Sunday, August 31, 2008

My Article...

The Craft on the Other Side, my Journey to the Unnamed Path
"Yours is Wicca, mine is Unnamed
We all serve the Goddess, One and the Same."

This is the story of our family. Some may question the validity of this claim, but this is the story of our practice: an Unnamed Path, an unknown Tradition.

Since I was a child, magick has fascinated me, and I have known that I am special, unique, and a child of the Goddess. My childhood was filled with experiences that I can call magickal, including seeing "Dwendes", or earth elementals, in our hometown. I grew up to be weird in the eyes of society, but not to my family; my family has shamanic roots, and my grandmother and aunts are local healers (though in modern times, we can call them Hedge Witches.) Acting as medicine women in the barrio, they heal people using herbal remedies and prayer to the ancestors and spirits. They also climb the mountain in the front of our ancestral home to gather herbs they use to make oils. I guess it is normal in the family. I grew up with that same passion for Nature; during high school, I found books in our library that pertain to the Craft. Wicca, as they now call it, is not just an old Religion: it is the continuation of an ancient one. And it has changed my life.

The folks of the barrio (I live in the Philippines, by the way) used to call out to the spirit of nature to aid them when they hunted in the forest. Our elders chanted to the sky to ask rain for their crops and offered their best grains of rice to the gods of the fields. And personally, this amazed me. Some from Europe and the Americas call this Wicca, some Shamanism, others call it by the name of the tradition they founded. Ours, however, is unnamed, though by the modern standards it can be called Shamanism or even Wicca; this is a Craft that is slightly different from the practices of these other Paths. This Path can also be called Traditional, since it has been passed down from generation to generation (with me being the fifth generation), but I know some trads would dispute me in this claim (since in order for a tradition to be called one, it must have a basis in practice and a minimum time since its founding.) Our has existed only since during the Japanese occupation in the 1940's.

The story of our founding was told by my grandmother, who is now in the world of the Spirits. Since our country was under the Japanese rule, the times were very dangerous. The Japanese soldiers would often invade homes to get women as their sex slaves (no offense meant to our Japanese brothers...these are the facts of the time.) In this frightening climate, magickal practices began to rise again. As people were oppressed and no one could help them, they called out to the spirits of the woods and the mountains and the fields to aid and protect them. It was at this time that the Skill of Apo Ino, my ancestor, was seen.

It was said that when this great-grandfather, the first in the family to show this skill, was cutting wood in the forest, he saw a book...a libreta, as we call it here, full of incantations. It all began there.

Our great grandfather began to display skills that amazed people from the community and roused curiosity in the onlookers. It is said that he could move fast, fight fast, leap very high and dodge bullets, all verbally documented by the elders of our generation. But the secret of the family was in the creation of Illusions...the “Tigadlum.”

The term Tigadlum means “to change”, and the family practice was called that because Apo Ino had the ability to project illusions to the people around him and trick their senses. One example occurred when my grandmother and her sisters, along with their parents, were moving out of the barrio because of the invasion. It was then that Apo Ino used his Craft. He had the family sit in a circle facing him, and as the center and focal point of the circle, began waving his staff. The illusion worked: the Japanese soldiers following them saw anthills in their place. Many called our great grandfather a Baylan (a term from "Babaylan" of the Spanish era, which means female priests) . My great grandfather did this until it was time for him to pass into the spirit world; as the time of his passing drew near, he swallowed his book, his libreta, and the knowledge that was in it was lost.

As the next generation, that of my own grandmother, came of age, her sister Alice was the one given the gift. She was able determine ailments by using ginger as a focus. She would then determine, if the ailment was caused by spirits of the dead, by mga Taglugar (elementals), or by mga Tawo nga Buhi (living men.) She told me that the signs were usually whispers to her ear, but that she might also hear burping or yawning.

Lola Alice (Grandma Alice) would then tell us stories about the “amigos,” elemental friends in the mountains just facing our ancestral home. When I was quite young (seven), we used to follow her in the woods and were fascinated to see her talking to the trees and asking for permission to pass or to take some leaves. She would then use those leaves to cure illnesses after whispering a prayer (a spell?) She heard murmurs of the creeks and the bamboo and understood what they said. She said that nature is our friend and our protector; that's why we usually see her up in the mountains planting trees and gathering herbs. As time passed, this practice of the Craft still amazed me.

When the next generation arrived, three of my aunts were chosen to thread this Path— cousins by birth, yet sisters by Path and bounded by blood. The Tradition lived on; the practice, however, is corrupted by the Christian Faith. Though some of the incantations now have Christian undertones, the reverence for nature has never vanished, and the magick lives on. Around this time, though, the family has suffered casualties. My first aunt, suffered and died when all the sickness she had healed was used against her by another witch. She died bedridden; Lola Alice did what she could, but it failed to save her. When we attended the wake for the husband of this dead aunt, Lola Alice asked me, and I told her that I was also interested in the Path, Lola Alice told her if it was time that she would give me the “black book.” But my aunt said no. She told my grandmother that I was not yet ready. I asked my grandma why did she think that way, but Lola Alice just smiled.

After a month, another tragedy struck. A second aunt, also a healer (I prefer to call them Hedge Witches) met an accident. A Bulalakaw,a mystical bird made of fire, passed over her. In the old folk legend, when the Bulalakaw passed over someone, she would die. My aunt did indeed suffer the effect of the Phoenix (I named it the Phoenix because, when I saw it at a distance when I was small, I saw it as a ball of fire with its tail changing colors from red to yellow, orange, green and blue). Blood began to come from her mouth and ears. They brought her to the hospital, but the doctors couldn't find anything wrong. Then my Lola Alice tried to heal her, using the Craft she knew. She succeeded in stopping the bleeding, but when a Witch enemy of my Aunt attacked her in that state, she died.

With these events that we all witnessed, my interest in the Path increased (excluding the deaths which just happened two years ago.) As young as 13 years old, I studied Wicca from books and libraries. I gained a lot of knowledge, from the esoteric lore of Ceremonial Magick, Kabbalah (I even have a Teacher, but this is another story), Druidry, Shamanism, and other magickal knowledge. I saw Wicca and loved its philosophies. I learned to love the Goddess, Nature Herself, which my ancestors revered and worshiped; in everything from their rites of thanksgiving for the bountiful harvest, to rain calling, to whispering spells in the wind, to offerings in large spirit trees, the tradition lived on. My parents see this and they never tried to reprimand me for the practice. When my mum saw my altar beside the bed, the books and the herb bottles under the table, or the candles and offerings in the roots of the tree at home, all she told me was to be careful. I know that she understood, that the urge of the blood is strong. My family is gifted with the Spirit as both sides of the family practiced the Craft: my mum’s with its five generation of Crafters, and my dad with three generations of healers.

But where does this put me? I am into Wicca and Goddess worship, but I still seek for a Path that would fit in my beliefs. I searched from Tradition to Tradition but sad to say I failed. Though Wicca as a religion satisfied my craving for the Goddess, the Path of magick did not. It was then I started reviving the practice, the tradition of my family, if indeed it can be called a tradition. I went back into the barrio to ask my grandmother to initiate me, but she told me she could not. Since my great grandfather Apo Ino had died before the initiation happened, Lola Alice told me that the spirits would take something from her if she will initiate me (meaning she would die.)

However, I can remember when we were young, when Lola Alice took us to the forest. She called out to the woods, saying, Mga Migo, ari akon nga mga apo. Bantayi nyo sya kag ubayi asta magdako sila (“Friends, here are my grandchildren. Guard and guide them till they grow.”) When she said that, the wind would blow and the trees rattle; the sense of being welcomed was palpable. So I feel that even though there will be no initiation that could happen “formally” (there are no formal initiations in the family, only the presentation by the elder of the next in line to the spirits of the woods and the ancestors), in spirit I feel that I am initiated. I can feel that nature embraces me every time I am in the mountains and the forests, or the sea in our barrio. There I know nature—the Goddess—accepts me as Her own.

Here ends my story of our family, a family that has preserved some of the old knowledge of the Craft of the Wise in ways that a simple village woman does: not as some traditions or other Paths have, but in a way that our grandmothers and aunts knew. Just trade the knowledge within the piece of land that our family owns, over the picket fences, over the thick hedges. The Craft will continue.

“You dance by the bonfire, us by the moon,
We may part in some lifetimes, but we will all meet soon!”

Bane Soulmoon,
Craft of the Unnamed Path
Iloilo City, Philippines
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