Monday, August 17, 2009
You know what it's like right after you have a baby. Your house is filled with stuff. Large, colorful, fluffy stuff. Everyday you are receiving packages and gifts of other large colorful fluffy stuff. Stuff that you are deeply grateful for, that you will use until it's worn to pieces, but that nevertheless accumulates in your home with a frightening speed.
After Zosia was born, we were surprised to receive a very small box in the mail from Ben's beloved Aunt and Uncle-- definitely not your everyday baby gift. My surprise was compounded when I opened the box to find a "list of fetishes." Now, I'll pause here to explain that English is not, technically, my first language (the first three years of my life were spent speaking Polish). So, there are various idioms/nuances of the language which, and I blame my Polish-speaking upbringing, I don't grasp. Perhaps if I had paid a little better attention in my humanities class, I would have learned that the primary meaning of "fetish" is actually " an object regarded with awe as being the embodiment or habitation of a potent spirit or as having magical potency." But, given the fact that my knowledge of the English language was primarily acquired through cultural references, I did not know this. So, now both scandalized and shocked that someone would give my daughter a "list of fetishes" in a small box, I lifted the folded list to find a small stone raccoon staring back at me.
And a small card. Explaining, "The Zuni people are world-renowned for their fetishes. They believe that the power of a fetish comes from the power of the animal that resides in the carving. They also believe that abundance and fertility are blessings a fetish can ensure and they not only protect an individual but the community as well." Aha. Mystery solved.
Over the last two years, Zosia's fetish has become a very sacred object in the house (the fact that this small figure even made it from our move from Boston, to our temporary house, to our current house is testament to the fact that we treat it with reverence). I was delighted when the same beloved Aunt and Uncle came to visit and had another small box with another small fetish-- this one a bear-- for Lily. Here are the meanings behind each:
raccoon: Transforming into our desired self, dexterity, disguise.
bear: Healing, strength, transitional courage, introspection, power of the soul.
My experience thus far with parenting has been that it's easy to get sucked into the practical day-to-day stuff without pausing to make room for the sacred. Dinner has to get made, diapers have to get changed, but rites of passage can wait. These fetishes have been a welcome little sacred pause. I hope that one day each of our girls can venture out into the world with their fetish tucked into their pocket, or placed gently on their dresser, or whatever, knowing that they have a special place not only in our family, but in the world.
What are your sacred rites of passage/introduction? How do you carve out space for the sacred in your home?