My Spiritual Life in Jewelry

I’m something of a jewelry fiend. I love jewelry, and own entirely too much of it. Recently I noticed a trend; I can trace my spiritual journey through specific pieces of jewelry.

For a long time I owned and wore a ring that said “To thine own self be true.” I lost it in NYC, but it was my version of a CTR ring. For most of my life, I wanted to be a good Mormon. I struggled with the culture (growing up in Utah it was pretty prevalent) and so I wore a Shakespeare ring instead of standard CTR ring. And I had questions and concerns about various church doctrines and policies. But I wanted to do all the right things and believe the right things. So I put my struggles on a shelf and did what I was supposed to. Growing up in the church wasn’t a bad thing, but my brain is not designed to put things on shelves and leave them there. I admire those who can take things on faith; I’ve never been very good at that, so my shelf didn’t last.

When I got married and started wearing a wedding ring, I was forced to face my concerns about women in the church. Before I got married, being a wife, mother, homemaker, etc. were issues that I didn’t need to deal with immediately. But after getting married I had to deal with my feelings about not wanting kids, about wanting to be more then someone’s wife who supports him, about my issues with the idea of presiding, about being a couple and not an individual in the eyes of the church. It also meant I went through the temple and discovered all the concerns for women there, which don’t bother some but bothered me.

As various LDS doctrines stopped working for me, I felt the need to determine what I believed, not just what I didn’t. What did I want to guide my life if it wasn’t the LDS church? About that time, my parents got back from a trip to Italy. They went to Assisi, and my mom brought me this. It’s called a “dau,” a symbol used by St. Francis of Assisi. I’ve always loved his story; he taught the importance of caring for the poor and lived what he taught. I figured if I was going to find new guiding principles, caring for those in need was a good place to start. So I wear the dau to remind me of St. Francis’ compassion.

Changing beliefs also comes with a changed concept of God. I read Sue Monk Kidd’s The Secret Life of Bees that says “Everyone needs a god that looks like them.” I felt truth in that statement, and began searching for the Divine Feminine. I do not connect with the idea of a Heavenly Mother, so I started looking at the idea of a Goddess. I loved Greek mythology as a kid, especially Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom. One of her symbols is an owl, so I found and wear an owl to bring the Goddess into my life.

As I’ve been creating a new belief system, I’ve had to examine rules I followed just because LDS leaders told me to. There are good reasons for many of those rules, but I couldn’t get my head around the one about piercings. I’ve always liked the look of double ear piercings, but I didn’t get my first one until after the one piercing talk. But since I couldn’t think of a reason not to get one (I can take them out in formal settings and the hole is not very obvious if there’s nothing in it) I got my ears pierced a second time and I’m having a blast with it! As someone with too many earrings, now I have a chance to wear more of them. I feel in control of what I do with my body and my life, instead of giving that control to someone else.

My most recent piece of jewelry is a cross my husband got me for my birthday. I identify as a Christian because the stories of Christ in the New Testament, whether they are true or not, provide an example of compassion that I want to emulate. I’m still working on my opinions about the Atonement and historicity of Jesus Christ, but the story of someone who loved people enough to choose to die for them, to suffer with them so he would know how to comfort them is profound to me. It is the kind of person I want to be; I want to know how to help people in pain, to show compassion to everyone, even those who disagree with or hurt me. I’m not very good at it, but wearing the cross reminds me of the person I want to become.

DefyGravity

I’m a graduate from BYU in theatre education and history teaching, currently living in Utah and working at a library company. I’ve been married since 2009. I love to read essentially anything. I’m an earring fanatic, Anglophile and Shakespeare lover.

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12 Responses

  1. Annie B. says:

    I love your symbols and the meanings they carry for you!

  2. Diane says:

    I really liked this piece. And as a former Catholic I find your new symbol the cross to be “ironic”(and I don’t mean that to be rude, so, please don’t take it be)

    I remember the BP at church coming up to a woman and telling her to take it off. and she told him No because it was a gift (she was a convert).

    But, back to the cross, Its a very powerful symbol for Catholics (Christians alike) It celebrates life, death and resurrection So, which part of that do you identify yourself with? Maybe that’s too personal a question. Forgive me.

    • DefyGravity says:

      I realize I’m taking the cross in a different direction then most people. It’s probably a pretty Mormon interpretation in a lot of ways. I guess for me it’s about willingness to die for others, but also the cross being empty means he didn’t just die for other people, he lived for them too. There’s a story I read about a Catholic saint (I can’t remember who) who asked God to let him become a martyr, so he could die for something as Christ did. But then n a vision he was told “Don’t die for me, live for me.” I read that story as a kid and it stuck with me. Christ lived and died for others, which is an example I find worth trying to follow. I don’t know what I think about resurrection, but the idea that Christ died and lived again so others could is, again, a powerful symbol of compassion. But I guess the biggest part for me is the empty cross suggesting following the example of a living, compassionate Christ. He didn’t just come and die. He came and lived an example I wish to emulate. Hope that answers your question and isn’t too long winded!

  3. Deborah says:

    I like this reflection. My only religious jewelry are three Mary necklaces — including one I talked about in this essay:

    http://www.the-exponent.com/mormons-death-the-after-life-in-this-life/

    • CatherineWO says:

      Thank you for posting that link, Deborah. The Mary pendant is beautiful. Because my parents were lovers of religious art, I grew up in a house with many artistic representations of Mary. Unfortunately, I inherited none of them. A piece of Mary jewelry sounds wonderful.

  4. CatherineWO says:

    What a beautiful post. I too love jewelry and use it to reflect and remind me of my religious, social and political feelings and views. As I read this post I realized that I have some pieces that I don’t wear anymore, because they don’t fit my current state of heart and mind. Yet I keep them in my dresser drawer. They are part of who and where I have been.

  5. EmilyCC says:

    A beautiful piece, DG. Last fall, all my jewelry was stolen, except for my wedding ring and the earrings I was wearing. I mourned over the weeks as I realized a different piece that was lost. I hadn’t realized that my jewelry had spiritual and relational value until it was gone. I’m glad you have and enjoy (and have documented) those pieces. What a gift! Thank you for sharing.

    • DefyGravity says:

      I’m so sorry! I know I’ve cried over losing or breaking certain pieces. They can be strong reminders of people or places or ideas and losing them can hurt more then someone might expect. Most of my jewelry isn’t worth much monitarily, but it’s become a big part of who I am and how I express myself. I’m sorry you lost some of that.

    • Suzette Smith says:

      Emily, this is terrible. I would cry for week too – and mourn even longer in my heart.

  6. alex w. says:

    I loved this post! It’s so interesting to learn about things like this.

    I don’t currently have any jewelry that holds much meaning aside from my wedding ring and my rebellious 2nd pair of earrings. For a couple of years I wore a necklace with a little dove on it, which I chose because it is a symbol for peace from the bible, but is not as religious/church-related as other symbols. Unfortunately, it wasn’t of very good quality and got tarnished beyond repair last summer. Maybe I should start looking for a new one.

  7. Great post! I love the part where you said,

    “I feel in control of what I do with my body and my life, instead of giving that control to someone else.”

    I’ve been beginning to feel this way, too as I’ve been making my own decisions based on my own personal sense of morality. I’ve been considering getting another piercing, too–a little tiny, nose stud. I’ve wanted one since I was a little girl. Maybe one day.:)

  8. Suzette Smith says:

    Thank so much for sharing these these thoughts – and so much about yourself.

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