In Context.

For the past few days I’ve been searching the Internet and my library for socio-historical and mythological information about miscarriage and stillbirth. And…I’ve really come up short. I’ve found a lot about historical abortion, which, while fascinating, is not the nuance I’m looking for.

I’d like to do a post, or a series or posts, about the social, historical and mythological Pagan constructs of miscarriage and stillbirth. My assumptions are that it would be a taboo topic, since many of these societies were primarily concerned with fertility. Also, medical knowledge being variable, many women might not even know they’re pregnant. I will, however, give most women the benefit of knowing their bodies well enough to speculate.

So what are the stories around this? Who are the deities who preside over it?

And I just can’t find that information. I might be missing it completely. It might be hidden in books about broader topics that I haven’t found. Maybe I’m not keying in the right phrase. I’m hesitant to attribute the miscarriage label under Mother Goddesses, especially since I haven’t found references about them (Isis, Hera, Danu, Demeter, etc.) presiding over pregnancy loss.

On a personal spiritual level I’d like to incorporate this knowledge in my own practices. However, I think it would be a service to the community to have a resource pool for that information.

If you know anything, Pagan community, any tidbits at all, I’d love to hear them. Stories, songs, legends, rituals, deities, folk practices, herbs…whatever ya got.

Many blessings.

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Miscarriage #2

Found at 9 weeks 5 days, on September 13, 2012.

“There’s an old saying, ‘That what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger’ I don’t believe that. I think the things that try to kill you make you angry and sad. Strength comes from the good things – your family, your friends, the satisfaction of hard work. Those are the things that’ll keep you whole. Those are the things to hold on to when you’re broken.” –Jax, Sons of Anarchy, Season 5/Episode 1

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I have created a Pregnancy Loss page. I posted this miscarriage’s experience, and I will follow with March’s experience. The intent is to provide information to the Pagan community of women who have experienced or are experiencing loss and/or infertility, as well as provide my story to the broader loss community.

The direct link to that page is *here*.

Cross Post: Finding Aphrodite through The Charge of the Goddess

I was honored to be asked to guest post at one of my favorite blogs, The Pagan Princesses. I decided to write about Aphrodite and my evolving relationship with her. I’ve written about it before on the blog, but this time I threaded the story through with The Charge of the Goddess, a text that I haven’t connected to until recently.

Check out The Pagan Princesses blog if you  haven’t already. It’s wonderful, intelligent mix of social, spiritual and personal commentary.

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    Listen to the words of the Great Mother…

…So begins The Charge of the Goddess, an inspirational text mainly used by Wiccans and other Witchcraft Traditions. Several versions exist, but I prefer the text used by the Reclaiming Tradition, which was adapted by Reclaiming’s founder, Starhawk, and based off a version written by Doreen Valiente.

I’ve read The Charge of the Goddess several times since I’ve been Pagan, but never connected with the text. I am not a Wiccan, and because it was mainly used in Wiccan and Witchcraft Initiatory Traditions I didn’t really feel compelled to study it. Further, even though I am a religious Pagan, until recently working with deities seemed like a nice idea…but not a reality I actually experienced. While other co-religionists had devoted relationships to a variety of deities, I mainly stuck to praying to my ancestors  and setting out offerings to land spirits.

Much to my surprise, that changed earlier this year.

This year has been a tough year for my family and those that I love. There have been amazing times—incredible opportunities, wanted pregnancies, healthy babies, new jobs—but there has also been a fair share of sorrow. Death, pregnancy loss, pet loss, financial hardship and just plain old struggle. One significant event a year seems almost fair—that’s life, that’s the Wheel, and most Pagans of all stripes recognize this as equanimity. But when the struggle and grief persist the Wheel seems to turn into a miller’s stone.

After several months I, out of the blue, began connecting to Aphrodite. She was not a goddess that was even on my radar—I always thought that given my ancestry I’d eventually connect to the Celtic pantheon—but there she was. The first time was in the middle of TJ Maxx, no less. I was shopping for a friend’s wedding. I had tried on dress after dress in several different stores. I only had a half hour left before my babysitting time was up—so—my mind connected to Aphrodite. She’s the goddess of beauty, right? So I sent a prayer. Fifteen minutes later I left the store with two beautiful, well-fitting dresses, shoes, necklaces and makeup.

Over the next few weeks I just felt Her.  Beautiful, sensual, tempestuous, glorious and ancient.

I was baffled (but grateful!) at first. My knowledge of Aphrodite was limited to the standard Pagan 101 correspondence table. Aphrodite: to be invoked on Fridays, loves roses, use pink candles. I had always associated Her with Valentine’s Day and not much else—honestly, not even giving Her much thought. Why was she connecting with me, a married lady? Wasn’t she for…others?

In retrospect, the timing was perfect. My husband and I had just lost a pregnancy. Medical bills rolled in, life was stressful and busy. I didn’t see much beauty in life at the time, or much room for lust, passion or sensuality.

Despite that, I quickly fell in love.  Reading over her epithets, beautiful words like Asteria (of the stars), Urania (heavenly), and Epitymbia (of the tombs) felt familiar, like I had prayed them before in times of joy and times of grief. Patterns in my life began to connect, and when I looked at them anew, I saw Her.

Let my worship be in the heart that rejoices, for, behold, all acts of love and pleasure are my ritual.

I wanted to find ways to work with Her.  Aphrodite is a very erotic goddess. I read about how some use sacred prostitution as a means of connection. I found the idea intriguing, but as an oath-bound married woman, that wasn’t for me. What more? I found her turning my attention to the details of my relationship with my husband. Sure, we couldn’t hole up in a love nest for weeks, but I (and we) could try more. Walks, talks and doing chores for the other person are free. Candles, a home-cooked meal and a simple bouquet don’t require much in the way of money or time, but the thought goes far.

Also, She has been a powerful goddess to work with after pregnancy loss. The whole experience of miscarriage is horrific, haunting and ugly. I won’t try to redeem it, but I will say, that at times I glimpsed beauty and grace surrounding the situation. A pot of ‘Mystic Blue’ salvia from a friend. Someone left me a jar of Floridix iron supplement. And eventually, my husband and I were able to heal, and we did it together.

  Sing, feast, dance, make music and love, all in My Presence, for Mine is the ecstasy of the spirit and Mine also is joy on earth.

As I worked more with Aphrodite, I began to see that throughout my life I had been a pleasure-seeker, a bon vivant. From a passion for good food and good wine to a cultivation of the art of doing nothing—these things seemed very Aphrodite to me. So each time I eat a delectable morsel of food,  I think of Her. When I steal some hours of silence to nap and relax, I devote them to Her. When my husband and I are going out for a date and somehow my unskilled hands slick on makeup like a pro—I definitely thank Her.

  I give the knowledge of the spirit eternal, and beyond death I give peace and freedom and reunion with those that have gone before.

I realize in these acts of pleasure, these small moments of a joyful heart, there also lies Aphrodite Epitymbia*, and Aphrodite Maelinis (of the dark/night). Not only is this shadow present in the slippery temptations of gluttony and addiction, but also in the essence of passion, sensuality and wonder. Because these moments make up life.  And all life is flowing towards death, in ways small and great.

For behond, I have been with you from the beginning, and I am That which is attained at the end of desire.

In the still depths of dark nights, when grief and sorrow wrap around me like a shroud, that provides an honest comfort. It moves what is happening now to something less egocentric and more universal, it moves the thoughts circling in my head to something closer to truth and freedom. That one goddess can imbue aspects of love, grace, passion and desire as well as decay, death, fear and suffering helps me integrate those concepts in my interior and exterior world.

From me all things proceed and unto Me they must return.

In the light of Aphrodite, The Charge of the Goddess has come alive for me. Where once lay meaningless typeface, now words breathe with inspiration and resonance.  What has been an individual devotion now has a broader context. Through those words I’m able to connect with other traditions, such as Wicca and Reclaiming. Does that mean my path is taking me there? I don’t know, and that’s okay. I am just grateful that those words have been revealed to me, gifting me with something to ponder, enjoy and be inspired by.

Sources

Names of Aphrodite: http://www.theoi.com/Cult/AphroditeTitles.html
Aphrodite Epitymbia: http://www.theodora.com/encyclopedia/l2/libitina.html
Reclaiming Tradition’s Charge of the Goddess: http://www.reclaiming.org/about/witchfaq/charge.html

I’m Here.

Hey! It’s been awhile.

Right after my last post life got…well, busy. As it does. Husband was in a fender-bender, I registered for college, we started searching for a day-care for Claire, we went out of town, in-laws came into town, we bought cars, I decided to start re-watching all (!) of Buffy, and I started orienting my career-path to something more solid (hence, going back to school). All of the previous has meant a shit-ton of errand running and go go go.

But, I think for the next few weeks we have some breathing space. Before I start classes, before I put C into daycare (sniff), before, before, before.

It’s been kind of a weird time. Making these decisions about life, leaving other decisions behind, for now. When we got pregnant earlier this spring we were so ready for a second child. Now? Now that’s been put on hold, for a while, anyway. Some days it feels right. Some days I stumble on one of C’s old size 1 diapers and it makes me terribly, terribly sad.

I’m not sure how we, how I, am supposed to make these decisions. How do I make one decision when it means, maybe irrevocably, giving up something else? How do I joyfully anticipate one thing, while grieving the loss that’s implied? I don’t know. I really don’t.

Despite the above paragraphs, I’m really not sad. I’m exploring the tension, being honest about it with my friends and my husband, and acting on something, goddammit. The tension is better than inaction, at least for now.

The Sun card has come up a few times in my daily card draw.  It’s a new card for me; one that I’ve only drawn a couple of times (if that) in the past. I take this as an auspicious sign. That action is the right course for now. That things that have been unclear for a couple of years now will begin to be worked out, like knotted muscles during a run.

So, really, that’s all. Normal, busy, life.

On Loss, #1

Sometimes, grief is an ephemeral thing. A fragment. A figment. It comes and goes, flitting in and out of time, spaces, dreams. Looking at the cat-food bowls still sitting empty on the kitchen floor. Thinking of my grandpa’s funeral, hazy with time, me in a somehow sad floral dress with a huge early-90’s bow and frizzy red hair. Glancing outside at Thor-tree, my petition tree, that has died from last summer’s drought.  Walking out of HEB realizing, in that moment I pushed my cart through the store and onto the sidewalk, that I am not pregnant anymore.

Grief is also constant. It’s lead in the heart, rattling around like loose ammo. Sometimes the ball pings against something else, makes a connection, and that shoots to the surface. Reminding you that yes, you’re in mourning. Don’t you forget it!

Times like these make me wonder if we’re just always in mourning. That grief is one of the ingredients in the concrete of our foundations, along with joy and love and wonder and ?

There’s no Pagan angle to grief, really. Everyone, in every belief-system, experiences sorrow.  I suppose I could talk about comforting deities or prayers, but mostly this week I just prayed to not be alone. I don’t know who answered me, but I wasn’t alone. There was my husband and my toddler and some mother-sense that countless mothers all over knew this particular grief–the grief of children lost, the grief of children never-born. And in that knowledge I was saddened, but comforted.

Only a Flower

Only a flower marks my grave,

Marks my grave, marks my grave.

I don’t need no wooden cross,

I don’t need granite for my name,

May my name be ever lost.

Only a flower marks my grave.

Marks my grave, marks my grave.

I’ve been trying to write a post for awhile now. Sitting, thinking, starting, erasing. I had it all planned out in the shower. It sounded good, too. Poignant, sad, but ultimately hopeful. The trouble is I just can’t get my fingers to write those words at the moment. I’m a writer. Writing is what I do; it’s what I love. It’s how I cope. But, I suppose, sometimes things are beyond words. Especially when they’re not over yet. For now, this:

Baby,

We miss you. We miss the nascent hopes and dreams we had for you and for our family. There will never be another you, and one hopes that in someway, somehow, we will get to know you. In another realm, in another life, who knows? But you brought joy to our hearts while you were here. Wherever you are know that you, our child, are forever in our hearts and our family.

Love,

Mama and Dad