Here’s a conundrum for you. I know the Gods are real, but I don’t believe in Them.
I converse with the Gods, I ask for guidance at times, sometimes I even ask for their assistance in a particularly strong bit of magic I am doing. I respect them, and the power they hold. But, I don’t worship them and I don’t believe in them.
Let’s talk a bit about the difference between knowledge and belief. I have personal experiences with different Deities. Belief is when you strongly think something must be true, but you can’t actually prove it to yourself. Believing in the Gods, for me, would be the equivalent of saying that I believe in chairs.
I don’t have to believe in chairs! I am sitting in one, I can see chairs of different sizes and shapes all around me. I don’t need to believe in chairs because I know they are real.
In this same way, I have had personal experiences with the Gods, dreams, conversations, benevolent possessions. While I can not prove to anyone else that these experiences were real, they were real enough for me. Yes, it may have all happened in my head, that doesn’t make it any less real.
I have, over time, written a bit now and again about different Gods I have worked with and known. I thought I would share a bit of details about one I met a few years back who may be not quite so well known.
Making a Spirit Mask, a Personal Story
I first met Mareninka back in 2000 when I made a Spirit Mask.
I made the decision to make a Spirit Mask, and a few nights later I had a very vivid dream in which I met and spoke with the Spirit who wanted me to create a mask for Her. From that moment onwards I could see very clearly in my mind what this mask should look like. I knew the shades of blue, the colour and texture of the hair.
All that remained was to find the items I would need to re-create the face I saw. Poster paints from the local stationery shop provided the colouring I needed for the face. I found a blank face mask at a party supply shop.
The hair proved a bit more difficult. I knew exactly what it should look like but nothing fit. Until the day I flipped through a craft book and saw just the hair I needed for sale in the doll section. I quickly ordered a batch and patiently waited for it to arrive.
Less than a week later I had it in hand. Now, every time I looked at the mask blank, I could see the spirit’s face looking out from it. She had taken up residence even before the mask was created. And she was as eager as I for the project to be completed.
Two days later, the house was quiet and my child was safely off to school for the next 6 hours. I would be able to work undisturbed for at least 5 hours, provided no one knocked on the door or rang on the phone.
I gathered my supplies together. Paints, water for rinsing, paint brushes of varying sizes, hair and glue sat alongside a blank mask face waiting for me to begin. I picked up a wide brush and began painting her face. She wished no colour variation from the blue other than wanting it to be even paler, so I added a layer of white to the blue and mixed it in, leaving pale streaks of white within the very pale blue face. She made it very clear though that the paint brush strokes could only go in one direction, up and outwards. We had no trouble with this directive on the cheeks and forehead, but the chin and nose did prove a bit difficult to manage. We did it though.
A bit of white paint with blue over that again around the mouth to bring out her lips and an outline of black paint around the eyes completed the painting. Once I had the face painted to her and my satisfaction, I used a hair dryer to quick dry the paint. Then I centered the blonde hair on her head and brought it around in the style she showed me in my mind. When I finished, it looked very much like she had long hair pulled back behind her head about the level of her ears.
Meeting the Spirit of the Mask for the First Time
After leaving the mask to rest for a few days, it was time to try to speak to this Spirit who had directed me in creating it. I enlisted my husband to help.
We made a ritual circle and sat within it. I put the mask on.
My husband asked the spirit to come forth and I could feel her moving into the mask and into a part of my body. She proceeded to speak through me. I wasn’t being possessed as such. It was more that she was occupying a corner of my mind and able to use my senses to see, hear, and speak.
The spirit drawn into the mask called herself Mareninka. She was an ancient elemental spirit. From her physical descriptions, I thought she originally came the Baltic region of northern Europe or possibly Western Russia.
She was very curious about everything but her first question was to ask why we did not have blue skin. Every other human she had ever seen had blue skin. We were finally able to work out that she had been at one time an ancient spirit called upon to take in those who had died from exposure to the cold and snow. The blue colour was because the only other humans she has really had close contact with were those who had frozen to death.
Her animal was the lone wolf. Her season was winter. Her night was the night of the Winter Solstice. Her offering was meat, wrapped in untanned leather, left for the lone wolf.
After speaking for several minutes, she expressed a desire to rest and we bid her farewell.
Being me, of course I didn’t just accept everything I was told. I looked for corroboration from other sources. My knowledge of the Pagan religions and Deities of Russia and the Baltic region is scanty at best and in the year 2000 it was pretty much non-existent.
I looked for exact spellings as I heard it, but also for alternate spellings because I know that names change, spellings, change, and what I hear phonetically in my head does not necessarily correspond to the way it was originally spelled or how it is supposed to be written.
But, this is what I discovered.
Mareninka (or Maraninka, Matrika, Marinka, Marena, Morana, Marzanna, Mara) was most likely an ancient nature spirit of the land, specifically the winter land of coldness, dark, hunger, and death. Things we don’t take into consideration quite so much today when we live in a world where our homes are heated in winter and food to eat can be found in the nearest grocery store.
Over time in some areas she may have evolved into a Goddess figure. In Her original form as a spirit of nature though she has nearly been forgotten.
Marena – A Goddess of spring (season) and water found in Ukrainian mythologies.
Slavic Pantheon – Marena The Goddess of winter, and as such She became (not unpredictably) a spirit of hunger, sickness, epidemic, and death. Nevertheless, late versions of Her show an increasing association with home and hearth. She was wife of her brother Kupala.
Medeina (Žvorūna) – The ruler of forests and of animals. She is depicted as a young woman and a she-wolf with an escort of wolves.
Morana – A Slavic Goddess associated with winter, death, and nightmares.
Marzanna – Slavic Goddess of witchcraft, winter, and death
I think what was most surprising for me though was when I came across reference to Mari Paganism which was indigenous to Russia.
Mareninka still pops in for a visit occasionally to ask questions, but she’s not had reason to inhabit her mask for some time. And I still honor her by leaving an offering of meat for the local foxes each Winter Solstice.
A Spirit Mask can help to introduce you to unknown Spirits, as I was able to do. It can also be useful if you are seeking to discover who your Patron God/dess might be.