I went to the Grotto in Portland yesterday, with two other pagans. It’s a Catholic shrine also known as the National Sanctuary of Our Sorrowful Mother.

I don’t think I can describe it properly, because of the state of mind I was in – the grounds are very beautiful, lots of trees and shrubs and flowers, and it is laid out well, with lots of small shrines and statues. And the power I could feel in two of main holy places there was … really incredible; I felt unnerved, even when we weren’t in the immediate vicinity of those places, but part of it was my usual feeling of nerves being in a Christian place (because I am not and never have been any kind of Christian, and I always feel uneasy if I think I “don’t belong” somewhere). However, after spending time in the 2nd main place there, I felt much more rattled and affected.

The grotto itself was pretty powerful; I felt some pressure to leave after a few minutes, though I wasn’t sure if that was all coming from me, or I was getting a nudge from the Power there to move on.

The 2nd place is a meditation chapel, with a large sculpture inside that is a replica of Michelangelo’s Pieta. The architectural design, and landscaping leading to it, is phenomenal – and the interior space is also incredible, with a really amazing view out over the city. It’s very peaceful inside, but I had a hard time appreciating it, because I was also really uncomfortable and tense and trying to ignore what I was feeling.

Just standing outside, near the end of the short walkway, before really starting to approach, was kind of tense. I could feel there was . . . something there. There’s a sign partway down the walkway about the chapel; I paused (delaying action!!) to read it and started to feel like I might start crying.

Inside, I found it absolutely overpowering; I left after a few minutes because I was getting a headache. I don’t typically get energy-related headaches unless I’ve had something REALLY intense or prolonged happen. After a few minutes outside, my head felt better, but my friends were still inside, enjoying the peacefulness, so I went back in, and tried to just relax instead of feel on edge with what I was feeling in combination with my “not my department” internal monologue – because I’d had a LOT of that going on the entire time I was there, especially when I was feeling that strong sense of energy/power/Presence.

Perhaps one of these days maybe I will learn that me repeating to myself, “not my department, yes I feel that, that really strong sense of Presence, still not my department, Nobody here could possibly want to talk to me,, not my people, not my religion” doesn’t necessarily mean a damn thing.

Once I finally relaxed in the chapel, telling myself that, IF the sense of Presence meant that Someone wanted to talk to me, well, I guess maybe I ought to listen, and shortly, “my department” or not, I got something. A short but somewhat loaded phrase, a few images. (And me telling myself things like “Well of course that topic is what you hear about, and those are the characteristics of the images, because you already have that info in your head, you may be making this all up.”) The feeling of Presence, and my emotional reaction, just got stronger; I really did feel like bawling. It wasn’t bad, at all, I just react that way sometimes to strong Presence (especially if it comes coupled with a sense of acceptance or love directed towards me).

Then someone came in with a very small child, who was not entirely silent, and my friends decided it was time to get up, and while part of me wanted to stay and see what else might come, I was also quite happy to flee go with them. We sat down for a few minutes, and I could feel myself shaking a bit from the encounter; if I’d had any doubts that I’d really had some interaction in there, that couldn’t be argued with.

Then we walked around most of the rest of the upper garden, admiring trees and landscaping, and the way the place was laid out for worship and appreciation of saints and so on.

I was still kind of rattled on the way home, and during dinner, and after dinner, and I got out my runes to check in and see what, if anything, that meant, did it happen, etc. I kind of wanted some sort of “naw, you misheard, that was nothing” answer.

I did not get that.

Further, I did not get the reassurance I wanted that it was a one-time thing; I’d had some hope that perhaps the message was just being passed on because right time, right place, something like that.

I got a nudge to put my runes away and get out my newest oracle deck, and partway through reading the second card, I had the uneasy sense I wasn’t reading the cards, I was being spoken to through them . . . by Her.

The overall message from everything was reassuring – at least in the sense that Loki said “I/We aren’t going anywhere,” and in that She said a few things about (more or less) looking after me, which was the more-or-less typical “god language” of promising growth and care and things that sound nice on paper but aren’t always nice to go through. (One of these days I’m going to make a Bingo card of typical god-speak.)

There wasn’t a lot more – and I didn’t get any further info on the topic the first message had been about. It is a topic that came up last summer via Loki, and then hit me really hard out of the blue in a relatively minor bit of commentary in a YA novel I read last month.

However, She did indicate a shrine would be nice, so. Now I need to figure that out. And whatever else is next.

It would be a lie to say I’m not freaking out.

Over the last couple years, I’ve read accounts of other pagans/polytheists/not-Catholics who have had positive relationships with Mary and/or various saints, and I’ve heard things from a couple folks since last night about Mary being pretty easy-going (I wrote some omg wtf stuff on Tumblr last night), so part of me is not worried, and keeps mumbling about how my concerns are overwrought, and besides She can’t NOT know what my situation/background is, so it’s cool, but mostly I’m terrified.

Another shrine is one thing (except I’ve got little space) but I don’t want to learn a whole new religion. I especially am terrified of being drawn into that one in a big way. No one has said I am going to get encouraged that way, but I’ve not yet learned how to stop my worst-case imaginings from screaming real loudly. Worse is that part of me seems to think it wouldn’t be such a bad idea, in fact, it’s kind of appealing and I wonder if that’s really me or if ideas are being subtly planted in my head, and part of me actually agrees with the notion, or maybe that’s there because I do want to do right by Her. Right now I am not in the mood to ask the runes, or anything/Anyone else, because they might tell me things I don’t want to know right now. (They might tell me that is not on the agenda, too, but, well, fretting over the maybes is better than getting a firm answer I don’t want, because then I would REALLY freak out.)

At the end of last year, I got some divination done to look at what might be coming my way this year. One of the things that came up said I shouldn’t hold on too tightly to what I believed my religious practices and such “should” look like because changes of some kind were coming, which, argh, is never something I want to hear – but I’ve already had at least two other big spiritual things happen that were big surprises and new directions to pursue.



About Fjothr Lokakvan

More or less Northern Tradition polytheist.
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3 Responses to Mother

  1. Linda Boeckhout says:

    Lovely story! I am what you would call a lapsed Catholic (or collapsed). But I still feel very much connected to the Mother. I do not think the other world is so pre-occupied with what we call ourselves. These are human distinctions. Good luck on your unexpected journey with her. It sounds lovely, She is such a gentle presence.

  2. An Elder Apprentice says:

    I have heard several wonderful stories of Pagans and Polytheists who have had deep relationships with the Virgin Mary.
    One story, told to me first hand, involved a woman, a devout Catholic at the time the event occurred, who was on a pilgrimage to Europe to visit sites holy to the Virgin to gain healing for a grandchild.
    At the climatic event of her pilgrimage, on the hill at the basilica at Medjugorje Herzegovina, where dozens of the faithful were with her, all seeing classic evidence of the Virgin Mary’s presence – the Sun appearing to move erratically around in the sky, strange sky colors. She said these were truly miraculous events seen by dozens. She said she heard the sweetest and most powerful imaginable feminine voice say, ‘You are free! follow all the Gods who call to you’. I met this woman at a pagan festival in 2013.

    • Wow, that’s quite the experience!

      I’ve heard plenty of positive things over previous years – and a bunch more since then – but what particularly threw me for a loop (in addition to the unexpected nature of the whole thing) was worrying how much this was going to change my entire practice. Right now, it looks like “not much.”

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