“for Ophelia know/your every woe/and every pain you ever had” – Natalie Merchant
It always amazes me what I am capable of forgetting. Details about my gods, small traditions or habits I wanted to cultivate, revelations I once thought unforgettable – most of them fade into the abyss, a special few re-awakened by chance. Songs and stories I considered all important dim. If I am lucky to remember them again there is always an amount of awe and derision mixed in with the pleasure of remembrance.
I’m rambling – let me be specific.
One of the new gods I work with is the Ophelia. It’s no mistake or coincidence that imagery of another, better known, Ophelia often fits the god-Ophelia: associated with rivers, lakes, and freshwater as well as emotional upheaval, it’s unsurprising that drowning imagery is rather prominent. She isn’t a god I eagerly leap into work with. I prefer worshiping Her from afar. She is, to me, raw unbridled emotion, and being near Her demands the same of me.
It became easy to forget that She demands such openness because She is (in a way, and is not at the same time) that sorrow and pain. Trying to hide from it would be like trying to hide a gaping wound in my chest. (And when we get to journey-work and trancing, there often is at least one gaping wound.) I forgot a part of Her that was remarkably important: She never asks why about the pain. She just sees it and acts.
Some of my friends who have seen Her have said She appears to them with a mask bearing tear tracts. This makes sense. She’s the Woman of Sorrow. She is associated with crying and uncontrollable sadness.But She doesn’t demand reasons. She doesn’t ask, “Why are you sad?” or “Do you deserve to be sad?”
She watches if we need witness. She comforts if we need comfort. She takes our hands and boots us into action if we need to move. For me, She has always been a quiet god (along with Her partner, the Firebird). She was as much the silent mountains to the north as She was the pitter of rain, but when I stopped looking at the mountains I began to forget.
Still, this is probably why I like Her so much. Most of my life I was told, when I expressed anger or sorrow, that I had no right to those emotions. That, if I were to apply logic, I would realize they were useless feelings. The sort of exacerbated emotional silencing that occurs from that is difficult to handle and can lead to awful circular thinking, especially if it has been consistent/constant.
But the Ophelia doesn’t ask. She just sits, and watches, and moves. She is hardly a kind god, refusing to pamper people who call Her – myself and others have been kicked on our rumps a few times – and She wants movement. She is flowing water, not stagnation. There’s always a danger of being pulled under the waves, though. She knows that, and She doesn’t presume that getting pulled down is the fault of the swimmer.
A Note: Like most gods, the Ophelia has many epithets and names. I alternate between calling Her the Ophelia and the Bluebird, the latter of which is a name I associate with Her qualities that are more peripheral to the issues of this post.