24 June 2010


So, I’m heading out the door in about an hour for DC. I still owe you guys a post, which I may do from the road/DC, depending on how life goes.

To Hermes, God of Travelers:

Keep me in steel
like you keep tired sailors
in their crackling hulls
among the waves.
O Master of Travelers,
you with the cap and cloak,
let me find rest along the way
and safely come to my destination.

22 June 2010

Shameless Self-Promotion

Two of my poems are in the Summer Solstice issue of Eternal Haunted Summer, a pagan/polytheistic literary ‘zine. 

“Iron-Maker” is a mythological poem that combines two things I love most, the Theoi and the evolution of the universe we live in. You can read it here. “To Hygeia” is a very short poem. I’ve written dozens of these for various goddesses, and this is one of the best I have so far. Read it here

We have a really strong Hellenic presence at Eternal Haunted Summer, and I am by no means the only one of us whose poetry has appeared in the ‘zine. You should definitely check out the table of contents for more.

21 June 2010

Hail Helios and Eos!

So ... happy summer solstice to the Northern Hemisphere! According to the US Naval Observatory, the solstice is at 7:28 AM EDT, or precisely two hours after sunrise in my hometown.

Much to my cat’s happiness and surprise, I was awake at roughly 5:10 AM because I had made a commitment to pray to the gods Eos and Helios, but also because this weekend I felt a lot more optimistic about my ability to be functionally awake at early hours than I really am. Thankfully, I didn’t hit the snooze on my alarm and woke up with enough time to get dressed and throw some supplies in a cardboard box to take outside.

The dawn ritual was prompted by something I’d read on Hellenic_Recons about a YSEE subgroup gathering people to do a dawn ritual on the solstice to show solidarity for modern Hellenic Polytheism, with photographic evidence. I figured, “Hey, even if I decide not to hand them over a pretty photo due to location paranoia — Twitter knows where I live, anyway — at least this gives me the opportunity to have Official Cultus of Awesome on one of my favorite days of the year.” (Yes, I actually think like that.)

I set up in my backyard at 5:26 AM, two minutes before sunrise, as the sky rapidly paled. Khernips and barley tossing took up the first thirty seconds before I lit the candle and offered a prayer to Hestia. By then, it was actually 5:28 AM, and I had a delightfully awesome candle composition:
At sunrise, I spoke a hymn to Eos, another one to Helios, and made libations of milk and offerings of quinoa to them. I have had some success offering quinoa in ritual before, so much that I frequently use barley only at the opening of a ritual and not for any subsequent offerings. The Gods may like New World love ... you just never know.

The entire ritual setup was very simple.
My Kindle comes in handy for events like these. When the new update rolled out earlier this month and I got the ability to organize my own book playlists (um ... er ... collections), I realized I had over seventy religion-specific items from all over the Internet that I had placed on my Kindle for safekeeping and citation security, not including the sacred texts from other polytheistic traditions. It was very easy to find the hymns I needed. Fear the Hellenist with the Kindle.

All in all, I’m quite happy with the dawn ritual. Now for some caffeine and book editing before I leave for work!

20 June 2010

Morning Flower

This morning, I looked out the window and saw one of the most beautiful flowers in the world. It prompted me to think of the story of Hades and Persephone.

Hades, the God of Death, made life once by letting a heavenly flower grow in the field where Persephone spent time with her friends. As she bent to pick it up, he burst up from the underworld and grabbed her silently, carrying her past the Stygian gates to where the sunlight would never dust her hair. With that gift of death alive, Hades crowned Persephone Queen of the Underworld and made her a beacon of hope for humankind.

13 June 2010

Valuing the Natural World

June is Pagan Values Month. I participated last year with “Walking the Middle Path,” a post about self-empowerment, freedom, and moderation. This year, I’d like to start off with something a bit different. I have spoken a lot recently about the natural world and the implications of a polytheistic world view on its exploitation. One of the values that I have taken away from Hellenic Polytheism is that many of our Gods exist within the world, and our planet is one physical manifestation of Gaia, so we should respect it.

As many know, totalitarian monotheisms such as Christianity generally profess that humans are the “stewards” of the Earth and that the entire world is ours to do with as we please — even when our behaviors cause significant damage to other species. Natural disasters become punishments consciously inflicted by God to caution people against sin.

On the contrary, as I have shown in another post, a polytheistic world is a place teeming with Gods, divinities, and nature spirits, all of whom desire to protect their interests. Thus, a dryad curses someone who chops down her tree (see this post) or a God visits retribution on someone who refrains from honoring him or her (see Hippolytus). As a general extension, potamoi (river gods) who find themselves defiled and polluted by humanity may not be completely receptive to human needs.

Gods, divinities, and spirits who act in the natural world do not only think of people. Every species on the planet has a right to exist and compete for resources; the maxim “think as a mortal” can be generalized to make a consideration for other species’ welfare integral to the system. This statement does not advocate vegetarianism or veganism* — most people who have watched The Blue Planet know how vicious the food web is — but it ties to the idea that humanity should consume nothing to excess. We should not consume so many resources that other animals starve. We should not “go forth and multiply,” no matter what religion we belong to or ideology we espouse.

One of the side effects of overstepping our bounds — something that I think is to blame for the devastating consequences of most non-tsunami-related disasters in recent years — is that we need to create shelters for people in areas where people should not live, such as on plains that flood frequently. We have spent a great deal of time destroying the coastal marshes and wetlands that protect the land from hurricane storm surges. Although farming techniques have gotten much better in recent decades, some areas still suffer from overcultivation. Our addiction to fossil fuels threatens our coastal cities with sea inundation within the next hundred years, along with destroying agricultural areas such as the Nile Delta that will be impacted by drought and increased desertification.

Deities, while sometimes helpful to humans, do not descend from on high to right all wrongs. They often expect us to work through our own problems and to make efforts for positive change. If we have overstepped our bounds, Gods’ rustic aspects will continue to plague us with disasters until we make reasonable changes to our lifestyles. This isn’t because the world is Evil (although some Platonists may disagree), but because we belong to a natural system that is willing to sacrifice the happiness of individual(s) for the greater good.**

In closing, I would like to refer people to a passage from Sallustius:
In what sense, though the Gods never change,
they are said to be made angry and appeased

If any one thinks the doctrine of the unchangeableness of the Gods is reasonable and true, and then wonders how it is that they rejoice in the good and reject the bad, are angry with sinners and become propitious when appeased, the answer is as follows: god does not rejoice — for that which rejoices also grieves; nor is he angered — for to be angered is a passion; nor is he appeased by gifts — if he were, he would be conquered by pleasure.

It is impious to suppose that the divine is affected for good or ill by human things. The Gods are always good and always do good and never harm, being always in the same state and like themselves.

The truth simply is that, when we are good, we are joined to the Gods by our likeness to live according to virtue we cling to the Gods, and when we become evil we make the Gods our enemies — not because they are angered against us, but because our sins prevent the light of the Gods from shining upon us, and put us in communion with spirits of punishment.

And if by prayers and sacrifices we find forgiveness of sins, we do not appease or change the Gods, but by what we do and by our turning toward the divine we heal our own badness and so enjoy again the goodness of the Gods. To say that god turns away from the evil is like saying that the sun hides himself from the blind.
* To view a realistic human diet, please visit the alternative pyramid developed by Harvard. The FDA’s version is compromised by interest groups.
** This may be hostile to an individual soul’s progress in some mystic traditions, in which case “inconvenience” may be a better term than Evil.

03 June 2010

A Belated Happy Thargelia

This month, I celebrated Thargelia rather late because, as I was out of town, it didn’t seem appropriate for a purificatory ritual like Thargelia to take place in the Midwest during my younger sister’s graduation weekend. The first day of Thargelia is about cleansing the polis through the pharmakoi, or scapegoats, while the second day takes on a vibrant, celebratory attitude.

I made my pharmakoi out of some leftover corn husks from the fantastic corn the Rainbow Valley Ranch brings to the local market every summer. As a child, I learned how to make corn husk dolls from my mother as she recounted the Iroquois story about a really creepy, vain doll. They are one of the only craft things that I can manage without accidentally stabbing myself. Corn husks are also biodegradable, and I wanted to throw mine in the creek.

During the ritual, I used small ricotta/flour rolls drizzled in honey as offerings to Demeter, Apollon, and Artemis. I also gave a roll to the pharmakoi in honor of their position before the polis casts them out. The original recipe comes from The Philosopher’s Kitchen, a cookbook filled with recipes used in Ancient Greece and Rome, but I modified it. The rolls taste amazing.

The pharmakoi ultimately met their demise in a swift-moving creek about a mile away from my house, and I walked back home.

On the second day, I made more offerings to Apollon (again of cakes) and brought them outside quickly so the invading ants wouldn’t realize that I sometimes leave food on my shrine for a while. I left offerings beneath our most beautiful backyard tree, and she looked radiant.