I believe we can walk with Goddess by our side, but need to work on our relationship with Her just as we do our person-to-person ones. I'm a 50-something womon seeking and often stumbling along the path to a profound connection with Goddess in Her many aspects. The power of everyday rituals and moments can help light that path and serve as deep communication when words just get in the way.
She Never Promised Us a Rose Garden
Litha has passed; Summer is upon us. The Full Thunder Moon is softly waning, and the warm July night is jeweled with the twinkling fairy lights of fireflies. The air is scented with the powdery sweet musk of milkweed blossoms luring the monarchs, frogs offer up their throaty love calls, and my heart trembles with the holy joy of this peaceful night. There’s nothing easier than being a Goddess-loving Pagan at this moment.
When life is lovely, devotion to Her flows like silk, a shimmering thing of weightless beauty. My prayers are poetry, signs and messages abound, and my feet tread lightly on the Earth. Moments of inexplicable bliss catch me unaware, leaving me breathless with gratitude. But inevitably, the sky darkens, the seasons change and one day the world seems encased in ice as freezing rain chills the bones and wind whines and howls. Staring into the void outside the window, I feel alone, made of glass moments from shattering. I feel betrayed, forsaken; I can’t hear Her in this cold sunken place of despair and doubt.
Most of us have been in such a place in our person-to-person relationships….we’ve known what it is to be broken by someone we love, to feel tossed to the winds, to know anguish and anger. We’ve felt like fools, turned our backs on loved ones, determined never to be so vulnerable again. Sometimes though, we survive the storm. We forgive. We make our way back to each other. It starts with the smallest of steps: a bunch of flowers, a favorite meal, a small joke that breaks the icy shell. We begin again. Why is that harder when we speak of the Divine?
Perhaps it’s because many of us were raised in some sort of formalized ‘religion’, often the tit-for-tat variety: be good, follow the rules, go to church/temple, pray regularly, and good stuff will happen. Just the other day I was flipping channels and heard a well-known televangelist declaring just that….healing, prosperity & ‘restoration’ if one ‘puts God first in all things’. The word ‘reward’ came up several times. Of course, heaven is a given if you get it all right. Go back a few thousand years and good behavior meant riches and enemy-smiting, an ark when the floods came. Conversely, screw up and you were toast, or at least a pillar of salt. Locusts and plague were sure to find you, and you were headed waaay down south when you died.
In these scenarios, the Divine is authority figure: distant parent, ruler, far above and beyond us mortal beings. What happens to us is reward or punishment, and we’re worthy of love, or not. I believe many of us carry that ingrained baggage into our Goddess-lives unintentionally. We believe the right amount of devotion, proper rituals, the right prayers will bring us prosperity, love, success, healing; when those things don’t come we believe that either we’re bad, didn’t try hard enough and don’t deserve all the Universe has to offer, or that maybe the Goddess is just a fairytale, that if She existed, our home wouldn’t have been torn away by raging waters or wild winds, our child would have been born healthy, our cat wouldn’t have been hit by a car, our check wouldn’t have bounced.
But here’s what I’ve come to understand: yes, She exists in all Her glory: as Maiden, Mother, Crone, as wild Kali and compassionate Quan Yin. Yes, joy and magic abound and Goddess wants us to share in the abundance of the Universe. And yes, bad things happen….they happen while we’re casting circles or making dinner; when we’re peering around the corner and when we don’t see them coming. But Goddess isn’t calling the shots & waving Her wand to decide these things. She may be Mother of the world, Queen of Heaven, but She isn’t our mommy giving us cookies or sending us into a timeout.
She is a living, breathing Goddess with whom we can share a deep relationship, one that calls upon us to do the work, to show up, the same way we maintain friendships and marriages and partnerships. The connection we have with Goddess can be the most intimate one we have in our lives; She knows us beneath whatever illusions we have of ourselves….and accepts us as is. If we neglect our connection to Her, She doesn’t stop speaking to us; we just can’t hear Her over the noise in ourselves. When that happens, silencing the doubts, anger, disappointment can be awkward and difficult; it can feel forced and fake even though it’s what we truly want.
Once upon a time, not so long ago, I was living life in service to Goddess. I believed I’d been called to do Her work, and loved that work. I felt a constant, tangible connection with Her. All wasn’t perfect in my life; there were some serious issues, but I felt chosen to do serve Her and that was deeply soul-satisfying. Then it went sour, for many reasons, some of my own doing. But at that time, I blamed Goddess, pure and simple. She had led me down the garden path…then shoved me off a cliff. Oh, I was angry at the people around me, but I was enraged with Her! I felt betrayed, duped, naïve. I questioned Her existence and my faith, and we stopped speaking. For several years. And by ‘we’ I mean…me. She may have tried talking to me but I put my fingers in my ears, muttering “lalala, I can’t hear you.”
Slowly though I began to miss Her. How could I see my sons, look in the eyes of the amazing womon I love, stand under a golden full Moon close enough to touch and not long to say thank you? How could I wander the woods and not talk with Her? But…how to start over? It felt--sometimes still feels--strained. I didn’t feel comfortable with elaborate rituals anymore. Formal rituals can be beautiful and powerful, but just didn’t feel right for this reconciliation. I made awkward attempts; they would flare like matches, then sputter away. How could I bridge the gap, get back to Her?
This past Samhain, I welcomed the new year with a solitary walk among nodding cattails, with redwing blackbirds chirring and eagles calling out near the river. Unexpectedly, without warning, such joy rose in me...it started in my boot-clad feet, curling up and around me, body, heart, soul, an ecstatic joy of the spirit that comes only from one Source. My favorite Goddess chant became a chorus in my head: Earth my body, Water my blood, Air my breath and Fire my Spirit...I had started my walk wanting to find my way home to Her. Goddess wrapped Her arms around me and whispered "You're already here."
That moment has stayed with me, sustained me when life is frustrating and stressful. I want to tell you that all is hunky-dory, but as in all relationships, there are ups and downs, moments of devotion and of benign neglect. Life is a web of relationships, and the one with the Divine is the most intimate, most profound, possibly the longest lasting we’ll ever have. Coaxing and nurturing it amid the joys and pain, adventures and drudgery is a path filled with discovery and inexpressible love and peace. And therein is my journey: carving time out to be with Her, to celebrate, give thanks, to find—or create—the simple daily rituals that make a life together. Want to come along?
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