Friday, April 20, 2007

Lunch with a bird of prey

In a chat last night, Mercurius put a bug in my ear about using active imagination. I decided to give it a try in the context of what I've adopted as my primary (although somewhat haphazard) spiritual practice -- hospitality. I invited Horus for a visit.

At first I was anxious about which aspect of the god would appear, but I quickly realized that he had already given me an indication a couple of weeks ago, when a dove flew into our window and was stunned, to immediately fall prey to our neighborhood hawk. This image was still fixed in my mind, and so I knew which Horus I would meet.

Feeling a little more confident that I could handle the situation, I opened the front door and in flew Horus as his full falcon-self. Everything seemed to slow down as he nodded appreciatively at the airplane models shelved over the stairwell and swooped to a perch on the top shelf of the cats' climbing structure. I touched my hand to my breastbone and bowed, as I often do when entering a sacred space. Then I looked into his eyes, which were warm and intelligent. The ceiling fan was turning, rippling his beautiful feathers ripple with a slight breeze.

He gave a couple of annoyed cries. I hadn't planned what to feed him. We'd just returned from a trip and there was no fresh meat in the refrigerator. In any case, I didn't think he would find cold flesh very appetizing. He turned to look out the window at the bird feeder, and I knew what to do. I opened the window. He hopped down from the cat shelf to the window ledge and glided swiftly and silently toward the feeder, snaring a dove in his talons. Then he carried the dove to the table on the deck, which was suddenly covered not in pollen, but in rushes reminiscent of Horus' birth and upbringing, hidden on the Nile shore. He devoured his lunch as I pulled up a chair to watch at a respectful distance, but feeling surprisingly at ease. The cats sat tall (and safe) on the screen porch overlooking the deck, Agador as usual a little restless as his natural hunter-self thought about what he'd like to do with a dove. Dymka was more serene.

A noise startled Horus and he flew away with the rest of the dove's body, leaving behind just a pile of gray feathers. I swept them and the bloodied rushes into a brown paper bag for the spring brush pickup, happy that they would be recycled back into someone's garden in a year or two.

Some useful observations from this experience:

  • You can issue invitations, but you can't control who will actually come.

  • Even with invited guests, you can set boundaries. I wasn't going to let Horus bring his prey into the house. He had to consume it outside.

  • Guests may leave suddenly and without ceremony. Still, be grateful for the time you had in their company.

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