Becoming children of the earth again

(This post was produced through automatic writing. My personal belief is that the source of this lies outside of me, but obviously I have no way to check this, so feel free to read this as me giving my opinion on things in a somewhat unusual format, speaking from the perspective of the gods. What matters ultimately is whether the contents of this resonates with you or not. )

I want to tell you a story.

There used to be a time when humanity did not yet pretend that they were the rulers of the universe. When you were still small children who had just learned to play with tools.

It was during that time that you became self-aware of yourself in a way that many other creatures are not: you started to see the world around you as something you could master, a puzzle you could try to figure out in order to improve your living conditions.

At first this was just an innocent little game: try to seed some seeds and come back the next year to see if it had made a difference. But quickly enough, you began to see that it indeed made a difference, and you increased your experimenting and became more pro-active, no longer seeing this as a game, but as a serious business.

It is at this point that the gods began to take note. For we became aware of the potential consequences this would have, as your relationship to the world around you began to change.

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And so we reached out to you. We sent some messengers to communicate with you. Both to help you on your way, but also as a precaution to make sure that you would not disturb the balance too much. And we taught you to work in accordance with nature, honoring the plants that gave you food. It is no coincidence that many of the early creation myths speak precisely of this: of how the gods had created the people by teaching them how to feed themselves. For that is indeed the moment when you became humanity, and not just a type of animal that happens to celebrate very elaborate rituals and wears clothes.

Let me make clear what I mean when I use the word animal here. I use it in the sense of a living being that has a place within the web of life, and has a body that can move of its own accord. Under that definition, you are animals. This is not something that distinguishes you in a positive or a negative way.

Except that you began to think of yourself as different. Even with our guidance, you began to see the world around you as something that was there mostly for your benefit. And that worried us.

For even among peoples who celebrated the earth as a sacred place, and animals as brothers and sisters, there was this sense that your species was different. Maybe not better, but still different. And this had the risk that it could develop in a way of thinking where you would consider yourself as so different that you would stop your efforts of communicating with the world around you, and start to rely only on the resources of your own intellect, and no longer come to us for guidance. And thereby, think that you no longer needed us and that the world around you was there especially for you, and was there to feed you and be subservient to your kind.

Our fears came true. The worst happened: as you began to understand the world in which you live in a more and more mechanical way, the thought of it as sentient and capable of deep thought and emotion became more and more alien to you. And so a group among you stopped your communication altogether. And you all know where that has brought you, for that group of people is the one that eventually birthed you.

And so we worry. For your current way of living has the potential to destroy the earth, if you do not start changing your ways real fast.

But we are still here, and we still want to help. For we still believe that it is not yet too late, and the mess you have made can still be cleaned up.

And so I have a question to each of you. On whose side are you? What is more important to you: Your own personal comfort and survival, or the survival of your kind and of this planet?

I hope you have given the second answer. If so, I have an invitation for you. I am the Earth. I am your mother. I am the one who feeds you. Will you work with me? Will you allow me to teach you ways of seeing differently, of respecting your fellow creatures? Will you allow me to help you to become just an animal again, and to regain the connectedness that you have lost?

Gods of the land

You may have noticed that in my previous post, even though it was about the gods, I have not spoken much about things like reading their stories or studying their lore. The reason for that is because I wanted to encourage you to live in the here and now first, and to approach this with an open mind, rather than as an academic study.

For where did these stories start? Many of them began as encounters with a god, with a place, as a dream that wanted to be shared. Not as something for which you need to dig deep in old and dusty tomes to make sure that you get all details exactly right. It began as something that was very much a living thing.

And so I would like to argue that if we want to get to know the gods of the lands we live in, the first thing to do is to get to know that land. Get out there and listen, and allow it to speak to you. Make up your own stories. And even if you encounter statues, then don’t let yourself be paralyzed by the fact that you don’t know who they are ‘officially’. But take time to imagine them. Speak to them. Dream of them. Ask if they will tell you their tales. If we want to revive the old gods, we need to allow them to become alive in our minds once again. Allow the stories to continue.

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I do believe this is what the old peoples of Europe did, with the advent of Christianity, when they were no longer allowed to worship their familiar gods by the missionaries.

They disobeyed. They did it anyway, but just got creative, and used new names and invented new stories that would allow them to continue honoring the sacred in ways that felt appropriate. The only difference was that now they called them saints, or angels. And this must especially have been true for the gods that were most precious to the people: those that spoke of the connection to their lands, and to their ancestors.

And so, for a very long time, the old was not all that different from the new, except for an added layer of paint. The gods had adapted, and they had survived. The bigger threat to them came much later, with the advent of modern science, and the invention of the notion of ‘superstition’. That is when we truly began to lose the magic of connection…

So then, what are we, modern pagans to do, if we seek to reconnect? Do we look to distant lands, and to gods far, far removed from us in time? Or do we also dare to reclaim our heritage, and reconnect to the gods underneath the layers of paint, even if we do not know what their original names where? I challenge you to try. For I believe these gods have much to teach us.

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I would like to illustrate this by telling of my own encounters with the local Goddess of the land. Her name is Mary.

I do not have the luxury of living in a country that is full of standing stones. And the sacred places that exist, like sacred wells and other places where the power of the land is strong, have been Christianized, and often churches or little chapels have been built on these locations. And so it is quite impossible to simply pretend that the past 2000 years have not happened, and that I can simply take a time machine back in time, to connect with what used to be there before.

And I have begun to think that this is probably not such a bad situation. I have often heard pagans lament about how all of this is a disgrace, and that they stole ‘our’ sacred places. And yes, to a certain extent, this is true, and I am not trying to defend the missionaries. On the other hand, things could have been far, far worse. For most of these places are still held as sacred now, so many centuries later. Compared that to how the sacred places of the Native Americans were and are still being treated: many of them ended up being paved over to build a parking lot.

And so I began to look deeper. And it is interesting to notice how many of these places like sacred wells have chapels that are not devoted to the Christian god, but to the virgin Mary or to an (often female!) saint. Could it be that the connection between sacred wells and the divine feminine was just too strong, and that even a male-dominated church couldn’t afford to ignore that? Or… was it that maybe the deities were the ones who had the final word, and continued to claim these places as theirs?

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I live in a landscape that is littered with little chapels, most of them devoted to the virgin Mary. Many of these are placed in the last remaining spots of natural beauty. And so I began to frequent them, and honor the divine one that was present there, in much the same way as I would pray to Cernunnos or to Artemis at my home altar.

And she responded. Over time I have come to know her as one that uses many names. Or more importantly, one that does not really care so much what name you call Her, as long as you listen. As long as you honour what is sacred. For she is the Land. She is the Mother that feeds us all. And in giving us life, She is Us.

I do not consider myself a Christian, but connecting to Mary has lead to some of my strongest experiences of the Goddess. If this is the mask that she has chosen to put on in the place where I live, why should I turn my back on that? But make no mistake, for honey-sweet though the traditional church-depictions of her may be, that is far from the whole story…

Using the ‘automatic writing’-method I explained in my post on Awen, I asked her to speak to me. What came out was not exactly a gentle message, but more like a stern warning from an angry mother. Yet it does ring true…

 

I am you. Your essence is my essence. Your body is my body. All that you are and ever have been, you owe to me. I am the one who has fed you and nurtured you, ever since you were born. And I am the one who will one day claim your death.

This is a message to you. Remember that you are earth. Remember that your life has been gifted to you and should not be taken for granted. For it is a gift that I can take back when I deem your time on this earth has reached its natural conclusion.

Do not think of me as unkind or cruel for pointing this out to you. This is merely a reminder that you are no more special than any other creature living on the face of this planet. If you think it normal that plants die when winter starts, or that the lamb is eaten by the wolf, why do you think that you are the one exception that needs not give up his own place when your time has come?

I tell you, you are no more special to me than any other being. I will willingly nourish you and feed you, but I will not yield you preferential treatment.

And right now you have sorely tested my patience. Why are you ignoring all my gentle calls to remind you of your place? Why are you treating me as if I were just a thing, a commodity that can be used and abused at will? When will you ever give me the gratitude I deserve for all the many things I give you without ever asking anything in return? When?

For it is high time that you learn. That you remember. For if you refuse to learn of your own accord, then I will teach you. As your mother, I will interfere and correct your bad behavior. I will not do this because I hate you. I do not hate, I will do this out of love. But you may not like the lesson.

You are my children, and all I want is for you to grow up and become beautiful and wise and wonderful. But I am talking now of you as a species. I cannot continue to sustain every single one of you. The way you are living and abusing me now, is smothering me. And at some point I will need to take action. That time is nearer than you may think. Think about this. I beg you. Allow me to show you the way we can reconnect. I beg you. Even while threatening you, I would much prefer to be soft, but I can only do this if you agree to listen and learn from soft teaching methods.

Please. For I do love you all, and that will never change. But sometimes a mother has to discipline her children and tell them to play nice.

 

(Note: it is my belief that this method makes it possible for the gods to speak to us, much like we can also encounter them through shamanic journeying techniques and other methods. But I do acknowledge that ultimately I have no way to check the source of this, or how much this was influenced by my own thinking and my own subconscious. So believe what you want to believe, and see this as a message the earth might have sent to us, if she had a voice to speak with. )

Struggling with the Goddes: in search of self

This post is the next episode in my series on ‘asexuality and paganism‘. In this post I’ll be exploring the link with gender, and how being asexual can cause us to struggle with gender questions.  This is my personal story of how Paganism both caused these questions to be more acute, but also ultimately, helped me to (start) resolving them.

In struggling with my sexuality, I seemed to have lost my connection to the woman within myself at some point. A fact which, for quite some time, I chose to (try to) ignore: I had sort of settled for being ‘blissfully unhappy’ (i.e., knowing deep down that something was off, but just continuing to run away from that realization as hard as you can… ).

One of the things that becoming a Pagan has done for me, is somehow force me to stop, breathe, and allowing these hidden wounds to start coming to the surface. Now, probably one of the first notions any new Pagan will come across, is that of the Goddess and the Divine feminine.

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And I realized that I had no idea who She was. Probably because I had no idea who I was, either. I had embraced my sexuality as being a-sexual. It was very liberating to do so, finally allowing me to embrace the idea that if I was not like other people, then that wasn’t because I was a social failure. At the same time, my sense of identity started falling apart. For what else was I ‘not’?

If I wasn’t part of the sexual world, could I still lay claim to the word woman? Walking away from sexuality was like walking away from all reference points that are usually used to ‘define’ what it meant to be a woman. Yes, I had breasts, a vagina, I was menstruating. So yes, in a strictly biological sense, there was no doubt that I was female. However, I realized now that it was very likely that none of these body-parts were ever going to be used for the thing they were meant for. They were part of my body, but seemingly not part of my identity. If I was going to identify as a woman, then my body, female as it might be, was not the reason why.

Time to look elsewhere then. Paganism gave some hints, stating that water and earth were associated to the feminine, and earth and fire were connected to the masculine. Was this helpful? Thrice no. I am an Aries sun, and so the element that I identify with most strongly would be fire. The element that I felt the strongest disconnect to, especially at the time when I started these explorations, was water… As you can imagine, this created more confusion than anything else… Who was I??

It would be fair to say that at the time, I found being around ‘real’ women to be a very scary thing. Because their very existence seemed to confirm how I was a fraud, desperately trying to play the part, but really trying to hide that I had no idea what that meant. What I could not see at that time was that my definition of ‘real’ was as faulty as it could possibly be. It referred to those who looked the part, who were beautiful and sexy, the kind that you would come across in commercials. And so I’ll apologize to them. For I admit that for a time I was almost unable to see the person within, because I was too focused on seeing them as a confirmation of all that I was not.

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Where to run to then? For a short period, I even allowed myself to entertain the notion that maybe the solution was that I was actually trans, with all that fire that I had within me. Luckily I realized pretty quickly that I was on the wrong trail there. (Wrong FOR ME, that is. Let me stress that in writing this, I am only talking about myself, and I have no intention to in any way question other people’s lived experience. You do you.)

But it also made me read quite a bit of stuff written by trans women. For it seemed to me that, if anyone would know the answer, well, wouldn’t they be the ones who had the most ‘pure’ understanding of what it meant to be women? If they could manage to correctly identify themselves as women, even though they were in a different kind of body… Surely I would be able to find the answer there? Another disappointment. Anytime the question of ‘how do you know’ was posed, the answer seemed to be something like, because ‘I just know that is who I really am’, or ‘that is just how I feel on the inside’.

Well, I can tell you that I, for one, wasn’t feeling it. Maybe then, that was because, once again, I actually wasn’t anything at all? And so I began to retreat more and more into trying to identify as agender, as seeing myself as simply ‘person’, and nothing more than that. It felt like a safe place to retreat, but deep down, it also felt a bit like running away from the world, in those few moments when I allowed myself to admit it…

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Enter the gods.

Even as I was seriously questioning my gender identity, it would seem that Someone else wasn’t. Quite the opposite, in fact. She called me out on the way in which I had started to systematically block anything marked ‘feminine’ as having nothing to do with who I was. And I can tell you that having to face the anger of a goddess is NOT a fun experience, even if this was not a face-to-face confrontation. The way this happened was through a series of channeled messages, sent to me by a friend who is a priestess of Isis. And Isis is not one to mince her words: she’ll say things as they are: just imagine your mother being very angry at you, where the core of her motivation for yelling at you is that she loves you. Now take the divine equivalent of that.

That accusation felt profoundly unfair. It was not as if I hadn’t tried to connect. The way I saw it, I had simply given up on something that had never been mine in the first place. And so I rebelled. And I yelled back. And had some more rebukes thrown back at me (and if they are phrased with an undertone of love, these are actually the worst kind to have to face…) I honestly did not understand where she was coming from, but she had more than touched a nerve within me.

Until eventually, my resistance broke. It happened one day when I was sitting before my altar. One of the statues on there is of the Virgin Mary (I am not a christian, but I worship her as a protectress of the land and of sacred springs – I live in a country that is littered with tiny chapels devoted to her, ignoring her presence seemed like an absurd thing to do for one who claims to believe in the existence of many gods…). At the time, that statue was standing next to one of Cernunnos.

Was it the contrast between those masculine and feminine energies that made me come to this realization? Still wondering… But suddenly I understood with overwhelming clarity, that that soft caring energy of Mary was very similar to my own. That this was an aspect of myself that I was repressing, and that in doing so I was living as only half of me. And I just. broke. down. I started crying, allowing all of these emotions to flow out all at once, as I felt my walls being torn down by Her.

I still do not fully understand what it means to be woman. Women-only events still scare me. But  there is something deep inside of me that somehow seems to respond to that name. Something that colours the way in which I interact with the world. Something that I am on a journey to try to understand, to become whole again as I try to re-embrace her as part of me.

To finish this post, let me share with you the words that Isis sent me recently. Not as a rebuke this time, but as a stepping stone on my journey. And they just might be useful to some of you as well…

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Musings on the divine feminine

What does it mean to be a woman? Is it part of our body that is shaping our soul, or does the soul residing in the body determine the characteristics of the flesh? Or is all of that inessential, and do we need to look elsewhere for answers?

Or is this a mystery that is just too complex to have a simple and concise answer? 

 The reason so many struggle with this question is because we live in a society that forces answers on us that are not based in what matters at the soul level, but on the roles we are supposed to play in life. Mostly, that is the role of child-bearer. And mother, and wife. 

Only rarely is the role of a women described in terms of how strong we are and how we possess a tenacity and endurance and fighting power that far surpasses that of the male half of society.

What does it mean to take control of your destiny? To be prepared to give up your own essential identity to care for those around you? To not be afraid to give all of yourself in the service of life itself? Or simply, to enjoy the beauty of the world around you? 

It means that you are the woman you are supposed to be. It means that you have found your place in life. Note that empowerment and self-sacrifice are not at all contradictory in this. Standing in your power means that you control what you have to give, and that you set the terms under which you will give it. That you embrace the fact that your life is yours to give, not someone else’s to take.

What is strength? It is knowing what will break you and not giving in to that. It means knowing when to fight, and being prepared to give it your all when the time comes. Whatever happens, you can tame the lion if you find the strength that is your birthright.

What is weakness? What is that? Who determines that? Is it relinquishing control and putting your life in service to another, or is it not daring to swim for fear that you might drown? Whenever you think yourself weak and undeserving of love, that is when you are weak. Not when it is the call of another that you follow willingly.

Woman, find your strength in giving, your empowerment in the fact that you choose who to give to, and your weakness in denying yourself the chance to fight for your own dignity. You are what keeps the world turning, and you are the source of renewal without which the world would not exist.

Claim your rightful place. Be proud. Accept your power to be that of giving yourself.

(Channeled message from Isis)