ॐ । अहं षिवीय ।।
I am Shiva.
I am Ogou.
Years ago at our house, we tried to start an activity. Our activities take many forms. Sometimes it’s something we do in the living room, on the porch or in times past in front of the wood-burning fireplace. Other times, it’s sleep foreplay, a.k.a. the bedtime story. This particular activity was the classic Arabic tale of romance, One Thousand Nights and One Night. We have a fragile old four volume set that’s forbidden to leave the house. Saum started reading this to me as a bedtime story. For those of you familiar with the slim slivers taken by movies, these are beautifully complex stories. There are stories within stories within stories.
Witnessing his wife’s betrayal, King Shahryār goes beyond reason with rage killing the cheating pair in a crime of passion. He loses all faith in women and takes a new virtuous young woman each night as wife, killing her after slacking his passions. He does so for three years until he has killed all in his kingdom, all except his chief advisors young daughters.
Scheherazade, the eldest of his advisor’s daughters is young, beautiful and wickedly smart. She cunningly talks her father out of sending her away to safety in order to save further slaughter by the king. She convinces her father to let her go to him, along with her little sister Dunyazad.
Scheherazade is no fool. She commences the task spinning well-crafted tales piquing the king’s curiosity. The ingenious use of cliff hangers keeps him from executing her, delaying her death. At first it breaks the king’s routine of meaningless existence. They affirm his notions of women’s wickedness. Once they king is brought into the stories, those notions are slowly, piece by piece, challenged. The stories begin to show other sides. His transformative journey back from his self-induced oblivion begins. It’s a marvelous tale. (A free download on iBooks.)
This past week, Saum has begun to read it to me again. We never made it very far the first time. She sits and tells me the tales as my own personal Scheherazade. I find myself transformed by these same tales. Some of the stories are known to us in our own folklore, but it’s fascinating to hear them closer to their original form.
It interests me that the title isn’t 1,001 nights, but rather one thousand nights and one night. I ponder the meaning of how all of these thousand nights can be collectively represented by a single one, the final one, where his transformation is complete.
One Thousand Names and One Name
ॐ । अहं षिवीय ।।
I am Shiva.
I am Ogou.
I am Shiva. I am Ogou. There is a destructive force inside me. A protective and fierce warrior sits within. I clear and make way what lies in my path with destruction. I make way for change. Renewal occurs in my wake.
On the ritual nights of a God, Hindus will sit in puja and recite the thousand and one names of the God or Goddess. All these names represent that one God, that one Goddess. All of these names could be summed up with one name.
For me, I have been feeling the Shiva within. Ogou has been equally present. All the aspects come forth in me as me, a part of me where they exist through me. How does one say this egolessly? God is not only I; I am not the only one who has this. The ancient mantras in Vedic tradition acknowledge this truth, God is in me. In Namaste, I acknowledge the divine in you as well. This is the egoless state that says – God is me, we are all a part of God. The mantras are for you to find it, realize it and experience it. I am definitely feeling it.
I have resumed meditating regularly, after some years off. My meditation became intense; I needed time to process it. Resuming it, along with my spiritual path as a Vodou priest, I can feel both aspects equally present, equally forceful, causing the destruction of my old self, and my self-doubts. My mantras give me strength. My Met Tet gives me strength. They are not in conflict, but rather complimentary.
In my marriage, we find ourselves come to familiar crossroads. We face the same demons of ill health, but the choices and outcomes are much different than in the past. Transformation has occurred, we’ve chosen a different road and the outcome has changed with it. Gone is the necessity to lean on marriage counseling that usually comes with the chronic pain and illness. I have become a priest and a healer. This evolution takes me further down this new road. Our relationship’s recurrent issues are also being healed, our long stagnant pains being addressed. We grow deeper in love and infatuation with each other after sixteen years with a renewed honeymoon bliss.
For these things my two swords of inner-strength: Shiva and Ogou emanate from me. I can see them in Saumya, in a thousand others. I see them in one, myself. I am Shiva. I wield my machete, my healing stick, I feel Ogou, I feel Gede. I am Ogou; I am Gede.
I am preparing for Asogwe, leaving behind Sur Pwenn and any hesitations I had in myself as a priest. I have arrived. I am here. I am. In some ways I feel like my next upcoming initiation is becoming a formality. I’m walking that road. Any doubts I have had about taking the next step (do I think I’m ready?) have vanished – or vanquished. I am destroyed and remade anew. I am confident. I know who I am. I feel alive.