to seal my heart / is to deprive myself of God | bhakti poem by téa nicolae

in the depths of betrayal,

do not, under any circumstance,

seal your heart.

for years, you intricately

pushed yourself to unglue it.

to forfeit that effort

is to lose the rawness of God

tasting herself in you

as both the flutter in your womb

and as the pain in your left lung.

to seal my heart
is to deprive myself of God.

in this life,
there is much i have allowed.

but this,
this, i will not allow.


~ note to myself. 🖤

king’s cross hotel – first draft

i’m watching the rain wash the streets
thinking, fuck! like a smith beating a hammer hot, i’ve been warring with myself for too long.

when i was sixteen, i thought i was meek
so i slid viciousness between my teeth
when i was nineteen, i thought i was cruel
so i choked on sugarcane, oblivious that
it is impossible to only sustain yourself on rock candy
when i was twenty-two, i thought i couldn’t trust myself with my heart, so i gifted it in a music box
in the hopes new hands would care better for it

i watch my thoughts drop like pearls on canvas and decide that
my gospel is the chambers in my chest

the chambers in my chest
housing sweetness
the sweetness of the tears streaming down my cheeks under the neon lights on oxford road
the sweetness of the rage carving my fingertips in sand dunes
the sweetness of baring myself soft to a new pair of well-meaning hands despite fears of being young in all the wrong ways

i listen to the waves of being echoing in my navel and wonder
what if
my path is one of softening instead of breaking
what if
i can trust myself with my heart?

last night i felt alive under the lamp poles and monsoon sky, listening to lana singing about harry nilsson whispering in her ear, “come on, baby, you can drive” and i thought
come on, baby, i will drive.

“king’s cross hotel”, quick poem i wrote this morning watching the rain. early rough draft so bear with me. 🖤

Pandemic Stories: Daylight

As time slowly unfolded, daylight shimmered through the loss, the ache, the anguish. Softness had been there, inside of me, all along: underneath the grief, underneath the relentless self-loathing and merciless depression, a sweet softness shimmered through.

🦋 Medium launched an invitation to writers on their platform to share their pandemic stories & experiences, in retrospect of hitting our 3-year mark following the outbreak. here is my own story, entitled ‘Daylight’. ☀️

In 2020, I spent nine months in isolation in England, out of which five were spent mostly by myself, save for the company of my pet-rabbit. Flight bans and regional restrictions resulted in solitary celebrations of Easter and Christmas, away from my family, who lived miles away from me, in Romania. I marked the completion of my undergraduate degree with a glass of wine in front of my computer’s screen, and my graduation ceremony consisted in taking a selfie wearing an academic cap I had ordered online. I held my 22nd birthday party on ZOOM and began my postgraduate degree in my bedroom.

The first months of the pandemic saw me grappling with grief, unease, and anxiety. My struggle was not with solitude, which I cherished deeply. Truthfully, I have always treasured the time spent with myself, which I often had to defend from family, friends, lovers. I love connecting with people and opening to them, but I crave quietude, I crave me, I crave meeting myself in stillness. Indeed, the first lesson isolation taught me was that I had internalised my need to be alone as something that I needed to fix. Furthermore, the need to justify my alone time to others had left me feeling inadequate. There was joy in letting that contraction go, gratitude in having endless time to spend with myself, and relief in not having to eternally explain my seclusion. In my tiny room, I explored boundless universes through my imagination, through books and poetry, I felt held by friends through the internet, and, in the depth of my aloneness, I realised how tightly connected our world is.

Nonetheless, my struggle dealt with the uncertainty of the future. I had tightly held onto the illusion of control for most of my life, and the pandemic roughly forced me to face that nothing had been in my hands all along. This realisation filled me with unspeakable dread. My mind spun restlessly, and there were many tears.

However, as time slowly unfolded, daylight shimmered through the loss, the ache, the anguish. Isolation offered me silence, tranquillity, and time: time to read, to study, to feel into myself, to observe my mind and my patterns. I learned to cradle myself, I taught myself gentleness and the importance of rest, I found the courage to ask for help when needed.

And, in the silence, the second lesson I was offered was that of trust. Isolation guided me to cultivate a heartfelt trust to the flow of life. I learned that I never had the power to obstruct, control or manipulate it. I began my days with the beautiful prayer written by Reinhold Niebuhr: ‘Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.’ And there was kindness.

This process led me to continuously unearth myself. At first, by way of tears, clumsily. And, as my fears began to soften, daringly. In the silence, my heart, jammed tight for such a long time, cracked open; it was heavy and silken, wrenching, and tender. I cried and I prayed, I wrote, and I danced. I laughed and I lit candles. I made amends and I drank. I howled and asked for forgiveness. I digested life and rested in the pause. As old wounds unravelled and mended, I felt soft and mushy, in awe with how much beauty and loss my heart could feel; all at once.

On a particularly tender night, I felt as if I finally returned to myself: as if I finally met myself for the first time. A quiver, a gentle ‘hey, that’s me’. And love, acceptance, marvel rushed through. Softness had been there, inside of me, all along: underneath the grief, underneath the relentless self-loathing, underneath the merciless depression, a sweet softness shimmered through. Life has unfolded sweetly since then; not smoothly or painlessly, but sweetly. There is an intrinsic sweetness that shines through: through the beautiful and the not so beautiful, through the silly, the mundane, the harrowing. Grace. On the very same tender night, I wrote in my journal:

‘Fears blossom into devotion in the palms of my hands. I bathe in what is. And there is only daylight.’

And I trust that there will be. As Mr. Leonard Cohen would sing, ‘There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.’

There will be kindness.

photo: mid-isolation in 2020, when my hair was wild & my mind heavy. wearing my mother’s dress. 💙

*sing-songs*: ☀️ my love was as cruel as the cities i lived in / and i’ve been sleeping for so long in a 20-year dark night / but now i see daylight, daylight, daylight ☀️🕊

your mouth is the fire | bhakti poem by téa nicolae

your call is the cinder
your mouth is the fire
burning the tips of my fingers,
weaving my thoughts in gold wire.

my tears are the milk,
my oblations are the flowers
gliding onto the blest thāli,
pouring into fire that devours.

your curls are the waves,
your teeth are the moons
cooling the ārti of my heart ,
more precious than kingly boons.

my love is the oath,
my longing is the path
jostling me to you,
enough to endure the world’s wrath.

monsoon one, tell me
when my yearning reaches the skies
are you the sunlight
bathing my eyes?

thāli – metal plate used in rituals of worship, on which offerings of fire and water are laid.
ārti – Sanskrit for ‘affliction’ or ‘distress’, as well as an alternative modern spelling for āratī, a ritual in which the light of a burning flame is offered to deities.

.❀。• *₊°。 ❀°。 my creative contribution to the Florilegium Anthology .❀。• *₊°。 ❀°

🖤🥀🌼 FLORILEGIUM 🥀🌼🖤 is an anthology of fiction & non-fiction literature compiled by the 2022 cohort of the Warwick Writing Programme, birthed out of love for writing and out of commitment to expression and self-discovery through the art of writing. Florilegium features 21 emerging writers and it holds short stories, flash fiction & poetry. it was a pure delight to work on this collection with my very talented colleagues and it is a joy to see it out in print! the Florilegium launch was held in february in London 🖤 photos from the launch below!

lemon tree flare | bhakti poem by Téa Nicolae

i had thought
that i was just a girl
who wanted to plant lemon trees
but my hot blood scorched
the vine trailing on the windowsill.

you are pulling me to you by my teeth
and i follow happily.

exploring the warm tones of warwickshire beauty 💛

i followed you into the seven seas
and i followed you into the circle of mountains
i have been calling you with folded hands
and now i will dance to you
with my mouth open
and with flowers woven into my skin tissue.

monsoon one,
did you know
that the crevices of my heart
can hold you whole?
did you know
that the fire in my belly
can swallow the three worlds?

i know you did,
i know you did.

Homam – Bhakti Poem by Téa Nicolae

happy Mahāśivarātri! 🙏 reflecting today on the need to destroy within that which is familiar to be reborn as new. a poem inspired by the homam witnessed at the Chidambaram Temple (pictured):

is starved

mantra pours into the fire
ghee pours into the fire
milk pours into the fire
curd pours into the fire
sugar pours into the fire
silk pours into the fire

fear pours into the fire
past pours into the fire
doubt pours into the fire
attachment pours into the fire
woe pours into the fire
ire pours into the fire

licks his lips

quenching the homam within,
i wear the embers on my eyelids
with each blink
i regenerate.

Har Har Mahādeva!

🔱 further context: scholar Richard K. Payne explores homa as symbiosis between fire, the deity invoked in and concomitantly identified with the fire, and with the practitioner, who themselves becomes ‘ritually identified with both the deity and the fire’. in this, the offerings immolated in the fire are connoted with ‘spiritual obstacles that impede the practitioner from full awakening’. most significantly, ‘the practitioner’s own inherent wisdom is identified with the fire, and just as the offerings are transformed and purified, the practitioner’s own spiritual obstacles are, as well’. (2017)
Payne interestingly identifies two strains of interpretation of the ritual: first, ‘the yogic interiorization of ritual found in post-Vedic Indian religion, more as a form of esoteric physiology than as a psychologized understanding of visualization’; second, ‘the sexual symbolism’ ‘attached to all aspects of fire rituals’. (2017)

The Western Revival of Goddess Worship – Academic Paper

very excited to share the first academic paper of mine that is published in complete form in a peer-reviewed journal! it is entitled ‘The Western Revival of Goddess Worship’ and it has been published in Feminist Theology, volume 31(2).

‘[Western] Women are resisting secularism and are connecting with the transcendental on their own terms, while seeking self-understanding and self-realisation in a gynocentric cosmology. From deifying female sexuality to revering the cosmos as the womb of an all-pervading Mother Goddess, the Goddess Movement encapsulates women’s defiant quest for wholeness.’

i wrote this article two years ago (which is the approximate duration of academic publishing, haha!) during my first MA at Lancaster University, under the supervision of the fantastic Dr. Brian Black, whom i am most grateful to. this paper encapsulates my views at that time, and although my perspectives have become more refined since – both as a scholar and as a practitioner – i remain pleased with this work and i am hopeful that it contributes to the illumination of the phenomenon of religious revival in scholarship. 🙏

you can read it here:

Caturāvṛtti Tarpaṇam | bhakti poem by Téa Nicolae

my Lord,

melt me on the betelnut leaf

show me that i am rough on the surface

but soft all the way through

my rugged edges,

my delusions of mass

my convictions of being,

my frights of flow

in the melding of haldi

and sanctified water,

apaḥ sips my contractions

pours of holy water,

my fissures dissolve into You

fingertips adorned in yellow hue

and moist eyes of velvet,

i throw my head back and gasp

𝓉𝒽𝒾𝓈 𝓂𝓊𝓈𝓉 𝒷𝑒 𝓁𝑜𝓋𝑒

🌼 photos: the ecstatic Caturāvṛtti Tarpaṇam, completed in forty-one days with my saṅgha of Śabda Yoginīs.

“Tarpaṇam is ritual libation in which the gross flows into the subtle, the lower into the higher, the rigid into the flexible, the known into knowing and the knowing into the knower.

Gaṇapati rules over the gaṇas in the Mūlādhāra cakra. It is here at the Mūlādhāra that solidity becomes our way of life. As soon as I think or say, “this is how I am,” my being has solidified exactly into that way of being. All other possibilities are eliminated. What was previously flowing (from the Sva-adhiṣṭhāna) has now become fixed, definitive, and stubborn.

When we invoke Mahāgaṇapati, he dissolves these self-imposed chains, allowing them to flow out of restrictions toward expansiveness. Unless this solidity melts, there is no growth or expansion.

In November 2022, Śabda Yoginīs across the world took the saṅkalpa of completing the Caturāvṛtti Tarpaṇam for forty-one days. Every day, we prepared a turmeric pyramid representing Mahāgaṇapati that dissolved with 444 offerings of mantra-infused water. The collective experience of this ritual resulted in exponential expansion, groundedness and miraculous transformation and transmutation of the gross to the subtle…

Deep gratitude to our Guru Maṇḍala for guiding us, leading us, and dissolving us.” 💛

🌼 read the rest on Śabda Institute, where you can also find many gorgeous photos from the collective Tarpaṇam experience. 🙏

Morocco: immersion into beauty and devotion

“The Universe belongs to God.” is written on the walls of the Hassan II Mosque. 🤍 Morocco weaves beauty and devotion magnificently within itself, and it has left a profound mark on me. seeing those splendid lands filled me with joy and almost recognition, as if i had been there before, perhaps in another life. what was most significant for me was witnessing the calls to prayer. it moved me to tears – to see people drop their everything to join prayer, with fervour and innocence. from truck drivers parking their car on the side of the road and kneeling before their devotion on the land, to workers kneeling on the pavement on busy streets with folded hands… truly a most touching sight for sore eyes.

what is more, the scents, the architecture, the nature, the monuments – “deeply fulfilling to the senses”, as my beloved teacher wrote, who, as grace happens, had just experienced Morocco before i did. 🤍

photos from Casablanca, Rabat, Essaouira, Marrakesh, Fes, including captures of… tree-climbing goats!! 💛 a romanian custom is to caress a lamb on the first days of the new year for good luck & auspiciousness – hopefully holding a goatling baby is a close-enough attempt!

and, finally, photos from New Year’s Eve, spent in the electric Marrakesh! 🖤

“I drop the dying year behind me like a shawl and let it fall. The urgent fireworks fling themselves against the night.
I lean back, lip-read the heavens talking on in light, syllabic stars. I see, at last, they pray at us. Time falls and falls through endless space, to when we are.”

🎆 Carol Ann Duffy 🎆

haunting beauty

Roma – the haunting beauty of marble! the sculpture of Artemis (#2) is her incarnation as “Lady of the Animals”. the close rows of overlapping breasts, interpreted by some to be bulls’ testicles, signify fertility & abundance. spellbinding to see the sculptures coming to life in the city & mesmerising to face Artemis. tears upon seeing Mary’s beautiful face in the Pietà. 🤍

*sculptures of Ponte Umberto I, Artemis, Pietà, Vaticano, Ponte Sant’Angelo, Fontana di Trevi, Pantheon.

cresciuti sotto un fiore
nascosti con i segreti
creati da Dio
sparsi nell’universo


gratitude to have celebrated mammina in the beautiful citta eterna. thank you for your out-of-this-world support, for bearing with me through my times of casual cruelty and immaturity. i owe what i have built and what i am building to your generosity. i love you.