You Can Always Begin Again

First: obligatory holiday greetings and blessings for a season of hope, joy, and peace for you and yours.

Second: It has been an embarrassingly long time since I’ve updated this blog, and there has been a lot of uncomfortable but necessary change going on in my life. I feel like the exact nature of those changes and a detailed State of the Sage should wait for another post, because I’ve just been hit with a spark of something and I’m going to do my best to capture it right now. Strike while the iron is hot – and, considering Who I’ll be writing about tonight, the blacksmithing metaphor couldn’t be more relevant.

Third: I have just finished my first ritual to Brighid for the first time in months.

You know that embarrassing moment of running into someone who used to be an incredibly close friend of yours who, for whatever reason, you’ve fallen out of contact with – not that there was a falling out, but life started getting in the way and you always meant to return that email or poke them on Facebook and just never got around to it – and all you can think about it what a jerk you’ve been for not taking five minutes to sit down and see how they were doing? So you make a shallow attempt at small talk, smile brightly, and quickly excuse yourself with the promise of catching up later, in the future, at some point that is not now. Now, you’re being followed by a nagging feeling and you know you really should pick up that phone and dial that number you know by heart and explain just where you’ve been all this time – but every second you put it off makes the rift a little bigger, and the bigger the rift is the harder it is to pick up that phone.

At least, that’s how relationships go for me. (So note: if it’s been awhile since I talked to you, it’s probably not your fault. I’m more than likely huddled in a ball of anxiety instead.)

I’m not always good at putting into words just what Brighid meant and still means to me. When the whole Lady of the Stars thing happened on the Cauldron last November, for the first time since Christianity I could finally call myself a theist again with more assurance than not. For the majority of my post-Christian spiritual career, despite all my efforts, prayers, entreaties, and times I did nothing more than bang my head against the wall, I could not feel the present of Deity. I couldn’t feel anything – my early Wiccan days and my experiences at Bryn Mawr’s Pagan group let to a lot of angst over an inability to sense energy, feel the power of a cast circle, or connect with any unseen forces at all. When the Lady came knocking at my door (and the door of several other members of the Cauldron), I felt a complicated mix of relief, humility, uncertainty, and yes, a little bit of fear. Fear not of Her, but of what this meant in my life now, and fear that even with this ‘proof’ I finally received that somehow, my belief wouldn’t be enough. And when the Lady led me to/revealed Herself to be Brighid, all those feelings intensified.

Over the past several months, nearly all of my spiritual practices and commitments have been pushed to the side. I have a million and one reasons for this: my time, energy, and dedication have been used up elsewhere as I entered my senior year, began working on my honors thesis, helped my coven prepare Roanoke’s first Pagan Pride Day, navigated the choppy waters of running a Pagan club at a Lutheran college in Virginia, dealt with one of the worst professors of my college career, and found myself in a relationship with the most amazing, brilliant, beautiful young woman I have ever met. All of these things, good and bad, have taken a toll on my already dismal time management skills, and my ongoing struggle with anxiety and depression have made what little free time I had to myself into a less than ideal opportunity for tending to my own spirituality. I stopped posting at the Cauldron (though I’ve started lurking again), put my Dedicant Path work on hold, and let my shrine to Brighid go untended. This semester hasn’t been a complete spiritual black hole – Loki, of all people, has been popping in and out for a few months, and I’ve recently developed an inexplicable fascination with Kemeticism and a few of the Netjeru – but it has felt like all my personal progress has ground to a halt if not started sliding backwards.

One of my greatest regrets in all this has been neglecting my relationship with Brighid. Unfortunately, I oftentimes have a very all-or-nothing attitude which impedes much in my life. Either I’m devoting myself to Brighid (whatever I take that to mean), or I’m not talking to Her. Either I have time to sit down every day and work on the Dedicant Path, or I’m not working on it at all. Either I’m painting with black paint or white paint, and don’t even talk to me about exploring shades of gray, much less different colors. And so I’m walking by my Brighid shrine in my school apartment, trying not to feel guilty for letting the altar cloth get bunched up or not cleaning up incense ashes or leaving the offering bowl unfilled. The few times I reach out through prayer I feel nothing, so eventually I stop trying, and suddenly it’s winter break and I have all this time now to sit, ponder, and reflect. Suddenly, I’ve run out of all my old excuses.

I hadn’t intended to talk to Brighid tonight, no more than I’d intended to start talking with Her in the first place. The top of my bookshelf, recently cleaned with the rest of my room since coming home for the break, has become home to a few candles and a vase of dried flowers in anticipation of becoming Someone’s shrine. After my evening devotional, this space caught my eye and I was moved by a sudden burst of inspiration. Candles were added, rearranged, and lit; I moved my icon of Brighid, a small painting commissioned by a friend, to rest against the vase. I looked at the eyes of my painted Brighid, poised with hammer in midair above Her blacksmith’s anvil, look of serene focus on Her face. I apologized, I prayed, but it wasn’t until I sang the Lady of the Star Fire chant and fell into silence that I could hear Her still, quiet voice again.

You can always begin again, She told me. You can always come home. I am here.

“I am here,” I repeated softly in reply.

Hail Brighid, Lady of the Star Fire, Starsmith, the Great Illuminator, the still-point of my turning world – hail, and welcome. It’s good to be back.

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9 Comments

  1. We all have differently similar issues at any given time.

    I’ve catalogued my whiney anti-gods processes via the Cauldron and my blog. And I’ve found that the darkest times seem to be a… preperation. My most recent Fallow Time (my phrase for it) brought itself to an end with an intense exploration of voodoo, hoodoo, Tarot, hedge witchery, and wise women-like beginnings. And since I became a servant of thes Lwa, I’ve become more intense in my devotions to Sekhmet. It seems odd, right? Voodoo and Kemetism? Mixed?

    But it works.

    And I think I’ve noticed a pattern: to return to the original path, or a facsimile thereof, something new enters.

    Good luck on you path!

    • I wonder if our Fallow Times are not only good for us, but necessary. In my Baptist church growing up I was taught that my experience of Jesus and the Holy Spirit should be immediate, constant, and strong. The spiritual relationships I saw modeled around me were fervent and unwavering, and anything less was cause for serious re-evaluation. When I felt my god it meant I felt him very strongly – but when I didn’t, it was my fault and I wasn’t trying hard enough, which meant I was a Bad Christian. This is about as unhealthy as expecting a romantic relationship to constantly exude that New Relationship Energy and then freaking the hell out when faced with normal, everyday living. Since leaving Christianity I’ve had to learn different ways of managing divine relationships, and at a certain point disconnect is as sacred as feeling the presence of the gods. Without these moments (days, weeks, months, years) of isolation, silence, distraction, and (for me at least) depression, then moments of union, speech, clarity, and joy mean nothing. We so rarely value that which we have in spades and can get at no price. And when we do return to those quiet, still moments of peace, we know what it is we value and are all the more open to the whisperings of Deity.

      I’ve been exploring Kemeticism (particularly KO) in depth since the beginning of winter break and I’ve found a surprising number of Kemetics who are also involved in some way with the lwa. I don’t know enough about voodoo (or Kemeticism, for that matter) to know the reason for this connection, though I will say that my brief encounters with some lwa (Papa Legba and the Erzulies) have left a similar impression on me that my interaction with some of the Netjer have. There is something… different about these two groups of spirits. And the lwa and Netjer rarely seem to come alone – I’ve heard both voodoo and Kemetic practicioners say that once one Being starts nosing around, a host of His or Her family and friends are likely not far behind.

  2. Oh, my gods. The entire first part of your comment, I was just nodding and nodding. I was raised as a Methodist, not Baptist. However, I felt that it was the same thing: there was everyone all around me and they were all so devout. And I felt like I was a Bad Person because I wasn’t the same. Sitting in church and Sunday school with all of the other kids, I was just like, “blah… blah… this is boring… I don’t feel anything… what do you mean I have to pray to feel something?”

    I was reading this blog entry not all that long ago. And it really resonated. I think it’s pertinent here to your loss of faith. (And the blogger? She really gets you thinking about things a lot of the time.)

    It’s only been since my start in the direction of voodoo that I recently realized how closely correlated both Kemeticism and voodoo are. Of course, I’ve known for some time since Rev. Siuda has a relationship with voodoo. However, since I’ve started meeting more people who have relationships with the Lwa that I realized how they seem to mesh. I find it odd but exhilarating: I’m not alone!

    I’m not one hundred percent on the whole Netjer bringing along their buddies aspect. Sekhmet has been my patroness since before I knew who she was or what she wanted with me. In the time that I’ve known her, consciously and willingly, she has only brought a single goddess into the mix and that is Hethert. To be honest, that doesn’t seem to be all that shocking considering they are both aspects of one another. However, I have noted that most people who have a relationship with one Netjer tends to have at least one or more patrons from the same pantheon. I think that Firaza is one of the few of us with only a single patron.

    …And yes. Once exploration of one Lwa begins, so they all start knocking. Papa Legba showed up (by introduction from Sekhmet, actually) some time in July. Within a short period of time, Papa Ghede showed up, although I wasn’t aware of this until a friend of a voodoo-hoodoo persuasion informed me he was knocking around. Since then, there has also been a tentative relationship with the Bawon [Samedi] and Maman [Brigitte].

    My theory as to this all stems from a belief that there are only so many of us who believe in the gods, Orisha, Lwa, and various other spirits so they’re “hard up,” so to speak, and so they tend to knock at the same door numerous times.

    And now that I’ve just blathered on and on… 😀

    • Unfortunately, I think a lot of people have shared our experience growing up in certain pockets of Christianity. 😦 There are a lot of wounds from my upbringing that are just now getting a chance to heal, and I’m not sure when or if I’ll ever be comfortable in a Christian service again. I currently attend a private Lutheran college which presents its own unique challenges, especially in the Religion Department where I’m majoring. (This is a story for another time, but remind me to blog at some point about my homophobic, anti-feminist Christian Ethics class I had to sit through this past semester.)

      Thank you for that link! The blogger brought up a lot of good points especially about being able to “forgive” deities when bad things happen in the world. One of the things I struggled with in my waning Christianity was an unsuccessful attempt to reconcile a supposedly all-powerful, all-loving, all-merciful god with not just all the sin and evil in the world He supposedly created, but also the entire concept of hell and damnation. I find that while I still struggle with matters of faith, I haven’t asked “why did You let this happen?” since my Christian days.

      Some paths are just complementary like that. I’ve always wanted to poll as many Pagans as I could get my hands on and make a giant spreadsheet of overlapping paths and practices. Hooray not feeling alone! 😀

      And fair enough regarding the number of Netjer in one’s life. For years I only met them one at a time (primarily Bast and Aset as Isis) and they were never a huge part of my spirituality. (A lot of that has to do with a Pagan acquaintance of mine, who’s no longer in my life for a host of reasons, who claimed to be dedicated to a host of Egyptian deities and left a sour taste in my mouth about anything Kemetic for a long while after.) Recently though, what spurred me to join Kemetic forums and sign up for KO’s Beginner’s Class was a meditation in which four goddesses – Bast, Aset, Het-heret, and Sekhmet – appeared and have yet to leave. Hard to think it’s only been a week I’ve been doing daily devotions for these four Ladies…

      I haven’t looked too deeply into voodoo because I have a feeling I reeeeeally wouldn’t have enough time for that path. XD Even though I think Baron Samedi is really really cool. I know a bit about various practices and several of the lwa, and I find it all fascinating. What are you relationships like with your lwa?

      No need to apologize for your blather – I’m glad you did! We seem to have a lot to talk about. 😀 And I agree with your theory. Maybe the reason some people are such “deity magnets”, or why some practitioners of some faiths seem to quickly gain a variety of divine attention, is because the act of opening yourself up to such interaction is like hanging a “vacancy” sign by a busy interstate. I feel a little sorry for the lesser-known deities Who don’t get so many people talking to or worshiping Them anymore.

  3. My relationship with Papa Legba is all-encompassing and pervasive. He actually showed up, as I said, because Sekhmet wanted to introduce us. He has since made himself quite at home on an altar the two of them share. His first task in my life was to completely flip it upside down since he knew I wasn’t going to do a damn thing to fix my shit. Since then, I have been learning his not-so-shit-stirring side. He’s fairly laid back, in love with shiny items, and coffee. I think he mostly came around because I have an instinctual affinity for crossroads and gateways. It probably drew him like a magnet. XD (Someone once asked what it was like to have Papa Legba get my attention. I explained like this.)

    My relationship with Papa Ghede is more subdued because he is just, you know, a subdued kind of a guy. He likes his peanuts, his hot sauce, and his booze. (Tequila, at present.) His goal in my life was to get me more in tune with my deads as well as to pay attention to the deads that are ignored all over the place. As a service in his name, I go to the older local cemeteries and photograph them so that they are not forgotten. Whenever he is please, I tend to hear something like this.

    Since I’m still so new, I’m sure that there will be more for the relationships with the both of them, as well as additions (such as with the Baron and Maman). However, for now, two Lwa and two goddesses are enough! (I say that now, which means that I bet you the Baron is going to come waltzing up at some point. Sigh.)

    May you escape the loving curse that is walking down the road to voodoo!

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