10 February 2011 a post by Pauline Warner

And the serpent will not harm me

I love the season of Imbolc and Candlemas. The snowdrop breaking through the ice hard soil, lengthening days. Candles for Mary as she presents her new child in the Temple. Bride’s Day when the ewes give their milk or St Bridget’s Day, the patron saint of midwives. It’s a time which is so tuned in to the rhythm of bodies and the seasons.

cobra But this year it was the next day, February 3rd which was really special. That’s the day of St Blaise. You pray to him if you have problems with your throat. I was praying with Anna. She had chosen that day because she is trying to get more confident in finding her own voice. Anna is a pagan witch, a follower of goddess spirituality and a member of a coven. She is also a survivor of sexual abuse. The rituals of Persephone emerging from the Underworld at Imbolc helped her to escape from her own hell. The Black Madonna, whose feast is on Candlemas, spoke of deep mysteries when Anna was not able to find words. Bridget represents feminine power which she was so long denied. But the thing Anna loves best about this time of the year is that it is when the serpent emerges from its winter rest. She loves snakes and she loves this verse from the Hebrides. bq. Early on Bride’s morn, the serpent comes from its hole I will not harm the serpent and the serpent will not harm me Anna is also a Christian, a follower of Jesus. She wasn’t brought up in church but in the years she was acknowledging the abuse, she began to dream of a man with long black hair. He had the loveliest energy she had ever felt and showed her a sensitivity and respect she had not known before. But she did not know who he was for several months until she heard Joyce Meyer speaking on television about her own abuse and her faith in Jesus. So Anna began to explore Jesus further and began to attend church to learn about him. But church did not give her those healing rituals which really speak to the depths of womanhood within her. As I said, Anna loves snakes and knows a lot about them. She knew about the ancient Egyptian belief in the great snake, the King Cobra, the most powerful snake of all who protected the people by devouring the other poisonous snakes. She even knew that one of the names given to the King Cobra is Osiophagus Hannah Cantor – Snake-eating Hannah the Cantor. Perhaps it was her love of snakes which gave her the most important spiritual significance of her life. She was meditating one day when a swirl of energy rushed up her spine - like kundalini, another serpent she knows about – and it was if a bolt had hit her literally between her eyes at her third – eye point. She opened her eyes to see Jesus standing in front of her touching her brow. With complete certainty, she knew he was not one god among many but the One, the Saviour, the King Cobra who would protect her by destroying the poisonous snakes – the abuse, the family arguments, her lack of confidence, her fear that she had nothing worth saying. She committed her life to following him that day. Anna and I met through a Soul Clinics event. Soul Clinics offer spiritual companionship, particularly to those like Anna and myself who want to know more about Jesus but find that church doesn’t do it for us. I was fascinated by Anna’s story and we began to journey together. She has taught me a lot about snakes and I have taught her a bit about the Bible! I told her about Hannah (same name as Anna) who was also abused and ill-treated but God intervened to change her life. Hannah really was Hannah Cantor because she sang about God raising up the poor and down-trodden and confronting the abusers. I showed her the stories of Moses and Aaron in Egypt and the healing serpent-rod and we both understood for the first time why Moses’ serpent ate up the other serpents. It was the proof that the God of Moses was the Great Serpent, the Protector and Deliverer. We have also shared together in the Eucharist for the Abused in which the chakra points of the body are anointed to give the person confidence to stand tall in her unique identity. This year, though, Hannah has been struggling again with throat problems and she asked if I would pray just part of that service with her, the part in which the throat is anointed and these words said, “From violence to your ability to speak out with confidence may you be healed”. That is why I suggested St Blaise’s Day when throats are blessed. I heard the word RENENUTET. I could hardly say it let alone know what it means. But Anna knows. It’s yet another name for the King Cobra. Renenutet was an Egyptian goddess who presided over suckling breasts and child rearing. In fact her name means ‘She who rears’. That is a deliberate pun because she is both the nurturing mother who rears children and the powerful woman who stands tall (rears up) and with her glance can destroy her enemies. That is exciting enough but we were even more excited to find out that Josephus, the Jewish historian, believed that Pharaoh’s daughter who raised Moses was named after her. That really got our imaginations going! Moses was reared by two mothers. He learned both Egyptian and Hebrew. He was culturally bi-lingual and able to live in either place. But his vocation was to testify to the God who was calling people into a new place. It meant leaving the past behind and trusting in God even when they could not understand where they were going. And he carried the serpent rod which his Egyptian background taught him was the King Cobra, the most powerful snake, the protector who went ahead eating up all the powers of evil. St Bridget was also bi-lingual, brought up by a Christian mother and a Druid father. Anna feels bi-lingual as well. She attends the coven because there her womanhood is affirmed, healed and celebrated. She attends church because there the Bible is read and it is expected that Jesus will encounter people with transforming power. Yet neither place is the most important foundation in her life. She is quite clear that foundation is Jesus. She calls him her rock and the meaning of her life. What she would really like is to be able to worship Jesus in words which include her insights and passions from goddess spirituality. We are beginning to write some worship together. I know several other bi-lingual people like Anna. People who were encountered by Jesus while they were engaged in paganism or meditation or yoga or…….It has made me wonder how many people there are with stories to tell but who find it difficult to speak out because they have been condemned and criticised (usually by fellow Christians!) or they simply have not found people who are bi-lingual and who would understand the words they are using. So I have decided to do some research and ask for those stories. If you would like to tell such a story please contact me. I might be able to use it as part of this research project. More importantly, it might mean that those of us who are culturally bi-lingual could find each other and be able to encourage and support one another on the journey. A few years ago, Anna and I prayed together that she would be able to speak out the truth of what had happened to her in her childhood. This year we prayed that she would find her voice to tell her story with humble confidence. Moses also had problems with his voice and tried to run away from God’s call because he wasn’t confident in speaking out. He learned, though, to trust that God would speak through him and he led the people out of slavery into a new place. Could it be that God is calling the church into a new exodus? In which case, we do need to find our true voice and confidently speak out our stories.

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Your comments:

Thank you Pauline & Anna for such an interesting account of your shared experience.

#1. By Sara Stanley on February 10, 2011

Interested in the bi-lingual aspect of this blog post. Really glad Anna has encountered Jesus. Do you think she would attend the coven any more if her womanhood was ‘affirmed, healed and celebrated’ in a Christian context? Maybe this is part of this website is trying to achieve?

#2. By Andrew Wooding on February 14, 2011

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