Song of the Ancients

Finding Moisture in the Spiritual Desert


Like any sojourner on a spiritual path, I have found my walk at times joyful, painful, exhilarating, and excruciating. Any religious or spiritual walk is bound to have peaks and valleys. All of life is change and is cyclical. Our spiritual paths are no different. You know what I am speaking about; those times of dryness where the Gods seem distant and silent, where our most heartfelt and sincere petitions and prayers seem to shatter as they leave our lips. Rituals are rote and crusty, hope withers and faith seeps from us, drop by drop, finally pooling, puddle-like, at our feet.

Unlike mainstream religions, I have no scripture to fall back on during these times. I have no ‘written, holy reminders’ of my faith; no gilt-edged texts to pick up and from that glorious book, glean wisdom and renewed hope. My path is one of illiterate farmers. What was taught to my Father and then to me, was never written, for fear of repercussions from the church or damaging gossip from some bigoted, superstitious neighbour.

I have nothing but memories; distant, sometimes foggy memories of my Father, puttering around his garden, muttering Mexican blessings on all the plants he grew and nurtured. His constant anger at humans (especially his family) and the frailty of our human condition as a whole was always abated by the Earth Mother; Her healing Elements bathed him in repose and his demeanor changed. Where before, he was angry, distant and threatening, once outside in his natural realm, left alone with his Gods and the Mother, he somehow transformed and took on traits of gentleness, kindness and healing. He then, and only then, became a man I adored. His power as a Worker of the Way was strongest then and palpably noticeable. The power and confidence radiated off of him in waves, gentle and pure.

Daddy said that our lives were like the jalapeno peppers he grew in that garden. That a desert-like environment was necessary if you wanted the taste and hot sensation strong. If you want the peppers mild, you keep them well watered, never allowing them to dry out or wilt. You keep them well-fed, making sure to fertilize them really well during the formation period. You make sure they want for nothing. This type of horticultural care will make the pepper mild tasting, full, soft and sweet.

However, if you want really hot jalapenos, you withhold that water. You let the plants dry out, wilt, and then, right on the point where you think there is no hope of their survival, you water them. You water them just enough to keep them from dying, then you leave them again. You do this repeatedly, during the life cycle of the pepper. You fertilize rarely, letting the plant seek its own sustenance. Daddy called this “the little death”. In this way, the pepper grows in power, strength and hardiness. The ‘little death’ is what makes the Fire Spirit of the pepper. This is what scorches the tongue, burns the belly and tastes so good. This is also what makes the Medicine in the pepper; that strong capsaicin chemical compound that is so good for the circulatory system and heart.. This Fire Spirit cleans the veins, scrubs the mouth and opens the chest.

This is life; this is experience, growth and maturity. These dark times of the soul are when we ripen, mature and gain our own Medicine. We are being cultivated for our Fire Spirit; that burning and lusting after the Old Gods and the Old Ways, that obsession over knowledge, wisdom and Power. The desert experience separates the men from the boys, the little girls from the women, and the Powerful from the Weak. How we use and approach the desert is up to us, but approach it, we will. Of this, I am sure. Our Gods have no use for our weakness; our pampered states of neediness and constant desire. They want us strong. They want honour and worship from people with fire in their mouths; their bodies taut with experience and endurance. People burnt by their own desires for the Mysteries, almost self-combusting from the longing; sunburned, pulsating, glowing. We are tiny gods on the desert plain.

I find myself now approaching these ‘dry’ times with gratitude. After the initial fear and resentment of being ‘left alone’ to my own devices has subsided, I reflect and enter a self-made retreat, my own ‘little death’. I speak little, I think much, I offer thanks even though I believe no One is listening. I work even though I think I am alone. I wilt and wither and almost die, awaiting my rescue.

My Gardener, She now comes.