VI. The Lovers

Reach out and touch the fire.

Often, I think of what I want out of my spirituality. Why I bother pursuing my ideas of the gods, relationships with deity and spirit, and why I keep writing on it. In truth, it is because I want my spirituality to come to me as naturally as breathing or speaking.

This has been a goal of mine for some time, but it is still something I struggle to achieve. It is something that I think of in the times when I have no time, or just before I doze off each night. So I have begun to look at it a lot like when I started taking Prozac, to make a conscious effort at it each day. In some ways, it is easier now; in other ways, it’s still difficult. I imagine it will be for quite a while yet, but my goal is still there.

When we started looking for a new place, my boyfriend and I agreed to go for a two-bedroom apartment. The main reason for this was because our old place just didn’t have enough room for us both to get our own space, so we ended up starting to argue a lot and generally get on one another’s nerves. Additionally, I lamented that the only space I had to share with my gods was in the bedroom, off in the back corner where I didn’t see it every day or, if I did, it was a glance and quickly forgotten. So when we began getting ready to move into the new apartment last May, I began to think about how to remind myself on a regular basis to practice and have visual cues for my gods.

The Lovers Shadowscapes Tarot by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law
The Lovers
Shadowscapes Tarot by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law

In my office, as soon as you walk in, you see the shrines that my boyfriend painstakingly set up on the wall. Each of my gods has their own shelf-shrine and there is also one for the ancestors and one for the land spirits. Below it is the large table that I use as an altar, currently set up for The Morrigan later this week. I see these shrines each day, but I need to make more of an effort to engage with them and make offerings to my gods of flame, smoke, and breath.

The Lovers card reminds me of this relationship between my mundane and mystical lives and how I aim to compromise on both sides, as well as bring them together in balance. It is a struggle that I deal with each day as my day-to-day and non-religious life events prevent me from doing as I like – or so I think each day. But I want to break away from that thought and consciously live, be aware of each moment of my life and bring it into the sensation of my spirituality.

In some ways, I manage this. When I have a few spare moments to sit and take a deep breath, I close my eyes and try to recognize the sensation of being alive and the feeling of the world around me. Sometimes it catches me off-guard, like when a breeze comes up behind me, its currents eddying over my skin. Other times, I get so focused in other things, I forget to find importance in it. I am trying, though, to appreciate and find the ability to love what I do and what the world offers, in all its forms.

V. The Hierophant

Stretch your roots deep into the Earth and feel the ages past.

During my darkest period, I spent much of my time reflecting on the need for a deeper meaning. I wished and lusted for a sense that my life was not only important, but that there was a reason for my personal suffering.

In 2012, I was reaching the end of a heart-wrenching fallow time, what I typically refer to as my spiritual depression. My connection to my patron Anubis seemed to have severed. I felt lost and hollow and I suffered both spiritually and emotionally. But as graduation rolled around and I began to set a course for my personal life, moving from Chicago to Washington, D.C. with my boyfriend, I began to feel more of a purpose, more of a focus on my spirituality.

The Hierophant Stephanie Pui-Mun Law

My spiritual depression, however, was marked by periods where I would “fall” into The Forest (sometimes referred to as The Forest of Faith, or as you can see above, the Wood of Smoke and Bone, that place where the aetheric and the earthly combine). These events were typically times where my eyes would glaze over and I would sense myself in battered clothes, barefoot and groping my way through a dark wood. Once, I slipped and fell to my knees, then collapse on the forest floor, bits of old wood and rotting leaves pressing into my face. It was this time that The Morrigan came into my life, urging me to pursue my own path. Later, I would find myself once more in darkness, only to plunge my hands into my chest and pull out the knotted, gnarled rope that bound my heart and release the tiny spark of flame within. I used that flame to light a lantern to help guide me through the darkness, finally starting to make my way once more to something resembling a path. It was dank and covered in brush and brambles, but I began to pick my way along it when I found it, letting thorn and stone mark my feet as I made my way.

Then, in the winter of 2012, I began to lose my mind. It’s an old story, and one I don’t like telling too much. Many of those reading this likely already have some indication of that time. During this time, I fell hard on my beliefs and my gods; fervent prayer became the focus of my life as I begged my gods to help me maintain some semblance of myself. Eventually, through therapy and medication (and the help of my gods), I arrived to where I am today.

As I mused on the Hierophant the last week or so, I honestly wasn’t sure what to write. This card denotes wisdom and knowledge, and I suppose it represents more of a goal for me than where I am in my life currently. It is a combination of scholar and mystic, two things that, it seems, I have been forever attempting to reconcile, but with much difficulty. I desire a strong academic foundation, but do not want to lose sight of the arcane mysteries of the world, or even that which lays beyond it. Once more, I find myself burning with the fervent desire of one kindling their passions and aiming to rebuild those things important to them. For me, that is my religion and my spirituality. And as I learn more and act more, I hope to find them.

The Becoming of the Queen

I’ve never been much a fan of holidays, but as I delve deeper into practicing religion, I find it becoming an exciting venture.

Last week was the Autumn Equinox, the day I associate with the beginning of Persephone’s Descent. As the leaves begin to change, the days grown shorter and the nights grow cooler, this is the time that Kore fades and Khthonia once again dons her bone and laurel crown.

The Sunday before the Equinox, I lay the bones of the altar. A third table was erected in my office and temple room, beneath the wall of shrines. A black cloth was laid over it and I began the process of honoring Persephone by adding to its beauty.

Aesthetics are something that I have struggled with for some time when it comes to the practice side of my religion. When I build an altar or a shrine, I typically keep it simplistic. But in the last year, I have tried to branch out and incorporate beauty as well as function to my altar.

BecomingOfTheQueen1_2014The Tuesday of the Equinox, I set out the offerings: pomegranate soda for Persephone; grapes for Dionysus; homemade garlic pizza for Hekate; chocolate coins for Persephone and Charon; lavender incense for the lot. Each of these items hold different symbols and I wanted to honor different aspects of Persephone’s myths, as well as include those who I have begun to associate with her and this time of year: Hekate as her companion to Hades, Charon as the ferryman, and BecomingOfTheQueen2_2014Dionysus…for my own reasons.

I lay my Tarot deck on the altar with the intent of doing a reading, but I have yet to do it. It has not seemed the right time just yet, so it continues to lay on the dark cloth and wait.

Standing before the altar, I realized that I had little idea what I wanted to do. Such is often the case with these rites, at least in my personal practice. And, as I have before, I just began to talk aloud to Persephone and offer my words along with my gifts of food and drink. I thanked her for the presence and power she has had in my life, and for the patience she has shown me these last 18 months. It has been a wild ride, to say the least. As I spoke, I talked about my experiences living apart from my boyfriend while at college and that I knew how hard long-distance could be. (Obviously not on the same level, but being away from your lover in any capacity and for any extended length of time is difficult.)

As I was writing the tags for the tumblr photo post, I began thinking of a name for this day in my practice. The temporary names have been Feast days with the various epithets of my gods for those events, but that did not seem to fit for me anymore. I wanted to emphasize the Queen aspect of Persephone at this time of the year, but I wasn’t sure how. Eventually, I remembered a repeated phrase in the book I had been reading at the time, The Witch With No Name. In this book is the Goddess, a deity in the elven religion who spends most of her time on the page rejecting the possibility of “becoming.” This phrasing had stuck with me, repeating itself in my mind over and over again until I finally connected it with Persephone’s Descent. It fit, as each year, Persephone lays down her mantle of maiden and once again dons the royal cloak to stand beside her husband, as equal and powerful. It is something she has chosen, something she does willingly. She does not fight against the progression of the year nor her role in the Dance of Life and Death. She becomes as she wills, and this was a celebration of that.