I have a special place in my heart for the gods I consider my “first.” They aren’t the gods I work with regularly now. They aren’t the ones I turn to regularly for inspiration, guidance, or companionship these days. But they are two that have had a profound impact on my life. Because of that I hold them in high regard, have a place for them on my altars and shrines, and give them greetings regularly.
The first is the Theotokos, otherwise known as the Virgin Mary. I blame her for my staying a Christian as long as I did. When I was trying to find my way forward as a budding feminist, while also struggling to find meaning in Christianity, she was a beacon of light for me, shining like a lighthouse to a wet and weary sailor. Where was the female reflection in the Christian story? Mary Magdalene was strong, complex and very appealing, but no one could compare to the sublime beauty of the Blessed Virgin. Icons, art, cathedrals, and music – all professed her love, and I felt it. I felt her presence and love more than I ever felt Jesus.
I began to seek out her theology and expressions. I discovered the Virgin of Guadalupe. I saw her in myths and in Grail stories. I began to hear her lines in great works of music. I sought her out, as the Divine Feminine, where ever I could catch scent of her trail. I went to graduate school for her. I began to have Big Ideas about her. Even as I found that Christianity was not my tradition to redeem, as I finally chose to walk away, I looked to Mary for support and guidance. No hard feelings, she said. Run, little child, she said.
The second god is Arddu, a Welsh god of the Feri tradition. I cannot say too much about him, as we’ve not been formally introduced. My first ritual in Wales was with two other Feri students. On a dark, wet, October night we called up Ana and Arddu in my living room. I’d had such weak ritual experiences in the past that I wasn’t expecting much. But oh, time slipped sideways, three candles felt like a bonfire, and Something swept in through the front the door. A long, bony man with a tall hat and dark cloak strode into the living room. He walked among us, gave us an amused smile, and exited. He left no words, no blessings, nothing.
And yet his presence was everything.
Afterward the three of us witches, Feri in training, shared the same experience. It was corroborated. Even my husband in another room had sensed that Something had entered the house. It wasn’t just my imagination. The gods were real. Everything was different now. There was no going back.
He and Ana continued to make their presence strongly felt to me in Wales. I feel them less so here in Washington, but I continue to call their names and leave them offerings in a few special places. For being the first god to show up for me in polytheist way, Arddu will be honored by me in perpetuity.
Some music for you. Two of my favorite Stabat Maters (lamentations of the Virgin as she weeps by Christ’s cross). The first, a completely operatic, over the top, lush setting by Rossini. The second, a stark modern, post-War setting by Penderecki.