Remembering My Relationship With The Gods
For most of my life, I was not concerned with relating to any divine presence. I was raised in a Catholic family, and I was safely herded through twelve years of school where I was taught by nuns, priests and brothers. I felt as if God was looking over my shoulder, but I was not aware that He was making any demands on me. When I left high school, I stopped going to church. Rejecting my religious upbringing was part of a rebellion fueled by anti-Vietnam war sentiment.
As I drifted away from the one God in heaven, I discovered a variety of divine perspectives. There were the many Gods of Hinduism, the deep within emptiness of Buddhism, the no-God-but-science god, and the recently popular everyone-is-their-own god. I felt most drawn to the dance of opposites that I found in Taoist teachings, and to the Great Spirit present in the natural world that I found in reading about North American indigenous cultures. Various forms of these spiritual stories decorated the decades of my thirties and forties through books, practices, teachers, communities, and workshops, but none of them got my undivided attention. Something was speaking to me, but I wasn’t willing or able to receive the message yet. Then, I was invited to make offerings to the fire.
The simple act of expressing gratitude and making offerings opened a doorway. The initial message or understanding was simple; feed the fire and you will receive warmth and light. This was a basic relationship I could easily grasp. It was a baby step towards realizing my life’s purpose.
The ritual of making offerings to the fire was passed on to me with permission from the Huichol Indian people of Western Mexico. They have always honored Grandfather Fire as the essence of the heart. This fire is an essential element of all religions and spiritual paths. It is warmth and passion that connects us to everyone and everything.
As I listened and learned from Grandfather Fire, I began to distinguish between what was truly my heart speaking and what was my mind masquerading as my heart. The human intellect is a useful tool, but when driven by a fearful striving for security it can get in the way of hearing the wisdom of the heart. With this discernment, my relationship grew. I could trust that my life had purpose, and when I was confronted with challenges, I could act in spite of doubt, resistance, and fear.
Other invitations followed, and I stretched to make my offerings. I was initiated by don Lucio Campos Elizade as a granicero in the Nahua tradition. Don Lucio had been struck by lightning when he was working in his cornfield. He was in and out of coma for three years and in that time he developed a working relationship with Santa Barbarita, the goddess of the sky. He served his community as a healer and set an example for many of us in the ways of honoring the weather beings: the clouds, mountains, lightning, wind, sun and volcanoes, and their precious gift of life-giving rain.
I began to make pilgrimages to Grandmother Ocean and to a sacred mountain in Mexico. Through prayer and fasting, I prepared myself for each year’s difficult journey. Offerings were made and songs were sung asking these great beings to allow me to be an extension of their generosity in service to my community. After seven years, they accepted my request and I was initiated as a marakame in the Huichol tradition.
It has been a long journey, but it is only just the beginning. In my role as granicero, as marakame, and as a Firekeeper, I continue to make offerings, to pray, and to listen. I am grateful for the weather beings, Grandfather Fire, Grandmother Ocean, and my sacred mountain. It is through these sacred relationships that I offer my life in service to my community.
Photo credit: EPKosmick (hawk photo)
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