Last night was a very late night indeed! I have a last minute, 8 o’clock massage appointment and thusly didn’t get home until 9:30 or so. But there is something that came to me during the day – particularly spontaneous ritual. When I was younger, just starting on my path, I had this idea that rituals had to be planned and perfect – but I couldn’t always have it that way. Eventually many of my rituals become what I’d call “outlined” – I had a general idea of what to do, what order to do it in, and what I’d like to say but left it very open. And that is still very much how I am today; I have a soft spot for spontaneous ritual – it just feels right.
I find that the words that flow when I’m praying ad-lib are often so beautiful – more so then anything I could have written before hand. Last night, I prayed to Tyr and my ancestors to bless my space and protect me. It was powerful, and I certainly can’t remember exactly what I said or how I said it – but it was beautiful.
I like spontaneity, and I believe that’s part of what I love about ATS bellydance – it is, generally speaking, totally improvised. There’s a vocabulary of movements and a general understanding of cues and transitions but at it’s heart, it is created in the moment and no two dances are the same. The idea just makes my heart sing.
Today my head has been full of the words from the Havamal and Odin’s quest after the Runes – quietly, behind the scenes the words have been “playing” in my mind; like a song that is stuck in my head (but not at all annoying). All of this repetition has brought a new layer of understanding to the words while simultaneously encouraging me to seek out other interpretations. I’d very much like to share this one:
Something about her manner makes me feel as though she is reminding me of things I once knew and have forgotten rather then teaching me something new.
Also, as the words repeat in my head, they become slightly shifted. Not much, of course, and perhaps being shifted closer to a more “true” translation – I sure the version I have is very accurate, but language has so much nuance and so many emotions that translation can never truly be perfect. I’m always reminded of the very opening of the Aeneid in this regard: Arma virumque cano translates as “I sing of arms (weapons) and a man” but it means so much more – just these three (though technically four) words – and some sense of the meaning is lost; I sing of a war and a hero (and trust me, I could go on). So much can be changed or dropped or lost in translation; which is a shame because words are so important.
Words are something that Raven has come into the life to teach me about. The importance and effect of words – the power that they can hold.
Today, I had a Tarot reading – a short, unexpected one. A young woman who read palms at the store was in today taking appointments – after hours, she suggested we trade readings (something I never turn down). I read for her first – sweet, simple and to the point three card spread. She wanted to read Tarot for me, as she’s just getting back into studying it seriously. The reading she gave me had a clear message: Follow your guide, and you’ll be led to greatness – so long as you’re truly willing.
What a timely message! It has been some time since I’ve last journeyed to Annawynn, partly because I’m afraid – not of her, or what she has to teach me, but of what happens after that. While I know good and well that I feel called to this path, am I sure my ego is not pushing me too far or too fast? How to I offer what I have to others? Do I really know what I’m doing? The self-doubt sets in and it is difficult to keep moving forward. So, this impromptu reading was very telling for me – I am being led to a place of beauty, grace, and fulfillment; so why fight it?
Now is the time for me to “rest” – to recharge and prepare for the next leg of the journey. I have the clear sense that there won’t be time for doubting as I begin again to move forward.
Today offered less time for reflection (as expected) but did offer me a good chance to check in with myself, in a few different ways. First, I was able to perform without breaking my fast (I did have some juice though). Second, I was hearing my inner dialogue much clearer today – for better or worse. I’ve always been a bit of a negative self-talker, and I’m trying to change that. Despite what my mind was telling me, I was told my solo (the subject of the most negative self-talking) was great.
Perhaps most important (or most noticeable) is feeling my body reach toward a new set point. A few months ago I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome – basically my body produces hormones in less-then-optimal ratios causing many symptoms that up until this point I’ve never thought could be connected. I’m now on medication to help correct these cycles in my body – and with this fast I’m really getting an opportunity to feel that change happening. Thus, my word of the day is ‘reset’ – and I thought perhaps the runes could give me some insight into how this change really effects me.*And sometimes I find these simple, spur of the moment reading to be the most insightful – they are certainly the most practical.
On a side note – I was a little concerned about dancing in a headwrap – not because it’s unheard of, but because I’ve never done it. And I have to say, I looked beautiful.
*Runes that came up were Wunjo, Eiwaz, and Algiz – though the particular interpretation this time around is something that I do not feel called to share.
First things first – I’ve felt called to do my ritual in the morning rather then the evening – which I think works out better with my neighbors and their oodles of children. Something simple and less structured then in the past. Today, I did remember to stop and grab a bottle of mead for offering and made sure I know where my copy of the Poetic Edda is. I also did some reading in the Völva Stav Manual by Kari Tauring (I will have to write more about this latter) to inspire my ritual and get me in the right space. Last year was about feeling a call to Odin – this year is about claiming and reclaiming power, I think.
So, come morning, if I’m up as early as planned, I’ll be able to do my ritual outside before sunrise – not sure why but that feels right.
Also tomorrow I face perhaps the most challenging day of this ordeal – my troupe is dancing at an Art & Wine Walk event tomorrow, with a group rehearsal before hand. I imagine I’ll be able to handle everything fine; just have to remember lots of water and perhaps some juice if I’m low on energy.
The first day felt fairly low-key, which in a way feels right. I’m feeling more settled in this time around then I did last year.
So, the wheel keeps turning and I find myself again preparing for the Ordeal of Odin – and I’ve made a lot of changes in the past year, and so I will also be changing the ritual I used before. Change can be good!
Where I am now, the Ordeal is a time to separate a bit from the world – a time for introspection. Some of the changes I’ll be making include:
- Fasting from sun up to sun down – for health reasons, I can’t quite fully fast for the 9 days, so I’m modifying this part of my ritual.
- Wearing a headscarf – for me, this is an outward reminder of the introspection and separation the 9 days will be marked by.
- Nightly offerings of mead, song, poetry, and the like to Odin.
I’ll also be working on reading the Poetic Edda – I’ve read bits here and there, but I’ll like to do a better and more dedicated study. Also working more in-depth with the runes (of course) and using their energies in new/different ways. I’ll be writing everyday and am looking forward to talking time for some self healing and whole-ing.
While normally, I don’t go into detail about these journeys, the words that Nauthiz spoke to me require a bit of context to understand. So please, let me tell you a story.
Crow, my guide through this world, led me to a village – the people were upset, some crying. A large fire had been built near the fields – which were rather empty. I asked an older man, the first person I came across, what had happened. “The crops did not thrive after the hail came, and many of the young ones are now sick. We’ve built the need-fire, so the gods can hear our pleas.”
I asked to be taken to one of the children and was led to a little boy, maybe 7 or 8 years old. I laid my hands upon his head and sung a song of power (that centered around Nauthiz) and when I had finished I knew he would be well. As I left the small house with the boy sleeping inside, the people of the village kept stopping me – to thank me or to ask me to help their children. I knew however that I needed to speak with the need-fire.
I approached the need-fire and asked if there was a rune spirit. It said:
I am Nauthiz, and here you have seen my power.
Though these people felt they had no power
They realized the on thing that can always do – seek help.
And you have seen the other aspect of me –
For it was through you that aid and hope have been given to these people.
I turned around and the village cheered me as I left for the aid I’d given.
And truly, I believe this aspect of Nauthiz – the giver of aid – is so often overlooked. It is a great gift of Nauthiz that we see the ties that bind and can call out to have them cut; sometimes we can accomplish this ourselves, but other times we need the help of others. Sometimes we are but instruments of healing and I am honored whenever I am chosen for this role.
Blessed Lughnasadh! That, however, is not the holiday I’m here to talk about today. Rather Ramadan is the topic of the day (of the month, even) and how it factors into my bellydance community.
For those unfamiliar with the month of Ramadan – it is the ninth month of the lunar Islamic calender, so it changes dates every year. To the Muslim community, it is a month of fasting from sun-up to sun-down. Chapter 2, Revelation 185 of the Quran states:
The month of Ramadan is that in which was revealed the Quran; a guidance for mankind, and clear proofs of the guidance, and the criterion (of right and wrong). And whosoever of you is present, let him fast the month, and whosoever of you is sick or on a journey, a number of other days. Allah desires for you ease; He desires not hardship for you; and that you should complete the period, and that you should magnify Allah for having guided you, and that perhaps you may be thankful.
Because bellydance comes out of the myriad of cultures in the Middle East, many dancers choose to respect the month of Ramadan in some way or another. The most common practice that I’m familiar with is abstaining from performances, particularly paying gigs (this is what my troupe does). I think perhaps it’s better to think of it as abstaining from public performances – we still dance together and perform at bellydance community events (haflas and the like) but not for the public at large. No fairs or stages, but rather dancing for dancers – coming together as a community to celebrate what we do for ourselves and for each other. If for Muslims Ramadan is a time for introspection and improvement, perhaps that is what we dancers should focus on as well.
And how do I, as a Pagan feel about this? Just fine. All too often we (as a society) get caught up in fighting for what we believe in and trying to keep it pristine. I think some inclusiveness and experience is a far better practice. “Fasting” within the bellydance community for the month of Ramadan makes sense – and it’s not a requirement. Some dancers/communities pay no attention while others simply acknowledge it and go about their business. To each their own. Personally, I feel my life is enriched by “observing” Ramadan in this fashion.
P.S. Don’t think I’ve forgotten about Lughnasadh – Enjoy my favorite jam for this Sabbat: