…let there be beauty and strength, power and compassion, honor and humility, mirth and reverence within you.
—the Charge of the Goddess
Here concludes a series of blog entries undertaking to examine each of the eight qualities that our Great Mother advises us to cherish in our hearts.
What Is Reverence?
Modern culture won’t teach you the meaning of reverence. The dictionary defines it as “a feeling of deep respect; awe; or veneration.” Veneration in turn points back to reverence, and modern usage of the word awful (full of awe) renders that word nearly meaningless in our invent-a-word-every-week approach to language—more accurately to the jargon we so often substitute for language. Respect retains a little meaning…yet most people think of Aretha Franklin’s feminist anthem before—unless they’re thinking of Rodney Dangerfield.
Reverence, then, is perhaps the most difficult of all these qualities to pin down. Multi-layered excavation into the word focuses my attention on two words:
Originally, awe meant simply, “struck with dread or fear”; Oxford today defines it: “a feeling of reverential respect mixed with fear or dread.”
Wonder—a word equivalent to miracle a millennium ago, and, the emotion felt when witnessing a miracle—that is the closest I find in today’s lexicon that conveys such meaning.
Worthy comes into reverence when defined as “worthy of respect.” Worthy, however, is a word with key meaning to British Traditional Wicca. Having merit or nobility comes closest to defining one’s worth, at least within the Wicca.
So, what is reverence?
In the context of the Charge, having reverence within you, tells me to heed, and to cherish, those interactions—conversations, meditations, observations—that elicit wonder, that are worth my time, that flutter my heart, that shake my spirit.
I have experienced reverence — wonder, awe, respect — most frequently in two sorts of locales:
- watching a wild river otter playing waterslide over the rapids in the Trinity River, from close enough that my toes were in the river on the far bank!
- when old-growth redwoods entreated/pleaded/demanded I continue my inexpert solitary recorder serenade played on the stage of the open-air Redwood Forest Theater amid Armstrong Redwoods in the Russian River valley — I had always wanted to try the acoustics, was there on an early March drizzly day with the place empty, and had with me a second-hand wooden tenor recorder, which I was learning to play; the trees made us continue until the recorder lost its voice owing to condensation in its throat.
- observing the shadow bands over the eastern Oregon desert during my first total solar eclipse in February 1979…and sharing them with my partner in August 2017
Between the Worlds
- deity contacts
– when Selene showed me the March Hare
– when Athena chose me as Her priestess
– when Lugh identified Himself as my protector
– when Pan & Spider Woman made Themselves
evident among the redwoods
– when Salmon Woman informed me she’s a face of Brigantia, Athena, & Bride
- discovering ungroundedness when I was brought in to the Wicca
- experiencing the Descent of the Goddess
- whenever one of my initiates draws down for the first time
Here is where the Lady’s advice proves most challenging, when individual Witches must learn to be gentle with themselves, to cherish the wonder & awe within themselves, to acknowledge & respect their own strengths…while uncovering & addressing their own failings.
“For behold, I am the mother of all things, and my love is poured out upon the earth.”
— The Charge of the Goddess, prose version, Doreen Valiente (Ameth)