The Wisewoman: Counselor at the Crossroads, Weaver at the Gate


Long ago when Earth was young and the collective ego in its infancy, the idea of uprooting oneself from the safety of home and hearth and taking a solitary journey into unknown territory had sacred significance. Even the most powerful rulers feared the unknown so much that they would not make any important move without first consulting divine guidance. Thus it was that in ancient Greece crossroads acquired sacred meaning, and divine help from Hecate, Goddess of the crossroads, was invoked at places where three roads met. Images of Hecate Trevia, (Hecate of the Three Ways) guarded three-way crossroads for many centuries.

Barbara Walker tells us that besides presiding at crossroads, Hecate was also the guardian of gates — especially the gate of birth. Under the name of Enodia, a name shared by Hecate, Artemis, and Persephone, the underworld Goddess also ruled the gates of death and was the original holder of the key to Hades. In the 8th century BCE in Italy, Vanth was the Etruscan winged goddess of the netherworld. With snakes wrapped around her arms, she carried keys and either a torch or a scroll inscribed with her name. In the Yoruba culture of Africa, Elegba the Divine Messenger is still consulted for divination. Luisah Teish says she is “the Master of the Crossroads, the Gatekeeper who stands between the Material and the Spiritual, the Visible and the Invisible, between Existence and Oblivion.”

These are all manifestations of the Wisewoman archetype, the aspect of the sacred feminine which enables us to explore the inner depths without losing our way. Her symbols describe her attributes. Keys represent access to secret realms, full power and authority within these realms, and the condition of being initiated. Her snakes protect sacred precincts, including the underworld. A torch is a common symbol of purification and enlightenment in rites of initiation. A scroll, as the original form of the book, is a symbol of learning, enlightenment, communication, and sacred writings. One other symbol associated with the Wisewoman is the veil, which suggests hidden or esoteric knowledge.

The “counselor at the crossroads” aspect of the Wisewoman represents our instinctive recognition of opportunities for choice at critical stages of life and the knack for making appropriate decisions based on love and the true processes of our souls. As “weaver at the gate” she represents our ability to stand between pairs of opposites, heeding the truths of both and holding the tension of indecision while weaving the separate and apparently incompatible threads of warp and woof into new patterns until they merge into an original, unified piece.

Some gates offer opportunities for choice — as when we learn we have a fatal illness and can choose how to treat it and how to approach our deaths — and some do not. For example, we do not get to choose when we are born or what family we are born into. But we can still reflect on the meaning of every passage, whether it is chosen or not, and we can choose how we will respond to what we cannot change. Will we accept it, choose to find meaning and guidance for our journey on Earth, take a new step in a new direction?  Or will we fight it, ignore it, or blame it on someone else?

Two things protect us on the journey into the unconscious: the ability to trust our inner guidance when we reach a potentially dangerous crossroads, and the patience to wait at the gate until the healing solution comes. If we can do this, the Wisewoman, our inner priestess and healer, will direct our path to wholeness and spiritual growth. May you be fortunate enough to meet her at the crossroads and gates of your own journey.

Image Credits:  Hecate, Google Images. Source Unknown.

Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at KoboBarnes And Noble and Smashwords. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.

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11 Responses

  1. Dear Jean, so much in this article speaks to me right now! Thank you for embodying the Wisewoman archetype yourself—as a guide, teacher, and guardian of the crossroads for many of us on deep journeys. I learned a lot from reading this, and it inspires and encourages me.?????

    1. Dear Kirsten, I’m very honored that you see me this way, especially since I see you the same. Deep journeys can’t help but teach wisdom, and being derailed by suffering is often the only thing that can deliver us to Hecate’s crossroads. I never understood what was meant by the power of an original choice until I met her. Finding and taking her third way between the opposites in which I was unconsciously immersed was my saving initiation. I see your powerful pieces about your dreamwork as evidence that you’ve met her and made the same choice. I wish you many blessings of love, joy and peace on your continuing journey. Jeanie

  2. Dear Jeanie, As I wake and write, I sense your wise words are a continuation from of my dream. For I’m sure the “Queen of the Night” herself paid me a visit last night, yet already the dream slips away. All I can remember is a feeling of being presented with three choices.
    When I started my poetry blog nearly three years ago I chose Hecate as my Gravatar image. Standing between the light and darkness, she represented the end of my life before it was to begin again. This was how I viewed it then, and what a guide she’s been for me ever since!
    She demands that I swim to her through the darkest oceans, to the very centre of my fears. Thank you so much Jeanie for illuminating my dream and journey with Hecate. You’re my inspiration and spurs! I’m still learning the lesson of patience. In sisterhood and in soul, Deborah.

    1. Dear Deborah,
      Your dream of three choices, your choice of Hecate to be your guide three years ago, the meeting of three roads….I see these all as meaningful suggestions that the ancient Law of Three is becoming an important factor in your conscious life. This has been happening to me too. I’ve skirted around it for years with my mandorla images, especially in my last book, but it is now becoming one of the most profound and valuable understandings of my life. It has many levels of meaning, but it’s enough to say here that this trinitarian way of perceiving life is the key to transcending duality and living consciously. It’s a foundational principle of my new book….More about that soon….
      Patience! Trust! Self-acceptance and self-love! Releasing attachments. I’m still learning these lessons too, Deborah. I think we can forgive ourselves for being slow-learners when it comes to wholeness, consciousness, and enlightenment. Our bicameral brains, egos, natural apathy are all huge obstacles in everyone’s lives. All we can do is keep at it, every moment every step, every day. That’s really all there is to it. Changes occur and fears dissipate in their own time. All we can do is keep at it.
      Yes! In sisterhood and in soul,

  3. Thank you Jeanie for this lovely post. I also see you as Wisewoman-Counsellor as Kirsten says. We come across those crossroads so many times in our lives. Were we to pause awhile and consider and reflect what this may mean before we DO or act, we may find our own inner and authentic guidance which urges ‘this way, not that’. The key will present itself when we are open to receiving the ‘sacred feminine’ within – and knowing that while we are bearing the almost unbearable tension of the opposites, something new will emerge, guiding us further, deeper, wider. But having trust in the process is part of the process. Thank you again.

    1. Thank you, Susan. I’m honored. And I see you and Deborah that way too! We crones have had many valuable experiences which taught difficult lessons. Because of them, the process grows clearer and trust becomes more firmly rooted in the psyche. These days it usually — but not always—comes fairly quickly and easily for me. Of course, my ego still has its pity parties and tantrums, but they pass quickly. Most of the time I’m in love with my life and deeply grateful for the lessons and opportunities I’ve had. I especially count the opportunity to share what I’ve learned on my blog and books, and the dear soulmates who’ve crossed my path because of them, as major blessings in my life. In sisterhood and soul, Jeanie

  4. Ah, my Wise Woman friend, Jeanie. You’re pulled so much together here. The Croning is upon us as we stand on the threshold and at the crossroads. Hecate is the guide and we are her handmaidens. I’m studying Kali with my mythology class and she has many resonances with Hecate but the imagery used in India startles us with Death and Destruction, those unwanted aspects of many life decisions. And yet Kali is the Mother of all the Gods (Archetypes) and the Creatrix. Something has to die for the new to be birthed. (I think of Deborah’s manuscript as a startling example. Burn it? Oh no. Oh yes.)
    As I read this and contemplate the coming 10th anniversary of my partner’s death, I feel how guided I was and we were by Inner Feminine Wisdom at those essential crossroads. Early on, I didn’t understand why I was so sure in the face of potential heart-break. By the time of his death, I was more familiar with the terrain of the Underworld and, with help from Marion Woodman, could align myself with Hecate’s perspective–sometimes, or when I wasn’t crashing and thrashing. The aspect of patience feels essential and we don’t hear about it much in this hurry-up world. I’ve been impatient about my work, waiting for the direction to rise from within. I’ve kept the faith and think the ideas are emerging now. It’s too early to know for sure, but may it be so.

    1. Dear Elaine, and yet another Wise-Woman/Counselor who’s been to the Underworld and survived to tell the tale. 🙂 Several of us seem to have that in common. I suspect that’s what’s drawn us together in the first place: we see ourselves in each other and continue to learn from each other. It’s very comforting to know we’re all still learning and growing.
      I have to smile at my naivety at the age of 27 when I had a spiritual awakening and assumed I must have arrived at my destination! Like a sort of “Presto! Chango! Once you didn’t see it, but now you do!” Nobody told me it would be a lifelong process and that many more crossroads awaited down the road. I probably wouldn’t have believed them if they had. The narrative at my church was about how salvation automatically followed on the heels of correct belief and then you were done. It took me years to discover for myself that spiritual growth must be accompanied by psychological growth (and vice versa), and that “salvation” was about a whole lot more than resting securely on my beliefs and getting a free pass through heaven’s gates when I die.
      I’m glad to hear that ideas for a new direction in your work are emerging. I wish you the best as you pursue it. After my last book I assumed it was…well………my last book. Now here I am, seven years later, traveling a new, yet old familiar path—excited about what lies ahead, seeking and following creative inspiration once again, learning once again to trust it when it arrives, and encountering the inevitable crossroads, deaths, and rebirths…..once again. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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