This story is a well-loved story, one I enjoy telling over and over again. Once upon a time, there was a young woman, a girl really, who was on the verge of being utterly, irrevocably broken. Shattered, depleted, spent, exhausted. Jaded beyond her scant years upon the planet, and ready, so very ready, to be done with the world.
It’s a romantic story at its heart, and also, my favorite particular type of story: that of first contact and the beginning of a journey that ultimately lead to acceptance, love, and home.
What happened, as she teetered on the edge of defeat, was that she was seen. She was heard, she was made to see that she was heard, that she was not alone. She stood at what felt like the edge of the world one night, under a full moon, surrounded by the debris of human life, and gave up.
Just as she gave up, gave in, just as the last of her strength snapped, just as she finally collapsed underneath the pressure of everything she’d been through up to that point, He came. Gently, but suddenly. Inexplicably, unrequested, unexpected, even unwanted, yet stubbornly and insistently present.
He said — and this is the part that always makes me laugh, in delight, in frustration, in awe — when asked, that names didn’t matter all that much, but that He was Poseidon. There, that first night, when asked for a name. Before she — before I, in case this isn’t clear; this young woman was me — would have time to question the reality of this experience, before any of the ‘what do I believe about the gods/how do I believe the gods are?’ would come about in earnest, before I became a theist of any sort, really, He offered me that name. It wasn’t one I wanted to hear; in fact, I bargained with Him then to change it. “Not Manannan? Not Llyr, even? Are You sure it’s ‘Poseidon’?”
I wasn’t at a place to quibble too much, so I let it go, and the rest is history. He’s been in my life for over two decades; I offered my first vows to Him not long after that, and in 2003 I offered more. Fast forward a few more years, and my life had changed significantly, so that myself and my partner (now wife!) Beth were living together, raising her daughter, and focusing a lot on spiritual study and growth. It wasn’t perfect. It was, and would be, incredibly bumpy for a long time, but even at its worst, I felt more able to be myself than I ever had before.
It got bad, between He and I, after I offered marriage vows to Him. Because the relationship both did and did not change. He’d already ‘moved in’, with the first vows I gave Him, but when the marriage did not change the way I expected it to change O/our relationship, I . . . did not react well.
To put it mildly.
If He’d been mortal, it would have been abuse. I did not accept affection or love easily or gracefully. I had issues with self-worth (as in, I didn’t believe I had any) I said and thought horrible things, and did everything I could to push Him away.
Steadfast. Stalwart. He does not get pushed anywhere He does not choose to go.
Poseidon has taught me compassion, by showing me compassion, by guiding me toward compassion, sometimes by goading me towards compassion. He’s led by example, and by insistence. He has again and again, softened my heart. Towards people, towards humanity in general, towards change. He guided me from apathy, to detachment, to compassion, finally to empathy. It’s not altruist compassion or empathy, here; it’s self-serving. When I’m not actively engaged in striving toward it, the apathy likes to creep back in, and that brings with it a sense of being dead, or nearly dead, or turned off, and it’s just not a place I like to be.
He brought me from a place of misanthropic misery to one of wonderment over my species. We’re fascinating creatures, and even if I’ll never fall into that category that thinks we’re the best of the best of the best, I can at least admit that we are curious and odd, and I enjoy getting to see us.
The foundation of O/our relationship was built upon mutual self-discovery, of experiences with o/One another, and not upon the history that we have regarding the Hellenic worship of the god Poseidon, nor the mythological understandings we have regarding Him — and while that may strike others as being ‘not right’, while that might make others decide He’s not Poseidon, not really, I maintain that, well, I don’t care. In our story, in the story of u/Us, when this being showed up and shored up the failing strength of a young woman, who took her heart into His hands and held fast, held tight, He gave her a name. It may not be the name He always uses. It may not be the sum total of Who He Is — but we’re funny about names in our society, receiving them, keeping them, some of us, our whole lives without ever changing them. We’re rigid with our names, more so than some other cultures, who have naming and renaming rites of passage at different points in their lives. Even when we understand the adoption of religious names or pen names or other alias, we’re still rigid with them. Reluctant to adopt a new name for someone we’ve met under a different name. And this translates, or translated at least for me, to how I think of this being I’m most comfortable calling Poseidon.
But, that’s a work in progress, as you’ll see.