Incest Survivors, Spirituality and Ceremonies of Justice – the story of a woman living a rich, fulfilling life while waiting to dance on her sociopath father's grave.
So last Saturday I saw my ex girlfriend (Kitten) and her new girlfriend at the bar. It was no big deal. For those who don’t know the back story, she was my partner for 5 months and we broke up mid September. She reminded me a lot of my father / abuser, thankfully not in the sociopath rapist ways. She’s the first person I’ve dated who had so many profound superficial and deep similarities with him that I saw and recognized it as a gift, since it could not possibly be coincidence.
Okay, I’m going to get all Wiccan and spiritual on you here. If that’s not your thing, I won’t be offended.
I’m dedicated to two main Gods. As a polytheist Pagan, I believe in, revere and recognize more than just those two, but I have a special relationship with at least two. My matron goddess, Aphrodite, has been walking with me for over 15 years since I formally dedicated to her. She teaches me about being honourable, truthful and open in love, something I definitely didn’t learn at home. She is the one who led me on this journey into forging ethical polyamory with others. She’s a mentor, and a Goddess, and a mother to me, who prompts me to be my best self in the world, and supports me in figuring out how to do that. When I reach a crossroads with someone I love, and need to figure out how to respond from my best self, She is always there. I find by reaching out to her, I can keep my dedication to respond honorably and with love and vulnerability, and I trust that following where She guides me always results in actions and results I feel good about. If I stop and reach for Her, she will always guide me.
My patron God, the Stag, sometimes known as Herne, has been with me at times in my life when I have been doing intense learning about my father and myself as a physical, passionate, sexual and musical person. He appears to me in dreams, and has appeared in the form of an actual stag to me when I need a reminder that even though I don’t have a biological father, I have a spiritual male ally who has my back. He also appears in my life through the wonderful male friends and allies I have. The Stag in Paganism is about positive masculinity, rutting sexuality, but also about sacrifice as well, as he is the one who is both hunter and hunted, and it seems much of what he has to teach me is the value of letting go, and of lessons learned through apparent hardship.
Herne became much more involved in my life during my relationship with Kitten, and over the course of the relationship, as it began to go downhill, Aphrodite seemed to fade from my life. At the time, I felt intense grief, that was probably about more than Kitten, and it seemed that Aphrodite was done with me, or was backing away to give Herne some room. I accepted it, but I wondered.
Herne was there as a guardian as I entered a place in relationship that did not feel safe or familiar to me, because it was full of a mixture of abuse triggers and little-girl longings for her daddy. Here is one small example. Like my abuser, Kitten loved to drink beer, and her breath at times smelled of it. I told her early on that this was a trigger, but when the bloom faded from the relationship, she began drinking it around me. Perhaps like many non-survivors, she had the mistaken belief that she could ‘cure’ me of my trigger by exposing me to it. Exposure works, but only when it is done at the choice of and under the control of the survivor. Perhaps she was just selfish and didn’t see the value of depriving herself of something she needed when it didn’t seem to bother me that much. Like my father she is very dominant in a power-over rather than the leader/alpha way that I prefer for myself. Anyhow, there were many, many small and large triggers in almost everything she did, most of which I found did not unbalance me in the way they might have 20 years ago, and which I found to my surprize I could tolerate. What was a huge lure for me is that her positive behaviours were similar to my father/abuser as well. My father was the one who paid a lot of attention to me, and, as part of grooming me for abuse or presenting a cover identity of the affectionate father when I was younger, did many nice things, from brushing my hair, to reading to me and making music with me.
After the relationship ended, I felt some self-betrayal. Why had I tried to make a relationship work with someone who displayed so many obvious red flags? Why was it so intense, erotic and spiritual for me, when that was clearly not where Kitten was at with us? While I normally am friends with my exes, Kitten and I were unable to make a friendship work, when I was no longer willing to overlook poor behaviours she didn’t see as such. I realized although I felt love for her in a general sense, and had compassion for the anxiety and woundedness at the root of many of the behaviours I didn’t like, I could not trust or respect her, and I hadn’t seen or spoken to her, even in text, in months.
As I said, I saw Kitten at the bar with her GF. I was on a date as well, which was going well. I had several friends with me. But really, none of that made a whole lot of difference. I was indifferent. I took note of the new girlfriend, said an awkward guy-style “hey” to the ex in passing and that was it. I had no real feelings about it, and for most of the evening in the crowded bar, I forgot she was there. She had no power to affect me.
The next day, doing a weekly meditation practice I do, it all fell together. It felt like the story was complete. I realized that this was as much a lesson and initiation as the one Aphrodite had presented me with in Malta. Herne was there to show me a mystery relating to my dad/abuser, to help me shed energetic blocks in my body and passion. He stood by me as I entered potentially triggering father territory, because some of my passion and physicality was locked away there. I found it was safe to let go of places I had been holding myself separate and shielded. That I could be trusted to behave in a way I can respect, even in unfriendly territory, because I can trust myself. It’s like being the hero in a folk tale who passes through the tests on his journey and succeeds where others fail by being a good person, by being polite and helpful to the crone or magical creature in distress he meets on the road. I get to keep that learning. I can trust that He will be there for me.
There in my meditation, I had the emotional release and came to resolution all in one whole piece. I had flashes of the parts of me that had been open and alive, and of the places that I hadn’t let myself go before. I saw them from a resolved place of acceptance. And when I let go of the fear of betraying myself, and realized it was all a lesson from the Stag, and that I’d been safe and guided by Him all along, as He always did in connection to my father. And in the same moment, as I opened the shield I’d put up because I had lost faith in my own good judgement, She was there again. Aphrodite, who had seemed so distant these last few months, was suddenly there and connected again, without losing the stronger connection I’ve developed with the masculine divine and the masculine parts of myself.
I don’t know if this makes much sense, but I feel whole and satisfied. A mystery revealed. It makes sense even if I can’t articulate it. I was led in a divine process and I cooperated with it, and although it hurt along the way, it was worth it, because I have reclaimed parts of myself and my passion and sensuality and physicality that I need.
What I notice, is that I’ve been able to embrace the parts of me that are masculine, dominant and actively sexual, and let them be expressed, even to the point of dressing in a much more butch way than I have in the past, and feeling good about it. These have always been part of me.