Sunday, September 13, 2009

The New Seminary - The First Class

My first class was yesterday, Saturday September 12th, 2009. What a day it was!

Farnham and I hopped out of bed (okay, okay, we sort of rolled and then shuffled a lot, but who's editing this piece??) at 4:15am. By 4:45am, we had coffee, a packed lunch with snacks, and I had showered. We were on the road, travelling from southern New Hampshire to New York City. I admit that the first part of the ride was pretty much a haze - I don't do well before the first coffee or 10am, whichever comes first. At 5am, NOTHING comes easy for me. Well, except sleep...

We got to The New Seminary at 8:30am, pretty much on the dot. We were a half hour early, but had the potential to be very, very late if traffic had gummed up anywhere. We waited outside for a while, then he helped me take my books and lunch upstairs for class. I was very excited, very nervous, and extremely happy. It's been a long time since I enjoyed a "first day of school" and I rode the high of this one as long as I could.

I met other students (including one in New Hampshire, not so very far from me), talked to my teachers and deans, and shook hands with the directors. At 9:30am, class started, Farnham left, and I found myself sitting on a chair with no shoes on, listening as Dean Deb began her morning prayer.

We did some interesting "getting to know you" exercises that turned out to be a lot more about getting to know ourselves. The energy in the room was very high, and even I found it a bit ... I don't want to say oppressive, because that gives a negative connotation, and nothing about this experience was negative. I felt as if I were sitting in a pressure canner, and all the air was pumping out. Not right or wrong, just very intense!

We did a nice meditation, and then took time to jot some things down on a piece of paper. My notes are somewhat garbled for anyone who wasn't there, but I will describe my own experience.

We engaged in meditation, and I found myself in my long-ago made altar room in my mind. The thick, stone walls were as warm and solid as ever, and no dust covered any of the nooks and crannies. I found that interesting, sort of in passing, because when I don't go to my inner meditation/altar room for a while (and I haven't - it's been well over a year!), it begins to look dusty and neglected. This time it did not - it was pristine. I feel a small amount of pride about that.

In place of the heavy stone altar that usually resided in the north, there was an altar of bright, flawless marble, pure white and shining with an inner glow. It had veins of golden color through it, but mostly I noticed the white, and the brightness of the light emmanating from it. None of my usual altar tools were on it. Instead, it bore a single silver chalice, not large, not ornate. It was quite plain, and it is not a chalice I've used or envisioned before.

I was thrown off a bit by the use of the directions and correspondences at TNS, as theirs are vastly different from my own. At first, I found my hackles going up - the warm, the familiar was not there. But I realized I was there to learn about different ways of doing things, and this was not MY ceremony but THEIRS, and I needed to "shut up and learn." I quickly got over the confusion, though I still am unsure of the reasoning behind the directions being called as they were. I need to ask about that at some point.

In my hands, I found an old, very beautiful blown glass bowl. This is an altar item that has been in that particular sacred space for... oh, about 16 years. Maybe more. At one point, that item was broken, within the sacred space, and though I kept the pieces in my mind's eye, they were never reunited. Seeing the bowl in one piece, with not a mark on it, was VERY surprising.

I filled the bowl with my fears. I tried to fit them all in, but a few "ran out" the sides. I tried not to worry about it (yet another fear), but instead put the full bowl onto the altar, an offering to my gods. Once my hands left the bowl, it was empty. I am hopeful that my gods will hold those fears, keeping them for me until I no longer need them at all, and can let them go completely.

The empty space within me I asked to be filled with confidence. As I jotted down in the faint pencil, "Not bravado or white knuckle courage but true confidence in my own abilities."

The ritual we did after was a true opening for me. The oil on my palms felt like a physical connection between myself, my teachers, and my fellow students. The faint scent of the oil was refreshing, slightly grounding (a good thing, as emotions were running high, for me at least), and not overpowering. I felt empowered, energized, and a part of something much larger than myself. I felt great.

Later on, Rabbi Ross gave us each an acorn from his tree at his home. One of the large trees had been dying, and its last year it produced thousands of acorns, a last attempt to reproduce itself before it passed from this life. When I reached into the bowl and pulled out my acorn, it happened to be a double acorn! The two caps are melded together, grown that way quite solidly. The nuts themselves are completely separate. I picked twins, so appropriate for me, I think. I smiled to myself a lot during this part of the class, because I had just put a bunch of hand picked acorns from our own forest, onto the new altar for Artemis.

We were instructed to put our acorns onto our altars or in a shrine. I have decided that rather than just put mine onto the altar to look at it, I will instead plant the acorns in an appropriately sized pot, and see what grows. It seems somehow appropriate, and gives me a definite focus on my altar.

Speaking of altars, I have got to get myself set up with a TNS altar. The acorns, the angel, the various religions I'll be exploring... these do not belong on my Hellenic altars. This isn't about Hellenic polytheism at all. I think I've decided to use the top of the bookcase right by my window. It's low (it's an old credenza from a desk, now sitting on the floor), and firmly attached to the wall so nothing will be jiggled off. A few small things have already gathered there, as if in preparation for the class. The addition of a potted acorn and a few other small things, plus whatever imagery I need for my class work, should be quite nice there. It's kitty corner to my Hellenic altars, which seems fine.

Tomorrow I will set up the new altar. I always enjoy setting up altars... it's a cleansing of the mind as I clean the physical space. Placing the items I've chosen onto the altar seems to bring to life the intent that I have for that sacred spot.
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