Agon to Minerva and Apollon – Entry #12
by Amanda M.
Of glorious Minerva, guardian of the polis, I begin to sing.
Minerva, you were my first true love. You are tall, beautiful, proud, stoic, and wise. You don’t take shit from anyone. As a child who is bullied by both parents and peers, I appreciate your gumption. Even when the whole world tells me “no”, you show me that women have a place in the government, in the military, as masters of their own destiny.
I write a short story about you for a classroom assignment in history class. You are clever, strong, and intelligent. You’re everything I want to be.
2008 to Present
While I am visiting family in New Mexico I find a little soapstone owl, carved by Mexican artists. It reminds me of your Athene noctua. I pack it up in my skirts, hoping it won’t break on the flight back to North Carolina.
I’m about to start graduate school. I seek allies, and I am told that you are there, waiting for me. I’m surprised, but no one else is. You have always been there, waiting for me. I know this now.
I have a little porcelain owl with a cute face. I don’t know where it came from. I bring the owl to my internship, tucked away in my bag, safe between books on racism and labor rights. I find a place of honor for your owl in my little office. Sometimes during the day I take time out from my work and study to talk to it. Sometimes I kiss the little owl.
In social work school I learn about social justice. I learn about the ills that plague a fair and just society – racism, sexism, classism, homophobia. I learn about advocacy for clients. Soon I realize that if social workers have a patron goddess, surely it is you, Minerva. I’m honored that my career is within your domain, and that when I fight for my clients I am also fighting for you. I strive to serve my community, and like Athena of the Polis, I realize that all communities are your communities, too.
I blend oil for you in a little amber bottle labeled with glitter. The highest quality herbs and fragrant essential oils. Every few days I give it a good shake so it won’t settle. Sometimes I close my eyes and I smell it, inhale deeply. There’s just a touch of crushed dragon’s blood resin mixed with ground cinnamon powder, with large drops of lavender. It’s not particularly aromatic, not light or feminine. But this brew is powerful and it smells like you. Like olive oil and patchouli leaf, added in at the last minute.
You are the first goddess I write about on my new blog. A classmate reads my words, much to my surprise. He remarks “wow, I didn’t know any of that about Minerva.”
We swap jewelry as part of a ritual devoted to you. These gems and baubles are to be our symbolic shields. I craft a beaded necklace, wanting to keep it for myself but knowing it needs to go to another. During the ritual, I am given a leather bracelet. It’s heavy, etched with the sun, shaped like the moon. The woman who passes it on explains to me that to her it was a symbol of power, of her own coming into being as a self-aware woman. I like that.
Finally I make my own earrings – chunks of turquoise and little amber beads. I soak these for weeks in your patchouli and olive oil, until the stones start to change color. I wear them like you would wear your aegis. Sometimes I hang the earrings on my owls, because they like to be pretty and powerful, too.
June 2013 – Fortunalia
In between semesters, and I’m anxious about what comes next. I pour your bittersweet oil over the flames, and my comrades remark “wow, that smells good!” I offer my prayers and offerings to you, asking for your guidance. You have walked with me so far, and I hope you’ll remain with me still.
I attend my first Moral Monday march. I’m nervous, but I feel justified. I wear your bracelet with the sun and the moons. I wear your earrings, turquoise and amber. I march and march and march. I chant I chant I chant. I sign I sing I sing. You are with me the whole time. Throughout the summer I return to the weekly marches as often as I am able, and you are with me every time. You are with us always.
A veteran tells me that you were her “first Goddess.” As Pallas Athena, you offered your visage to the Women’s Army Corps insignia. A whole new generation of valor, honor, excellence, and wisdom.
I go to an interview for an internship at a state psychiatric hospital. Before I leave, I offer you prayers and incense. I wear your scent, anoint your owls with oil. I wear your bracelet and your earrings. They don’t match my carefully chosen outfit, but I don’t care. I’m calling on your strength because I need it so badly. This hospital is a new battlefield.
The interview doesn’t go well, but I get the internship anyway. A year later, my supervisor tells me that after 30 years of interns, I’m one of the best he’s ever had.
I’m excellent only because you help me to shine, Radiant Goddess.
Another summer of Moral Monday marches. Another summer with you.
June 2014 – Fortunalia
More prayers, more oil poured upon the flame for you. I’ve finally completed graduate school, and now I’m looking for a job. I’m unemployed and I’m depressed. “You’ve been with me so far,” I pray. “Please do not abandon me now.” My comrades who have struggled and suffered through unemployment understand my pleading. They pray with me. We pray together. We pray to you, Minerva.
After a summer of images of teargas and blood, I’m scared, but I make myself go to the march, anyway. I anoint myself and my comrades with your oil. I wear your jewelry like I’d wear armor. In terror, I watch a friend get arrested. I’m surrounded by hundreds of police officers in riot gear. As the lady of the polis, I realize that you walk on both sides, with both the protestors and the police. You guide us all with your wisdom, leading us on with a sense of justice.
I anoint your owls and images with bittersweet oils. I recite your prayers with a strong voice and steady song. I meditate upon your beautiful visage with love and reverence. What can I say that hasn’t already been said by others far more worthy? What can I sing that has not already been sung throughout the ages? What can I give you that is not already yours?
And so hail to you, daughter of Jove who holds the aegis! Hail, Minerva, and give us good fortune and happiness! Now I will remember you and another song as well.