Continuing my story of my personal journey on my heathen path, my spiritual experiences in college continued both my newfound heathen path and the experiences with animal totems I had been taught as a child. The first day I moved into UC-Santa Cruz, I saw my spirit animal watching over me.
The quotes in this post are quotes from my memoir, Greater Than the Sum of My Parts, which covers my first 30 years on the Earth. (I'm now 45.)
“I had never ridden a [city] bus before. I was afraid I wouldn’t recognize my stop, and would end up down in the city of Santa Cruz, wondering what to do in the big scary city. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a cat out in the field, but when I turned to look there was nothing there. “A cat spirit,” I thought. “There’s a cat spirit watching over me.”
I started having past life memories. Two of the three of them were in Russia, and I started to think that maybe it had not been purely the coincidence of seeing that someone was studying some exotic and challenging language at the point in high school where I was expected to start learning a foreign language that had led me to learn Russian and to go on to study Soviet Political Analysis at UCSC.
“I had three images in my head that seemed more real than dreams, but belonged to the wrong context to have been this life. I cast them in poetry. Memories from Nowhere #1, “I stand in a reddened room./ Gold stone glitters on the wall/ Lacquered sandstone lying lies/ Of wealth no one has ever known.” I danced in this desert temple to the music of “the pipe gourds of peasants/ and shaking metal sheaves.” In #2 “I am the root woman, the old witch of the woods” in the far south of old Russia, by the look of the house and the weather; such a wooden peasant cot with its painted shutters could have been built in the 9th century or the 19th. In the third vision I am some type of wanderer, also in old Russia by my felt boots, searching the Steppes for evidence of the second lifetime, and finding the old stone foundations of a village fallen into ruin for 300 years. “Stone and pottery, beads of glass/ Were yielding to the growing grass.”
Poetry and writing were the way I related my dreams and visions to others, and they were also the way I worked through how I thought and felt for myself. Most of my poetry and writing were hard work using my skills, but sometimes I felt my poetry was inspired. It was a special feeling, and I can only describe it as a state which is part meditative trance and part compulsion, with a splash of religious ecstasy. Because I primarily related to my heathen path through poetic inspiration and rune magic, which are both powers of Odin, I felt closest to Odin. I also related to him in his warrior aspect, since I had grown up in a martial arts school. I still practiced both the physical forms and the meditations I had learned in kung fu, and I was comfortable with the idea of a god who was both warrior and wizard.
I was sure that he was the god who would become my patron. I was both wrong and right, but I would not know that until thirty more years had passed. I'll tell both the story of how wrong I was and the story of how right I was, when I get to those parts of my tale. Taking my story in chronological order, my next post will be about my spiritual experiences when I spent the summer of 1987 studying in England.
Since I've been talking about writing poetry and the fall equinox is coming up, I'd like to conclude this post by sharing a short poem. This was first published in The Sonoma Index-Tribune in the early 90s and reprinted in my poetry chapbook Renaissance Woman.
Light goes before dark and follows after,
And now suspended from a rafter
In the great barn which covers Earth
Is a lamp of Death and a lamp of Birth.
The farmer opens the barn door wide,
And in walks springtime's loving bride,
Grown old and wise and full and fat,
And on the Birth-lamp hangs her hat.