I have a complicated relationship with angels.
First, I believe in them because I’ve experienced them.
I don’t believe in the New-Agey nice ones or in the sweet, sentimental ones, but I do believe in the it’s-necessary-to-say-“Be-Not-Afraid!”-even-though-there-will-be-fear ones. In the kind that Madeline L’Engle wrote about in her Wrinkle in Time books, that Sheri Tepper wrote about in A Plague of Angels — those kind of angels, I’ve dealt with, and known, and I believe in them. When I was a first grader at St. Mary’s in Alexandria, I had a pretty good relationship with my guardian angel, although we’ve generally agreed to have a very, very, very long-distance relationship (OK, almost none at all) for a number of decades. (I can, however, still say the prayer that Sister Michael Anthony (May the Goddess guard her. May she have long since found her way to the Summerlands. May her friends and family know peace.) taught us to say: “Angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom god’s love entrusts me here, ever this day be at my side, to light, to guard, to rule, to guide.”)
I generally don’t have much to do with angels, nor they with me, and I prefer, whenever possible, to deal with those forces, or their closest cousins, in the form of powers that take more Celtic, or North American, or even ceremonial, or even, and perhaps this is truest of all, unrecognizable magical forms, but, yeah, ok angels. Guardians of the Watchtowers of the . . . .
Tonight was G/Son’s holiday concert at his school, which is, because neither Nonna, nor Son, nor DiL were interested in NoChildLeftBehindTestingTestingTestingTeachingToTheTest, a private school associated with an Episcopal church.
Which, as you can imagine, has proved interesting.
But it’s a good school. G/Son’s 1st grade teacher is one of those women who’ve been teaching first grade long enough to watch several of her classes graduate college and she still seems to love it. The school has a new choral teacher this year and she gets amazing performances out of even shy little preschoolers and out of even self-conscious 8th graders. G/Son loves the school (“It’s fun; my school is fun.”) and is learning.
So I showed up in my best respectable Nonna disguise (I have several) and listened, and ooohed, and aaahed as G/Son explained to me all of the figures in the nativity scene (“Nonna do you know what it’s called?” “A nativity?” “Yes! That’s right.” “Heh.”) OK, I did ask “Where are the wise women?” and first G/Son said that there were no wise women, but I said that of course there were, and Son said that even if the story didn’t mention them, of course there were, and G/Son, outnumbered by the feminists in the family, agreed that, ok, there were wise women, but they aren’t in the story, but they probably they should be.
At dinner, before the concert, I asked G/Son (as Nonnas have, from time immemorial) what he did in school today. G/Son said, “The ‘usual,’ except, Nonna, do you know what happened in Connecticut?” All of my antenna went up and I said that, yes, I knew. G/Son said, “So we did the drill today because of what happened at the school in Connecticut.”
This is the part of the story where our heroine wants to turn into the Incredible Hulk. This is the part of the story where she wants, literally, and for, literally, the first time in her life, to punch out a wall. This is the part of the story where a red film coats Nonna’s vision. It’s also the part of the story where Nonna takes one deep breath, grounds, centers, goes knowingly against the counsel of Dr. Jung, delays suffering, and says, calmly, “Oh. And what did you do during the drill?” G/Son said, “Nonna. You lock the doors and turn out the lights. Then you line up against the wall with the doors in it and you be as quiet as you can.”
And now we have reached the part of the story where Nonna desperately wishes that they sold martinis at the Peruvian chicken place, but, of course, stories working as they do, the Peruvian chicken place does not have a liquor license. And now we have reached the part of the story where Dr. Jung laughs last. During this part of the story, Nonna allows as how, when she was a little girl, they had drills at her school in case there were fires. G/Son: “But you didn’t ever have bad-guy drills?” Nonna: “No, we just had fire drills, where we got to go stand outside until the bell rang to come back in.”
So we drive back to G/Son’s school and Nonna says, “I want into G/Son’s classroom.” Son says, “OK, come with us.”
We show up in the hall and wait with the other parents and grandparents of first-graders all of whom being six (the first-graders, I mean, not their parents or grandparents), are wired at the idea of a concert, and Christmas, and being at school so late, and seeing each other in the dark, and then the 1st grade teacher shows up and sends us up to “chapel” while she herds the excited first graders, each of whom, by now, Nonna sees glowing with the clear light of innocence, and youth, and potential, into their classroom.
So Nonna doesn’t get into the classroom, but goes up into the Christian church and watches the kindergarteners troop in dressed in angel costumes (complete with glitter halos askew), and shepherd costumes, and wise men (the wise women are still missing) costumes, and . . . . You get the idea. The organist plays, and the rector comes out with his jazz sax and tries to play, and everyone settles into the pews behind the Book of Common Prayer holders and beneath the advent calendar banners. And we listen to the preschoolers sing Jingle Bells.
And now we have reached the part of the story where Nonna is pretty much weeping, silently, nonstop because she can see the light coming out of each of the children.
The classes and the school orchestra proceed to perform with parents shooting video on their iPhones and second graders waving to their parents when they pick them out of the crowd, even mid-performance, and Nonna continues to try and stop weeping.
Finally, all the students gather and sing Felize Navidad and then return to their classrooms to await pickup by their parents and grandparents.
And that’s when Nonna gets into G/Son’s classroom.
It’s merry chaos: kids giving each other holiday cards prior to the school break, G/Son and his buds discussing Ninjago cards, parents making plans for holiday play dates and gifts for the gym teacher, the 1st grade teacher trying to say something nice to each grandparent, and the Witch, that odd old woman, standing in the corner, doing the strongest protection spell that she’s ever done in her life. You might have missed it; she looked like a nice old woman in Episcopal mufti, standing quietly in the corner.
It’s difficult, in this madness, but I ground, and center, and run my roots out to the four corners of the property, searching for the powers of this Bit of Earth.
Now I do this a lot. I do it around my home. I do it when I walk into court. I do it when I walk into G/Son’s home. I do it wherever I feel a need for protection. And ninety percent of the time, the protective powers show up for me as dragons. I’ve done protective magic around D.C.’s Code Pink house and the protective powers showed up as pink dragons. I’ve done protective magic around my own home and the protective power showed up as a green dragon. I’ve done protective power around SCOTUS and the protective power showed up as a flock of pigeons who could breathe fire. But, of course, at the Christian school, when I summon the protective powers to guard G/Son’s classroom, they show up as angels. One at each corner. Be-Not-Afraid-Holding-Flaming-Swords angels. OK.
Angels. Why did it have to be angels?
It made sense. This bit of earth has housed a Christian church for quite some time. And, so, weird as it felt to me, I worked — in the midst of chaos — with angels.
I’m satisfied with the work that I did. I may be the first Witch to work protection in that space, but I’m not the first woman to desperately want to protect it.
And, I drove home, again weeping pretty freely, aware that drones paid for with my tax dollars drop bombs every day on the grandchildren of Nonnas around the world. Aware that those Nonnas would likely give their own blood for their grandchildren to be as safe and as privileged as G/Son is, for them to receive even the small bit of empathy that President Obama seems to have for murdered American first graders.
I’m not so naive as to imagine that I’ll escape what Dr. Jung said I’d have to deal with. Here I am with a target painted on my backside. Universe! Unexperienced suffering, due to be delivered HERE.
It’s more difficult than I thought it would be, this Nonna business.
Angels. Ugh. Why did it have to be angels?
Picture found here.
But the angels were happy to see you there, working with them for the same cause. Having known a few Episcopal churches in my life, I wonder if the even the rector wouldn’t have been pleased.
“I may be the first Witch to work protection in that space. . . .”
I wouldn’t be too sure of that.
I find it unsurprising that the tutelary spirits of the place manifested in a form that would be in keeping with the relevant mythos. Old (pre-Islamic) Arabian proverb: “When you enter a village, swear by its Gods.” Or it might be that they assumed a form that you (perhaps unconsciously) needed to see. Be that as it may, good for you for having worked your magic in that place. The fact that “bad-guy drills” are now just a normal part of a teacher’s job says something about the times that we’re living in–and not in a good way. We need all the help we can get.
Blessings, and best Solstice wishes. May the light of the lengthening days shine brightly on you, your folk, and your land.
Now I have tears flowing (yet again, and especially for the victims of the warring happening with my tax dollars). I have two little gkids and a daughter who is a fierce and loving teacher. This scares the crap out of me. My intention is that all children and all teachers and all Nana’s and all people be safe in this world. As an aside do you know Judith Roche’s poem, The Angels? It seems really appropriate here and you can google it.
This is the first time I’ve read your blog – Tammy up there shared it on Facebook – and I’m typing through tears.
Before I finished the first paragraph, I knew there would be dragons with you – but I’m not surprised that the Angels showed up. I suspect that the landscapes of the Otherworld are populated with all the beings and archetypes we humans know, that the divisions we humans have created do not exist.
When I was a 12-13 year I had my first lessons in how to deal with bomb threat phonecalls at my part-time job.
Sending love from Scotland as you deal with the aftermath of a horrible tragedy – one that we here have known.
“Why did it have to be angels?” Ma’am, I would not put entirely out of mind the notion of some manner of pact or settlement between the Dragons and St. George (a particularly Episcopalian, but also Ethiopian, Saint).
While I believe in angels, I get a complete case of hives over the fluffy happy ones; and I routinely tear wings off any frilly figurines gifted to me….I likewise dislike the whole “flower fairy” routine for similar experiential reasons.
My children called the Nativity set an “activity set” because they liked moving the figures around. And yes, where WERE those “wise women”?
We used a single figure and the child for many a year after I came out to my children about my paganism….to symbolize the rebirth of Sol Invictus.
And we dispensed with the token angel.
I grew up in an pagan-Irish-Catholic household. Confusing, no. I also grew up at the edge of the forest. My Irish Grandda taught me to “hide in plain sight” as he introduced me to the Elements and the Wild Ones. My convent-raised Grandmother taught me what she was taught with angels and all the rituals and rites. So, on my witchy altar, with Brigid and Herne, representing the elements/directions, are Angels. Not new-age angels, but ones that are wild and strong and that I recognize in your Not-Afriad-to-Hold-Flaming-Swords angels. Angels are fierce. The facility is firmly under their protection, with your help, and they will take that charge so seriously. The sad part is that it must be so. “Bad-guy drills” indeed.
Now we just need to get to work on the laws that would protect us all.
As you wrote, I was reminded of a character in a comic strip called Rose is Rose. The son in the strip has a Guardian Angel who usually looks like the child, but if there is danger, morphs into a Wall of Warrior Guardian Angel. It’s what your words made me envision.
Love and blessings to you and yours.
I have spent the last few days trying to make some sense about this tragic event. What made that young man decide to end things this way will always be a mystery. Having a son and the thought of having to deal with the loss they are feeling has me at a loss for words. Thank you for this and god bless.
Within Temptation — Angels
my kind of angels …. gorgeous tattoed strong willed
Reblogged this on The Darkness in the Light.
Jeder Engel ist schrecklich. Und dennoch, weh mir, ansing ich euch, fast tödliche Vögel der Seele, wissend um euch.”
Every angel is terrifying. And yet, alas, I invoke you, almost deadly birds of the soul, knowing about you.
Die Zweite Duino Elegie – Rilke
Reaching out of ones deepest need to the Boundless Void behind all divine masks leaves no room for preconditions on the response. Direct help from “Messengers of the Divine Word” is no small favor. Blessed be, indeed.
On a more personal note, when I was about 10 years old, I was utterly fascinated by the angel on the cover of my oh-so-hip NYC aunt’s copy of Santana’s Abraxas. It was so different, but felt so right somehow.