Another beautiful holiday come and gone. I have a great softness in my heart for Imbolc–whether it be because of all of the fire overtones (Feast of Flames and all that), the fact that Brigid was my college roommate’s patron saint, which made it a time for both of us to celebrate, weaving wheat into beautiful crosses, or the beautiful contrast of all the red and white linens and candles and other shiny things (and I do love shiny things)…I love Imbolc. The priestess in me wants to say it’s the promise of warmth and spring, the beginning signs of fertility returning to the land, but I suspect it’s all the shiny fire stuff.
Unfortunately the weather was awful on the actual holiday, and as my coven has to drive in from up to an hour away, we had to postpone our celebration. As it was not all of us could make it due to last minute changes. We did, however, have the honor of doing the dedication ceremonies for two of our number. One of them had a revelation, too, regarding Brigid and her association with beer making–as I don’t make beer I won’t pretend that I fully understood it, but it was a delight to see the wonder and possibility light the eyes of this particular dedicant because she and her husband do engage in making their own home brews. It is always an honor to see the spark of the Goddess touch a soul.
And next week we celebrate again, for our Sister will be taking her Second Degree. Her initiation gift arrived in the mail today. I know she reads this, so you will have to wait to find out what it is until she gets it. Suffice to say I am most pleased with how it turned out!
With these dedications and initiations, I can’t help but reflect on all of the changes that have occurred in the last year. Yesterday was the anniversary of the passing of my High Priest, Dragoman. He was more to me than a High Priest–he was my friend, and in so many ways he formed the shape of my soul. He was my teacher, my mentor, my confidante, and we loved each other. We also vexed the hell out of each other, haha, but that is what friends and family are for, no? Even spiritual family. Perfect Love and Perfect Trust are not blind, after all.
So much has changed. I remember the day he told me I would be granted my Third Degree. I was sitting on the floor of his apartment, he in his computer chair, Bobby, his parakeet, chortling for attention as he sat on Dragoman’s shoulder. He had a cigarette in his hand, and he was backlit by a lamp above his desk. The apartment was small but cozy–I swear the man never needed to cast a circle, it was a place that was not a place just by virtue of its existence. The only time it didn’t feel like sacred space anymore was the one time I went there with his daughters and ex-wife after he had passed, in search of the materials I needed to put together his requiem. I remember picking up the triple goddess statue I had given him as a gift in thanks for performing my handfasting ceremony to my husband…and seeing the look on his face, how he was moved and awed. It was a beautiful statue, really too large for his small apartment, but I could think of nothing more perfect to give to the man who had helped to forge my own connection to the Goddess.
I remember when he told me I would be granted my Third Degree. It held none of the humor or mirth he treated my handfasting with (me bade me to tell my husband he would do the handfasting…but only if we were skyclad. I had to take a picture of his face, and I succeeded brilliantly in capturing it, haha…it was worth the white lie without doubt, his face caught between joy and horror…all too soon he remembered we don’t practice skyclad, but it’s a beautiful moment captured for all eternity on my cell phone). He was dreadfully serious that day. I was in shock. I won’t pretend I didn’t see it coming, I knew it had to. Our High Priestess had passed earlier in the year, and, well, we needed a High Priestess. I asked him that day what it meant to him, to be a Third Degree.
And in the ensuing conversation, I felt the heavy mantle of responsibility come over me. He told me that it was a matter of honor and respect, but also something he protected fiercely. It’s for that reason our tradition is small. Our lineage was something he did not trade with lightly, but he also knew that it was part of his duty to transmit it to the next generation, so it would survive. He would rather see it die, however, than be left in the hands of anyone who would not bring due honor to our line and treat it as sacred and revered. I asked him, too, if there were any others, also already knowing the answer as I knew exactly who he’d been teaching the last 10 years or so…and no.
“You’re it, kiddo.”
I always knew it would be left to me to grow the tradition. Whether it was cynicism on his part, taking almost no students, or dismissing most from his tutelage before they got very far, or if it was his penchant for being something of a hermit, not engaging in the Pagan community at large, that made the requests for teaching few and far between, it wasn’t in him in his last years to face the challenges of starting a new coven in the United States. He had made a stab at it years before only to face great disappointment, and so we largely operated as a network of solitaries, connected through lineage to the mother coven in England, few though we were.
It has been a year since he left this mortal realm and gone on to the Summerlands. I can only hope and pray that when he laid the mantle of High Priestess on me–“You’re it, kiddo”–that he knew what he was doing, and that he would be proud and glad of the work I’ve put forth in the last year that has resulted in a rapidly blossoming coven of friends, Brothers, Sisters. I ache for his wisdom, crave the comfort of his armchair and Antonio’s pizza, and laugh every time someone apologizes for swearing and I get to explain that my priest swore like a sailor–because he was one–and they’d be hard put to offend me. A mere 15 years of friendship, knowledge, laughter, and the occasional chastisement–a gift of immeasurable worth, spanning across a generation gap, across lifetimes, across…the Veil itself.
I miss you, friend. I will see you, if not again this life, then in the lives to come. Rest–you have earned your respite in the Summerlands.