|The Hearth Deities of Locus Voci
5 April 2003
During the glory days of Imperial Rome, with which we are not entirely comfortably connected, there existed the notion of household gods. Certainly, Shinto and other spiritual practices remind us that this way of configuring meaning was not unique to Rome. But I am reminded, this night, of the god Hermes, the winged god who flew through all dimensions to deliver meaning. In the Middle Ages and the early European Renaissance, his ethos was expanded to become the Hermetic Androgyne, central to the jungle drums of Alchemy - the hidden telegram of the stories that came before the stories that submitted humanity severally to repressions, burnings, and erasures. Hermes is alive and well here at Locus Voci.
Years ago, we were asked to label our house so that the fire department could find us. This was because the county changed our zip code, street names, and house numbers for obscure but undoubtedly important bureaucratic reasons. We held a contest among the residents - Brooke, Hilary, Suzanne, Rob and I - to name the place. We put the candidate names on the white board to contemplate them. There were the usual allusions to biology such as "Poison Oak Place" or "Wanderwood." Rob put "Locus Voci" up on the board, meaning "place of voices," and by democratic vote that name was the winner. No one was more surprised than Rob, who assumed that anything he suggested would be rejected out of hand. Anonymity has its uses. However, it is claimed by some that it didn't actually win, but it was just the adults who voted for it.
My youngest daughter Brooke, age 15, has trouble making decisions. I asked her today, what time will you be home, and will you be having dinner with us? Her answer was, as usual, "I don't know yet - I can't say." After noticing her pattern of responding in this manner, we observed that her true name must be Potentia. Brooke enjoys the ability to refuse to collapse the wave function of potential. As long as you don't choose, you can continue to enjoy all of the possibilities. And so she has become Our Lady Potentia, in keeping with the entirely unexpected but totally appropriate Latinate flavor of our very specific domestic culture.
Once we discovered that Brooke was in fact Our Lady Potentia, we began to think about similar names for the rest of us. The tradition that we have adopted for our spiritual practice has the affordance for hearth gods and goddesses - personae of the place and the situated context. Suzanne is currently in the throes of having a shiny new driver's license and access to a car. She has suddenly become interested in being here more often in her dual residency, as here is where the car resides. She finds reasons to drive that are obscure but urgent. And so we have named her, "Our Lady Kinetika."
Hilary, now 18, has been traveling through Europe despite being declared Persona Non Grata by the British Immigration authorities for the high crime of possession of a resume. The tired Brit civil servants who questioned her for 8 hours in an unheated room concluded that she was attempting to work in Britain without a proper permit, and so she was deported. Her sorrowful pleas at United Airlines as the plane was about to depart resulted in a deportation, not back to San Francisco, but rather to New York, where she could stay with some of our very best friends and reconnoiter. She reentered Europe with a strike deep into Frankfurt, thence to Amsterdam, Brussels, Dublin, Cork, and Kerry. Yesterday I received a brief email from her saying that somehow (by hanging around with Irish musicians, no doubt) she had lost three days and was hurrying to Dublin. In Dublin she will go to the U. S. Embassy to see if she can make a connecting flight through Britain, where they are still pissed, and go on to Stockholm. This fandango gave birth to the name, "Our Lady Ambulatoria": She who travels and travels and Goddess if she doesn't come home soon I'm going to have to start eating canned spinach to feel grounded.
Extending the metaphor has become a local hobby. My husband Rob, known to many as a contrary sort of person, has become "First Pugnacius." All who know him will recognize this aspect, and will also register that it is in some ways Deeply Wrong, as he is also a Sensitive New Age Guy and the only lesbian in the household. After some consultation with our friends, we decided to allow him the masculine nomenclature. Some of my gay friends who know Rob say that his inner lesbian is strong - trapped, as it were, in a male gestalt. Works for me.
Having named one and all, I am left with the challenge of naming my own self. I notice that my most irritating and inexorable habit, persistent despite years of resolutions, is the pattern of being late going out the door. I am at least 10 minutes late to everything. People who know me and like me accept this; others feel both dissed and pissed. My students accept it as a tacit permission to have some coffee before class starts. My husband brings me coffee in bed earlier and earlier in the morning before taking me to the airport, but, strangely, this has no effect on the inevitable tardiness of my actual departure. And so I have come, with heavy heart, to characterize myself as "Tardius," choosing the masculine since, after all, as Rob is the lesbian, then I am the other half of this hermetic androgyne.
There are more genders here in Northern California than are dreamt of in your philosophy, Horatio.