About twice a year I visit my in-laws in another country. I’m not going to say which country, but it’s a very, very different land from the islands to which my spirituality is strongly tied. It’s hotter, for one thing, and I’m not great with the heat (although my joints do appreciate it much more than the cold, and this time of year is pleasantly warm and sunny here). The people are decidedly different, in ways that confuse my neurodivergent brain even more than usual. The culture is nothing like what I’m used to, and I make cultural mistakes and faux pas all over the place. I barely speak the language – I’ve been trying to learn it for the past year, but I’m no linguist, and I’m still stuck on ‘Where are the toilets?’ and ‘Can I have a discount on that?’
Because our winter visit is linked to a memorial for my father-in-law (and, before last year, his father), it always comes just after the Solstice and Christmas. As I honour Cailleach Bhéarra, I’m feeling a bit of a disconnect, the presence of her winter form interrupted by a week in a desert climate. Generally, connecting with some of my Irish gods is difficult here. I have gods that I think of as tribal gods and gods that I think of as ‘of the land’. The tribal gods are almost as present as ever, but the gods that I associate with the land feel very distant at the moment. And I know there are other gods here. I just don’t know how to connect with them. My beginner-level Druidry is my main framework for honouring the gods. I doubt the gods of this land would accept offerings in the way I give them to my more local gods – although it’s worth a try. And then there’s the fact that this land has been associated with a particular form of monotheism for a long, long time. I should have done some research into the gods of this land who came before that – and I am vaguely aware of them, from reading – but it’s a very foreign culture and a very different place. But I try to listen and learn, in the same way that I do in Ireland. The ways and language of a people tell me a lot about the spirits of their land (whether or not the culture is monotheistic). And just because I find those ways very foreign doesn’t mean I can’t honour the spirits of this place when I’m here.
I’m about to be immersed in that complex culture and its language today, when everyone comes back from the memorial (I’m waiting at home and helping the caterers, although being able to say ‘can I help?’ but not understanding the responses makes for no practical use, so I’m blogging). I find everything about being here very hard – as I think I blogged about last year, over at Lighting My Candle. That’s something I should explore, rather than hide from. The goddess whose name I don’t often say*, who encourages me to face these things with courage, is watching. I’m really not good at courage. But as one of ADF’s Nine Virtues, I’m going to be working on it this year. So, here we go.
And later I’ll go out, and make an offering to a foreign sea god, and listen.
*She has times when she really doesn’t seem to like it – unlike Brighid, who likes to come up in conversation often. I need a code name for Her. I’ll think of one.