Ode to Father Ocean, 1 (for Summer Solstice 2016)

In the quiet breath of midnight
I shall tiptoe softly
upon sand and rock and scrub
to stand at the edge of You
until the soft sighing of Your waves
match the cadence of my heartbeat.

In the bright sun of morning
I will gather reeds close to me
my hands, deft and clumsy both
shall work upon them long
and when they are proper braids and ropes
I shall offer them to Your depths.

On the day the sun stands still
while we celebrate summer and light and heat
I do not forget this is the beginning of Your time.
Every night You stretch longer, each day You squeeze tighter
drawing us closer ever to Your embrace in winter.
I will offer to you, I will pray: let it remain steady, a slow decline into icier times
Let it stay gentle and soft; do not plunge us in the deep end
without letting us get our feet wet.

And tho I offer to You and pray for Your gentleness
I do not reject Your harsher sides.
The storm, the tempest, the tsunami
the chilly ice water that freezes heart and bone
the depths that house nightmare creatures
and a graveyard for the foolish.

You are my Father, and You are all of these things
multicolored, shining like abalone in the sunlight.
I do not box You into good or bad or gentle or harsh
for You contain multitudes
and it is Your many colors that have taught me
the depth of my own emotions is not something to fear.

So I do not fear You, Father Ocean.
I raise my voice and hands in praise of You.

Praise be to the deep saltiness
from which life arises
and where it will go to end.

Praise be to the sandy shallows
where we might splash and play
and worship in joyfulness.

Praise be to the tidepools,
and the infinitely colorful
variety of the life therein.

Praise be to the water cycle,
to the rains and the mists
to the clouds that bring ocean water to our crops.

Praise be to Thee, Father Ocean
to the movements that shape rock and erode doubt
to the slow and gentle change
that is nonetheless more powerful
than any mortal can fathom.

Praise be to Thee, Father Ocean, Uncle Sea
Let us learn to love You well.

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The ocean on a cloudy day. In the distance you can see a ferry and the Statue of Liberty.

30 Days of Hymns, the Sacred Triad, Manannan #3: travel/passage

Greetings to you, Lord upon the Water
How shall I pay my fare?
For I seek passage
across your territory
that I might speak with those I love
Shall I pay you in shells and woven reeds
collected and given with all the devotion of my heart?
Shall I place sand dollars upon my closed eyes
that you may take payment when I finally join you?
What shall I pay to travel safely, O Lord?
Tell me what it is your heart desires
and I will do whatever is within my mortal range of power
to grant your wish.

Greetings to you, Lord of Ferries
As I embark on this journey
a common one for one who lives where I do
I pray to you to keep me safe
in offering I drop holy water
and part of a cinnamon roll
off the edge of the boat
dodging being seen by ferry workers
modern humans who do not understand
my devotion to the water we travel across.

Greetings to you, God of Transitions
to you I offer thanks
for wrapping me in your cloak
when I needed to not be seen
by those who could not handle the changes
I was going through
for carrying me when I could not hold myself up
when my transition rendered useless all the ways of being
I had come to know
for showing me where to put my feet
when I regrew them and could move again
for showing me the next step
as I moved from one stage of life to the next
You have always been there, O Lord, and you will remain there still
helping me from stage to stage
until I breathe my last
and need you to carry me one last time

O Lord of Change
Deep and steady as the ocean itself
Let me sing my gratitude to you
in payment for my safe passage
Let my devotion
pay my fare
Let me breathe for you
love for you
live for you
until the day comes
that I might die
and meet you

Lord Upon the Water
King of the Ferries
let my love bear me
to your side
let my love sing your praises
that others may know you
let my love carry you, O Lord
as you have always carried me
through all my harshest
transitions.


30 Days of Hymns: The Sacred Triad

30 Days of Hymns, the Sacred Triad, Manannan #2: The Land of the Dead

Hail to the Deep One
the Lord of the Land Beyond
Guardian of the Final Passage
hail to you, in your many forms
When my eyes close, o Lord, let me see a new world in the darkness
When my breath slows, o Lord, let your breath carry me across the waters
When again my eyes open, o Lord, and I look from the vision of one no longer living
let me see your land
an island in the sea
dappled by golden light
that comes from your very heart
When my feet touch the ground, o Lord, let them feel springy loam
bright green moss between my toes
let the peace of the land
flow upwards through my soles
let it let me know I am finally home
When I breathe again, o Lord, let me breathe in the scent of apples
an orchard of knowledge
before me
let my breath never hitch on the knife in my lungs
let my breath be as smooth as the ocean that envelops us
And when I open my arms again, o Lord, let them be filled with all the ones I loved the most
let me be comforted and never alone
When I come to your home, o Lord, when I arrive at the land of the dead
let me not miss the land of the living
take from me my sorrow and my struggle
let me be at peace
in a land filled with apples
and all my loves
And when it is time for me to leave again, o Lord, let my leaving be quiet
a small blip in an otherwise calm existence
let my journey be swift
and let me awaken in a life
that lets me know your glory and your grace
Guardian of the Land Beyond
Lord of the Final Passage
Hail to you, Deep One
in all your many forms
may my life be long
so I may make myself ready
for our journey
across the waves.


30 Days of Hymns: The Sacred Triad

 

A person wearing a dress and tights holds a basket of red-green apples in a field. You cannot see above the person's waist. They have red painted nails.

30 Days of Hymns, Manannan Mac Lir #1: Apples

Hail to the Lord of the Land of Apples
High Priest of Avalon
Father to the Lost
let me honor you
in quiet simplicity
let me taste the fruit of knowledge
let me dive into the Mystery
let me know what I’m ready for
let the truth be a balm,
calming my stormy skies
let me find comfort in the hardy flesh
of your sacred fruit
teach me how to calm the dead, o Lord
teach me how to grow apples
out of discord and strife
teach me to bring peace to the afterlife
let the ancestors gather around my apple tree
let me share with them
the food that straddles the realms
teach me to cook a meal for the lost
the hungry
the downtrodden
let them know a parent’s love
in a slice of apple pie
teach me the secrets of comfort food, o Lord
that I may be a better priestess to you
Hail, High Priest of Avalon
Father to the Lost
Praises be upon you,
Lord of Apples.


30 Days of Hymns: The Sacred Triad

 

Ancestor Days: for Oma

Five years ago in August, my Oma, my mother’s mother, passed peacefully beyond the veil.

She had been sick for 4 years at that point. They didn’t find out it was leukemia until the only option was palliative care. Moving into hospice care was really astounding for her — here she could ask for pain relief, and she would receive it. Finally, after four years of hell — after four years of asking us to help end her life — she could be in peace, pain-free, in her final days.

I don’t actually remember the exact day she died. It was a whirlwind few days of getting the call, packing a bag, rushing to make the last ferry, driving down to Nanaimo, catching the early morning ferry the next day after a couple hours sleep on my couch at the place I was set to inhabit as soon as I could leave mom’s place, where I’d been watching things while she spent time with her mother at the hospice — all so I could see Oma’s body, and say goodbye before she was cremated.

Death isn’t real to me until I’ve seen the body. It was true when Blue died, and it was true for Oma too.

The grief came in waves, weirdly hitting me at inappropriate times. The truth was, we’d been grieving her for four years already. She’d come so close to Death’s door so many times in those years that we weren’t really convinced it had actually happened when it finally did. The Thanksgiving after we sat, sadly with Opa around the table, and I kept expecting Oma to wander down the hall in her short-stepped walk, remarking on the good smells from the kitchen, and how lucky she was to have a daughter who would cook for her.

I still sometimes expect to hear her voice in a phone call. And today, I got the urge to call her and wish her “Happy birthday, Oma!” She would have been 98.

In her final hours, she kept asking my mom if she’d been a good person; if Mom thought she would get into heaven. We didn’t really realize how deep her religious streak went, as she’d sort of removed herself from religious identity once she met Opa (a staunch anti-theist). “Of course you will, Mam, of course,” Mom replied, and she was 100% honest. We both believe that. Whatever the afterlife holds for our non-Protestant souls, if there even is one, we truly believe Oma made her way into heaven, and that she truly deserves the happiness that afterlife brings her.

Whatever your heaven is like, Oma, may it have lots of chocolate and books (including mine, which was published a year too late for you to see it — I know you’d be proud). May you be able to keep up on the achievements of your loved ones, and may you stick your chest out with pride in that way we always found incredibly embarrassing but also very endearing. May your pains, physical and emotional, be eased; may you be reunited with those you lost. May you sit with Gerry and Jake and Gerry’s first wife and Ariel and play Scrabble or Mah Jongg, and may the rules be adjusted so everyone can have a good time; may you laugh and talk about your long lives together, and apart, and may all jealousies be eased; may death bring friendship in unlikely places. May you be greeted by Ariel and Jake when you arrive, and may you get as many chances as you need to tell your daughter how much she means to you; may you get as many chances as you need to tell Jake everything you wanted him to know.
And if your other loved ones get different afterlives, may there be a good transit system so you can all visit each other.
An animated gif of a candle flame in darkness.
Image by Ramon de Souza. Used under a Creative Commons license.

I love you, Oma. I will never stop missing you, or thinking about you. I hope you know that, and I hope you know how much you inspired me, and how I wouldn’t be as successful as I am if it weren’t for you.

For you, Oma, on today, your birthday, your Ancestor Day — for you, I say my prayers to my Lord Manannan, that you are watched over and loved, and kept cherished and safe, in death as we tried to for you in life.

30 Days of Deity Devotion, Day 1: A brief introduction

There’s a lot to be said about Manannan mac Lir, both from a historical perspective and from the perspective of personal experience. I’m going to speak from personal experience, because that’s best what I can write about.

Manannan is…a trickster. He loves to joke, to laugh; laughter is huge with Him. Reverence comes packaged with mirth when you adore Manannan. He finds it hilarious and appropriate that my playlist for Him has the Mahna Mahna song from the Muppets on it (to which I sing “Manannanan!”).

He is a lord of storms, the ocean, the rain, the weather, and I feel His presence often because I live in a place where rain is exceedingly common, as well as being on the coast. I’ve always adored thunderstorms, even when I was little. I think that’s not coincidence.

Manannan is a very loving god, and He’s described by various people as sort of wanting to be everyone’s foster-uncle. That’s not the relationship He has with everyone, of course, but He definitely is a god who will want to comfort you when you’re down; who wants to be there for you. For me, He’s a father; for others, He’s an uncle; for some, a brother; for others still He is a lover. But regardless the relationship, what I often hear from other followers/devotees/mortal-relatives of Manannan is that He is a god who really does care about you, who really does love you. And He desires the same sort of love that humans desire, which makes Him pretty relatable to me.

But He’s scary, too. He feels anger, He feels disappointment (which I honestly think is worse to be on the receiving end of), and He’s (in my mind) the god of death. He comforts those grieving, yes, but He also takes the dead away. He’s a guardian between the realm of the living and the realm of the dead. Logically, I don’t feel any fear of death, but emotionally…there are mysteries I’m not ready for.

He’s like the ocean, in that way. In the shallows you can play and have fun and enjoy yourself and feel comforted. The deeper you get out, the scarier it gets, the more dangerous, the more unknown. I’ve come to understand the ocean as a chthonic realm through my relationship with Manannan. There’s a sense of understanding when it comes to underground spaces — they may be scary, but for the most part, we understand them. There’s so much about the ocean we’ve yet to discover. It’s much more an Underworld, in my view.

And He’s more than just Manannan; while I interact with Him mostly as that side, I get the sense that He slides into other roles easily, or sometimes is both at once: Manannan mac Lir, Manannan beg mac y Lir, Manawydan fab Llyr. Deity individuation isn’t the same as mortal individuation, and sometimes He’s all of these, or one, or two, or something else entirely. And I can’t really articulate it beyond that. (For the most part, though, I’m talking about Manannan mac Lir. I think.)

He is the ocean and the storm and the transition between life and death. And He’s warmth and love and comfort.

He’s my father, and I love Him.

-Morag