I have been thinking lately about how to label my path or even if there is a label. This is something that everyone that decides to wander a winding path that is not one of the "Book" religions has to come to terms with at some point. I know I have seen it discussed on other blogs and on facebook for a while now. Matter of fact, it has probably been a topic of discussion and dissension forever.
Recently I saw it sort of come up on a hoodoo group I follow...how does Wicca coincide or collide with hoodoo and/or voodoo? There was some discussion regarding Crowley and Murray and whether their contribution to Wicca and Witchcraft should be discounted or honored. I admit, I don't know a lot of in depth info about either of them. I spent some time looking at Wicca but decided that isn't exactly my path. Apparently, Crowley fostered a reputation during his life that makes it difficult for people to see past some of the things he was about. On the other hand, he did explore a lot of systems of magic in the process of coming to build what is now Wicca.
Leaving the debate about wicca being old/new/revised, etc aside, leads me to thinking about the different labels that we are now left with. Does one call themself 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 do you think? 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? I sort of doubt it. Most of the time I read that the word meant country dweller, or some variance of that definition. Later, pagan came to be those "low life, ignorant people who are not (insert whatever religion fits here).
Indigenous peoples had their own beliefs that came about from daily interaction with nature and regular life. Their beliefs may have been partially 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. I think this is why you find a lot of overlap in practices. If a person in one area discovers that a particular plant, when burned, makes a space feel better, and then a person on the opposite side of the planet also finds a plant that does the same thing, is there a single label for that?
As one facebook poster said,
"We all know religion is an invention of man. Someone in the Black Forest before the arrival of Christianity putting milk in the four corners of his field before ploughing wouldn't say he was doing a "pagan" practice. He was just doing what came naturally and what worked. The Church is the one that came along and said, Hey you! That's pagan! It's the "What's in a name?" question. People identifying themselves as pagan sometimes feel they are doing so in rebellion against the church or organized religion, when they really are using the label given them by that religion. My point is, there is simply a magical current to this natural system, call it what you will. It can be brought to great heights and organized and degreed and people can be kept out by draconian measures or it can be as simple as planting marigolds around a garden to keep out "bad things" because the marigold looks like the sun. It simply is. Labels and definitions and degrees and what-not all are the product of the human desire to organize and understand it, to adapt it, and overdone, to ruin it."
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 real answer since the path turns and twists. I like the idea of my path being a "wise woman" path. It defines all and nothing in particular.