Friday, October 3, 2014

A Goddess of a Find

In the span of a week, the temperatures have dipped low enough to threaten snow and the skies have turned a heavy grey that heralds the cold winters to come.  The grey days blend together as we begin to huddle beneath jackets and scarves.  The vibrant rush of autumn colors fades and with it the energy to do much of anything other than sleep.  Today, after spending several hours cleaning and cleansing my class room, I decided to go bumming.  Bumming is a familial slang term for wandering through various garage sales, thrift stores, and second hand shops.  There’s no set plan of action or what one is looking for—just poking around for a good deal or two.

Halfway through the second stop, I found this:

Photo taken from Stephanie Stoke's blog
To look at her form, arms holding up a large cauldron as if in triumph or offering, I instantly began to think of her as a goddess.  But what goddess?  And after just a week prior admitting that I was more animist than theist, what meaning did she hold in quietly trotting into my life on such a cold, dreary fall day?

I don’t really have a connection with or desire to work with deities.  I’ve had on again, off again relationships with a handful of Celtic goddesses- Brigid being the most prominent if only because of her connection to inspiration, creativity, and fire.  I have had a deeper connection with the spirit of Lake Superior, but have never felt this Gitchie Manitou (Algonquian for ‘Great Spirit’) was a goddess in the Western (European) sense of the word.  In fact, in the near fifteen years of working with her, I have yet to be told her true name; though she is the closest I have to a “matron” deity.   For a while I believed she was Danu because of the association with water and motherhood, but this did not suit.   I researched indigenous lore about the lake, hoping to find an answer that way.  But the spirit I continually encountered in my meditations was neither the trickster (Nana bijou) nor the fierce lynx creature, Mishi Peshu.  I’ve called her Grandmother, White Lady (a reference to the color of her dress, not her skin), Mother, or simply Lady of the Lake. 

When I returned home, I did some preliminary research on the statue itself, trying to discover its origins and meaning.  It turns out, that my statue is actually a German Wedding Toasting Cup, with a fascinating story about its origins. The hyperlink supplies the full story of a father who refuses to allow his daughter to marry the man she loves.  The father challenged the man (a goldsmith) to craft a cup from which two people could drink at once without spilling in order to be allowed to marry his daughter.  The Toasting cup is the result—the dress is the larger cup from which the groom drinks, while the smaller cup is on a pivot so that it can tip and allow the bride to drink at the same time.  Today tradition holds that if a newly wed couple can successfully drink from the Toasting cup without spilling a drop, their marriage will be blessed with a "loving, faithful union". (Stephanie Stokes, Nola.com)

What, I wondered could a German toasting cup have to do with a goddess?  So I searched for Celtic deities associated with ‘weddings’ and the first story was that of Rhiannon.  She too insisted on marrying the man of her choice rather than the one chosen for her, but as a result was challenged. Many sources claim that Rhiannon became Vivienne, the Lady of the Lake.

This is where the ‘karmic’ two by four usually takes a swing at my head as the light bulb finally blinks on and a series of random events connect into a synchronistic moment that fuels my spiritual path in new directions.  The Lady of the Lake.  Ha!  Ha!  Ha!  Oh thank you once again, Gitchie Manitou for throwing down the gauntlet in challenge.  I realized that even though I have been pulled closer to animism and farther from theism in my Druid path work of late, today’s find is a reminder not to turn my back completely on deity. 

The Goddess—in her many forms, is a concept I more readily embrace and inherently understand while God is someone confusing and foreign.  I  wondered if this was due to the remnant scars of growing up in a patriarchal religion with visions of a wrath-filled, vengeful God more ready to smite me for my sinful flaws than to embrace me for who I was—his perfect creation.  Do I avoid a relationship with male deities because of that past history with the Judeo-Christian God?  Or do I avoid a relationship with male deities simply because I lack the proper erm..."bits" that allow me to connect to them on some masculine level?  Or do I naturally feel drawn to the Goddess because I am female, and she in her archetypal roles illustrates and celebrates all that is the female experience?




As this statue finds her way to a place on my primary altar, her form and visage will help me contemplate these questions more deeply.