Occasionally we get to a point in our lives where we see the path diverging in front of us. Sometimes it’s more dramatic than that and we find ourselves at a clear crossroads – parting ways, evident choices, decisions that cannot coexist. These points can be critical, or they can just seem critical.
The specific metaphor of being at a crossroads is an interesting one and there’s some very unique mythology that goes along with it. My suggestion here is that this mythology is not something to be ignored. In my experience – and in that of J.R.R Tolkein, Joseph Campbell, Aristotle and Phil Cousineau – myths are lies that tell the truth. So if you’re feeling quite specifically like you’re standing at a crossroads in your life, knowing the mythology associated with crossroads might help you to find your best path.
In folklore, crossroads were intimately connected with witches. In Greece, the goddess Hekate was the goddess of occult magic (amongst other occult things) and of crossroads. At a time where the gods were seen to have a direct influence on virtually every aspect of your life, this meant that people were conscious of a danger apparently inherent to being at a crossroads.
This theme carried on into medieval England, were crossroads were where witches gathered to work their necromantic arts. As we came into the age of the enlightenment and now beyond into an age dominated by science and reductionism, the mythology behind crossroads has been forgotten in our conscious minds. I believe, however, that this mythology and the occult danger present at crossroads remains in our unconscious.
If you’re feeling quite specifically like you’re standing at a crossroads in your life, the mythology adds a meaning that can provide you with some insight.
While at your crossroads, what sorcery are you secretly hoping to find to help you make your mind up? Are you actually the witch, are you afraid of the witches turning up or have you come to destroy a witch with your logic? Simply holding these questions in mind can provide a relevant perspective on your own position and potentially help you make a decision.
If this is too ambiguous for you, here are some specific questions you might ask yourself, that are relevant to what witches represent… To this point, what have been the things/people in your life that have influenced your decisions most? Are they productive things/people? At these crossroads are you going to move forward positively with these influences or are you going to leave then behind?
Another interesting coincidence is that British folklore also mentions that crossroads were where people saw –and were devoured by – evil black dogs (similar to werewolves). It’s also worth mentioning that the goddess Hekate is also associated with black dogs (the image below shows the black dog of Hekate).
Symbolically, this is also important. It warns us not to linger at crossroads. If we pause for too long, frozen by fear or indecision, what dangers are we exposing ourselves to? One of the obvious practical dangers is that we’ll miss an opportunity in front of us (a path will close) unless we grab it while we have the chance. Sometimes, making any decision is more important than making sure it’s the right one. If indeed there is a right one.
The black dog represents a very specific danger. The black dog is an international symbol for depression. Spending time mulling over options, thinking about all the possible outcomes and worrying about all the possible risks of choosing the wrong path can affect your mental health. Those times when you’ve lost sleep mulling over possibilities can be debilitating and the risk of becoming depressed because we don’t think we can make the right decision is very real.
If we can be aware of the close connection between anxiety and depression, then we can be forewarned about the danger of lingering at a crossroads and being (mentally) paralyzed by indecision. So if you feel yourself currently at a serious crossroads in life, think about the witches and the black dog. What are you going to take with you down the path you choose and how long can you wait before not making a choice becomes the depressing choice you’ve made?