As I’ve shared in previous posts, the heroine of my novel is told, when everything’s fallen apart, to ‘get up from the floor and go to Beckery’. It’s the same place that she’s been dreaming of going to for a long time, but the circumstances have completely shifted.
She thought she’d be going there as the heroine, bringing the Sacred Flame to the nuns (she’s come from Ireland with more than twenty lanterns, so you’d think she might have had a chance at success…) and winning the patronage of the King. Instead, she gets there in a complete and utter mess, covered in blood, and without a single lantern.
All she’s got left is the memory of a few encouraging words from her pilgrimage guide, who’s now several hundred miles away and doesn’t even have a phone.
Doesn’t have a phone? At all? What sort of a weird, improbable scenario is THAT?
Welcome to Anglo-Saxon England – whoops, sorry, Wessex. (I’m sorry to break this to the English nationalists who have been making a big fuss about me marrying an African guy, but in the seventh century, there was no such place as England.)
Needless to say, things can only get better – at least for a while. This isn’t A Series of Unfortunate Events. (Although I do love those books!)
When Brianna finally arrives in Beckery, she embarks on the long process of recovery, with the help of an underground movement that offers hope and healing through the so-called ‘Nineteen Songs of Reunion’. The secretive Fellowship is deemed heretical by the Catholic Church, and its members are liable to be burned, along with their manuscripts, if the Bishops discover their existence. One of the reasons is that, just as the real-life Gnostics and Essenes did, they spoke about the need for balance and equality between the Sacred Masculine and the Sacred Feminine.
It’s not just about the equality between men and women in a literal sense, although that’s one crucial element. It’s also about the need for balance between Heaven and Earth, giving and receiving, light and darkness, sun and moon, focused action and gentle nurturing, courage and compassion, God and Goddess, Sacred Masculine and Sacred Feminine. And, most radically of all, it suggests that if we reach that point of perfect balance, we can all become Christ-like.
It might not sound controversial to us now, but at a time when women weren’t even allowed to speak in front of men in the Church, the importance of the Sacred Feminine wasn’t a message that a lot of people wanted to hear. And the seventh-century clerics, like the Inquisition leaders who followed them several centuries later, certainly didn’t want people thinking that they could find the Divine spark in themselves without the help of a priest to forgive their sins.
The message of the Beckery Fellowship is that you can’t just love the light and hate the darkness. (That’s what we now call ‘spiritual bypassing’, although they wouldn’t have used that term!) You can’t go through your whole life looking up to Heaven, and forgetting about the Earth that you walk on, and expect to be made whole. You can’t love summer and despise winter; you can’t celebrate the new growth in spring without also celebrating the fall and decay of the leaves in autumn.
Compost matters. The Earth matters. Dark moon matters. Women’s menstruation matters. Night matters. Rest matters. And sometimes you have to wander in the wilderness for a while, in a literal as well as a metaphorical sense, in order to find your true source of courage, hope and healing.
As the Song of the Wilderness Wanderer explains it:
The path I walk is a path that is waking me,
Stung by the nettle, scratched by twig and thorn:
The path I walk, I don’t know where it’s taking me,
All that I know is new dreams are being born.
With open eyes and ears I wander the wilderness,
Losing myself until I find the One who knows…
We can’t make major changes in our lives without doing the groundwork first. Getting out into nature is a crucial first step, but it isn’t the only thing that we need to do. We also need to unblock our creativity, build a strong and supportive community around ourselves, and then, slowly and gently, start turning to face own emotions…