Pagan Blog Project: Journeys and Jet Planes

I will do your work, my Goddess, throughout the cycles of the day; I will mark you in my mind and on my hands; I will teach you to my children; I will remember you in my home and on my journeys.

Image description: a Venus of Willendorf totem on a Holiday Inn notepad.

My Goddess totem on my nightstand at the Holiday Inn.

This week I’m away from home, presenting at a professional conference. At these conferences, you live and breathe your profession. You go to the breakfast buffets, you go to the after-parties. You collapse in your hotel room and do it all again. It’s so easy to lose sight of your personal life, your spiritual life, your deepest self, your gods.

So I brought my little Goddess totem with me. I also brought two decks of Tarot cards. Two? I thought, putting the bag into my carryon. This is ridiculous. Even one is extra weight. But I couldn’t bring my baby daughter. I couldn’t bring my garden. I couldn’t bring my pentacle jewelry, not to a professional event. I couldn’t bring the Jacaranda tree I admire from my patio. So I brought what I could carry.

* * *

Tonight and last night I skyped with my husband and daughter. My daughter is going on two, and doesn’t really understand that sometimes the image on the screen is a living person who can see you. Last night she didn’t talk to me, but kept pointing to the front door and saying, “Mama!” Tonight she cried in distress and kept trying to close my husband’s computer screen.

Paradoxically, I read it as a sign of love. Seeing Mama reduced to a moving picture was upsetting. Where was the real Mama? What was going on with this doppelgänger? Two more days, I kept saying. You’ll see Mama on Sunday. But she has no idea what that means.

In my hotel room I watched a Johnson and Johnson Mother’s Day commercial and cried.

* * *

Before I came, I obeyed a whim and looked up Pagan stores in the city hosting the conference. I found one a couple of miles away from my hotel. I don’t have a rental car, though, so I dismissed the idea of stopping in.

Yet the idea kept nagging at me. Go to this store. Go to this store. But there are Pagan stores in my home city. And this one doesn’t even look very good. They have a whole section devoted to mugs with inspirational quotes on them! Yet–Go to this store, something keeps telling me. I don’t know why, and I feel embarrassed, but I actually looked up bus routes to get there. I may go tomorrow after the conference ends and not buy anything. As far as bizarre compulsions go, this one is pretty tame–the bus ride is only about 10 minutes–but whenever I obey inexplicable impulses like this, I fear that I’m slipping into lunacy. I really hope no one finds out I’m doing this.

On the other hand, to date, I’ve never regretted following my instincts. Not when it feels this important.

Maybe I want to go to this place to touch a little bit of community. Just a few minutes with kindred spirits in this faraway place, while I’m inhabiting a life that takes up most of my time, yet is only the tiniest fraction of who I truly am.

* * *

Today, on the way back to the hotel, I saw my very first red-winged blackbird. I never knew about red-winged blackbirds. The sight of this new creature nearly knocked me over.

To think–you can live 33 years, in three different states and four different countries, and never know a bird exists until you see it!

Afterwards, I flopped down on my bed, opened up Patheos, and read Rhyd Wildermuth’s “What I Know of a Creek,” which includes a brief thought on red-winged blackbirds. It was one of those subtle numinous moments–the ones that don’t feel momentous, but don’t feel like a coincidence, either.

I miss my baby girl so much.

* * *

The first line of this post is from my Pagan version of the Jewish Sh’ma. I don’t include it in my devotionals every single day, but I do find that the frequent repetition allows me to discover deeper layers of it.

I will remember you on my journeys. But remembering is more than just remembering. It’s feeling something in your body. It’s having it even when you’re not thinking about it.

I’ll go to the damn store tomorrow. Who knows, maybe some incredible mystical experience will happen and I’ll be changed forever. More likely, though, I’ll scratch the itch, walk out empty-handed, and never know exactly what was calling me there. As they say, regrets come from what you didn’t do, not from what you did. Still–wouldn’t it be nice if we Witches and Pagans had temples and groves to visit and not just stores? I’m really tired of stores.

May you recognize your gods in all of your journeys.

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2 thoughts on “Pagan Blog Project: Journeys and Jet Planes

  1. James Bulls says:

    Yeah, I hear what you’re saying. In a similar way, I always get a little depressed when I search Google+ or Twitter for my primary interests – cartomancy and Reiki – because although I get pages and pages of results, every result that comes back is an advertisement for somebody’s product, program, or service. Where’s the dialogue? Where’s the deep thoughts? Where’s the interesting conversations? Apparently they’re not to be had online if the search results are to be believed. It’s frustrating to me to see my “temples” replaced by “storefronts,” and “mysticism” replaced by “commercialism.” Where are the people who see religious and spiritual practices as an end, and not a means to more money?

    • Asa West says:

      Yes! Absolutely! To be fair, if maintaining a storefront and hiring readers will pay the bills for a ritual space, then I’m fine with that–but it seems like the ritual space is hardly ever the focal point of the overall space. And the emphasis on merchandise feeds into my own internalized materialism (“Ooh, shiny! Mine!”), which feels gross.

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