A few days before Christmas I gifted myself a beautiful brooch with Celtic motives. Hidden in the delicate knot-work are two swans, the swan being one of the birds most closely associated with Aengus off whose presence I have become aware. Just two weeks after receiving this item, I lost it again. Or rather, I believed it to be lost.
I was in the the bicycle shed at my work place. It was late Saturday afternoon and I was rushing home before going to yet another work event. I heard something drop. It wasn’t my bicycle key, because the key was still in my hand. It was getting rather dark and after searching for a few minutes, I left. If I still had all my keys, whatever I had dropped couldn’t be all that important.
Once home, I cleaned out my messenger bag and I couldn’t find my brooch. I remembered taking the brooch of my shawl. I was afraid of loosing it and I wanted to put it somewhere safe. Did I displace the item rummaging through my bags? The next day, on a Sunday, I went back to the office for a second search. I found loads of stuff: empty cans, candy wrappers, but nothing shiny. Did someone take it, I wondered? The shed being always locked, if someone took it, it must have been a co-worker. I did not like that notion one bit.
The next week I put up flyers. No-one responded.
Another week passed and I convinced myself I did not need the brooch.
A week after that, I figured I did not deserve it either, since I had taken such bad care of something sacred to me and possible to Aengus as well. I had treated it as just another consumerist thing. It is one thing to realise that ‘things’ should not play centre stage in our life, but things are only without value if we deny them their value.
The reason I took of my brooch was not just a concern for its safety. I was also being secretive, afraid to explain a new luxury item. I was harbouring shame about not being able to afford certain things on which our societal culture places undue value, and then for buying something which others consider to be merely ornamental.
Nornoriel Lokason’s rant on patheos has helped me to understand the following: just because I have less financial resources, does not mean I owe anyone a damned explanation of my expenditures. If I choose the cheapest lunch option while eating out with friends, while they drink expensive wine, I am considered a cheap when I do not want to split the bill evenly, even though this proposed manner of payment is only suggested after the meal is completed. And yet buying a thing of beauty for oneself is seen as wasteful. Never mind that I never buy things on mere impulse and have been carefully considering this purchase for months. Never mind that I am on my way to become rather a minimalist, go hiking instead of going on endless shopping sprees, and have donated a lot of my unused superfluous cloths. Never mind that I had worked extra hours these past months and just received a small bonus.
And the worst part is, no-one actually attacked me on this particular purchase, no-one verbalized their opinions. All this fear and the guilt. It was all me. I had internalized all those watch-full eyes.
I felt shameful about something I bought for the Gods.
Yesterday, I found my brooch in raincoat pocket.
And today I am wearing it proudly.
My badge, my uniform,
And I do feel the eyes of a true friend who cannot afford a new coat. But her eyes are filled with admiration, not admonishment. And I give her what I can in return for this loving look. I give her a pretty scarf I do not use and a necklace that she can re-purpose to something amazing. Because Nonorial is right, beauty can be a need.
As P. Sufenas has written in How To Be An Idolater Without Being Idolatrous:
Enlivened” statues and other “objects with souls” are at the very heart of many animist practices (and, in fact, in most animist practices there is no such thing as an “inanimate object” of any kind!).
The cult of Antinous, he explains, is a cultus of beauty, all beauty, including the beauty of art and artefacts. I am beginning to realise that the cult of Aengus must be as well.
We should put a stop to the mindlessly acquisition of a great many material things, but the things we decide to have, we should value and love. This is a moral obligation. Unloved things are ugly things. And my god is a god of beauty and love.