I’ve been thinking a bit about labels and titles in regards to my path and practice, recently. It began because I was tidying up some workshop outlines and proposals, and for some of those I had prepared short bios for the event programme. Then I looked at the bio I have on my website, which I haven’t updated in a while, and as thoughts often do, it started simmering away in the back of my mind, now and then bubbling to the surface in the form of a short phrase. And what better month than June to consider labels?*
For a few years, now, I’ve been trying to figure out how to condense myself down to just a few phrases — a line I could fit beneath my name on a business card, if I were to print one. Most business cards have titles on them: Assistant Manager, Software Engineer, Senior Partner. I don’t really have titles that are easy to claim, though, as my craft is more esoteric. And some titles that resonate with me are not mine to claim for myself — they must be bestowed by one’s community.
Freya and Hela have called me völva, starting before I was trained in Hrafnar-style Oracular Seidr, but I believe that’s more the path I’m traveling down, not a destination I have already reached. Now that I’m doing oracular seidr, or spae, work for the community, it is beginning to fit more, but spaekona fits better. It’s descriptive: “one who does spae” (in the feminine — the masculine is spaemadr). But that’s only one part of my practice, and the term is only recognizable to a few.
The Morrigna (and also Lugh and Flidais 0n occasion) have called me banfháidh, a seeress or prophetess, and again, that seems more like a path I am traveling down, a winding road of seership and poetry and ogham study. A stream of living culture and practice that I’m joining, not a place I already am. The Fairy Faith I practice is also in this stream, and bean feasa (literally wise woman, though sometimes in English they are called fairy doctors) is another title that one cannot claim for themselves. It is bestowed by the community once someone is doing the work and getting results. I have been called a “Fairy Lawyer” (though I think “Fairy Intermediary” is possibly more descriptive of my actual work), and I expect that even if I do become known for this sort of work, it won’t carry an Irish title. Mine is a very different situation, immersed in a very different culture, even within the Irish-American diaspora that forms one of the circles of my cultural venn diagram.
Bast and Sekhmet, when they asked me to begin delivering their messages, instructed me to call myself an “Oracular Priestess-Novitiate” and then after a few years, an “Oracular Priestess-Initiate”, and I expect I’ll drop the “Initiate” in a few years when they think I have completed my training period. I do not know what the term would have been in Ancient Egypt for the service I am providing, nor have I found any good resources on the training of oracular priests, generally. But this is a third stream of my practice on the theme of oracular seership, in the context of serving a community. “Oracular Priestess” would seem to fit, then, but that seems almost too static, implying a single relationship with a singular deity when in fact I serve multiple deities and also deliver messages from the Dead. After much thought, I finally settled on “Oracular Cleric”.
One term decided, I returned to the idea of a business card, outlining the ways I might serve others, but decided that first I ought to clarify my general theological position. If I’m a cleric, that implies a religious background. This one was fairly easy, though I moved it around a little to attempt to remove the slightly annoying rhyme, before giving up. I settled on: Polytheistic Pagan Mystic. I believe in the reality of multiple distinct deities. I am working within a neopagan paradigm, though my path is informed by the ways of the past, and parts of it are Reconstructionist or Revivalist in bent. And “mystic” is the best way to sum up my relationships with the gods and other spirits. I commune with them in trance, through otherworldly encounters, and ecstatic experiences. My practices are more sensory and experiential than book-learned, though I believe books and other studies play an important role as inspiration and basic instruction.
But what should go with that, to explain the rest of my work? One of the largest remaining streams is healing, whether through energetic ministrations, assistance from spirits, or magical craft. I am trained in Usui Reiki through the William Lee Rand lineage, and that informs my work and serves as the scaffold for much of work for clients, but my healing work is broader than just Reiki. Though I could put Reiki Master Teacher on a business card (because I completed the Mastery course and have taught my own courses), that seemed limiting. I opted instead for “Spiritual Healer”, because I think that best describes the whole range of my work. I’ve used “Energy Healer” in the past, but that doesn’t really cover my work with spirits. On the other hand, I think people will recognize that Spiritual Healing includes energetic work.
Those three terms – Polytheistic Pagan Mystic, Oracular Cleric, and Spiritual Healer — do a good job of explaining the work I do for others, and would fit well on a business card. While I was coming up with these, I considered coining a term to replace the rather clunky first phrase, and toyed with the idea of “Numinant”, from “numinous”, but I decided straightforward language would probably be best for printing on a business card. Still, I was really drawn to the word “numinous”, and came up with three short phrases that may make it into my new short bio: “aspirant to the numinous, denizen of liminal realms, visionary weaver of magic”. Magical practice is the largest remaining stream of my work, but that work is not usually for paying clients who are strangers to me. The magical work I do for myself, for people close to me, for my communities, for my spirit allies, and for my Deities. For that stream, I have a label I’ve been using for a couple of years: hedgewitch. But what I mean when I use that is a discussion for the next blog in this series!
* If you didn’t already know, I’m queer. I use several labels, and some of them overlap or fluctuate: bi, or pan, for pansexual or panromantic but grey ace or maybe demisexual. Agender or genderqueer or nonbinary. I don’t fit labels well and while I like them, I feel most authentic swimming in a sea of them, a sea I call “queer”. My pronouns are she/her or they/them, or the gender neutral neopronoun of your choice.