Sauna Time

pentagramSomeone recently asked me, at the gym of all places, why I wear a pentagram.  This was an unusual question because ninety-nine percent of the time, I realize that if people see the nearly two inch wide wooden pentagram hanging on my chest I will get this question, so I usually hang it up in my locker first.  I just had a lot on my mind stepping into the sauna yesterday (the BEST post-workout respite) and neglected to take it off.

The person asking me this was an older lady of Chinese heritage, and we see each other often in the gym (not often enough, I need to make more time) and she asked with what seemed to me, genuine sincerity and not disdain.  It was just the two of us, so I didn’t try to hide my surprise that I was wearing the necklace or that she asked me, or even that she spoke to me for the first time ever.

I told her that it was a very profound expression of my religion.  She nodded, but asked me what I meant.  I liked that she didn’t ask me if I worshipped the devil, or if I knew that it was an evil marker.  My belief in her sincerity went up.

I politely explained to her that I was a Wiccan and we have many different ideas of how and why we display the pentagram as there are several traditions.  I told her that for me and my tradition, it was like a covenant between me and the divine, something real and tangible that shows my devotion and the oaths I have taken for my beliefs.

That brought a smile to her face and she nodded, and let out a little laugh.  Not a mocking laugh, but a laugh of understanding.

She asked me if I believed it had the same power as the Cross of Christ.

This was a rough and difficult question to answer.  I didn’t know if I was being baited, teased or if I should really worry about what to say;  I figured though, I had left it hanging out there, both physically and metaphorically, so I told her, that yes, it has the same power and for me it has more.

This brought a funny kind of look to her face, so I asked her if I could explain.  I told her that symbols, by their very use and belief are given power.  So in that sense, my pentacle had the same power as someone wearing their cross because each of us has put our own belief and symbolism into that physical piece of Jewelry.

I went on to tell her, since I was not Christian, and did not believe in Christ as any more than a wise man, healer and spiritual hombre, I couldn’t put the same faith in the cross as a Christian, so to me, my pentagram held me power.

It took a moment, but again she started nodding and smiled at me.  She told me, she liked that answer.  Immediately she went back to her normal routine of bending at the waist, to reach past her toes several times in rapid succession.

I felt happy, I was glad I didn’t get into a spiritual war in the sauna at 24 Hour Fitness, but I was even more glad that she listened and didn’t judge.  We live in a world where we still have to hang out in the broom closet and are often judged on our own symbols and beliefs.  Sometimes, we are deported or denied entry to this country based on our beliefs.  Sometimes we, as humans, are killed based on our beliefs, in fact, too much.

As she got up to leave, I will never forget her last words to me.  She stood up, gathered her towel and water and walked to the door.  She paused and, dramatically looked over her shoulder and spoke to me in broken English:

“I am glad I talk to you.  You not so fat as you were fat last week”

She then walked out of the sauna.  I am excited to see her again.

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The Real Essay: A Work in Progress

lean42We pulled up to the holy ground and readied ourselves for the meet.  It had been some time since this many of us had seen fit to come together, and this time, they spoke of fresh meet and old blood returning.  The day beat against my skin warm then cool, then warm again.  The sun was up, the season of the sun’s return  was upon us.  But not the heat, just the light.  Light had come back to the desert and I stood upon the blessed dirt feasting on the little heat and warmth ir provided,  it like so many of the buffets that we have in our village.

One by one they started to arrive.  All type of conveyance, from the sporty silver muscle carr to the economical and smart.  You can tell a lot about a person from what they drive.  I knew the tall one was very orderly, the way he parked with so much space between his immaculately clean, white car and the vehicle nest to him.  I guess that is why my favorite car has always been the 1980 Dodge Aries that was my first ride into manhood.  It was missing its hubcaps and had a crack in the windshield.  It perpetually smelled of cheese.

That is when she pulled in; just far enough to let you know that she wanted to be left alone, but close enough not to give a shit.  The law had come to town, and she sported a chest tattoo and size 7 sneakers.  I hadn’t seen my friend in some time and it was good to know she had made it through the lawless sin one more day.

We huddled under the mid-day temperature in the shade of the old lean-too.  Others gathered around, some called them the Elders, some called them the teachers.  Nobody really knows from whence they came, but they have always been there.  Like Priests and Priestesses of old, they guarded the knowledge of the wise, and it was hard to get out of them.  Some folks were lucky and stayed around to get this knowledge, some were just dipshits on the roadmap of our lives.

The magic was flowing through us as we shared our stories of loss and gain, each of us owning a piece of each other’s sorrow, laughter and pain.  It isn’t easy when this many people come together, like a ka-tet of legend.  Ya kin?  But the stories flow whether we want them to or not.

The law decided to finally taker her turn, she cleared her throat and told us about a night in the recesses of the valley, a little shit bird of a place called China Town.  Her eyes hooded against the anticipation we all felt as she began her story.  It was a tale of two women, both of oriental origin, pretty common in that part of town.  One of them was named Ling Ling, and she had plans.

“You want to fuck with Ling Ling?”

That was the battle cry that broke the shadows with laughter.  You could hear the transports in the background as they whined along roads long past their use, but barely.  Not an eye was dry after we heard the tale of Ling Ling and her desire to be fucked with.  Damn it feels good to be a witch.

From behind and to our side, a sound ripped through the day, pouring over us like warm honey.  Honey laced with cinnamon, because this sound had a bight.  Just when we had thought that we had heard it all, the words that still haunt my days came forth from the Elder

“You know, Big Sean’s album drops this week”