She tastes of chemicals.
You stop so she can light a cigarette.
You stop because you are afraid.
You feel cheapened as you watch her.
You begin to understand how alone each and every single human being is.
The dirt from the street gets stuck on your leg as she inhales, it is dry and shitty, and you can not shake it off, no matter how hard you try.
Someone on the sidewalk near you vomits.
She starts to walk away.
Definition: (noun) A place of refuge or safety.
What is sanctuary?
I have started and deleted every word written in this blogpost, about four times already. It is the 26th of November, and this post has consumed me for good or ill, for about two weeks now.
I feel stuck. All muddled up and lost around this word. Personally, sanctuary has become something of a crusade for me these days. Something I have tried to grasp, yet lost sight of, as the world tries to show it to me, or the lack thereof, yet more and more.
It seems to me, in the creation of a little corner of this world though, that it may be appropriate to discuss it with you, and perhaps assist both of us, dear reader, in finding a way, through the word, into the word, and out of it, as may be. For at least a moment, let us let go of some of the cloaking we do around sanctuary and our sense of worth.
After all, are we deserving of sanctuary?
What can we honestly say in response to this question?
What can I say? Trapped in doubt these days, like so many before me, I struggle with finding the sense of worth within myself to allow myself the gift of sanctuary. Why is it a gift? Why not our right?
How often do we deny ourselves space, sacred space that we can claim uniquely as our own? Space that is unassailable, that we do not need to share with anyone else, yet that can feed us?
Sanctuary is not the disappearing we so often do into the drone of our phone (reference the Deftones White Pony album here if you are so inclined), or Instagram, or any of these social media, time suckage places. Instead it is a space in nature, or in front of our altar. A quiet space, crafted just for us to commune with the source of all that is. Where we can process, really feel, release and let go of experiences, relationships, careers, a fight, old pain. Where we can come to terms with who we are, who we were and how we are changing. Where we can be angry if we need to, cry for hours if we need to. Where we can talk to Goddess/God/Spirit (or any combination thereof) and recall what is important to us (by the way, that is allowed to shift).
I keep coming back to this word as well, because I keep running into it, here in the little city of Portland, Maine. On church doors, catching me by surprise as I walk by quickly in the cold unending wind of State street. At the Portland Museum of Art, on a bi-weekly visit as I watch two women, who I assume must be friends of long standing, discuss the ending of a relationship in front of the blues and greens of a Winslow Homer painting of the sea (I imagined what it would have been like to overhear this conversation instead at the beach at Two Lights- the sea frothing around these ladies as they discussed the dissolution of a long standing relationship, seals and seagulls mirroring their shock and pain; epic in its totality. A tale told in bleached bone and verdigris and gold and blue, with a dash of grey for good measure, all jagged stone edges and wild, tumultuous waves).
This word appeared for me again as I gazed at the Rodin, two rooms across, a new sculpture, replacing my favorite; I gazed at it in a mild state of repugnance at first, it’s blackened bronze unable to help me comprehend the crystalline message that Rodin, his lover, and his assistants must have wanted us to discover within. On subsequent visits, the refuge she provided for me as I stood in front of her in a somewhat sulky fashion, called to mind this word yet again. I realized that she was providing it for me through the insouciance her visage created within me, her viewer, even though I felt unworthy to offer myself sanctuary outside of these brief museum visits at the time.
Of course, we can discuss the Hermit when we talk about the word sanctuary. I understand why the Hermit, with his lamp and sequestration (self-imposed as always) rises up in our mind’s eye. However, as November moves into December, and I deal with my own wounds, I personally feel more in tune with Ian Daniels chosen image for the 4 of Wands/Scepters in his famous Tarot of Vampyres deck.
A female Vampyre sits in the center of a sacred circle (drawn in blood or wine and salt, you decide). A candle and wreath of flowers represent her connection to the sacred and herself. She has created her own sanctuary, and values herself enough to give herself the respite she needs, the time for sacred union with the Divine. There is a very connected sense of both spiritual and sensual ecstasy to be explored as we look at her sacred time, her sanctuary. Her space is her own and her communion/union is as well.
Relationships and their unravelling have been a key theme for me throughout 2017 and 2018. As I experience the decaying and dissolution of more than one relationship I held very close to my heart, I can not help but feel my soul’s call for this word, for sanctuary. I begin to see very clearly that we so very rarely offer ourselves a true experience of personal refuge in this society, though we need this sacred space, especially in the face of major life changes, like the ending of a relationship or a change in career, the loss of a loved one etc.
We push ourselves, instead. We overextend ourselves, we try and try and are constantly moving and doing, figuring things out, budgeting, juggling.
Where is our sacred pause, our divine time out, the sanctuary where we can plug into Source and be well and truly fed?
This again raises another question- if it feeds us in a way nothing else can, then what is Source to us? Is the Divine something we are a part of, or something separate from us?
What does it even feel like to allow ourselves to be fed? To not cut off the flow of sustenance, or contort into a time and space we deem as appropriate?
As I ask myself these questions, in my mind’s eye I see the image of the Lovers from the Hidden Realms tarot deck by Julia Jeffries and Barbara Moore.
Cernunnos, the forest energy, the horned god, the sacred masculine unites with the divine vessel, the sacred feminine, she of the waters of intuition, through a passionate kiss. Talk about a sacred feeding!
Sanctuary can provide us not just solace, but rejuvenation as well. Hence the idea of being fed by this sacred time and space.
Can you allow yourself to value your being and body enough to give yourself the gift of sanctuary now, tonight, tomorrow morning? Is there a place in front of your altar, at the sea, deep in the woods, or the top of a mountain where you can go and allow yourself to be fed lovingly by the Divine, and actually drink your fill?
I encourage you to ask yourself all the questions I have shared here, and most of all, to give yourself that gift of sanctuary. I assure you, dear one, you are worth the investment, and you are strong enough to create sanctuary for yourself. You don’t need to wait for anyone to do it for you, or to offer it to you. It is yours, by Divine right.
I would like to dedicate this post to my brother, Richard. While he is no longer in my life, the questions he and I would discuss for long hours over the course of many years helped me to discover the priestess within myself, and the power within me. Thank you Richard, I love you.
Poetry at the beginning of this post is written by me, and is my personal property. All rights reserved.