This was originally posted on my Patreon and old blog.
This blog post is one among a handful that had been works-in-progress for a while and it was completed thanks to the support of my patrons over at my Patreon! I’m posting these articles as early access content there first and two weeks later they will be posted here. This is the first one out of the batch, with Part Two coming out tomorrow!
Let me start by saying that the title is a little clickbait-y. I don’t talk about those particular labels specifically, but I used them because they are well-known and understandable. Tackling them would make this too long and I wanted to address some less explored labels, especially those that generate a level of “discourse” and reaction, such as “witch” and “religious”.
Identity is a complex and highly personal topic. Even so, we look to how others define and identify themselves for guidance and inspiration in figuring out our own identities. In addition, as a theologian I think it’s important to share definitions of terms, our identities and our religious labels. In my opinion, I believe doing so helps create clearer common vocabulary as well as increase the pool of accessible information for all fellow co-religionists and practitioners.
My identity has many layers and aspects, not all of which are immediately understood or recognizable by everyone. Let’s start from the way I self-identify “officially”: a Triskelion Witch.
Immediately, we see a label a lot of people recognize but few would agree on how to define: witch. The way I understand and define “witch” and, therefore, the way and reason why I call myself one is thus: a practitioner of magic, especially “low magic” and folk magic though not limited to that, who holds powerful relationships and alliances with spirits and entities, and who has a varied liturgical structure that can range from very casual to fairly ritualistic. Going with this definition, we can safely say that not everything I do and practice is witchcraft. Yet, I choose to call myself a witch anyway. Why?
Before I tackle that question, let’s explain the Triskelion part. A triskelion or triskele (from Greek “τρισκελής” meaning “three-legged”) is a triple spiral or three-pronged symbol that is commonly associated with Celtic cultures and motifs but which was present throughout the Old World (ancient Greece included). My choice of this symbol and its name as the label for my magical-religious system of practice is in reference to the tripartite nature of my system itself: it is comprised of the Hekatean Craft, the Wildwood Art, and the Witchfather’s Way; three distinct practices that overlap at points and are grounded on the common culmination of my experiences, divine & spirit relationships, and my journey thus far. You can read more about this elsewhere on this blog though keep in mind I ought to post a more current and accurate overview and explanation.
From this we can define a Triskelion Witch as a witch who practices the Triskelion system. But many people might not be familiar with my personal system or might not even know what a triskelion is at all. Knowing this, I often describe myself as a “polytheist witch” or “religious witch” in addition to listing my main devotional relationships. These tend to be more recognizable to the wider community and thus people understand more clearly what I am. But it doesn’t stop there. I also label myself “mystic” and “devotional polytheist”, for example. To explain these, allow me to give you a brief summary of the Gods and Spirits I serve and how my relationships with them affect my identity.
My primary deity is Hekate. I’ve been devoted to Her since 2010 although I spent a full year before that studying everything about Her and forging the relationship-to-be. Pretty much everything I do or build is centered on Hekate or related to Her in some capacity. At Her request and under Her guidance, I started making what I came to call the “Hekatean Craft” I mentioned earlier. This became the basis of today’s Triskelion. Through my spiritual explorations of the Otherworld (or, more accurately, the Triple World), I was led by Hekate to interact with a group of spirits and divinities in a realm I call the Wildwood. These are the Wildwood Court. I don’t have a specific devotional date for them because our relationships have been less clear-cut than with Hekate, and they took much longer to take more concrete forms. I would say I started recognizing them in more-or-less the ways I do now around 2012-2013. Finally on 2016, through Hekate and the Wildwood Court, I attracted the attention of the being I call the Witchfather, who is the infamous “Devil of the Craft” as he is known in the traditional witchcraft community. My relationship with him is, perhaps disagreeably so for others, not particularly steeped in Christian imagery, and is of a primarily Dionysian, ecstatic approach. Perhaps this a way he would appear in a pre-Christian setting before gaining the devil associations (which still exist in my own relationship with him, mainly because I used to be Christian and thus affected by such imagery on the necessary levels for the kind of work the Witchfather engenders).
Now do you see why I call myself a Witch? There is an undeniably current of witchcraft and “witch-type magic” in my overall practice, even if it’s not alone. Still, it is central and fundamental, therefore it is a core aspect of my identity and its labels.
These Gods and Spirits and the relationships and pacts I have with them also explain why I would call myself “religious”, “mystic”, and “devotional polytheist”. My service to them is transformative, spiritually transmutative, socio-culturally transgressive and non-conforming, self-affirming and life-affirming, self-empowering, spiritually dedicated, molded through worship, devotion, and divine ecstasy. The experience of the Mysteries, devotional practice, and incredibly varied magic are vitally significant for me.
It is by examining my own practice and path that I arrived at the labels I use. I looked to what I was doing, what I believed in, how I interacted with my Gods and Spirits and what they govern and impart to me in order to be able to properly define myself in religious terms. I am “blank” because I do “so and so”, practice “this and that”, and believe “these things”. Personally, I am of the strong opinion that you create something first and then name it, especially when it comes to our religions. I believe so because our religious practices as well as ourselves change and evolve so much that they are almost never what we expect when we begin. When I started on this multi-aspected path, I thought I was a Hellenic Reconstructionist. The polytheistic part and the Hellenic part remained (and not just because I’m Greek) but everything else changed irrevocably. At some point early on, I also thought I would be an Eclectic “Wiccan” or some version of that. Yet my witchcraft journey made me something quite different (fond as I may be of traditional Wicca – the influence and lessons I treasure from initiates stay with me to this very day).
Identity is deeply personal. At the same time though, we must remain cognizant of the way our wider community utilizes and treats various names, labels, and terms. Sometimes this means following along. Other times, it means fighting against preconceptions and ignorance. In many cases, it may even mean we have to forge an altogether new name or term or label and make that known. I’ve certainly done all three in varying degrees. It is easy to use an identifier out of a need to belong. It is also easy to reject a label out of a need for rebellion. Both are rooted in important feelings and matters but they need to be examined carefully; they are also a highly personal subject that no one, save perhaps for one’s therapist, can truly help you solve.
That is why I recommend a well-rounded approach. Like I said earlier, look first at what you do. Then look to your Gods and spirits (if any, though if you’re reading my writings, you probably believe in and interact with Gods and spirits in some way). How do these affect you? How do they shape who you are? What would something like that be called? Following that, look to the various communities. How do they identify one another? How do individuals label themselves and others? Where and what causes conflict and reaction, and why? Then take all conclusions, thoughts, and further questions these raised, and try to mold them into something. What shape does it take? Perhaps no current name you’re aware of exists that fully applies to you. Or maybe many different ones do but they can’t be easily combined. Or maybe you are right at home with “stereotypical” or mainstream labels. All that is fine. What matters is that when you identify yourself, to others, in your work, to your Gods and spirits, to your mirror, you feel yourself.