Wednesday, January 26, 2011

"I hear from afar things whispering...

How small is what we contend with a fight;
how great what contends with us;"

My soul is wrapped - dreamlike - in the symbolism of things; each by it's nature offering a blessing or a curse. It comforts me to know the meaning of things: that birch twigs bring babies, that salt drives away devil, crows call in blessings, and strange dogs steal them away. These little mysteries fill my life with tiny signposts. If I allowed them to grow large, they would swallow faith in fear and become Superstition, but small the serve to remind me that the whole world is a mystery - pointing always to the great mystery of God.

Superstition is a dangerous and overwhelming habit. It makes objects into idols and pits the will of man agianst God. Superstition forgets that God made all things in love, it offers man only a sad faith, "where all would fold their fingers out of fear" (Rilke), in hopes of placating a god who cannot love, a god who is bound to ritual. Though superstition itself is an evil, the way of watching the world that often accompanies it - seeing the symbolism of things, is not. It is good and natural to hear God whisper promises through His creation, to try to understand the living parable. This way of seeing avoids superstition by remaining small and submissive. It absorbs into the Christian life like balm, soothing our rough patches with the reminder of divine mystery, and divine love.


  1. I keep thinking about this (sorry it's taken me so long to comment!) I just have almost no acquaintance with these ideas whatsoever. But I'm interested, and your differentiations are making me think a lot. It totally makes sense that the symbolism would be comforting, and I'm wholly in favor of having some mystery in with our knowledge.

  2. Oh Lord, teach me how to strike this balance!

    We've lost so much of this beauty in mystery from the middle ages. It's hard for me to justify to fellow Christians and even myself the indulgence of this necessity. I think a huge part of my hesitance is that I don't want to be mistaken by Pagans for a Pagan, for them to say, "well, she thinks she's Catholic, but she's just bound by the patriarchal norms when in her heart she is secretly a feminist, new age druid."

    Blahblahblah. As if they could know better than me! I hatehatehate that. :P

  3. I've never had that problem (lucky me!), even when I was into paganism..I think it's because neo-paganism is so different from true paganism that neo pagans don't always recognize the reference.

    It is hard, though to explain, especially when I'm doing something that seems to hover on the borderline a bit, and so many things I love are very borderline - image-wise.

    Last month, at my daughter's first birthday we had one - at the first birthday, the baby 'chooses' for the future, either a shot glass, a rosary, or a coin. Yarrow picked the rosary, which, I think, is the only reason my mother-in-law was ok with the whole ritual.

    Or, we have an Infant of Prague with a quarter taped to his back (for prosperity, or, in our case, stability :). It was my mother's when she was young, and definitely worked for her :) but she's less comfortable with all the old ways now, I think.

    Now, I want to write another post on all the Catholic "superstitions" I do, or at least, the ones that come to mind.

  4. It's true, neo-paganism and paganism are not the same.

    I'd venture to say "intention" has a lot to do with it. You can have the same ritual and superstition, but for some person it means personal power and dark, secret ways, while for another person, it means throwing all their faith into God and believing that He has infused all things with meaning and mystery.

    Maybe? Those are just my sudden thoughts.

  5. EXACTLY!! You are 100% right! This is what I'm always trying to say, and somehow, either the words fail or else they just don't want to hear them, but it comes out wrong.

    I had a fantastic confessor at one point, though, who told me I was fine. I cherish that man.