Logs:The Sanctity of Now
|The Sanctity of Now|
"We had to invent our own spring cultural traditions once we emerged from eternal winter and moved down here." (Right after Montagues attack debrief.)
Tessier Residence - Backyard - Greenwich Village
Living in the heart of Manhattan means space is precious, and as such, the yard behind this house is small. It is as exquisitely well-kept as the rest of the place, though; all available space has been meticulously cultivated and transformed into a lush retreat from the concrete and asphalt of the city. The borders of the garden are lined in a wealth of flowers, the selection chosen to provide a panoply of color in all seasons save winter. A grassy rock-bordered pathway separates these from the raised-bed vegetable garden that dominates its center. The far left corner of the garden plays host to a tiny rock-lined pond, goldfish and a pair of turtles living in its burbling water. To one side of the pond is a garden table and set of chairs and presiding over the pond, a large oak tree with a hammock underneath, its branches spreading out over the tall brick wall that screens the entire area off from the city outside.
The air has warmed as the afternoon wears on, and it's pleasant and peaceful in the Tessiers' garden. Steve sits at the table, sipping on black Earl Grey tea, wearing a green-and-white plaid flannel shirt and blue jeans, his shield leaning against the chair beside him. He's been studying some items on the far side of the table from the tray of tea: a plate of bread and marbled brown tea eggs, a glass bowl of water with pastel flower petals arranged in a concentric circular design, and several small colorful ceramic ramekins holding various kinds of seeds. "So...if it isn't too forward to ask -- what's all of that for?" He indicates the items with a sweep of his hand. "Some kind of spring cultural tradition where you're from? Or just decoration?"
Lucien quirks an eyebrow upward, his expression impassive. "We are from Canada," he replies deadpan. "We had to invent our own spring cultural traditions once we emerged from eternal winter and moved down here."
"Temperatures above freezing, sunlight for /hours/ at a time -- it was all a bit much," Matt agrees, voice solemn but eyes glittering with mirth. "Your spring traditions are probably a bit different, no?" Flèche is lying beneath the table, wedged between several legs--belonging to people and chairs--dozing lightly. Matt wiggles his bare feet underneath the dog's belly, and though she stirs at this disturbance does not seem much bothered. "Even so, most people everywhere celebrate the light returning and the earth reviving."
Steve chuckles, shaking his head. "Well, I guess most traditions were invented at some point, or at /several/ points -- even the inspired and received ones." He looks up at the leaf buds on the oak tree, still a ways from unfurling. "In my house -- most of my neighborhood -- it was split between Saint Patrick's Day and Easter, but there were always some customs in there that didn't seem to really belong to either, like egg hunts and the blessing of the seeds." He nods at the eggs and seeds on the table. "So, maybe not all that different, after all."
"Seasonal traditions have a kind of convergent evolution." Matt says abstractly, swirling his tea around his cup. "In most temperate climates, spring means blooming flowers and nesting birds and sprouting seeds. And our respective cultural traditions -- ancient or recent -- came out of the same lands, ultimately." Matt glances at the spreading oak tree nearby, though it has no obvious connection to what he is saying. "Our faiths, broadly speaking, may not be related by blood, but they lived side-by-side for a long, long time."
Steve nods, sipping his tea. "That make sense. My ma said that the old folk used to bury eggs in the fields at Easter to make the crops grow. I never did figure out whether 'old folk' meant my grandparents or medieval Irish peasants or pre-historical...Druids?" His laugh is self-deprecating. "Sorry, this kind of history -- or, I guess it's anthropology, too -- isn't really my strong suit. What do you mean when you say our /faiths/?" He studies Matt closely, a blush slowly creeping up into his cheeks. "I had...assumed you weren't religious."
"It /is/ Matthieu's strong suit, and if ever you are interested he will happily discuss such history at considerable length." Lucien's eyes have slipped half-closed as he sips at his tea. He's relaxed back into his seat, more ease than usual to the set of his shoulders and, to Matt's sensibilities, the workings of his mind, well-balanced but not nearly so tightly regimented as is his working norm. "We have faith." His expression has not shifted out of its quiet neutrality, but there's a softer warmth in his voice. "You find miracles with your God and we find ours --" His hand unfurls, a languid sweep of fingers that encompasses -- the seeds, the tree, the garden beyond.
"I shouldn't have jumped to conclusions," Steve says, looking down bashfully. "It isn't as though I didn't know not all faith looks the same. Even for people of the /same/ faith, devotion can look very different from the outside." He tilts his head slightly, thoughtful, as he looks out into the garden following Lucien's gesture. "So...is it something like the Deism of Colonial days? Or Transcendentalism? I don't mean to reduce your beliefs down to historical movements, I'm just curious whether I'm familiar with anything similar."
"By 'considerable length' he means I never shut up about it," Matt translates, looking not abashed in the least. "Not quite like that, no. We practice our connection to the land more concretely, more directly." He settles his chin in the palm of one hand and gives a thoughtful hum. "The roots of our faith -- again, broadly speaking -- have been around since the 19th century, and some would argue since the dawn of time, but I think you missed the formal birth of modern neopaganism by just a few years. Before that, it went by a lot of names, depending on how the speaker wanted other to view it." He frees his hand so he can tick off points on his thumb, index and middle fingers. "If they wanted to present it neutrally, they said 'folkways'; if they wanted to dismiss it they said 'superstition'; if they wanted to demonize it, they said 'witchcraft'." He taps his chin with the same finger he had used for the ticking off. "Come to think of it, most people still do."
"Never shutting up about it is your right as an educator." Lucien lowers his hand back to curl again around his cup. "One of the classes Matthieu teaches at Gaétan's school is a course in the history of paganism. Insofar as you can manage to encapsulate that in a single term."
Steve manages to keep his expression more or less under control, but he blinks an excessive number of times. "/Neo/paganism?" he echoes, his brows furrowing. "Is this a kind of a...revival? Of pre-Christian religion?" Drinks deep from his cup. "Seems to me it's a timeless human tradition to refer to any spiritual practice you don't like as 'superstition' or 'witchcraft'. I hope I do not offend by my ignorance, but -- you don't believe in God?" He's trying to keep his voice even, but the incredulity is creeping in all the same.
"I really should get the name of that course changed before the hubris comes back to bite me." Matt sounds pretty complacent about his hubris, for all that. "Neopaganism is an /extremely/ wide umbrella, and does indeed encompass some traditions reconstructed from pre-Christian religions, folk practices, or dizzying appropriative syncretism of extant faiths. Many others are wholly novel, though, and I would venture to say that most -- like our own -- are something in between. But, and I know this will probably strike you as odd, many neopagans actually /self-identify/ as witches, though I don't know to what extent we can call the word /reclaimed/." Here his smile is wry, but not unkind. "I believe in a vast number of gods, literal and figurative, and do not discriminate against the god of Abraham in that respect. We do not, however, worship him."
"On the contrary," Lucien tips his head towards his brother. "I believe in most, and respect many. I am not certain I would say I personally worship any, though many other neopagans certainly do. Admittedly, I suppose, when it comes to deity, the line between veneration and devotion can be often blurred --" His lips twitch, faintly. "Both in our eyes and theirs."
If Steve followed any part of Matt's explanation about the diversity of neopaganism, his comprehension -- or lack thereof -- is probably blown clear from his mind by the revelation that follows. He puts down his cup. Picks it back up. "Okay. So you.../believe/ in God. /My/ God -- I mean, the God of Abraham. But you don't...worship Him." This all has the tone of gaining confirmation, skepticism only barely suppressed. "And you call /yourselves/ witches." He bites his lower lip. "Do you worship -- or, /venerate/ -- the Devil?"
Matt settles his chin in the palm of one hand, nodding along with the points as Steve re-iterates them. But at the last question his eyes widen just a touch, their bright green practically luminous in the slanting light. He straightens up, the fingers of his hand shift to his mouth as if to cover a smile.
Lucien's expression, on the other hand, shifts not at all, save for the /briefest/ flick of his eyes sidelong to his brother. Straightaway, in the same mild tone: "It is a common misconception, and we do not. Though that charge is frequently enough leveled at any who believe in non-Abrahamic deities, it is vanishingly rarely a truth." He picks up his tea, takes a long sip as his eyes skirt away toward the pond. "It might be simplest to think of our beliefs as a sort of pantheism rather than get caught up in what gods we do or do not worship. I find divinity in all things. At times like now -- the changing of the seasons, the reawakening of the earth -- it simply becomes more easily recognizable."
Steve relaxes visibly, though it may not have been all that obvious he had tensed before. He blushes slightly. "Sorry, I -- was aware of that tendency Christians have. I've heard Jews, Moslems, Buddhists and, heck, even just the 'wrong' kind of Christian accused of Satanism. /Myself/ included. I should have known better." He takes another sip of his tea."I cannot agree with you on the worshiping -- or non-worshiping -- front, but I do hold all Creation to be sacred." His eyes follow Lucien's gaze again. "I haven't enjoyed, cherished, or celebrated it as much as I would have liked, the last few years. Appreciate the reminder."
Matt's sigh is faint, probably easy to miss, as he subsides back into his comfortable slouch. "I'm not sure we can take /all/ the credit for reminding you." The sweep of his hand encompasses the tight-furled leaf buds in the branches overhead, the new grass underfoot, the sunlight glinting off the surface of the water, the exuberant weeds pioneering in the garden beds. "But I like to flatter myself that we help it along." His smile is warm here, his voice soft. "You've not had much space for any of that, I imagine--and are not likely to have much going forward, either. But we have the sanctity of /now./"