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A Loaf-Kneader by Any Other Name

A Loaf-Kneader By Any Other Name
© 2005 by Lady Isadora

I believe every Witch is ultimately his or her own priest or priestess. I honor many Witch and Pagan traditions, ancient and modern, in my own personalized practice of the Craft, but I am not by any means a lineage-bound conservative, as some may imagine from my use of a priestess title. Certainly I value dedicated study and discriminating contemplation of the works of others, but engaging in original thought is ultimately much more important to me. I do not personally hold with the Gardnerian “degree” system, which has always struck me as arbitrary, uninspiring, terribly un-Witchy, and somehow more appropriate for a self-important turn-of-the century secret society than for the wild-hearted, self-directed rebel individualists that form my own ideal Witch image.

I use the title “Lady” not to be elitist or authoritarian, but because the word has personal meaning for me on my own priestess path. For one thing, I simply like the sound and etymology of it: from the Old English (Anglo-Saxon) word “hlafdige,” or “loaf-kneader” – a noble, nurturing, and not particularly arrogant nor hierarchical occupation.

Several years ago I had occasion to be in the audience at a certain talk by another certain longtime priestess. Bless her heart, but although my usually cheerful and amiable self was sitting only a few feet away from her, and she knew perfectly well who I was and what my Witch name is, and though I had been quite prepared to be friendly and get along, she proceeded to hold forth most dramatically in utter scorn for any Witch who would presume so far as dare call herself by the impossibly, toweringly august title “Lady.” In this woman’s view, any and all use of said title is apparently pathetically fraudulent unless supported by British noble lineage and/or absolute deity status. “The only Lady I recognize is my Lady, Queen of Heaven and Earth!” she opined rather forcefully, pacing back in forth as she worked up a real head of steam (and for what?) as I sat silently nearby, figuratively clutching my allegedly undeserved honorific to my pentacle-bedecked bosom whilst trying to hide a rueful smile. At least one of us was being tactful!

But honestly, folks, I could not have disagreed more vehemently with such an assessment, and the fact that I am documentably descended from medieval knights and “lords and ladies of the manor” (from Kent, England) on my father’s side of the family never even entered into it. I have never worn our family crest on my sleeve, and don’t intend to start now! Hmmm... on second thought...

But whatever anyone wishes to make of my ancestral heritage – and if I may say so, I am just as fond of the renegade Danish Vikings on my mom’s side as I am of the possibly snooty but probably similarly rough-and-ready British knights (and whatever-all-else) on my dad’s – the Goddess isn’t an entity apart, as I’m sure the other priestess would readily agree. The Goddess is in us as we are in Her. So where is the problem with a priestess honoring the Goddess in herself by using the title “Lady” if she feels so moved? It’s no more inherently pretentious than taking an actual Goddess name as a Witch name – gasp! Or should no “mere” mortal woman dare to name herself Diana or Rhiannon or Aphrodite, either? Food for thought, indeed. Would anyone care for a nice, tasty, freshly-baked loaf of bread?

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