Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Reflections From My Book of Shadows: The Witch as Edgewalker

As a Feri student for the last 5 years (and a witch for the last 21), I have several personal books of shadows, where I have diligently taken notes on what was being transmitted to me by my teachers, be they human or otherwise. I not only write down lore and techniques, but quotes that reveal Truth and images from dreams, trances, and much more. 

I have a similar book while studying at seminary, a book idea given to me by Dr. Rebecca Parker- what the Unitarian Universalists call a "commonplace book". It includes quotes, discussion notes, activities, references and more to help me develop liturgy, sermons, etc.

In this new series in the blog, I sift through several years of teachings and reflections and contemplate aloud about what they mean to me as a witch and as a parent. I hope you enjoy them!

I suppose it was inevitable that I become a Witch. I spent most of my childhood feeling like an outsider, even in my own family. It's not necessarily that I was deliberately excluded (although there was plenty of that at times- most kids experience that at one time or another), but there was something "not quite right" about me- that made me not fit in. It's like people could smell it on me, and it made them wary. I was more comfortable communing with animals and invisible friends (whom my mother called "imaginary", although they were anything but!) than with most humans, be they adult or child. I liked the slower and more visual, picture-based communication of non-humans much better and could relate to them more than the "strange human creatures" (as I called them then) I found myself among.

It's funny (yet predictable, in hindsight) to note that the people I did become close to during my childhood and teenage years all turned out to be either queer or some stripe of pagan or both. Not that we knew this at the time- at the time, we were just the freaks, the outsiders.

The role of the Witch is to be an edgewalker. (For those of you non-Witch readers, this is one of the reasons why many Witches identify as Hedge Witches- the hedge is the boundary between this world and the next.) Edgewalker, as a term, implies a few things to me: risk, danger, not having a home in either of the definitive camps of this or that- but rather being perpetually "between". (And isn't that where the magick happens?!)

Witches exist as a living bridge between this world and the next and can affect both places. To be a Witch is to be fully human, bridging the realms of our animal selves and our Divine natures- and at the same time- Witches are separate, odd, queer, uncanny. To be fully human makes a Witch a master in all realms- a co-creator of the worlds who is not controlled. Witches are not slaves- to culture, to others, to force. (Yet we are human, which also means we can fail, falter, and become subject to the whims of others and cultural power dynamics seeking to rule us.)

So, if I am separate, how does my role as religious leader (as my school likes to call each of us), priestess, and mother come into it all? That, dear reader, is the big enchilada of questions. The answers to which I am perpetually sorting out! My nature often makes me such a curmudgeon, a misanthrope (especially when I look and see all the harm that humans do to one another, the planet and its other inhabitants) and yet...

I am perpetually hopeful and intent on making this world a little better than how I found it. I am an organizer, a catalyst. I make stuff happen. This has lead to some amazing activism and art projects over the years, and my current projects in the greater pagan community are all being documented at my personal website. Here's the great paradox (Feri Witches love paradox!): as a Witch I am separate, but as a Witch, I know that there is no such thing. We are all connected and we all affect one another.

Being connected makes me want to teach my son the value of compassion, exercising a Witches' Will to manifest a better world, and staying connected to others, despite all of our collective failings. In short, Being a Witch and an edgewalker has helped me cultivate Power, but it took becoming a parent to make me feel more compassion for human frailty. I am still working on this- I find that it is easy with my son, but not so easy with others!

I tend to be a judgmental person who doesn't cut anyone (including myself) enough slack for mistakes and failings. That is my default tendency, and it is something that I am actively working on now- because as a parent, I want my son to thrive in a loving, compassionate environment that values his successes and failings equally. Through parenting my son, I am finding the patience to deal with the people "out there" who annoy the crap out of me. Being a mother is making me a better person, which in turn, makes me a better Witch and priestess.


  1. Thanks for signing up to follow my blog. I would be happy to share blog rolls with you, but I may need technical assistance as I have just started blogging!


  2. I really like your new blog, A Badger and a One Eyed Toad. Your garden makes me envious!


  3. Dear Lily,

    How do you deal with loneliness, then? It seems the lot of many Edgewalkers. You want to share, reach out, but experience has taught you that it isn't that easy because people tend to think your beliefs/perceptions (and I mean normal "witchiness" here) are strange.

    It's okay if all you have to deal with are a certain stand-offishness from others, but there are those who will consider you "from the dark side of the Force" and will question your opinions, even your ability, to tell right from wrong. The one you consider a friend until he/she says something hurtful about your "fitness" as a friend (because you're not Christian-like). The ones who feel that they have the right to fool you (not make fun of you) because your beliefs are "weird".

    You learn to like too much aloneness because it is safer, more beneficial at times. But the hole inside you can get so big.

  4. Hi FMJemena.

    In my experience,there is a mind shift that needs to happen between "loneliness" and "being alone". Hedge witches are often solitary in practice. But that does not mean you have to be alone. My tradition is a community of solitaries in many ways. I tend to be more community-focused than many- what with PEARL and Pagan Playdate and the like.

    I know that it is hard, but try and feel compassion for the people that believe that
    "there is only one true way" and judge you. They are foolish and scared. Their beliefs are so fragile that they must patrol the borders and enforce them like an agenda for the world. You are stronger than that. You must be, to live in a place that rejects you surrounded by people that judge you. You can accomplish so much more with that strength, and put it to work for you.

    If your goal is to build a life surrounded by people who love and affirm you, you must do two things, both difficult tasks.

    The first is to remove those people and places that do not serve you. The knife/athame is the witch's main tool for a reason- you need to cut. I understand (believe me!) that cutting is a painful process. You will bleed. But this is
    a necessary step to create room for the next step:

    Finding your tribe. You need room in your life for the compassionate and lovely people that will come. Act as a beacon to draw them to you. Take risks and they will come.

    Blessings to you!

  5. Thank you, Lily, for that answer, esp. the athame/"cutting off" part...I would just like to say that, after each visit to your blog and some of the links in it, I always feel like I've been "home." Something which I haven't felt since my childhood/teen years. The imagery that comes to mind is that of a plant with a rod/stick tied to it to help it stand up (sorry, I'm not a gardener so I don't know the right term.)

    Bless you and your family.

  6. FMJemena: I'm glad you feel at home here. Stay as long as you like!

  7. I'm an anomaly in that I'm deeply spiritual, something of a radical polytheist, I have even had past-life experiences, and yet... I don't really buy in to the separation of the soul.

    The afterlife theory that seems most true to me is one that at times I've hoped was the most inaccurate. I believe that a person is simply reborn in to their current life. They're forever alive, forever at choice, but there is only one life. It means that very literally the only heaven or hell a person can ever experience is the one they create around himself/herself. It also means that it is futile to end your own life as the only end of any current pain is transformation to a new state within the here-and-now. To me, it has the sort of harsh truth to it that I associate with inescapable things like gravity.

    That isn't to say I believe a person's spirit is rooted to only when they were alive. I believe in the power of a soul to reach beyond the bounds of time and space. -- I just believe that the soul remains rooted to the person's life like a tree remains rooted in the earth.

    I bring this up, because as a witch this leaves me not between the physical world and some afterworld, but simply aware of another dimension to the here-and-now. For me, it isn't even associated with some sort of mystical communion with nature. The universal truths I hunt (or perhaps haunt) are literally always present.

    Compared to most people, I do see things from a distinctly different perspective, and I certainly grew up feeling painfully like an outsider.

    It is just, for me I can't describe what I do as edgewalking when all I'm doing is looking at things from a different angle. There is no edge.


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