Saturday, October 26, 2013

Sacrifice, Blood, and Pain: Are You Willing to Suffer to Learn?

"You have come to the Craft to learn.  Are you willing to suffer to learn?"  Many times through the years I have been asked if I was willing to suffer to learn my Craft.  Each time, I answered in the affirmative.  So often we believe the suffering to be emotional suffering, letting go or maybe being dragged kicking and screaming before letting go.  However, my personal gods and I go back many years.  We walked this path for some time before I came into group practice, and on occasion, they ask me for a sacrifice.  Usually, this sacrifice involves blood and pain.  For those reading this who may be new to the Craft, I hope your head hasn't caught fire and you haven't run away screaming at the mention of blood sacrifice.  I am fully aware that this is a taboo topic among many Wiccans because we should always 'harm none', and this includes not harming ones self.  The fact is, though, sometimes the gods want to know just how serious their children are about what they ask for (at least my gods do).

Many people who know me, know that Hekate and Ares are my matron and patron deities.  Many who discovered this after getting to know me warned me to 'be careful', as though I had some choice in the matter.  The often hard-headed student needs stern deities, and these two fit the bill.  They accept my offerings (on most occasions).  They nod in the affirmative when I do good.  They have been known to pick me up and toss me back on to my path when I stray.  It is not an easy walk, but if I did things the easy way, I probably wouldn't be where I am today, so I wouldn't change a single step.

Yesterday, I was at work and utilizing my ability to do menial tasks while 'checked out'.  I do that often.  Only a small amount of my consciousness needs to be doing the task, so I will simply 'check out' and go about my spiritual work.  I was designing my Samhain ritual and preparing for my visit to the Underworld.  Hekate and Ares were there and She was listening to me be a selfish child, telling Her what I am going to do and how and that I would like these certain things changed.  She then cocked Her head to the side and cut Her eyes at Ares.  I think they were having a silent conversation, the details of which I have not been privy to.  He smirked and She smacked me in the forehead.  This wasn't a hard smack, it was mostly to get my attention.  And get my attention She did!

"You ask for these things," She said when I stopped chittering away, "but you haven't given us a proper sacrifice in a very long time.  You have been thinking about getting rid of those scars.  Now is the time to do it.  Today."  In deity-speak She said, "Go get your ear re-pierced in Our names.  Your blood is Ours; you are Our child.  Your pain is Ours.  Make it so."  Samhain night it will be 5 years since She claimed me as Her daughter.  In willingly bleeding for my gods and giving them the pain They ask for, I remind myself that I asked for these changes.  I remind myself that I ask for this growth.

Blood sacrifice isn't about killing, maiming, or disfiguring.  It isn't about the taking of another life essence.  For me blood sacrifice is about giving fully.  It is about understanding the seriousness of what I am asking.  Blood sacrifice is about the ultimate gift.  "I give to you, Oh Lady and Lord, that which holds me on this plane of existence."  Even more than that, the act of ritual blood-letting (in all of its forms) always involves pain of some kind.  For my gods, the blood is the immediate outcome of the sacrifice, but it is the ongoing pain afterward and the healing process that is truly my sacrifice to them.

I don't like physical pain of any kind.  It's not that I can't endure it because I have a high tolerance for it, but I just don't like it.  My gods know this.  So, when they ask for sacrifice, it is usually in the form of ink of some kind or getting something pierced.  This sacrifice is two-fold, on my part.  There is the immediate blood and pain, which is offered in a short prayer and evocation at the moment it happens and then there is the ongoing pain, which is acknowledged and reverently offered up multiple times a day until there is no pain any more.  The second part is an important reminder to me that I asked for it.  It helps me to keep moving forward when I don't believe I can.  That physical pain reminds me that I don't have to shoulder the burden of change, that I can, indeed, leave that which no longer helps me grow right where it is.  It reminds me that I do not have to carry it with me, that I can simply accept it and move on.  There are those out there who do not need a physical reminder of this.  I recognize that I have not grown to that point in my life just yet, so I need that reminder and willingly accept it.

So, for the next few months, this particular sacrifice will be in the forefront of my mind.  My favorite word will become, "Ow!" and it will be a constant reminder of my need and my willingness for the changes to come.  As I descend into the darkness of the death of the year and explore the darkness that resides within myself I will become blind, but this sacrifice will be a reminder of the constant companionship I have within the depths of the cauldron.  This pain will be a reminder that all things are temporary and all things are an illusion.  This sacrifice will remind me to keep moving forward and it will remind me that at the end of the darkness of death is the light of rebirth.

Remember, friends, that we have all come to the Craft to learn and we must be willing to suffer to learn.  If we aren't willing to suffer, then we aren't changing.  If we aren't changing, then we aren't growing.  If we aren't growing, then we aren't fulfilling the plans of the gods. Sometimes we must embrace the darkness to find the light.

Brightest blessings, friends!

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