Teaching a child

April 28, 2011

I want to teach my goddessdaughter. I want to pass on some of what I know.

I would start with the 4 Elements: Earth, Air, Fire, Water. I would give her her first Book of Light and Shadows and ask her to draw her first sacred Circle. And onto that Circle we would place the Elements in order: Earth at the top, Air at 90 degrees, Fire at the root, and Water across from Air. And above and around that we would place the secret 5th Element: Spirit. That which binds us, one to the other, in the great Wheel of lifeanddeath.

We would investigate the Elements in a practical way, suitable to her age. A stone for Earth, breath for Air, a lit candle for Fire, and a mini-cauldron of Water. And our mantra: “Never leave a burning candle unattended.” 🙂

To keep her interested, I would teach her the Discordian tradition of The Sacred Chocolate: White for Air, semi-sweet for Fire, milk for Water, and dark for Earth. I suspect that will get her attention. 🙂

Over time I would teach her the layers of the sacred Circle. First the directions: North for Earth and then around the Circle. We would orient ourselves outside and learn how to find North no matter where we are.

Then the different Gods or guides that go with each marker. I would give her options from the world’s religions. I would explain the different characteristics of the Elements and ask her if she could think of her own guides. I would have her choose who should go where. I would let her know that those guides would likely change as she grows and changes.

Then the seasons: Winter in the North, then Spring, Summer, and Fall. We would draw pictures and tell stories about the different seasons and observe how Nature manifests herself in each.

Then the holy days of my tradition: Samhain in the North, then Imbolc, then Bealtainne, then Midsummer. We would learn these cross-quarter days and the solstices and equinoxes. I would teach her the difference between the two and how to observe the Sun and know the seasons. We would make wreaths of flowers and leaves, a Brighid’s cross, a May Day poppet.

I would teach her of the Moon and its journey through its thirteen cycles. I would teach her how to identify trees by their leaves and bark. We would listen for the song of the birds and follow their call.

Once she’s old enough, I would teach her the Tarot, beginning with the Major Arcana before learning the Minor. While the cheat sheets are helpful, I would teach her to trust her own intuitions and insights so that the cards serve her well.

When she is ten, I would begin taking her to different places of worship so she can be exposed to a variety of belief systems and forms of spiritual engagement. I would encourage her to follow her own heart, listening carefully to see if any one particular path beckoned.

I would teach her magic, beginning with the basics of visualization before moving on to simple charms and prayers. I would give her a book of Latvian dainas that she might know more of her people.

Above all, I would teach her ethics. “If it harm none, do what you will.” The Threefold Law. The deep commitment to justice and compassion that is a necessary aspect of any spiritual being.

Throughout our journey, I would listen to her. I would encourage her to speak from the heart and I would endeavor to hear the sub-text of what she’s saying. While providing a framework for the development of her spirit, I would encourage her to challenge me and herself to greater understanding, charity, compassion, and fairness.

While I might sometimes have her copy from my Book of Shadows, I would sometimes copy from hers to mine. She would teach me as I teach her.

This is my vision for her. It is a lesser version of how I wanted to teach my own daughters, had they manifested in this world. It is open to a multitude of spiritual paths while giving her a solid foundation. It would be creative. It would be fun.

It is not up to me to decide, of course. As her Goddessmother, I feel Called to nourish her spirit. Her parents may disagree with my choices or methods. It is for them to decide. A and J, what do you think?

Xena as Avatar

February 23, 2011

And by “avatar,” I don’t mean the movie.

We have been using Xena as an avatar in my therapy sessions. I have felt an affinity for her since I saw my first episode of the show, a silly piece of fluff where a temple of Demeter gets sacked for the sake of a jewel.

I think it’s this idea that she went through an incredibly dark period which changed her forever. Yes, she’s seeking redemption and is on the hera’s path, but she can never be innocent again. As the bratty teen who’s name I forget says in one episode, “Doesn’t Xena want to be forgiven?” The writer, R.J. Stewart, said no – there are some crimes so heinous that forgiveness is not an option.

So have I been a warlord, leading armies to betrayal and death? Not lately. But I love the vision of Xena as someone trying to do right. It also helps that she’s a robust woman and not some sexualized male fantasy of a “girl.”

There’s a lot I could say about Xena. Unfortunately for my fascinated reader (me), I have strep throat and can barely think straight. But I want to explore a little of what we’re doing in therapy.

My workaday tarot deck is the Robin Wood rendition. She has a 2 of Swords that sums up perfectly how I feel. The woman is blindfolded, setting on the top of these stone ruins on a point, with her back to the roiling ocean, and no safe ground anywhere. She bears two swords in her hands, arms crossed over her chest, swords pointing upward. She’s the perfect picture of balance — but in a totally unhealthy way. She can’t move one way or the other because she’ll fall. There’s no way out.

Except Xena comes. Being the resourceful warrior we all know and love, she lashes out with her whip, snags the waist of the woman, and yanks her towards her, then catches her. I have worked with 2 of Swords for years and this is the first time I’ve been able to visualize a way out of that situation.

Xena wants to assess the situation; Gabrielle wants to provide comfort to the woman. Xena and Gabrielle end up taking the woman to a temple run by healer priestesses. And there she stays, until she can be well again.

The path to wellness is incredibly long; she doesn’t even speak for years. But the temple is warm and safe, and she’ll never have to be on that precipice again.

Enter the family member who wants to visit the Shattered Woman, as we call the former 2 of Swords. The woman we eventually call the Violent Me or the Destroyer. She has come ostensibly to check on the health of Shattered Woman, but then it turns out she wants to kill her instead. At one point she does kill Shattered Woman in a gruesome bloodbath, then eats her flesh. All to protect Shattered Woman from being hurt by anyone else. Twisted, I know.

We rewrite that scene. Instead, Xena intervenes again, restraining the Destroyer. Then a strange alchemy takes place. A light begins to glow from inside the Destroyer. She grows taller and takes on a fully womanly form. And she merges with Xena. The light fades, and only Xena remains.

Xena’s true path is that of a warrior. The producers of the show got in big trouble for having her portrayed as Kali, the Indian goddess, but that’s the kind of energy Xena has. But she also has tremendous compassion and an iron-clad sense of justice. She takes the energy of the Destroyer and transforms it into something more balanced.

I am seeking the way back to my Self. By working with Xena as an avatar, I have a fighting chance. I don’t care if she’s a TV character on a sometimes ridiculous show. She is mythic. She is a goddess. In the Otherworld, she is real. And she has two holy words: One is “courage”; the other, “love.”