My work with La Abuela has been strange and very quiet. I’m still trying to figure out how she communicates beyond moments of near-blinding, but still tiny, revelation. Basically I do research, read things, entertain thoughts, and wait for my breath to catch and a cold sweat to break out. I wait for my mind to stop the chatter and for there to be a single thought: This. This thing.
That’s what happened when I was browsing the Many Gods West program and came across Danica’s shrine to Skadi, and thus her monastic practice.
God, I’m still freezing cold just thinking about it.
My mind is a flood of images now. I’m understanding that La Abuela, whoever She is, or if She is a collective of divinities, whoever They are that make her up, wants me to be a temple for her. I am to embody my service to her in a very real way. I had a similar small revelation a few weeks ago when I discovered the phrase amor fati. It immediately entered into my head that those words would constitute my next tattoo, no matter how long I’d been planning and saving for others. Because, whether I liked it or not, “love thy fate” summarizes my entire spiritual practice.
Amor fati is a Latin phrase that may be loosely translated as “love of fate” or “love of one’s fate”. It is used to describe an attitude in which one sees everything that happens in one’s life, including suffering and loss, as good or, at the very least, necessary, in that they are among the facts of one’s life and existence, so they are always necessarily there whether one likes them or not. Moreover, amor fati is characterized by an acceptance of the events or situations that occur in one’s life. This acceptance does not necessarily preclude an attempt at change or improvement, but rather, it can be seen to be along the lines of what Nietzsche means by the concept of “eternal recurrence“: a sense of contentment with one’s life and an acceptance of it, such that one could live exactly the same life, in all its minute details, over and over for all eternity.
People are often confounded when I admit to them that I don’t have a single regret in my life. I regret nothing and resent little more; not my abusive childhood, not my many suicidal thoughts, not manipulative friends and partners, neither injustices or tragedies that have happened to me. I accept them as they are and wouldn’t have my life be any other way.
I’m imagining, too, the installations of a painter of mild renown, Hernan Bas, and how touched I was at getting to experience his spatial work. I walked through those rooms and wanted to be there forever. I was shaken to the core by them. I can say the same for a small handful of works I’ve ever seen.
I’m imagining the Rothko Chapel in Texas.
Remembering the long-abandoned mine that I visited several times in the past few years.
I first learned of the practice of incubation in reading Apocalyptic Witchcraft, and it struck me as being something that I had a propensity for already. Several years of doing nightly yoga classes in low light, my habit of preferring quiet contemplation over most anything else, my intense affinity for closed, intimate spaces over sweeping views. A hike to a cave or pond is much more interesting to me than a hike to a vista.
It’s all coming back to me…
I was a goth once. No, really. Heavy black eyeliner, inverted cross necklaces, corsets, skulls. Then I became pagan and worshiped death gods. Then I stopped being pagan and still was obsessed with the dark. Then I went to college in New York City and got sick because there was no darkness there, no quiet, no place to incubate and listen to the soil. Then I turned my bedroom into an incubation chamber: heavy curtains, candles, a shoddy attempt at soundproofing my door. I spent time in dark, quiet, solitude on a nightly basis and began to get my sanity back. Then I moved in with a relative who had the TV on 24/7 and started to get sick again. Then I went to a few pagan solstice services and experienced my first “tent temple”, with god-impersonators, and realized that this shit is powerful.
Then I experienced a fallow period. I think I’m still there, actually; but part of what I’m doing now is working with that fallowness, working with that miasma. I was made aware of the existence of Tlazoteotl not long ago, basically a goddess of the divinity to be found within that uncleanliness. Whether She is La Abuela, or part of La Abuela, I still don’t know. I don’t know who La Abuela is, but all I know is that when I became polytheist again (or rather, rediscovered my polytheism), I gravitated toward gods of the sky, of knowledge and civilization. I reached out to a few of them, got a little guidance, and then I was left alone. It was confusing, disheartening. Then I met the Rain Lord– who, I might add, I was absolutely terrified of until I got to know Him. He bridges both earth and sky in a very fundamental way; a sort of psychopomp, I feel, though He has nothing to do with messages and travel. And through Him, I was reintroduced to the darkness. I reached out to a few goddesses, and got something back; it felt strange and indirect, unlike my experiences with the Rain Lord and the Twins. But it had a deep, chthonic vibe, so I worked with what I had.
I don’t think I was interacting with the Lady of the Underworld. In fact, I don’t think I was interacting with any Underworld goddess. The divinity who I was experiencing was very present; she smelled of blood and humus, yes, but also of smoke and iron and cracked wood. Enter She of the Extinction— someone old, intimate with death, but not death itself.
“Serve me,” She said. I asked, “How?” But that was all the help I was going to get.
What if I decorated myself in Your symbols and images of Your children? Wore Your colors? Grief, as I’m coming to understand, is Your initiation rite. “If you have reached acceptance,” She said to me, “Then open the doors of the temple.”
Everyone is grieving. Help them.
I’ve thought about seeking basic training in counselling for Her; no one, as far as I can tell, specializes in grieving over our dying planet. What if I could do that for people as part of my service? I’ve never thought of myself as a counselor or a confidant; a mediator at best, but I’ve always seen myself as too harsh, too cold, to seriously help people in times of emotional vulnerability. Maybe that’s part of the work I need to do too. The capital-w Work.
I realize now that I’ve been urged along to become Her temple; a mobile space for prayer. A node, if you will.
But this Black Tent Temple I discovered today; that’s something else I now know that I have to do. A spiritually-charged space for incubation, reconciliation, and sacred isolation. It’s one thing to be a movable temple, a support column for those grappling with the weight of our collective betrayal, but having a dedicated, grounded, place of both worship and personal transformative work is just as important.