Divorce, An Initiatory Path
Article ID: 14135
Age Group: Adult
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Author: Diana Rajchel
Posted: November 7th. 2010
Times Viewed: 3,202
In a span of life experience including broken bones, dropping out of my graduate program and developing a sometimes- debilitating chronic illness, divorce falls in the spectrum of “not the worst” but past the line marked “would do it again.” It does however make the list of top ten life events that have really sucked so far.
Looking back, I recognize that period as a spiritual ordeal. Before initiations into greater Mysteries, each person must pass through a trial that challenges who you believe yourself to be. Every single aspect of my person faced that challenge, and some parts of me fell away for good. I no longer believe all conflicts can be resolved. Relationships need much more than love to work. Love exists to teach us and to connect us to some of our teachers; it does not exist to make miracles.
I did not enjoy such perspective while passing through that divorcing and post-divorce phase. For those familiar with tarot, I came upon a time in my life when my Tower fell – on me.
The Tower in tarot typically symbolizes catastrophe over which you have no control. When the tower falls, you can only fall with it and hope for the best when you land. In my case, I landed in a different city with my career, finances and health in shreds. I gave up graduate school, and not too long after I moved I developed an idiopathic illness. I also landed around people void of the capacity to understand my situation. In the midst of attempting an amicable divorce I found myself navigating murky cultural waters where, no matter what I chose, I wound up judged harshly.
My remaining friends from the university came from cultures that place a massive stigma on divorce, and an equal stigma on being white, American and female. I found my identity and assumptions challenged daily, and in turn I challenged theirs. At the time, I hated it, but even then I recognized some of its value: to know myself, I had to know my place in the world on a genuinely global scale. These individuals took the role of the challengers that a traveler meets along an initiatory path.
My faith in humanity and in my own ability wavered as I went through the darkest part of my youth. To ascend to the next level of adulthood, I had to establish myself with almost none of my old material comforts, no security in the form of bank accounts or ownership and without human connections to give me shelter should I fail. I came close to losing a home many times, but I did discover that the gods do pay attention as long as you both keep talking and shut up and listen to what they have to say.
The entire process of divorce formed a gauntlet. The question at the gate was that horrifying statement, “I want a divorce.” From there, I stripped myself of money by paying the legal fees, of security by moving out of the home I shared and by quitting the jobs I worked, of status by giving up my role as someone’s wife and as a university student. I even gave up friends, forced to leave them as I moved to a new city. Just as Inanna laid down her jewels at each gate of the Underworld, I laid down every mark of the identity I spent years building.
Divorce is the falling of the tower, and standing up, dusting yourself off and walking down the road to a place you can rebuild is the post-divorce descent. Death visits somewhere in the middle, helping you to release your old identity – and hopefully freeing you from the mistaken belief that Death has any impact whatsoever on love. At the end of the journey new identity awaits, but first the initiatory divorcee must run someone’s gauntlet of social expectations.
In Wicca, we celebrate the eternal love of the God and Goddess for the same reason we celebrate Her eternal life: both possibilities extend beyond our own physical possibilities. We aspire to them, touch on them through magic, ritual and passionate living, but death still claims us, and love must end. The ephemeral nature of life is the hardest thing about it, and in the case of divorce, when the love leaves but the breath of life remains the struggle to accept what that means sears us. We all want to be the exception, to be the mythic lovers placed in the stars. Even those of us who dance to the moon and burn candles to the goddess Aphrodite must at some point pay the price of living on this earth: the good things, the good times, and the beauty must end or else it degrades and becomes ill, a quiet cancer we fail to notice until it’s too late.
If especially blessed, the love ends in death after a long life together. Most of us instead face harsher truths and rockier journeys: our paths split, whether the road is inner or outer, and we must say goodbye to both the former loved one and to love itself. Those of us who choose an attitude of faith carry on with a belief love will return, that this is a cycle, one of death within life. Others will struggle, seeing wind-tossed currents of change ahead, with no idea whether safety is at hand.
The only guarantee given in life, even to those with piercing faith in divine interest, is that we are here to change. Divorce changes you internally even as your body ages externally. When at last you arrive at your next stop, you will have your body – as is - and you will have your spirit – as is. Above all, you will still have choice.
That choice will tell you that your next phase begins. You might enjoy a new lover. You might find yourself with work that engages you in a new and different way. You might find that your mind and heart simply turn to the path ahead, knowing the past goes nowhere.
To my readers:
I am currently writing a book in Divorce and neopaganism. If you have experienced a divorce, and it has been one year or more since the dissolution, please consider participating in my survey. Right now the survey is set to run until December 31st., 2010.
Copyright: copyright Diana Rajchel 2010
Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota
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