in a light trance state, letting the already-fragile boundaries between the worlds blur so that I can commune with the spirits there. This is part of my practice, and it always will be. (And in the case of the wetlands, I do this every morning on my walk to work, in the early hours when the human world is still barely stirring but the land wights--or land spirits--are awake and going about their day.) But at the heart of my practice, I am a Doorway for my gods and spirits, and to fulfill that function I must be anchored in this world, even as I work at blurring its edges.
I just had an entire week off from my day job, for the first time in years, and found myself spending much of it at my spinning wheel, or gathering supplies to make prayer beads, or in my kitchen learning to make salted caramels, or planning what I will need to begin producing candles and other non-yarn goodies for my Etsy shop. When given a choice between wandering outdoors and busying myself with activities at home, I nearly always choose the latter. Perhaps my physical condition pays a part in this (I have moderate to severe fibromyalgia, and at this point I still work full time so that saps a lot of my energy), but most of the time I find that I would rather be at home, tending a hearth for my gods and for the spirits I honor, rather than out in the world. My trips out in the world fortify and help to shape my hearth; they feed it and strengthen my center. In this I am like Frigga, who puts Her apron aside and rides with Her Husband in the Hunt during the dark half of the year, but the rest of the time concentrates Her efforts on creating a welcoming home for Him to return to after His wanderings.
To get back to the topic of setting up a hearth in your own home if you do not already have one, despite my previous definition of the hearth as a place of fire, there is always the option of interpreting "fire" symbolically. Along these lines, your hearth can be that place that anchors and nourishes your home, that feeds what you love most about it, the "flame" that makes your home a welcoming place. For some people, it would clearly be the kitchen table where the family gathers for dinner to share stories of their day. For some, it might be a place of literal fire, such as the woodburning stove (and do I ever wish I had one!) where herbal oils and brews are prepared.
Witchcraft gets romanticized a whole lot. Just look at my picture of the Charmed sisters. They're off solving problems in mid drift tops living in a huge house, learning about love and sisterhood. My first reaction is much like yours, it can be summed up as sigh. But. If it wasn't for Charmed, my mother and I would be locked in the same stalemate we had been locked in since I was 22. Charmed made modern Witchcraft accessible to my mom and made her less afraid of whatever I was doing.
Romantic witchcraft isn't reserved for non-Pagans though. In Paganism, being able to be a career Witch/Occult Shop Owner/Pagan Writer/Special Shaman Who Talks to Ponies/Whatever has become the dreamy eyed ideal. And why shouldn't it be? There's enough of us now to actually support career minded people who want to support themselves off their Craft. I know a few people who I'm incredibly jealous of who are doing that very thing. It's not exactly a new concept, communities generally supported an occultist who lived on the fringe of society/in the weird house at the end of the block for ages....