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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Underworld

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

The next deity that I’m honoring from the atheist graveyard is Veles (#12) of the Slavic Pantheon.  Now I’ve written several posts about deities from this pantheon under different names and every time I write about them, I grow a little more in knowledge.  There is a lot of variety in names but with similar roles.  Before I’ve described this divinity as the bad guy, but he reminds me a little bit of Loki in that he isn’t necessarily the bad guy but he does take on the adversarial or trickster role.  It seems Christian influence made him appear worse than he really is.


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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Melia Brokaw
    Melia Brokaw says #
    Thanks for commenting! I admit I've had a hard time wading through all the information I've read about the Slavic Pantheon so I a
  • Shirl Sazynski
    Shirl Sazynski says #
    Thanks for writing about one of the Slavic Gods! Veles has not been viewed remotely as evil by any Rodnovery I have yet encounter

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

At the time of writing, several friends of mine are engaged in formal initiation proceedings, leading me to consider my own experiences with initiations.  It was easy to pinpoint those formal initiations such as being initiated into the National Honor Society, or being initiated into a co-ed social group at my college that I can only explain as being modeled on the Merry Pranksters.  But the experience that first came to mind when thinking of initiatory experiences was working the Twelve Steps.

Anyone who has a desire to stop using can become a member of a Twelve Step group.  You do not have to work the Twelve Steps.  However, the process of working the Twelve Steps is the manner in which one draws closer to the program or becomes truly initiated.  It is how we begin to view fellowship as family.  Since we work the Twelve Steps with a sponsor, we are forced to reach our hand out and ask for help.  No longer are we able to sit in the back of the room, not talking to anyone.  We must make connections in order to move forward.  As we reveal ourselves to our sponsor, we learn how to become open and more vulnerable.  We become open to taking suggestions, and learn about humility.  These are essential elements for being part of a society instead of being a party of one.  Not only does the process of the Twelve Steps change us into better people, but we also learn how to be with people as we work the steps.

The many tales of underworld descents provide a poetic structure through which to understand a program of recovery. Much of what we do is painful, and involves spelunking around in some of the darker neighborhoods of our psyche.  If we persist, at the end of the experience we are reborn.  As in the Sumerian tale of Inanna’s descent, there are seven gates (steps) we must pass through in the Recovery version of the Underworld, and at each of them we must turn over some part of ourselves just as Inanna was required to turn over a symbol of her power and wealth.  In Step One, we hand over our attachment to the idea that we shall ever be able to exercise any power over our drinking or drugging.  In Step Two, we give up the specter of self-sufficiency.  In step Three, we turn over our will and our lives.  We hand over denial and self-delusion in Step Four, and in Step Five we part ways with our pride.  In Step six we relinquish our attachment to our character defects, and then in Step Seven we actually ask for them to be removed. As Inanna became stripped of the symbols of her holy priestesshood, so too do we become more naked and vulnerable as we go along.  When we question, as Inanna did, why we have to do this or that, our sponsors or old-timer’s might snap at us as the Chief Gatekeeper, Neti, snapped at Inanna, “Quiet Inanna, the ways of the Underworld are perfect.  They may not be questioned.” We’ve all met the Big Book thumpers who talk like this!

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

Hekate is a complicated Goddess. Crossroads, entryways, and liminal spaces; journeys and war; the moon and the night and the underworld; ghosts and cemeteries; magic and herbology; pregnancy and midwifery and nursing; sailing and fishing and shepherding and dogs; all fall under her aegis. Honored originally in Anatolia, her worship spread throughout the Greek-speaking world. Adopted by the Romans (who tended to call her Hecate or Trivia), her worship spread even further. She is a major figure in the Theogony, the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, the Greek Magical Papyri, and the Chaldean Oracles. She even survived -- sort of -- the purging of the ancient pantheons and the conversion to Christianity as a hag figure in many folk tales and fairy tales. Today, she is honored by Pagans of many different traditions, ranging from Hellenismos to Religio to Wicca to unaffiliated, nondenominational Goddess worshippers.

It is, perhaps, not surprising that there are quite a few texts devoted to Hekate, as well as long chapters within other works. Helene P Foley's The Homeric Hymn to Demeter: Translation, Commentary, and Interpretive Essays, for instance.

For those who are curious about this Goddess, I can recommend several texts from my bookshelves. If you are looking for dense, solid academic work, there are two titles that should be at the top of your list: Restless Dead: Encounters Between the Living and the Dead in Ancient Greece; and Hekate Soteira: A Study of Hekate's Roles in the Chaldean Oracles and Related Literature; both by Sarah Iles Johnston. The former chronicles the evolution of Greek ideas about, and interactions with, the dead (with special attention paid to Hekate and the Erinyes), while the latter examines the evolution of ideas about Hekate herself, from Mother Goddess to mediating World Soul to Queen of Demons and Witches.

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
"Death came suddenly and it was mercilessly painful. You are aware you have passed: you can hear the keening of the women in your family, taste the metal of the oboloi in your mouth. You are no longer cold, or hot, and there is no pain. Sensation is for the living, and your memories start to fade already. You are no longer part of the living. You are dead, and your guide is waiting for you. 
Hermes Psychopompos, the winged guide of the newly dead, descends and takes your hand. Below you is the ocean: Oceanos' divine body. You used to watch it glisten in Helios' bright rays, but today, everything is dull and lifeless. You are speeding west, guided by the blessed Immortal. Below you, you can see land again and a mighty river. The land draws you down, and you stand on the ground without feeling it. It is here that Hermes Psychopompos leaves you, in the capable hands of Kharon, on the bank of the river Acheron. 
The ferryman looks old and ageless at the same time. He holds out his hand, but you can't understand what he wants from you. Then, his hand closes around a coin, and he steps aside to let you into his boat. Without moving, you are suddenly on the boat, looking to the shore where shadowy figures of the dead gather, longing to make the journey with you. But they have no coin to hand over, and are forced to wander the bank of the Kokytos river year after year, until the ferryman takes pity on them. Today is not their day.
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