(Yesterday morning I knelt before the Dierne and asked, “How can I keep one of the best relationships in my life from imploding?” Unfortunately, his answer is not publishable here on Patheos, as there was a fair amount of cursing and calling out done. I have sobbed into that god’s shoulder many a time, but, let it be known, he does not suffer fools – or self-pity – gladly.
(Thankfully, his answer did help me. So I give praises, thanks, and love to you, oh crass sailor speaking boy.)
The first mythos of the Westernlands – the underworld where I journey and conduct spirit work, connected to our own and overlapping – is shaping together, finally, and a core theme in the stories seems to be love. (My reaction upon realizing that was an expletive, both shouted to the heavens and growled out to the ground.) Love takes its many forms in the myths – the love the Ophelia has for Pallis, the love the Clarene has for the land, the love Pallis has for the Firebird, the love Mircea has for the stars; each of these loves collides and clashes and blooms.
I’d be lost navigating those mythic waters if it weren’t for my experiences here, in the more fleshy realms. Though, too, if it were not for the myths, I would be lost in this physical world. (One of my lovers commented that we both need myths to show us the importance, the meaning, of our own pursuits in love.) Though the stories exist partially just for their own sake, they are – like the Westernlands – influenced by this world. Though that is perhaps inaccurate; we read what we want into the stories, but the stories themselves remain the same. (But perhaps I’ll one day go into how I believe all stories – mythic or not – are influenced by the cultures that produce them, and that is such a geeky topic I definitely will explore it later on.)
Most of us (not all!) want to be special. Most of us are taught about the idea of a ‘match’ or a soul mate or someone who belongs to/with us, and due to the level of importance that has in our society, a lot of us carry that around in some fashion. For some of us, that works; for others, we pursue different arrangements or don’t pursue anyone at all, or our relationships are ‘lacking’ according to what society thinks of as a relationship.When I was doing a lot of shadow (I personally call it ‘mirror’, as the shadow holds a different meaning in my religious practice) work, as well as delving in for the mythology and stories, I was bombarded a lot with the want to be special and important. The spirit I was interacting with – a challenger, a spirit whose purpose it is to contort and bend and break, who has that role in the myths and in our lives – pushed me constantly. I was undeserving of love, I heard myself say. I was unimportant, and everyone I loved would leave, and I was needy and useless and a bother. But I didn’t go into that work wanting to beat myself into submission. I went into that work so I would be able to look at those parts of myself and say, “No.”
I know, religion isn’t therapy. It’s about serving the gods, at least mine is, but I can’t serve them – walk their will in the world and live a life that pleases them – if I don’t face myself and deal with the issues that arise. I couldn’t serve the Dierne fully, or much at all, until I experienced that level of self-hate and wrangled it to the ground and turned it into something useful.
The mythos of the West is about love – and about fear. What are the children of those two forces? Some of the gods fall to it, others rise and ride it as a great steed, and still others are unaffected. the Dierne is a god of fear (and is called Fear*) before he is a god of love, and the two are intimately combined for him. He is the hunt of a romance or relationship, as well as the fear and sorrow when a relationship crashes down around us. The gods of the West carry the impulses they had as humans or faeries, the wants and desires and flaws, and the stories show that playing out on a much larger scale.
What is the role of love in my religion, then?
There’s the love I have for the gods, a consuming force that makes my skin flush and my knees go weak and my mind alight. There’s the love I have for a man who has helped me stumble along this path and opened my eyes to the love the gods have for each other – there’s the love I have for him who reminded me that to be loved by a god is different than being loved by a mortal. There’s the affection I have for a woman who reminds me to laugh at the most serious moments, who reminds me that in the heat of battle and blood and sorrow the Dierne laughed. There’s love everywhere, and it’s cheesy and silly and sad and drowning, and I don’t know if I would call it the center, but it’s beneath my feet and in the sky and damn important after all.
(And it is, perhaps, not lost on me that while one of my relationships was in question this post refused to be written – stress, oh stress, how you wreck the mind.)