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Working in a Mixed House
House Sankofa is a mixed House. I think from what I've already shared about our House that it's pretty clear what that might mean, but to be fair I'll explain. In the founding of the House, our goal was to create a sanctuary, a welcoming devotional space where all the Gods and ancestors were welcome, and where They would each be venerated and honored according to the customs and protocols They preferred. To date, we have very strong Norse, African, and Mediterranean lines. What that means in actual practice is that slowly but surely we're all growing fluent and, i hope, fluid in moving from one religious language and set of protocols to another. I am purposely avoiding the use of the word 'eclectic.' It's come to have such a pejorative sense in the various Pagan communities that I do not think it furthers dialogue and, as we've already established in previous debates, words and their meanings are important. Rather, let's call this polytheism as our ancestors would have done it.
Were I living several centuries before Christianity was a blip on the timeline of religious history, I would have naturally been polytheistic. I would have lived in a society, a community, a culture that was also polytheistic. It would have been the default setting for how we all viewed, engaged with, and processed our world. I would have honored my ancestors in whatever way was customary in my native culture; I would have honored my ancestral Gods, the Gods of my forefathers and foremothers. I would also very likely have honored other Gods, possibly foreign ones, whose cultus were popular in my city. Were I to visit neighboring tribes, villages, or cities, it is not inconceivable that I would participate in foreign religious rites as well, honoring the Gods of the land in which i lived and moved. Then of course, there were whatever mystery cultus I may have initiated into. All in all, my personal practices and devotions may very well have been a diverse patchwork based on a number of factors. Ancient polytheisms were, in many ways, defined by their diversity.
Now I don't mean that they lacked protocol and even some measure of exclusivity. Certainly one would not honor say Sekhmet in a temple of Vesta. There were civic and cultural constructs and protocols that were respectfully maintained within the individual temples. Preserving the cultus of that country's Gods was essential to preserving the country. Within the bounds of one's own personal practice, however, there was fluidity and a remarkable blending of practices. Polytheism meant and means 'many Gods' and that's exactly what people had.
I've been asked quite a bit recently what Sankofa does and how we actually manage to do it so, as part of my Poly-theology series, I decided to address just that. We are a blended House. By that, I mean that we honor multiple devotional lines. Each lineage is given its own space. When we honor the Norse Gods, we do so according to Their specifications. When we honor the African line, likewise. We consult with members owned by Deities of a particular line. We research. We engage with the Deities Themselves in personal practice. We divine. We consult the ancestors. In this way, we are able to suss out the most respectful protocols by which to venerate and honor a particular family of Gods. We do not honor the Norse Gods with African protocols, or the African Gods with Norse protocols, or the Greek and Roman Gods in a way that would be inappropriate and unrecognizable to Them. Each has Their own space.
Of course this has necessitated the members of the House schooling themselves in several different modes of ritual interaction and engagement. It puts the burden on intelligent, considered, mindful engagement on us, which personally is how it should be, I think, given that we no longer live in a society in which polytheism is our default lens. We are striving to make a devotional space that is a sanctuary to Gods and ancestors. All Gods and ancestors. The corollary to that is that They will be honored on Their own terms. It's up to us to figure out what that is, no matter how inconvenient. So far, we seem to be doing a pretty good job.
We have a 'House Sankofa" framework, into which we place the various protocols of worship but it's a flexible scaffolding meant to be adapted to the needs of any ritual. I've thought long and hard in recent months that the artificial boundaries we put around ourselves and our worship, insisting on exclusivity of Gods, is something very artificial and certainly not something aligned with anything our ancestors would have recognized. Moreover, these artificial categories take up way too much space in our devotional lives. It's limiting not only the development of our individual spiritual lives but also the development of alliances and true community. I always approach things as a shaman and spiritworker, and a diviner. That often means straddling many different --sometimes complementary, sometimes conflicting--worlds. I know how difficult it can be to navigate between them but I also know how important it is to try to do so. The Gods are communicating with each Other. I'm not the only spiritworker to sense this. They're communicating with each Other and don't seem to care one bit about the boundaries we try to place between Them. Personally I think we can all learn from that example.
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