When I turned 40 my daughter came by and with a smug mouth stretched wide over red speckled cheeks, she handed me a card. Inside the card was pin that declared in a loud font with electric colors “I’ve survived damn near everything” I spit my drink out. We had a good laugh. She’d gone and found me the perfect “over the hill” gift.
When I started to write this, I realized with a lot of trepidation that the reader is going to need some background. At first I thought I’d share in a very general way, because I don’t’ want anyone to focus too much on the details of my encounters (and other reasons). I wrote pages of smart little notes using a different color pen each time I sat down over the last month. I organized quotes. I studied the lore again looking for analogies to use. This morning I prayed to the Great Queen for some guidance or direction again. And then I threw all the notes out. It wasn’t authentic. It wasn’t me. This is how the Morrigan works in my life:
As implied with the birthday pin, which incidentally I still have, I’m a survivor. I’m not sure when I became a survivor exactly because the flash backs go as far back as I can remember. I’m going to try to give you a synopsis of some of the things I’ve survived. Brevity is a challenge so…. I was raised Christian. I feel like our Christianity as a household would’ve been mixed in with the white paint on the picket fence if we’d had one. Inside that false boundary though was something altogether different.
We had a smorgasbord of porn in our house. As a result, there was inappropriate sexual activity. My first sexual encounter outside of immediate family was being infiltrated at 12 by a man my much older sister brought home. After years of this infiltrating, I came out with it. My dysfunctional family could not or would not bring themselves to face what had happened and he wasn’t held accountable. In fact my sister married him and they had two children. But not to worry, the truth eventually came pounding on her door, they divorced, and he very recently hung himself. During these early years I am ever dreaming of snakes. Not one or two, great tangled masses of snakes. My gran assured this meant I was being chased by Satan and I needed to adjust accordingly, or else. I escaped life by walking to a place in the woods on the back side of a pasture with a little brook running near. It always beckoned with it’s soft mossy beds and the smell of trees that had been composting for eons. I named this place the Fairies Mounds. It’s still with me today.
Of course, I eventually rebelled against the family. In no small way. By fourteen years I spent most days anywhere but home. I partied in the surrounding cities with an older “more seasoned” crowd. I was searching for something. What I found was gang rape. The rapists did have the courtesy to drop me off at home later(a different home at this point). I’m very lucky, and I know it. I tell no one. I decide to get married and have a baby, because that’s the obvious answer to my misery. It will keep me safe. Still Christian at this point, pretty darn Baptist by now. And I’m still dreaming of snakes.
Fast forward through a divorce (at 18). I spent the following years alternating between working a trade in construction (which I still do) to support my daughter, getting a degree, and partying as hard as humanly possible to kill the flashbacks. I’d also changed my outlook on power at this point. I met my shame head on attempting to master my twisted view of sex by using it to my advantage. And many times it worked, other times I found more misery under those rocks. I did meet an awesome history teacher during this seven years of my “singlehood”. He introduced me to a lot of practices that I now see for the spiritual tools that they were. They were subtle land rituals. I also began to dream of talking ravens(maybe crows but for this, I’ll use ravens. They told me things I no longer remember much of. I do remember they foretold of a trip I would eventually take with this man up the east coast to NYC and Toronto. A trip that would change my world view. I’d never been anywhere since we’d left the Air Force and settled in tobacco country where my parents grew up. I was happy. I was terrified. So I left him.
I got married again in a flash. It stunts my tendency to turn towards the wilderness right? If only for a while. I’m still a Baptist, but I’d encountered some Greek and Norse mythology (history teacher), and I loved it more than more than I thought I should. Oh, and I’d read Arthurian literature. And yes, I identified with the seemingly tortured protagonist in Zimmer-Bradley’s books, Morgan Lefaye. No, I don’t personally feel she’s at all related to the Morrigan. I do think some who are interested in Morgan Lefaye find themselves wandering through the lore of the Great Queen at some point and that is not necessarily a bad thing. That‘s not how it happened for me.
This 2nd marriage was formed in utter sickness. There was absolutely nothing healthy about it. I’d chosen an abuser with several untreated symptoms. I had untreated symptoms. I’d been through a slew of counselors over the years. He did what abusers do. I seethed over his drinking and did what enablers and battered wives do. I isolated with self-help and “wommyn’s” spiritual books. The ravens started to come back. They told me more things I can’t exactly recall. I’d read about women’s religions, and a tad about Wicca, but always with the fear of damnation on my heels. But it planted a seed and I began to organize an exit plan. That’s when she first made Herself known to me in a way I couldn’t deny.
It was a dream that wasn’t a dream. It’s been about 16 years now and some of the details have gotten scarce. However, I’ll never lose the image of her standing there in a long dress, dark auburn hair, surrounded by ravens or crows, and that voice. A silky, bellowing voice traveling a thousand years to reach me (best description I have). We were in a field with many paths running through it. She pointed and said “You are on the right path”. She gestured towards a path and told me to keep trucking. I found out in the next 48 hours that I was pregnant with our second son, my third child, so I stayed.
I swallowed my fate. I raised my children semi-sanely until they were all in school. After which time I took it upon myself to fight my husband as viciously as he fought me. I drank and drugged away the Morrigan’s attempts at communication. At this point Badb and Nemain are making terrifying appearances. I also ignored visits from the Good Neighbors who had shown up at some point in this blur though they always found a way to affect my life. I became one of the most toxic people I’ve had the displeasure of knowing. I was mad as hell. I fought everything and everyone. I fought everything in this world and the next. I fought myself.
Finally, when a considerable police presence became involved in the marital bliss, we decided to split. I was somehow holding a job as an analyst for a large pharma corp. Not for long. I met a new person at work. I quickly lost myself in that relationship. We were both eventually laid off along with 3K others. And then I dug the deepest hole possible. I watched everything I ever identified myself with or as walk out the door. My beautiful home, car, sanity, my freedom, and finally my children. I overdosed often. I stopped breathing on occasion and I seized too many times. My vital organs were failing and I welcomed it all. I also railed at my mother’s pastor in ICU “Where is your god now!?” Admittedly, this is all very dramatic. I was consumed by drama. And one day that voice from far away spoke to me again, and I started the long and bloody knuckled climb out.
That was about four years ago. Waking from that nightmare(death) seems likened to waking from a coma. It was raw, knotted, and terrifying. Now I attempt to manage a mean case of PTSD. In that first year I managed to get my children back. It wasn’t hard. The abusive ex had discovered new outlets for his aggressions. I had to take sedatives (under medical care) to get through court. I locked myself in my house for most of 3 years. I healed some wounds. I studied the Morrigan and developed a spiritual practice. I built a thick, tall wall around myself. I felt safe. I felt stronger. I dedicated myself to her in a formal ritual.
After the dedication she promptly decided to shake my little glass globe up again. This time she directed me to find others. I dug my heels in deep for a while. This was scary stuff. Finally, in June of 2015 I went to my first Call of the Morrigan retreat and I was mortified. I could hear the constant rattle of my teeth. I stayed anyway. I did what she directed me to do. I transformed and I grew so fast it was maddening. I reclaimed some of my lost power. And I discovered my shadow self. We didn’t get along.
A cycle worth noting in all that unverified personal gnosis above; During the times I turned my back to the call of the Morrigan and walked away from my sovereignty, I caused myself suffering. She poked, needled, and screamed. Some of the time, I cowered and suffered. I could turn away again and try to go it alone. I have a choice in the matter. My experiences have shown me that I am a much better person when I walk this shadowy path.
This past June, one year later, I returned to the retreat. It had become, for me, a sort of scale by which I measured my growth. There were moments I wrestled with my shadow. Panic followed. Not enough to hinder me from strengthening bonds in the community I’ve gotten to know over the last year. I didn’t need to hide in the tent. I did occasionally hold a hand. I reaffirmed my dedication by way of sacred tattoo on the first morning. The following day I served Badb by becoming her eyes. I left there still feeling the effects of her dark energy. I felt strong. And then I came home. Immediately I realized I’d left behind my best friend in a Tarot deck. Next, my family fell to pieces. And I sold the last thing I owned with title attached.(a good thing, towards my sovereignty of self) And then there was an incident that triggered a handful of my demons. I’m still in the process of doing the work it takes to embrace the many faces of my shadow.
I considered sharing many different aspects of what it’s like to be dedicated to this War Goddess who is always with me. I could talk about experiences with her as Prophetess or as Sorceress. Around those aspects I will share that the more I study her culture of origin, their land, language, and people the stronger and more intimate our relationship becomes. I could talk of experiences with the Others who often precede her. I could share more on my practice around the warrior aspects of this path. I don’t currently risk my life to protect others on a regular basis. I do work on strengthening physically with plans to return to martial arts. I stand for right causes and social justice. I also serve the Morrigan and my communities by way of supporting other survivors in their quests for self sovereignty. It’s in that spirit I share this. I read an article last night that spoke to me on this topic. I’ll share a quote:
“The most anti-capitalist protest is to care for another and to care for yourself. To take on the historically feminized and therefore invisible practice of nursing, nurturing, caring. To take seriously each other’s vulnerability and fragility and precarity, and to support it, honor it, empower it. To protect each other, to enact and practice community. A radical kinship, an interdependent sociality, a politics of care.”
I’ve found this community to be overflowing with survivors of all manner of traumas. We’re a hodge-podge of colors, races, paths, and genders. I’ve had chance to witness that common issues most of us struggle with at least once are typically around our worthiness in the form of our perceived weaknesses. I’ve also heard it said more than once that The Morrigan covets, or has affection for the wounded. I don’t feel like she covets the wounded so much as she knows how much we are capable of enduring. I want survivors, myself included, to always know that we’re called because of our strength, not the lacking of it. We are strength and resiliency embodied. We are valuable to the Morrigan. We also have much to offer this broken world and its people if we fully embrace death of our old selves that so often comes with this call.
Quote – Hedva , Johanna. Sick Woman Theory. http://www.maskmagazine.com/not-again/struggle/sick-woman-theory