That these last few years have been marked by an Ordeal has been on my mind a lot lately, especially as it seems that I may be nearing the end of my Ordeal. This is something that I am grateful for, as it has affected my entire family –I am not the only one who has struggled, suffered, and changed as a result of a promise I made. That promise has been on my mind lately, too.
Backtrack six years….
I was pregnant with my third child. My husband was working over the road, driving truck, and with only two small boys, I had much time to myself at night to think, write, and focus greatly on my practice and my relationship with a certain Deity. Despite practicing for some 15 years at that point, the thought of dedication (be it to my practice or to the Deity I had now known for nearly as long and had been working with consistently for about 5 years) had never been a consideration.
But Someone wasn’t happy with that.
Night after night, I would spend a few hours doing energetic exercises (which I found crucial to giving birth and utilized in the births of all five of my children,) taking care of any Work I needed done, and conversing with Her. It quickly became obvious that while She enjoyed this extra devotional time, She wanted to take our relationship in a new direction.
Her demands were fairly clear, despite a pregnancy muddled brain on my part, but I dragged my feet and put considerable thought into what She was asking and just what I was willing to give. She wanted a priestess. I wanted direction. After even more thought, I consented. A few candles and sleeping baby, cuddled up in my belly were the only witnesses to my late-night promise.
Soon after, She made it clear that having now finally dedicated myself, it was time to take a new name. This, too, I was little skeptical of, as up until this point I had never chosen a Craft name and found the idea a little…. well, let’s just say there are entirely too many Butterfly Moonshadows and such prowling about. It leaves a bad taste in one’s mouth.
Flipping through one of my favorite herb books, studying the pages as I was drawn to, a name leapt out at me from the page.
No one is going to pronounce that correctly, ever….
And so I took the name “Althaea.” Because She said so. Further research showed that it is a variation of the name of one of Her most famous priestesses. A priestess who was elevated to deity status, but then whose worship was subsumed by Her. Fitting, very fitting, and very likely why She liked the name so much. At that time, I was very much into energy healing, so that it came from the Greek verb meaning “to heal” appealed to me greatly. But, I was right… people always pronounce it wrong. (It’s “all-thay-ah” not “all-thee-ah.” Althea, while being another variant, means “all goddesses.” Yeah… not my cup of tea. And not Hers, either.)
It was several months later that my life was completely and devastatingly ripped apart and changed. The consequences of my promise began to manifest, the Ordeal began. And those first few months were horrific; loved ones died, my husband was attacked, and in the end we were homeless and living in a tent, and then a homeless shelter once it got too cold to remain in the tent. It took nearly a year later before I would realize that this was all a result of my promise. Thankfully, She was gentle with me in this realization; I had much healing to do at that point.
While I didn’t regret my promise (still don't,) I was deeply saddened that I was so thick that my Ordeal had to be so harsh and affect my family, my children, so strongly. But, no regrets. There were lessons that I was not going to learn any other way. Being stubborn has its downsides.
Of course, that was only the worst of it. The Ordeal carried on, but easier. I was becoming who She wanted, who She needed; I didn’t need to be broken down so fully anymore.
And now… here I am… and there, ever so faintly but twinkling brightly, is a light at the end of that proverbial tunnel.
A round of drinks on me when I get there.
Throwing the Bones