Between Madness and Priestess: Dancing the Tightrope

Me brightly dressed for ceremony

There is a delicate balancing act between the part of me that is a functioning priestess and the part of me that is desperately trying to step out of my own madness.

And it is not easy to understand, and it is not easy to explain.

The people who do not know me well see the chalice, the sword, the diadem. They approach me shyly, thanking me for my words, my service. People who barely know me never see the price beyond the regalia, and they never seem to realize that at my best moments of priestessing, I have shed my own self and plunged into the sacred spring where the goddess and the madwoman lie tangled in their eternal embrace.

Photo of Author as priestess
Me as a priestess with a priest, ready to begin the work

The people who know me well can see almost the exact instant that I leave my self. They see the wounds, the scars, the mess I have made of my own life. My closest circle of friends feel better I think when I set aside the chalice and the blade and live a more solid mundane life. Those who love me want me to be safe, and good priestessing is not safe.

And neither of those things are true for me. And both of those things are true for me.

I need stability in my life. I need to be able to simply chop wood and carry water. I need enough of the material world that my basic needs are met. And I am working toward that again. Schizophrenia is cyclical for me. When it is upon me, it is like driving in a blizzard-slipping wildly, no matter how carefully I handle the wheel, millions of particles flying into my vision hypnotizing me, until I crash in an unpleasant ditch. It takes me years to re-integrate myself, to be organized and clear enough to reinvent myself and start over from square one. And I’m doing that work now, gathering up what was shattered and meticulously gluing my life back together.

I also need magick in my life. I need to fall lusciously into the lap of the goddess. I need to be in the place in the time in the Stone Circle casting circle for the people. I need to plumb the depths of my own soul, and the depths of the cosmic unconscious. I have always been a good tool of the Gods. I can easily fall away from myself, and leave all that space for them. The hilt of the sword remembers my hands, the path around the altar knows my feet, the people have found good help in my words and my works.

Balancing these is hard work. No wonder I sometimes stumble and drop it all. For the mundane life demands I not stray into the realms of madness and the magickal life demands I leap in into madness in my full faith.

When all is well, when all is well, when all manner of things are well I can balance that liminal state. I can live as a fulcrum between those wildly diverse worlds. But to do it requires impeccability. And I am all too human. I can be very disciplined for periods of time-eating well, sleeping well, making good choices. But eventually I make a poor choice. And when I make that one poor choice, all the poor choices I have not made clamor for my attention, and I make all the poor choices at once, and the center can not hold.

I have tried to have only the normal stable life. I have walked away from being a priestess at least as many times as I have derailed my life-maybe more. When I have that life, I do not value it. A life without the wine in the cup of life which is the cauldron of Cerridwen, holy grail of immortality is a life I do not want. Living cut off from the parts of me that are a gifted priestess is my fastest road to a suicide attempt out of a clear blue sky.

As I rebuild my life those closest to me are being tested on the altars of loss, friends, family, and heroes are dying in numbers close to those closest to me. And the people come to me. I do not beckon them, they just come in their pain and loss. And they are not seeking a damaged dysfunctional woman, they seek the words, the actions of a priestess. And I plunge in, falling into trance and finding the right words, the right actions. Through my madness, their hurts are healed, their burdens lightened, even if only for a time. And when my work is done as priestess, I emerge to resume the work of rebuilding my life.

Along this long road, I have seen the carnage of lives. I have seen a gifted priestess who fell into madness almost fifteen years ago. She has yet to emerge. I have seen a gifted priestess walk away to chop wood and carry water. She has yet to emerge.

And me, I continue to try to balance, to juggle, to walk the talk. And I try to do good. I do good. I try to find that fulcrum point and balance there. I hope, I pray that I can balance there. I can not be less than both these things. And we should all know that I will probably fall again, and drop all of the things, and watch them shatter on the ground yet again, yet again. I just need to be patient. I need to trust the process. I need to remember that it does not matter if I fail, it does not matter if I fall. It only matters that I rise again when I do fall.

Author: belladonnareed

Pamela Alexander is a 48 year old mother of two and mild menace to society. She resides in a suburb of Pittsburgh, PA with her sorely oppressed partner, and flatulent dog and a cat. She smokes like a chimney, swears like a sailor, and has been known to drink. When she grows up she hopes to move to the West coast of Mexico.

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