I was speaking with my bestie, another pagan, the other night. I was trying, badly, to articulate the crisis of faith I am having right now, have been having since my last relationship ended, while I feel my way to what is next.
I am a priestess of Aphrodite and a devotee of Herne. I’ve been dedicated to Aphrodite since my 20s, and I serve her by learning and teaching about love, by priestessing ceremony, by providing pastoral care and counselling at times, by helping people become open to love, by helping them find the love they need, by sharing sacred space with my lovers. I also serve Her and grow through her teaching when in love relationship to others – I have a dedication to taking the high road, learning what I need to learn, being brave, being present, touching mindfully, holding space sacred when making love. I often retain deep friendships with my exes, who are my dearest friends.
The problem is this: Aphrodite, in her stories, is not known for monogamy. She has two long term relationships of note – with Hephiastos, a wounded maker, and with Ares, a god of war. I’ve never understood the connection between love and war, but I do understand the connection between a generous love and a maker with slow clever hands, devoted and solid. I understand why he of all gods was her husband, and I also understand how Love Herself could not hold herself back from loving the entire world as well.
Herne is also very sexual – his earliest representations were simply phallic stones. He is tied to the natural world, and many animals mate for life, while others do not. Some types of stags have a harem of does, and some have a single mate. He is the stag in rut, and the hunter and the hunted, passion and sacrifice. He’s a god of the river of life force running through.
When I was with my ex-wife, over time my connection with Aphrodite dwindled. It felt like She had left me and I Her. This was not my wife’s fault, it was me not being true to myself and continuing my deep connection with myself, and therefore my faith. However, at the time, it made me fear that a connection with Aphrodite was incompatible with being in a monogamous relationship.
The cultural paradigm for a priestess of Aphrodite is that she is universally available like her goddess. I relate to that, but I also need boundaries and security. I have a deep need for a highly intimate, deep, committed, secure connection with another person, a sacred marriage or hieros gamos. At the same time I need to learn and explore the oceanic connection with body, energy, love and sensuality. I am meant to teach and learn and give and heal. I have been seeing that as only taking place in my erotic relationships. Can all of what I am learning and want to learn really occur within a connection with one person? How am I supposed to serve my gods and my calling but also the needs of my heart?
This week I have talked to two other women who like me are extremely tactile. I have been thinking about the simlarities and differences between me and these women. One is a dancer, a straight woman who is highly touch oriented and sexual. She says dancers are mostly all like that. Perhaps she’s right. Her male partners are shocked they can’t keep up with her sexually and try to shame her. She’s not having it. She’s owning her body, her physicality. It’s powerful, but also seems lonely to me to never be met. I don’t know if her connections are casual or spiritual. I suspect they are more casual, perhaps by choice, perhaps not. I see in her two lovers I have known who were intensely physical and could communicate deeply with me in that way, but who did not place emotional and mystical weight there, leading to a connection that was one-sided.
The second touch-centred woman is a lesbian friend who, like me, is somewhat shocked that her partners can never keep up with her. I know her somewhat better, and know that she is wanting a deep connection. But it’s hard to be connected with a partner who doesn’t have the same need for physical closeness, to feel like you are too much, and that the need for physical communion is misunderstood and not recognized as deeply important. This is the risk of monogamy, to risk being held by love and honour to someone who can’t meet you fully in a place and way that is the centre of your soul.
I went for a walk on the labyrinth yesterday in the sunshine. I walked down a long forest path, full of beauty and birdsong, and ended up at an outdoor stone labyrinth. I asked, if I am to partner with someone, in a sacred marriage of equals, how can I also serve my calling to my gods? And how am I supposed to connect now when I am single and isolated by the pandemic with no one to be the altar to lay that upon?
“Make love to everything” – Aphrodite says in my mind, like it is obvious, and it suddenly is. Make love to your piano, and feel and hear what that sounds like. Make music about the truth of love. Make love to everything you experience, the way you make love with your lesbian hands that touch and listen and learn the responses and intensify them. Caress the keys slow and fast and feel the resonance. Playing piano, singing, dancing are not so different from making love to a woman.
As I turned and walked back up that path to my car, I was walking a lot slower. I had to slow down to let in the depth and width and felth of my connection to the beauty around me. I slowed to barely moving so I could sense it. I found a single leaf and connected with it, watching it quiver, feeling it’s energy affect mine and mine back toward it. The entirety of trees, the visual texture of the scene around me was rich and interwoven and occupied me fully. I thought about making love to my piano, touching and caressing all of my life like this. I wondered if it would be one sided, I can see me making love to the world, but will everything make love to me?
As I thought that, that answer became obvious too. A gust of air stroked my hair, rustling it lightly along my neck. I felt my body against the air, against the path, against the beauty all around me. And I suddenly remembered how I felt the entire year after the ceremony where I dedicated to Aphrodite. I felt like this all the time – like my body was interconnected with everything, interconnected erotically with everything around me, caressed and awake and full. There is learning here, the mystical expression I seek. I felt safe and powerful. It faded, which honestly is good so I could drive my car home, but I think I can re-enter that space again.
I am beginning to believe I can authentically make love to the whole world and also deeply connect to one person fully, without sacrificing either.