I’m giving you a twofer this month: a poem and a ritual. I’m writing this a few days after the latest mass shooting in Texas by a crazy white man and a few days before the next debate by Democratic candidates. But you know what? I’m getting real tired of politics and…well, what’s going on around us. Tweets. Bullets. Fires. I’m a liberal, but I’m deciding that there must be a better definition of “conservative,” one that has nothing to do with politics. The OED defines “conservation” as “the action of conserving; preservation from destructive influences, decay, or waste.” Further down: “conservative: a preserving agent or principle.”
Back in the late 80s and into the 90s, I taught a class I called Practicing the Presence of the Goddess, which evolved into a ritual circle. As far as I know, most of the women in the class are still spiritual feminists (though the term hadn’t been invented then), a couple have died (cancer is an awful thing), and one is fading into dementia (but she still remembers our class). Among other assignments, I asked them to read Carol Christ’s splendid book Laughter of Aphrodite (1987), and once we went as a group to hear Marija Gimbutas speak on her newest book The Civilization of the Goddess (1991).
It was while I was teaching my class that I wrote the poem and the ritual. Today I see them as “conservative,” i.e., as “preservation from destructive influences [and] decay.” That’s the kind of conservative the world needs today. A revival of the true old-time religion.
Once upon a time
ages and ages before the Garden of Eden was constructed
and had a landlord and walls and fiery angel guards—
Once upon a time
ages and ages before we fled to therapeutic couches
and became Adult Children Of—
Once upon a time
for ages and ages before time
we lived with our mothers and our Mother.
Once upon a time
we planted and reaped and labored and danced together
we lived and lay down together in honor
and we were all children of—
two-legged and four-legged and many-legged
winged and finned and rooted
crystalline and cloudy—
we were all Her children
and the powers of the Power were present in our lives
Once upon a time
She was present in our lives
every day and in every task
and everybody knew the Lady of the Lands.
But now we stretch to find Her presence in the lands
and perhaps we see that Her time that once was
is coming round again.
Perhaps once upon a time is nearly now.
Serenissima is probably the first goddess I Found. That was when I figured out that we all need to take better care of ourselves. It’s ten times truer today than it was back then, isn’t it. Serenissima is the goddess who holds our hands, rubs our shoulders, and serves us homemade soup. She teaches us the vital life-preserving skills of self-love, self-care, and self-time. I believe anyone who is conscious needs to invoke Her into their lives. Here’s an updated version of the original ritual.
Cast your circle, alone or with your circlemates or friends, and decorate your altar with the most beautiful things you can find. Light candles of your favorite colors and lay this month’s calendar page or this month’s pages from your organizer or your phone or tablet with your calendar open on the altar (but out of the way of dripping wax). Pour pure water into your most beautiful chalice and set it on the altar. Invoke Serenissima with these words:
Holy Goddess Serenissima—
touch my life
and give me the space and time
to nourish and cherish myself.
show me the path to your peace and strength.
Visualize the goddess moving her fingers across your calendars and making changes. See meetings being postponed and deadlines being extended. Understanding that like all goddesses, Serenissima usually works in subtle ways, remain aware of possibilities for the next month. Look for ways you yourself can facilitate changes. She may create the opportunities, but it’s your own actions that will open up your self-time.
One important lesson Serenissima often teaches us is how to say no. Practice saying this powerful little word at appropriate times. Another lesson may be to learn how to set proper priorities and delegate tasks both at work and at home. You don’t have to do everything yourself. Work with Serenissima. Let Her whisper in your ear, let Her guide you, let Her open doors for you.
See the candle flames on your altar as stars of opportunity, as shooting stars that bring sanity and serenity into your life. Invoke the goddess again with these words:
Beautiful and gracious Serenissima,
Majestic Goddess, Tranquil One, Easeful One—
show me Your ways woven of light and dark,
show me Your threads of shining work and play…
and I will move with You.
With You I will dance.
Take a sip of the water in your chalice. Savor the way the water touches your lips and tongue. Consider the natural, unthinking way your mouth accepts it, the way you swallow without thinking about how you do it.
Know that this sip of water is a tiny gift, a single drop of the essence of the Most Serene One. Drink more water. Feel its glowing essence as it enters your body. As you drink, recall what a chalice is: it’s the true holy cup, the original Grail, your Mother’s breast. As you drink in sips and seconds of time, remember that Serenissima’s water becomes part of you (our bodies are 90 percent water) and that in small, human ways you embody Her.
We are all, each of us and every one of us, drops of Her gentle rain touching parched and thirsty lands, and when we bring Her serenity into our lives, one day at a time, one drop at a time, we are bringing Her back to all Her children. Conclude your ritual with these words:
Most Serene, Majestic Goddess—
I accept this day.
Tranquil One, Easeful One—
I accept all my days.
Goddess of Harmony and Repose—
I accept all my days as Your days.
As you open your circle, remember that it may be open now, but it is never broken.
Barbara Ardinger, Ph.D. (www.barbaraardinger.com), is a published author and freelance editor. Her newest book is Secret Lives, a novel about grandmothers who do magic. Her earlier nonfiction books include the daybook Pagan Every Day, Finding New Goddesses (a pun-filled parody of goddess encyclopedias), and Goddess Meditations. When she can get away from the computer, she goes to the theater as often as possible—she loves musical theater and movies in which people sing and dance. She is also an active CERT (Community Emergency Rescue Team) volunteer and a member (and occasional secretary pro-tem) of a neighborhood organization that focuses on code enforcement and safety for citizens. She has been an AIDS emotional support volunteer and a literacy volunteer. She is an active member of the Neopagan community and is well known for the rituals she creates and leads.