Dangerous Compassions


I saw a red candle at a special store, in the witchy area, and I wanted it.  The candle was designated for courage.

I need more courage in my life–the courage to stick with difficult situations through hard times, being myself steadfastly, staying honest always, even when I’m scared.  When I’m scared, that’s the only time I want to lie.  (There’s masking also, which has a possibly dishonest aspect, but it’s for survival and much deeper.)

I wanted to light the candle and pray, to help myself feel strong and ready for the resistance I face, when I tell the truth to some people, or when I just be who I am.  But the candle cost $5, and it seemed silly to buy something in order to feel more brave.  I hate therapeutic capitalism, big time.

So I pondered and pondered, how to help myself feel more brave and strong.  I could do a ritual in my own way.  And I decided to list my motivation in a little note on my altar.


Then I was at a grocery store with Ming and saw some pretty candles there.  I saw a small votive pumpkin-scented candle on sale.  It was orange, my favorite color, and plain.  It cost just more than a dollar.

I realized I could carve a symbol of courage, bravery, valor, strength into the side of the candle.  I could find a rune for that purpose, or I could make a symbol on my own.

Oh yeah, I did that before when I was young, for ritual.  At the time, I was afraid I was losing my mind.  So I made a symbol of a box within a box within a box, and I asked Mother God to help me keep my mind.  Or at the time, I didn’t pray to Mother God exactly.

Who did I pray to, when I was a teenager?  Some vague great goddess.  My spiritual mythology was less rich then.  I had not done Hinduism or met Jaguar yet.


“What represents bravery to you?” I asked Ming.

“Like a symbol?” he asked.

“Yeah, like a symbol,” I said.

“I think an arrow,” Ming said.  “Arrows.”

“Ok,” I said, considering arrows and my associations.  “What else?”

“You could do a lightning bolt,” he said.  “But that’s kind of…”

“Cliche?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he said.

We were headed home from Natural Grocers, about to cross a big bridge over a big river.  I considered lightning bolts.

for me

“What do you think symbolizes power, strength, courage for me?” I asked Ming.

For me, courage and power are symbolized by uterus, vulva, water, a tree, the letter V, breasts, earth.  I want the groundedness of earth in any way.

So I carved in my candle a pentacle, like the suit of pentacles in tarot: home, safety, materiality, money, physical stability.  And I carved a vulva with its V, and I carved an arrow too, to honor Ming’s ideas, which matter too.

You can’t see what I carved in this picture.  But trust me, it’s there.

altar with orange glowing candle

By Laura-Marie

Good at listening to the noise until it makes sense.

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