July 9, 2017 by ravenslabyrinth
Hello everyone! Sorry it’s been so long between postings but I have had some health issues and spent WAY more time in the hospital than anyone should. I am back to good health and ready to continue on my blogging journey.
I have recently listened in, all right fine, I was eavesdropping, on a conversation between two of my fellow Pagans about labels. They didn’t like being labeled the ABC-XYZ soup of labels in the Pagan sphere. This was not the first time I have heard this discussion from various people. Sometimes you can’t avoid it when you attend public gatherings in which many different kinds of Pagans are mingled together. And their discussion reminded me of the questions I always want to ask people who are upset by being labeled as _________ (you fill in the blank).
When I think of labels I always think of how my labels define myself. As a human my brain will automatically slap a label on whatever it registers so I can understand it and file it. If I can’t label it, then I don’t really have a good understanding of what it is. For me it makes me curious and I have to start researching because I want to understand so I can label it and file it in the correct file drawer in my brain. Yes, I think of my brain as a huge room filed with file cabinets, which I believe comes from watching Looney Toons in my formative years, but I digress.
My own labels are many and growing. To give you some idea of how I see myself I will share them with you. Though I numbered them here, I don’t really have an order for them in my own head because they are all me in some form or fashion. Here we go:
- Woman 11. Reader
- Witch 12. Music Lover
- Historian 13. Foodie
- Writer 14. Cook/Baker
- Teacher 15. Protective
- Overweight 16. Middle-Aged
- Disabled 17. Smart mouthed
- Student 18. Optimistic
- Daughter 19. Sarcastic
- Adopted Mother 20. Procrastinator
You get the idea. Examining this list gives you a snapshot of how I see me as a person. I did wonder what labels my friends and family would give me, so I asked them. Their answers were interesting and humbling and offered a glimpse of how I present myself to the world around me.
What this exercise taught me as labels are not bad and are kind of handy to have around. They keep things in perspective, but I think it is incorrect to assume just because something has a label limits it to only that label. From my list of twenty labels you can see I am not just a Witch or a disabled procrastinating overweight woman with a smart mouth who likes to cook and eat. I am all of those things and more. My potential for growth, spiritually and intellectually is not limited by my labels, it is only limited by me.
The last event I attended someone who I had never met walked up and asked me what my path was. It’s a common enough question at these kinds of events so I said I was a Witch. They responded “oh a Wiccan.” Well no, I am not a Wiccan. I have never followed that path primarily because it never appealed to me and for no other reason. I could tell this person speaking was genuinely interested so I explained no, I am a Witch and then we had a nice discussion about the differences between them. When other people have called me a Wiccan I am never offended. I don’t lose my mind and shout Never Call Me That! Instead I simply smile and nod. It may be the only kind of Witchcraft they are able to understand and that’s fine. If we are in a safe environment, if they have an interest and if time allows I will explain the difference, but if not, I have no problem with people thinking I am a Wiccan. I know my truth and their belief of what I do, does not change me. I also don’t get upset when people tell me I worship the Devil or will burn in hell. Oh I have smart mouthed quips for both of these, but again I take in the environment and the atmosphere before I shoot my mouth off. Not to mention it kind of unsettles these people when you smile and shrug before turning and walking away.
So, if you call yourself a Witch, a Wiccan, a Druid, a Heathen, a Celtic Reconstructionist, a Chaos Mage, a practitioner of Stregheria or a disciple of the Flying Spaghetti Monster you have in essence labeled yourself (Congratulations!) Instead of lamenting the mere idea of a label being applied to you and your Spiritual Path or worry whether or not attending an open Druid/Witch/Wiccan/Etc. function will label you as a Druid/Witch/Wiccan/Etc. why not celebrate the ideas that might come to you while you participate in the ritual/event as an enhancement of your Path?
So my questions are as follows for those who are label avoidant. If you are label-free in your Spiritual Path do you extend that to others? In other words, if you follow a Druid path and you meet a person who is not a Druid, do you say, “oh there goes a Witch/Baptist/an Apostle of the Holy Order of Chuck Taylor’s?” Or do you grant them a non-label as well? “They are just as Spiritual as I am.”
Second question: If you are one of those who jealously guard your label, whatever it is, and having someone mislabel do you angrily correct them regardless of time or place? This goes hand-in-hand with does your label prevent you from attending open events because people who are decidedly not what you are will be in attendance? Here is the question I would like an answer to – is your Path so fragile that anyone who mislabels you will shake it? Will watching a ritual performed by a different belief system shatter your beliefs? If so, then perhaps it is time to reevaluate who you are and what you believe.
We all walk a different Path. Even if you follow the same Path as your best friend / spouse / lover / parents your Path is your own. When I ran a coven a number of years ago, my only request to my coven mates was this – learn whatever you want from whoever you want then come back and teach the rest of us something new. Everyone knew when we stood in a circle, we did things a specific way, but I did not jealously guard the center position. If someone else wanted to run the show, they were welcome to come forward and do so. Just because I was the priestess did not mean I was the end all, be all font of knowledge and power. I am always learning and growing. It’s how we progress through this life, learning lessons so we don’t have to come back and do it again and again and again. Rigidity means I get to come back and learn the lessons I refused to learn the first time around.
So, in conclusion, let’s not let labels prevent a Community gathering to be about anything other than coming together as a community. Our differences make us stronger and far more interesting than a single, homogenized group. Perhaps think of the gathering as a teachable moment in your life. You can teach me and I can teach you and we will be stronger because of it.
In Her Service,