Altar Mythology

Upon a whim I decided to create another altar. But this one was going to be different. I chose 3 objects which meant something to me, whose presence resonated with my inner being. Just to hold them in my hand was enough to begin to stir the deep, dark waters within.

And as I held them, and later looked upon them and pondered their meaning and their messages, it seemed to me that they began to tell a story — their story which was my story, a tale I had not heard before.

The items I placed upon the altar were a heavily beaded statue of the Mother and Child; a spindle with remnants of handspun yarn which I had spun for my daughter; and my wedding ring.


The Mother Goddess comes when she wills. She arrives at my door and crosses the threshold of my dreams and unconscious, slipping quietly and easily through boundaries which cannot hold Her in, all the while whispering and calling out my name. I know that She is calling me, though I do not recognize the language nor the words. Did She speak? Or am I just dreamimg?

In Her arms she carries a babe, her face lowered down to meet his eyes which are always turned upwards, destined to look into Hers for evermore, for all eternity.

She comes adorned, enrobed in layers upon layers of beaded chains, necklets and rosaries. Crucifixes fall from her arms and neck, cascading downwards and tumbling towards the earth. She brings joy; but she also carries within Herself the seeds of suffering, without which new life and inner transformation could not be birthed. [This I know, but find such knowledge hard to reconcile myself to. I wish it were not so.]

Her name is Mary — Kwan Yin — Bodhisattva — Tara — Mother — me.

A wooden branch lies at Her feet, partly entwined with gaudily coloured beads. Wrapped tightly about this spindle are the remnants of recently spun silk and cashmere fibres, dreamt into being, fibres extended, held firmly against the twist which insinuated and insisted itself upon the softness of animal hairs. Dyed first with colours chosen from the palette and vestiges of lingering but fast fleeing memories, then offered as a gift of protection from the dream world.

In the end all is held together as One in the circle, the ring which hangs off the edge of the spindles end. Would they all, together or alone, fit through the circumference of this tiny emblem of promises and commitments offered freely, graciously, innocently, so many years ago now it seems – would the promises, could the promises, say yes, and yes, and yes again? Will the ring glide, slip on like it did once, all those moons ago, when it seemed as if it was enough just to love?

And yet, though love might mean something different now, after all the pain and the shouting and the bitterness and tears, still there is something that remains, something that yet deserves the title of love, though this love is sometimes something strange. It is not soft or smooth; it is rough with sharp edges. Sometimes it hurts; sometimes it comforts. In its truest form, it is not a feeling. It is no longer pure nor simple or chaste. Instead now it holds everything within itself. It is a paradox, an emptiness which is full, a fullness which is so lacking that it makes a din when it rolls across the stony floor, just like any other empty vessel. It has being all used up, spat out, screamed and shouted out of existence. It is everything and it is nothing. It is what old women ponder over while they sit and look out upon the twilight as they attend upon the long awaited darkness. And it is what old men dream of, wishing that they could have it all back again, but this time, this time they would know what they then learned too late. Now all they have are the salty taste of endless tears. Is this redemption?

I ask, “But what of happiness and joy?”

Mother Goddess answers, “Now and now and now. Only now.”

5 responses

  1. Very intense piece, ‘it is everything and it is nothing’ and full of the paradoxes of life and identity.

  2. That was food for thought-well done!

  3. Very powerful, Edith. Hang on to the moment and you will come through to the other side.

  4. Working from an altar like this is inspiring Edith. Tough love! It is my experience that it is tough love that stretches us and helps us identify who we are.

  5. There is so much you are saying here, Edith. Wow.

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