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Meeting Lady Olivia Robertson

I posted a piece about Olivia on my own site in April. Anne NN invited me to repost it here, which I think will help me with my grief.

I am stunned. Not in the sense of not expecting it, but in the sense of the shock of grief. I loved Olivia and respected her more than I can explain right this minute, bc I am too overwhelmed at this loss to find the right words.

But I can simply say there is no priestess I admired more.

Excerpts from the note that began the April post: "My dearest Olivia, Below is a post to honor and celebrate your birthday. The piece was written over a decade ago, but you may remember it, because you told me twice you wanted it as your memorial reading. A birthday is a much happier occasion, I am blessed to post this as a birthday offering."

I share the April piece here today in my grief-stricken love of her, and to comfort us in our loss, and in gratitude for her loving use of her amazingly brilliant mind.

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Meeting Lady Olivia Robertson, written September 2002

In the early '90s, I was given a vision of Olivia. I saw her to be very similar to myself, what I would become. I hope that doesn't sound arrogant; Olivia is one of the public priestesses I most admire and my admiration for her also extends to her simply as a mystic with an enormously inclusive and remarkably warm heart. Thus, to say I think we are alike might sound uppity. But in fact, it's not that way. It's just that, simply speaking, we are quite alike! Take that as you will.

 So I went on a pilgrimage in Ireland to meet her. To her castle in Clonegal. And I wondered: Since I only had that one brief visit scheduled, how was I going to forge the connection that I was spiritually driven to make?

Waiting for her to arrive, I suddenly sensed a presence behind me. Knowing she had come into the room, I turned and there she stood, wearing bright green eye shadow and her bathrobe, the latter clearly—somehow I knew this—worn as a ritual robe. She had posed herself precisely, and her entire aspect proclaimed, "Aren't I magnificent!?" And she was. She truly truly was. I knew that my vision had been real and correct.

We sat and chatted. Thinking that I had to grab her attention immediately, and somehow impress upon her that we had a reason to go further than a brief, amiable discussion, I took a risk: I told her who I was.

I said to her, "Olivia, I had to meet you. Because I've been told we are alike. I've been told that, like me, you are eccentric, a remarkable counselor, and an equally remarkable ritualist."

She responded, "Why do think they call us eccentric?" And then she went on, answering her own question, "You know, they did this book. And, in it, so-and-so lay on an altar and such-and-such-other-person was leaping over a fire, and they called me eccentric! But you know why I think they call us that? It's because we don't do it for the money."

 Oh, but I gulped at that point. Because of what I knew I had to say next. To tell her who I was. Only the truth, as always, would do. And I said, "But, Olivia, I do get paid for my services." I didn't tell her that I do far more free work than the work that I get paid for, because that wasn't the point.

She looked at me, perhaps startled, and said, "Ah, I know why they call you eccentric. Because you are sincere. You believe the gods are real."

 She understood. And although we had scheduled a brief visit of an hour or two, she cordially allowed me to spend the rest of the weekend with her.

There are many things I could say about Olivia. Not only in regard to what happened between us that weekend and since then, but also about her work in the world. But for now I will say this: She embodies a gracious inclusiveness that I think is sorely lacking in almost every other spiritual leader and religious organization I have seen. She understands that each person's path is beautifully valid and, therefore, welcomes everybody into the Fellowship of Isis, blessing each soul who appears before her, querying each person with delighted questions about their unique journey. And I will add this:

Years later, she came to dine with me in my home which, being oh-so-truly-humble, unlike myself, was a sharp contrast to her castle. And as we sat in my kitchen, breaking bread at my Formica table, I happened to tell her that I had spent seven years in Faerie; a time in which I was in trance 24 hours a day. And she asked a question that no one else had ever spoken, no one had had either the insight or forthrightness. She said, "Were you celibate during those years?"

 She, again, understood; she is not only a profoundly loving person, though that would have been enough. She is far more. Often, when someone has a big heart like Olivia does, others assume that the good heartedness lacks depth. People tend to think that a person has to be one-dimensional—as if one can have a good heart or brilliance, creativity or amiability, cheerfulness or insight. No, people are much more complex and wonderful than that. And in Olivia's case, the "more" is that she is also a true not to mention brilliant mystic, and a woman I suspect has made heart rendering sacrifices to serve the community.

 At the time of this writing, I have not seen Olivia for maybe three years. And I will get to be with her again in a week. During her last few visits to the States, I had to be at different conferences than she was at. I hated it but, you see, to use the old, trite, but so apt expression, duty called. I am a priestess and must go where Goddess sends me.

So this chance to see her face again, to tell her how much she means to me once again, and to pay homage in any way I can is exciting. I do not use the word homage as a sycophant; for I, too, am one who can proclaim her own magnificence. I have no false humility. But in my struggle to be a community servant, in the day-to-day fierceness of battling for a better world, I, warrior, lift my sword in salute, paying homage to my comrades in arms. To those who walk beside me, believing in greatness, sacrificing far too much for the good fight—you know, there's no other way to fight the good fight except to sacrifice far too much —, I say, "I could not continue this battle, this terribly difficult work, without you by my side. Even if I never see you, simply knowing that somewhere you are doing the work that needs to be done allows me to keep doing it myself." And I look up to the spiritual servants, though I am one myself. Lady Olivia Robertson, one warrior and lady to another, blessings on your magnificent soul.

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Francesca De Grandis, AKA Outlaw Bunny, authored the classic text "Be a Goddess!" Founder of Third Road, a Faerie Shamanism tradition that she teaches through both text and oral tradition, De Grandis explains, "I'm a non-theist, pantheist pagan serving Goddess. Mother and all my Gods, thank you." Ecstatic paradox. Bard, painter, spiritual innovator, Whedon fan, middle management for Chaos Gods, and busy elf, she also blogs, including on her own sites, www.stardrenched.com and www.outlawbunny.com

Comments

  • Kalyca Schultz
    Kalyca Schultz Saturday, 16 November 2013

    Beautifully and perfectly put. I have been feeling compelled to write my own tribute to Lady Olivia, even though I only met her once and briefly. I have a wonderful drawing she did for me, which felt like a reading or prediction-- I hope it is-- and I am waiting to scan it in before posting. How lucky we all were to have had her upon this earth during our lifetimes, and how lucky we all are now to have her brilliance working still for the Goddess on the Other Side.

    My heart sings a sweet and sorrowful song of condolence to you.

  • Francesca De Grandis
    Francesca De Grandis Saturday, 16 November 2013

    Thank you, honey. Your mention of Olivia's drawing is striking bc of what happened yesterday. When I originally posted the above piece on my site, in April, I included a photo of Olivia, Lawrence, and me during their initiation of me. The photo is old and technically awful, but I treasure it. So I snapped a photo of it, to share in the April post. But yesterday (long story short), I couldn't *easily* get the pic onto this site, and decided to post sans photo. My point is that your lovely decision to scan Olivia's art before posting affirms how we each proceed in our own best way, and how that can shift from moment to moment. For me, I needed to address my grief through this blog, instead of waiting til I could get the photo here. Yet eight hours earlier, I was still too dumbstruck with grief. And became again so after posting the blog here. Back and forth.

    Thank you for your sweet condolences. I am happy we met here a few weeks back. I hold you in my heart during this loss for all of us.

  • Francesca De Grandis
    Francesca De Grandis Wednesday, 20 November 2013

    Just wrote the following on the FOI FB page, and feel moved to add it here:

    Olivia and Lawrence touched me deeply, in ways no one else has. Their selflessness, integrity, depth of mysticism, and unique perspectives were heart-rendering beautiful. When they initiated me, it felt like a gift from two of the most spiritual and devoted servants of the Goddess I'll ever meet. There will never be anyone like them.

  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor Thursday, 21 November 2013

    Francesca - I am so sorry for your loss, and I understand. We know intellectually that our teachers and gurus - like our mothers and fathers - never really die, and that we will see them again as the great wheel continues to turn. But it sure feels like death and loss when it happens, no matter how advanced we like to think we are!

    Jesus wept for Lazarus, and Yogananda wept for Yukteswar. And they were supposed to be enlightened.

    Our mourning is necessary. It reflects how much they mean to us, and how much we love them.

  • Francesca De Grandis
    Francesca De Grandis Thursday, 21 November 2013

    Ted, thank u for yr comforting and beautiful words of consolation, they mean a lot to me. And to not cause confusion, Olivia and Lawrence initiated me but I was not their student. That may confuse people, since u usually train someone before initiation, and i was not FOI trained. But they initiated me more as a kindred soul. (Hmm, someone else initiated me within 2 weeks of our meeting, hmmm. Gotta think about that, amazing I never connected those two major events!) Thank you again, I will wrap yr kind words around me today.

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