The lady with the key locked the door behind her, leaving me alone in the church. It was six days after Easter and the pulpit was covered with flowers. The fragrance was sweet with the promise of Spring. The sun was bright outside, illuminating the stained glass, creating depth and vitality among the angels and saints.
I walked down the sides of the pews, stopping at each tall window to study the image radiating into the dark church. It was quiet and still, the air only slightly stirred as I trailed my fingers along the colored panes of glass. The pictures were familiar, reminding me of the windows in my childhood church and the stations of the cross. I lingered at each window, admiring the art and architecture of this holy place.
I love holy places – shrines, temples, churches, groves, lakes, stone circles – anywhere that inspires me to stop and breath deeply with my eyes closed.
Whenever I went on vacation as a child, my parents would always find the nearest Catholic church. Sometimes we would go inside to look around when no one else was there. I loved the smells, the ornate statues, the feel of the wooden pews. Churches were quiet and filled with anticipation. I’d always been told that church was the house of God, and I always hoped I’d eventually be able to find the one Jesus lived in. I wanted to catch him at home doing normal human things. I wanted to know what Jesus did when he wasn’t working – did he like to play games? Make furniture? Water flowers? What does the Son of God do when he’s not answering prayers or preforming miracles?
These were the questions I couldn’t ask as a Catholic child. They were considered inappropriate. In church, Jesus was always portrayed to me as a God – something unattainable to a mere human and I was told it was blasphemous to think of him as just a man.
But he was a man. A human person walking the Earth in human form, dealing with a human body, human emotions, and a human psyche. This part of the story always seemed rather important and relevant to me, even as a child.
I sat down in the pew nearest the altar, the fragrance of the flowers settling over my hair and skin, and contemplated Jesus as a Druid Priestess.
By this point in my life, I’d been on my Druid path for seven years. The day I initiated into Druidry was sunny and clear. It was just after dawn and the sun was still new to the horizon. It was a surprise initiation orchestrated by my brother and the Druid community he belonged to.
It was the last day of a week long, full emersion experience into the training of this particular Druid Mystery School. I’d been doing a home study course with the program and was entertaining the idea of continuing my studies on site at the school itself. My brother, being older, wiser, and having gone through several levels of initiation, spoke to me all week of “jumping over the fire to become a Bard.”
A Bard is the first level of Druid training. In the days of old, the bards were the traveling minstrels. They were the historians, poets, and storytellers, bringing news from court to court. It is much the same in modern times. A talented Bard is an artist, stoking the flames of her creativity and creating magic with her art – Hence the initiation.
“The fire gets built up really high, as high as the Head Druid thinks you can jump.” My brother explained. “You’ll want to get a good running start because you have to clear the fire pit, and it’s a good five, maybe six feet across. Think of it as kind of a cross between the long jump and hurdling.”
On and on he went, all week long, describing the awe and peril of jumping over the bardic fire into the life of a Druid. Being the younger sister, I marveled at every word he said, trying to conjure up the strength, agility, and courage I would need to take my own leap of faith. So, when our morning mediation was complete and the head Druid commanded his attention toward me, my insides freaked.
“Shit! I don’t know if I can do this.” I thought to myself as I looked at the fire pit. “That’s a long way across and I’m really short. I can’t believe I’m actually thinking about doing this…”
“Come toward the fire” invited my Druid teacher with his English accent. “Let us begin.”
Although it was an impromptu ceremony, everyone seemed to know exactly what to do. Everyone but me. I was the only uninitiated member of the group and all I had to work with were the embellished stories my brother told.
I completed the first part of the ceremony with a shaky voice. My body trembled as I kept glancing at the fire. I was sweating when the time came to jump. My Druid teacher opened the energetic gate, indicating that the rest was up to me. I backed up a few steps, eyed the fire, and thought about my footholds. Which rock looked like the best launch, and which one would catch me on the other side? I was barefoot and anxious. Everyone was watching, waiting for me to commit. The pause in the air was profound. I began rocking my body back and forth, willing myself to make a decision. One that would land me safely on the other side of the fire, unburned and somehow Bardic.
“What are you doing?” My Druid teacher asked. “Come into the pit and step over the fire. You can do it.”
His words broke my brother’s spell, allowing me to approach the fire and jump over it without harm. My brother erupted with laughter while the rest of the community cheered. Everyone gathered around me, creating a hive of Druids all buzzing like bees. I could feel the vibration of their toning voices in the marrow of my bones. Something primitive began to seep out of the deepest part of my soul. I could feel it enter my blood, travel through my veins, and settle in my heart.
It was this primitive part of me that wished to talk to human Jesus.