Monday 30 April 2012

A recent event

A few days ago it was Yom Shabbat, the Seventh Day and the traditional Day of Rest.  I awoke rather early in the morning to a clear blue sky and the shining sun, with some clouds drifting gently overhead.  I made my mind up and decided to rest for much of the day, as is appropriate.  But I just didn't feel right, for one reason or another. 

After spending a Shabbat sitting around downstairs eating sweets, I decided I would go up to the household shrine, as I usually do on this day every week, and actually do something.  But once more, I didn't feel right.  My mind was dark, and clouded, and I couldn't focus on the deities in any way.  Looking out of the window over the courtyard, I saw Shapash descending the heavens towards the western horizon, over the rooftops and in the distance.  I raised my hands, and prayed, hoping for clarity of mind and freedom from this feeling of spiritual confusion.

I went back into the main room of the house and sat at the table, deciding to listen to a Shabbat hymn played on the lyre.  Perhaps that would erase this feeling of spiritual confusion and free me from this state of being.

But it did not.  I began to feel confused.  When I tried to contemplate on the deities, instead of seeing the green pastures of spring, and the brick houses, the horses in the fields, the swaying groves of trees and the golden sun in the firmament (as I usually see), I saw nothing.  No deities, nothing natural, nothing normal, or at least not culturally/religiously familiar for me as a Canaanite.  The feeling of inner peace I usually have on the Shabbat was gone.  My heart felt somehow clouded, by mist or by darkness, and there was nothing I could do about it.  Nothing.  I began to grow even more confused, and as this state of being heightened, so did my fear, and my frustration.  I grew angry, and throwing the curls of my hair out of my face I went back to the window and raised my hands high to the heavens.  I prayed once more to the sun, in desperation:  "O Shapash, Source of all Intelligence, may your light, the rays of your light, those blessed rays, may they shine through this darkness in my heart.  May I have clarity of thought, may I have the wisdom to see; and offerings I shall give to you, libations I shall pour for you.  I, your servant Ben-el, ask this of you, great goddess."

Feeling trapped, and still confused, I went up to the household shrine at the far wall in my bedroom.  I approached the Teraphim, and fell to my knees before them, begging them to free me of whatever made my heart so lost, whatever it was making me feel so helpless and so distant from them.  I prayed, I reminded them that I simply could not bring myself to worship the gods while my heart felt so distant to them.  But as much as I begged, and as much as I prayed, nothing would free me.  I was not in the right state of consciousness to approach them, and I felt somehow as though our covenant was broken and that I was no longer with them (as strange as that may sound).  I let my head fall, then raised it slowly, hoping for a sign that they would listen and help me.  But their idols simply stared back, and didn't move nor say a word.  Their eyes focused on me, yet I heard no sign from them.  The household gods simply stared back at me.  This time I flew into a blind rage, and cried aloud:  "Alright then!  So you won't help me.  Well then I cannot worship you!  Will you not at least give me a sign that you are listening, so that I might praise you and worship you?  Perhaps I should worship whatever has inspired this confusion within my heart- it seems that it is more powerful than all of you together!" 

And at that, I fell to the ground and pondered on what I had just said.  What was the source behind this sudden state of being?  Was it an evil spirit of some kind, a demon?  Or was it an evil devil?  Or an evil god?  A ghost?  A malevolent jinni?  Neglect of my ancestors?  Fate?  My own actions?  It certainly could not have been pollution or contamination with uncleanliness, I was certain of that- it was only a few minutes ago since I had paid a visit to the bathroom and cleansed myself in the waters of the bath.  But even the refreshing waters did not restore me to a state of purity- of body, mind, and spirit- as they normally did.  Then what was it?  Gracious gods, what was it? 

I tried everything.  I reached into my household shrine and took the bell I used at the beginning of household cultic rituals to ward off evil spirits, and rang it several times over.  Then I went to the corner of my room, and from a wooden cupboard took a die, for use in divination.  I approached the wall where the shrine is located once more, and I consulted the gods, and asked for them to reveal their will to me, and then I asked what the cause behind it all was.  The divination told me that it was none of the things I had thought of, but was instead something else.  I then decided to ask what I should do about it, and the divination told me that I was to wait, perhaps for another day, and then it may pass away, and I will return to normal once again.  I then thanked them, and after finding out that they wanted me to continue the ritual, I left them an offering of incense. 

I left my room feeling disheartened, and went back into the main room of the house.  The day was at an end now, the sun had gone down, and I was left alone and staring at the purple sky above the rooftops.  But my mind was elsewhere.  It was going back to the spring I had lived through the year before, and the year before that, and the joyous time I had.  I had spent them staying up late into the light nights, feeling the warm air and hearing the cock crowing in the distance.  I had spent them in the great forests, running through the groves of trees and singing praise to Asherah, coming out of the forests onto the dusty roads and feeling the heat of the sun.  And then I stared across the grazing pastures towards the distant mountains, their tops covered in snow even into early summer.

I bowed my head and prayed once more, coming back to current events.  Already I was beginning to feel normal again, and better than I had all day.  Perhaps this, I decided, was just one of those strange moments in life where we simply cannot explain.  I just waited, and it went away.  Once more I was beginning to regain my inner strength, feeling it deep within my heart.  It was just another strange emotion after all, and one that passed with time.  And even when I cannot feel the deities, I remember what has come before and what I am blessed with.  Now, I surrender myself to them, and acknowledge their power and greatness.  Even when things may seem confusing and frustrating mentally, I will praise the Lord of Wisdom.  May the deities bless you all when you are in a negative mental or emotional state.  Hallelilim.