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Pagan Blog Project: Justice

If I were the type of person to apologize for not posting I’d tell you why; I help run a successful Belegarth event, danced to live music, work finally is picking up, and I signed a new lease. But since I’m not that’s sort of person…

And? Stonehouse was saved for another year. And I got so much dirt on what’s going on from my brother-in-law, as well as a peek into the improvements they are already doing to the site. I personally really like the stages.

So onwards:

Justice

Dike is the anthropomorphized spirit/goddess of Justice in Hellenic Mythology. In Hesiod’s Works and Days, she’s discussed sitting next to Zeus and speaking to him of what we have done wrong:

“There is Virgin Dike (Justice), the daughter of Zeus, who is honoured and reverenced among the gods who dwell on Olympos, and whenever anyone hurts her with lying slander, she sits beside her father, Zeus the son of Kronos (Cronus), and tells him of men’s wicked heart, until the people pay for the mad folly of their princes who, evilly minded, pervert judgement and give sentence crookedly.”

But when we live a life worth living, one of righteousness and justice, and one we are willing to live out loud, we having nothing to fear:

“For whoever knows the right and is ready to speak it, far-seeing Zeus gives him prosperity; but whoever deliberately lies in his witness and forswears himself, and so hurts Dike (Justice) and sins beyond repair, that man’s generation is left obscure thereafter. But the generation of the man who swears truly is better thenceforward.”

Sometimes when pagans talk about divine justice, it’s either on an incredibly personal and inane level (no shit, one I came across was “I broke up with my boyfriend, is (goddess dealing with love) angry at me and punishing me?”) or it’s very impersonal. But Dike is a spirit, and one that outside of mythology, works more as a cause and effect — she is sister to Order and to Peace, a member of the Horae, who exist for the benefit of humankind, a true gift.

So here’s to Justice, and an Orphic Hymn to her:

“To Dike (Justice), Fumigation from Frankincense. The piercing eye of Dike (Justice) bright I sing, placed by the sacred throne of Zeus the king, perceiving thence, with vision unconfined, the life and conduct of the human kind. To thee revenge the punishment belong, chastising every deed unjust and wrong. Whose power alone dissimilars can join, and from the equality of truth combine: for all the ill persuasion can inspire, when urging bad designs with counsel dire, ’tis thine alone to punish; with the race of lawless passions, and incentives base; for thou art ever to the good inclined, and hostile to the men of evil mind. Come, all-propitious, and thy suppliant hear, till fates’ predestined fatal hour draws near.”

 

 
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Posted by on May 20, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Pagan Blog Project: Hellenic Polytheism: Part One

Hellenic Polytheism, Part One

So, some god has thwacked you and you’ve come to the realization that you just didn’t have enough to do if your life. I’m so sorry. Welcome to the world of Hellenic Polytheism.

I’m going to do something a little groundbreaking for me: I’m not going to talk about gods in the introduction. Obviously, they are important, but an introduction format, to me, is too shallow to really start to understand.

Part of what I’m posting is from a workshop I was supposed to lead, but the group disbanded before the workshop happened. I’m using portions of my unfinished outline to flesh this out. In this installment, I want to address  concepts of methodology and a common ritual format.

Basically, Hellenic Paganism/Polytheism is yet another umbrella within paganism. In this case, it’s paganism that work with/worship/whatever word fits with the Greek Gods, and within a Hellenic worldview. This second part is important — there are many people out there who will call upon a Hellenic god from time to time, or even a majority of a time, but that don’t consider themselves Hellenic, or that the community might look a little odd at if they did.

This isn’t to say that everyone limits themselves to a Hellenic worldview all the time, but that their practice is grounded in it.

That being said people bring all sorts of methodologies to explore that worldview to the yard. Methodology is the how and occasionally the why of a religion — it focuses more on what you do, rather than what you believe, for the most part. Some methodology contains both.

Reconstruction generally works how it sounds: It re-constructs the religion and practices of an ancient culture for the current times. This is one that is often on a spectrum, with some people picking and choosing what they bring in all the way to people who rarely do anything that the Ancient Greeks wouldn’t recognize.

However, this doesn’t mean that Reconstructionists are living in the past. While Reconstruction requires a great bit of homework, its primary focus is on reviving practices that had previously died out, and not the cultural specifics. I consider myself to be somewhat of a Reconstructionist in methodology, my first source is primary texts, and my ritual structure is primarily ancient and I try to keep much of my view of the Gods rooted in that. But I have no desire to keep slaves or live in a separate part of the house away from my husband!

But all this still ends up as an evolving, living religion. Recons are looking into the past to help us now, because much still works with a bit of adaptation. For instance, many individual Recons have created their own festivals suited for where they live.

Reconstruction as a methodology tends to focus on verifiable history and primary sources. For Hellenics, this means going to the sources for looking at mythology, for instance, Hesiod and Homer give much of what we know. Secondary sources and the works of Classicists, Archeologists, Anthropologists and so on inform the rest.

Of course, there always has to be wriggle room — interpretations can vary greatly and there is always UPG or unverified personal gnosis. UPG is a term that I believe Asatru seems to have coined to bridge that gap as well. People will always bring their modern perspectives and their own personal beliefs, and in religious practice we find that people get new insights. UPG means that something you believe and have found works may not be transferable to the rest of the community.

One of my own is the association of peacock feathers with Dionysos. There is nothing in ancient lore that would bring the two together; in fact, peacocks are far more sacred to Hera. My association comes from first a gut reaction, then from my readings from Thorn Coyle.

When there is confirmation from others that they are getting the same response/reaction, it’s called shared gnosis, when you can find confirmation in history, it’s confirmed gnosis.

Reconstruction can be a very research intensive path, and a different type of research than other types of pagan methods might utilize.

Neo-paganism is what most people in the pagan community practice and there isn’t a good definition of it, because the beliefs vary so often. Some of the general ideas that seem to come through is a semi-soft-polythiesm, focused around a God and Goddess, following the Wheel of the Year, with a dying and rising god, and a goddess who goes through life stages as an expression of how nature works.

The beliefs of general neo-paganism don’t make it into Hellenic Polytheism very much, however the what you do, sometimes does. Things like modern approaches to the gods, based off of the poetic works of Robert Graves or other Victorian, Romantic and Enlightenment era poets, are fairly common, to various degrees of usefulness.

Rituals are what are often adapted to worship of Hellenic deities as many people will work with, call upon or offer to Hellenic Gods within different traditions contexts. Things like casting circles, more modern divination techniques, different ritual structures do abound.

There are groups within the Hellenic context who would decry the mixing of Hellenic and neopaganism. I’m not one of them — the Greeks were syncretics and would combine into the fold.

Archetypal Psychology stems from Jung, but the thread in Hellenic Paganism is generally through James Hillman. If Archetypes are an ideal form, the perfect model of traits, then  a Hellenic Archetypal Psychology takes these perfect forms  coming from Greek and Roman mythology. It’s here that we find concepts of “Mother Goddess” and “Trickster God”, who are generally not specific gods, but mythic patterns.

Since HP is predominately  hard polytheistic, archetypal psychology isn’t used to worship or honor the archetype but to use it to try to understand the gods and how we relate to them. One of the main authors that Hellenic Polytheists study here is Ginette Paris, with her works Pagan Grace and Pagan Meditations.

Personally, I’ve been known to mix all three general approaches, which is why I embrace Hellenic Polytheism as a label. I love reconstruction for its honesty, a neo-pagan approach for its inventiveness and a smattering archetypal psychology for how to relate and look sideways at what I’m doing, and at the gods.

Rituals and Ritual format:
One of the interesting things to look at when we talk about ritual format is what it is already similar to. If you have been to a Catholic Mass, the following is going to seem a little similar.

The first step is preparation. You gather everything you’d need for the ritual, washing hands , taking showers and so on, and likely lighting a fire or candle.

The next step is the processional, this can be as simple as a few steps up to the altar, or as elaborate as you can imagine.

You would next purify, declaring that the space is free of miasma and suitable for the gods, then make a small offering, traditionally of barley, but other things work as well. I often start incense at this point.

The meat of the ritual comes next: Invocation of the god or gods. You state your intentions, thank them, do whatever work here you wish, offering prayers, etc. From here is more offerings, whatever you have decided to do as the main offering.

Then libations, another form of sacrifice and concluding with the gods, thanking them again.

Now, this is similar to a Catholic Mass, because the Mass was more or less codified in Greek areas. They used what they were familiar with, after all.

As for prayer, that had a general format to (From Kyrene)

A basic outline of a prayer, taken from Walter Burkert’s Greek Religion on pages 74-75 is the following:
1.    Greet the god
2.    Address the god by his many names. The safest way to handle this is often to add “By whatever name or names you wish to be known by” in case you’ve forgotten something, don’t know one, or they have a preference that you can’t possibly know because you’re human (or haven’t read through Walter Burkert). The reference to this custom is on page 74.
3.    Make a reference to the times you’ve honored the god in the past (“If I ever threw pennies on the ground, gave you dice for your altar, or burnt incense in your name…” for the Hermes example above)
4.    Make the request
5.    Thank the god in advance. It’s only polite!

Now prayer isn’t always done in this format, but it is a pretty traditional way, borne through the various ancient sources that we have and a good place to start or to return.

Hellenic Rituals in general are sacrificial or votive in nature. Giving sacrifice (which these days, is usually not animal, though some larger groups will do it in the very traditional way — as in, you get fed afterwards!) and offering gifts of many sorts forms the backbone of Hellenic practice.

Part two of this series will deal with some common concepts in Hellenic Polytheism, and will be the second in the H’s for the Pagan Blog Project, but also part of a short series. Please suggest topics you’d like for me to address and I will do my best to do so.

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Pagan Blog Project: Emergence and Fornication

 

So, if you didn’t notice I posted this week, it’s because I didn’t. It’s not that I forgot about my blog, its more that I am really good at procrastination. It’s my top skill, in fact, I’ve been procrastinating on buying a new pair of shoes for coming close to a year now. This tells you 1) just how hard it is for me to decide on a pair of plain black flats and 2)I’m really not a shoe person.

Anyways, this week for the Pagan Blog Project, I’ll be dividing it up again and covering two subjects. The first is emergence.

Since Anthesteria is behind us now, I figure it’s a good time to talk about this quality in Hellenic paganisms.

For me, the real reason behind Anthesteria is to celebrate emergence. You open the new wine, you celebrate new flowers, and it’s all for the God Who Comes….and even the dead emerge and walk around. The world is cracked open just a little bit and all the goodies come rushing out.

It’s from this sense of emergence that we place ourselves. We aren’t looking back upon the sacrifices we have made, but in the continual act. We drink of the recent vintage — it is this wine that we offer, it is these flowers, so recently come up that we look for and desire. It is this God who we seek. It’s not that Dionysos doesn’t inspire introspection, I mean really, just look at some of the other Dionysians, we can be a wordy bunch. but we can’t get too caught up with what has come before, because Dionysos is here to be with us again.

And really, if emergence is complexity rising out of simplicity, then that’s paganism in a nutshell. Paganism is really very simple, definition wise (applying that definition, is something entirely different) but look at our amazing complexity: Recons, Eclectics, Traditionalists, magic and non-magic practitioners. And so on. It’s thrilling what we can come up with when we let the soup sit and mix for a while. Not all good and not all bad, and some shouldn’t be mixed in the first place.

It’s not just the novelty of these actions that I find joy, but rather in the experience of that moment. Paganism as a whole tends to reward experience and self-discovery over other types of knowledge, to various degrees of success. When we look towards the moment of opening, we can discover in ourselves this quality.

And speaking of the God Who Comes, there’s my next topic.

It’s also a warning that Sanna and Morgandria and I really should not be allowed to encourage each other so much. 

Me: Since I’ve done cock, maybe I should do fucking.
Morg: Fornication! It has extra syllables.
Me: Oh good point. I should try to feel intellectual about all this.

There’s a lot of ways that sex comes up in paganism. There is of course the boring answer of fertility.  You guys understand that fertility is a common theme throughout paganism, right? Right, moving on. I really don’t have a whole lot to add on the subject that hasn’t been written to death.

But using various forms of fornication is a more common than you’d think form of raising energy or even as an act of worship than you’d think. It’s fairly common within my own private practice. This is generally why I’m fairly hush-hush about my own rituals, because while I like sex and sexual activity, and comfortable talking about it, not so much to the indiscriminate web. But I don’t think we should hide that it is part of paganism, there’s no shame, it’s not inherently dirty or gross, and it’s part of life in general. Celebrate it.

So you know, get out there and screw someone or just yourself.  For the gods!

 

 
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Posted by on March 16, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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I’ve been mixing the streams!

I have a half day off to study for my personal insurance exam, and I’ve finished the practice exam. I’m in pretty good shape overall, but combined with the spiritual work I’ve been doing lately, it’s leading to some odd stray thoughts.

Like a good homeowners policy is like the Agathos Daimon, and my premiums are a proper sacrifice.

Which of course has now lead to me singing, “Like your Agathos Daimon, State Farm is there!”

 

 
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Posted by on March 8, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Anthesteria…day 3 questions.

I posed this over at Sannion’s since he has a much larger audience.

The final day of Anthesteria, Khutroi,  is given over to the dead. Close your shrines so they aren’t contaminated by the miasma, and that pagan concept of thinned veils, and all of that.

And that…just didn’t seem to happen here. I’m sure it did elsewhere, but here in Central Illinois, I got nothing. I can’t say I’m the most attuned to the dead, but I usually get the tingle that something strange is going on. Nothing.

So, fellow pagans, what do you do in this sort of situation, where it just doesn’t seem appropriate to do your planned rituals and festivities?

 
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Posted by on March 6, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Anthesteria: Day….how about 2.5?

Today just does not feel like Khutroi at all. It’s been too triumphant. I will cover my shrines in the morning and try again. These things happen when you try to muck around with a lunar calendar, right?

 
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Posted by on March 5, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Anthesteria Day 2: short notes

Just could not get into a mixed melancholy and joyful mood. As weird as it seems, I think I was too productive to get into the right mood (lots of studying for my personal insurance test on Friday, choreography work) but I did settle down to do a decent ritual.

I love, love, love doing a silent ritual though. It never fails to feel both somber and expecting. How glorious for the god the comes!

 
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Posted by on March 4, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Anthesteria day 1

really, my only note on this is that I’m fairly certain that when this wine was given to my brother, they probably weren’t thinking that it wasn’t going to be used as part of a Dionysian festival.

But it was! And it was grand.

 
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Posted by on March 3, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Pagan Blog Project: Ephemeral

As I mentioned in yesterdays post, I spent the time since last Friday helping my husband through the death of his grandmother. The funeral was Thursday, and very Catholic. It was actually my first Catholic Mass since they changed up the liturgy, and it was a little disorientation. Things I have known by heart since childhood have changed and while some weren’t hard (Nicene Creed was interesting to read) others would have tripped my tongue, if I had been responding (And with your spirit? I love the change, but boy, that would be hard!)

Already, what’s with all the Catholicism here, this is a pagan blog prompt. A few things, since I’ve gained a few new readers since I started the Blog Project; 1; I not only grew up Catholic, my oldest brother is a Catholic Priest, and I married into another family that is heavily Catholic and 2; growing up that way has impressed itself on my idea of ritual. I like smells, bells, and a little formality. I’m comfortable with Mystery and eating gods.

But it really impressed upon me just how ephemeral ritual, language, personhood and humanity is. One of my favorite bits of literature is from Ptolemy, “I know that I am mortal and the creature of a day; but when I search out the massed wheeling circles of the stars, my feet no longer touch the earth, but, side by side with Zeus himself, I take my fill of ambrosia, the food of the gods.”

One of the great aims of Mysticism is to give an idea of immortality to we mere mortals, and eat with (or you know, of…) the gods, and to give a little substance to our ephemeral natures.

When my mental Mass tripped over Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, and realizing just how old and young the phrasing is at once, I was struck again by just how wondrous it is that we keep reaching towards our gods, keep wanting both embrace and transcend our mortality.

Tomorrow begins Anthesteria, which is quite possibly the very best of Hellenic festivals: opening wine, the joy of life,  the worst pains of life, and when the spirits of the dead walk. In Anthesteria’s three days, we experience Dionysos in his complexity.

 
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Posted by on March 2, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Pagan Blog Project: Dionysos part 2: The Ecstasy

Dionysos
or, reflections while I drink

Dionysos finds his Maenads among women who can’t stand any longer being locked into the domestic enclosure.
~Pagan Grace, Ginette Paris

So last week was all about the dangers of Dionysos: how he isn’t soft and safe. But now, you need to know why it’s worth it.

For those of you who don’t know me outside of blogging, I’m a contradiction myself. I’m a hyperactive introvert, socially awkward and fundamentally nervous about embarrassing myself. I’m also a performer, opinionated person who tries to live by the motto: What Would Mister Rogers Do?

The thing is, I have to break out of myself to perform.  When I was a kid, and I was a choir girl, this was easier, because it was a group thing most of the time. But now, it’s hard. I dance by myself most of the time, and it isn’t nearly as anonymous as performing used to be.

And that’s Dionysos for me: the enabler and liberator, who allows me to access the parts of myself that I would not otherwise. Because of my repeated rituals, where I struggle (yeah, struggle) to enter a trance state, I’m also able to get outside of myself enough to dance in front of people.

I think it’s a pretty mundane example of the type of liberation that Dionysos can offer. Real liberation isn’t the bombastic; it’s the ability to choose and discern and see your freedom, even when your situation is limited.

If Apollo is the kind of god who sheds light and illuminates the world, Dionysos is the fucking god that gives life to the world.

Dionysos is the god of the held breath, expectant and waiting for the next.

Dionysos is the god of the wild forest, of the wildlife creeping into the cityscape, pushing through cracks in the sidewalk, the weeds in the cultured suburban lawn. He will always take root, starting in the marginalized spaces: is there any wonder that he is lauded amongst the women, and coded as queer?

I think we take for granted the popular perception of Dionysos: as the drunkard, the partier, the oversexed god, reclining on a couch, fat and sated. This, the god of the aftermath is my god, too, but he is not the god who comes.

Okay, I am still the worst Dionysian ever. I’m drinking, sure. There’s a reason I didn’t talk about alcohol during this: I’m not much of a drinker. If wine exposes hidden truths, then my hidden truth is that I’m exhausted. Worst Dionysian Ever.

 
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Posted by on February 24, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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