A Rite of Sacrifice

Work with a Goddess long enough and you learn to hear Her call.  You learn to pick Her voice out above the noise of contemporary society, above the words of teachers and friends, and even above your own thoughts and feelings.

Sometimes what you hear is not what you expect.

Though I am pledged to Danu, She has not been the strong presence in my life that Morrigan or even Isis has been, much less as strong a presence as Cernunnos.  But since last fall Danu has been more vocal, and earlier this year I joined two local friends in an effort to honor Her, to strengthen our ties to Her and to explore how we can assist with Her work in this world.

And in a meditation one evening, She was very clear what she wanted from me.

Danu: “I want that.”

John: “You’ve never asked for anything tangible before.  Why do you want that?”

Danu: “I want that.”

John: “It’s worth a lot of money!”

Danu: “So you’re going cheap on Me?”

John: “But I’ve had that for a long time – it has sentimental value.”

Danu: “Right.  Which is why you take it out of the box and look at it for fifteen seconds once every three years.  I want it.”

John: “But…”

Danu: “You have several. I want one.”

John: finally realizes how this is going to end. “Very well.  You will have it.”

My friends had similar impressions, although I got the feeling neither of theirs was delivered so matter-of-factly.  We talked about it and planned a rite of sacrifice for last Sunday.

Last Saturday was a beautiful day in North Texas.  It was sunny and 81 – I had someone ask me why I wasn’t burning up in the long-sleeved t-shirt I was wearing.

Ah, but this is Texas.  On Sunday I woke up to 25 degrees and 25 mph winds.  We all attended the 9:30 service at Denton UU and afterwards decided that since it was just cold but not wet, we’d go ahead with our plans.  In the 15 minutes it took to speak to the people we all needed to speak to, it started sleeting.  In the time it took to drive six miles to the small lake we had selected for our ritual, the sleet started accumulating.

The Swedes have a saying: “there is no bad weather, only bad clothes.”  We were all dressed fairly well, but this was still not going to be a long ritual.  As we walked out to the bridge where we intended to do our ritual, a crane took off from the lake and flew along with us for a short while.

The bridge was iced over, so we decided to do our work on a grassy area that offered more secure footing – throwing ourselves in the lake was neither requested nor offered!

The sleet continued to blow.  We began with Peace to the Quarters, because I’m a Druid.  We asked the blessings of the Spirits of the Land, because this place had a part to play in our ceremony, and because it’s polite.  Each of us in turn gave our own invocation of Danu.

We all brought water from our homes.  We poured it in a bowl, each took a sip, then poured the rest as an act of communion.

Then we made our sacrifices.  I threw that into the lake, giving the Lady of the Waters what she had requested.  The others did the same.

Danu, we have made the sacrifices You have requested.  We ask that You accept them as a token of our devotion and love, and of our willingness and desire to do Your work in this world.

We said our thank yous and farewells, then packed up.  On the walk back we heard thunder – what the weather geeks on TV called “thundersleet.”  The roads were getting bad by then, but we all made it home safely if not swiftly.

The night before, I had cleaned that up, and using what I hope really is a permanent marker, inscribed it with “VSLM” – Votum Solvit Libens Merito, Latin for “I have willingly and deservedly fulfilled my vow.”

Some day that will be found.  It’s not likely to wash up, but I imagine some day the lake will be drained or will dry up.  Given the drought we’ve had that may happen sooner rather than later.  I didn’t get it that far out into the deep water – I never did have a very strong throwing arm, even without a bulky coat.  But sooner or later, this summer or in a thousand years, someone will find it.  And if they do a bit of research, they’ll discover why it was in the lake.

When it’s found doesn’t matter – it belongs to Her now.

Perhaps there’s someone who will need to find that.  Or perhaps it will never be found, and the purpose of this particular sacrifice was to teach me to have a more mindful relationship with things… or to have a more mindful relationship with Her.

Why doesn’t matter.  Danu wanted it, so I gave it to Her.  Our devotional work continues.  Our work to tell Her stories continues.  Our work to create new ways of living and being continues.

Votum Solvit Libens Merito.

About John Beckett

I grew up in Tennessee with the woods right outside my back door. Wandering through them gave me a sense of connection to Nature and to a certain Forest God. I’m a Druid graduate of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, the Coordinating Officer of the Denton Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans and a former Vice President of CUUPS Continental. I’ve been writing, speaking, teaching, and leading public rituals for the past eleven years. I live in the Dallas – Fort Worth area and I earn my keep as an engineer.

  • Dean Easton

    VSLM indeed! Thanks for another great post.

  • sonya miller

    It is so true though. I have had Gods say to me, it is called sacrifice for a reason. In our modern times, sacrifice many times means not only time, but things that cost money! So glad you shared this, as you worship Gods and Goddesses longer and longer the things they want or ask for change…if you listen, you will never ever let them down. And do we not also ask our lovers or friends…”for that”?

  • Autumn Pulstar

    Loved this article. Especially the “but…but…” part. The excuses for what’s asked of us. So much the parent and child, and ending with the “FINE! I’ll do it” in a sigh. You know how it will end. “Mom” was right all along.

  • g75401

    Sorry, I agree with Starbuck on this one. We have been conditioned by our toxic Abrahamaic faith upbringing to equate “sacrifice” with giving something up when the actual roots of the word are “to make sacred”. So, littering? No…..trying to preserve the lake? Yes….

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnbeckett/ John Beckett

      The many votive offerings archeologists have found in lakes weren’t put there by Christians or Jews.

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