On a recent trip with the Amazons to the Goddess Temple of Orange County, I witnessed the making of a Goddess. Not a humunculus, not a meditational deity, nor a visualization. I witnessed the making of a real, flesh-blood-spirit Goddess. It was one of the most profound experiences of my life.
Perhaps some back story is in order here, eh?
We enjoyed a glorious visit with our sisters there: Temple founder and Presiding Priestess Rev. Ava Park, First Priestess Morrighan, the Naiads and Votresses. We love our sisters and have so much respect for what they do at the Temple. And after this visit, we grew even more in loving regard for them.
During Sunday Services, the lights were gentle in the lush Sanctuary and all of the women were performing delicate ritual enactments at the various altars. Rev. Ava carried the Temple's statue of Bast into the sanctuary. This statue of Bast is beautiful, gilt with gold, adorned with jewelry, in standing position. It is the statue that watches over the Temple at the front door as women enter. Halting the customary ritual proceedings, Rev. Ava invited Kismet up to the main altar.
Rev. Ava asked Kismet to place her hands on the shoulders of the statue, and spoke to the congregation about life, about sisterhood, about how precious and blessed we are to be able to witness one another's passages and journeys. Then, using the powers of her will, voice, and love, she magnificently conferred Kismet's life imprint into the statue of Bast, joyfully and triumphantly declaring that as long as the Temple stands (and may She stand forever!), this statue would henceforth be known and revered at the Temple as "Bast-Kismet, Kismet-Bast!"
The world over, there are stories of royalty and other humans taking the name of a deity or aligning with a deity to assert a cult of divine right. (I'm thinking right now of Cleopatra's alignment with Isis, but perhaps some of my more scholarly friends can offer some better examples.) There are stores of deities merging with one another in name and energy, such as Pallas-Athene. Sometimes these mergings suggest a historical colonization process, sometimes a spiritual evolution of understanding in a given geographic area.
But on this Sunday morning, in one of the holiest places I have ever been with some of the holiest women I have ever known, I came once again into a particular awareness of how a Goddess comes to be in myth and legend.
Because we decide so, and then tell the stories to each other.
My first aware encounter with this knowing was at the age of 19, when my next door neighbor, a Methodist Minister, said to me, "He was a wise man who invented God." (This quote is attributed to Plato, but I did not go very far down that Rabbit hole of research to see about all that.)
I have honored this knowing in my own Coven, where each of us dedicates ourselves to being the representatives of our various deities on Earth, being sure to have altars well-tended and propitiated, being sure to host rituals and do good deeds in their names, keeping them alive with our honoring energies.
There, in the Sanctuary, this knowing came upon me again, afresh. Each Naiad Priestess stepped up and whispered in Kismet's ear as she stood, holding the statue, swaying with tears, "Sister, you are so brave...You have always been one of my favorite people...I love you...You are so beautiful...You will always be in my heart." Rev. Ava embraced Kismet, whispering, "Ever since the first time I saw you, I knew I would love you forever." Then, each of the Amazons present, with not a dry eye anywhere, stepped up and offered her blessings, kissing Kismet's cheeks, petting her pink hair, weeping and hugging her. Branwen took one knee, in soldierly fashion, and gave Kismet a ring and a level oath: "I.will.always.remember.you." Iris, who has chosen to tend to the spirit of Kismet's deceased son, Parker, whispered quietly words of comfort and honor. Yansumi and Kismet hugged and wept. I cannot remember what I said when it was my turn, as I was very busy trying to remember what everyone else was saying and doing so I could tell Kismet about it later.
Rev. Ava's voice arose, gently, and the hips in the room started to sway, "She changes everything She touches and everything She touches changes..." We slowly circled Kismet, each woman in attendance offering her a blessing, a bow, an act of homage as we chanted, "Bast-Kismet, Kismet-Bast!"
Kismet offered a few heartfelt words, quietly through her sobs from a place deep within, "I have had such a hard life. I used to hate the Goddess for taking my son and for all of my pain, but coming to CAYA and my sisters changed all that. I love Bast. She has healed me."
Kismet's tears WERE so healing on that day, for all of us. I feel it safe to say that for many who love Kismet, we still do not always know what to say to her, or how. Truly, what words can possibly be comfort for the losses and pain Kismet has suffered in her life? What polite response could possibly convey the raw realness of this journey she is on? But in Ava's ever-present wisdom, she gave us a great gift of "permission to speak freely." And acknowledging that a life can be well-lived, full of lessons and joy amidst the pain, was Bast's great gift to Kismet and to us all. Isn't this consistent with Bast's message in Her rites at Bubastis? "Cast off your pain, toil, and woe, even just for today. Cast off your roles, responsibilities and accomplishments, and revel in the music of being alive!"
And so, after the tears, we reveled. We sang songs of joy. We laughed. Kismet's soul blossomed with a new peace, a new presence. Bast-Kismet, Kismet-Bast.
Getting in the car for our 7-hour ride home. We were all stunned and throbbing from this powerful weekend, this revolutionary ceremony. Rev. Ava kissed me good-bye. "No words," she said. We bowed our retreat, ensouled with the vibrancy of the Temple once more.
In the car, riding home, Brenda said, "I'm thinking about how there will be women who will only ever know of that Goddess as Kismet-Bast, and how when Kismet is gone we will bring offerings to her at the Temple." I said, "There will be women who cannot for the life of them understand why we bring offerings of cigarettes and pink hair dye to the Temple!" And we laughed and cried again. And said, "But not today."
A few days later, we had a Ritual Service planning meeting for CAYA. Kismet was feeling up to it, so she came to the meeting. I walked out of my office in time to hear her saying, "I don't understand why y'all aren't bowing and getting me stuff. I AM a Goddess, now, after all." Kismet- to me you have been a Goddess all along.
In my personal view of the Divine, this is how it works: if we do not remember the gods, they die for lack of attention. Perhaps they wither off and become skinny spectres. When we revere them, they become full and juicy on our adoration, and the energetic current of co-creation is palpable in the connection. If they become too engorged with power, they can get demanding and unreasonable. If they get hungry, they can be sullen. Just like humans. In my cosmology, the whole Universe is a grand experiment in the co-creative power of a shared illusion between various states of being, and our decisive choices and view inform our reality. Thus, believing in gods makes them real. And the more real they are to us, the more real we are to them. If it is mutually chosen, the connection between spirit of a person and an actual person can be retained in relationship, as an ancestor, as a deity, as a tutelary spirit, as an imaginary friend. Call it what you will, but all of them rely on a particular type of belief feeling that doesn't have a precise name and transcends all cultures. When we Amazons watched our sister Kismet become a Goddess at the Temple, I had that nameless feeling. A Goddess was created in our midst, in realtime. It happened. I know this to be true, 100%. Why? Because we decided it was so. And so it is. And here I am, now, telling the story. That is how myths begin.
Hail, Bast-Kismet, Kismet-Bast!