Before anyone has a mind to congratulate me on coming out of the broom closet, let me start by saying that it’s not what you think. This post is going to mostly be about my mother and brother visiting me from the United States. I’ll talk a bit about Beltane. And there is a closet (well, a cupboard) involved.
Basically I’ve been MIA because about two weeks ago my mom and brother flew into this country from the US and I’ve been playing the tour guide for the majority of that time. We’ve literally been eating, talking, spending time, and even sleeping together, so me sneaking away to write posts onto a Witchcraft blog would probably not be well-received. I don’t think I need to remind anyone that I was raised Catholic, and apart from recognizing that I entertain my doubts, I think my mom still considers me to be Catholic. While she has certainly let her church attendance drop recently (due to many complicated reasons, most of them not pertaining to the Church itself), she was raised Catholic and presumably her family has been Catholic for many generations, and she’ll probably be Catholic until the day she dies. My brother, on the other hand, has had just as strange a journey as I have, and he’s a bit more understanding. He had a time in late high school where he was basically agnostic as I understood it, then in college he had a mild fanatical moment where he was taken into a Biblical group and he felt he had a spiritual re-awakening, then that sort of died down and he settled into what I would again consider to be pretty stagnant agnosticism. I don’t know if he’s actively pursuing any spiritual ideas but I think his philosophy is pretty much that it’s not worth it.
In any case, I knew before they came that evidence of my path would have to be squirreled away. I had literally several dozen burned down tealights scattered around my room and tons of other candles, which I use for various reasons. I had my makeshift altar things on an altar-y table out on the balcony. There’s a white cupboard just over the table where I usually store things for my rituals, so I decided to shove everything in there and kind of make it look like a mess and hide all the symbols, just in case somebody peeked in there, although I didn’t think anybody would.
Of course, therein lies the evidence that I’ve been away from my mother for too long, because I’d almost forgotten how extremely curious(/nosy?) my mom can be.
So my mom and brother arrived in the capital of the country–which is NOT where I live–and we spent a few days there, which was stressful as hell because I don’t know the capital so well and absolutely nothing is written in English, whereas in this city it’s a bit more friendly to tourists. So my mom and brother were entirely relying on me, because they don’t read this language at all, let alone speak it, and my mom, who is one of the nicest people you will ever meet but certainly has her faults, spent a lot of time questioning where I was going and alternating between assuming I have a better mastery of the language than I do and insinuating that I have no idea what I’m doing. Of course, she was probably just equally stressed at being in a different country where not a lot of people speak English, and she had to add to that being led around by her 22-year-old daughter. And I don’t deny that I can be an awful tour guide sometimes.
On May 1st we celebrated several holidays in this country, one of them being a very late Easter (which is celebrated later here than in Western countries), and of course, I wanted very badly to celebrate Beltane in some way. I guess the only thing I can say about the night leading up to the first was that we certainly partied from dusk til dawn (and after), and it was certainly a night of debauchery. But being in a busy capital meant that I didn’t get to go out into the woods or a meadow and hang pretty ribbon spells from a tree or make flower crowns or anything that I kind of romanticize about Beltane.
Tell me if I’m wrong, but one of the great things about Beltane seems to be that it is the only genuinely carefree festival of the Wheel of the Year. Hear me out: We’ve got Samhain first, which I think most people would agree is a pretty dark and sometimes solemn sabbat. Then we’ve got Yule, which is nice and hopeful but you’ve still got the rest of winter coming and it’s also dark and cold as anything. Imbolc is next which is nice and also hopeful, but by this time of the year you’re kind of feeling the weight of several months of cold and if you live in the north, the end really still isn’t in sight. Ostara is great and exciting but spring still isn’t quite here yet and it’s still cold. Beltane is finally the time when the leaves might be coming out, the weather is becoming fine, people are happy and lusty and dance-y, and you’re like, “Bring on summer.” Then we’ve got Litha, which is obviously awesome and bright BUT it’s the death of the Oak King, which means that it’s getting darker again and the idea of winter is looming ahead. Lammas is the hard work of harvest and preparing for winter, Mabon is kind of the same but more in earnest, and…well, then winter’s set in again.
Moral of the last paragraph: BELTANE IS AWESOME, and I have never gotten the chance to freaking celebrate it yet!
I’m still hoping that even though I’m almost two weeks late, I can still get out and do some ritual in nature. Is that a thing? Do people celebrate sabbats late?
Alright, alright, now I know this is getting a bit long already and I still haven’t exactly gotten to the broom closet (although I did some foreshadowing back there). Basically, after spending a few days in the capital, we traveled to the city where I live–more specifically, I live in the suburb of a big city, though not the capital–and I got much more confident and comfortable taking my mom and brother sightseeing and whatnot. I know this place, man. I’ve been here for a long time.
Yet bringing your mom and brother to live in your living space can be so risky, too, especially if you’re in the broom closet. The first couple days, we were way too busy for my mom to worry about my apartment much, although she did rearrange the kitchen because we had it “poorly organized” before. The real trouble started in the last couple days when we had some downtime, and my beautiful mother started wanting to straighten up everything in sight.
“Let me fix the cupboard in the kitchen.”
“It’s not necessary, we don’t use it.”
“I want to sweep the floor.”
“Don’t worry about it, I’ll do it later.”
“I know you don’t like them, but you need to buy some chemical cleaners. Vinegar and lemon juice aren’t going to get the grease off the stove.”
“Mom, I’m pretty sure that grease has been here since the 1970’s and I don’t think we’re going to be the ones who get it off.”
(Okay, now that I’m writing these things down they don’t seem so annoying or invasive, but I was PMSing a bit and I just wanted my mom to leave everything alone. Of course, then she started on my room.)
“You should throw out those old flowers on that table. Are you keeping them for some reason?”
“No, Mom, I just like the aesthetic. It’s my room.”
“Well, the table is messy. Let me clean it off.”
“Mom, leave it.”
Anyway, on one of our last evenings together, my brother and I left my mom to go with my friends to the city and of course, in my absence, she did everything she could. She swept everywhere. She threw out old potted plants and good dirt. She tried to take out the garbage, got lost, and thankfully met my roommate outside. And dang it, she went on the balcony and tried to tidy up my freaking altar table. And she LOOKED IN MY CUPBOARD.
I knew it immediately when I arrived home. I saw some of the plastic plant containers sitting on my altar table, and I knew she had been out there. I hoped that she hadn’t looked in my cupboard, but when I went into the kitchen and saw her cleaning dishes, she held up a sponge and said, “You know, you have another one of these in that cupboard out on your balcony.”
I swallowed. “You mean you put one in there?” Please, do not let her have been rifling through that cupboard.
“No, there was one. And there are a ton of candles out there, and there’s a melted candle on that table on the balcony.”
My heart was absolutely pounding in my chest. “Yeah, there are a lot of candles.” And then I went in my room and felt absolutely exposed.
I should be thankful that my mom didn’t realize what was in that cupboard, although all it would have taken was a bit more digging, or picking up one of the candles and seeing the image of the Goddess that I carved on it with a knife.
Later that day she walked into my room, opened the balcony door, and went to the cupboard in front of me. I had been talking with my brother over something on the computer but suddenly my mouth was dry and I couldn’t hear a word that he was saying. She picked up the sponge out of the cupboard and held it up for me to see that there, indeed, was a sponge out there. Then she reached toward the back–where I had hidden some of the more incriminating things–and I felt panic grab me.
“Mom,” I said suddenly, “bring me that melted candle from the table!” Anything to get her out of there.
She pulled out a glass container from the back of the cupboard. “Look at all these little containers back here!”
“Yeah, yeah, they’re cool. Can you bring me that candle, please?”
She pointed out the herb packets that I kept out there, and the bowl of salt. “Ugh, don’t use this stuff for cooking, it’s been exposed to moisture out here. You should throw it out.”
“Sure, I’ll do that.” I snapped my fingers like an impatient kid. “The candle, please!”
She unstuck the melted wax from the table, closed the cupboard, stepped back into my room, and handed it to me. “Why do you want to see the candle so bad?”
To get you out of my stuff. “I want to see of it’s salvageable.” I knew it wasn’t–half of the candle was flat, and it was broken. But at that moment, it wasn’t just fear that wanted my mom to get out of my cupboard. It was a sense of sanctity. It was my mom unknowingly violating things that I held spiritually sacred.
After I brought my mom and brother to the airport, I looked around my apartment. It looked bigger and cleaner in the absence of their belongings, and certainly my mom had done me a huge service in straightening up the kitchen and things like that, even if I hadn’t wanted her to at the time. But my besom had been used for mundane cleaning, sitting bristles-down on the floor; there were dirty flower pots sitting on my altar, and my mom had even thrown pizza coupons there–treating it like a normal table. None of these things were that big of a deal, certainly, and my altar only has the value that I give to it, but…damn. I felt like I had been roughly laundered and hung out in a damp room. These were silly little trifling things, and of course my mom had no way of knowing that these objects where important to me, or even mine (there are a lot of things in our apartment that do not belong to us). But yet, it was like a needle stuck in me. Sitting here now, I can’t even imagine what it has been like throughout history to have your religion misunderstood or disrespected, or have the things you hold sacred be desecrated. Whole peoples, including Pagans, have been subjected to that and worse.
Someday I’ll tell my mom about my path, but certainly this vacation wasn’t the time for that. It was a time of being tourists and entertaining my family and hopefully they enjoyed it. I enjoyed it too. These little events don’t negate the whole goodness of it. But I saw that I was simultaneously strong and weak when my broom closet was opened and yet not revealed. I saw that I could keep secrets in plain sight, but I hope that in the future it won’t be a secret anymore.