I was seeing my OBGYN doctor the other day. It was a routine visit to make sure all my womanly parts were properly functioning. She’s nice enough. I like her ability to make small talk while looking deep into my vagina. She’s been involved in the birth of my nine-year-old daughter, the removal of an ovary, and various embarrassing procedures involving stirrups and scooting to the end of the table. She asked what I was up to these days and I told her I was focusing on my art and writing. In fact, through the miracle of cell phones, I had gotten a commission for a tattoo design while in her waiting room. She seemed interested, or at least happy that she had distracted me from noticing what she was doing below deck. I told her how I was using Slavic embroidery patterns to create a design to represent the Zorya, a set of dawn and dusk goddesses found in Russia and Poland.
At that, she pops her head up over my knees like a savanna meerkat to ask, “How do you know all that stuff?!”
I told her I had studied, and I have. I don’t know everything, but I know a lot. Here was a woman who had gone to med school, continued into a specialty and spent years of her life studying to get where she was and she was impressed by my knowledge. I’ve had a number of moments in the last few weeks where I got the chance to talk about what it is I do with people outside of the tiny interlocking pagan kingdoms. In one week, I did a wedding, a funeral, a house blessing, and a baby blessing. Whew! That was crazy. But at both the wedding and the funeral there were people evaluating my credentials as clergy. Often older than me, ranging anywhere from 50-70 years on this planet; intelligent competent people asking smart questions about my religious beliefs. I’m just gonna say it: I impressed them all. I had intelligent answers grounded in theology, archeology, and social science.
So it’s sort of funny that just a few weeks before that, I was getting verbally blasted online for doing my clergy homework.
I wrote about it here. A series of interactions while doing my required monthly trance and how I discovered a spirit that I believe is either one of or possibly –the- spirit of my religion. There’s a facebook group now where people post their interactions, divinations, and share their love for ADF Druidry. I have continued to do trance-work, both in groups and singly with this spirit. It’s funny, a lot of people seemed obsessed with a lesser spirit I interacted with. In many ways I think he was an amalgamation of many people; a representation of the folk of ADF. My continuing work has been with her/it. It’s pretty intense actually and a lot of my energy and time has gone into mediating between those who reacted in fear, those who jumped on the bandwagon with wild abandon, and the spirit herself.
But you know what? That’s my job. I’m a priest. As I continue to discover what it means to be a priest in a modern neo-pagan context I’m realizing it’s not to tell people what to do, but it is about being an expert and knowing answers to peoples’ questions.
A while back I read a great book called Blink. It’s about how humans make snap judgments because of evolution. This can be a bad thing. It can lead to stereotypes, rash decisions, and racism. The book talks about how to know when you’re doing those things. But there was a second part of the book. It talked about what happens when a human studies something so long that they internalize a large body of knowledge about a particular topic. What happens when you become an expert?
Answer: you get superpowers of snap decisions.
The book tells stories of how an expert in a field can know things by instinct or hunch that others can’t. A bunch of art history experts from the Met in New York were presented with what was supposed to be a newly rediscovered ancient statue. They looked at it and though they couldn’t tell you why, they knew it was a fake. They were right. The human brain has many superpowers. One of them is to be able to learn vast quantities of information and then use that information subconsciously to make incredibly quick and accurate decisions.
“But there is no logical way to the discovery of these elemental laws. There is only the way of intuition.”
Having lept off the cliff of reality into the wide mists of the otherworlds, when I was presented with a series of visions I had to trust my own expertise and powers of intuition. I’ve been doing trancework for almost two decades now. I’ve read the books, tried all sorts of crazy stuff, trance danced in public parks, talked to rivers, built my allies, and had my wings burned many times I’ve got the scars to prove. I’ve done the dumb things that teach the hard lessons. Once I sent my fetch to assist a friend and it got stuck. I couldn’t get it back. Best part was that I could feel that it was getting damaged. So I called in the cavalry. I asked my spirit guides to come save me and they did. It took months before I was ready to try and let that bit of me fly again.
So when I saw a spirit that looked like an androgynous strawberry blonde in my arms, I just knew, the way an expert can just know a thing. She was the spirit of ADF, at least for me. I’m still learning what that means. Hopefully I don’t get my wings burned again, but if I do, that’s okay. I’ve done it before. I can take it and the feathers will grow back.
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