Shining Lakes Grove, ADF
11/30/99: Here it is, Rob. I have to say that this particular experience was a very significant turning point for me, far more than I realized when I wrote this on 1/25/99. I've done far more growth, change, and transformation in the last year than any other year of my life and this is where it all started....
Pandora's Experience with Ana
You may not know me very well, but my name is Pandora and I am a long-distance member of SLG. I live in Montreal, but I have several ADF friends in the Ann Arbor area and I make it out a couple times a year for festival and visiting. During a recent visit, I was greatly blessed by an experience I had with Ana. This is a story of sacrifice and faith and I offer it now to you and to Her in gratitude...
I was enjoying Rob Henderson's hospitality for a few days back in December when I decided to take a walk down to the river one afternoon to have a chat with Ana. I was trying to come to a decision about renewing my SLG membership which had recently expired (I renewed it after all this) and I was also looking for an offering to take the Nature Spirits at the Manannan shrine the next day. I walked out of the apartment and was met immediately by three crows that flew across my path cawing their greetings at me. Now, my matron just happens to be the Morrigan and when three crows come along, no more and no less, I know something important is going on and I had better be alert. So I headed down to the river paying close attention to my intuition and chatting with the crows I met along the way.
When I arrived at the bridge, as I looked out over the water, the river seemed to be pulling at me, asking something I couldn't understand. As I walked along among the dried grasses and wildflowers by the side of the road, I started musing about my membership, pondering what it is that draws me to this area and asking Ana if it was her. A patch of dried flowers with brilliant crimson seed pods on tall brown stalks drew my attention like a magnet. I reached out to ask the plant if I could take a piece to offer the Nature Spirits the following day, but then I stopped. Taking something I see as having come from the Nature Spirits and then turning around and offering it back to them suddenly seemed very rude to me. I heard laughter and a woman's voice echoed in my mind "All things come from the Land, thus nothing is truly yours to begin with. You are quick to seek a blessing or to take a thing of beauty... what will you give in return?" What indeed? I asked myself as I moved on, softly chanting "Blessed is She" and looking for answers.
The crows on the other side of the river were making quite a fuss as I picked my way down through the snow to the river's edge. They seemed to be calling me to sit for a while. I found a place on a snow-covered rock and settled in a few inches from the water. I told the crows "Okay, I'm here, I'm listening." and then relaxed as I watched a flock of geese resting in the water nearby. After a time, I felt moved to take off a pendant I had worn without removing for over a year, a triskele hand-made for me at festival by a jeweler who let me help design it. It was blessed at the closing ritual of that same festival two Harvests ago to represent my relationship with the Kindred, my community, and my growing spirituality. It had later been blessed by Fox at a ritual for making holy water at an An Bruane gathering (the first time I took it off) and by several of my friends and lovers. It was probably my most precious belonging and yet I suddenly felt moved to take it off and dip it in the river.
As it was hanging from my hand above the water, I hesitated because I heard that same voice say to me "Don't do that unless you plan to leave it there." My heart almost stopped. All the things the triskele meant to me flashed through my head. At Yule, I had changed its meaning somewhat to be about being precisely where I need to be in any given moment with all my resources spiraling out around me, knowing my center regardless of whatever chaos may find me. It was a symbol of my path, of my personal power and the protection of those who love me... "Is this what you want from me?" I asked. An image of a piece of ice floating by with my triskele on it flashed across my mind. A few minutes later, a thin piece of ice did float by me, then another. I said: "But Mother, this is so important to me." She responded: "What use is a sacrifice that is meaningless to you?"
I struggled for a long time before I finally decided that the river would still be there tomorrow and I needed to think about this for a while. As I put my pendant back on and began to walk away, I felt sick. A crow flew by in front of me cawing loudly and I stopped. I remembered that I had told the crows that I was listening. I realized that I hadn't kept my word very well and went back to apologize, removing my pendant again as I walked along. I found a piece of ice along the edge of the water and wrapped my pendant around it with my bare hands. The ice was burning my fingers and my mind was racing, telling me I was crazy, that I was about to throw something incredibly precious to me into the Huron River because the crows told me to and the river asked for it. "Why?" I asked. The voice responded "Because it is asked. It doesn't matter why." Finally I cast aside doubt and tossed the ice and my pendant off the bridge and into the water. "So be it!" I cried as I watched it sink slowly to the bottom of the river.
This was the first time the gods have asked for anything so precious to me without giving me any idea of why I was doing it. Faith. It felt good. I felt a peace in the next two days that I had never experienced before. I flew home and went on with my life, but that peace still pops up predictably and things have started shifting within me. These changes are broader and more rapid than any I have seen before. I finally understood a few days ago that I was asked to sacrifice my triskele to make manifest its blessings in my life, to show me the importance of faith, to teach me that some gifts come with a price and that I must be ready to let go to make space for what is to come.
I've thought a lot about sacrifice in the last few weeks. The Morrigan has become fond of asking me if I am ready to die for the things I want to change. It scared me in the beginning, but I have come to understand that some changes we call into our lives will so transform us that we will become unrecognizable to ourselves and others afterward. It's like we walk into the Fire, all that is familiar is burned away, and we are reborn from the flames like a phoenix. Every path we choose leaves another unexplored. Every choice is also a sacrifice. What are you willing to give to see the blessings you seek made manifest in your life?
Something to ponder...