Saturday, January 31, 2015

Monthly Goals Update

Alright, so here I am holding myself accountable like I said I would...

I've been using Artemis' prayer beads more often. I'm shooting for at least once a day, but there have been a few days I forgot, but also a few days where I used them two or even three times throughout the day. On that note I found a mala style bracelet that has the same number of beads as the prayer beads I created, and I think I'll start wearing it, and using it to do the same prayers while I'm out and about without my prayer beads.

I have not created a daily ritual yet, but I have been spending more time at Artemis' shrine in the morning, usually to do the prayer beads for a while, then make personal prayers. I would like to build on this a bit next month.

I did hold a ritual outside (Hekate's supper), in the freezing cold, when it was super icy out, which made things pretty difficult. It was short and a little awkward because of the weather conditions that night, but I did do it.

Finally, on the subject of eating healthier and exercising more, I have been making a good bit of progress on both. It was not a perfect month, but I am slowly getting back into the healthier habits I fell out of in recent months.

So overall things went alright, hopefully I can keep it all up next month.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Altars, Revisited

This week's Pagan Experience prompt is any topic beginning with the letter A, or B. I thought it might be a good time to revisit the subject of my altars, which I last photographed and posted about as part of the Pagan Blog Project a bit over two years ago now. There have been a lot of changes since then - although I still have a lot of different shrines and altars, that hasn't changed a bit! (So yes, that is your warning that this is going to be an image heavy post. Clicking any image should make it larger.)

Artemis' altar has changed quite a bit, it moved into the kitchen, and is now a much more active place. I still enjoy worshiping Artemis outdoors, but the indoor altar has been immensely helpful to me, especially during these icy winter months where it can be hard for me to get out as much. Here the altar is lit for my morning prayers. My partner is a bit sensitive to incense smoke, so the oil warmer on the right replaces regular incense use. When I do burn the incense stick on the left, it's just for a few minutes once a week or so, long before they wake up. With the incense stick are some bird feathers I've found - lots of turkey feathers, but some duck, blue jay, and others, too.

The hearth shrine has also changed a good bit. I moved it onto the top of my oven. I was a bit worried that the heat/mess from cooking would harm it, but no issues these past few months!

The center plaque is a historical image of Vesta and Pales, but for my practice I am using it to represent Hestia and one of her sacred animals, the donkey, and the snake becomes the Agathos Daimon, or the good spirit, who is also represented by the little caved snake on the bottom right. Next to that, although hard to make out, is a dragon to represent the household guardian spirit. On the left side is Tykhe (Roman Fortuna). In the very near future there will also be a small statue of Apollon included on this shrine.

Also in the kitchen, where the old hearth shrine used to be, is Hekate's altar. For quite a while I was setting up a temporary altar on her sacred day each month, but after moving my hearth shrine I figured it would be best to set up a more permanent place for her.

It's quite a simple area, two candles to represent her twin torches, a small offering plate, and two animals associated with her, a black dog and a horse.

Below that is a second shelf that is mainly used only during her monthly festival, but there is a small bowl there which holds some more object offerings.
Below those two shelves is my ancestor shrine, which I didn't take a picture of this time around. It hasn't really changed much, but there are no longer any deities on that shrine, it's just a place to honor my ancestors.

Then there is an altar for Aphrodite (center), one of her children, Hermaphroditus (left), and the Kharities (right), or graces. I usually like to keep altars more on the tidy side, with little clutter, but this one feels best when it's busy! The altar is covered with objects and animals sacred to these deities. On the far left is a reed diffuser, so there is always a pleasant scent surrounding this altar. I would love to do more with this altar, perhaps getting a potted plant or desktop fountain for it.

Finally, there is the seasonal altar. During the growth and harvest seasons (May through October) Demeter sits on this shrine, but during the colder winter months it is Hestia. The altar is currently decorated for Imbolc, in white snowy colors. Even though Imbolc is still the dead of winter here (we're about to have a big snowstorm, actually), I couldn't resist having a little greenery on the shrine, but the flowers themselves are a bit like snow.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015


I had quite a few vivid dreams last night. I personally don't really believe that every dream has some very deep meaning, but there was one last night that really sticks with me...

I try to do a working ritual with Aphrodite once a week, as I think I've mentioned before, where I am asking for something quite specific on behalf of someone close to me. The first time I did this ritual I got a distinct feeling that something was missing, a particular deity, so I included them on the shrine after that. Last night I had a dream where I was directing this ritual solely to them, and I wonder if that's maybe a sign that I have been petitioning the wrong deity? I'm not sure, it's something to think about.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Prayer Beads for Artemis

(This week's prompt at The Pagan Experience is about Deity and the Divine, a prompt that will repeat once each month.)

In the past I have written a few posts on creating a set of prayer beads for Artemis. I wrote about how I chose the materials, how I actually made the prayer beads, but I haven't really shared how I actually use them. There are many examples of how to make prayer beads out there, but I think there are fewer examples of prayers to actually go along with them, which is something I find helpful in making my own.

I begin by reciting an opening prayer, a modified version of a traditional hymn, on the largest bead:
I sing of Artemis, the pure maiden, who cheers on the hounds, the hunter of stags, who delights in archery over the shadowy hills and windy peaks, who draws her golden bow, rejoicing in the chase. I sing of Artemis...
I then recite one of her titles for each bead...
Goddess Queen
Daughter of Leto
Daughter of Zeus
Queen of Beasts
Delighting in Arrows
Deer Shooting

Of the Wilds
Of the Broad Pastures
Of the Marshlands
Revered Virgin
Of the Moon
Of the Fire
Leader (of the dance/choir)
Ancestral Goddess
She Who Soothes
Light Bringer

From there I can either recite the titles again, or return to the large bead with a simple closing prayer:
O Artemis, beautiful and powerful goddess, I honor you on this day, and on all days.

I debated quite a bit on whether to recite the titles in English or in their original language, Greek. There are pros and cons of each, and for me I felt that at least for now English would be the better choice, but certainly either way could work, depending on which makes more sense to the individual. These prayers can be used in at least two ways. First, by slowly reciting each title, and really taking time to meditate on the title, what it means, the image it conjures, and so on. The second is to quickly recite the titles as more of a chant, focusing a bit less on what each title really means, and instead allowing yourself to slip into a bit more of a receptive meditative state of mind.

For additional information on Artemis, including more of her titles, hymns to her, her myths, and more, her article on Theoi is a fantastic source. 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Personal Practice

This week's Pagan Experience prompt is about personal practice. I would say that at the moment the core of my personal practice is built around a series of daily, monthly, and yearly rituals.

My daily ritual is pretty simple. I have a small shrine on the back of my oven dedicated to Hestia, and while making dinner I light her candle on the shrine, and leave a small offering - generally a bit of whatever is for dinner, but sometimes it will be wine, olive oil, or something along those lines. Sometimes I recite a hymn to her, or make personal prayers, but often it's just the offering with a simple 'thank you for your blessings.'

The 'monthly' rituals are based around the lunar month, and are inspired by, but not strict reconstructions of, ancient Greek practices. The ancient Greeks marked the beginning of the new month with their new moon, which was the first sighting of the crescent moon, but I guess I'm a little stuck in my own old habits, because for me the astronomical new moon is where I start the cycle. On the new moon, the first of the lunar month, I hold a somewhat larger ritual for Hestia and the household spirits, where I give offerings of barley cakes, wine, salt, olive oil, and aromatic herbs, and thank them for the blessings of the previous month, and ask for the continued support.

On the fourth day of the lunar month I hold a special festival for Aphrodite. I do a working ritual with her each Sunday, but her monthly festival is just about honoring her and celebrating her, rather than preforming a ritual with a specific goal in mind. Incense and music are the offerings for this festival, and occasionally dove shaped honey cookies.

The sixth day belongs to Artemis and the nature spirits. I strongly prefer to hold this ritual outside when I can, but sometimes it's not always possible. Even if the ritual can't be held outside, I try to spend at least some time in nature on this day, even if it's just going for a short walk, or looking at the moon a bit. Out of all the monthly rituals, this is the one that I've been doing the longest, and has seen the most changes in how I celebrate it. However, it generally involves making an offering to Artemis of something that the local wildlife will also enjoy, such as birdseed, which I can leave out after the ritual.

The last day of the month is for Hekate and the ancestors. As it's the last day of the month I spend the day cleaning up a bit, cleaning the kitchen, cleaning out the fridge a bit, washing things down, and cleaning off the shrines. This way everything is clean and ready for the new month. Anything that comes off a shrine (or around it) goes into an offering bowl for Hekate - things like incense ash, partially burned incense, any offerings that might still be on shrines, candle wax drippings, used matches, old flowers/herbs, etc. They are offered to Hekate so that she can take the old away to make room for the new, both in a literal and symbolic sense. I also offer her many traditional things like eggs, garlic, bread, cheese, and onions. I have also found cookies decorated with stars, locks, and keys, which I have found make a wonderful offering to her. Traditionally these offerings would be left at a crossroads, but I generally leave them at a stonewall at the edge of the property. The cookie gets buried or burned, if I am able to do so, as it is strictly for Hekate. Everything else is left on the ground at the wall, and I assume animals probably enjoy them. I chose the wall because it is a liminal space, so sacred to her, and is a much more private location. I also make offerings at my ancestor shrine on this night. The next night starts the cycle again.

Then there are the yearly festivals, which are the Sabbats that I'm sure many are familiar with. They fit very nicely with the climate where I live (well, with a few adjustments here and there), so they're something that's stuck with me throughout my time as a pagan, even if the details have changed since then.

Of course not everything I do is quite so structured, but over the years I've found having these cycles really keeps me in tune with my deities, with the spirits, and with nature. It keeps me motivated to practice, and to keep deepening these relationships and bonds, so that things don't become stagnant, and so I don't find myself having done nothing at all for months at a time. Certainly it's not something that would work for everyone, but it does seem to keep me focused, which is something I need a good bit of help with at times!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Well, winter's here...

The end of December was really mild, but guess I didn't really expect that to last much longer... Snow and ice came in pretty quickly, and the temperature's been below zero the last few nights. I was hoping to do a night ritual around the time of the full moon (for the nice lighting), but wow, I'm not going to even try to compete with these types of temperatures! Letting the dog out for a few minutes is definitely enough.

The days are only a bit warmer now, and our bird feeders have been packed. Tons of different birds showing up, including a pair of cardinals, one female one male, who've been around the last few days. They've all been very fun to watch.

The turkeys have also made an appearance again! It's been a few months since they were last around. There was a pretty big group of them hanging around this afternoon. I wonder if the deer will be coming back around soon? There were a few last week, but they stayed back pretty far into the woods. Hopefully we'll have a bit of a longer winter this year, which will help with killing off high tick population, which has actually been killing off the deer and moose in this area due to the very short/mild winters we've had in recent years. I know a long and cold winter isn't what most people really want to deal with, but unfortunately the changes in the seasons has really been messing with the balance of local wildlife.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Goals for 2015

The first prompt from The Pagan Experience is about resolutions. I've been giving this some thought for the last week or two, and I've come up with a few spiritual goals I'd like to focus on this year. They are...

To deepen my relationship with Artemis. I plan to do this in (at least) three ways. First, by using my prayer beads dedicated to Artemis more often. Second, by taking up archery as a devotional practice. Third, by creating a devotional in her honor that can be preformed daily. I will create this devotional before the spring equinox. Preferably it will be something that can be done easily inside or outside. (Perhaps involving the prayer beads?) I will also try to be aware of other opportunities as they arise.

I say inside or outside because I want to spend more devotional time outside. I plan to do this by holding at least one ritual outside every month this year, regardless of the season. I will also meditate outside at least once a month, during the warmer months. (So probably from April to November, although we'll see what the weather brings!) I also want to continue my exploration of the local land, and I am aiming to identify at least five more plants this year.

Also, just to keep it in my mind, I promised an offering of fresh baked bread to Hestia and Demeter last Lammas, to be done before this Lammas.

Additionally, I plan to get back into the habit of eating healthier and exercising more. Both fell to the wayside when I started really struggling with my health, which truthfully only made things worse, and it was a pretty bad cycle to be stuck in. Still, now that I'm finally getting control of some of these issues, it's absolutely time to get back to healthier habits in general! That means fewer processed foods, and thirty minutes of exercise at least three times a week. Both habits I used to have, both things I desperately need to get back into.

Last on the list, I want to connect with the pagan community a bit more, both online and offline.

To accomplish goals they really need to be kept in mind, so I'll be looking back on this list each month, and giving a short update on my progress. I'm looking forward to making 2015 a happy and productive year, and hopefully one with many opportunities for growth.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy 2015!

 Well, here's the traditional shot of my family's New Year dinner. A lot of our traditional favorites, like gyoza and sushi, and a few new dishes, like the baked snail my grandfather was very excited to try. And the chestnut buns (above the macaroons) which were an impulse buy, but turned out to be pretty tasty. There's more food on another table that didn't make it into the picture - chicken rice, bean buns, kielbasa, and more.

As always, too much food was made, as always we said we won't make so much next year... but we all know we will. (That's fine, I had some great leftovers for a few days!)

This year I realized that New Year's Day probably has the most significance to me out of all the holidays I celebrate, yet for some reason it never comes to mind when I think of my favorite holiday... but really, I think it has to be. There's just the pure mundane aspects of it, watching some of my favorite bands preforming on New Year's Eve, chatting with my sister and grandmother as we prepare the food for the next day. There's something a bit deeper, too, knowing that I'm helping to carry on this family tradition that's been going on for so many years now. Even in a more personal spiritual sense, there's something that always strikes me about the beginning of a new cycle, another new year. It's hard to put it into words, though...