Ann Williams, devotee of Tana, living in the deep South

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Ann Williams, devotee of Tana, living in the deep South
« on: May 08, 2019, 04:06:46 AM »
This is always difficult.

I live in deep South of the US. I am a Pagan with Wiccan roots. Since 1995 or so, I’ve had a relationship with a particular Goddess. An unusually sharp woman with whom I once chatted on-line described herself as a “polytheistic panentheistic monist,” and I think that describes me, too. I acknowledge the reality of other deities – very much so – but I only work with one.

I have always had a longing for the monastic life. I suppose it’s possible, being Pagan, to pursue that with a partner; but mine was such that the thought never occurred to me.

About 20 years ago, I was sitting in front of my computer one Sunday afternoon and suddenly all this wisdom – I use the term generically – started pouring out of me into the keyboard. I’m not talking about “automatic typing,” just to be clear; these were thoughts and ideas. Some were fairly unusual, for a Pagan/Wiccan. One of these was a conception of priesthood. Without going into detail, my conception of priesthood is something quite different from what I’ve encountered in Wiccan literature. It’s quite similar, for a woman, to being what is called a nun in the Roman Catholic church. It’s not a position or office in the usual sense, but a peculiar relationship with deity, and consequently with the world: a relationship of sacrifice of self, of “Use me as you will. ‘Not my will, but thine.’”

In February of 2017, I had been divorced for a little over a year and was loafing around in my apartment with no current projects in the fire. I decided, in a “what the heck” sort of way, to explore something odd about myself that I had been aware of most of my adult life. I asked the Goddess for help; and something very unusual happened. She answered. She said, “Are you sure? Because, once done, it can’t be undone.” I told her I was sure. About six weeks or so later, I realized I was transgender.

For the last two years, adjusting to life as a transgender woman has been my  major preoccupation; but that recently changed. I’ve been living as a female for over a year now. I honestly can’t remember what it was that prompted me to do this; but about two weeks ago, I asked the Goddess if she would allow me to make a vow of priesthood, as I conceive of it; and she did. So, I am now a consecrated woman. I can honestly say I was surprised when, immediately afterward, things started moving and shifting in my life at a noticeably more rapid pace. It is clear that we are clearing out dead wood, resolving issues and preparing me for whatever use she has in mind for me.

It was while I was searching on-line for others with similar feelings of vocation that I found Danica. The work she is doing sounds very exciting. It is thrilling to be involved in this sort of relationship with deity. It fosters an intimacy with the divine that is beyond description.

Thank you for letting me participate.

P.S. Oh, Danica. I just noticed you describe yourself as a contemplative. You can add a dimension of richness to what we share.
« Last Edit: May 08, 2019, 04:15:30 AM by Ann Williams »

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Redfaery

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Re: Ann Williams, devotee of Tana, living in the deep South
« Reply #1 on: May 08, 2019, 07:38:13 AM »
Welcome to the board!

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Danica Swanson

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Re: Ann Williams, devotee of Tana, living in the deep South
« Reply #2 on: May 08, 2019, 03:43:15 PM »
Greetings, Ann, and welcome to the forum! It's nice to see you joining in here.

I have always had a longing for the monastic life. I suppose it’s possible, being Pagan, to pursue that with a partner; but mine was such that the thought never occurred to me.

(I'm assuming you mean a romantic/sexual partner here.) I think most polytheists & Pagans would agree that it's possible to do so, or at the very least, it's certainly not forbidden for all monastics.

That said, I am long-divorced and I know that being single for many years has been a major boon to my monastic practice. In fact, if I were still dating, I doubt you'd even be reading these words right now because I wouldn't have had the huge amounts of time and energy necessary to bring my religious and creative work to the point where we've got this new forum to connect.

I don't rule out dating/romance forever. Not every monastic is called to this path for life, and I imagine some polytheist monastics could combine partnership/marriage with their practice. But for me it was a relief to give up dating and commit myself fully to my religious and creative life. I told Skaði that if She wanted me to be partnered or married for whatever reason, She'd have to do all the work to find me another hermit and non-parent who’s just as devoted to their own spiritual practice as I am to mine, and arrange for our paths to cross. Otherwise, I'll remain single for the rest of my days.

I know some polytheists who operate on the "platonic life partner" model. I could see myself being happy that way, assuming I could still spend most of my time in solitude.

I am now a consecrated woman. I can honestly say I was surprised when, immediately afterward, things started moving and shifting in my life at a noticeably more rapid pace. It is clear that we are clearing out dead wood, resolving issues and preparing me for whatever use she has in mind for me.

I've had a similar experience since my co-founder/colleague and I decided to formalize our religious Order a few weeks ago. Even more so since we announced it publicly. (And that was just a few days ago.)

It was while I was searching on-line for others with similar feelings of vocation that I found Danica. The work she is doing sounds very exciting.

Thank you for your kind words, and I'm glad you found us in the early days of this forum. Seems like good timing!

P.S. Oh, Danica. I just noticed you describe yourself as a contemplative. You can add a dimension of richness to what we share.

Glad to hear it. If I'd found people who engaged in (and wrote in-depth about) contemplative life in polytheist contexts much earlier in life, it would have been such a comfort. Fortunately, I did find people who were writing about monasticism online sometime around 2006, and that discovery changed my whole life trajectory.

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Lorna Smithers

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Re: Ann Williams, devotee of Tana, living in the deep South
« Reply #3 on: May 10, 2019, 11:54:05 AM »
Hello Ann and welcome to the forum :)

Quote
“polytheistic panentheistic monist,” and I think that describes me, too. I acknowledge the reality of other deities – very much so – but I only work with one.

I can relate to this a little in that my life is near-henotheistically devoted to my patron, Gwyn ap Nudd. However, I do also honour other deities from the Brythonic tradition and spirits of my land.

Thank you for sharing your story. It sounds like Tana has brought about some profound changes to your life and is leading you to your soul place. I've also experienced the call to be a nun and am currently pondering how that fits with being an awenydd, which is what I am avowed to be, and combines both inward and outward facing service to my god.

I also realised a long time back I was not cut out to have a partner as I was always seeking someone/something else. Finally my god found me. I've recently realised I'm asexual, which I think is part of it, but even if I was sexual I don't think it would be fair to another person for them to come second to my god.

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Danica Swanson

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Re: Ann Williams, devotee of Tana, living in the deep South
« Reply #4 on: May 10, 2019, 02:39:33 PM »
...even if I was sexual I don't think it would be fair to another person for them to come second to my god.

That's an interesting take on it. In my experience there have been certain relationships with humans that can coexist happily with my ongoing deity and spirit relationships (i.e., the humans understand, respect, and prefer that the deities and spirits I serve are my first priority), and then there are other human relationships that cannot coexist this way no matter how much the parties involved may try.

If I were ever to date or marry again as a monastic, the relationship would have to be one that falls into the former category.

I've even heard tales of human romantic/sexual relationships that enhance the deity and spirit relationships (and vice versa), but I have no personal experience with that sort of synergy, so for me it's mostly fodder for interesting thought experiments.

Re: Ann Williams, devotee of Tana, living in the deep South
« Reply #5 on: May 11, 2019, 05:56:31 PM »
I've also experienced the call to be a nun and am currently pondering how that fits with being an awenydd, which is what I am avowed to be, and combines both inward and outward facing service to my god.

This sounds a lot like how I see myself.
« Last Edit: May 12, 2019, 12:29:39 AM by Ann Williams »

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Danica Swanson

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Re: Ann Williams, devotee of Tana, living in the deep South
« Reply #6 on: May 11, 2019, 09:52:39 PM »
Many years ago, I reflected upon the notion that the Roman Catholic evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience might be manifestations of spiritual principles not limited to Christian expression, and how these principles might manifest in the context of my religious practice.

I've taken a similar approach to obedience, discipline, and asceticism. At some point I realized I had a shallow understanding of these principles, and it dawned on me that there were probably good reasons they've been adopted by monastics of many religions. So I decided to examine them more deeply and consider how I might adapt them for my practice.

With the concept of discipline I asked myself, for example: what might healthy, positive, non-coercive discipline look like for me? Because if discipline means using my "willpower" or self-domination to override my deeper will ("mind over matter"), then it won't last.

What I've come up with so far is that there's an important but oft-overlooked difference between discipline in service of true freedom from one's own compulsions, and discipline as self-domination or enacting coercive cultural norms of "willpower" upon oneself. It's not always easy to discern the difference, but it's certainly helpful to know that there IS a difference.

Re: Ann Williams, devotee of Tana, living in the deep South
« Reply #7 on: May 11, 2019, 10:54:46 PM »
What I've come up with so far is that there's an important but oft-overlooked difference between discipline in service of true freedom from one's own compulsions, and discipline as self-domination or enacting coercive cultural norms of "willpower" upon oneself. It's not always easy to discern the difference, but it's certainly helpful to know that there IS a difference.

That's fascinating. Of the three, the principle of obedience has been the most difficult for me to formulate.
« Last Edit: May 12, 2019, 12:27:06 AM by Ann Williams »

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Danica Swanson

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Re: Ann Williams, devotee of Tana, living in the deep South
« Reply #8 on: May 12, 2019, 12:14:32 PM »
(I see you edited your previous post, Ann...I'll address the part you preserved.)

That's fascinating. Of the three, the principle of obedience has been the most difficult for me to formulate.

It's been a challenge for me as well, as I imagine it would be for many people whose religious lives have been shaped by their experience in various Pagan communities.

I had a breakthrough with the concept of religious obedience when I learned to frame it not as "doing what strict, unforgiving religious authorities tell me to do" but as listening and responding to a religious calling.

Listening, heeding, and accepting responsibility for acting on the tasks to which I am summoned as a monastic is quite demanding, especially in a cultural milieu that marginalizes modern "revived" polytheism.

For me, religious obedience means developing the fortitude to faithfully carry out the specific type of religious work I'm here for, whether I happen to feel like it that particular day or not. It means I must obey that call even in the face of financial issues, health issues, mockery from the mainstream (and/or other Pagans & Heathens), general lack of support, and so on.

In practice it means there are times that I must prioritize this calling in ways that cost me friendships, family harmony, job opportunities, and so on. It also means I must develop ways to avoid spending my time and energy on things that do not further this call, which entails saying "no" a lot. That's not easy for me. But I perceive it as a form of religious obedience that is critical to my monastic development.


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Janet Munin

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Re: Ann Williams, devotee of Tana, living in the deep South
« Reply #9 on: May 13, 2019, 07:25:51 PM »
Nice to meet you, Ann, and thank you for sharing your story!

The issue of partnership is one that hits close to home for me. I enjoyed a lot of passionate relationships in my youth, but now at age 54 I'm two decades divorced from my (young adult) daughter's father, and my soulmate died almost a dozen years ago. Part of what has been drawing me to the monastic path is the space that has opened up in my life because I no longer have active romantic relationships.

My soulmate was the only partner/lover I had with whom I shared any degree of spiritual affinity, something I always found strange given how important it was to me. Over the past few months I've done a lot of pondering and weighing my desire for intimate and cozy companionship (I would *really* like someone to just curl up with some evenings, or to share the basic challenges of adult life) with my awareness that being in a relationship like that would necessarily cut into the time I have to devote to my spiritual activities. . . and I keep coming back to the realization that my spiritual path is more important.

May I ask Who Tana is?
I have a very old (1988) notebook from the time when I first discovered Paganism which lists a goddess named Tana, but I've never found any references to Her since then. But the name has grown to have other strong associations for me.
Janet Munin

Re: Ann Williams, devotee of Tana, living in the deep South
« Reply #10 on: May 14, 2019, 02:49:26 AM »
May I ask Who Tana is?
I have a very old (1988) notebook from the time when I first discovered Paganism which lists a goddess named Tana, but I've never found any references to Her since then. But the name has grown to have other strong associations for me.

I first learned of her from reading Raven Grimassi's book, "Ways of the Strega," which has since been re-released under the title "Italian Witchcraft." According to the teachings of the tradition he presents there, Tana is the name of the Great Goddess, she who is all goddesses. He also says she was one of the goddesses of the Etruscans.

Sir James Frazer, in his book, "The Golden Bough," says that the names Tana and Diana are interchangeable, which makes things very complicated from a scholarly point of view, inasmuch as the name Diana is, I think, applied to multiple goddesses. Emotionally, I tend to associate my goddess with the Diana of Lake Nemi. I do not know if that is correct; it hasn't come up in my relationship with her, and it's not important anymore, at least to me.

I spent a lot of time, in the past, searching for her antecedents and historical relationships to other goddesses. There have been some tantalizing suggestions, but never anything I would call definitive. The name is also used by Victor Anderson's Feri tradition for, I think, the Goddess of Fire; but that association has never been signficant for me.
« Last Edit: May 17, 2019, 11:14:34 PM by Ann Williams »

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Janet Munin

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Re: Ann Williams, devotee of Tana, living in the deep South
« Reply #11 on: May 14, 2019, 11:27:27 AM »
Thanks for sharing the info about Tana.

I encountered Her under her association with fire.
Janet Munin