Striking the Spark – Constructing the Floating Wick Oil Lamp

This is the third in a four part series. Please read part one and part two before proceeding.

The floating wick oil lamp can be even easier than the standing wick lamp, depending on how it’s approached. And either way there are fewer steps!

Materials

The container for the floating wick lamp tends to be easier to find. Any wine glass works, for instance. Glass, ceramic, and metal are all appropriate choices, and I find glass particularly fitting because it doesn’t block the flame even when the liquid level drops. About the only real shape considerations are that a) you want it taller than it is wide unless you want more than one wick, and b) it needs to hold at least 1 cup of liquid. More is fine, but less liquid requires more frequent tending, which can be inconvenient.

Instructions

These are instructions for building two different versions! Either way the first step is the same, though.

1) Assemble your supplies.

The container for this lamp is a red wine glass picked up on clearance. Also needed are a pair of duck-billed pliers, a pair of wrapping pliers, a pair of wire cutters, a cup of water (not pictured), about two feet of 14g copper wire, a cork wick float, and maybe a ruler. (The wire and the wick float make two different versions of the floating wick lamp, so decide which one you want before assembling your supplies. The wick float was purchased at the same supply house that provided the wicking.)

Image

Again, any wire can be used. I stuck with regular copper for this lamp too.

For the Wick Float Version:

The wick float is a very simple little device. It consists of a piece of sealed cork with a metal shield on top. The cork is sealed to prevent it from absorbing oil and sinking, and the metal shield prevents the cork from catching on fire. For most floats all that remains is a hole in the center through which the wick is strung. However, I decided to go with the slightly fancier model that features adjustable “rabbit ears”. These are supposed to allow the user to raise or lower the wick without getting their fingers oily. In my experience they don’t work well for that, but they do provide convenient handles for lifting the entire float.

Image

See? Bunny ears!

All that’s necessary to use this is threading the wick through the float and plopping it in the lamp. *shrug* Assembly done! Once the wick is saturated in oil it’s ready to light.

The only “trick” here is the composition of the lamp oil. First fill the container about halfway with water. Add a pinch of salt if desired (blessing it is entirely optional), then top off with olive oil. Allow the liquids enough time to settle out, with the oil floating cleanly on top of the water, before adding and lighting the float.

It’s a really ingenious system – the wick floats in the oil until the oil’s gone, at which point it absorbs the water and extinguishes the flame. It’s like a built-in timer!

Image

You can make out the oil/water layers in this picture, and see the extra wicking swirling around in the back.

This version of the lamp cost me about $8, including the glass. I’m SUCH a big spender! *laugh*

For the Wire Wick Holder Version:

This is another holder made from bending wire, like the standing wick lamp, and there’s even less to bend with this style. However, the measurements have to be fairly exact to work because it has to balance on whatever vessel you’ve chosen. You can actually measure it out (with the ruler), or do it by eye with the wire in-hand. Whichever works for you.

1) Make a center twist.

Center the wire and make a corkscrew-twist with two rotations to hold the wick. Since this is designed to sit at the center of the glass, the two “arms” of the holder will each equal the radius of the vessel. Once you have that measurement kink the wire 90* as shown in the picture.

Image

The measurements here are completely dependent on the vessel chosen. This measurement fits inside of the glass I used.

2) Make other bends as needed to fit your vessel.

As you can tell this whole technique is highly dependent on what vessel you go with. I kinked the arms above to fit inside the glass, but that alone wasn’t enough to properly balance it on the lip of the glass and make sure it was sturdy. So I bent it some more. Because the glass has a flared lip it was a bit more challenging, but I eventually came up with something that worked. Experimentation is key.

Image

These angles will keep the center wick-holder centered as well as almost clamping it to the sides of the glass.

3) Finish off the wire ends.

Once you’ve got the wire holder done you’ve got to decide what to do with the remaining wire ends. I could have decided to just clip them below the lip part, but I wanted something decorative and pretty. So once more with the spirals! I spiraled the ends up, and made them large to help “seat” the holder over the glass. Once again the spirals looked bare, so I hit my bead stash and made pretty little dangles for the spirals. And here’s the final product!

Image

As with the floating wick lamp, simply thread the wicking through the holder part, wait until it’s saturated with oil, and light.

At about $6 this lamp came in a little cheaper than the floating wick lamp, simply because wire is cheaper than the cost of the pre-made wick float. The only reason the standing wick lamp was $10 more expensive was because of the vessel I chose – change that and there’s not much cost difference at all between the styles, so it really is a matter of personal preference.

The next post will offer some tips and techniques for actually using the lamps we’ve made in this series!

Striking the Spark – Constructing the Standing Wick Oil Lamp

This is the second in a four-part series. The first post can be found here.

Constructing this style of lamp is dead simple. All of the work needed to create it is done to one length of copper wire. I broke it out in steps, but once you get it down you can churn one of these out in less than half an hour easy. Talk about instant gratification!

Materials

By far the easiest choice for this style is a ready-made ceramic vessel. Other materials are possible, of course, but most require a bit more tending. Ceramic comes in a wide variety of colors and styles, is not itself flammable, is durable, and as long as it’s properly glazed it doesn’t leak. It’s also easy to find styles that are wider than they are tall – this style works best with shallow containers. Feel free to use other materials as long as those points are considered.

Should you choose to make your own ceramic vessel firing it is optional. However, lamps made without firing will only last for a couple of uses because they will be very fragile. Similarly, most ancient lamps were not glazed. Glazing is what prevents liquids from seeping through the clay. If using an unglazed lamp it should be emptied between uses and placed on a saucer of some sort to catch drips.  

Instructions

This lamp only has eight steps! How cool is that?

1) Assemble the supplies.

The container I chose for this lamp is a pillar candle holder that stands six inches tall. The “bowl” is five and a half inches in diameter and one and one-quarter inches deep. Also assembled are: a pair of duck-billed pliers, a pair of wrapping pliers, a pair of wire cutters (not pictured), about five feet of 14g copper wire (available in jewelry stores), and a small piece of wicking (available from this site). You’ll also need olive oil. All together the supplies cost about $16 even with the fancy holder (thank you Pier One). I already had the pliers so that cost was not factored in. However, they can be had cheaply in craft supply stores for about $2 a pair.

Image

Any wire can be used, of course. Copper’s just easy to work with. You can even find it in a wide variety of colors. I went with natural here because the vessel is already so colorful!

2) Curl the wire to hold the wick.

Make a cork-screw-style loop at one end of the wire that is just big enough to hold the wick, with two turns in it as shown.

Image

Make it tight enough to hold the wicking.

3) Continue the spiral

Smoothly begin to spiral the wire around in ever-increasing loops. This provides a solid base that enables the cork-screw part to keep the wick standing upright – hence the name of this lamp style.

Image

Here is where you start really appreciating copper’s workability – this can be difficult with stiffer wire. *grin* Ask me how I know. On an unrelated note, repurposed coat hangers suck for this. Just sayin’.

4)  Watch the spiral become a spring

As you spiral the wire it will begin to look like a spring. That will be worked out later, so don’t worry about it now. How many times you want to spiral the wire around to form a base is largely up to you. Since wicking is so light normally just a few spirals will keep it upright. I decided to make this one larger strictly for aesthetic reasons – with this vessel having straight sides I thought it would look better if the spiral filled the bowl. That’s not necessary, though, and the decision depends on the shape/size of the bowl and your own personal taste.

Image

Boing! Boing!

5) Flatten the spring

Once the spiral is to the desired size begin working it flat. Basically massage the wire, starting from the outside and working in towards the center. Gently press it with your hands to the level of the bit of wire closest to the outside. Do not flatten it all the way, however – leave just a bit of height in the center (about a quarter inch or so) to provide clearance for the wick. Remember the wick will not burn if it is submerged in oil!

Image

This part can take a bit, depending on how tightly you spiraled the wire. If it doesn’t seem to be flattening well, try putting something like a phone book on top for a bit.

6) Begin the handle.

At this point the spirals are flattened and we are ready to begin the handle, which lets you do things like adjust the wick without getting oil all over yourself. Put a kink in the wire after the spiral, so the remaining wire sticks straight up.

Image

If you look at the right side of the frame you will see that the wire has a 90° kink in it. This is the start of the handle.

7) Spiral the other end of the wire

Once the wire is kinked start another spiral at the other end. This spiral should be 90° offset from the bottom, providing a comfortable handle. The size of this is again a personal choice, depending on both aesthetics and the size of the hand using it. For a holder with a smaller number of spirals around the wick balance can also be an issue, as a large handle and small bowl spiral will tip over. Once done you simply thread the wick through the wick holder.

Image

So pretty! But something’s missing…

8) Decorate!

Technically you can stop at step 7. It’s perfectly functional. But… doesn’t that spiral handle look a little stark? I thought it did! So I hit my bead stash and dressed it up with three matching beads strung on a thinner copper wire. The beads catch and reflect the light, and if you like they can also be a place to add some additional correspondences. Don’t limit yourself to beads, either – charms, crystals, etc all work well. I’d just avoid anything flammable. NOW you can light it! Done!

Image

The vessel was filled with olive oil so that the oil level hit mid-range on the wick holder. This kept the wick about ¼” about the oil, and as you can see it is burning beautifully. Just remember that the wick has to be saturated to burn properly, so give it a bit to properly absorb the oil.

And there it is – a fully functional standing wick lamp! How gorgeous is THAT? And simple too!

In the next post I’ll provide another tutorial on the floating wick lamp, and the final post of this little series will go into how to use them.

Striking the Spark – The History of Oil Lamps

This post introduces oil lamps. The two posts after this will be step-by-step tutorials of how to make your own version of two different styles. The final post will discuss how to use the lamp you’ve made.

One of my favorite stories is the Greek myth about how humans first got fire.

Prometheus was a Titan who created mankind (and all the other species of the earth) from mud. Athena breathed life into the mud figures Prometheus made, and Epimetheus (another Titan) was tasked with gifting all the creatures of the earth with their various qualities and skills, like cunning and speed and fur and talons and scales.

That all worked beautifully, except that by the time Epimetheus got around to gifting mankind there were no more gifts to give. So Prometheus decided that man should walk upright like the Gods and have fire to boot.

Image

Prometheus Creating Man in the Presence of Athena (Detail), by Jean-Simon Berthelemy and Jean-Baptiste Mauzaisse.

His work for mankind didn’t stop there, though. As the Titan god of forethought and cunning he was pretty damn clever. Clever enough to trick Zeus into accepting bones and fat as the portion of sacrifices meant for the gods, leaving the meat for man. Zeus was not amused by this, however, and He was a sore loser. So he punished mankind by taking fire away from them.

Prometheus couldn’t bear to see man so cold and helpless without fire. He stole some from the Hall of the Gods/the sun in response (sources differ as to location), and used that to replace the fire Zeus had taken away. In retaliation for the theft Zeus gave mankind Pandora with her jar, and Prometheus got eternal torture.

Image

“Torture” in this case referring to Zeus chaining Prometheus down and having an eagle eat his liver. Which was bad enough, but HIS liver kept regenerating. So the eagle ate it EVERY DAY. No wonder Prometheus is known as the Helper of Mankind! He was eventually rescued by Herakles, so at least the torture eventually ended.

There’s so much to love in this story, what with the layers and the ethical questions and the perspectives, even in the bare-bones version I give above. Disregarding all of that, however, we can see that fire itself has long been recognized as essential and necessary for the development of mankind and the growth of civilization.

We see the same idea – albeit in a less engaging form – in modern times when we check out current scientific research. Not only did fire allow early humans to cook food and create weapons, cognitive evolution studies now suggest that fire itself physically “altered our brains, helping endow us with capabilities such as long-term memory and problem-solving”.

According to the theory, having a fire that kept predators at bay allowed humans to sleep deeply enough at night to enter REM sleep, improving our ability to learn multi-step tasks like tool manufacturing.

Even more exciting, fire could have directly changed the way our brains work. Focusing on fire allowed early humans to reach meditative states, and the regions of the brain affected by those states overlap quite a bit with the brain regions that govern working memory. It’s working memory that allows us to think about multiple things at once and relate concepts to each other, and “it’s an essential trait for imagining and executing complicated plans”. People would have first experienced this without trying, just by sitting around a campfire.

Image

Like this one. Sadly, there were no s’mores for early man.

Whether we approach it from a mythic viewpoint or a scientific one, it can easily be said that fire is what allowed humans to become human. From a community campfire to the hearth of every home, from torches to oil lamps, fire has been our first and greatest tool in our struggle to survive and thrive in our world.

Is it really a surprise, then, that fire is still considered sacred in so many ways by so many faiths?

Oil lamps in particular hold a special place in religious practices all around the world. Beyond the advantages of a portable flame, the flame from an oil lamp burns with less flickering than a campfire. That steady burn amplifies the tendency of the human mind to enter meditative states when focusing on it. Meditating in front of flames is a practice that has extended in an unbroken line from the earliest humans to the present day.

There is absolutely no reason why modern-day polytheists can’t join our ancestors and experience flame the same way, with oil lamps of our very own.

Oil Lamp Symbolism

The uses of lamps for meditation are fairly universal. Additionally, there have been quite a few symbolic uses/meanings layered on to them too. These vary according to spiritual tradition, of course, but there are some interesting similarities between cultures.

Lamps are often used as symbols of “lighting the way to the Divine”, and can represent the soul rising to meet the gods. In Orthodox Christian churches the sanctuary lamp is first lit when the church is consecrated and burns olive oil perpetually thereafter. The sanctuary lamp thus honors the presence of Christ within the church. Hinduism links lamps with Truth and Wisdom, as well as burning them in honor of various deities, and lamps either burn perpetually or are lit at sunset and extinguished at dawn.

Incense offerings are lit from the lamp flame in a wide variety of traditions.

Fuel Choices

Pretty much any burnable liquid has been used in oil lamps throughout history. Most modern-day lamps burn a petroleum-based fuel, but historically fuels have been whatever burnable could be locally produced. Traditional Indian lamps use clarified ghee as a fuel, for instance, and coconut and castor oils are popular for the oil lamps used in Santeria. Olive oil was the easiest source for people living around the Mediterranean, and olive oil is what I prefer to use in my lamps.

Image

A working olive oil press in Nazareth Village, a historical and archaeological re-enactment of a first century Jewish village in modern-day Israel.

Safety-wise, olive oil is at the top of the list for liquid fuels. The amount of heat required to make it actually catch fire is the highest of any vegetable oil and much higher than petroleum products – it will not flame without a wick, and the wick must be exposed to air to burn. Submerging the wick in the oil will put it out. This helps prevent accidents. Olive oil also produces less soot and scent, so even those with sensitivities to lamp oil fumes should be able to use olive oil.

Olive oil is cost effective too. Most surviving historical examples of olive oil lamps are small, often just a couple of inches across. A liter of olive oil will provide 250-300 hours of light, so a small vessel will contain enough oil to burn as long or longer than a much larger petroleum-based lamp.

Later pressings of oil are actually more traditional for lamp fuel and tend to burn better (fewer solid bits are present in later pressings), so feel free to get the cheapest pressing of pure olive oil you can. I usually pick it up in at ethnic food stores. Olive oil also keeps for longer than any other edible oil – up to 15 months if stored in a tightly sealed container in a cool location. Refrigeration will extend the life of the oil.

Correspondence-wise olive oil is associated with health, purification, and peace. It has traditionally been used to bless, anoint, or draw beneficial things towards the user. Also, if additional correspondences are desired olive oil can easily be blended with other oils. Just remember that significantly changing the composition of the oil will change the way it burns. A drop or two of any additional oils should be fine for magickal use.

And yes, if desired you can absolutely use the oil in the lamp for anointing and blessing purposes in ritual. How’s that for multi-purpose?

Types of Oil Lamps

Olive oil lamps are constructed in a wide variety of ways, but for the sake of brevity I’m going to limit discussion to my two favorites – the standing wick lamp and the floating wick lamp. Not only are they beautiful and easy to maintain, but they’re also incredibly simple to make and customize.

The Standing Wick Lamp

This style is made from any water-tight dish/saucer/bowl/tray that can take the heat (sturdy ceramic is just fine), a wick, and a length of thick wire. The wire is twisted into a short spiral that holds the wick, spiraled around a few times to form a base that will keep the wick upright, and then bent to form a decorative handle from which charms or beads may be hung. This can of course be more complicated if you like – I’ve seen some gorgeous version with one wire being wrapped in such a way that it supports multiple wicks. This lamp needs to be tended very regularly to monitor fuel and heat levels, and as such is not the best choice for a perpetual flame.

Image

A simple version of this lamp, with a copper wire wick holder in a shallow bowl.

The Floating Wick Lamp

The floating wick lamp gets its name from the way the wick floats inside the oil, unlike the supported type where it lays on the bottom of the vessel.

The vessel for this lamp can be any water-tight container, including glass as well as ceramic or metal. Ideally, this type of lamp needs something narrower than it is tall to allow the water and oil to level out. Cylindrical shapes are perfect – most of the purchased styles have cylindrical glass liners inside the perhaps fancifully-shaped metal sheath.

The container is filled about half-way with water (and sometimes a few pinches of blessed salt), and then filled the rest of the way with oil. The wick is either threaded through a floating cork topped by a metal shield or suspended by a metal wick holder braced on either side of the vessel (often called an “Old Believer” holder – see third picture below). The metal wick holder can be purchased or can be made from twisted wire, ceramic, or metal. You can even make one out of wood if you cover the top in a layer of foil.

Floating wick lamps are very safe as the water prevents the lamp from overheating and puts out the wick should the lamp be accidentally tipped or run out of fuel. It’s also the best choice for lamps that will burn for long periods of time – with the right kind of wick it can burn 12-18 hours before it requires tending.

If you want to buy a ready-made lamp you can get ones that stand on tables or hang from walls and ceilings. You can also get a peg-type container that is designed to fit inside of a taper holder, which makes it look more like a goblet and gives more height.

Image

Various styles of floating wick lamps.

Wicks

All of these lamps use loosely woven cotton or hemp wicks – standard woven round wicks will do very well, or you can make your own from cotton mop heads. Fiberglass wicks are too tight to allow the thick olive oil to penetrate. Wicks must be saturated with the oil before they will burn properly. Occasionally trimming the charred part from the end of the burning wick will ensure that the wick continues to burn evenly. My favorite source for wicking caters to Eastern Orthodox Christians and charges less than $5 for over a year’s worth of wicking. (I’ve been experimenting with making my own wicking, but I’ve not come up with anything superior.)

To maintain a perpetual flame, the lamp flame can be used to light a candle or other lamp. The wick in the primary lamp can then be trimmed or whatever, and the lit candle can then “return” the flame to the lamp.

Making Your Own Oil Lamps

As I mentioned above, both lamp styles are incredibly simple to make and require a minimum of specialized tools.

The next post in this series will be a step-by-step tutorial (with pictures!) of how to make a standing wick lamp. The post after that will be the same type of thing for floating wick lamps. The final post of this four post series will discuss tips and techniques for using the lamp you’ve made.

So stay tuned!

Trusting the Powers

I’d been working with my Lady exclusively for 15 years before I officially dedicated myself to Her service. It wasn’t a fear of commitment, exactly. I was perfectly willing to commit to Her. She’s amazing. And if She’d changed Her mind later about working with me I would have understood and carried on – I’ve done it before and survived it perfectly well, thank you.

I simply couldn’t imagine why She would ever want to commit to me. Even before I knew which end of an athame was sharp I knew that Her accepting me into Her service established a two-way relationship, gave Her responsibilities to me as well as me to Her. Why the hell would She want to do that? I was so convinced that She wouldn’t want to bother with me that I didn’t listen to Her when She said that relationship was exactly what She was going for.

So W/we did this whole “together until one of U/us wants to bail” thing. That’s as far as I would let it go. Until I woke up one otherwise unremarkable morning filled with the knowledge that Her admittedly vast patience with my hesitance was gone and it was time to step it up. Ok then. Through an interesting game of deity telephone with multiple people I wound up naked in a ritual while a trusted top beat the hell out of me with everything from a flogger to a damn boat oar. He’s creative and has quite the toy box, so who knows what else was involved by the end? I certainly wasn’t tracking!

Image

I can pretty much guarantee no kitchen sinks were involved. Otherwise? No clue.

At the time I had a hellaciously high pain tolerance, but this wasn’t a scene and there was little to no warm up. It was rough from the get-go. Rough in more than one sense, actually. I’m very musically cued, so the soundtrack for this ritual was a playlist of songs that pulled up every painful emotional thing I had gone through during my entire time with Her, including the 2 years I spent in Florida recovering from what was essentially a mental breakdown. The pain of this ritual wasn’t just physical, it was deliberately emotionally painful too.

I was sobbing within 5 minutes. The soundtrack was over an hour long.

I thought when we started that the point of the ritual was simply to endure it, to show that I was strong enough to serve Her, to earn my place. (Because obviously I had to earn a place with Her. It’s not like She could have wanted me as-is. *rolls eyes*) Every time I was driven to my knees I got back up to take more, getting more and more pissed at myself and my “weakness” as the time crawled past.

Image

And no, Chumbawamba was not on my playlist. What a missed opportunity!

Near the end of the playlist – and my endurance – I got knocked down again. Except this time, instead of getting pissed at myself I got pissed at Her. How much more did She want from me? I very clearly remember snarling out loud “Well dammit! I could REALLY use some FUCKING help here, since I’m doing all this for You anyway!!!”

I didn’t feel another blow for the remaining 10ish minutes. She took them instead. My body moved under the force of the blows, but every muscle in my body instantly relaxed and my breathing immediately leveled out. I couldn’t even hear much of the music anymore. I was wrapped in Her, in contentment and peace, and standing there to finish off that soundtrack was suddenly no more difficult than standing in line during a high wind.

During that entire 10 minute period I also felt Her satisfaction and relief. As the soundtrack ran out and the blows stopped coming I realized – FINALLY – that She didn’t want a demonstration of my endurance. She knew how good my endurance was. My endurance was part of the problem.

She wanted my trust. She wanted me to lean on Her, to rely on Her to hear my prayers at night and still be there in the morning. She wanted me, needed me, to have enough faith in myself to have faith in Her. The whole damn ritual was Her last-ditch effort to get that through to me. Waking up the next morning bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, with hardly a mark on me and no soreness to speak of, was the cherry on the top of my “Aren’t I a Clueless Mess?” sundae.

It’s true that in some cases bruises really do teach best. But I’d like to help others avoid that, if I can. Hence this post.

Let’s start at the beginning. What is trust?

The dictionary definition of trust is a “reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety, etc,. of a person or thing; confidence”. It then goes on to define trust as the “confident expectation of something; hope”.

At the time I relied on no one but myself. I didn’t have enough confidence in myself to feel confident in trusting others to be there for me – why would they? The few people that I had relied on throughout my life to that point had all abandoned me for one reason or another, and I didn’t have any real hope that the trend would change. Even with a goddess. Maybe especially with a goddess. I mean, wasn’t She busy with more important things than me? So I managed myself and figured She’d let me know if She needed me for anything else.

That whole attitude had some unintended consequences. I didn’t expect Her to magickally fix my life, which was good. But it never crossed my mind that She might want to make things better for me, so it never occurred to me to ask for help in the first place. That effectively tied Her hands – She respected me and my own agency more than I respected myself, and that limited my relationship with Her. Even more, that “I am an island” attitude trickled into every relationship I had with all the other Powers. I didn’t give Anyone any openings to make O/our relationships a partnership.

After literally getting my ass kicked enough to see the problem I realized this isn’t where I wanted things to be. I had to fix it.

Image

The Powers will catch us, as long as trust Them enough to fall. Without our trust They just stand there. Waiting. Tapping Their feet. I’m damned lucky my Lady knew me well enough not to push!

How do we develop trust in Them?

There are a couple of things I had to do to really start trusting the Powers. Maybe these will apply to you and maybe they won’t, but here are the steps I took. (And wow does it look neater in a nicely numbered list than it did when I was living it!)

1)      Start at the Center.

I talk about this a lot. When in doubt, when hurt or lost or confused, go to your Center and reassess. (Don’t know where your Center is? Check out this post.) It applies here too – it’s hard to figure out how you relate to O/others when you don’t know how you relate to yourself.

When I went back to my Center I had to figure a few things out. I knew I had trust issues. Those trust issues were a defense mechanism, but for what exactly? I needed to figure out what they were defending me against. Once I figured that out I could then assess whether those defenses were still useful and address them accordingly.

The absolute core of everything was this idea of abandonment. I figured that anyone I counted on would leave me, either physically or emotionally, the second I began depending on them. Worse yet, they’d leave without notice – leaving my routine-dependent self scrambling to fill whatever niche they left vacant.

I can’t even say this was an irrational fear, since I have a long list I can point to for reference. And since the only common denominator between all those people was me, then obviously they must have all left because of something I did. In most cases I had no idea what that could have been (although WOW did I have theories), but there it was.

This led to me being more distant from others than I think I would have been otherwise. *shrug* If I wasn’t close to them, it wouldn’t hurt so much when they left. I also had a distinct lack of confidence in my own charm/awesomeness/lovability, because nothing intrinsically “me” had been enough to make people stick around before. To keep them around I had to be more than just me – I had to become indispensable. They couldn’t leave if they needed me, right?

It’s not like all of those issues were limited to my human interactions. Oh, no, that would be way too easy. They influenced my interactions with the Powers too. As a handy example, it’s exactly this line of thought that led to my needing the dedication ritual I talked about at the beginning of this post.

Once I figured all of that out – and it took time – everything came down to one simple question: was protecting myself from future hurt more important to me than building my relationships with the Powers?

I won’t lie. For awhile protecting myself was more important. My armor was what I needed to be functional at the time. Not that I sat on my hands or anything. I spent that time stabilizing myself, anchoring my Center, finding and exploring my purpose. Once I had enough of an anchor that reaching out no longer seemed so scary those relationships with the Powers felt more necessary. I’d just needed to do the prep work.

2)      Ditch “blind faith” in favor of actions.

Those of us who grew up in monotheistic faiths were told, again and again, things like “God will provide”. I was, at least. I heard that as a kid as I once again shoved my clothes in a trash bag for yet another move, and I heard it when we were trying to feed 5 people on $20 a week, and I heard it when I tore ligaments in my ankle and my mom couldn’t afford to take me to the doc-in-a-box for a few days to get it taken care of. “God will provide” always had this underlying subtext of “because we certainly can’t”. We turned to God when we had no other options. And every time I missed school to take care of my little sister because my mom was too blitzed to care I once again saw it demonstrated that God didn’t provide, and that if I personally couldn’t cover it then there was no certainty anyone else could or would bother to.

If blind faith without follow-through worked for me I’d still be monotheist. That didn’t change when I started working with my Lady. I didn’t give Her everything from the get-go. I couldn’t. By the time She came to me I didn’t know how.

What I could do, though, was extend just enough trust to cover one thing. That was plenty challenging to start with! When I worked through my issues and stumbled over something in my head that triggered me, something that made me cry or made me rage or made me shut down completely, I turned to Her. I trusted Her to be with me when I worked through all the reasons I couldn’t have Her in my life.

Every time She did the equivalent of petting my hair and murmuring to me I felt a little safer, a little better, a little more valued and loved. And just barely brave enough to keep spelunking in my own dark places.

Image

There are monsters hiding in the dark. *shiver*

Gradually I started trusting Her with other things. And She delivered. Trust wasn’t given over in one go, it was built step-by-step. The first time I argued with Her I knew it was over. I just knew She’d walk away and find someone that was less trouble. When She actually listened to me, took what I said into account, and was happy that I’d stood up for myself? I was dumbfounded. I had absolutely no idea what to do with that.

Image

Me, afterwards.

I think that moment was when W/we turned the corner. She earned my trust, action by action, brick by brick. Now it’s hard for me to imagine not trusting Her – it would be like not trusting gravity. And with that kind of stability I found reaching out beyond Her and trusting others a much easier prospect.

3)      Let Powers you trust vouch for Powers you don’t know yet.

As a polytheist I know each Power as individual and distinct, like people. And on the whole I still work from the premise that people are generally not to be trusted. That carries over when I engage the Powers.

What’s different now is that I trust my Lady implicitly. When She asks me to work with Someone I trust Her to have vetted Them. By vouching for Them She knowingly risks my hard-earned trust in Her. And since I trust that She values the relationship we’ve built, and I can always count on Her support, I have the confidence to do as She asks. After all, even if something happens with that relationship my Lady is always there to support me and help me if I need it. Having not had that kind of dependability before, realizing I had it was life-changing.

How does trusting Them change things?

A willingness to trust has made the relationships I have with the Powers possible. Once I trusted my Lady I was able to extend at least a willingness to trust to other Powers. Once They proved trustworthy (and my Lady was super-careful in the beginning to make sure They would) it became even easier to branch out. Even to other people!

There are now several Powers in addition to my Lady that I gladly work with, that I’ll go out on a limb for, because They’ve proven They’ll back me up if necessary. A few can even vouch for Others and have that taken into account. That’s so far from where I started it’s in another universe.

I still have some trust issues, true. I’m gradually working through them, and I will be for the foreseeable future. But I would never have started the process at all without my Lady “encouraging” me to, and working through them has brought me closer to Her than I’d ever dreamed possible. My Center is more solid, I actually feel balanced more often than not, and I’ve grown through my interactions with Them in uncountable ways.

All of this growth comes from that one specific dedication ritual years ago. In my case bruises might not teach best, but they certainly did open me up to the lesson!