Wise & Subtle Art of Reading Cards The Wytch of Middling Memory The Wytch of Exceptional Memory Combinations
Hie to Carterhaugh: Ballads Green Grow the Rushes: Songs & Chants
Wortcunning: Seeds and Weeds Blackthorn and Hawthorn: To Harm or Heal
T'ween Dusted Pages of Auld: Suggested Books A Proverbial Wytch: Proverbs, Maxims and Wise Words Old Craft Glossary
Tom Tit Tot: Faery Lore The Fabled Hare Artful Avians: Bird Lore Standing Stone and Elder Tree Labyrinths and Mazes Beneath the Mask: Guising Midsummer Lore Merry Misrule Kilkenny's Wytch: Dame Alice
Which Witch is Wytch? Walking The Crooked Path Fetch Light Atop the Hedgerow The Old Straight Track: Ley Lines Oot and Aboot: Crossing the Hedge By Horse and Hattock Skry Stone, Shew Stone: Divination Signs and Symbols To 'Prentis Seekers
Diana and Her Darling Crew: Links About the HedgeWytch Credits and Kudos

"There was a crooked man
Who walked a crooked mile.
He found a crooked sixpence
Against a crooked stile.
He bought a crooked cat
Which caught a crooked mouse,
And they all lived together
In a crooked little house." -- Mother Goose

 

     Those who readily claim the title of Witch find as they make their way round the crooked path of Witchdom that it is a path often wrought with loneliness as the late Robert Cochrane, an astute observer and practitioner himself, commented upon during his correspondence with Joseph Wilson. In that *lonely battle of the self* as Robert called it, wisdom is only to be found by those who have the ability to weather the internal and the external battles that will enable one to achieve that deeper victory of the spirit.

     Before we delve too deeply into the theme of this essay let's first differentiate between the loneliness that Robert wrote of and the simple act of being alone. The definition of being alone is to be without the benefit of companionship, whether that company is found in only one or one hundred others. Being alone is akin to being a distinct and solitary component of a greater whole, one that is separated and made independent from others. This sort of being alone can be voluntary or presented as an involuntary circumstance due to geographical and other types of barriers and this state does not necessarily denote a state of unhappiness. Even though a person may be physically alone he is still afforded the same sort of joy in his court that would be found possible amid a throng of companions.

     Loneliness on the other hand, is a state that can occur even when in close proximity to many or just a few others. Loneliness isn't defined by simple distance between the physical locations of additional companions but by a sense of isolation of the spirit. While at first glance both states, aloneness and loneliness, do have similar characterizations, loneliness has a particular effect of bringing a unique sense of despondency and dejection in the recognition and awareness of this sort of truly solitary state. And while this awareness of being alone may also create a state of loneliness, one may also feel this sort of suffering when surrounded by many people in a variety of social situations.

     We humans are extremely social creatures, in that throughout history we have sought to express ourselves and reap the many benefits from the design of the following societal constructs. We gather in clans, tribes, septs and even covens and are bound together by certain cultural divisions shown by the outward appearance of such personal and collective differences as are found in our ethnicity, our politics and most importantly, our familial units. Being part of a larger family, whether that family is brought together by a physical bond of blood or instead by a bond of the heart affords many applications to ease a variety of baneful circumstances found throughout life. Protection from injury and attack is amplified by the strength of many standing strong instead of just one. Reduction in the work efforts needed to sustain an acceptable standard of living are also to be found, many hands make light the work.

     This social hierarchy is prominently shown in the natural world by the wide variety of the names we have given groups of animals that can be noted by the distinctive terms of venery that we use. These terms that originated in medieval hunting lodges and that describe such congregations as a gaggle of geese, murder of crows, or exaltation of larks are indicative of the ability of those creatures to band together and utilize the deeper sense of well being that is to be promoted from such collective actions. Humans seem to be the only ones that still feel that disparaging sense of loneliness even when grouped with those of the same or similar affinities.

     The question that begs answering here is why? What is it that we still seek even when surrounded by others who are held to be in a correlative type of conjunction with us and from where does that seeking arise? Additionally, are there any benefits or dangers to be found from such a spiritual solace? Initial indications are that in error we seek and search to find the other parts of the self, of the soul that we have determined to be missing. Although we are temporarily blinded while in this mortal form by the mundane idea of a type of duality that exists in nature and we incorrectly deem this duality inherent in ourselves and the world around us, this blindness keeps us from a certain aletheia or truth in regards to this matter. This then is one of the primary reasons we continually feel so disconnected and cut off from the spiritual grace available to us as we look for answers to this question in a nature found *around* us when we should look to a nature *within* us instead.

     It isn't enough to simply be intellectually aware of the falsity of this division, this concept deserves long consideration and mediation to receive the full benefit of its exploration. This fundamental truth is certainly susceptible to progressive levels of interpretation by which rational thought is eventually transcended and a type of noetic exegesis is arrived at and the Witch thereby *overcomes fate* in some sense. It is in the approach to this innermost esoteric truth that hidden dangers lie in wait. To be sure, there is ample proof shown by many cultures in a myriad of ways that this loneliness does afford certain spiritual and physical restorations for the clan or tribe along the way by being a common foundational trait by which many shamans are called forth to their work.

     This loneliness is a factor that has strongly influenced the birth and creation of healers and shamans of all cultures and this definition includes the Witch who walks the Crooked Path. Those who find they are spiritually shunned, those who seem dance to the tune of a piper that only they can hear, those who are found to reside outside the traditional expectations of people bound by those societal constructs spoken of earlier, these are the people for whom this loneliness is a double edged sword, bringing both a certain joy and a certain sorrow in the undertakings to be able to effectively heal the people and kinsfolk of their clan or family.

     Certain subtle psychological states are a natural outgrowth and expression of this loneliness and it is through a great sense of personal suffering and illness both physical and metaphysical that shamans eventually inherit their abilities. And this loneliness even stimulates the finding of the helping spirits that endeavor to aid them in the work they do. These mental states leave one vulnerable to the auspices of many spirits who do not always have such beneficial applications at heart or mind in their initial approach and folklore abounds with descriptions of these spirits who lure those lonely individuals to a path or praxis that is found to be destructive or detrimental to the lonely one.

     Those who have not yet overcome the boundaries of the ego may be taken in by the false but sweet words of such malevolent beings as the Irish Ganconer or Gacanagh alternately known as the Love-Talker. This creature preys upon young girls in the form of a handsome young man and after whispering deadly sweet nothings in their lonely ears and loving them in the most traditional of manners, the young girls are found to habitually pine and waste away with their eventual death the sad conclusion to such events. The ministrations of this type of otherworldly lover do not seem to include the same sort of benefits found in the pursuit of the more holy and sacrosanct Fetch-Mate.

Somerset folklore gives us the following verse about these types of faery/demon lovers. 

"Oh my love wore a garland of may, 
Oh my love wore a garland of may,
And she looked so nice and neat
To her pretty little feet
When she met her false lover in the dew."

    In the highlands of Scotland, that same sort of destructive figure is known as the Water Horse, this dangerous young man may be detected by the sand and the seashells that reside in his hair. His practices include carrying his newly found sweethearts directly into the river and devouring them, forgoing the wasting period found in the previous description.

    In France, there was known to be a man in black, a devil by the name of Pensée de Femme. This devilish figure, who by his very name embodied the secret and unknown thoughts of women preyed upon his victims again by virtue of that extreme sense of loneliness that infected them. This profound and deep sense of loneliness provides the means and conditions for a welcome entry by such beings who use it to their advantage.

     One common theme among these types of interactions is that of physical contact between the lonely women and their pursuers who find them easy prey. In today's technologically advanced world we often pursue this new type of convenient electronic contact via our computers in the forums and message boards we frequent. This type of portal then is one of the fastest and the easiest ways for those who would suffer such dramatic pangs of loneliness to try and assuage those feelings. But those same sorts of devils are alive and well in this century, though the medium may have changed, the message remains the same.

     If you continue in a state of spiritual loneliness matched at times by additional physical isolation you well run the risk of being contacted by a spirit whose falsely pleasant exterior hides a flawed and perverted interior and one that will take and drain you at times to the very death. To remain immersed and intoxicated by the spirits of a specific and non-material world is to desist in the perpetual search for that aletheia, that truth. The bittersweet fruits extracted from such a sojourn into the lonely landscape of the self may possibly destroy one along the way if you present such a weak and soft countenance by your passivity when such situations present themselves.

     But if you are able to hold fast and strong and to resist such attempts at such manipulation you find that a great, deep and primitive inner realization and awareness comes to you and that realization eventually helps the Witch to continue walking that Crooked Path presented before them. With the acquisition of the hard wisdom gained from such internal and external trials and tribulations comes a newfound sense of purpose and of freedom that cannot be found elsewhere except on that path that spirals there and back again.

© Dawn R. Jackson 

Sources:

The Robert Cochrane Letters, Robert Cochrane
Dreamtime and Inner Space, Holger Kalweit
The Fairies in Tradition and Literature, Katharine Mary Briggs
Witches and Neighbors, Robin Briggs
Shadow and Evil in Fairy Tales, Marie-Louise Von Franz

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