In writing about taboos in a previous post, I mentioned how I was not allowed to purchase mass-produced religious icons of Poseidon for o/Our shrine. Given o/Our foundation, I could make a nice, politically correct case for how He doesn’t want me to have such items because He would rather I support pagan artists and crafters, that He would rather recycled or handmade items on the shrine because they have more meaning, are more precious, are a bit detached from the consumerist mindset that rules my society. It would sound nice and proper – but it would be a lie. Oh, sure – I do want to support my fellow pagan creators. A painting or sculpture created by a co-religionist certainly has more meaning than a mass-produced statue of Neptune cast from a mold in the hundreds. A commissioned piece does not come with the waste that is built in to having more supply than the demand warrants. I do want to have gifted, thrifted, or handmade items on the shrine . . . now.
But, as I said in that post, the taboo came about not for any lofty goals of mine. It came about because I upended the shrine I kept for Poseidon one time too many, and He’d had enough.
I am typically one who is slow to anger. I have a long, long fuse. As my brother put it last week: “We will procrastinate and be inconvenienced, straight up ignore any issue for however long. But when we want the thing, we get the thing.” He wasn’t talking about our tempers in this (well, sort of. There’s levels of anger, and he was talking specifically about the, ‘okay, stop dicking me around now,’ level) but it applies. I inherited my grandmother’s gimlet eye and my father’s long fuse and I was taught early how to repress and detach and sit back and wait. My brother and I, we have longer fuses, but when they go, they go. Not big, not flashy, not always – but our tempers are not the sort where bridges are damaged and then need to be mended. Our tempers are such that those bridges never existed in the first place. We have that calm, cold rage, and we are cruel. We give fair warning – “You are crossing a line here, this is where I’m at, cease and desist,” and it’s not our fault that people don’t expect you to be able to articulate those points so clearly as lines are pushed more and more, though we’re often amazed at how surprised people are once that line has been crossed. (I joke that we’ve got a touch of berserker in our blood, but it’s not actually a joke, and it’s not actually fun to experience, and there are reasons we are mindful of our anger levels, there are reasons we are able to articulate our needs and limits as well as we can.)
By the time I’d built foundations with Poseidon, I thought I had a pretty good handle on my anger – I thought I knew it well enough to know when the fuse was close to blowing, what my limitations were, and so on. By the time I’d given Him marriage vows, moved in with Beth, and began my life over again, I felt for sure that my foundation was secure. I discovered though, no. I entered into a dark period in o/Our relationship, and if I wasn’t pissed off at Poseidon (for daring to allow me to swear myself to Him, for not saving Himself from such a mistake) then I was terrified that He was going to reveal it was all some great Cosmic Joke (what’s the punchline, again?) and using anger to hide that fear. (Good luck with that.) This anger did not burn slow. It burned hot, and it burned constantly. I swore at Him. I heaped verbal abuse at Him. If He’d been a mortal husband, He would have been right in leaving me, and of course that’s exactly what I was trying to convince Him to do. If I couldn’t reason with Him, by golly I was going to drive Him away.
I broke statuary. I shattered picture frames. I broke drinking vessels and offering bowls. Up ending the shrines was not a weekly occurrence, but it happened more than a few times. The year after Angel died was the worst of it, and it was in 2008 that I was given the icon taboo. I was allowed to purchase the statue I currently have after that, because it was a different version of the statue I already had (and I love this Neptune statue, I just do) but it was understood that this one would be the last one. The only reason this one wasn’t broken when I upended the shrine for the last time was because I was maintaining two shrines at that time, and the shrine I pitched over had a bust on it instead.
The last time didn’t even have anything to do with Poseidon, either – least you think that I only targeted Him when it involved Him. A much looked forward to visit went south pretty fast, and I was pissed off at everyone in the world. When I should have turned toward Him for comfort and solace, instead I turned on Him.
I realized at that point that my turning my anger on Him, taking my anger out on Him, had become habit. Bad enough desecrating His shrine in anger, but turning on Him was worse. The shrine, at the end of the day, is just a collection of stuff, but Poseidon . . . Poseidon saved my life. Poseidon helped me create a life I want to live. Poseidon gave me hope and courage and love when I didn’t believe there was a point to any of those things. He did not deserve the rage I was throwing His way all the time, especially when it had become habitual.
The moments after the rage, when I’d want to cringe at what I’d done, at the things I’d said, He would wrap His presence around me, and remind me that my wrath is nothing – nothing – compared to what He is capable of. The destruction of a carefully tended shrine space is nothing in the face of what He can do – and has done – when stirred to anger.
The Poseidon that I know and love has to Him a deep abiding stillness, a cold detachment that makes me think of the bottom of the oceans: freezing and dark and crushing pressure. The moments I’ve experienced when I’d expect Poseidon from the stories to come raging to the foreground – petulant, stormy, angry, wrathful – are the moments when I experience Him . . . sucking in a breathe and going utterly still, is the closest description I can call to mind. I don’t think such a reaction was part of His nature. I get the sense that He learned how to be this way, so as to cause less harm.
I don’t plan on upending any more shrines. It’s been years now since I’ve had that problem with anger. I don’t want to damage needlessly the objects that I do have, that I cherish, and wish to keep. His shrine has long since become o/Our shrine. But I live with the knowledge that I can lash out blindly, with an aim to tear down, destroy, to cut and bruise and break. I love this God of mine. I love Him deeply, with all of my being, and I want to be a place of Love for Him. Still, I know that fear, especially when it comes to u/Us, presents first as anger. I know that I will lash out. I know that my instinct is to cut before I am cut. He does not quite enjoy those moments, but neither does He shy away from them. Mostly, He doesn’t fight back, He just waits. And then He wraps me tight within His presence, and makes me sit with having been angry with Him . . . and the knowledge that He can take it.