Friday, March 29, 2013

Meeting at the Crossroads

The crossroads -- a place where two roads cross at or about at right angles, -- is the subject of religious and folkloric belief around the world. Because the crossroads is liminal space (that is, a place between places), it is considered a suitable site to perform magical rituals and cast spells. The use of the crossroads as an impromptu altar where offerings are placed and rituals performed is widely encountered in both European and African folklore.

In ancient Greece, Hecate, the Goddess of witchcraft and necromancy, was ruler of all places where three or more roads crossed.

In Africa, almost every cultural group has its own  version of the crossroads god. Legba, Ellegua, Elegbara, Eshu, Exu, Nbumba Nzila, and Pomba Gira are African and African-diaspora names for the spirit who opens the way, guards the crossroads, and teaches wisdom.

European tales of, by, and about musicians, dancers, and others who seek physical dexterity selling themselves to the Devil are frequent and commonplace. The blues musician Robert Johnson is one example of this legend from African-diaspora possibly influenced by European beliefs.

Witches have always met at liminal times in liminal spaces. The solstice on a beach where the water meets the land is one example. The crossroads at midnight is another, classic, example.

When we cast the Circle and call in the Quarters and the Gods, we are doing more than delineating a working space, we are creating roads to the center of the Circle, where the stang is raised. These roads cross at the stang, which is the true “Devil” at the crossroads. The Circle itself is a liminal space,  both of this world and the world between worlds.

Because Hecate is the Goddess of both witchcraft and necromancy, the crossroads are also seen as a place where one can contact the spirits of departed loved ones. Offerings are sometimes made at crossroads for these hungry ghosts.

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