Thursday, 31 October 2013

Persephone, Ogboinba, Cybele, Oya: or, What Samhain can do for you, pt II

(If you missed Pt I, you'll want to start here.)

And fell for the longest time.

Persephone. Ogboinba. Cybele. Oya.

With the exception of Oya, who wasn't drawn, but jumped out of the deck, not a single one of those goddesses was mine. 

Persephone was where it began. I sat back, curious to see how she had been interpreted:

Persephone, the Maiden. Find ways to use your innocence as your strength.She is for innocence, and you had yours taken from you much earlier than it should have been, and I think she is here to point out that you need to explore your relationship with that. But there's something else here, something about how you've felt towards that self, maybe? I'm not sure, but I get this feeling that she's here to point to an anger, or even something darker, that you feel to the part of yourself that is vulnerable.

So easy. It would have been so easy to pull back from that, tell her she was wrong whilst acknowledging that 'Yes, I do need to tap into my innocence and vulnerability to be stronger as per Brene Brown, blah blah. Thank you for this, but I might be just a bit angry about it all, but really, I'm just fine.' *Good Mother Demeter airy handwave*

But to do that would have been to continue the lie, to deny the tidal wave of feeling emerging, to make the choice to continue my parents' work and remain disconnected from others. The time had come to make a different choice and speak the truth. But as it always is when I lose myself in writing, I'm never sure what that truth is till I read it back:

Fuck. YES... I am SO angry. Yes, you're right. I've hated Persephone since I was a child, because she pranced around picking flowers doing girly shit FEELING SAFE and HA! LOOK WHAT HAPPENED TO HER, SEE, YOU STUPID NAIVE BITCH???? And then she tried to trick her way out OF WHAT SHE DESERVED BECAUSE SHE WAS TOO STUPID TO KEEP AN EYE OUT. As far as I was concerned, she was weak. I wanted NO part of her in Jean Shinoda Bolen's book, NONE. SHE was weak. *I* was not. Fucking Kore.

And that's how I've felt about my vulnerability: not just ANGRY at it, but repelled by it. At some level, part of me thinks that vulnerable child got exactly what she deserved because she wasn't looking. Like Persephone.


I typed out the full comment, not fully aware of what I was saying till I sat back and read it. Again. And again. 

Horrified. Shaken. But finally knowing the truth: 

I'd always blamed Persephone for her rape, because of her innocence, her freedom from care (which I equated with irresponsibility) and her lack of vigilance. And in the same way, I blamed the child I'd been, her vulnerability and lack of vigilance, for her parents' emotional abuse and her uncle's sexual abuse.

MY. MY PARENTS. MY UNCLE.

And yet, I'd rip the throat out of anyone who dared suggest that a child was in any way at fault for any abuse that befell them; that a woman was at fault for being raped. But somehow, it was ok to blame the child I was for not being stronger, more vigilant, for not acting.

I'm just starting to cope with that. As I continued in my comment, 'Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I knew it was bad, but.'

And in the moment I realised what I'd done, I finally understood the truth about innocence, which I'd conflated with naivete and wilful ignorance:

[W]hat strikes me about innocence is that it is a NATURAL state. Like Cybele's wildness. And in my rage at my NATURAL innocence, twisting it into a reason for being abused, I cut myself off from my NATURE as a whole. That's why I don't know who I am outside this identity of helper; what my gifts are; what my intuition says for ME; why I'm not in touch with my wild side, as it were - why it's only the responsible, CONTROLLED side that shows.There's so much in my nature I'm not even aware of, such primal, passionate, wild side - Cybele, who Persephone really needs to grow into, not her more controlled mother (hence no Demeter in this reading, because she is very much part of my persona, and this reading is about who I REALLY am underneath it all, the parts I don't know).

In my vulnerability, my innocence, is my wildness - and my way. As Clarissa Pinkola-Estes put it, 'The wild has a vast integrity to it.' And that is what I have cut myself off from - and why I find it so hard to move.


It is why I have never found this - which I desire more than anything - because to have that intimacy - emotionally, spiritually and sexually - one needs to be able to truly surrender, to truly let go - to become vulnerable and trust. To be wild, natural. And I can't. I'm not easily held, even - perhaps most especially - in the deepest pain and despair. 

But perhaps yesterday made a start. Time will tell. 

Persephone and Cybele, anchoring the reading because they were the overarching theme: innocence, nature, wild, integrity. 

As my friend pointed out, we ALL start from the Kore. For me to deny the Kore, yet accept Persephone, Queen of Hades and conveyor of the dead, is to deny my process, my wholeness, and in the end, myself.

That should have been enough, might have been, but Ogboinba appeared in the reading. I had a hunch she would, and she has always been the one I'd rather not see. The short version of her story is that though her powers grew and she became the most sought-after healer and prophetess, she could not have children, and travelled seven kingdoms to seek a way to become able to bear a child and become a mother.

The warning against discontent is too close to the bone, as is the desire for children - both of these make her an apparently easy read when she shows up for me. 

But as I fell into that literal reading, I felt an intense resistance. This wasn't right, and I knew it wasn't just avoidance. I sat with it for a while, asking Ogboinba what she wanted to say here. When the answer came, it shifted the ground under my feet, which will never be the same again:

I could see that [about the child], but I thought, 'Yeah, we know that about me. But this isn't quite about that.'

And then I realised - in this case, the child Ogboinba is looking for is ME. Me as a child who grew up in a happy family; me the undamaged child, the child who was allowed to BE a child. In essence, she is me, travelling over the world again and again, searching for that halcyon childhood I wanted so desperately, the only way I ever believed that I would find out who I was. Searching for the safety, the love, the time to become who I was, to have that group, those people who loved me unconditionally, in whom I could rest.

In my hands were all these gifts born in the crucible of my family - the ability to see, the ability to heal, the ability to know, the incredible strength, problem-solving, the empathy, the ability to use anger as a tool - my arms were overflowing with gifts.

But *I* wanted home. I was FURIOUS at having these gifts; furious that I would HAVE TO USE THEM, be a COMMODITY to the DIVINE, like I was a COMMODITY to my parents. I KNEW, when I asked you last night, that Ogboinba was going to show up; I knew it.

And when I read what you wrote about Ogboinba, this RAGE filled me; this UTTER FURY worthy of Oya. I thought, 'HOW DARE YOU. HOW DARE YOU DEMAND OF ME WHEN YOU GAVE ME *NOTHING*. NO PLACE TO REST, NO PLACE TO BE LOVED, NO SANCTUARY. HOW. FUCKING. DARE. YOU. I REFUSE. YOU *OWE* ME. WHY? WHY SHOULD I PUT MYSELF OUT FOR YOU?

"I WOULD HAVE GIVEN BACK EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THESE GIFTS TO BE LOVED. TO FIND MY BESHERT AND BE MARRIED AND RAISE CHILDREN AND HAVE A QUIET LIFE. EVERY SINGLE ONE. BUT YOU GIVE ME NOTHING AND HAVE THE NERVE TO DEMAND SO FUCKING MUCH. I HATE YOU. I DON'T WANT THIS AND I WILL NOT USE IT OF MY OWN ACCORD. YOU WANT ME TO USE IT, YOU'LL HAVE TO FUCKING PULL IT OUT OF ME."

THAT, for me, is the essence of Ogboinba here. I want what I can never, ever get back; what I can never ever be. I hold all this given me, all that I've made out of it, but I want to be able to be that laughing little girl; that girl who walked into adulthood certain of love. That girl who grew up playing with fashion, clubbing, experimenting, loving college and forming lifelong friendships even through the angst. And I haven't seen that I've gotten so much, but not in the way I wanted.

Finally, finally, years after I should have done, I did what I tell everyone else they should do. I told G-d the truth, no holds barred - everything that was in my heart, everything raw and wild, not pre-processed and analysed in a neat little 'Yes, I know I'm upset about this, and this is why, so it's ok' package. It wasn't okay. It still ISN'T ok. It may NEVER be ok.

But you know what? That's ok.

Because as all that was ripped out - my solar plexus STILL feels sore - and released, something else took its place.

Connection. I finally FELT G-d. And I finally felt ME.

I did one more long overdue thing: I wept. I wept for the little girl I was, the one I wanted to be, the woman I'd wanted to become, the woman I am. 

At long last, I was home.

The Samhain Prelude, or What Samhain can do for you, pt. I

I knew it was Samhain week. Really, I did. And I knew things were shifting. But I didn't expect to do much more than small adjustments. I mean, I know I'd been making a practice of every morning (yes, just in case I forgot to do it before I left the house, I have an Outlook reminder set) of saying a prayer - or several - akin to this beautiful one by Tosha Silver that I've tweaked a bit:

Dear G-d, take me over and do what You will with me.
I am Yours alone.

Just 
take me over and do what You will with me. 
Fill the space between us. Make Me Yours.

Change me into One who surrenders to You and trusts in Your way for me.

You, who have numbered every hair on my head and called me in the womb, who from the body of my mother named my Name, You know me far better than I know myself; You know my true Way. Lead me.  You lift my burdens. You know every longing and fear in my heart. You show the way even in the dark.

I am Yours.
You are Mine.
We are One.

All is well.


Just needed to keep on keeping on with that and I could carry on in cruise control, give or take a few steering corrections, right? 

Oh so wrong. Because when you ask G-d to change you, G-d's going to take you at your word and do it. His way, not yours. And if you're someone with a leaning towards Kali and with Oya as your orisha, it ain't going to be a walk in a pretty meadow on a halcyon summer day. I mean, as a Kali/Oya girl, why would I want that when I can have a stormy winter North Sea, Eyjafjallaj√∂kul or monsoon season, right? Oy vey.

I'd been saying that prayer for a week, people. A FREAKING WEEK.

Little did I know that when I gave a good friend the advice, 'Process your emotions, NOT events' (i.e., your feelings are where the truth is, processing events is being a gerbil on a wheel; you'll end up re-creating events that kick up the same feelings until you listen to what they have to say) that I'd be thrown into that crucible myself less than 72 hours later.

There had been signs that this was coming. The student who came up to me and introduce himself, and we ended up bonding intensely over not having talked to our parents (his father for 30 years, both of mine for 9) and the pain in that, no matter how close or distant you were. That I needed Hecate as my profile picture for the two weeks leading up to Samhain. That I needed more space; had even less tolerance for small talk; got home wanting to zone out, not talk. That fewer and fewer male friends could touch me without my flinching. The rising panic as I kept turning over 'I don't know who I am if I'm not taking care of someone. Who am I? What do I want? Am I ANYTHING outside of that?'

Leading you down into my core where I’ve become so numb
Without a soul, my spirit's sleeping somewhere cold
Until You find it there and lead it back home


There may be trouble ahead would have been the warning; Evanescence's Bring me to life the soundtrack.

I'm a therapist. Signs like that should make me stop and listen. Friends telling me my energy was chaotic should have made me stop and listen. They didn't. 

So Kali and Oya took things into their own hands.

Breathe into me and make me real
Bring me to life


A therapeutic conversation about how my parents alternately idealised/demeaned me and moved to prevent me from genuinely and deeply connecting with anyone outside the immediate family (always the hallmark of a toxic/abusive group dynamic) started the ground shifting under my feet. I felt the tremors, prepared for the usual situations highlighting them to come up; made the choice to process with a couple of close friends.
One was what was expected.

The other friend surprised me when she said, Damn it, now I want to pull Goddesses for you.

My eyebrows went up. That WASN'T usual. We carried on chatting, and at the end of the conversation, I said, If you want to pull Goddesses for me at some point this week, I wouldn't be averse.

When I woke up in the morning, she'd done the reading. I waited till I got to work before reading it through, having expected the usual Demeter/Brigid/etc. goddesses that tend to qualify as 'mine'. You'd think I'd have learned by now.

Persephone. Ogboinba. Cybele. Oya.

As I read, I felt the winds whipping through, the surf rising, the storm coming. I looked for a hand to hold, for sanctuary, for shelter. From the conversation the night before, it was clear to me I couldn't ask the other friend to hold the space for what was coming, to hold the coming intensity. I frantically searched my inner circle for those who could hold the intensity, pull me up, those I could reach out to and dismissed the choices because of where they were in their own lives. Then I looked at where they would try to pull me into - a brightly lit room, warm, safe, calm...but tame. Status quo. And I knew the price was far too high to pay. There was only one choice.


Frozen inside without Your touch
Without Your love, darling
Only You are the life among the dead


Like Amy Lee, I let go of the hands of those who would pull me to safety - but only by holding me in place - and kicked back off the narrow ledge, falling into the abyss, trusting in the Unseen.