by Timothy Pike
It’s not every writer who springs out of bed each and every morning, raring to go and excited to write. But then again, not every writer is Patricia Robin Woodruff, and not every writer is knee-deep in fascinating research on the roots of Slavic magic.
“I wake up every morning wanting to get right to work,” Patricia says. “I write every day, but it’s not a chore. I’m so enthusiastic about finding out more on this topic that I can’t wait to sit down at the computer. There’s so much that needs to be done!”
Luckily, Patricia finds it easy to get into the right frame of mind to tackle her writing sessions. “I enter a state that has been referred to as kairos—sacred time, or time outside of time—when you are one with the Divine flow,” she explains.
Growing up in Far Northeast Philadelphia, Patricia would often go cycling through the scenic countryside of nearby Bucks County, and that love of nature kept her in Pennsylvania into adulthood. “My husband and I bought land in Cameron County, PA, and built our own home with fresh spring water, a wood stove, and off-the-grid solar power,” she says. “For a while there, we just had an outhouse, heated baths on the wood stove, and used an icebox, but we had solar panels to run the computer.”
After some time, looking to develop her art career and also give her kids a wider range of opportunity, Patricia began exploring outside of her home state. “We had researched it to find a really creative town in our beloved Appalachian mountains,” she says. “We began to divide our time between the wilds of PA and the groovy, artistic, musical town of Floyd, Virginia.” Digging the vibe in Floyd, the family soon bought a place there, and these days it’s there that Patricia has been spending most of her time. “I’ve mainly been a writing hermit in Floyd,” she says.
Patricia discovered her love for writing at a young age. “My mom was very creative and always encouraged me,” she says. “She wrote a cute story—never published—about me and my childhood friends finding a cat in our tree house that included a moral about saving up my allowance. She is a great example for me, and at age five, I figured if she could do it, I could do it. My first story was ‘Dan the Dinasore’ in first grade.”
“I always loved writing up school reports,” she says, adding, “I wrote lots of poetry.”
And to this day, Patricia continues to indulge her inner poet and find joy in words. “I’ve collected some great words in my little notebook: scintillate, boink, flabbergasted,” she says. “Things like that.”
But Patricia’s life work goes far beyond her list of fun words. Her research project, which has taken her on a journey through many millenia—she’s currently digging into religious beliefs that go back 16,000 years—is breathtaking in scope.
“I am working concurrently on a five-volume series called The Roots of Slavic Magic,” she says. With her material divided into volumes like “Slavic Goddesses & Gods,” “Slavic Grimoire & the Tools of Magic,” and “Slavic Magical Herbs, Animals, Stones & Symbols,” it’s clear that when the series is done, they’ll be packed so full of the trailblazing knowledge and game-changing insights Patricia has painstakingly assembled over the years, you might have trouble closing them.
“Some of my theories go against accepted ideas,” says Patricia, “and there will be older scholars who will tear into my work because it doesn’t fit in with their worldview.”
But in the meantime, Patricia has released some more modest works, partly for the purpose of funding her continuing research. “Two smaller books that I’ve gotten out in the meantime on the topic are Slavic Moon Magic Meditations, which is a tiny book that teaches about the names and origin of the Slavic Moons,” Patricia says. “The other small book I wrote in a similar vein was to introduce these concepts to kids. It incorporates the Slavic fairy tale that makes up its title, The Prince with the Golden Hand. My idea is to have it be a kids’ series called Baba’s Secrets of the Old Ways—each book having a fairy tale, telling the lore behind it, teaching about a healing herb, and including a traditional recipe.”
“I follow an earth-centered religion,” Patricia explains, “and some years ago as part of a class I was taking, we were encouraged to research our ancestors’ pre-Christian beliefs. My maternal line is a little-known ethnic group known as Lemko. They came from the Carpathian mountains, which falls into the linguistic grouping of Slavic. Well, I found out there’s this whole entire pantheon!”
Seduced by this new realm that combined her love of art history, mythology, and science, Patricia dove right in. By the time she started pursuing her advanced degree—a degree that she knows will lend a great deal of credibility to her books—she was already well versed in the subject matter. “I had been doing all this independent research, but I went to get my PhD at the same time,” she explains. “I wound up also working on getting my Masters of Divinity, and now I’m almost finished with my PhD in metaphysical sciences. I wanted those initials on my book cover to show that I knew what I was writing about.”
To prevent the workload from swallowing her whole—or completely burying her under a mountain of folders and research notes—Patricia takes it piece by piece. “I just keep plugging away,” she says.
“I also know that some of my theories go against accepted ideas,” says Patricia, “and there will be older scholars who will tear into my work because it doesn’t fit in with their worldview. It’s a scary prospect, but I know I’ve made some really groundbreaking discoveries, and even if I’m scared, I’ve got to get this information out into the world.”
Patricia holds several high-level titles, including that of reverend. “I’m an ordained minister, a Wiccan priestess of Stone Circle Wicca (USA), and a spirit-initiated Lemko bosorka,” she says, “which is rather like a shaman.”
While right now she’s grateful to have the time to devote to her projects, Patricia is confident it will all pay off soon. “I’m fortunate enough that now that our children are grown, my husband makes enough money that I can concentrate on my spiritual studies and writing,” she says. “He’s my ‘patron of the arts,’ and I hope my writing will be our retirement plan. He also agrees that what I’m working on is important enough, that the information needs to get out there regardless.”
And this information has come from a little bit of everywhere, including some far-flung locales that Patricia has had the chance to visit. “I travel on the cheap and I’ve been lucky enough to get to Poland and my ancestral towns in the Carpathian mountains, a tiny bit of Slovakia, some museums in Croatia, and a fabulous research trip to Slovenia,” she tells me. “When I’m traveling, I’m working every minute, either visiting sacred sites or museums, talking to people about their superstitions and ancient beliefs, or writing down notes.”
For Patricia, it’s no surprise to find herself working on this project. “I feel like everything in my life has been leading up to this point,” she says. “Everything I have learned is now coming in handy to put these ancient beliefs into perspective.”
And everything she’s learned means everything—including powerful life lessons about overcoming challenges. “I keep an old food stamp in my pocketbook,” Patricia says, “to remind me of when we had no income, my husband and I were both out of work, I was pregnant with our second child, we had no health insurance, and debtors were calling all the time. I keep it to remind myself how far we’ve come, and as a reminder that just as we received help from our community, it’s our responsibility to help others.”
“It’s a reminder to be compassionate and grateful and that as a society we need to work together to lift everyone up,” she says. “This fact colors my interactions with people as an interfaith minister of earth religion.”
There’s no doubt that the sheer amount of information Patricia has gathered presents her with a daunting task, and she knows she won’t be totally finished anytime soon. “I’ve got folders for about thirty academic papers I want to write up,” she says, “several more children’s books are jostling around in my brain wanting attention, I want to research more on the ancient beliefs of the constellations and the zodiac since I think there’s a lot more to be found there, as well as how ancient scripts evolved. I have no doubt I’ll be working on this the rest of my life.”
Fortunately, Patricia has found a simple way to prevent the workload from swallowing her whole—or completely burying her under a mountain of Manila folders and pages of research notes. “I just keep plugging away,” Patricia says. “I suppose I might get overwhelmed by the enormity of the work, but I try not to think about it, and just assemble the smaller pieces and let the whole picture evolve.”
“I guess I’ll just keep working away on it,” she adds, “piece by piece.”
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