Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Followup: Sacrifice

What's funny is that I wrote that, then shortly thereafter, got stuck for an extra long time commuting home in the Thanksgiving traffic. Long enough to listen to an hour of a podcast I haven't checked in on in months. It's by Ariel on the Law of Compensation (it's available in iTunes as part of The Druidic Craft of the Wise series). I like him as a perspective that augments the bulk of my traditional witchcraft learnings and listenings. Good mental exercises, good critical thinking and an emphasis on learning for yourself directly from Spirit.

Anyway... It was all about the give and take in relationships with the divine, namely a dedication to giving sacrifices joyfully and practicing a period of giving regular, small sacrifices in conjunction with small magic workings. It could be a tithe of money to do good in the world, giving up time, letting go of a favorite excuse that holds you back... all kinds of things. This sounds like a much more reasonable learning approach than scattering whiskey and blood all over the place in an effort to ramp things up.

Gotta love it when the answer drops right into your lap right after you ask the question.

What is sacrifice?

I have been thinking about sacrifice lately. What counts as sacrifice and what doesn't? What is the difference between sacrifice and offering when you are giving something to the gods? If a shot glass of rum or bourbon is an offering, is the whole bottle a sacrifice? A chart would be very handy. I do what seems right. A trickster guide used to hang around, so even doing what feels right and listening for guidance can feel like a trap sometimes. Besides, my understanding of sacrifice comes from the Judeo-Christian tradition, which means an animal, or maybe your own son.

It would be awesome if this post could be "5 Easy Ways to Offer the Right Sacrifice" or a handy dandy how-to guide full of practical tips. We all know that there's no free lunch. A reciprocal relationship is a good thing, but when you're trying to go deeper or move to the next level, it's not always easy to know what to do. There's a lot of misinformation floating around, and everything seems to have a caveat with it. Or what you're supposed to do involves living in a very different geography than I do.

I'm thinking about it because it feels like a season to be quiet and learn. Life has me hemmed in on all sides when it comes to thinking of finding a tradition right now: planning a wedding, my partner's grad school and career path that will almost surely require moving away, and the seeming absence of local groups that are something other than Wiccan or Thelemites. Even if something were here, it seems wrong to enter into a sort of trust with a group, knowing I won't be here long term. That doesn't mean I can't do the groundwork and study we should all do to know the primary sources modern theories and practices are based in.

If you've tried to make it through the 19th c. and earlier grimoires and esoteric writings, you know it's not exactly easy breezy. It's easy to read and not retain when the language and style are so different from our own. Is this sacrifice, this decision to study and learn? I hope so, because reading and rereading until some of it sticks feels like chopping wood and carrying water to learn enlightenment. Is it sacrifice to do the work to prove you're serious about learning something, or is that just the price of admission?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

All We Need Is Love

I've been trying to sort out what Cash's little puppy soul was here for, because maybe if I can do that, him being gone will seem less horribly cruel and unnecessary. He was a special needs dog, and he required an extra measure of grace for some of the things that went along with that. I have thousands in credit card debt from vet and specialist visits, surgery, etc. He would eat anything, and every single day was a struggle to keep an entire household's objects out of the mouth of a 70lb dog who would do things like lick the clean knives in the dishwasher. He was like a wild toddler. All that was completely eclipsed because of his love and joy. No matter what he did and how gross the consequences were, you didn't care because the level of love he gave you washed it all away.

I don't know why we only got three years with him. What I've realized in the midst of some pretty serious grieving (of which I didn't know I was capable), is that Cash was an agent for slow and profound change in our lives. He - not counseling or friends - broke down thick walls of cynicism in me and slowly grew my capacity to express love and delight with fewer and fewer restrictions or reservations. I feel like a hippie for saying it, but love really can transform anything and anyone in a profound way. We're all absolutely starved for it. You should have seen the outpouring of photos and letters I've gotten from friends, saying how much they loved Cash and how much they love us. Grandparents dying hasn't gotten anything more than a few, "Aw, I'm sorry... Are you ok?" responses. My dog, my funny little muppet faced labradoodle man, he touched more lives in a meaningful way in his few years than a lot of people do in decades.

Why? Because even an afternoon having the attention of a being of pure love lavished on you changes things. There are things in life I can't change, like genetics or brain chemistry, that have been painful struggles that are probably going to be with me for life. I can take the transformation Cash made in me and feed it, grow it, and share it with every being I interact with. It's an endless resource that makes my life better and other people's lives better and doesn't really require any effort to put out there. His love wiped away all the challenging things about him, and I'd take it all back on and more to have him back. And when I think that the people around me would be better off not having to deal with me and my challenging things, I'm going to think about the raw, gaping hole Cash left in my life and how I feel about him. The love and acceptance I get is a wild and precious gift that I need to honor instead of doubt. I want to return it magnified many times over. I want to live from a place of knowing I am loved and accepted instead of hoping that I am. I will work to further love and caring in the world.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Kýrie, eléison

One of our three dogs, my sweet, sweet Cash, died very suddenly this morning in a freak thing. He was fine, and he went out to go pee this morning, and when I opened the door to call them in for breakfast, he was lying in the yard, up on the rise where he likes to sit. He's had strange health problems for the three years of his labradoodle life, and the vet guesses that his little body wasn't put together quite right. We are just shattered, of course. I take great comfort in knowing that it couldn't be helped, that it wasn't anything we did or didn't do, and that it was instantaneous instead of him having to go through a long illness and lots of pain. I want to yell at the gods, beg mercy of them, but I have a suspicion that this is mercy on their part. I've just known someone would die this month, I just didn't think it would be one of my puppy boys.

He is truly the sweetest, most joyful being I have ever known. His love was immeasurably great, so much so that sometimes it was overwhelming enough to make me just weep while he sat with me on the couch because I don't know how to process that much love. He was my shadow everywhere. It's strange to sit alone without him under my desk. I don't know how to process it. Grieving isn't something I have a lot of experience with, and I love my animals more than I love most people. We wrapped him in the best sheet I had and had to give the body to the vet for cremation because the drought has made the ground too hard to dig by hand.

Perhaps it's growing up in a faith that seemed riddled with traps and pitfalls that guarantee punishment from above, but the hand of guilt is heavy on me. Did I do something to anger the gods? Am I not hearing something and being cruelly shaken awake? A kick in the pants to get with the program on spending time with the dead? Are things going wrong because I'm not doing what they want, or are they merely normal life stuff to go through? I keep catching snatches of visions of Cash being so happy, crossing over so free, finally having a body that will let him run and bound. I'm so afraid they're just being created by my own mind from wishful thinking because I'm good at visualizing.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Empress

She is me in Tarot. Or I am her, which in my deck is Demeter. The epitome of all things traditionally feminine, standing there pregnant in her field of ripe grain, pregnant, ruling fertility and marriage and the cycles of life and death. Pregnancy is a big deal in my personal symbolism and metaphors. Not that I picked it. I got smacked upside the head with it, can't escape it. It's a great metaphor, full of complicated nuances, and it's perfect for me. Part of the complication is that when you have dreams and astrology messages and all signs point to pregnancy, is it a real baby or is it a metaphorical baby? Gods and spirits are tricky, and I don't always remember to ask clarifying questions.

They're asking questions about if I want a baby right now, and the damned stars are telling both of us that we might have big news to announce at Thanksgiving in the form of either a real or a metaphorical baby. That's awesome! I feel like Mary, with all the special interventions about her having a baby. But it's scary, because hey! I'm not ready for babies right now. Three years? That sounds better. Let us get through this income frozen recession and the wedding next year and my bearded giant's PhD program and maybe have me on his insurance program before anything happens.

Dear gods, please let this be a metaphorical baby. Let it be the start of something new in my life, the growing seed of what's to come next, the ripe fruit to come out of a long, thorny section on my path. Let it be a gift from the god. Gifts from the divine have always been good, even when they're difficult and confusing. Please, let it be confident strides of progress. Things have been forming in the periphery, sliding into alignment to create something I get the gist of but can't comprehend yet. I'll keep watching and walking and learning, trusting that the gifts are good and won't be more than I can handle.