Here’s a good idea for something living on your altar: terrariums in a jar.
Women’s spirituality is ubiquitous in the Pagan community. Everywhere you look, people are embracing and exalting the Goddess. Many women are finding comfort and empowerment in the feminine spirits. Many men are coming to terms with their feminine side. A great many people are avoiding the pitfalls of putting gender and by extension, physical limits on the Unfathomable Creator or forgetting the feminine forces of Nature.
This is all good, but as spiritual people, we must take care that we don’t abandon God while embracing Goddess, or ignore the masculine forces of Nature.
It is especially disheartening for me, with Vodun as my home faith, to see people co-opting female/feminine Orishas without any understanding of them or their place in the Yoruba or diaspora pantheons. Somehow, the vast majority of them pounce onto Yemaya without first, going through Eshu. There is a reason that everyone must ask Eshu before approaching other Orishas. If one does not have the proper attitude of reverence, one cannot successfully work with Nature. There is a good reason that the Orisha we approach first with reverence is identified male, and it’s not just because his first human avatar was. There’s a reason he chose a male body first, with whom to enter the human consciousness.
The female may carry babies and give birth. This is no small task. The male however, provides the seed, provides for the mother (or his female relatives in matriarchal or heavily matrilineal cultures), physically and psychologically protects her, and does the vast majority of the warrior and builder duties that keep societies functioning. Without male presence, children would have to be born walking and talking.
Yet in western culture, maleness is being villainized. We’re told that there is a rapist or murderer lurking in every dark place, waiting to strike, and we’re told that these are almost invariably male. We are taught to suppress any hint of masculinity in our boys except as it directly profits a woman. Some Pagan and Wiccan feminists even attempt to force feminist political agendas through magic, without considering the long term effects, much less what the spirits who nurture humanity may want.
A spiritual person should be able to see through all the mess, and should understand the need for reality and for balance. A spiritual person should have a God in harmony with their Goddess.
A spiritual person should be egalitarian, not feminist. The spirits do not have a political agenda. Where you may have a closer affinity to feminine spirits if you’re female or have been driven that way because of a special talent (you may be two-spirit regardless of your orientation), you should have place for the masculine as well.
…and for goodness sake, if you’re incorporating spirits or paths from the Vodun or diaspora systems, get into Eshu first.
We all know at least one Goddess proclaiming person whose life is in shambles. They’ve alienated the men in their lives as they are attempting to distance themselves from masculine spirituality. Yet they claim that since they’ve embraced the Goddess, they’re doing the right thing. As the years go by, you’ve seen them become ever more shrill in this proclamation, and yet become ever more hollow and shallow. If you’ve ever been in a coven or group where it seemed like a competition to be the most “empowered” and felt uncomfortable with this, that was your animus and probably Eshu with Shango singing backup, telling you to get out of there, and rightly so.
Respect the masculine in harmony with the feminine, and you’ll find many things in your life improve naturally. You’ll feel more free to let your Oshun aspects come out when you know there is a Shango around.
Suppressing masculinity suppresses femininity because both need each other to exist. Even and especially if you are a naturally tough woman, you should be able to access the masculine spirits. A good many if not most tough ladies became so with considerable contribution from their fathers or other positive male role models. To balance expedience and honor, one must balance their masculine and feminine self. Just as men and women need to learn to live in peace in the outside world, you need to learn to live in peace with your feminine and masculine self in your inner world.
As more people reclaim their ancestral faiths or explore different ones where their soul feels more at home, they find new tools. Well, tools that are new to them anyway. One that is slowly gaining popularity is the bochio.
Bochio (also spelled bocchio or bocio) are basically small dolls or figurines that serve as charms, amulets, or talismans. They originated in west Africa, and are common objects in the antiques and artifacts market. Often, people buy them thinking that they are simply figurines. In more than one case, someone who has acquired one has received a blessing specific to it without even knowing that it was the bochio that helped to draw the energy to that purpose.
Bochio are generally made in secret. Sometimes they are filled with objects intended to attract a positive energy or repel a negative one. Sometimes they are solid, but the artist is putting energy into the object while they carve or sculpt it.
Aside of their magical usefulness, they serve the psychological purpose of acting as visualization tools and reminders of a goal or a wish. Having them around can cheer up a room, keep a couple mindful to be considerate to one another, or even remind you to lock your doors when you leave the house.
If you have reasonable artistic talent, you can make your own bocio at home. You can model it after an Orisha, or even a fairy, gnome, or sentinel depending on its purpose. You’ll just need some DAS clay or other air drying clay, and objects that have to do with its purpose.
For instance, if you want to make a home protection bocio, you would gather some locks and perhaps various small household objects. Think of how you would ornament the bocio with them, or use these as part of the sculpture. You may also wish to add Eshu friendly ingredients to the clay since he is a well known guardian of gateways. Oba is also a good Orisha to honor while crafting a bocio since she is the Orisha of home and hearth.
Once you’ve finished sculpting it, paint it colorfully, and if you like, dress it nicely. Traditionally, bocio looked a bit…baroque, but yours doesn’t have to be. It should at least look a bit flamboyant or wild. Have fun with it.