Dancing with the Dark Lady

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16th of Abolan – Themadi

We are but hours away from Matralia: the Feast of Divine Life (also called Cuivanya). For Janites, this second of the three Harvest feasts is a time for honouring the Trinity and, specifically, the Dark Mother. Because, in truth, the Dark Mother is both one aspect of the Trinity yet at the same time to the sum of the other two parts. She is the eternal Source and formless energy from which all things, both rarefied and corporeal, are born. While the Bright Mother is the active Creatrix, like a parent post-birth giving constant nurture and support to her offspring, the Dark Mother is as a pregnant woman, eternally cradling the cosmos and all other realms in Her womb. The reaping of the harvest also reminds us of all living beings unavoidable fate; death and the doorway to new life.

The Janite tradition contains (or rather used to contain) a sub-group of priestesses known as the Iremian Order. The following quote is a brief description from one of their old posts explaining the duties of an Iremian priestess:

“Priestesses of Iremia. Iremia is Greek for stillness. In the Janite Faith, this word means the Still Centre of Being, which is represented by the center of the Fora. An Iremian priestess is a contemplative priestess. She may or may not serve a formal liturgy nor have a formal form of worship. She tends towards a self-expressed form of worship and ritual with the exception of the Communion Rite, which must not be changed.

The Iremian priestesses are the Hands and (Veiled) Face of the Great Mother because as the Great Mother resides in the Still Centre of Being, the Iremian priestess resides in stillness and quiet contemplation. She may or may not serve the Faith Community in other ways, as well.”

Being dedicated in particular to the Dark Mother aspect of Déa, the matron Jana for the Iremian Order is Agyia Rhea. In some sects of Filianism, devotees are advised against working closely with Agyia Rhea / Sai Rhave, particularly Westerners. I don’t think this is to say anything negative against Agyia Rhea Herself, more so the misconception about who She is and what Her purpose is. Much the same misunderstanding tends to occur, especially with those new to Filianism, in first hearing about the Dark Mother.

The Western world in particular has been conditioned to associate Darkness with evil. The colour black, complete silence and symbols of death often invoke fear and dread, some of which is only natural, while others are definitely brought about through nurture rather than nature. We can tell this by observing how other cultures may treat the subject of death or view certain symbols as holy where we have been told they invoke bad luck or demons. And when you do sometimes have a person who is drawn to the ‘dark’ from this Western view, it seems to be commonly driven by a need for rebellion, to seek the morbid and macabre as a form of catharsis. I know, I was once an ‘Emo’, back in my teens, coming into witchcraft firstly out of a desire to have a weapon to use against the rest of the world, and being drawn to the image of ‘dark gods/goddesses’ as a way of channelling my anger, rather than bothering to do any real research on them and simply attracted to the terrifying aesthetic.

But much like many deities of the world mistaken for evil or demonic (Hekate, Kali, Hades, Lucifer etc), the Dark Mother, and by association Agyia Rhea, is mistaken to be wicked or evil, when She is everything but. Nor is She chaotic or ‘destructive’ as we think of the word. She is not angry or domineering. She is the exact opposite; She is Stillness, the escape from the traps of ego. As the Clew of the Horse describes, Heaven is the central immovable point, while the World is the ever revolving rim around Her. In fairness, Filianism itself might hold its hands up to some of the confusion, as the villain of our Mythos – Irkalla – is given the title; the Dark Queen. There are also instances in the Recital where darkness is used in a negative, warning context. This may simply be a result of Déa’s revelation communicating with us in how She knows our khear-riven minds understand, as is with many a scripture. Many at first assume the Dark Mother and the Dark Queen are one in the same and it’s plain to see why. But Irkalla, or the Fallen Queen as I often call her, desired death of Love itself, and to revel in the grief and sorrow Our Lady’s demise would bring about. The Dark Mother, however, is Life. And with that; Light and Love are Her descendants.

Now, She has been compared to Shiva, the Destroyer aspect of the Brahman trinity, but again we have been conditioned to hear the word ‘destroy’ and see images of explosions, executions and a blood-thirsty apocalypse. We forget that destruction is simply the end; a destination. Any violence that takes place before is part of the journey itself, not the conclusion. I’ve witnessed death in person, of someone I loved, twice so far. Both were pets; one was my cat who was hit by a car and died in my arms before I could get him to a vet (it probably wouldn’t have saved him but he may have had some pain relief if nothing else). The other was putting my dog to sleep after we discovered she had a tumour in her chest. One death was violent and painful. The other was quick and peaceful. Both led to the same result. All of us and everything in this universe is heading for that same end, when we shed the bodies of matter and return back to one with the Dark Mother – whether the events leading up to that are serene or chaotic is not due to Her but to the khear of existence. Déa, in any of Her forms, would never desire pain upon Her children. The Dark Mother is no different. Dying may or may not be a terrible experience, but Death itself is merely letting go and collapsing back into the arms of She Who Is, until we are born again.

In Filianism, we do not have images depicting the Dark Mother (if they are, they normally depict Her as abstract or an incomplete picture). When an Iremian devotee calls upon Her, they follow it with; “I Shield My Eyes” as none can see Her. Her title of ‘Dark’ is not due to any connection to evil, but to the Unknown. The Bright Mother illuminates the cosmos and gives form to all, and so She Herself has many forms, as does the Daughter. But the Dark Mother is She before and beyond all form, but that does mean She is alien to us, or that we cannot know Her love. Just as an unborn child cannot see her mother from inside the womb, she is still ever aware of her warmth, her being, sometimes even her voice – though the baby cannot understand her words, she might still be comforted by the soft, loving words and song.

And what of Agyia Rhea?

Well, for the past year, since my conversion to the Déanic faith, I’ve been attempting to connect with the Janati and try to live by the example of their virtues. I try my best to summon each one in my heart when I feel I’m in need of their strength and guidance. I wasn’t sure if I would find a matron Jana who I connected to most. Of all the ones I expected to be drawn to, Agyia Rhea was the one I least suspected. Yet, I found myself calling upon her more so than the other six, a few months passing by before I realised I was doing so. I’ve suffered with anxiety ever since I was a young teen, maybe even before. A lot of it stemmed from school bullying and pressure from my teachers (I was one of those “she is gifted but doesn’t try hard enough” students). Many times my mother would drive me to the school gates and I would start vomiting, only to feel fine as soon as she got me home and I knew I didn’t have to go in. I’ve improved a lot since then, I’m able to be out in public and even become a manager at my job, yet it’s still deeply affected me and I’m terrible at making friends or talking to people outside of work.

But I’ve made peace with that and who I am. Not saying I don’t still seek improvement but I’m no longer hating myself for not being the extrovert the world desires. I’m happy being a modern hermit. I’m happy with my limited human interactions and online, distant but warm relationships. I love my dogs and I love nothing more than walking with them over the fields and woods. I’m content to live a small, humble and quiet life. However, this desire for peace and quiet does often lead to impatience and frustration when I do have to interact with people at work or the odd social gathering. While I try my best to be sensitive and compassionate, I am sometimes prone to spite and not thinking before saying something bitter or aggressive.

Lately, who should appear to rescue me in those moments, but Agyia Rhea? I barely need to call upon her, if not subconsciously, for her to appear when I’m at a moment where my irateness is about to get the better of me. It’s like she suddenly pops up behind me and puts her arms around me, one hand over my mouth, while the other takes my hand. And she holds me still. I feel the tightness of her grip and remember to stop. That extra second is all the difference for me to wait and rethink my actions. Or oftentimes, take no action as the best action.

When I meditate, she comes to me, and the image she takes is one I’ve not been able to shake. Like the picture above, she takes the form of part-woman, part-tree. Worth noting I hadn’t seen that picture before today, I merely did a google search on ‘tree lady’ and found an image which most matched what I saw in my mind’s eye. It’s a good likeness, but she’s taller, her bark more of a black walnut. Her arms and hands are branches, almost like claws, but not sharp, just incredibly firm. And despite being literally rooted to the earth, she is capable of being anywhere, as she exists within all the earth (also worth noting she is said to be close to Agyia Thema). Her face is indeed stern, but never cold. She never says a word, yet I can understand all she means to tell me through her eyes and movements. She rarely smiles but, when she does, it’s so small you would barely notice – but it’s a smile of love and pride.

The reason I bring up the misconceptions about ‘dark’ deities and the Dark Mother before this is because I’ve seen some Filianists write about how Agyia Rhea is a harsh disciplinarian or a cold executioner. The Chapel website advises against her worship as “an unbalanced-rhavic cult of darkness has entered the Western patriarchal psyche over the last century.” I think this does Agyia Rhea a great injustice, similar to how the unbalanced Vikhelic principle has sadly put Agyia Niké in a bad light. Are either of them to blame for how humanity has misunderstood their values and abused their gifts? Isn’t it possible for any of the Janati principles to become unbalanced?

I can’t claim to know the ‘true’ Agyia Rhea moreso than anyone else. All I can testify to is the character of the Holy Jana I keep meeting and enjoy having these moments with. Yes, her lessons can be harsh, but that is due to the reality of this existence and not her personally. She is not the cruel mistress holding the whip, she is the wise sage helping me to accept something has gone wrong and the important thing is how I will deal with it and what lessons will I learn. It’s a mistake to think that the Janati are limited by their core virtues and nothing more. They are all part of Déa and One in Her. Agyia Theia is not pure joy without a serene mind. Agyia Niké is not valour without compassion. And Agyia Rhea is not restriction without also being loving, wise and, yes, even funny. Her humour is dry and quiet but it’s there, in the glint of her eye.

What draws she and I together is our love for the silence and the stillness. To visualise myself leaning against her hard but solid body, her wooden hands upon me, I feel myself connecting to the universe through her roots. She is also my anchor, not just to the reality of the world, but more importantly; to Déa. No matter how turbulent the situation or scattered my mind, I only need call on her to end the storm and take refuge. She helps me find comfort and illumination in that which I used to fear. In that blessed stillness, I’m able to confront feelings of grief, anger, fear and revulsion without giving into them, but learning to understand them. My lady does not force these lessons upon me, but encourages me and gifts me with the space and time to take it in, while keeping me safe and secure.

Sadly there are currently no ordained priestesses in charge of the Janite tradition, so becoming a priestess of the Iremian Order may not be likely at the moment. But I still plan to serve as a devotee of this particular path through what little I know of it, mostly described in this post:

Scriptures for the Iremian Order

Also, from what I’ve seen implied, being an Iremian devotee does not mean becoming strictly monastic, nor does it mean not continuing to invoke the other Janati in day-to-day life, or no longer worshipping the Bright Mother and Holy Daughter. I am as dedicated to those other aspects of Déa as I’ve ever been, forever a daughter of the Bright Mother and disciple of Our Lady. I merely find myself drawn to Agyia Rhea. Or rather, she finds me more than I have to seek her.

Glory to the Dark Lady, Divine Stream of Mysteria,
Glory to She, Stern Princess of the Night,
May the Pillar of Truth remain fixed in Her foundations,
And may all find peace in her gentle shadow.
Blessed is the Holy Jana, Agyia Rhea,
Blessed is She.

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image source: Laura Sheridan
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