Cat Treadwell — professional Druid and nature-mystic - gives us a perspective from the English countryside.
Every so often, I'll get asked about Gods and Goddesses. Who 'my' Goddess is, my patron, my chosen pantheon... you know the sort of thing.
I've pondered the deeper meanings of deity often, as I think you must if you are to travel a Pagan path at such a level. Does deity have existence outside of human belief? Are they just energy forms? Is it not presumptuous to just 'pick and choose'? (My answers, briefly, are 'Yes', 'Not exactly', and 'It depends who's doing the choosing'...)
But recently, the multifaceted nature of Goddess has been on my mind. From the sad passing of my oldest animal friend into the arms of Bast, to the focused dance of the Morrigan, via the peaceful mysteries of Kuan Yin, this week has seen many aspects of my Lady pass through my life.
Bast has been one of the most constant companions in my life, since my early days as a rather earnest, studious Pagan-in-training. She teaches and guides by her actions, demands investigation into deeper meaning, and walks beside me with all the constancy and patience of a cat (except when She wants something, of course). She's not jealous, letting me wander my own ways, but is always there.
(Art by Susan Seddon Boulet)
I have now had to pass the care of my first feline companion on to her, due to his prolonged illness and simple old age. The image of her as the Gatekeeper of the Otherworld, with silver ankh-key in hand, was familiar and yet contained all the imposing authority of such an office. Cats may play, but they take their responsibilities seriously. My tears fell, honouring Her, and the memories of my little friend.
Other Ladies have passed physically through my mind, heart and - literally - fingers, in the form of creative inspiration. I'm writing here of them, yes, but I've found myself making tangible representations and offerings for them as well. Sometimes, quite by surprise.
My knitting has yet to represent the intricate tangles of Spider Woman - instead, I've recently finished a shawl full of waves for Oshun, flowing and dancing in her bright colours. I'm now working on Morrigan, a beautiful feathered creation in a cashmere yarn called (oh so appropriately) 'Raven'.
As the needles move and the yarn twists, these Ladies are in my mind. Their stories, colours, energies and tones - even if I don't know them very well from intellectual experience, somehow their presence is felt... and the creativity moves, giving birth to something magical from the focus and intention of mind and fingertips.
Also this week, the word 'compassion' has been used again and again - from healthcare professionals, to friends, to a marketing email for a new book. So I found myself learning about Kuan Yin.
I know little about Buddhism, as while some of its aspects certainly make sense to me, others strike a discordant note, making me shy away. But the stories contained within this historic tradition have been familiar since my childhood, and the humorous tales of 'Monkey' on his Journey to the West.
In these tales, which dealt both ironically and playfully with the source material, Buddha was depicted as a Mother Goddess, and Kuan Yin as a handsome God. Because, as they rightly remarked, they could appear as whomsoever they wished to be, after all.
I've always found the flexibility and multitudinous nature of each deity a pleasure to explore. I love story, and to find out all over again of the infinite variety of Goddess (and God) is pleasing to both Herself (and Himself) guarantees a smile. They are so much more than keywords or set tasks, even gender or race. They are aspects of deep meaning, personified and codified so that we can understand - in itself, an ongoing process, which is rarely simple!
Kuan Yin is patient, smiling, upset at the ills we suffer (and inflict), but so intrinsically loving that we cannot help but be drawn in by Her mystery. Her example challenges us in our actions and motivations; her lessons are taught by a look in her eye or movement of the hand. Next time you see her statue (quite commonly available these days), take a look and see if you can spot what I mean.
So deities pass through our lives. As Pagans, we are expected to notice - and to take note. Sometimes it's not a conscious decision - it's just awareness, openness to symbols and signs, messages both subtle and obvious (even painful!). Our lives change at such a touch, through influence and as we temper our actions appropriately... and thus, we honour both our own Path and Theirs.
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