Poem: Loki Speaks – An Explanation of my Oath to the Flamehaired One

I’m putting this out slightly under duress, but perhaps it’s time it comes out.

I’ve said I have an oath to Loki, and I do.  But the type of oath I have is one that in the past people have scoffed at, especially with the Marvel Loki being Tom Hiddleston, who is absolutely very easy on the eyes. I of course am talking about the oath of a Godspouse.

Pagans who don’t believe in Godspouses are going to scoff and claim it has something to do with either with a person not being mentally there, wanting attention in some way, kidding themselves, trying to feel more important than they are..and lots of other reasons.  Especially when it comes to Loki. When the Marvel Loki first hit the silver screen there was a litany of love for him from many a young lady. And that litany was full of fights between ‘spouses’…”He likes me better” and other youngling nonsense.  And frankly hearing all about this craziness is just what helped me push all of this under the rug as long as I have.

Pagans who believe Godspouse relationships happen often point to the belief that a Christian nun is “married to Christ.”  or that Christ is their ‘bridegroom’.  I don’t remember the actual quotes from the bible right now to get more specific than that, but I do know they are there. Pagans who believe in that type of relationship have also pointed to other cultures and oracles in the ancient time as well as the writings from that time to prove a spousal relationship is true.  And I don’t doubt the writings are there. For me however, I simply decided that if it worked as a relationship for someone else to have with deity, then that was what worked for them and I really didn’t have a right to say either way. I didn’t understand it, but perhaps I wasn’t meant to.

And once I made up my mind about whether or not a Godspouse relationship was ‘real’ or not, it happened.  A candle to Sigyn, the first one I had lit in many years in tribute to a Goddess for helping me through the fibromyalgia was put on my house altar.  And it was left to burn the entire night.  Loki took that as the open door. And he showed up in my dreams that night.  And the next night.  And the next night.  And every time he showed up, I forced myself to wake up. Because I didn’t want him around.

My husband thought I was sick as I barely had any sleep those first few days.  Until I told him what was going on.

After lots of talking, and lots of discussion and the figuring out of issues, I oathed to him as a mentor/teacher. The work I did in that relationship with him was very interesting, and it helped me tremendously. A year later after the mentor relationship was almost up, he said he wanted more.  And the Godspouse relationship was discussed…and discussed…and discussed…and finally taken.

I didn’t tell anyone about it back then.  Actually I only started talking about it openly a couple of months ago.  But now that it’s come up more than once in discussions on chat boards, I figured it was time to get more information and my stance on it out now.  And one of the reasons I’m talking about it now is because of the assumption that everyone almost automatically makes about it.

The Godspouse relationship I have with Loki isn’t about being his ‘bride’ as much as it is being in a relationship with someone who understands who I am. It’s a relationship based on understanding the deep and dark issues that I’ve had to deal with for a very long time.  it’s the type of relationship where the couple work through those things together. And the people in that relationship both heal and grow. Now perhaps Loki doesn’t need to ‘grow’ as us humans do, but I still think he gets something out of this.

As anyone who has been married for more than a couple years will tell you, husband and wife relationships are not just about romance and sex. They are also very much about talking and about getting things out in the open. In a healthy marriage, you can talk to your spouse about everything. And you must constantly adjust to new mannerisms, new issues, and new unexpected things popping up. This is a person that you are living with 24/7.  You get to see them at their worst, you get to see them at their best, and you get to see them in everything in between.

My relationship with Loki is very much like this. He has access to every part of me, and because of that I have nothing I can hide. And in return for that access, he has helped me get through some pretty rough things. He has helped to lift barriers that I could not move. He has calmed and taken care of me, and he has made me stand up for myself. He has put me in positions where I had to trust him completely, and he has shown me that I have more control than I think.

So where does the poem come into this?

As it did several years ago when he asked for more, he asks it of me again. And the first step I guess was to write this post and share the poem I wrote a couple weeks ago. So here it is. I hope you enjoy it, and I hope I have made you think about something that is dismissed too easily as nonsense.

Loki Speaks

I hear you my love
Your call beckons me
What is it you require?
What, darling wench, stirs thee?

Do you not feel me enough?
Do you not feel my touch?
Dare I touch you further?
Take you every time you beckon?

I could, you know
Drive you to madness unknown
Drive your soul from corpeal form
Make you only mine forever

Yet you do not start at that
A price you ‘ve paid before
You know my madness
And revel in it

What do you ask of me?
What do you require?
More lessons, perhaps,
Learn to play in the fire?

No more lessons have I to teach
Your spirit is as whole as it shall be
Your strength now must be grown
Knowledge the reward for the persistent

Do not fear my love
My madness shall be your comfort
My chaos shall ease your stress
I am here, I will not leave my prize now

You may not feel my presence
You may not heed the heat of my desire
But I am just a breath away
You are and always will be connected

Remember these things.
Remember my touch
You will do well in your endeavors
I shall simply watch and enjoy

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Finding a Path of Belief

Something occurred to me on my walk with my husband recently.  On April 24, it will be 19 years since my first wedding. It surprised when I remembered this, having divorced the man I was first married to in 2002.

There was so many things going on around that time that we should have never gone through the ceremony. My then fiance’s mother went into a coma a month before the wedding. Columbine happened, which was on the minds of many people. Exactly one month after the wedding, his father would die of a heart attack. Two months after that, we would take his mother off of life support.  Most of his extended family didn’t even come to the wedding, deciding that it was better if they stayed vigil at their Mother’s bedside instead.

I will fully admit I was young, inexperienced, and going through a lot of mental issues of my own at the time. I had no idea how to be a wife and to give all the support I needed to give through his trials.

But even if I could have given him the support, the biggest issue for me to deal with through those trials was that I couldn’t relate to him on any spiritual level.

As I have said before I was raised Roman Catholic, and at that point I had been studying paganism on and off for  9 years.  But this man was not raised with any faith.  In fact, when the issue came up, it was quickly dismissed in his family.  So when he was forced to deal with these losses, he had no belief system to fall back on; he didn’t even know where to start to comprehend the losses he suffered.

In the end, he blamed himself for these losses.  If he would have just been at his parent’s home instead of going to work, perhaps he could have gotten help for his father.  If he had visited his parents, perhaps he would have stopped his mom from eating the thing that made her sick in the first place.  If he would have been a better son, he would still have his parents; they wouldn’t be forever lost to him.  In the end the spirituality factor wasn’t the final breaking point of the marriage, but it did a lot of damage.

Fast forward to 2006. I elope with my then fiance to Las Vegas.  A week later, we get back home and he gets a phone call in the middle of the night.  His father is diagnosed with a bowel perforation and needs immediate emergency surgery.  He was a ‘snowbird’, having left Michigan for warmer Florida weather, which made things even more complicated.  My new husband flies down to be there for the surgery.  Several days later his father takes a turn for the worse and is taken off life support.

My husband was raised in a Catholic family, as I was.  And he also didn’t feel that path was right for him and was exploring paganism.  But because he had done enough exploring on his own to form his own beliefs, he knew his father was some place safe and that he WOULD see him again. Even though there was no dogma attached to his beliefs, and that he had no core religious or spiritual practices, he still felt a comfort from what belief system he had.  It was faith in that belief system that helped him grieve and helped him get over the trauma and be able to move forward.

Thinking back on both these experiences, I wonder if it would have made any difference to my first husband if he would have been raised in a religious family.  Would he have fallen back on that teaching?  Or would the teaching have sparked a hunger in him to find his own place, like it did for my second husband and I?  Did it hinder his development that religion was so glossed over in his family growing up?

It makes me wonder if we are teaching our children enough about belief and religion.  And maybe we need to go even further with that teaching.  Maybe we need to also teach them about other religions as well as the one they grow up in to allow them to make an informed decision when they become of age.

If we give our children consent to ask questions about beliefs and faith, it allows them many different options.  They may grow up and choose to become stronger in the faith of their family.  They may choose to take another faith as theirs, or choose to either continue to question the existence of divinity or not believe at all.  Whatever their choice, they will have (or at least start to have) a belief system that works for them.  And that system will help them answer some of life’s harder questions for themselves.  At the very least, they will know where to go to help seek out more information and find comfort.

From a Pagan perspective, I think we as a community are doing better at teaching our children to ask questions and grow in their own belief system.  However, I wonder if in time we are going to have to come to terms with those who choose Christianity as their belief system once they grow up.  Much like many Christian parents do when their children choose a faith different from them, we may become upset and feel rejected by the child that chooses a monotheistic faith.  But if we preach freedom of religion, we must allow our children to choose what they feel is right for them.  If we don’t, we risk another generation of children growing up angry at their parents for not allowing them to be themselves, much like many Pagans are now when thinking of their own upbringing.

However, even though there are still struggles with belief from parent to child, perhaps things have gotten better in some ways.  When thinking back to my grandparents raising my mother and uncles, things were much more strict.  Beliefs weren’t allowed to be questioned and obedience to religion was mandatory.  When I look back at my mother’s actions as I was growing up, it occurred to me that the faith she had was obedience to her parents more than anything.  And even though God was mentioned, it is more fear of their disapproval that kept her focused in that specific religion.

I really started feeling that way after seeing her reactions to a couple of situations.  One in particular still stands out in my mind.  I had met her for lunch at a buffet on a Lenten Friday. When she looked at the offerings on the bar, she became upset because she wanted to eat meat, but instead was confined to the fish and vegetable options due to Lenten obligations.  She told me that my Grandmother would be upset if she ate meat that day.  I replied that Grandma and Grandpa weren’t eating with us, and wouldn’t know.  She said it didn’t matter.  Those were the rules she grew up with, and those were the rules that had to be obeyed.

How sad it is to me that someone feels like they must obey rules that someone else made for them.  And that they don’t feel they can vet those rules for themselves.  To be true to your own heart and mind in your religious beliefs means such a significantly stronger faith than one would have because they are told to.

Hopefully this is changing.  Maybe because of the many sources of information that are out there things are getting better.  Or perhaps it’s changing because more people are more willing to challenge the beliefs that they grew up on to truly see if they fit their mind and heart.  I hope so, but then again, the term “recovering catholic” wouldn’t be utilized so much if there weren’t more stories out there like my mother’s.

No matter what way the world is going, I can only be responsible for my part, and to live the example of being proud of my faith and being willing to allow others to have their own.

I am very proud to have a Godson.  For his first communion I took the day off and stayed with him through his religious preparatory programs at school.  It didn’t matter that it was a different religion; it gave him comfort to have me there, and it showed that I was willing to help him with his beliefs, even though he didn’t see me at his church every Sunday.

My husband made certain that his niece had a rosary for her first communion when it looked like her Godmother was not going to gift her one.  Yes, he is also Pagan, but it didn’t matter.  This is the faith she is currently growing up with, and it’s important to her.  She already uses the rosary in solitary prayer, which makes the gift even more satisfying.

If my Godson ever has questions about faith, I’m going to do my best to answer as truthfully as I can.  This goes the same for all of my nieces and nephews.  To me it is important to have faith in some sort of belief system  and be open to the fact that others will believe differently.  And when the time comes that they decide what faith or spirituality is best for them, I hope they will be able to do so with the acceptance of their parents, because I want to see them growing up with a faith that is true to their mind and heart, not a faith handed down without question.  In the end, the faith in a belief that stands up to questioning will mean stronger support for the individual, the family and the community as a whole.

 

Finding Gods of Compassion

Many times when I do readings I get the message to tell someone not to be so hard on themselves; to give themselves time to heal from the wounds that the world has given them.  And inevitably, the client (especially my deeply pagan clients) look at me with surprise.  They then proceed to tell me that their God is not the type to allow someone to wallow in pity.  Instead, they tell me their Gods and Goddesses are the type to push someone to ‘suck it up’ and get on with it.

I fully agree, to an extent.  As someone who feels very honored to have a relationship with Odin, I know first hand that there are Gods out there that want us to ‘get on with it’.  They want us to accept our shortcomings and grow up.

But that request to ‘grow up’ or ‘get over it’ isn’t the same as giving ourselves time to heal from the deep wounds that the world gives us. And in that aspect, I think that we are missing an important factor in the relationship with our Gods.  Although they want us to grow, Gods and Goddesses can also can be compassionate and supportive of us being compassionate for ourselves and for our fellow human beings. 

Now before you start getting weirded out by images of Odin sitting around a camp fire holding hands and singing, hear me out.

We know that during early periods of civilization the Gods moved around within pantheons a lot.  We know that at times one God usurped another when civilization changed.  Gods of the wildlands were replaced or altered to represent the fertile fields and of agriculture.  And in time, those Gods were also altered or replaced to represent war and protection from other civilizations thirsting for conquest.  I’m not going to get into all the specifics, but they are all there in the history books for anyone to see.  And this happened in many different civilizations.

The point that I’m trying to make is that the Gods changed when humanity needed them to.  And for thousands of years, humanity was OK with that.  In fact, in our current time, we have been known to modify our own practices to mold to our own needs.  And even from a reconstructionist pagan standpoint, we see that modification today.

For an example, let’s look at Beltane, the fertility festival celebrated by many pagans around the world.  This festival was originally a fertility rite, both for the fields and for fertility of our species.  We still see this holiday as a perfect time for couples to do fertility rites to get pregnant, but we recognize that the survival of the species because of lack of fertility is not as serious of an issue today as it was two thousand years ago.  We don’t need to utilize that rite to secure survival of our species.  In fact, I think we all can agree that there is an overabundance of humans now on the planet.

So what do we do with this fertility rite?  Do we stop celebrating it, or do we reframe it to our needs today?  What we find is that many pagans do a very good job of reframing it.  We still honor and remember those of long ago and why they celebrated Beltane, but instead of fertility for the fields and for our species, pagans might celebrate the rites to work towards the fertility of money, the fertility of ideas that would allow them to further their careers or the fertility of wisdom and aid with the goal of bettering themselves in some way in order to continue to honor the Gods on this plane of existence.  And I think we can all agree that the Gods worshiped during the height of Beltane haven’t abandoned us because we modified the rites to more clearly represent what our needs are in this day and age.

I’ve pointed out that we have modified rites to reflect our current culture, and I’ve also pointed out that the Gods have changed based on the needs of the population at the time.  Now what does all of this have to do with the Gods having compassion?

One of the biggest needs of the day in my mind is compassion.  Open your favorite social media site and I can guarantee you will find something in your feed that is argumentative.  You may also find something that will get you frustrated or even angry.  It’s a very easy example because it happens on a regular basis.  Want another?  Drive your daily commute, or just drive anywhere on a highway in fact.  We are human, we are going to get angry at the person who just jumped in front of us and slammed on their brakes, or who decided to drive in the faster lane of the road yet is going under the speed limit for some reason.

All of this anger has slowly built up over the years to the point where we are today.  For years we have let the anger fester in our minds and souls, causing us finally to lash out at ‘those’ type of people.  Those that don’t think like us, those that don’t act like us, or those that believe differently than us.  We have become a polarized world that praises ‘sticking it’ to the other person over trying to come up with a compromise.

It didn’t happen overnight.  And there are more root causes of the problem than anger, but built up anger is absolutely a part of the problem.  We hold anger for ourselves, hold anger for our lot in life, hold anger and jealousy at others for having more, or for getting more assistance than us.  The anger bubbles up at our politicians (who may deserve it from time to time) and causes us to lash out at others who disagree.  And to battle we go.

For many of us, we feel like we either have limited options.  We could either take a side and fight for it, get the heck out of the way of the arguing forces or be run over; a casualty of the environment that has been slowly forming over many years.

Any one of those stances is going to cause anyone to have battle damage.  And this isn’t even the worst of the battle damage we carry around.

Our upbringings aren’t always rosy.  Our relationships with others can become abusive.  Life has its traumas, and we endure each and every one of them, but they don’t leave us exactly how we were prior to the situation.  Sometimes the changes are physical; a scar appears where a wound once was.  Sometimes the wounds are emotional, and we end up hardening some to those around us.  But no matter if the wounds were physical or emotional, there is a spiritual component to the wound as well.  Hardened hearts change the outlook on our spirituality.  Perhaps we stop caring as much about helping those in need because we are bitter about our own circumstances.  Perhaps we end up angry at our Gods for allowing things to be the way they are.

The world is changing, it’s getting more rough edges, and because of it we are hardening more than we realize.  I’ve seen even the most compassionate of Shamans make critical comments against another in the current hardened climate.  And I know I’ve done it myself numerous times.

Yes, there are times when we must be hard.  Perhaps we must defend ourselves from those abusers or from those that would do us ill will.  That is important too.

But what do we do with all the pain, anger and battle damage that has struck at our core and dimmed our spirit?

Why not give it to the Gods as an offering of endurance?

Why not ask for their aid to heal properly so that our souls can shine again?

Why not ask for their strength to see situations with compassion in an effort to make the outcome less hardened?

This is different than just ‘getting on with it’.  There will be times in everyone’s life that the hardened edge they encounter is small enough that it does little damage.  That is when it is perfectly acceptable to hear from our Gods that we must just ‘get on with it’.

But what about when the hurts are so great that they affect our daily lives?  What about those who have suffered any form of abuse for any period of time?  What about the traumas of life that shake you to the very core?  I don’t believe the Gods want to just look at us and say, ‘get on with it’.  Sure, we may THINK that is what they want us to do, but perhaps that is how we are conditioned to believe.  We’ve had almost 2000 years of a religion that has given us the group mentality that we are scum and not worthy of taking time for ourselves.  This religion has told us for years that we are unworthy of healing or compassion, and that we have to grovel and beg for healing and forgiveness.

Christianity has provided us with a group mind and culture that says we are weak and lacking.  Advertising agencies have already picked up on this and used it to sell us products to make us feel better.  Many people start waking up, and reach to Pagan Gods and Goddesses, (the very ones we think tell us to ‘get over it’) in order to get out of that mindset, and that is fantastic.  But are we allowing our personal beliefs to also make us feel better, or make us worse in other places?

At the very least, consider that the Gods and Goddesses that you are willing to fight for, the Divinity that you know will fight by your side, is also a Divinity that would be willing to tend to the wounds that you received from the fight you fought together.  That isn’t an unreasonable request, and one that could easily happen on the battlefields of old.

And if you are willing to go that far, also consider that sometimes the wounds that you receive may put you out of the fight for a while, and perhaps your God or Goddess understands that better than you realize.  Recognize too that if you could no longer fight, the Gods and Goddesses were compassionate enough to give you a place to go after you passed this plane of existence.

In my own personal journeys with Odin and Loki, I’ve come to realize that they are accepting of me when I am at my best, but they also are accepting of me when I am at my weakest.  Loki especially encourages me to look at my areas of weakness and learn to make them strong, and he has shown me that brute strength is not enough to do that.  In order to become stronger, you also have to have compassion, you have to have the courage to allow yourself to be weak, and perhaps even show that weakness to others in order to allow them to help you find your strength.  Compassion allows us to accept who it is we are without the glamour or lies that we tell ourselves.  Compassion allows us to look at the wounds we have received in battle and honestly evaluate them to understand how we need to heal.  And compassion is what we need to recognize the true amount of time we need to do that.

If we can expect our Gods and Goddesses to accept our feats of strength as appropriate offerings, why not also allow our feats of courage and compassion to be offerings to them as well?  Especially in today’s world, it’s going to take a significantly larger amount of effort to show compassion than to follow the status quo.  In those times when compassion is most needed, wouldn’t it be a better offering to show that compassion since it does take so much more effort?

And if you were one of the millions in this world who has emotional, physical and spiritual wounds, don’t you think your Gods would want you to heal as well as you can from those wounds?  And in order to heal fully, don’t you think that you have to have compassion for yourself?  So why wouldn’t a God or Goddess not have compassion for you?  Wouldn’t they be proud of you, because they know you realize that fighting isn’t something that is going to allow you to heal properly?

Perhaps it’s time for us to shift our thinking.  Perhaps it’s time we honor our Gods and Goddesses with different offerings; acts of compassion and beauty.  Maybe we need to recognize that even though they may not seem like a form of divinity that would react with compassion, perhaps they at least have understanding of the compassion that we need to have for ourselves and each other.  And perhaps they already are ready to adapt to that compassion to help de-escalate the polarization of the world.

 

Be Careful What You Wish For…

IMG_4383Heads up, this post is a bit of a vent.  And also  a warning.

Many of my past posts have been about the deep shadow work that I have done over the winter months.  Much of it has gone very well in that it has opened me up to many of my own deep seeded issues.  And since I finally could name and understand them, I was able to deal with those issues.  The entire endeavor has helped me to move forward in my spirituality and relationships better than I ever could have on my own.  I know I’m not finished, but I’m quite pleased with the results so far.

I’m at a spot now where I could pause that deep work, so I decided to take a break and pick up another endeavor to fill my time.  This task, I had hoped, would be a bit lighter than the places that I have been going to so often.  And, I thought it would help me heal from some of that intense work.  It would also give me time to replenish my emotional stamina for the next round.

So I picked up my copy of The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.

The Artist’s Way is a 12 week course to help you become comfortable as an artist.  It doesn’t matter whether it’s painting, writing, composing music or other endeavor, this book helps you clear blockages in order to do your best work.   It’s a powerful course; I had tried it several years ago, and realized that I was not ready for it.  Feeling like I could handle it now after my deep dive into the Shadow, I thought I would pick it up again and see what treasures of knowledge I could mine out of the work.   I was especially hoping it would help me get into writing stories again.

As a child I used to write a lot.  I wrote the occasional poem, but my favorite thing was to write fictional stories.  I would sit for hours after school was over, with the permission of my computer room teacher, writing out the stories that I had in my head. Of course these stories never made it in front of anyone else’s eyes; they were for me alone.  But the comfort and escape that they gave me was extremely powerful and very necessary in the troubled world that I lived in back then.

But suddenly, without warning, I stopped writing.  I’m still not very sure why I stopped. All I remember is that I was ridiculed for it.  It could have been me that ridiculed myself even.  I just stopped doing it, and that stop lasted until recently, when a story popped out of my head unexpectedly.

Pleased with my recent short story and remembering how much comfort writing was, I tried to get back into it.  From a non-fictional standpoint, I think it’s going pretty well, as the results are for all to see here at my current blog.  But the fiction I loved to write before eluded me.  So it was I decided to pick up The Artist’s Way again.

The exercises in the book are wonderful.  Ms. Cameron does an excellent job of setting up your practice with what she calls ‘morning pages’, and then eases you back into creative activity by first finding your safe place to create from.  Once you have established these practices, she takes you into others that are specifically meant to guide your creativity and allow you to be creative in whatever endeavor you choose.  The exercises seemed much lighter than the past three months, so it just felt right to pick up the book and allow myself time to stretch myself from a creative perspective, safe in the knowledge that I wasn’t going to go very deep into the Shadow.

Boy, was I wrong.

I read once somewhere that the spiritual and creative centers in your brain are essentially the same areas, and that the blocks for these can sometimes be one in the same.  I’m not sure if that is true, but now I realize they are at least relevant to each other if they are not connected outright.  You see, the exercises not only started to uncover creative blocks that I had with writing; they uncovered new facets of the spiritual blocks I thought I had dealt with.  Yet again, issues came back like unwanted house guests, planning to stay with me as long as they could to mooch a place to sleep and eat my food.

At first, I didn’t mind.  This was simply just going to be one topic that I write about.  I needed topics, after all.  So when I completed the first few exercises I started to write poems again.  And the poems I was writing were dealing with those spiritual issues.  They were about the relationships I had to the Gods, or about the Fibromyalgia I deal with on a day to day basis.  They were constructive, and I am very proud of these first few endeavors.  I was so proud of the first poem I wrote I posted it here, and soon five more were written, every one of them just as dear to me.  I found my poems were expressing things I didn’t think I could ever get out.  And even though I was proud of it, it was still just poetry.  It wasn’t the fictional writing that I desired to do.  And it was still eluding me.

Then, something came up this weekend.  Something from the Shadow that I had not yet dealt with.  I was actually planning on holding off this particular work until I had rested more.  But this issue would not stay silent any longer, and made it known to me that I have to deal with it NOW.

‘OK,’ I thought, ‘I can do this.  I’ll just pull out my journal and my cards and…’
‘NO!’ I felt and heard within my head.  ‘Write a story about it’.
‘Wait…what?”
‘You wanted to write a story, so write a story about this issue and deal with it through the story.’

In defiance, I did try to work through some of the issues the way I had been doing during the winter, with no such luck.  I guess the only way I’m going to get through this now is to write a fictional story about it.

I won’t share the expletives that went through my head once I realized this was my only choice.

I’m still a bit flabbergasted.  Sure, there was a bit of inspiration in my fictional writing oh so long ago from my mundane life, but to work through an entire aspect of an issue with a written story?  This one is new to me.  And I’m going to have to make it work somehow.

I DID say I wanted to start writing again.  The Gods simply gave me the topic.

It’s alright.  You can laugh.

 

What I Want To Say to My Christian Family

Last week I helped to bury the patriarch of my extended family.  My Grandfather was a strong, noble, wonderful man who held together all of the extended families with his presence.  If he said ‘be here on this date’, all of his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren would assemble, ready to do whatever it was he wanted.

His burial was a Catholic one, and I once again found myself in the Catholic church of my upbringing.  The funeral home’s services also were Christian in nature as my Grandfather’s faith in the church was just as strong as he was.  Even the Knights of Columbus came to give their respects and held their own special service to commemorate his 50 years of service with them.

The tone of the funeral and it being populated with so many strong christian and Catholic overtones reminded me of one many years earlier, the funeral of my great-grandmother.   Weeks before my great-grandmother’s funeral, I had come out to my parents as being pagan.  At that time they didn’t say much about it, but instead chose to unleash their anger at me on the drive home from my great-grandmother’s funeral.  I remember that drive vividly, as it was filled with my mother’s tears and ranting.  Specifically aimed at me, my mother ranted about how my great-grandmother, also a devout Catholic, had shown such unwavering faith in her religion, and how dare I belittle her by not following suit with my own faith.

This recent funeral didn’t come with the same yelling, but it did come with a deep silence that felt like an uncrossable chasm between my family and I.  In the end, no one took notice of my half-hearted attempt at mumbling through the remembered prayers of my childhood. And the not going up to communion was still easily explained at the fact that I cannot eat wheat without getting violently sick.  That isn’t what I wanted though.  I would have much rather had a long conversation with them about what I believe and why, and how the values and morals that I carry in my heart are so much like their own, even though we do pray to different Gods.

I wanted so badly to explain to them that my desire to better myself and help others around me steers my life and is based in my beliefs, even though there is no bible that dictates it.  I wanted to tell them that they would be proud of me, because I don’t just speak of my beliefs on Sundays and on events like this, but instead I speak of my Gods on a daily basis, and am constantly in a state of communication with them, allowing them to guide my actions as they see fit.  I wanted very much for them to see that the faith that they yelled at me years ago for not having is there and is so much stronger than I ever thought it would be.

I wanted to say how much I pray; how often I give offerings, not only things like what is dictated by the Christian church, but yet I give so much more than that and included volunteering, prayers for the dead, prayers and blessings for those around me and actions to help this earth that we all live on.  How I wanted to explain that each of my offerings came directly from my heart and was because I felt it was needed, not dictated by Christian doctrine.

I wanted to say I didn’t need the bible to give me comfort in the loss of my Grandfather. I wanted to explain to them that I knew he was home, and that no bible was needed to explain that to me.  And most importantly, I wanted to say I knew that someday we would all see him again, regardless of what we believed, how ‘good’ we were at ‘repenting’, or what religion we claimed to be.

In the end, I didn’t say those things.  I’ve given up on the idea that my parents or my sisters would understand me.  Instead, my family is more comforted in their beliefs that  I am an atheist, because this ‘pagan’ ideal is much to hard for them to understand.

So the silence still remains.  And I grieve the loss of my Grandfather alone.  I have learned to leave the silence in place, as every time I have tried to cross that uncomfortable quiet I am struck down.  I am silenced by them again and again because my beliefs do not come from a book, nor do my beliefs need someone else to validate them for me.

In the end, I am stronger for what I believe, and I know this.  But it doesn’t stop me from wishing for that one day to come when I can talk to them and help them understand.  But I guess that will just have to wait for the time when we are all on the other side of the veil.

Asking for Forgiveness

I reconnected with an old boyfriend on Facebook a couple weeks ago.  This is a guy I dated about 20 years ago.  Normally, I wouldn’t do that, but for this particular relationship, it meant something for me to reconnect to him.

Anyways, 20 years pass, and he goes his own way,  different than I expected him to take.  But it was his way, and that is all that matters.  Now, although he has had significant struggles, he’s much wiser, much stronger and more sure of himself than I have ever seen him to be.

He messaged me today to thank me for introducing him to paganism.  I said he was welcome, and then I apologized to him.

I apologized to him because I recognized that even though I was established in my local pagan community at the time, I was still very much a child and didn’t know what I was really doing on an emotional level.

I apologized to him because of things that I now know are hurts I was dealt as a child were things that were significantly clouding my judgement.

I apologized to him for any hurt that I caused him while we were together, because of my childish nature, and because I just didn’t know any better.

I am thankful for his response.  It was, “Forgiven, forgotten, friendship extends it’s hand once again.  We both had to grow a bit more.”

One down.  Maybe a significant number of people more to go.

I didn’t  recognize until about 14 years ago that my actions and reactions had anything to do with the fact that I had suffered abuses as a child, that I had not been fully safe and allowed to grow up, or that my view of the world was significantly skewed.  And I also didn’t recognize that the skewed views I had affected me from a spiritual perspective.

Don’t get me wrong, I learned a lot about Wicca and was (and still am) pretty proud of what I had accomplished.  I still formed and ran my own coven for awhile, until I recognized that it was time for me to let it fly on its own.  I still helped to develop a pagan study group at a local college. And I still published a pagan article  here and there.  And I am proud of the work that I accomplished despite my emotional shortcomings.

I however, know there was collateral damage along the way.  I damaged friendships, I acted in ways that I didn’t fully understand.  And even though there was no malice, it caused hard feelings.

Looking back, I can’t even begin to start figuring out each and every individual action.  I can’t begin to understand who it was that I hurt, when I hurt them, how many people I hurt, or how many times.  But it is important for me to acknowledge what has been done.

I don’t believe that the actions and reactions from that time fully under my control, so while I did the action, much of it was not purposeful.  I was pretty damaged, and I fully admit that.  And today, I still have some more of that damage to heal from.  But as situations come up, like with my ex, I will do my best to understand, accept, apologize, heal and move on.

The Peeling of the Onion

onion_by_scheinbar.jpgAnyone who has ever cooked in their life has (most likely) peeled and cut an onion.  And if they are like me and don’t cook that much, they’ve peeled some pretty old onions.  You know the type I’m talking about.  It’s the, ‘It’s-my-time-to-make-dinner-and-oh-crap-the-only-onion-we-have-is growing’ type.  You don’t want to go run out to the store and buy new onions.  So you make due, and cut into it, and recognize very quickly that it is an onion..

a very STRONG SMELLING onion.  And there are lots of nasty bits in the onion.  But you peel back the layers anyway, eyes watering, feeling like you are going to sneeze any moment, and get out of it what you can.

This week, my spiritual work has been a lot like that onion.  It isn’t because I neglected it.  Nor did I forget about it.  But instead, being on the hot seat was key for me to find the damn onion in the first place.  And even then all it did was provide the road map to where the onion was at; it didn’t even present me the onion to start my work.

But once you have found it, I think the harder work begins.  What are the layers?  Are they had habits that you are recognizing are causing more harm than good?  Are they things you have to heal from?  Or in my case, are they realizations about your life that you have been trying to deal with for years, and are just now able to acknowledge with words?

Each issue is a layer of that onion.  For me, the layers sort of look like this –
– I was never allowed to have any opinions of my own growing up (Peel it back)
– I was forced to conform to the way my family thought and felt (peel…)
– I had roles I had to conform to – Mary’s daughter, Margaret’s granddaughter, A member of THE Christian extended family known well in the area I lived, the sisters who sing so well together…(peel, peel and more peeling…)
– I never felt safe having my own opinion (peel…)
– Because I never felt safe, I never learned to voice those opinions (peel…)
– At forty years old I’m finally learning what it feels like to put words together to say how I really feel (peel)..

Every one of those realizations pull more off of your own identity and who you think you really are.  Your fears are realized to the point where they can start falling away on their own.  Your roles are identified and cataloged in order to determine whether or not they are still needed.  You realize your shortcomings, and your strengths.

By the end, there is nothing left but you.  And you feel more naked than you have ever felt in your life.  You have no shields, nothing to protect you, and that thought is liberating and downright scary all at the same time.

I feel like in some ways I have nothing left.  I am broken down, only to be built back up.  That building back up process cannot come fast enough for me, but I know it is not going to be very fast at all.  I need to understand these layers.  I need to understand why they are there, to grieve and heal, to get angry and to fully let go of what it is I don’t need anymore.  But then comes the biggest fear – the fear of failing, not learning what you need and having to do this all over again.

I supposed in a way it’s my very own spring cleaning.   But where I would usually work like heck to get it over with, this time I am going at the speed of my Gods.

I’d say let the examination begin, but it already has.  I’d say hopefully I won’t cry at this onion this time, but that already happened as well.  And it was all meant to be that way.

Don’t ever let anyone tell you that when you reach for your Gods and want their attention that it is an easy process.  They will accept your service, and they will pull you apart, layer by layer, in order to make you into a truer image of yourself.

If you chose this, I pray your onion doesn’t stink as much as mine.

Photo from deviant art