"The practice of making New Year’s resolutions is said to have begun with the Babylonians as early as 2600 B.C. The Roman god Janus—who gave January its name—was pictured as two-faced so that one face took a retrospective view and the other looked forward to new beginnings and renewed commitments." -The Old Farmer's Almanac [email blurb]
For the past few nights, there have been little footprints at the back door. They appeared to be from the young bunny that resides in our tall grass mound. So last night, I placed an appeasing offering as bait to catch a glimpse of it, as I am quite fond of cute little bunny rabbits. My aim was to befriend it and even try and bring it in from the cold. To welcome and incorporate it into our home if, of course, it seemed reciprocal to the invitation (came in on it's own). I cut up a delicious apple into small chunks and tossed a few of them in a path leading to the door. All night I kept checking back for a sign only to find the pieces still there. The next morning, however, fresh prints appeared and the slices were gone.
I repeated my little gift of apple slices tonight and was surprised to find that the footprints that I had been seeing were actually the markings of a mouse.
Footprints in the snow
More by the door
The mouse comes out of the bottom of his little snow tunnel and walks to the top hole.
He then proceeds to shallowly tunnel under the snow every now and then.
He alluded me in getting a picture of him running around and making footprints in the snow, though.
It is the first time in quite a while that I have done a ritual. My life has been quite busy. I feel the call of the Gods. Athena. Ma'at. Thoth. But I feel too tired, too busy, not prepared, not presentable. These are excuses and I know it.
So tonight, on Halloween, Samhain, Witch's New Year, whatever title you prefer, I come to them unprepared, dingy, ashamed. I light my white candle. I think and speak to my ancestors and loved ones. I bear my apology to the Gods and ask for wisdom, strength, and resolution in my path. I thank Them for what I have and for the blessing of knowing my husband. I love him and thank Them for bringing our paths together.
I rub clean my apple on my shirt. Imprinting a piece of me onto it. Imperfectly, I cut it in half horizontally. Revealing the star within. The star--a most sacred symbol. Air, Water, Fire, Earth, Spirit. The culmination of life found within. To nourish oneself, mentally, spiritually, and physically, we must eventually come to the core. Life is taken by consuming the flesh, but the core provides the seeds for new life.
As the Gods take their offering, I ask for nourishment of the mind, body, and soul. I ask for wisdom, strength, and balance. As the offering is consumed, I ask that my shortcomings are taken away. Consume my procrastination. Consume my languid tendencies. And in their place, plant the seeds of energy, healthful dedication, determination, and wisdom.
I am a child of fire and snow. Born under the zodiac signs of the Great Archer and the Fire Rat. Born in the winter months amongst a bitter blizzard. I thrill when our first snows happen on my birthday, as they frequently do.
I crack open my very first book containing collections of thoughts, ideas, and beliefs and flip to the useful circular illustrated wheels of Western and Chinese Zodiacs. I affirm that I am born strongly within the fire element; both as a Sagittarius and Rat. The Elemental Illustrated Encyclopedia of Mind, Body, Spirit, and Earth is extremely simplistic, very basic, and limited in scope, but it was given to me when I was a child and I have lovingly worn its binding and corners apart with re-reading. I've had this book for probably two decades now and it even survived our house fire. How appropriate to this thought process.
Today I set up my alter to realign. I went back to my most basic ritual; one that invokes the elements. As I sit contemplating my completed ritual, I can't help but notice and feel the duality within my birth. I burnt a large amount of sage, cedar, and tobacco, adding a few sprigs of lavender stems in addition to the orange candle to pay tribute to the spring that is right around the corner. I look into my room and see the air is still thick with smoke; the scents cling to my clothes. I look outside and see the remnants of snow that managed to stick to the rooftops and patches of grass; the chill clings to my skin.
Last Friday I donated to Saint Sophia. It wasn't much by a long shot, just a meager few dollars, but a wholly unexpected set of feelings and callings were ushered forth and I have been contemplating the experience all week.
Walking into the local Walmart mumbling over the list of things I needed to pick up for the weekend, I heard, then saw, an older man dressed in a plain brown robe with a long salt and pepper beard asking for donations on behalf of the St. Sophia Orthodox Church. "Homes for homeless" was the call. Normally, I shy away from donating money to churches. As a general rule, and I am going to be absolutely blunt about this, I feel that there are a lot of things that many would not like about me and my beliefs and so I feel my money is not worthy of them either. I do have exceptions, such as donating food or clothing and occasionally when the cause is beyond their own pulpit. But that day I suddenly felt the need to put my money into the wooden box. My memory flashed back to the time when we lost our home to a house fire and became relatively homeless for about a year and how it really took a tole on our family. First living in the old, unattached garage, having to bath in the still working shower with no hot water, then moving into my grandfather's house with the constant pressure of feeling very unwelcome by his wife--at least the salt-softened water was warm. But to many homeless, that's still a roof over one's head and I thought of the blessings I have been given by the Spirits and Divines since then from that great loss.
The story behind St. Sophia and her three children, Faith, Hope, and Love (sometimes as Charity), is brutal and terrible, but the story and religious commentary are allegorical. Some Orthodox churches don't even recognize that story as the basis for their name, rather, they view it as another aspect of Jesus. Regardless, it wasn't her sainted namesake or story that called to me, but the meaning behind her name. The link to a higher wisdom and reason (Logos). Athena called. Sophia spoke. I was so taken aback that I felt as if I went on autopilot. I walked through the store gathering my non-essential weekend materials mulling the feeling over. After checking out, I nearly "autopiloted" straight to the car, but the old man's call woke me and at once I felt the need to give.
Sophia means "wisdom" in Greek and I have always loved Athena for her role as the Goddess of Wisdom. The concept of Hagia Sophia is immensely sublime to me. Holy Wisdom. Attributing wisdom, learning, and knowledge to a holy deed. Picking up and absorbing a book as ritual practice. Hagia Sophia is recognized as the Holy Spirit of the Christian trinity in female form in some Christian mysticism sects; giving a Gnostic notion of feminine balance to the male dominated faith. Holy Wisdom in and of itself is beautiful. Coupled with the idea that one of femininity's gifts she offers is comfort, as a mother would comfort her child, linked all these ideas together in perfect sense. Homes for the homeless were being given by such a feminine form as Sophia, no matter her manifestation or what association with this church, it was beautiful and compassionate and it moved me.
I have a personal philo-sophia. Combined, we get the word philosophy, but I like the thought of the words hyphenated. Philo-sophia. The love of wisdom. It's simpler, yet expansive. The Sophiaology of Hellenistic philosophy. It felt as though Athena was calling out to me. Rekindle our connection; I understand. Give and know me again. I gave for Athena. I gave for Sophia. I gave my offering for compassion and hope to those who need it.