I am a Witch, a shapeshifter, a pious polytheist, animist, and necromancer, and a Dedicant Druid–but unfortunately this does not make me exempt from being an idiot. I have offended the Gods, broken promises when I was too young and ignorant to make them (fortunately these were not binding oaths and vows made in ritual, but we all really ought to know better than not to keep our word in any relationship, with corporeal beings or otherwise), and lost Allies because I did not honor them properly and uphold the *ghos-ti- relationship. I have made mistakes, and continue to make them; none of us are infallible. They’re just a bit more of a slap in the face when you have vowed to honor all messages and omens, and blatantly ignore them.
One such omen I recently ignored was from Aenghus Mac Óg, who has quickly become a Being I honor and commune with often. During my Waning Half-Moon Rite of Offering, I made the error of ignoring a blatant question from Aenghus: “What are you doing?” Perhaps He didn’t use these exact words, but I definitely sensed there was something “wrong” with what I was doing with an offering I had made to Him. He wanted more, or at least the entirety of what I had brought to offer Him, which in addition to my typical sweet things and aphrodisiacal plants and more personal gifts included a cone of sweet-smelling incense He had told me during ritual I ought to purchase and burn for Him, and which I thought it might be prudent to conserve by extinguishing and relighting another day. In retrospect, I would have asked myself the same question He did; I find the idea of “taking back” an offering disturbing, and I know my Allies wouldn’t have it, if only because of my opinions on the subject, and how I view sacrifice. Yet at the time I thought that if I could make it last, I could conserve funds and thereby give Him more offerings.
This is not how it works with my Allies, and I knew something was wrong when He didn’t attend my open rites. After showering while watching and listening to the thunder and rain and possibly hale rage outside the window (and assuring my chihuahua that the sky was not falling and he could stop shaking and hiding behind me), I pulled out the incense in question, placed a Tarot card we’d lewdly chuckled over days before on my little focal shrine, and lit the World Tree candle (this is how I roll). I invited Him, and I apologized sincerely.
His uncanny ability to speak with me through Tarot was eerie once again. He said to worry about my integrity more than my self, my greed, that the ends do not justify the means, and to look at the world through a wider lens. Indeed, this is often a lesson I find difficult, not because I am greedy or materialistic (quite the opposite; “less is more” is pretty much my motto when it comes to “stuff”), but because growing up in poverty and with various mental health issues made the lens quite small. I have always been very keen on politics and compassion, on fully acknowledging the suffering of all beings and seeking to do my part in lessening it with what powers and vehicles I have: my words, my voice, my body; I have been to many protests, done many illegal acts for the sake of morality and my conscience, written many letters to politicians, perform daily acts to aid in balancing the impact of my first-world life in this horrifically careless era, and daily help make people aware of the ways in which we make fellow humans and other living things suffer needlessly (including the Earth as an ecosystem; #fuckyeahholons) and just what they can do about that crap (you will see the headstrong Capricorn and slightly dramatic, intense, and brooding Leo Rising and Scorpio Moon in me when I come to trust you and we engage in heated debate, or if I hate you). Nonetheless! It is extremely difficult to see beyond your own bubble when you’re not sure how you’re going to survive another day, whether due to finances and an empty cupboard, or suicidality (fun!). I cannot express how thankful I am that this is all in the past, but I have been more slow to acquire the change in perspective than the change in my hierarchy of needs; fear always deeply embeds itself into the grain of our souls.
I made more offerings, and drew the omen again. I did not realize there were so many cards in the Tarot that gave this same message. He reiterated that frugality really isn’t the way to go when it comes to piety, and in giving me a card He’d given me before in much different circumstances, He hinted at Something Else, and forgiveness if I vowed to be more wary. I gave yet more sacrifices, and finally He seemed appeased: I was listening. He joined me in a greater way than speaking through the Tarot, and smiled in His charming way. It was a weight off my conscience, to have regained his approval and placed our relationship back into harmony and equilibrium.
Recently I offended and then regained [a bit of] the approval of another ally of mine: my mother. Most would not use “allyship” to describe our relationship. It is evident to those who know the taboo details of my mental health history that I received a hefty chunk of them from her. I truly have two mothers: the generous, supportive one, whom I love; and the vindictive, hateful vampire who has “ruined” many men’s lives, towards whom I grew up with a murderous rage, and who disabled me through her never-ending drunken stream of insults. She never laid a hand on me (though I only stopped being terrified she would when I was seventeen and had deliberately sought to become physically stronger than her to put an end to that fear), but she metaphorically broke my legs, making me entirely dependent on her; her criticisms and backstabbing behaviors seem to follow me everywhere I go. I have lived on the other side of the world from her, but even this wasn’t far enough. Finally I made the decision to cut off most communication and to avoid telling her my location (she would be at my doorstep in a heartbeat, employing every method in her arsenal to try and get me to live with her and submit to her again, regardless of my age; as my father says, “You’re a grown-ass woman!”).
Recently she accused me to my father of “being on drugs,” which she accuses anyone who has ever challenged her sense of god-like authority in any way; I grew up thinking my sister, father, and pseudo-step-mother were drug addicts, when my mother is an alcoholic and has done more risky things to her psyche than any of those three would ever attempt. When my father told me of the accusation, I was shocked and lost for words. My mother had raised me to think that it was us two against the world, but now I too had become “the Other.” By placing me beyond the boundaries of her wall, she was attempting yet again to bend my will to hers, to force me to defend myself, one of her main tactics against me, and often an effective one, considering how little confidence and faith in myself she encouraged.
But the *ghos-ti- relationship applies to all relationships, all things. To me, offending the Allies isn’t so much about snubbing them and sparking a Witch War (I can’t imagine what Pagan Television would look like). It is about disharmony in the relationship, and throwing the equilibrium off-kilter. The American Heritage College Dictionary defines ghos-ti-, in part, as “reciprocal duties of hospitality.” When we ignore omens, we can feel the pressure of the situation, the tension; the Being who is “offended” is not the only one who suffers, and that They often close the doors to us after is not the only reason we suffer for our actions (or lack thereof).
My relationship with my mother is an example of one gone awry, and I knew it in the days leading up to Mother’s Day because I could feel the tension of it in my body. I suffer anxiety, and although I no longer have panic attacks or stress-rashes or black-outs or any of that, a great deal of my emotional issues translate into physical ones. I was hungrier, my back ached, I had a constant headache that often blurred into a migraine for days. (Now my old gymnastics and ballet injuries in the joints of my lower body ache, but I think that’s the rain.) Within Taoism there is the concept of Internal Alchemy: that our bodies are microcosms of the Universe, while both are their own organisms (and the microcosm is always, as far as I can imagine, a holon–I love that word!), and for them to both be in harmony with one another, they must fully harmonize internally. So: to flow with the Tao, you must begin with yourself. Forget a moment about the minor choices we make in our lives, and turn inwards. As Philip and Stephanie Carr-Gomm write in The DruidCraft Tarot, “Looking within, I explore the shining stars.” (And to reference them again, I think the OBOD member, Iolo Morganwyg-style contemporary Druid, or Welsh Traditionalist would perhaps call Internal Alchemy aligning with “Nwyfre,” life-force.)
On Mother’s Day, I heeded the omens, realigned myself with the Tao, weaved another thread into my Wyrd and listened to the vibrations of the Greater Web. I sent my mother a very kind e-mail expressing my sincere thanks for that which she taught me to value in life, things I will pass on to my children (a thing she likes to hear; she thinks being queer is “a phase” that I will outgrow when I “marry a nice young man” and give her grandchildren), should I ever have any (I’m too much of a cynic about the human race and overpopulation to give it too much thought just yet, and feeling pretty self-righteous in a part of the U.S. where most women my age already have several children, their first before they were even out of high school–if they even attended or graduated high school). I dropped a hint at the end: “Thank you … for always believing in the strength of my character.” We may have both dropped the ball a bit, but my vows to heed dream-visions and divining tools and messages in all forms apply to the *ghos-ti- of every relationship, whether with the Divine or beings of mortal flesh. I cannot be in tune with the Universe or Goddess or Great Spirit or what-have-you if I go without acknowledging the internal universe.
Open yourself to the pain of your ignorance, receive it and the omens, and look inwards for the cure to the disorder. How you treat omens and heed advice is itself a form of worship and piety and thanksgiving and respect. Respect yourself enough not to ignore what is before you, and find hidden strength in your faith as you step beyond the fearsome wardens of the gates who guard your liquid depths, say a polite hello, and dive in.