A few days ago, my friend Lykeia posted a brief guide to setting up a Hellenic altar for the fledgeling polytheist, demonstrating how easy it can be to start practicing even for the brand new devotee on a budget. For the new heathen, whether devoted to Odin or another god in the pantheon, it's even easier: because of the simplicity of heathen ritual, we have even less essential paraphernalia for you to collect. (Which leaves more money for tattoos, valknut and Thor's hammer jewelry, and homebrewed mead!) Because people often ask me how they should start out with worshiping Odin, what offerings they should make, and what the structure of heathen ritual is, I thought it might be useful to post this beginner's guide. This will consist of a series of three posts, the first one dealing with the basic assumptions and underpinnings of Heathen ritual. More advanced readers, please keep in mind that this is not intended to be a comprehensive treatment, but a very simple and accessible starting place for beginners.
Dark and silent, Choron the apotropaic mage shrouds himself in secrecy. This chthonic god heals and harms, shields and strikes. His name is transliterated into English a number of ways: Choron, Ḥoranu, Horon, and sometimes Hauron. The ch or ḥ sound is pronounced like the ch in Chanukah or Bach. This god was worshiped in both Bronze Age Canaan as well as New Kingdom, 18th Dynasty Egypt where he was connected with the sphinx as Horemakhet-Hauron; however the best information we have on Choron comes from Canaanite incantations. Three thousand year old cuneiform tablets originating in city of Ugarit—now the Syrian city of Ras Shamra—tell of Choron as an underworld god, an exorcist, and a protector.
As a dark lord in the underworld,1 he bears both beneficial and baneful attributes. Snakes are his favored creatures. His face becomes shadowed—perhaps in anger—when snakes are disrespected.
I am posting about this here because I would genuinely love to receive submissions from across the entire spectrum of paganism for this, so please don't hesitate to send something just because your approach or path may differ from mine; my only requirement (in addition to the specifics below) is that you love Odin, and/or want to honor Him or reach out to Him through imagery, ritual, song, or prayer.
I am currently accepting submissions for Prayers to the Allfather, a collection of prayers, rituals, chants, invocations and artwork for Odin. This book is not going to be a traditional devotional anthology and I do not want to receive any articles, personal essays, or literary devotional poetry. This will be strictly a book of liturgy for Him which I hope can serve as a resource for His devotees (meaning, everyone who loves and reveres Him) regardless of their specific belief system or approach to Him. Please see below for more details of the type of content desired.
It's time for another constellation, and we are moving on to one of the larger ones: the sixth largest of Ptolemy's constellations, in fact. This one represents something that definitely exists: the Po river in northern Italy, or the Istros of Hungry, which was located in the mythical northern land of Hyperborea. The ancient Hellenes called the river 'Eridanos', and that's the name of the constellation as well.
I am the incomprehensible silence
and the idea often brought to mind.
I am the voice sounding throughout the world
and the word appearing everywhere.
I am the sounding of my name,
For I am knowledge and ignorance.
I am shame and bravery.
I am without shame; I am full of shame.
I am power and I am trepidation.
I am conflict and peace.
Listen to me,
For I am the scandalous and magnificent one.
Excerpted from Thunder, Perfect Mind, trans. by George W. MacRae
In the silence of the night the waters were troubled. We did not know that far to the south, in the headwaters of the great river, rains swelled the flow, sending the fertile black earth our way. What we did know was that the star of Sopdet, whom we know as Aset (Isis), had disappeared from the sky for weeks now. Each evening the priests watched for it to reappear at the horizon, the signal that Aset was weeping, mourning the loss of her husband Asar (Osiris). After dark there is no way to see if a crocodile lies in wait or a hyena quietly stalks you coming home late. Except in the cities, the silence here is vast, incomprehensible. Against that quiet, the change in the water showed itself in little lappings higher up the bank, a swath of new green advancing up the shores on both sides.
The priests told us that Aset’s tears were flowing, rousing Hapy from his sleep among the rocks of the headwaters. I do not understand these things. Like the Lady, I had suffered loss, the death of my husband at the hands of an evildoer. My grief was unabatable; like hers, my tears seemed a limitless flood. Then I found myself carrying my own Heru, pregnant with my own shining Horus boy, and hope soothed my tears. By the time of planting, I could hardly stoop to the water’s edge with my jar, and as the first harvest came in, my son saw the light of Ra.
The mother is so many things – fearful, yet brave, cunning, but also confused, wandering in search of Asar’s body. I am not pharaoh in his House of a Million Years, nor am I a priest who can explain these things. But I see that she is like me, or maybe I am like her. Maybe we are the same, though she is eternal. When I am cowed by shame or ignorance, I remember that she found her power, found a way to her heart’s desire. When the waters rise each season of Akhet, I remember that even while she wept, Aset brought new life to the world. I smile when I walk back to refill my jar, knowing it is her lovely tears, her life I’m bringing back home with me.
I'm giving everyone a head's up that there will be no Heathen Heretic posts for the month of July .I will be participating in this polytheistic month of silence in protest over the marginalization of polytheistic voices in the current community debate.
I will also be taking it as time to recenter and refocus on more important things, like my devotional work. I have one or two posts left for June, but then you will not hear from me until August. Nor will Wyrd Ways Radio run. I will not be answering client emails, posting on facebook or posting on my other blog.
I'll be honoring my Gods and making offerings to my ancestors and enjoying the benefits of real life, face-to-face engagement with folks.
Sannion has written a delightful post at http://thehouseofvines.com/2013/06/09/what-does-a-sannion-do/ about an average day in his devotional life. I know that I always find it interesting to know what my colleagues and friends do for their Gods, and how they both order and balance the demands of devotion but until reading this, it hadn't occurred to me to write anything about my own average devotional day (though I have occasionally been asked what I do). Well, I"m going to do that now, stealing an idea from Sannion (whom I hope will not mind too much!). There is of course, one caveat to all of this (as Sannion also points out in his post): what i write here is what I do. It may not be what those of you reading are called to do. The thing here is to ask yourselves how you can deepen and better *your* practices. If this helps, then I'm glad. If not, let me know what you're doing devotionally--it might inspire me and others reading this.
Now, i'm essentially pretty lazy. So this is what I do on a general day, not a day where I have special ritual obligations, House rituals, oracle work, client appointments, or where i may have to go to school, etc. This is just a basic run of the mill day. I generally get up around eight am. Sometimes I have morning appointments so it might be later or a bit earlier. I greet the Gods, the Orisha, the house spirits and my ancestors. groggily. I bath and dress (and what i wear is dependent on what my ritual, Deity, and client obligations might be throughout the day) and head downstairs for coffee. I make my breakfast and also offerings to the ancestors....
I just returned from a creative retreat where I spent the better part of the week blade-smithing and oil painting and I intended to move on to issues other than the current 'pop culture vs. devotional polytheist' Pagan debate. Upon returning, however, I found this brilliant post: http://www.witchesandpagans.com/Pagan-Paths-Blogs/gods-of-consequence.html by Anomalous Thracian, and realized that I wasn't done yet. In light of some of the comments there, I think that perhaps I need to articulate where I'm writing from a little more clearly. Because one thing that's getting lost (purposely, I think) in this debate is that what it really comes down to is those whose practices are devotionally centered on the Holy Powers (Gods and ancestors) and those for whom the human experience, human emotions, human society, the human mind. and most of all human comfort is centric. I actually think that this is the heart of many of the misunderstandings that we're seeing. We're not speaking as one community. We will never speak as one community so long as devotion to the Gods is being marginalized. We will never speak as one community so long as devotional polytheists are expected to accept a certain homogenization of our beliefs, predicated on acceptance of attitudes and practices that to those of us who prioritize the Gods are objectionable. We're not speaking from the same place. We're not even speaking the same devotional language. Instead, we're each fighting to wrest the roots of our various traditions from out of the other's hands.
I will begin by focusing briefly on my own spirituality, because it is not all that out of the ordinary to anyone actually rooted in any sense whatsoever of their own indigenous traditions. That's the kicker isn't it? Some of us are working as hard as possible to restore our traditions and some of us are working only to make themselves feel good. So let me get this out of the way from the start: My polytheism, which informs every aspect of my life, is not people-centric. It is not focused on making human beings feel better about themselves, or about fitting into a nice social group. It is not an excuse for intellectual masturbation, nor do I practice it for my own gratification. It is not always comfortable, and is quite often inconvenient. My polytheism, as I believe devotional polytheism by its very nature should be, is very, very Deity centric. I honor and serve the Gods because it is the right and proper thing to do as an intelligent, responsible adult. While my practice is in part about building community, that community is one centered in devotion to the Holy Powers. That is the only community in which I am interested. I would go so far as to say Paganism that isn't Deity centric isn't Pagan. It might be fun. It might be a intellectually entertaining. It might be a nice, accepting social gathering. It's not, however anything approaching polytheistic spirituality....
We pick up this third part of the Labours series with the second labour Hēraklēs has to complete: slay the nine-headed Lernaean Hydra. The funny thing about this hydra is that no one is really sure how many heads it actually has. The generally accepted number is nine, but ten, or even a hundred are also mentioned. It's also unclear if there was only one head that was supposed to be immortal (as per Apollodorus) or if the creature itself was immortal. The sequence of events, however, is quite clear.
Gods of Consequence
In the various debates that have been coming up of late, about the further differentiation of polytheism from other paganisms (especially humanist paganism, “self-centered” paganism, super-hero-worshiping-archetypalism, and so forth), I have noticed something. Obviously both sides of the various “lines” being “drawn” are having trouble coming together in agreement around a great many things, and both sides feel very misunderstood by the other. (That's what disagreement frequently leads to...) However, in all of my talks with polytheist colleagues, theologians, and co-religionists, none of “us” seem to be confused by *what* the archetypal-and-superhero-folks are saying about their beliefs or practices. We may be dumbstruck by some of their statements – generally when they are comparing their thought-forms to our gods in direct and offensive to us ways – but overall I don't sense a disconnect of understanding in that particular direction. (Agreement is another matter entirely...)
However, I have sensed a tremendous disconnect in understanding, and a great and wild mischaracterization, in the other direction. Polytheists are being called fundamentalists, are being called ontologically cowardly, are being called extreme to the point of instability, are being called delusional, and so on. All because we engage with our gods as beings great and powerful and worthy of holy veneration *outside of our own unconscious*; beings that are wholly and fully separate from us, who were no more born “inside” us (or “for” us) than that tree over there, or the air that I am breathing. They are not manufactured to suit our needs (like the apple-juice I am about to add whiskey to) nor are They engineered or tailored to “fit” us. There is no monism, and certainly no atheism, in polytheism....
“What is the best way to introduce young children and teens to the ‘witch world’ without too much emphasis on the magic/ritual side of things?”
Many years ago, my friend and I passed those long, hot summer days of childhood roaming the surrounding fields and hedgerows. Then, we could disappear for hours, discovering the treasures of the season and enjoying the closeness of a silent companionship. Some sixty years and hundreds of miles apart, we still share those memories of knowing where to find the first flowerings, and close encounters with birds and animals of the hedge bank. “Do you remember …” frequently crops up in letters and telephone conversations to recall to mind some indelible memory of a bank of spring celandines; the glimpse of a hunting stoat snaking through the undergrowth near the ruined barn; Easter violets; the chatter of nesting hedge sparrows, or more correctly ‘dunnock’, who often play foster parents to the cunning cuckoo....
What does a Jungian Pagan spiritual practice look like? So far, on this blog, my writing has been highly abstract. I'd like to get does to the practical side of things now.
A Jungian spiritual practice may take many forms. What all of these forms have in common is that they bring together the rational conscious mind with the non-rational unconscious mind. Dreamwork, for example, is not just dreaming, but upon waking, analyzing the dream and integrating the unconscious contents into one's conscious life.
Dreamwork is only the most well known form of Jungian spiritual practice. Any activity that creates a space and invites the unconscious to dialogue with the conscious mind may be a form of Jungian spiritual practice. The key is to hold the conscious mind in abeyance temporarily so the unconscious can speak and then to allow the conscious mind to interact with the contents of the unconscious in a reciprocal fashion....
The ancient Canaanites were polytheists. There are some interesting features in the Iluma (Canaanite pantheon) that may differ from other cultures’ deities, for instance our Divine Assembly (pukhru ilima), our doubled deities, our many deities with the title of “Baal,” foreign deities, the Rapi’uma (shades of the dead), deities of objects, syncretisms, and our reluctant associations with the main monotheistic religions of the world.
Polytheism means “the...worship of more than one god,” deities which are separate, individual and acting on their own in their own right. Polytheism generally does not include a belief in aspects of one whole: believe that all deities are aspects of one whole divine force is a form of monism, not polytheism. Monism means a philosophy that “reality is a unified whole and that all existing things can be ascribed to or described by a single concept or system.” Polytheism does not include dual aspects meant to represent balance: this is a dualist philosophy. Dualism is “The view that the world [or universe] consists of or is explicable as two fundamental entities.” (Definitions from The Free Dictionary.)
Polytheism is a belief in and/or knowledge of many deities who ensure the world keeps spinning, order is maintained, and goodness comes to humanity. The deities were real then, and they are real now; they are not constructs of the human mind.
The ancient Canaanites believed that the deities were larger and more powerful than humans, typically in a human-like form. They could on rare occasion take animal form: the Kothiratu, the seven goddesses of sexuality, are sometimes described as songbirds. A deity can have physical characteristics that differ from a human being’s, for instance sometimes ‘Anatu the warrior goddess is portrayed as having wings. Many deities are said to have “horns” but this is demonstrated as wearing horned helmets, not as in having horns sprouting naturally from the head, and the horns are those of a bull or a ram, typically not antlers like deer.
Oh guys, you know I love you, right? Yesterday I got not one but two e-mail from readers. One was a very sweet note abut the quality of the blog and how much they like reading it, the other was a very simple question, and I really appreciate that the reader (who has opted to remain anonymous) was comfortable enough with me to ask it. The message reads:
(or The Fundamentals of Polytheism: Principle #1)
Today i was reading a good article by John Halstead summing up various perspectives in the recent heroes vs. superheroes community wide debate. Now I don't agree with much of Halstead's theories mind you, and completely disagree in every possible way with the very idea of "Jungian Neo-Paganism", but he's a thoughtful and engaged writer and I respect his willingness and ability to delve *critically* into an idea or controversy, which he did in this article. I was particularly taken with his idea that behind much of the polytheistic response here is resistance to the de-sacralizing of our traditions and that is absolutely correct. We are fighting to keep the Gods and the numinous, the Powers, and mystery in contemporary traditions of the sacred and it's an uphill battle.
As I was discussing this on Facebook, noting that as a result of this debate, I intended to write a series of articles on what I think are the fundamentals of polytheism, Teo Bishop asked me if I would be expanding on the 'nature of real-ness' of the Gods in my upcoming articles, if I would be positing a theory, what he (and I believe Halstead also) termed a theory of the ontological nature of the Gods.'....
In the blog post about sayings which can be traced back to ancient Hellas or Hellenic mythology, I make mention of Oedipus. The saying he is connected to--the Freudian Oedipus complex--introduced Oedipus and explains the saying:
Today, I want to go a little deeper into this myth, to a milestone in the life of Oedipus. I quite recently acquired a little vase with a depiction of Oedipus solving the riddle of the Sphinx. It's a replica of a kylix motif. This seems like a perfect opportunity to tackle this story.
My home Reclaiming community has launched a series of meetings to try to define ourselves as a community. What is our history? What are our values? What is our power structure, and how do we make decisions? Who, exactly, are "we" in the first place?