Pagan Studies

Pagan Scholar seeks to examine particular topics within Paganism through the various lenses of philosophy.
Also, I make goofy vlogs and review books.
Formerly, A Pagan Aesthetic.

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Physical Fitness & Deity

Posted by on in Studies Blogs

Zeus is such a bro.

Through various pagan traditions, many of us might have all ready celebrated the new year. However, there is nothing wrong with taking part in secular holidays of the culture we live in. With the calendar holiday of the new year comes a flurry of resolutions. One very popular resolution is "getting fit", or signing up for a gym membership that you use probably three times and then check out for the rest of the year. I thought it would be fun to examine the different ways pagans can approach, petition, or channel deities if you have so made this resolution to get fit, lose weight, or change up your physical routine for the coming year. As a side note (but a very significant side note) this particular blog is not trying to gloss over the relevant conversations going on about body image, accepting/loving your body, holding yourself to a different or personal beauty standard as opposed to the one set by society, body shaming, or any of the other very important conversations. This is simply a few reflections on how I petition deity when I work out and other ways anybody who has decided to take on a personal fitness resolution could as well. 

Working out is actually a very involved and mindful activity akin to meditation. I was surprised when I started working out last year that it wasnt just show up, put your body through mindless stress, shower, and go home to wake up sore as hell the next morning. Before you even start stretching you have to have, if not a full plan, at least an idea of what you want to accomplish. The magical intent of what you're doing is the strongest factor in working out. Are you doing this ritual to improve your health? To shed unwanted body fat? To build muscle or tone muscle? To be stronger, faster, or just feel more attractive (again, attractive to your own personal aesthetic of what an attractive body looks like, not societies mostly damaging and unrealistic expectations of what a body should be)? 

Another interesting way devoting yourself to a physical routine can tie in with pagan practices is the wiccan year and a day. By making the resolution to explore new parts of yourself, flexing muscles you have let lie dormant for a while, and the desire to better/change yourself and your life can be applied to either working out or the year and a day ritual. You set goals, standards, and achieve them through personal perseverance. This is a way to unite something new and foreign (a fitness routine) into a larger tapestry of your life. You have to research and learn new skills to progress on your path of personal development, or progress will be very limited and slowed. It also helps to seek out those who have gone before you to give you a hand, encourage you, to celebrate your successes and support you in your difficulties. And sometimes to help you avoid this.

 

Just like getting a new grimoire or book on spirituality, its tempting to turn straight to the sexy fun stuff without reading the ground work or theory. If you show up at a gym or start working out without any foundation or understanding of what you are doing to your body or the tools you are using, more often than not you end up doing more harm then good if you get any results at all. 

 When I started working out it was for one very simple reason: I wanted to look hot. I was (and still am to a certain extent) very much beholden to the gay image beauty and body standard, which is near impossible to achieve. I was envious of the guys that were infuriatingly attractive with their larger muscles and more defined bodys. I wanted to be the Adonis, but I kept coming up short, more like a Hermes. That's when I figured out my body type was simply not programmed to be the buff body builders of Zeus and Heracles, but more like the the runners and messengers and tricksters of the gods. Not an Odin, but a Loki. Not Poseidon, but an Eros (in my head at least I like to view Eros, son of Aphrodite, as a lean archer, not the gross roman cherubs). So how did I call on Eros for assistance when I was dying on the bench press?  I came up with a mantra during my cool down rest periods.

  To break down a work out you do a certain number of single movements (reps or repetitions) that make up a set. You might do three sets of ten reps meaning youve moved the weight thirty times. While you could lift a weight thirty times straight, its easier (and better) to do ten reps, rest a little, ten more, rest some more, and finish the last ten. These cool down periods a short, no more than a minute to keep the muscles active, but allowing them a short breather so you can push yourself further. During my cool down period, I would recite the mantra either in my head, or under my breath. Mine goes something like this: 

The Dance of Eros, Giorgio Dante. Italian b.1982.

"Eros, God of Love and Lust, and all things Desired,

May my body be a temple for you and your spirits to dwell in,

May my arms be your arms (or legs or whatever muscle im working on)

May I shine with your light and inspire others as you inspire."

Granted, I was also bending the intent of my workouts toward a more sexual goal, to be attractive. I chose Eros, yes because he's my patron deity, but also because, well hot damn just look at him. There are also some discussions about homoeros the historical authenticity Im sure is out there somewhere, but for now Ill just say is a really cool and convenient idea for my personal spirituality. So I chose an attractive (to me) deity that harmonized with my goals (attractiveness).

So the run down of Petitioning Eros:

  • Intent: Attractiveness (Vanity haha)
  • Research: Body Type Goals
  • Aspects: Attractiveness, Lust, Desire, Masculine Energy, all the qualities I wanted to cultivate for myself/ bring to myself
  • Implementation: Prayer or Mantra during workout 

It was pretty easy to petition Eros since I all ready had a relationship with him. I simply added more offerings in my daily dedications. In a somewhat backwards joke, I also thought it was humorous to offer my "pain and suffering" from the work out. I seem to think Eros thought it was funny too. 

I probably would not have chosen Eros if my goal was to  train for, say, MMA cage fighting. I would have probably selected Heracles, Aries, or any of the numerous battle spirits and figures in Greek mythology. 

 Run down for petitioning Aries (or basically any other war deity).

  • Intent: Victory in Battle
  • Research: His battle technique/philosophy different from other deities (Athena a prime contrast)
  • Aspects: Battle (duh) Perseverance, Rage, Still kinda hot.
  • Implementation: Prayer/Mantra during training or before match.

 Now all of this sounds very androcentric. There were plenty of Goddess with physically fit identities. Athena is more of a battle tactician, though she was still a warrior. She could be viewed as another deity for the fighting trainer. Also, the goddess Nemesis is pretty bad ass. Nike (no not like the shoe) the goddess of Victory would be another goddess that would be relevant to petition for these goals.

 If one was training in self defense instead of competitive combat, Artemis, a protector of virginity and huntress would be an excellent deity to petition if your exercise routine falls into a study of martial arts for self defense. If you're working out to obtain more feminine aspects of beauty, Aphrodite would be an obvious go to, but her domain is less about physically bettering yourself and more geared towards the intensity of physical attraction and sensuality, so the way in which you approach her would be different from the straight forward petitions listed above. 

Different physical arts can also fit with different deities. Obvious examples would be runners and Hermes or swimmers and Poseidon. Weight training probably seems like a walk in the park to Atlas (not a god but still pretty applicable).  

Finally there is the obstacles you might face. It's really intimidating to go to a gym sometimes. Fear of judgment, envy, self doubt are all problems we face not just in the gym, but in everyday life. The key to overcoming these obstacles is no different than how you handle them in everyday life. Fear of judgment? You would not hold yourself to the same standards of working out as a person who has worked out for however many more years than you. If somebody at the gym is actually audacious enough to judge you when your working out 1)they're an ass hole and 2)don't let their idiotic view triumph over your training. You've got a deity backing up your work out while they just have a cocktail of steroids and creatine (Also you can probably report them, most gyms have a zero tolerance policy when it come to stuff like that).  Envy? Don't let it consume you, but it's ok to let the bite of envy fuel your fire to push yourself farther. Self doubt? We all have doubts, but if you can reorient and recenter your drive to push through the difficult times, you can make it. Confidence in yourself is like a wall, its build brick by brick over time. The longer you stick with it, the more confident you will become.

And remember: 

 

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An unpublished writer but a published poet, Travis writes in the hopes that he can actually use his philosophy degree for something other than grad school. He finds pleasure in working uncommon words into his lexiconic exchanges, discovering work cited lists in religious studies books, and in general pretending his life is not dissimilar that of a 50's Parisian beatnik (ennui: check). He practices what essentially boils down to Wicca with influences from his studies in Philosophy of Hermeneutics, Existentialism, and Mysticism.

Comments

  • Martin
    Martin Friday, 09 January 2015

    Great article! Working out has always been high on my list of priorities and I too can see the similarities to meditation.

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