This the slideshow of our beloved Hieromum. We were her witches, her priestesses and her druids. I will never be able to thank her for all she did for me.
And here are some examples of ritual photography like I wrote about yesterday.
Sunday was the day of the memorial but it was after the Gnostic Eucharistic Service – A mystical Marriage of Soul and Spirit. It didn’t bother the others to follow it but it didn’t set right with this renegade. At least I wore my appropriate priestess garb because I had brought my favourite t-shirt from Northern Sun http://www.northernsun.com/Heretic-In-Good-Company-Poster-%284189%29.html
But I didn’t. The mix of people at Isis Oasis is a little odd. There are a lot of older people as in way older than me and close to older than the gods and a lot of younger people that are in their 20s and early 30s and then the ones in TOILA or friends of TOILA who haven’t had their senses of the absurd or humour removed surgically. There are a lot of people who take themselves way too seriously and don’t approve of us. And it doesn’t help that I seem to have received their senses of the absurd in triplicate. I’m afraid anything that starts with interpretive dance no matter how good it is, is going to send me into wanting to giggle especially when they don’t bother to explain it until afterwards and it had nothing to do with the service as far as I could see and they admitted they just made it up as they went along. I had to do a modern dance performance in school and I’m afraid I was a spare tire going down the highway after escaping a tire change when everyone else was doing things like The Arrival of Spring. Gag.
Being raised a strict Presbyterian as well as in family traditions AND two years at Catholic girls camp does not lend itself to sitting through a Mass of any sort and especially not one with a Communion which the strict Presbyterian part was shouting wildly about. Presbyterians do Communion about 4 times a year. The rationale being that it made it more meaningful if it was rare. And you weren’t supposed to just take it. Only people that have cleansed their conscience and are ready to receive the mystery are supposed to take Communion so this Druid/pagan/Wiccan was not about to take Communion. It wouldn’t be respectful of the tradition. So I did what to do when I was in Choir in church and sat behind the minister. I let my mind wander. I went over what I was supposed to read during Laura’s service. I asked Laura to help me keep it together and anything else I could think of.
Finally an hour late, we got to do it. We kept it simple and sweet and short. We read Isis Rising II and sang Diana’s Isis Rising chant. We read Laura’s 7 selves which wasn’t done at the Memorial last weekend. I think it might be my favourite. A did Open Heaven’s Gate after C’s introduction and Linda read her tribute to Laura, Mother of Cats which is wonderful. We sang the Knot of Isis and were delighted when people sang with us and showed my slideshow at the end. Short, meaningful and not unwieldly which was good because one of us was always crying but never at the same time. That’s a very good thing when one is trying to sing. Mid song we discovered Isis Rising was a round and it was one of those moments that singers have when something snaps into place and becomes magic, even with the tears. There is something about blending voices and listening to one another sing that is one of the most magical things you can do and doing it in a ritual takes it a step further. I didn’t get to have a part in the Memorial really last weekend. They “let” me do something on BunniHoTep and the slideshow but nothing else and I admit it’s sticking in my craw. This went a long way to soothing some of that. The 6 of us were on the same mental plane and it flowed and being with 3 women that I adore and don’t think I’m incapable helped too. I’m so glad we did it now and didn’t have to watch someone else who didn’t love Laura the way we do perform the ritual. There were a lot of people there for the first time and I was surprised they all stayed for it. We all expected there would be an exodus after the Mass but there wasn’t.
Then Diana and I headed home, she to her kids and me because I needed to be at work Monday. A and C stayed the extra days. It starts Friday and ends on Monday but I can’t take that long to stay with people who are so serious and can’t seem to raise energy at all which is how TOILA usually gets in trouble there. We raise the roof when we get going and it’s why Lady Olivia when she’s there has a tendency to tell the others how wonderful she thinks we are and people get pissed. We got an apology letter from her when she stopped coming to visit us the weekend before Isis Oasis and not visiting other groups. I guess other people complained loudly about it. Now she may never come again and it makes us sad. We miss her but I’m glad we had her when we did. The last time she was here a film crew was following her around and Lady Olivia made them interview some of us on camera and that couldn’t have helped.
So we survived doing the Memorial and I loved doing one more service for Laura and once I thought I saw her laughing in the back of the hall. So you never know…
Memories of Laura
Jennifer Reif was writing a book on the Goddess Baubo and wanted to have ritual to the Goddess Baubo. Baubo is the Goddess who tried to cheer up Demeter when she lost her daughter. Baubo is a naughty Goddess or at least she tended to cheer up Demeter with what we might blush at and Laura knew I had a rather sedate side as well as having a good sense of humour. I did not know about this Goddess when I went. I think I spent the ritual bright red and Laura was quite delighted. And it was a lot of fun.
Laura was the only one that came to my birthday barbeque party one year for some reason. And she arrived with a bottle of wine. My sister and I don’t drink and so had no corkscrew. She spent about an hour digging out the cork from that bottle with various implements in the kitchen and royally cussing me out for laughing and for not having the $%^&* corkscrew.
Laura scolding me when I was hurt because some Temple members who weren’t at the priestess meeting where we first met BunniHoTep were angry that we were talking about a “made-up” goddess. She, I’m afraid had to tell me more than once that BunniHoTep was not “made-up” she was “re-discovered” and that I should never ever think that she wasn’t as real as her sisters, Isis and Nepthys.
Laura writing gently to point out my editing errors in a story and me hastily correcting them.
Laura encouraging me to take everyone on garden and nature tours and always joining in the walks with her whole self and never holding back or acting bored when I was pontificating on some obscure fact that no one else cared about but for that moment was absorbing me. Being delighted to see the egrets and the great blue herons out at the refuge, her eyes bright with excitement and joy at the sights.
Laura arriving at my ordination with a Xena t-shirt and being a bit miffed that I was in a dress for once. She was so sure I was going in a t-shirt and jeans and she wanted to surprise me because she knew I had gone to all the cons at that point and had way to many Xena shirts.
Laura loving the jewelry I made and wearing it proudly and asking me to smith at a Brighid ritual.
Laura coming to my dad’s and mom’s funerals and listening to me when Cam died and my heart was broken. Laura sharing the secret of my mom’s funeral really being a druid funeral and not a Christian one and the Christians never realizing it.
Laura and the Haedery class at the first Pagan Pride in LA when it was at the UU and there was a sword being raffled off that I was severely in lust with and her asking me if I really wanted it. When I told her yes, she had everyone in the group along with M making sure I won the raffle and I did. That sword guards our front door still.
Having my friend Jeri come up to me at the same Pagan Pride and tell me she was having dreams of Isis and taking her over to Laura and introducing her. Laura’s birthday tea was coming up where she inducted people into the Fellowship of Isis and starting someone I love on the path to her own Iseum.
I remember how many times Laura came to the rescue when I didn’t have a job and was about to be homeless and helped and sometimes without asking because I was too proud and stupid and scared to ask for help.
That somehow Laura knew without being told that the Littlest Druid is really me of all my characters. And how much she loved the stories of Aisling and how much I loved putting her in the stories to see if she caught it.
How much she loved the puppet of Lady Olivia I made to read the Manifesto at Glory and Anniitra’s Hierophant Ordination. How she laughed when I told her I was planning it and would Lady Olivia be insulted. She didn’t think so, so Lady Olivia read the Manifesto.
That when I visited her at the rehab center and told her I loved her she pulled a Han Solo and told me she knew.
Laura reading the raffle tickets at Faire and then if you hadn’t won anything telling you to go pick something out.
Going to Faire or rituals and wondering what colour Laura’s hair was going to be.
Laura loving reading as much as I did and coming home from England with the first Harry Potter before it was out here and telling me I had to read it and lent me her copy to read. And she was right I fell in love. We both would get the new books the night/day they came out. She also introduced me to several British detective series, or to the 44 Scotland Street series and the Dark Matter series but none were as magical as Harry Potter.
So many mental pictures of rituals and gatherings, of beach rituals of walks, silly and serious, sublime and ridiculous that make up a life.
It’s been funny how we are hearing from people all over the world about Laura. For us she was our Hieromum, we had forgotten that we shared her with people all over the world. We never took her for granted but somehow we always thought she would be there. There was always another ordination or ritual or Faire coming up and Laura would be there… and now she is not. There is a Grand Canyon size hole in all our hearts.
I have so many memories that float through in random pictures. Laura bringing back Harry Potter and the Philosopher Stone from England on one of her many trips before it was released here and telling me I had to read it. That I was going to fall in love and I did.
The Birthday BBQ I gave myself and no one else showed up but Laura and her being a bit miffed at me because we didn’t have a corkscrew for the wine she brought because we don’t drink.
Laura showing up for my ordination in a Xena t-shirt because she knew I was fan and being flabbergasted when I showed up in a dress. We laughed so hard. She was sure I was going to be in jeans and a t-shirt or button down since I rarely dress up.
Her little notes about what she liked when I posted a new story. The last one I got I think was the one about Aurelia the jellyfish. I didn’t tell her that the Latin word for a moon jelly is Aurelia, I wish I had.
Her “by the way you need to lead the “knot of Isis” now” with little or no warning because she knew I could.
Her supporting me at Mom and Dad’s funerals. Her kindness when my little brother died and my heart broke.
Her gentle and not so gentle pushes when I got shy sometimes. Her humour and straight forwardness when she thought some one was behaving badly. She didn’t suffer fools or blowhards gladly but she was nice to their face.
Her writing me after I posted about DianaWynneJones’ death and how I’d enjoyed her books and asking me where should she start reading. Allowing me to return the favour of introducing her to HarryPotter.
Allowing me to lead our annual forays into botanical gardens every spring. I’d wanted to do the Arboretum this year but this year she was too ill and I just couldn’t bring myself to schedule it without her. Remembering walks at the Huntington, Descanso, Sepulveda and RanchoSanta AnaBotanical Garden. Our Museum trips for Cleopatra or the PacificAsiaMuseum or the Bowers, always with a good meal of tea along the way.
Going over to Laura’s house when I knew she wasn’t home and planting roses and flowers and herbs in her front yard, just because.
K is for Keeping Vigil
Last week I was honoured to be allowed to do service for our Hieromum. She went into Hospice before she died and we kept vigil until she died. I’ve attended my dad and mom’s deaths but both of them died in Nursing homes and there is a limited amount of time you can spend in a nursing home before you are just in the way even if they are supposedly under Hospice care. Laura was allowed to go home and be surrounded by people who loved her 24 hours a day and as well as having 24 hour Hospice nursing.
Laura was allowed to die with her altar a few feet away surrounded by her goddess statues and art. And we were allowed to ease her passing in a dignified way.
We read to her her favourite invocations, prayers and poems. Some of which she had written. We sang to her and we held sacred space in our Temple. She could have the door and windows open and no that her garden was near by. We could touch her and reassure her and ourselves as the process went on.
She was never alone. No one should die alone if they don’t want to and Laura didn’t die alone.
Dying is not for sissies. It’s just as much a labour as being born is and seems to be difficult at times for the person in the process. I was on-call clergy for the AIDSServiceCenter for many years but as clergy unless asked you can’t stay long. I was prepared I thought but sitting with Laura was different. This was someone I loved even more than I loved my mom. (My mom was not a particularly nice person.) Cam died in an emergency room the night before we were to fly up and be at his surgery so I couldn’t be there for him.
To attend the dying you have to be willing to just be and let them go. You can’t send energy as it seems to confuse them and they are in the process of dumping energy. Their energy spikes and gets sparkly as they attempt to leave their body. Their breathing changes, they itch and need to be soothed. They may or may not be in pain. They get fearful at moments and ask for help even if they are not fully conscious and you have to be willing to do what they need and not get in their way no matter how much you love them, this is not about you. This is about them.
You may cry and we did many times but you cannot grieve until they are gone. You are there in service. You are there to hold sacred space. You are there to hold the way open and acknowledge their life. You are there to love. Anything else can wait. If you aren’t willing to do that you shouldn’t be there.
We had a rotating assemblage of priestesses and one priest. Laura didn’t ordain many men. We laughed and told her we loved her. We cried and prayed and sang to her. We had people there by attunement including our priestess who was teaching in Greece and couldn’t come home until this week.
We will miss her but I’m so glad we could do this for her. Every one should be allowed to die surrounded by love and dignity. I couldn’t be there when she died at dawn on Monday but three of our sister priestesses were and were allowed to wash her and clothe her for her last journey and to read what Laura requested.
She is gone but never completely. She was our guide and our shining star that never will go out.
I originally wrote this when we lost Beth to cancer and for my brother who also had cancer and now it is for Laura Janesdaughter. She loved The Littlest Druid. I hope she had a Ban Sidhe to guide her. She loved Celtic lore as much as her beloved Isis and Nepthys.
Dedicated to Beth Van Dyke and Cameron Robb – journey well
Once upon a time the littlest Druid was sitting by the stream outside the village. It was the only place she could go where the water would drown out the sound of her sobbing.
She wanted to be brave and she wanted to look forward but at the moment her heart was broken. Her best friend was gone and she didn’t understand why it had to happen. She felt even more alone than she normally did.
When she had arrived at the Druid school two sun rotations before she had arrived at the same time as another student, Beith was the same age as Aisling but as different as night was from day. Where Aisling was red haired and freckled and with a fiery temperament to match Beith was cool and calm like the tree she was named for Birch. She was fair with dark hair and dark eyes but they might as well have been sisters. In fact, when they were allowed to pick a soul friend their first year, their anam cara. They had chosen each other. They were supposed to pick some one older who could advise them but they had chosen each other and their teacher and the Chief Druid had agreed to it.
No two spirits could have been closer. The two were together whenever their chores and studies had permitted and maybe if they had been allowed to do their assignments together Aisling wouldn’t have been so creative in the trouble she got into but that is for another time.
The spring before when Aisling and Beith were running together on the moors chasing the sheep, Beith had fallen suddenly and had had trouble getting up again. Aisling had to find the shepherds to carry Beith back to the village. Beith would never run with Aisling over the moors again.
For some awful reason she wouldn’t heal and there was nothing the Druid healers could do for her. They tried every herb they knew. They tried to sweat it out. They tried all the special rituals they knew but Beith got weaker and weaker and began to have trouble breathing.
They let Aisling visit all the time and never kept her out and they allowed her to be part of the rituals so she knew what was happening to the sister of her soul but nothing had worked. They finally sent a message to Beith’s parents to come and say goodbye. That was rather unusual because once someone joined the Druids, the Druids were their family but Aisling thought they had done it because Beith wasn’t a full Druid yet or they could have just been being kind but they had arrived a few nights ago.
Aisling was sitting alone with Beith when she opened her eyes the last time and smiled. “Don’t cry, I’ll be back,” she said and slipped away. Aisling had called for the healers but there was nothing they could do. Beith was off on her voyage to the Summerland and Aisling had lost the sister she had found.
So Aisling was sitting on the banks of the burn mixing her salty tears with the cold clear water when someone came and sat by her on the bank.
“Why are you crying?” said a soft voice.
“My friend is gone and I miss her.” Sobbed Aisling.
“Ah, the wee one who left for the Summerlands this morning,” The voice said.
Aisling looked up startled and saw a beautiful older woman with hair that looked soft like owl feathers sitting by her. She was dressed all in green and wasn’t much taller than Aisling was.
“How did you know?” asked Aisling.
“It’s my job to ken when souls need to leave on their journey. I saw you there. What did she tell you?” asked the woman.
“She said she’d be back and not to cry.” answered Aisling.
“And so you’re crying out where no one can see you or help you.”
“How would it help to be where people would pity me? We’re supposed to be happy when people die. They say they are happy now and not in pain. They tell us that they have been reborn in the Summerland and that they will come back soon. They would just tell me to be strong and happy.”
The woman sat for a moment and said. “I’m sure some would understand the hurt of losing your friend and anam cara. They’ve lost people too and loss hurts no matter how we tell ourselves it shouldn’t. Someday the pain stops and you just remember the love. Then it’s easier to be happy.”
Aisling looked up at the woman. “Do you think I should go back now?”
“I think maybe you should go hug Beith’s parents. They know she is on her journey now but it will still hurt them for her to be gone. They did name her for the first tree or beginning of the journey, you know. They will understand.”
“I guess,” Aisling whispered. She really didn’t want to go back.
“And when you’re parents named you, Aisling for dreams and visions, they knew what they were doing too. Be patient, wee one.”
The woman started to slip away and began to change into an old woman and disappear. Aisling heard the soft call of an owl in the twilight of the deep forest and it dawned on her that she had just had a chat with the ban sidhe and gave a shiver. Aisling got up and headed back to the village.