"No one sings as purely as those in deepest hell; what we take for the song of angels is their song."
Tomorrow is Veterans Day and this particular day has immense personal import for me. My dad was career military and served in both WWII and Korea. My grandfather was in WWII and i have great uncles who served in WWI. Some of my first ancestors in the States were Hessian mercenaries who came over to fight in the Revolutionary war and I also carry in my veins the blood of Saxon warriors who took their stand against Charlemagne, may he be damned, in order to protect their traditions. I'm well aware, to the marrow of my soul, of the debt we owe our military dead. We all have them, somewhere in our lines, and I like to think that the grit and sense of duty that motivated them to fight for their homes, families, countries, and people flows through our ancestral hamingja down to us as well. I sense them quite often around me, the military dead in my line and those military dead that I honor who may or may not be directly related as well. I maintain a special part of my ancestor shrine solely for them and occasionally I make pilgrimages to battlefields and hold rituals and do what I can to honor them too. One thing that I've found they very much appreciate, in terms of offerings, is the acquisition of trench art.
This wasn't what i intended to write about for Veteran's Day and I may yet write something else before tomorrow ends. Still, someone today expressed great surprise that I, who carry warrior medicine, am also a poet, painter, photographer, glassblower, and cook. This is not the first time that I've had this happen. I remember when I was working with a Theod, jaws dropped open when it was discovered I could cook and cook well. The idea that someone claiming warrior medicine could also have the power, potential, skill, and desire to create something of beauty, or something nourishing seemed shocking. It apparently causes serious cognitive disconnect for some. Yet, warriors have always had a keen appreciation of beauty.
How could they not? Even in the midst of hell, one needs reminders of what one is fighting for; one needs reminders that nourish the eyes and the soul. One needs reminders that the brutality and horror in which one is currently wading are not the only things in the world, that there was a world, a precious beautiful world before whatever war one is fighting, a world to which one hopes to return. Warriors need those reminders of the fragility and sacredness of life, of their own humanity, of those they love, and those things that sustain. (All those humanities we're so hell bent on culling from our educational system? They nourish our humanity. They connect us to some of the best parts of being human: our capacity for occasional, shocking greatness, for creative genius, for distilling love, honor, loyalty, joy, pain, weariness, defeat, salvation into concrete talismans of remembrance, i.e. art, music, sculpture, etc. We cut them from our educational systems at our peril).
I think that our hunger for beauty and our ability to find or create it in the most adverse of circumstances is one of the defining sensibilities of being human. Warriors, soldiers are men and women making hard choices and doing what is necessary often with horrific personal consequences. This doesn't' make them less human; i believe it makes them all the more aware of how human they are, and all the more aware of how sometimes that must be thrust aside for survival, raw, brutal survival. Warriors have always sought out and found ways to create beauty in the midst of trauma. Samurai were expected to be well educated in the courtly arts and many a Japanese warrior was also an artist or poet. Archilochus, the Greek poet, wrote of being both a devotee of the Gods of war and of the Muses. There was no conflict: both were necessary for becoming a whole human being; and men damned to the trenches in WWI and WWII took the implements of destruction and horror: shells, mortars, and assorted metal refuse of war and made things of occasionally astonishing beauty. Collectors and antiquarians call this latter type of art 'trench art,' because it was made by men in the trenches.
I discovered trench art completely by accident. A friend of mine who used to own his own antique store gifted me with a small box. It was made out of a large shell casing and the soldier-artist had carefully inscribed a little lion and the words 'Labor Ipse Voluptas" (work itself is a pleasure) on the top. It was made during WWI. My military dead immediately took to it and it ended up on their altar. I started to get pushed to find more of this type of art and so over the past couple of years, I've acquired a small collection, all of which sits on my shrine to the military dead as an offering to them and what they endured.
I want to share some images of those pieces with you today, of simple things of quiet beauty made by men in the midst of hell.
This is the small box, my first piece of trench art, that I describe above. half the lid is hinged so it opens and closes easily.
The larger ring pictured here was made in France during WWI out of a shell casing.
These vases, both made during WWI, in France. One has ivy running around it, the other poppies. Both are made from very large shell casings--they're about a foot and a half tall.
I am particularly taken by the small things that soldiers made, like these cufflinks made out of small shell casings, and this pill box, made out of a shell casing and a coin. It's a little larger than a nickel.
Finally, here are two pictures of another box, also made out of a shell casing. This is about the size of my fist and is finely detailed. This is what many soldiers did in their "down" time and many's the sweetheart who received rings or trinkets from her beloved at the front.
I believe these things served as a reminder of exactly what these men were fighting for: everything they loved at home. All too many of them never came back. May they have the grace of being remembered and hailed, not only tomorrow on Veterans Day, but always.
(the first photo at the beginning of this post is one that I took of the WWI memorial in Rhinebeck, NY. Please do not use without permission).
I love the Samhain season, october, autumn in general but with the beginning of november the excitement of the world bursting into color, of the days growing chill, of preparations for the feast of the dead turns into something darker and more somber. It's as though a very special threshold has been crossed. Everything seems to change.
There's Veteran's Day which my House celebrates as we have strong reverence for the military dead. Odin of course, takes pride of place in many of my own November devotions, and House Sankofa honors Him in ritual; and always the press of my Lithuanian ancestors demanding that I tend my hearth properly, tend my mate, tend the people under my care, provide for them, ensuring that they will not go hungry through the winter. Their voices have been especially loud this autumn.
The hearth is a sacred thing to my ancestors, a holy thing, and the home a sanctuary. They take this seriously, for to my Lithuanian ancestors so many of their women were fire priestesses, responsible for tending and maintaining the household and community relationship with the spirits of fire and as a corollary to that, maintaining the hearth in wholesome and pristine condition. It was an act of power for if the hearth of the home fails, then one's obligations to fire have been breached and if those relationships within each individual hearth are not correct the community will be weak and that leads to destruction. I listen to them. My Lithuanian ancestors held out against the encroachment of monotheism longer than *any* other European nation, including the Scandinavian lands, several hundred years longer, finally falling to monotheistic conquest in the middle of the fifteenth century.
So the early days of November are odd for me. We celebrate day of the dead -- actually, we're a blended House and we celebrate several ancestral feast days at this time: Winternights, Samhain and from Oct. 31-Nov 2: Day of the dead. Usually I set up a full, lush ofrenda, though I did not do so this year. Then Nov. 1 is my dad's birthday. He died almost ten years ago, but I always try to do something for him on this date. Lately, with all their push toward keeping up the integrity of my household and home, my ancestors have been pushing me to cook traditional Lithuanian dishes. My biological mother wasn't lithuanian and really didn't cook any of the traditional foods. My dad, when he got a hankering for his preferred comfort food would put on an apron and make it himself -- the only time I ever saw a man in a kitchen growing up lol!. HIs favorite thing in the world was a type of fried cookie- a traditional Lithuanian concoction involving 12 egg yolks, a ton of sugar, flour, sour cream, and some rum. I don't know what they're called in Lithuanian but he called them 'bow ties.' I'll be making them tonight (a day late) for him.
Veterans day always hits me hard and usually involves intense work with the dead, and then we head into those terrifyingly liminal days preceding Yule. It feels transformative this year, and it's hard not having any idea what those dark days when the Hunt rides furious and fast will bring.
Today, four of us from the House had an impromptu gathering. One is a devotee of Hekate and wanted to share a ritual with us. It was lovely and tremendously powerful and more on this I will not say, only that this ritual and what preceded and followed it was tremendously healing for all of us. May She be hailed. Before I ramble on too much more about November and it's ritual obligations, I want to share a few photos marking this day.
Here is a close up of the Hekate shrine. The mask belongs to one of my House members, and is his home image of Her. We are having an image made for us, but it's not yet completed. When it is, we will hold a ritual and our Hekate's man will install Her in the house. till then, I share this image.
This is a photo of my father John P. Dabravalskas during part of his military service. He was career military, serving first in WWII, then Korea, and then working at Aberdeen Proving Ground until his retirement. I'm not sure if this photo is korea or WWII, I'm guessing Korea just from his age (he was born in 1917) but I could be wrong. He did his best and did his duty. Through him I am descended from strong, fierce people, hard people who do not know the meaning of the word 'to yield.' From him i learned about duty and obligation, things that service me in my work; i learned to be a brutal chess player, and I got glimpses of the world outside the very narrow one in which I was raised. I did not know him well when he was alive. The generation gap was extreme (he was thirty years older than my bio-mom) but he was a good man who tried always to do his best. I'm proud to have him in my ancestral house.
And just because my Lithuanian ancestors are driving me batshit of late ^___^ (in all the best ways of course), here is a photo of my grandparents Ursula and Karl Dabravalskas, their daughter Julia, and my dad. I never knew my grandfather, but my grandmother, whom we called "mamoom" scared me when I was small. A birdlike woman who never quite got the hang of english, she always wanted to hug and hold me...and I was convinced she was Baba Yaga. I wish now that I'd gotten to know her better but she died when I was very small. All of them are honored on my ancestor shrine.
As an aside, my grandparents were the victims of an unfortunately mis-arranged marriage. heh. My grandfather contracted a betrothal with my grandma's older sister. Then he came to the states to make his fortune. Once he got set up, he sent for his bride to be. She, however, decided she didn't want to leave her native land and sent her younger sister instead...without telling him. In those days, one didn't just send the girl back so he married her, they had three children, and fought --or so i am told--like cats and dogs till the day he died. Here's
a praise poem I wrote for my Lithuanian dead some time back. They do sustain.
Now, enough of my rambling. What did everyone do for their ancestors this past samhain?
Today House Sankofa held its Winternights /Samhain ritual: a huge feast to honor our collective dead. We came together as a community bringing pictures of our beloved dead, tokens, and many, many offerings. Together, we laid the altar that you see here and cooked together to make a feast for our dead, and also food for us to enjoy after the ritual.
We honored our personal dead, both of physical lineage and those heroes and friends, mentors of heart and spirit that inspire us. We honored the collective dead of House Sankofa, making sure to honor the ancestors of those who could not be present. We honored our polytheistic martyrs, those who fought the good fight trying to defend our ancestral traditions. We held space for and gave offerings to the collective dead not only our House but the Houses of our allies: House Thyrsatrae and Bet Ittoba'al. We honored the military dead, the Dionysian dead, the two-spirit dead, the Canaanite dead who were first to face attack by the Filter, and all those dead who had been rendered silent for generations but who wished to step up and help. We honored mitochondrial Eve and our most ancient Mothers and Fathers. We honored our personal dead, and my adopted mother, the sancta of our House. It was a good day, a good ritual, and our dead feasted well. Here are some photos of our altar before and after for y'all to enjoy.
Online Course - Ancestor Work 101: Getting Started
Instructor: Galina Krasskova, email@example.com
Recommended Texts: "Weaving Memory" by Laura Patsouris, "Spiritual Protection" by Sophie Reicher
Length of Course: 8 weeks: Dec. 4 through Jan. 22.
Cost of Course: $125.00
I am going to be starting an eight week course in the basics of ancestor veneration: what it is, why we do it, how to get started and what problems might arise. This course is non-denominational (anyone may take it, you don't have to be Heathen) and open to everyone. Lessons will be sent around once a week via a private yahoogroup email. Each lesson will contain a "lecture", reading assignment, and homework. There will be a discussion group on yahoogroups for the duration of the class. There are ten spots available so if you're interested, please contact me as soon as possible to reserve your spot.
(Please feel free to share this with anyone you think might be interested).
Online Course - Ancestor Work 101: Getting Started
Instructor: Galina Krasskova, firstname.lastname@example.org
Recommended Texts: "Weaving Memory" by Laura Patsouris, "Spiritual Protection" by Sophie Reicher
Length of Course: 8 weeks: Aug. 20 through Oct. 8.
Cost of Course: $125.00
I am going to be starting an eight week course in the basics of ancestor veneration: what it is, why we do it, how to get started and what problems might arise. This course is non-denominational (anyone may take it, you don't have to be Heathen) and open to everyone. Lessons will be sent around once a week via email. Each lesson will contain a "lecture", reading assignment, and homework. There will be a discussion group on yahoogroups for the duration of the class. There are ten spots available so if you're interested, please contact me as soon as possible to reserve your spot.
(Please feel free to share this with anyone you think might be interested).
The Oxford English Dictionary defines archetype as:
Archetype: Psychoanalysis (in Jungian theory) a primitive mental image inherited from the earliest human ancestors, and supposed to be present in the collective unconscious.
Our dead are not archetypes. This is not rocket science. This should not bear repeating but sadly it does. Our ancestors are not archetypes.
Our dead are not symbols.
They may inspire us, but they themselves are not symbols. When I honor Malcolm X as one of my honored dead, i'm not honoring him as a a symbol. I am engaging with a specific person. Engaging. with an individual. It's not metaphorical in the least. If i engage with my adopted mother, I'm honoring her not as a symbol or metaphor but as an individual woman whom I loved dearly. I am engaging with her in a way that translates to the human senses, not as an idea, not as anything other than someone who used to be flesh and blood, and is now non corporeal.
Our dead are not archetypes.
if the dead are archetypes to you: you're doing it wrong.
My latest Heathen Heretic column
is up, wherein I answer a reader's question about what to do when the idea of honoring the dead is difficult, uncomfortable, or even distasteful.
Check it out, folks.
(the photo above and attached to the article is mine, of arlington national cemetery).
I recently wrote another article here that touched on ancestor veneration, which I consider a fundamental part of polytheistic practice. One of my readers chimed in, asking a very good question, that I suspect an awful lot of people wrestle with as well.
I have a question that is troubling me about engaging with my ancestors and wonder if you can help. I have, after much careful consideration, decided not to have children. I have the clear impression this is displeasing to them. Given that my decision is non-negotiable, how can I establish a good relationship with them when I am refusing to continue to very bloodline that connects them to me? I would be very grateful for any insight you can offer.
Well, it's important to point out that there is no hard and fast rule to ancestor veneration other than "do it." When you deal with your ancestors, while in some respects it may seem as though you're dealing with a monolithic unit, in reality, you're dealing with individuals. It maybe an organized counsel of individuals, a collective, but in the end, you're engaging with a conglomeration of individual people.
While it is meet and right to respect and honor our dead, that doesn't mean that we are bound to obey their every dictate. Working with the ancestors is a process of engagement, *negotiation*, and mutual reciprocity. There's wiggle room there in most cases. Sometimes, they will push very hard. Sometimes we do too. Part of ancestor work is negotiating space where your needs and theirs can co-exist. It's perfectly ok to have certain hard lines with them. If not having children is your hard line (and it's mine as well, by the way) then the thing to do is to sit down with them. Hold a personal ancestor ritual, call upon them and explain this. Tell them that you will honor them. You will welcome their strength and protection and wisdom into your life, but -and this is non-negotiable--you will not have children. You will share their wisdom with those who come into your life, with those you care for, but they will have to look to other parts of your living line for children. They can push--doesn't hurt to ask after all---but you are not obligated to comply and this is where maybe seeking out a skilled ancestor worker and having that person negotiate and facilitate the conversation can be very helpful.
Not having children in no way means you can't have a deep and engaged ancestor practice. You may find it's one or two ancestors who are fixated on this because it's one of the ways that they define health and well being. This is workable. If you have siblings who do plan to have children, point this out. Direct them there. LOL. If not, simply state your position and continue to engage. call upon other ancestors to help or seek out a capable ancestor worker to sort things out. Usually, as with any relationship, ongoing communication is the key.
In trying to reweave and restore our ancestral religions, it's easy to get confused and even easier to miss the mark. Our culture is a sick one after all, disconnected, impious, and fairly confused. After two thousand years of Christian dominance, it can be very difficult to reclaim our polytheistic heritage, most importantly, it can be very difficult to reclaim the mindset, the deeply internalized understanding of the way sacred things work within an indigenous context, that lies at the heart of that mindset. Sometimes it's an uphill battle.
Take this: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/agora/2013/05/making-light-hero-worship/ for instance. There is some major disconnect here. I realize that there is an entire foundation, a habitus, a cultural and religious comprehension that comes with an understanding of lineage and tradition, that comes of growing up in a community rooted in a common understanding of what it means to be polytheistic. We don't have that. Still, part of the battle is recognizing it as something important to reclaim. Much of that reclamation begins with learning to rightly honor the dead.
I've said it before and I"ll say it again: the ancestors are our best and strongest allies in this fight. They can help us get it "right." Our traditions were sundered. They were destroyed. Not only our traditions but any sense of lineage was torn away. That is such a horrific, collective, soul-deep devastation, a holocaust of such proportion that it's no wonder we're struggling. Our ancestors are there and they want to help us, but we lack the spiritual technology to figure out how to let them. We as a people have been disconnected so long, we don't realize we're disconnected.
The title of this article refers in part to 'heroes.' By that term, i mean the unique, superlative, elevated ancestors who are special carriers of strength and excellence, fortitude, and inspiration. Ancient or modern, maybe our ancestral heroes are exactly whom we ought to be calling for help on that. I would like to see offerings made, sacrifices done, all for the dead of our collective lineages, those that were sundered with the supremacy of monotheism. I would like to see the ancestors being honored and fed, and empowered in this restoration. This, i believe, is crucial.
In the meantime, that still leaves us with a disconnect. One of the areas that people seem to struggle with is the restoration of our heroic cultus. This was not an uncommon facet of ancient polytheisms. I don't believe we have anything close to it in our modern world, save the Catholic cultus of saints. There's a big difference there though, between saint cultus and ancient hero cultus. If i understand the theology correctly, Catholics venerate saints not only for the miracles they are believed to have performed, but as examples of how to live a good, decent, faithful life. That is not at all the case with ancient heroes.
Honoring heroes like Cu Chulain, like Heracles, like Achilles, or even contemporary Heathen honoring of Saga heroes like Egil has absolutely nothing to do with with their virtuous character. It has to do with their being larger than life figures, figures who performed remarkable, exceptional deeds, whose deeds affected their communities, who embodied in some way --to default to Greek-- "arete."
Arete is usually translated as 'excellence' and refers to glorious deeds performed by the would-be hero. The greatest of Greek epics, the work that influenced not only all of ancient Greek culture but Roman culture as well, Homer's "Iliad" was all about arete: distinction, fame, and glory. It had nothing to do with the behavior of Homeric heroes. Many of the most revered heroes were mighty warriors, which means they were highly trained killers, obsessed with personal glory, quite often willing to rape, pillage, and plunder nations. It is this quality of surmounting mediocrity, of setting in the threads of wyrd that which will stand as an incitement for later generations to excellence that leads to the veneration of heroes. That may hold true with modern heroes (like Malcolm X, Gandhi, or Rosa Parks -- all names recently brought up by modern polytheists as 'heroes') as well: it is not who they were so much as what they did with what they were that mattered.
There are also a couple of pre-requisites to being a hero:
1. You had to have lived at some point. You had to be *an actual person* -- that is, an actual *living* person.
2. You had to do something worthy of veneration. You had to become part of your own mythic cycle. Your story had to become part of the mythic cycle of your people. it had to become fuel for future generations.
I find it incomprehensible for all of these reasons and more, that someone, anyone would equate ancestral heroes with comic book or fictional characters. I understand that not everyone is a reconstructionist. I'm not technically a reconstructionist; but that shouldn't mean that one eschews reverence for the dead or diminishes it. Given the disconnected cultures that we all grew up in, it's all the more important that we give our ancestors the reverence that is their due. They're our essential lifeline.
In a world that already encourages us to view the Gods and spirits as fictional beings, I think it's all the more important to draw a clear line between those things that inspire us but that are fictional and actual holy Beings, that…you know, exist as independent, sentient Beings. There's a very fine line after all between equating comic book characters to ancestral heroes and positioning the Gods in the boundaries of one's mind and heart as fictional too.
I think that's in part what concerns me in all of this: the potential for a remarkable lack of cleanliness. With the media fixation that is also part of our modern American world (cell phones, Facebook, television, movies), television and movies have come to take the place, sadly and to our detriment, of the mythic cycles of our ancestors. There's nothing wrong with a good tale, a good story. It is not, however, substitute for actual ancestral engagement. I'm not denying the power of the theatre or the cinema or even cable tv to present a spectacle that hits us on a deep level and opens us up. (Sannion talks in much more breadth about the sacrality of theatre here: http://www.witchesandpagans.com/Pagan-Paths-Blogs/making-light-of-superhero-worship.html). That's great. That's good. This is something in our world and therefore can certainly be a sacred tool. What i'm questioning is the wisdom of equating those fictional characters with our honored dead. It seems all too easy to diminish the latter.
More to the point, the very definition of a hero precluded fictional origin; and religion is not entertainment. The point of veneration be it of the Gods, ancestors, or cultic heroes is not one's personal entertainment. Conflating comic book heroes with ancestral heroes is not a question of orthodoxy vs. modern avante guard perspective, but of singular comprehension of the role of cultus in one's religion vs. spiritual puerility.
Part of the difficulty for us moderns may be the use of the term 'myth.' To, ironically, paraphrase a popular film "I do not think that word means what you think it means." We use mythology to refer specifically to stories that are not true. The word itself implies something if not fictitious itself, then very, very close to it. It's something removed from our every day reality. That is a post-Christian meaning. In ancient Greece, a culture deeply entrenched in heroic cultus, and from which the word 'myth' comes, it meant 'narrative, account, story.' There was no necessary implication of fiction. It was an account of something worth retelling. We are using the word today very, very differently than the cultures in which heroic cultus developed. This is, to be blunt, muddying the waters terribly.
Finally, perhaps the cultus of the dead is a buffer keeping out the frivolous. It forces one to root, and there is a segment of people, a segment of people ultimately of little use to their Gods or their dead who resent and resist that and all the responsibilities inherent in this restoration, that run fleeing from it. In every single traditional religion that I can think of that is the focus, the first focus to the point that we must sometimes go through our ancestors to reach the Gods. It opens up fighting the filter to a whole segment of people who think they have nothing left to offer there. Why? Because everyone has dead and as a beautiful Lithuanian proverb goes: 'the souls of the dead are the protection of the living.' With the heroic cultus, surely that would hold to an even greater degree.
But, unfortunately for us, this is the age of Marvel and DC Comics, Josh Whedon, Dr. Who , etc. and it is much easier engage with fictional characters that won't (in fact *can't*) engage back than to actually engage in the process of spiritual restoration and maybe, just maybe with the Powers - ancestral and divine--who can and will.
Today is my adopted mom's birthday, or would have been if she were still alive. She died in 2010. I loved this woman and she loved me with a ferocity that once led her to challenge Odin on my behalf. We love each other still of course, mother and daughter, one dead, one living bound through the grace of ancestor veneration. You'd think being a shaman it would be easy to deal with death, to accept that the spirit lives on. It's not. Her death still hurt terribly, beyond anything I have the verbal capacity to describe. Death carried away my joy, and it took me a very long time to find bring myself back. She helped with that too. Her story, the parts we wrote together, and the parts she shared with me from her life before we met, are etched in my heart. I am defined by this woman: there is before she died and after. But she was my mother and that, I think, is as it should be.
Through the first part of her adult life, my mom lived in Basel. She had attended the music conservatory there, taught music less than a block from the school (if i recall correctly, on Einhorn Str.--her building had a unicorn on it, small and tasteful and one could just see the top of the piano through the window). She and her partner lived in Basel, and when he died she left that city for good. She said she couldn't stand it, that every cobblestone echoed his presence and it hurt too much to see the city go on when he wasn't there as well. It held too many memories. I get this.
My mom, when I knew her lived in Carmel. I will never go back there. The city holds the breath and shadow of her memory but she is not there and how *dare* it exist without her. How *dare* it go on when she no longer lives. It angers me that the city continues….in the aching world of my heart it has no reason d'être now that she is gone. I finally understand full well why she only once returned to Basel after her lover's death, and then only out of stark necessity and for as brief a time as possible. Some things even time cannot rid of pain.
Her partner was a pianist and a well known linguist. He died of lung cancer and the last six weeks of his life, on his death bed he taught himself Italian. He was reading Dante in the original before he died. When he died, my mom was teaching a class. Her friend came to the window. She looked out, saw her friend's face and said her partner's name. Her friend nodded and my mother died inside a little. She stopped eating for a time, shaved her head and shared her grief with the other woman he loved---they were poly in a time when no one spoke of it; my mom was poly before poly was cool. I had dinner once: her, me, and his spirit as present as if he were there in the flesh, almost, and so i met the man she loved and who loved her in return. I took cigars to his grave site once. He liked to smoke.
Last night I was feeling so raw. I couldn't figure out why but I was feeling so fragmented. It took me awhile to realize that today was my mom's birthday. My partner called me and when he heard my voice and found out why I hurt so, asked me to tell him about her, to tell him her stories, of the times we shared together. So I did and it helped and through my words and tales one who is so important to me now, came to know at least a little, the one who restored me to life. There are many ways to give life after all, expelling a child from the womb is only one of them.
My mom was an atheist for a long time. The pain of the world hurt her terribly, broke something vital in her soul when first she experienced it. She told me once she'd been so isolated as a child, and in her first experience with the anguish of the world she was like Siddhartha. Nothing was ever the same for her again. Humanity appalled her. She was an atheist for years until somehow someone introduced her to the Norse Gods. She was dubious but something must have pinged for she started exploring it. She felt strong, very strong draw to Loki. One night, as she related to me, shortly after this introduction. she lit a candle and challenged Him bitterly to prove His existence to her. (Hubris she would later admit, but at the time she knew no better). That night, the blankets were ripped off her bed and she was yanked out of the bed and onto the floor by Loki. That direct experience changed everything for her.
She could speak to bees and dogs and they would listen and sometimes she understood when they spoke back. She could speak to and understand cats but they disdained her counsel and seldom obeyed. She was terrified of horses -- except Sleipnir---because she could not read them, but knew they were intelligent, and that they knew she couldn't hear their thoughts….they were unpredictable to her and this frightened her. She once braved two very large horses so my god daughter--quite small at the time--could feed apples to a friend's horse. He was in a stable shared with several other riders. A big horse was being groomed by a woman. As my god daughter held the apple up to horse #1, horse #2 butted in to get his share. She fed him some, so he wouldn't feel left out and only later did we realize she'd fed someone else's horse. I remember my mother's face, white as a sheet, as she held my god daughter's hand, inches away from those two horses. That's when I learned of her fear. She was also afraid of alligators but this was far less troublesome!
She was a very humble, very stubborn, very fierce powerhouse. She taught me more about devotion than I ever thought possible and did much to heal what was then a very broken and scarred heart. I can love because of her, but more than that, I can find some measure of joy in living because of her. She was a miracle worker in my world, and she never would believe the number of lives she touched and transformed. My House honors her as a sancta and I am not the only Heathen to do so. She of course would be appalled and say such veneration is far more rightly given to Sigyn.
I miss her. Every day I miss her. She had a high pitched Basel accent and whenever i hear a woman with that accent, I want to cry and I want to smile at the same time. I watched the movie "Les Miserables" recently and almost had to turn it off. Anne Hathaway, when her character has her head shorn looked so much like my mom, and the tale of that character is one of such sadness, degradation, and grief. I found myself weeping and it was solely that I could not look at it and not see my mom in Hathaway's high-cheekboned face, short hair, and huge, huge eyes. She translated Midgard for me, this woman fluent in seven languages. She translated Midgard for me and taught me to navigate a language of being as unfamiliar and alien to me as ancient Greek had once been to her. She gave me fragments of knowledge, taught me to appreciate the grace-notes of Midgard, as she called them. Most of all, she loved me as only a mother could. I have been very blessed in my life. I know this.
So today I remember my adopted mother.
May she ever and always be hailed.