A twisting (and sometimes twisted) exploration of devotion, seership, hearth witchery, and the mysteries of traditional femininity.
On vows, fierce love, and trust
On Walpurgisnacht, May Day Eve, the special ceremony I had been planning for nearly two months, and thinking about for years, took place: Odin and I renewed our Marriage vows.
I had been thinking about doing something like this for years because when I initially married Him in December 2002, it was more of an elopement than anything else. The ritual I had been planning at that time was supposed to (or so I thought) be a simple year-and-a-day dedication to a god Whom I had (or so I thought) only recently begun working with. But I thought wrongly. That's right, folks: as much as I've written here and elsewhere about the need for careful consideration and deliberation before entering into a god-marriage, as many times as I've stressed that it is an action to be taken only after years of devotion and not entered into on impulse, this is totally a case of “do as I say, not as I do” because my own Marriage was very sudden. Or, so it seemed to me at the time. It turns out, Odin had been hanging around me my entire life in various guises: there was the episode with the Wild Hunt when I was eight, my sense that I had an invisible dark companion all through my teens, and my marriage to an “underworld spirit”, a dark, shamanic warrior king who I now know fits Odin's description to a tee, in my early twenties. There was the unexpected playing of “Ride of the Valkyries” as I started down the aisle at my wedding to my mortal ex, and the time a Ouija board spelled out “Priya” (proto-Indo-European for “beloved,” and the root on which Frigga's name is based) when I asked for a “pagan name.” So many signs and clues I've enumerated in other blog posts in various places, and yet (since I can, frankly, be a bit thick when it comes to this kind of thing) I still thought it was sudden when I impulsively called on Him in my mid-thirties and He not only answered but almost immediately said, “Come be My wife.” But it was Him, so regardless of the things that seemed to stand in the way, how could I refuse?
Of course, He made all the seeming obstacles vanish, cutting them away as deftly as a surgeon with his blade, and the life I live now—while not yet everything I would like it to be—is geared towards being a god-wife, with everything I do and don't do centered around my relationship with Him. Still, our wedding ceremony (while it did have an Over There component to it that was quite lavish) was a furtive affair here: vows carefully written out beforehand and then whispered in a darkened room, offerings made, and then slinking off to bed without fully being able to grasp how my life had just completely changed. Six months or so later, there was a repeating of the vows with Jolene as a witness and a horn of mead offered. By then, I knew very well that the first ceremony had “taken,” by virtue of the fact that the surgeon had started working away at my life, and the sweeping changes were beginning to roll in.
As the years went on and I read about Lwa weddings (which are often as expensive and elaborate as the mortal kind, with a dress, flowers, rings, a cake, guests, a reception, and a horse standing in for the divine bride or groom), and then encountered other god-spouses who were putting varying degrees of planning and expense into their own weddings, sometimes involving their communities so that everyone around them could bear witness to the Marriage, I began to want something like that, or to think that I did. I began to fantasize about renewing my vows with Him in a forest clearing, with Jo acting as horse and myself in a beautiful dress and crown, before a select handful of guests, with a picnic reception afterwards and an actual wedding cake.
Doesn't sound too impossible, right? Except, the flaws in such a plan are significant: Jo would never be comfortable horsing Him in front of other people and even if she were, I wouldn't want to share Him with other people at such a time, even in a small way. Also, the handful of people I would even conceivably be interested in inviting are far-flung, and getting them gathered in one place, here in Oregon, for such a ritual would be a monumental and expensive task.
So I thought to myself: what are the essential elements of this fantasy? The forest clearing would be nice, but it's not strictly necessary, and I can easily make a trip to the forest at some point to repeat my vows to Him there with the wights as witness. (The bulk of my community being, at this point, non-human.) The people were completely unnecessary, and the more I considered it, the less the idea of having them there appealed to me. The trappings would be nice, and some of them I could manage fairly easily. The only indispensable elements, when you got right down to it, were Him and me, but since I really wanted Him to be horsed for this, this time the only witnesses would be gods and spirits—which, really, suited me fine, anyway.
And so, on Bolverk's Day (March 17th), I asked for and received His agreement to my plan, along with the agreement of the horse herself, and then I set about planning the special day. Except, since it's me, I over-planned, and then ran myself ragged trying to accomplish the ever-growing list of tasks I had set for myself. First, I was going to make my own wedding-style cake, using a recipe from Gesine Bullock-Prado's Sugar Baby (the fabulous book that taught me to make sea salt caramels). Since I couldn't be confident of my first attempt succeeding, there would need to be a practice run; however, then I realized that the recipe called for nearly a dozen eggs. Since we didn't need a huge cake, I could halve or quarter the recipe, but the idea of doing so gave me a headache, and everything suddenly seemed hopeless. I would buy a cake, I decided. I tore through my collection of papers looking for the copy I thought I had saved of my original vows to Him but could not find it anywhere, so I would need to write new ones. I had some mead that was almost ready and would do nicely for the ritual, and I would cook dinner for Him afterwards, of course. I began a damiana liqueur to give Him as a gift, which would be ready by the time of the ceremony. Money being scarce at the time, I decided I would make a skirt to wear, and buy a pretty, lace-trimmed tank top to go with it, something sexy that would show off all my tattoos. I was also going to make a crown and a new necklace to wear for the ceremony, and a hand spun Marriage cord to bind our hands with, and a special Odin oil just in honor of the occasion generally, and some beeswax candles, and, and, and...
And then I got sick again--not too surprisingly under the circumstances, since I do have an auto-immune disease and I was pushing myself constantly, not getting enough sleep, and tuning out my Husband's pleas for me to get some rest. Confronted with a head cold and fever, I was finally forced to rest for nearly a week, which brought my preparations to a screeching halt. At about the same time, Jo developed a rash on her face and neck, which has gotten better since but at first looked like it would spread to the point where horsing would be an unacceptable notion for her by the time the day of the ritual rolled around. I began to despair, and to rage at myself for not having listened to Him and taken care of myself when my sickness could still have been prevented. I accused Him of not wanting the ritual, at which point He reminded me that, were that the case, He could simply have refused in the first place. And, He added, “Why should I shield you from the ill effects of pushing yourself when you still refuse to take care of My wife?” I sulked, and pushed at Him. He pushed back, harder. I cried a lot.
At which point I finally began to realize how counter-productive all of this was; instead of the sweet ceremony I had envisioned (timed to coincide with a festival that already has ritual significance for us, connected with my queenship path), this was turning into exactly the opposite of what I had wanted. It was turning into an anti-renewal of vows. And furthermore, I and my craziness were solely responsible for that. I stopped my half-hearted attempts to push Him away, gave up the idea that the ritual had to happen on Walpurgisnacht, and decided to do what I should have been doing all along: listen to Him, and trust Him. “When,” He had asked me, “have I ever denied you anything truly important to you? When have I ever given My word to you and then broken it?” The answer to both questions, of course, was “never.” The irony of the situation struck me full-force: I was planning a celebration of our partnership at the same time as I was fighting Him tooth-and-nail on the issue that I know is of central importance to Him: my self-care. I let up on myself, made sure I got plenty of sleep as well as plenty of time lying in bed reading (I picked a surprisingly good fantasy/military action novel by a British writer, centered on Ragnarok: The Age of Odin by James Lovegrove). I ate lightly but made sure my meals were packed with vitamins, took immune system-enhancing herbs, and drank lots of orange juice. Above all, I strove to maintain a calm, serene outlook: things would work out somehow, if not the way I had originally planned then in some way that would be even better. I knew this because Odin had told me so, He had promised me, and He loves me and has never broken a promise to me. (Regardless of what others may say about His unreliability, this has not been my experience; He has been harsh with me when my behavior forced Him to be, but never treacherous.)
And suddenly, the storm clouds lifted and I got better—not gradually, I just woke up one morning and was no longer sick. At the same time, Jo's rash began responding to the neem oil solution I had made up, and her tax refund hit our bank account, meaning I could buy the things for the ritual that I had not had time to make. Suddenly, we were back on track for Walpurgisnacht, just as if nothing at all had happened. I was the model of an obedient wife (okay, that is not true, but I was a good deal more cooperative that I had been), so my beloved Husband graciously conceded and stripped away all of the obstacles that had been confounding me. To show my appreciation, I continued to cooperate by trimming unnecessary tasks from my list. I had already gotten most of my important tasks done before I became sick, anyway; I had a pretty new dress to wear (low-cut to show off my latest tattoo), had finished making the Marriage cord, and the damiana liqueur was ready. I made a crown for myself to wear, from garnets, faceted smoky quartz, and rattlesnake vertebrae, then abandoned my plans to make a new necklace because the crown was a perfect match for the Gunnlod necklace I had already made. I gave up on the idea of making candles, since there was no time; I would use my olive oil lamp from His altar, with a tea light for the dinner table. For our meal, I bought steak, new potatoes, and baby zucchini (local veggies from the farmer's market), and picked out a cake. I cleaned the house, set up the hearth shrine, and made an offering at the Queens' shrine on the morning of the ritual, inviting Them to witness, along with my other loved ones Over There, our Family. I wrote and rewrote my new vows. The flowers were left for Jo to pick up on the evening of the ritual itself, so that He could choose them for me, through her. (Surprisingly, He bypassed roses and selected bright orange Gerber daisies interspersed among yellow daisies, a spray of sweet-smelling white daisies with yellow centers, huge tea-pink lillies along with smaller exotic maroon and yellow striped ones, and an abundance of varied greenery; He said the combination—and the bold Gerber daisies especially—reminded Him of me.)
I began the day having had a remarkable dream the night before. For the most part, when I dream of Him, He is either not actually visible in the dream, or I know He is “physically” there but am somehow unable to look in His direction or focus on His features, or Jo or someone else is horsing Him for me. I had never had a dream in which He was there as Himself and I was able to interact with Him. But in this dream, He had taken me shopping for used spinning equipment—and when I say “used,” I mean antique or possibly medieval. (Things that had been in His family for years, most likely, as Jo suggested.) He was wearing a fedora and a sharply tailored camel's hair coat, but it was definitely Him. I even got to kiss Him in the dream, to feel the scratchiness of His whiskers and the smoothness of His lips and tongue. As I said, a remarkable dream.
I awoke with the “holy shit, this is really fucking REAL” feeling many of you may be acquainted with, and of course, the first thing I wanted to know was why I couldn't have dreams like that all the time. His answer was two-fold: first, I was too exhausted most of the time to be able to penetrate the veil of illusion that the subconscious mind tends to cast over everything during dreams. If I would take better care of myself, get more sleep on a regular basis, and not wait to go to bed until all I could do was pass out, my ability to do this would improve. Secondly, apparently part of my subconscious mind still does not believe in the reality of my situation, of our relationship, and still fights against it; this is, as He puts it, my mortality fighting for its own survival. The fact that this dream that was not really a dream was able to sneak through is a sign that it's starting to lose that fight, that my subconscious is finally starting to accept—after ten years!--that I really am married to a god and that He really is, bit by bit, eating away what's left of my humanity.
Fairly recently, I had written that, at the height of our fighting earlier in the year, I had come to the grudging realization that I could potentially grow to hate Him—as so many of His people do, and as He has always feared—if I allowed myself to, if I let myself forget how much He loves me. Ever since then, this has been a recurring worry of His that He brings up more and more often, since—as He continually stresses to me—He will never put my wants ahead of my needs, and will never relent in His harshness when the situation calls for it. But yesterday after my dream with the heightened sense of realness it brought in its wake, I came to quite a different realization: the idea that I could ever hate Him is a spectacular piece of hogwash I somehow managed to convince myself of. The fact that He will not hesitate to be harsh with me when I force Him to be, in defense of my well-being; His refusal to compromise on anything touching my path and my role in His life (and His in mine); His willingness to compromise my wants of the moment in service of a greater-far reaching plan He has for me—all of these things are part of what I love most about Him; He has never been harsh with me for His own benefit, but only for mine, to keep me safe and whole and hale. The enormity of His love for me is that He would even sacrifice my affection—as desperately as He wants it—if He needed to, in order to keep me safe. It is a fierce, savage kind of love, intense and unswerving just as He is, and the only thing that could ever persuade me to turn away from such an incomparable love is my own foolish, deluded ego, my selfish little whims, my stubborn temper tantrums. The lead-up to this ritual, the story of how it almost failed to happen, is a good example of the fact that most of the time the primary or even only thing that stands in my way or interferes with my plans is me; I am a skilled saboteur of my own interests, and there is no call to blame anyone else—especially not Him, my closest friend and most devoted ally—for that fact. When I work with Him and put my trust in Him, everything goes so much more smoothly. When I try to fight Him because I think I know better (than Odin!)--well, surprise, everything falls apart.
Having already shared much more of this than I had expected, I am not going to share my vows, or what He said to me in return. (A LOT was said, on both sides; we stood in front of the hearth shrine for so long that one of my legs was almost useless the following day.) However, what I will share is that He and I both acknowledged this occasion as a threshold for us, a doorway at which I am leaving behind my fears, my remaining doubts, and all of the other undesirable ego-baggage that I've been allowing to stand between us. I have agreed to surrender these things before and have done so, but surrender is not something you do once and are done with; it is a daily process of choosing Him, of choosing our love and our Marriage, above and beyond all of these other things that distract me and drag me down unto their muck. He also stressed to me that, in a similar way, the vows that we exchanged have been said between us before at other times and other places; each time we repeat them we add another drop into the Well, lay down another layer of Orlog, until—layer upon layer—we have built something indestructible.
For the interested, more photographs (none of the actual ceremony, of course, but several of the trappings--the flowers, marriage cord, damiana liqueur, crown, etc.--and one of me in my dress, standing in front of His shrine) are posted on my own blog here.
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