To Fuensanta Arismendi Plaza — The House of Vines
Hail to you whose name shall endure until the Gods gatherat the field of Vígríðr to drive back the forces of chaosand dissolution which you taught us to combatby keeping our space neat and tidy, oh well-brought up one,best of the Swiss, Fuensanta Arismendi Plaza, Putzteufelof the line of Andvari who walked the Earth in […]To Fuensanta Arismendi Plaza — The House of Vines
Honoring a Sancta and an Announcement
Today is the day of my mom’s death and I miss her every single day. I also post about it on this day and her birthday because she is honored as a sancta, a saint, in at least four traditions. She was one of the most deeply devout people that I have ever known, and I learned more about what it meant to live in right relationship with the Gods from her than from anyplace else. I was a far better human being when she was alive, and I work hard every day to live up to the example she set. The bar is high.
This is a bit of wisdom she shared with me very early on in our acquaintance, before she adopted me, before our relationship had solidified into that of parent and child when we were just two souls that our Gods brought together in the joy of veneration. She received a powerful message from Odin for me during her prayer and contemplation. While I am quoting this precisely as she wrote it to me (I’m pulling it from a letter she wrote me in 2005), I think this holds true for every God and it was from her that I learned what it truly means to love a God and how important it is to love them powerful AND powerless. Here is what she wrote:
“Keep remembering Odin’s immense love toward you. When He told me He trusts you, He can lean on you, I commented lately to Him that He said this as though it were a rare occurrence. Did he not trust all His [human] children? His answer was that He trusts His power over them, and He trusts they love Him for that power; but a handful of His children would love Him even were He powerless, would follow Him even if He were lost. Those are the ones He trusts; they are few, and you are one of them.”
This became my devotional bar. I read this and thought “would I? I never thought about it” and determined to become the type of devotee who *would*. That’s the moment I realized that devotion was a choice and how we do it, the goals toward which we work, the fabric and texture of our devotional lives lay in large part in our hands. Revelation may lay in that of the Gods but whether or not we show up prepared was solely on us. I want to become the type of person upon whom my Gods can lean. I’d never even realized that was possible, but Mutti taught me that the relationship we develop with our Gods, like any relationship has the potential to be powerfully two-way. Equal? No for They are Gods and in Their orbit, we are small but mutually fulfilling — I think perhaps this is possible. What I learned was devotion without condition. So, I share this today, on the anniversary of her death in the hopes that it will help some of you struggling to know how to root oneself in devotion and what that means, and all the places it can go.
I hail this ferocious Swiss woman, fiercely devoted to Loki and Sigyn, who continues to inspire and who will always be my beloved mother.
I also want to share an announcement, and while it’s one that my household decided upon a couple of weeks ago, I waited until today, so I could share it on a day that is particularly blessed, being as it is a feast day in our tradition. We have chosen to open our Kindred again, renamed, reconsecrated, restored, and renewed. Come spring, likely starting around the Spring Equinox, we will be holding monthly pub-moots as a way of getting to know local polytheists and Heathens, and also as a way of vetting interested people. I’ll post about that here and locally too in March. For now, Kindred of the Well and the Tree, a Heathen kindred working in a somewhat blended tradition, that focuses on veneration of the Holy Powers (polytheists only, no exceptions), ancestors, and land spirits, holding regular rituals, providing basic training and coming together to build the tradition is up, open, and running. If you are in the tristate area (NY, NJ, CT) and interested, keep an eye out here for updates. I’ll tag them ‘kindred.’ We will only work with people who can attend rites and workshops in person. I have trained people at a distance before and it is problematic, no matter how good intentions are on either side. To build community and tradition, there just has to be face to face interaction. That is all. Happy Friday.
I’ll share some of the prayers that we usually do on Saturday for basic “God of the week” devotion on some future week — we give this day to Loki and Sigyn. Usually, we use Saturday not just to make offerings to these two Deities, but we also clean ritual tools and shrines. The Old Norse word for “Saturday” was Laugardagr, which means “bath day” (or one could call it Sunnunótt (Sunna[day] Eve). Bath = cleaning so we often use this day to clean sacred things. Also, my devotion to Sigyn deepened intensely once my adopted mom Fuensanta took me in hand. She was a very devout woman (venerated as a saint in at least three traditions), specifically devoted to Loki and Sigyn. She would honor Sigyn by cleaning extensively *every day*, by bringing order to chaos. She was what in German is called a putzteufel, a cleaning devil – a label she wore with pride. For her, cleaning was sacred (and she would pray as she cleaned so that in cleaning her home, she was cleaning for Sigyn). I don’t have this gift. I use this day instead to tidy shrines and garb, gear, divination kit, travel kit, and other sacred things that need ongoing tending (as all things being used regularly do).
ANYWAY, today, I put together my candle shrine for the setting of lights practice that I shall start right after midnight tonight. If anyone is interested, in ordering a candle, contact me before 9pm EST tonight at krasskova at gmail.com. Every week, I’ll be doing this, so that’s the cut off week-by-week. I”m happy to do memorial candles too, which I don’t think I added to my initial list. So here is what it looks like for this week.
I’ll be lighting the seven candles that folks ordered after midnight today — Sunna’s Day is a particularly auspicious day to initiate this type of prayer or magic. If I am praying to a particular Deity or if someone requested that I do so, and if I have a statue or icon of some sort for that Deity, it will go on the shrine for the week too and each night I’ll add my own prayers.
Have a good Saturday, folks.
Edit: here’s a pic of the shrine after it was lit a little later 9pm:
And if you’re feeling particularly generous: check out my Buymeacoffee. Here’s a tidbit about myself that I don’t think I’ve shared before. When I was small, like 2 1/2, 3, 4, my grandmother would babysit me all day. For breakfast, she would often give me a bowl of Special K cereal (it’s sort of like cornflakes) with a bit of sugar sprinkled on it and…coffee instead of milk. Yes, my friends, it likely explains so very much LOL. Even today, it remains one of my “comfort” foods. ^____^ What are your comfort foods? Cooking and food in general is such a tremendously powerful way to connect to one’s ancestors. What foods evoke the best memories for each of you? Feel free to share in the comments.
A Sancta’s Feastday
Yesterday was my adopted mom’s feast day — she is honored as a sancta in at least three traditions and I would venerate her anyway because she is my mom. I think of all the things she liked when she was alive, especially those foodstuffs of which she’d rarely allow herself the indulgence and we festoon her shrine with them. It was a good day and I feel like she blessed me with this sense — all day — of cheerfulness. This is not my normal demeanor, let me tell you. I miss her and it’s odd having to navigate different registers (Mutti versus sancta) on such feast days, but I actually wish I could do more for her.
I learned so much from her care, especially in loving the Gods, in being a better human being, and one would think that as a spirit worker, an ancestor worker that death would be an easy thing to accept but one would most definitely be wrong. There were times the first few years after she died where part of me wanted to rage: how dare this world exist without her in it! That does pass though mostly, and I can read the reams of letters we exchanged, tell her stories, cook the recipes we both loved and explored together, and share the pearls of wisdom she poured into my hands with my friends and husband…it was awhile before I could do that without pain.
Who made you? Who transformed your life? Whose stories do you carry as though they were marrow nourishing your bones?
I encourage my readers to honor your dead here: tell me about one of your ancestors that is particularly dear to you (which is not to say that the others weren’t–oh, I hate leaving any of my dead out!). Share a recipe. If you’re named after an ancestor, tell me about that person. Who do you honor first and foremost when you turn to your dead? Let us celebrate them together. 🙂
Hail to our Sancta Fuensanta Plaza
Today is the feast day for one of our most beloved Sanctae, most beloved to me at least, because she was my adopted mom. She was also the most devout and pious person I have ever known. As her daughter, I can say that she centered me in reverence and piety, helped me to be a better devotee of my Gods, and helped me to become a better person, and she taught me a renewed joy in the grace of sacred service to Them. I know she helped others too and has continued to do so, as is the way of a saint, after her death. I usually write something about her on this day and on her birthday. I’ve been thinking about her a great deal over the last few weeks especially, though every day I ache for the loss of her.
As is my custom, this evening I made offerings at her shrine. There are prayers that I said, and prayers that I wished to make, many too personal to be shared here. Love and reverence, piety, and a very quiet discipline, that of doing what needs to be done even when it is inconvenient…those are the gifts I feel she poured into my heart and hands and I am deeply grateful. To be loved in this way, and to be challenged is a very precious gift. I know that the Gods placed me into her care and were They to do nothing else for the rest of my life, that gift, that tremendous gift would be enough. That They do more, always is a blessing beyond measure. She taught me to recognize the blessings of the Gods as they come, large, small, or in-between.
On this, her feast day, I offer this prayer:
May Fuensanta and all our sancti and sanctae be honored. May they be remembered. May we ever learn reverence at their feet. May we cultivate the discipline of piety. May we wrap ourselves in veneration, until our love of the Holy Ones becomes a fire that nothing may quench. Hail to Fuensanta Arismendi Plaza, devoted servant of Sigyn and Loki, and Hail to all our Gods. What is remembered, lives.
Happy Birthday, Mutti!
Today is the anniversary of my adopted mom’s birth. She was such a Taurus – stubborn, oh my Gods, and fierce, and protective, and moved deeply by suffering. She was refined, elegant…and could curse like a sailor. She was a pianist, having graduated from the conservatory in Basel and taught music for twenty years yet she hated playing the piano in front of anyone. She could cook and garden and found peace away from people; and when she saw someone struggling, she looked to see how she could make it better. She spoke seven languages fluently and could read at least two more (English, Spanish, French, German, Basel Deutsch, Italian, Latin, ancient Greek, Armenian…and could understand a few more). She had an amazing facility for languages but never considered herself particularly educated. She was acerbic and kind and singularly one of the most devout people I have ever had the gift of knowing. I am grateful, more grateful than I can ever say for having her in my life. She was and is my mother in every way that counts. Her passage through this world transformed my life. I owe her everything. Alles gut zum Geburtstag. Ich habe dich unendlich gern auf Zeit und Ewigkeit, Mutti.
(She would never let herself eat pizza, or very, very rarely when alive. She always worried it would make her butt big lol. She wasn’t vain but she said that as she got older, she needed to stay in better shape to avoid aches and pains that would get worse until they turned into a chronic injury, and extra weight hurt her back. She loved pizza though and the one time I saw her eat it, we were in Naples. The pizzas were delicious and huge. I turned my head to chat with our guide for a couple of minutes, turned back and her plate was bare. She’d scarfed it down and was eyeing mine. lol.
Anyway, tonight, in offering, she got the biggest pizza I could find, meatlovers with added olives, spinach, and mushrooms, garlic bread, tiramisu, strawberry shortcake, dulce de leche cake, fruit tarts, chocolate mousse cake and a lovely bottle of Italian red wine. There’s also a candle burning happily on her shrine. I also made offerings to Sigyn, because Sigyn and Loki were the Deities my mom honored and served. Tonight, was a good night).
52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Week 10 (Strong woman)
When this prompt came up, I knew immediately about whom I would write: my adopted mom Fuensanta Arismendi Plaza (1950-2010). She formed me, healed me, loved me, and sustained me in ways large and small for the all too brief time that she was in my life (up to and including formally/legally adopting me). She was my miracle mother and it’s actually because of her that I was able to eventually make peace with my bio-mother. It’s because of her that I became a human being, that I learned to move in the world, that I gained enough footing to be able to reach out to give others a boost up too. Like some soul deep kintsugi, she carefully put me back together, smoothing out or maybe honing my roughest edges, and breathing life and color and brightness into a life I’d long thought dismal and grey.
We began our friendship, which quickly morphed into a mother-daughter relationship (that’s just how it was, a blessing) in 2004. She had read a poem that I wrote that was included in an anthology and wrote to the publisher who eventually forwarded the letter to me. Her handwriting was so beautiful that I was almost afraid to open the letter. Her regular, every day writing looked like medieval calligraphy! (no joke). The letter itself asked about other things I had written and my theological perspective on a particular issue within our religious community (I’m a theologian) and of course I wrote back, sending her a few pieces. Things blossomed very, very quickly and within the year we’d met in person. I have binders, at least a dozen, of hand written letters that she wrote me and after she died (in 2010), I inherited her binders of my letters too. Even though we were visiting in person all the time, traveling together, and talking on the phone several times a day, we still maintained a lively written correspondence. She was the single most devout person I have ever known. She’s actually venerated as a saint in (at least) two religious traditions.
There’s the famous verse from Corinthians, “love is patient, love is kind,” to which I would add, love rolls up its sleeves and gets to work. I owe my life to this woman, just as much as if she’d given birth to me. She rescued my heart and soul from a profound despair and darkness and …she was my mom. I miss her every day. I won’t say much about her life because she herself was very private and would not have liked it. She was Swiss, attended the music conservatory in Basel, absolutely could not sing lol, taught piano for decades, spoke eight languages fluently, and read at least one more, loved animals, was an avid gardener, and had a calling to contemplative devotion that I flatly envy. She quite simply loved her Gods. They were her reason for being. I think the burden of living, what she once called the pain of the world, was very, very hard for her, but she bore it with dignity doing what she could when she could in order to make it better. I had been a priest for over a decade when we met but she taught me how to pray. She taught me what it meant to be devout. She taught me that integrity and devotion were both choices that we make again and again and again each day of our lives. She taught me the grace of endurance. For all of this and more, I am grateful. Her soul was a star held aloft in the hands of the Gods and its brightness continues to guide me daily. More I shall leave to those who knew her.
Remembering my mom
yesterday was the anniversary of my adopted mom’s death. I was sick and didn’t have the chance to post about it, but I want to do that today. She was the nucleus of my heart. She knit me together with love and care, taught me devotion and humility before the Gods, taught me to be a person of worth. What I am, i owe to her and I truly believe that but for her care, I would not be here now. I am so incredibly blessed and lucky to have had her in my life. Sometimes people ask me if i believe in miracles and I can only say yes, because I lived one. Hail to you, Mutti, Fuensanta Arismendi Plaza. As Sigyn is to Loki, you are my north star guiding me still. Auf Zeit und Ewigkeit.
Ave Mutti: Fuensanta Arismendi Plaza 1950-2010
Today is the anniversary of my mother’s death and I woke from nightmares of the moment I found out she was dead. Ironically yesterday I was reading Catullus 101 with my students, a poem in which he mourns his brother as he’s returning his brother’s ashes home for funeral rites and grief just washes through the words. When I woke, that is what immediately came to mind, that and the moment I learned she had died, the uncertainty and grief in the eyes of those around me, the moment my heart died.
Catullus talks about crying out to the mute ash of his brother and bids him hail and farewell but ash is not mute, our dead are not gone. I awoke with the knowledge that in having Fuensanta Arismendi Plaza as an adopted mom, and as a deep and dear friend, in my life at all i had experienced something of profound grace, something unspeakably sacred. The world is poorer for her corporeal absence now and so am I; but the echoes of who and what she was, of her holiness, of her devotion remain like ripples on a pond and continue to work their magic. I am the daughter of a sancta and I can only hope and pray that my own soul and character were in some way formed by her.
Some of you have wondered over the years why I never post pictures of her. The answer is simple: she *loathed* having her photo taken and if she did not know how important it was for me to have pictures of her, would have asked that they all be burnt when she died. One day she will have a prayer card — numerous people who venerate her as a sancta have asked for one — but only once she agrees and I know it without a doubt through my own divination. She would always prefer that anything of that sort go to Sigyn. So I’m going to end this with a prayer she wrote for Loki, for Mutti was a fervent devotee of both Sigyn and Her Husband and carried Their blessings with her wherever she moved. When I honor her, I honor Sigyn too because she would have it no other way. Today I remember both my beloved mother and the Gods she loved best. Ave, Mutti. as we always used to say: ich habe dich unendlich gern auf Zeit und Ewigkeit.
I love You powerful, and I love You powerless.
I love You young as flame, and I love You
decrepit as the dying ember.
I love You in Your greatness, and I love You
in Your meanness.
I love You in Your beauty, and I love You
in Your hideousness.
I love You changing, and I love You changeless.
I love the force that drives You, and I will love
You if You lose it.
I love You famous; and I love You unknown.
I love You kind, and I love You cruel.
I love You sane, and I love You mad.
Because I love You, show me how to love You.