Sheila-na-Gig and Discernment

Sheila-na-Gig and Discernment

(I woke up at 2 am, needing to write this post. My apologies for typos, etc.)

So I’ve been thinking about The Days of Discernment and why I care so much about discernment—the art of making wise decisions. I’ve been thinking about how I’ve spent the last few years working on ways to make decisions, to sift through possibilities, and to come to a sense of peace and confirmation about a decision.

Part of why is that I have bipolar disorder and ADD. So what? Well, each of these disorders, along with the vagaries of life, is a chaos creator.

ADD makes it so that I forget things minutes after I’ve been told them because my brain is off on something else. It makes it so that I don’t see clutter or attempt to order it (much of the time—thank goodness for a spouse who helps me get up when I fall down!). In short, ADD helps lead me to very short-term thinking (it’s often called “now and not now”) and things that “seemed like a good idea at the time.”

woman with smaller woman shown on her forehead - titled "chizophrenia"Bipolar disorder has its own set of fun chaos creations. For one thing, before I was medicated, I took many risks, such that it is kind of amazing I’m alive. Falling asleep at the wheel because I’d been up all night and wrecking my car—very nearly missing a telephone pole, Getting hypothermia from swimming in Sideling Hill Creek in January with no phone, no plan, no fire to warm up by, no one knowing where I was except my equally risk-taking friend who was in the water with me. Drinking like crazy. Fucking like crazy.

I’ve come out/am coming out of the risk-taking and poor judgment of 30 years. Discernment helps that happen. Discernment brings order without a sense of constriction or contraction.

Even before I began really coming out of all this chaos, I was blessed to spend time with the Sisters of St. Joseph, who have an aphorism:  Let discernment be your habit. (It’s a double entendre, but I’ll leave you with that.)

They taught me about the very existence of discernment as an idea. More important to my later development, they taught me about discernment as a practice.

And it is the  practice of discernment that fascinates me and has changed mypath-1345721 life. It is why I am making The Days of Discernment available for free to those who sign up for my weekly  love letters. I have been advised that it’s too much, that I should charge for it, that I’m overdelivering. But I want to make it a gift to those who become part of the little tribe of folks making our Way down the River.

That said, I want to share a recent discernment experience with you.

As those of you who have been reading me for a while know, I use divination of various kinds in my discernment processes. For example, I might sit on a river bank or seaside and watch the birds, the plants, the movement of the water and just ask what I need to pay attention to, what I am missing in my day-to-day life.

Or I might use Tarot or other kinds of oracles. The one I want to tell you about is from the Goddess Oracle. I’m usually uneasy around overtly multi-culture decks, but I decided to take a chance on this one, and I’m so glad I did. 52 cards, starting with Amaterasu and heading on alphabetically from there. (Until you shuffle them, of course.)

I did some full moon magic associated with Briana Saussy’s Spinning Gold class these last few days. As part of that working, I pulled a card. And the card I pulled is Sheila-na-Gig.sheila na gig

Sheila-na-Gig is a figure who appears in various places—including over church doors!—throughout Ireland. She is in a crouching, sort of birthing position, thought she often appears with exaggerated features. She is reaching down with both hands to open and show her vulva. The first time I saw a Sheila, I was blown apart. She’s so…well, I mean, she’s opening her cunt (if you’ll forgive the good Anglo-Saxon word) for all to see.

To see what’s inside? To see what is emerging? To encourage the same metaphorical behavior on the part of the viewer?

In the Goddess Oracle, the Sheila-na-Gig card is called “Opening,” for obvious reasons.

I had gynecological surgery last month. I don’t need to go into the details, but it opened something that had been blocked for some time. So the relationship with Sheila is, at least in part, clear. There is power in our sexual parts, whatever our gender and however we relate to those parts—whether we love and cherish them, feel ambivalent about them, or have really difficult feelings about them. There is power.

And so I feel called to open, which is for me, to write, more about sexuality, ordeal, and spirituality. I feel as though the Sheila is telling me not to fear what comes from the roots of my being. She is saying not to fear to write about things like bdsm (sometimes just called S&m), piercings/tattoos/other body modification and the powers of sexuality and spirituality in general. Sexuality and spirituality cannot be separated no matter how hard we might try. It is not possible.

picture of Catharine - black dress and long dark hair, leaning on a pulpitKnow who I am:  I am a priestess and minister who identifies with bdsm. I am a cisgender woman who identifies as femme. I am a fat woman who identifies as pansexual. My Sun, Ascendant, and Mercury are all in Pisces. My Moon is in Scorpio. Water with a side dish of water. I brought home an oyster shell from dinner the other night  for my altar because the oyster within had tasted so beautifully of the sea.

I am all these things, and I am so many more than these words can compass. I like labels. (I know that’s unfashionable.) Labels help me get a sense of where community is, where I am at any given moment, and how my watery nature is f;owing and changing.

I am impulsive I claim identities and then realize over time that they no longer suit.

I identified as “lesbian” for so many years when my friends smiled and loved me and knew that wasn’t the whole story. But “bisexual” didn’t fit either. It wasn’t until I realized how much I have loved and longed for people of various genders, not just two… It wasn’t until I realized that I could lie on a rock by a river and feel the sexual power of Earth in those moments… It wasn’t until then that I could call myself “pansexual.” It’s not about who I sleep with, especially since I’m married and monogamous. It’a more about a sexual-spiritual position. Hm….I’ll have to think on that more and write to you about it!

So Sheila-na-Gig, part of my discernment, encourages me to open open open and see what comes in and what is there to come out. I’ll let you know, as I can.

Much love, as ever.

(PS – if you’ve read this far and you’re not already receiving my love letters, please do give them a try. I’d love to have you!)

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