To Answer a Call

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Photo by looking4poetry (CC).

It’s easy to follow the wave of emotion in a crowd. When I’m on a protest march, with the energy all stirred up by the hundreds or thousands of people speaking in one voice with me, then it’s easy to take a stand. No one’s going to push through the crowd to tell me that I’m wrong. I’m safe among allies.

But after the stirring demonstration, after I go home, when I’m all alone and faced with decisions… What do I do then?

What does it mean to change your life in response to the call of a deity? What does it mean to answer a call to change the world for her?

For at least the past year I’ve been doing a lot of retreating from the world. The spring equinox is coming up – and Latha na Callich, and the feast of Lasair the Lady of Spring. The light will start returning… Beara will emerge from stone on the cliff on the Peninsula, young again… and I will not be the same.

SJ has recently been pondering the spiral (or slinky!) of the Jewish year, and the sacred calendars of several religions. Here I am, meanwhile, in a parallel but different place — trying to create my own response to the sacred cycles and festivals of my gods, and to create my own religious path with some integrity. Trying and constantly failing. Constantly fighting the feeling that I’m ‘just making it up as I go along’ (and that that makes it invalid). Ultimately, fighting the feeling that I don’t matter. That’s what the subtext is, when I say to myself that my religion isn’t as ‘real’ or important as other religious traditions. And that my spiritual work, and its reflection in my work in the world, doesn’t matter. But it does matter. I do matter.

The Druid Craft tarot's Prince of Cups card

Prince of Cups, DruidCraft tarot

I had a card reading about eighteen months ago. The High Priestess, the Empress and the Knight of Cups. You’re to be a priest to your community, said the card reader (a wise, older woman of whom I’ve been in awe for a long time, who I’d travelled a long way to see). It’s too early, I protested. I don’t know enough. The card reader smiled and told me I might surprise myself in the future.

I think a big part of my problem was (and still is) with the word ‘priest’. It can mean many things, but in society dominated by Western Christianity, we have a very fixed idea of what that kind of service can/should involve. There are different roles under that banner – service of one’s deity/ies being only one. I have a lot to think about there.

But even if I do work on that concept, I’m still resisting the concept of priest(ess)hood- though I think, not for the right reasons. Ever since I dedicated myself to Beara, I’ve been increasingly aware of my alienation from the rest of society… my complicity in social oppression of others… the hopelessness of a number of situations that I live with. At the moment, all I want is to find a hermitage and never come out again. I definitely don’t want to think about spiritual things. Especially not in terms of service to others. What do I have to offer others? An autistic brain, a twisted body and a weak spirit. Lovely.

But I think my goddess has things for me to do. And I think she’s probably quite sick of me whining that I’m not good enough to do them.

I read the Knight of Cups as an invitation to Integrity – which in my opinion is the most important of the ADF Virtues. Real integrity means integration – just look at the common roots of the words. Integrating my activism (disability rights, interfaith, anti-racism, gender equality and LGBT stuff all included), my religious ‘stuff’ (including my priestess-in-training work for Beara, my druidry and my polytheistic devotional work), my academic studies, and all the other parts of my life – all integrated into one path.

The Skye Road, Andi Campbell-Jones, Flickr (CC).

The Skye Road, Andi Campbell-Jones, Flickr (CC).

Right now, looking down the road that opens up before me, it looks absolutely nothing like what I thought it would.

But when does it ever?

22 thoughts on “To Answer a Call

  1. I like what you wrote about integrity and integration, I’ve been thinking about “integrity’s” roots in Latin integer or “whole,” but I’ve been thinking of it more as a matter of personal honor/ethics. For some reason I hadn’t thought of the integration of different compartmentalized areas of life (politics, religion, academia, etc.) as a form of integrity, though that’s something that’s coming to the forefront for me as well.

    I think you have a lot to offer…starting with your thoughts and your perspective and your words, but surely not ending there…

    According to Plato’s Apology, the Oracle at Delphi proclaimed Socrates the wisest man alive; Socrates concluded that his self-awareness of his lack of wisdom, contrasted to the delusions of those popularly considered to be “wise,” was indeed a form of wisdom.

    • Oh, I agree with you that integrity is about honour and ethics. What I’m looking for right now is the starting-point of integrity, that leads to such things. Integration is going to be central to finding personal codes of honour and ethics for me, I think. Up till now, my fairly schizoid approach to life has not helped me to have the level of integrity that I want. For example, my Pagan life can’t be separate from my politics of equality and justice – otherwise, what is it for?

      Thanks for your thoughts on my rhetorical question too :) I like the Plato-Socrates story there.

  2. What do you have to offer others? Examples. You are forging your own path as best as you can and sharing your highs and lows as you do so through your words here and elsewhere. In doing so you provide an example for others, don’t underestimate the importance of doing that. Hugs xx

  3. Whenever I find myself doubting what I am doing in a spiritual framework, I always remind myself that every invention, scientific fact and technological breakthrough started as someones UPG. Which puts it into perspective for me.

  4. weak spirit? You’re being hard on yourself there. You do what you can with what you’ve got, and that’s the best any of us can do. You push against the edges of what you can manage, all the time. Which is a lot more than most of us manage. You bring insights from other places and you speak with courage about your journey. You change things by speaking up, you teach people to think differently. And also, every last religious tradition out there was made up by people :-)

  5. I hesitated before replying here because it’s too deceptively easy to feel familiar with someone’s online presence when you have never met them, and my first reaction on reading was, “how could Naomi, of all people, feel that she needs more integrity?!” But I do understand the point about integration. Perhaps part of the answer is that walking this path makes you who you are, and you bring that perspective to everything you do; in which case, is it even possible to separate out all the strands of our lives, no matter how disjointed or disconnected they feel?

    For what it’s worth, I am “constantly fighting the feeling that I’m ‘just making it up as I go along’ (and that that makes it invalid)” and reading your blog has helped me to find the courage to answer a call of my own. Those questions – “What does it mean to change your life in response to the call of a deity? What does it mean to answer a call to change the world for [them]?” – are both timely and powerful. Even if you don’t see yourself on a path of priest(ess)hood, you are definitely a guide and an inspiration, in a very real way.

    p.s. I loved the Great Slinky of Time and Tradition! Thanks for the link to SJs post :)

    • Oddly enough, this post is part of exploring whether I *am* called to a path that’s something like priest(ess)hood… though not in the way I would have imagined that, at all. Helpful words there – thank you for the encouragement :)

  6. Perhaps your deity wishes you to move away from the world of protests and factionalism, and to become more loving of Her true nature? This nature incorporates that which you oppose, as well as that which you fight for in your mundane life, and it sounds like your sense of isolation is a fear of disconnecting from the ‘purpose’ you feel you find in the world of protest and activism. Find that purpose in your spiritual endeavours and this will reflect a transformation of how you then approach the world you are fighting against. Fear not, follow the divine!

      • It wasn’t about giving up activism. It was about understanding yourself and becoming wiser so that you can integrate your ambitions. Maybe your need for activism is partly about your own fight with yourself: you allude to this when you said you were ‘ultimately, fighting the feeling that I don’t matter’. One’s fight with the world is really always one’s fight with oneself. Your goddess is not about any of your political causes, no less than she is about division, destruction and cruelty. Trust me, I know her. Maybe this necessary dark side of her is what you are now coming to understand in yourself? Is she not also depicted with an ‘autistic brain, a twisted body and a weak spirit’? Take a read of the ‘Lament of the Sentuine Bherri’ once more and read Togail Bruidne Dá Derga if you doubt me.

      • You seem to be telling me things I already know now, along with things that aren’t right, so I’m very confused. I have read the texts in question, although my concept of my deity is wider than these. Thanks for your thoughts.

    • That…is not at all what I got from the post. I mean, your can’t be more “loving of a deity’s true nature” if you don’t understand that nature, and some of us serve gods who call us to keep up the fight whether we feel worthy or not.

  7. I was on the way to a meeting earlier today and musing about this post and in particular you describing yourself as having a “weak spirit”. I’ve decided to reply here again because I want to tell you that it made me tell you off out loud as I was driving for even thinking of yourself as weak. You do not have a weak spirit, you are not weak in any way. You are a strong woman dealing as best you can with a range of situations some of which are not pleasant or easy. Don’t you dare call yourself weak!

    Just had to let that out and tell you. Hugs xx

  8. I’d agree with others you certainly don’t lack integrity! I get your point about the necessity and difficulty of balancing and integrating services to one’s gods and communities. It’s tricky, particularly having no idea how anything’s going to turn out and particularly when looking up that long and unfamiliar road you never imagined you’d be walking (the gods seem to have a habit of doing that to one’s path in life!).

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