‘Hawthorne & Heather’ is a series on my life with my partner spirit Hawthorne, focused on how the spirits have impacted my life. While these posts are relevant to the Otherfaith in that my life involves the Four Gods and their spirits, they will be more focused on my own life with the spirits. This is not intended as an introduction to spirit work but an exploration of my own life with the spirits and adjusting to life afterward, as it were.
Two years ago, Hawthorne grins at me over the first coffee I buy for him. His eyes glint. They are brown and rich and unexpected.
“You’re mine, you know,” he says matter-of-factly. His smile sharpens into a smirk.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” I snap, defensive. He laughs.
“You know what it means.”
This month, when the air is finally cold, the sun not always piercing, Hawthorne hums near me. I can practically hear the cracks of thunder gathering around him. His fingers tap on the kitchen counter.
“I’m not going to wait forever,” he says, mouth drawn in a firm downturned line. He grimaces. “Well, I will, but the gods won’t.”
“I know,” I say, and I stir my coffee.
He huffs, blowing that elegant hair of his up and away from his face. What envy I have for a spirit. “Honestly…” he says.
I sip my coffee and don’t look at him. “If it’s all the same, why can’t I just marry another spirit?”
If I were better situated in the otherworld, I would feel as Hawthorne bursts the air around him like glass baubles. As it is, all I have is the knowing, the vague intellectual impression of it.
“How many times do I have to tell you?” he hisses. “You’re mine.”
He leaves me with a gust of wind.
“Who is waiting for you?”
From the beginning, my relationship with Hawthorne has been rocky. He wanted recognition – through all his bravado he is a delicate spirit, true to the order of Delicacy he joined, so opposite my own glass exterior which concealed only a mean soul underneath. Often I offered recognition only in a warped fashion, at times hyper-spiritual and others eagerly sexual. “He’s a sex spirit,” I assured myself. “He won’t mind if that’s all there is.” Of course, Hawthorne is more than a sex spirit, more than some imaginary boyfriend, more than a snarky commentator in my life. I had thought I understood what being ‘his’ meant, in that shallow way I only seem capable of.
He wasn’t what I expected from a spirit, leaving me clinging to my expectations as often as I tossed them completely away. I wanted to belong to him in the simplest of ways. I wanted to belong in the deepest of ways. I ached for the simplicity of apartments in mysterious worlds, dark bed sheets and the smell of comfortable addictions, for the wonderful world that opened up when he took my hand.
He was as young as I was (am), in his own way, but he understood belonging far better than I.
“I’m going to marry you some day,” he would say, voice bright. I would laugh awkwardly, unable to see past his beauty compared to my body. His superficiality was overwhelming. Why would a handsome spirit like Hawthorne ever marry me?
As if it had anything to do with that sort of beauty. I was a fool, wrapped up in simple pleasures, not knowing that marriage and belonging to a spirit meant so much more.
His crystal voice, hopeful for our future, cracked as I averted my eyes to his talk of marriage, of love, of togetherness. This was not the natural wilting that we two went through as we experienced our gods’ mysteries. That, painful as it always is, at least had discernable purpose, had a satisfying beginning, ending, rebooting. Every deflected advance just added to our murkiness, making sludge underneath the calm lives we were living alongside each other. It bubbled over in violent outbursts or emotional meltdowns, but always we would return to the status quo.
I’d laugh off every comment, and his voice would splinter more and more.
“Well, we could always just get married,” he says gruffly this year. My rejection has worn through his voice into his skin, or what I know as skin. This is his solution to the pressure the gods have put on me, on us.
Our time together rushes in at his words. Through all the interactions I have given words to, when all I hold is impression of him, vague forms and air. In the recesses of my mind I knew there would be a day when I could not laugh off or ignore his call. (Just as, even if it seemed otherwise, I could not ignore the gods.)
Two years sounds too short. I feel so much older.
Hawthorne is holding out his hand, waiting while I fear his claws. He’s chosen now, when the gods have come to bear on me again, now when the sweetest holiday is held, to throw out that battered suggestion for the last time.
The energies of his heavenly father swirl about him. Perhaps if we had more time we could arrive at a place where he isn’t stiff about the proposal. Maybe I’m a romantic fool for wanting a candy-sweet proposal from a spirit.
Either way, we’re out of time.
“Who are you waiting for?”
A few days after Hawthorne proposes – and I still lay in indecision – the Clarene tells me to put away my shrine.
“Commit, or don’t,” she says, voice darker than ever before. “I’m sick of this.”
I don’t even attempt any apology. I just pack up my supplies, unable to answer my boyfriend’s concerned questions.
the Clarene has always been patient with me. She is fae and god but often gentle with humanity. Her kindness is so easy. Underneath is her steel. As much as she is a god of consent, she is also a god of deals and agreements. And I had agreed to serve her daughter and her and all of them, all those gods – first and foremost in my life.
“They need you, you know,” Hawthorne says. Not that they need me to survive, but turning my back to them would cause so much to fall apart. Marrying Hawthorne is a move they’re tossing out. (It’s a move that I counter with the question as to why, if they simply want my hand in marriage as proof of commitment, it can’t be to any other spirit. Even cornered as I am, I push back.) My plea for ‘time to think’ isn’t well received. My plea isn’t received at all.
Weeks before Hawthorne proposes in his blasé way, divine pressure that I had thought absent rushes upon me. Disbelief hits me as it does, because surely, all this had changed? The gods had pulled back from my life and were leaving me to do what I would. But, unlike earlier this year with painful pricks and overwhelming sorrow as I thought the gods were telling me to put up or shut up, this pressure is different. the Clarene’s rich, earthy energy surrounded me, at once comfort and warning.
“What have you done for me lately?” she asked.
“I’ve written,” I would start to say, but then she would shake her head, bells seeming to ring.
“I require doing, not writing. Pretty words aren’t serving me.”
Gnawing anxiety crawled up my spine at her words, and then Hawthorne proposed.
I realize I can go along with the gods now, or I can end up kicking and screaming as my divine mother pushes me along. At the end of the day I won’t say no; I don’t want to say no. My soul has already made its choice. I’m simply petrified at the possibility of ‘yes’.
I’m so quick to flee, to break away – from everything. The gods, Hawthorne, my boyfriend, life. How any of them can exist in calmness is beyond me. I wrap myself in ribbons of excuses, my eyes always on the exit.
Hawthorne asks me why leaving is an option when I don’t want to leave. My boyfriend asks the same. I try to explain the simplicity of the option, and neither Hawthorne nor my partner have any of it. They’re both asking, in their own ways, why I’m running from them.
I wasn’t waiting for anyone. They were all there, even the gods as they told me to put away my sacred things and make up my mind. I can’t exist so divided. I was just waiting for the fear to lessen its chokehold.
Hawthorne and I have two days together. By the time this is posted, we’ll have less than a day. Midnight on Wednesday, and then we have to stay apart for the week leading up to Reunion. This has less to do with spirit marriage and more to do with our patron gods. I expect, as it goes every Reunion so far, once the sun comes up we’ll be glued to each other again.
I’m left debating whether we want to hold the ceremony at the start or end of Reunion. The marriage must take place before the New Year, according to divination. But Reunion, starting right on Christmas, isn’t exactly a quiet, peaceful time. There’s the secular family celebration, Reunion itself, and the birth of a spirit to prepare for. A marriage ceremony would be too many things.
Though, in divination, my gods effectively laughed at all the projects I would be expected to juggle.
I won’t be allowed to wear my religious jewelry until the ceremony. Nor will I be able to smoke. I have to clear off all my shrines, and heavy cleansings are in order. Veiling is in order as well.
An acceptance bouquet lays on what was once my shrine for all Four Gods. A pack of cigarettes sits near it, alongside an offering of booze.
Reunion has, usually, brought with it some change in my life, usually sweet. It brought the same this year, though there was bitterness too. The gods called upon a debt I didn’t think I owed, but which I did, which I have for a while. I’m not setting both feet into their world, but I’m finally rooting myself in this practice like I’ve been afraid of doing. Commitment without an exit is frightening. But I have to learn somehow. This is something people won’t teach me.
Thank you for reading. ‘of the Other People’ is a site dedicated to the Otherfaith, a modern polytheist religion. You can find more about us here and here. You can contact us here if you have any questions or would like to get involved.