How the Web PATH Center got its name, by Dorothy L. Abrams, Webweaver
I was starting on the pagan/wiccan path in 1984 and was searching for my magickal name. Lydia Athena had indicated it would come to me from the Goddess, and so it did, out of the clear blue while I was planting annuals in front of my house. Webweaver. It has turned out to be a title as in Dorothy, Webweaver but I had to work with it a while. (The Goddess gave me another name at the time which was secret. I didn’t have a clue about its significance for 18 years).
We (Merlin & I) stayed with Lydia’s Circle for about 10 years through some very rough times. After a long break when a particularly odd witch tried to stir things up a bit too vigorously Merlin and I and a handful of others asked Lydia if we could hive off in 1994 to form a teaching circle. Hers is more celebratory and she did not want to teach in any formal manner. In fact, she had us learn The Craft by observation and well-placed questions to which she might or might not give complete answers. It works that way but takes time. We had a wonderful hiving off ceremony and parted the work friends, for which I am very glad. Lydia remains a standard bearer in the pagan world and someone whose advice I value.
While working with Lydia, I did a little announcement newsletter which I called the Webnotes because it was a communications networking thing. This was in the 80’s and I had no idea there would be a world wide web with which we would be confused. After we started teaching in our own circle in the 90’s we still held on to our Web name because we liked the sense of the interconnection it implied. And I had grown fond of spiders. In our new circle, Webnotes grew to a full-fledged newsletter and began to build on that theme.
After the internet took on its gargantuan proportions and the confusion continued, we talked about changing the name entirely, but decided we were already well known and it still fit what we were/are trying to do: connect people and the earth, and the four-footed and winged ones, and rocks and trees and everything else in the web of consciousness which we believe already exists anyway. So we kept it. Then, again out of the clear blue sky I understood one morning that the Web is a path of spiritual enlightenment or understanding, and that was/could be clarified by adding the Pagan Academy of Teaching and Healing (PATH). By that time (and offhand I don’t recall the year) we were teaching Wicca I and Wicca II which provides initiation as priest and priestess (I) and initiation as a healer (II). I ran this by people active in the group at the time and they liked it. We thought at the time we might indeed become a distance learning pagan school or a seminary though we have since steered away from that. We used the acronym PATH because it is easier to say, but also descriptive. As a poet and writer, I like metaphors.
In 1998 when I turned 50 I had a croning ceremony. Blaze, who conducted the ceremony, gave me some shamanic tasks to complete prior to that. In the course of those, GrandMother Spider Woman came to me in Her Web and indicated she was the prototype of our work and always had been. She said I should learn some lessons on her web. One of them involved her food packets tightly wound in spider silk fastened to her web which she told me were individuals who had failed to mind their own business, to focus on their own path and lessons, and who had been removed from becoming a problem for other people, at which point she looked at me sternly and said “Don’t be one of them. You won’t like it.”
I take that pretty seriously, and it is a great reminder too, that people learn at different paces, in different ways, and in a different order than others, and that each of us can be perfectly where we should be at any given time. Perfection is process, and as we change we are on schedule and doing what needs to be done. So lots of times, I let things work themselves out, instead of resorting to my Aries response of “Here, I can fix that”. It has been a huge journey in consciousness to know I have not taken this journey on earth to fix anything. I help when I can, I teach, I put things together, but what any individual does with that is up to them. Screw up too seriously and we might end up as Spiderwoman’s lunch.
In that context, we added Wicca III and Wicca IV to our curriculum. To Dare the Magic (III) offers the initiation of the Story Teller and To Keep Silent (IV) offers the initiation of the Witch/Sage. Our lessons have been profound in those seminars where we confront our own need for emotional healing, or fears of public speaking, our shadows, and our selves. In addition, we have continued shamanic training and practice and in 2015 we wrote a book as a group on Sacred Sex and Magick.
Around 2002 the Web decided to seek a more formal status. That was another strange passage, but we finally arrived at being a pagan church after dabbling unsuccessfully with incorporation. We are after all a spiritual center with regular services, a council of trustees, an educational program, open to the public and welcoming of children and families. We seek to build a pagan community among our members. So no, our name isn’t a subtle dodge of our paganism, because no one is fooled, and half the people in Wayne County seems to know what we do. Our name is a mirror of our whole identity, as pagans, as teachers, as healers, as artists, as webweavers in the universal consciousness. Our hope is that people will understand that the name is a clue to the truth about our universal interconnection of being, not just the People of the Web but also the People in the World.
Around 2010 Merlin and I realized we needed to retire from the Web. We needed to do work at our house and the Web needed to be located somewhere else. I stepped back and dedicated more of my time to writing. The Web struggled with that change for a long time. Finally, in 2014, we found rental space we could afford on William St. in Lyons NY. It’s small. I keep imagining the day when we can comfortably afford more. Paying the rent and keeping the lights on is a struggle, but so far so good. The loss of income from the overnight classes and the extended SummerFest at our home makes us rely more on donations and sales. As the economy goes up and down so do our fortunes. More people need to realize regular donations of a few dollars a month would make the difference between stressing our faith and exercising our faith. Still, since 1993 we are here.
But wait, there’s more. In 2017 after Merlin and I had retired and the Council of Trustees assumed leadership, it became evident that we were less of an academy (limited space for teaching in our storefront circle) and we accepted that change by adjusting our name. Instead of Pagan Academy of Teaching and Learning, we saw we had become the Pagan Arts, Teaching, and Healing. We were writers, visual artists, musicians, composers, and crafters. The importance of creativity as exemplified in Wicca III and IV had come of age.
And a note about our inclusiveness. Merlin & I always took a stand that the Web Circles are open circles. We insisted that men and women work together in equal partnership. The Web Council of Trustees joins us in that. Membership is open to all who come in a spirit of peace and goodwill. The sense is that our community is so strong, that a disrupter or person with divergent beliefs, would feel so uncomfortable that they would either evolve themselves (the preferred response) or go away until they can evolve. Fear of the “other” is inconsistent with understanding the universal interconnectedness of being. That doesn’t mean we can’t be scared, but it is easier to be brave.
I remember a looooong evening in the 1980’s when we had a discussion circle at Lydia’s with a white supremacist with pagan leanings and a Jewish member of the group, and the rest of us with varying degrees and applications of liberalism in Lydia’s living room. We talked until we all could embrace. It was very late, or early in the morning. It was a breakthrough in my own consciousness to see the white supremacist as a human being. I still disagree with his politics, philosophy etc. But perhaps because of that evening as well as his own evolution, I am confident he is nonviolent. Could we all circle together? No. He opted out voluntarily because he was uncomfortable with Lydia’s firmness in all are welcome. We learned our lessons from her.
So that is the story of the name. We have taken a big step by becoming an organization directed by the Council of Trustees. The Web is no longer Webweaver’s or Merlin’s either. People take turns leading rituals, the selection of which is made when lots are drawn at the New Year’s family meeting. Many people have passed through the doors, taken classes and moved on. I still circle regularly and have taken a seat on the Council. (I never had one before). The Web PATH Center is an entity unto itself, a community which will evolve to the 7th generation and beyond, I hope and believe. We are already on generations 2 and 3. We are still committed to experimenting with the definitions of pagan culture in the 21st century.
All of this is about empowerment. How do we create power, share power, encourage people to stand in their own power? We have many many models in this world about holding power over others. How can we get away from that? How else can we operate in a council of peers? A recent Council of Trustees meeting seemed to be chaotic as I struggled to take notes. Not until I returned home did I realize we worked as a committee of the whole, not driven by the sitting chair. People worked through the agenda, contributed their bit of knowledge and work accomplished and asked thoughtful questions. Volunteers took up the need for set up at Pagan Pride. Readers arranged their schedules for the Mystic Faires. One teacher had a conflict another stepped up to cover the seminar. At one point the Treasurer hesitantly asked if she could re-write the usual membership drive letter and incorporate some language I had used on the Facebook page and the newsletter. I had been thinking hard about how to tell her I thought she should re-write the letter to include the same language. That was magic at work. This is what the future looks like when people share power.
This is the Web PATH Center.