Sunday, December 4, 2016

Hestia, Days Twenty and Twentyone

20. Art that reminds you of this deity.
21. Music that makes you think of this deity.


The first thing that comes into my mind is the veiled Vestal Virgin statues (in particular, the one shown), perhaps for obvious reasons. I remember learning in art class that to those studying sculpture in years past, making such a veiled sculpture was almost a final test of sorts, as they are especially difficult to do. (Art class was over a decade ago now, so hopefully I'm remembering that right.) Perhaps less obviously, often when I see a warm autumn or winter fire scene, those tend to remind me of Hestia, as well.

Veiled Vestal Virgin
Raffaelle Monti (1818 - 1881)
As for music, there's not really any music in particular that reminds me of Hestia. Perhaps some Christmas carols, as they always remind me of being much younger, at home, bringing up good winter memories of family for me.

To add on some extra, I see scent is not mentioned on the 30 days, but scent is such a huge trigger for memory for me. The scent of baking bread, of baking sweets like apple pie, pumpkin pie, mincemeat, cinnamon rolls, ginger cookies... all those warm baking scents remind me of home and the hearth. Amber, as well, is a scent I have come to associate with Hestia, and with a few other hearth goddesses as well. I forgot to mention this on the day for offerings, but amber incense is something I occasionally offer to Hestia (occasionally, as my kitchen doesn't have a window, so I don't like to burn too much incense there as it bothers my partner), but I also keep a small box of amber resin tucked away that I bring out to hold and smell when meditating on the hearth.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Hesta, Day Nineteen

19. What quality or qualities of this god do you most admire? What quality or qualities of them do you find the most troubling?

Hestia is an interesting deity, because, to me anyway, there's not much to find troubling. Unlike some deities who have questionable myths, or sides to them that are hard to mesh with, I do not feel that with Hestia. I mean, the biggest thing for me would be that Hestia has ties to bread baking, and carbs aren't good for me. Even if I love them. Stop tempting me with delicious carbs!

What I admire about Hestia is that she is stability. She is the home. She is the warm hearth fire. She is welcoming and hospitable, but she will not be trampled on - disrespect a fire and see how well it goes for you. Yet she is forgiving, understanding, compassionate. She is unwavering in her dedication to follow her own path and purpose.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Hestia, Day Eighteen

18. How does this deity stand in terms of gender and sexuality? (historical and/or UPG)

Oh Hestia, I have not forgotten about you! After a two year pause (where did those years go?!), I am finally committing to finishing this project for Hestia.

Historically speaking we know Hestia chose to remain a virgin, unmarried, never having children. We know that her Roman counterpart, Vesta, was served by a group of virgin priestesses. But that is all we know.

We don't know how Hestia felt about those who did marry, those who did not, those who had children, and those who did not, those with many partners, those with few, those with none. We don't know about how she felt about people attracted to their own genders, another gender, we don't know how she felt about gender in general. We can know what was the cultural norm in parts and particular times of Ancient Greece, but we do not know, in particular how Hestia feels. It's just never spoken of. It does not come up in myths. It doesn't seem to be addressed in hymns. And in my opinion? It's because she just doesn't care.

Hestia made the best choice for herself, and she wants you to make the best choice for you, period. Hestia wants you to have a happy and stable home, whatever that might look like for you. Not what it might be for you your culture, your neighbors, your parents, or anyone else, only what it is for you.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Physical and Mental Illness in the Pagan Community

Lupa Greenwolf recently wrote an amazing article inspired by an image I've seen floating around the community. The original image showed a forest and labeled it as an 'anti-depressant,' then blow that an image of anti-depressant pilled labeled 'shit.'

I have had a very hard time trying to put into words why this sort of stuff is so frustrating, and so thankfully, someone has done a wonderful job doing something I haven't been able to!

I will say, though, as someone who spends a boat load of time in the deep woods, in grain fields, at rivers, in meadows, etc. - I still need my anti-depressant medication because that's not really how depression works for a lot of people. Thanks.

And I always want to stop and say, hey, if someone had a physical chronic illness you wouldn't tell them not to take their medication, would you? That hugging a tree would cure them? But... yeah, a lot of people would. I know, because having a chronic physical condition as well, I've heard it plenty of times.

And hearing, well, just cure yourself! But that's not how it works... Or even worse, hearing people say that anyone with any sort of mental or even physical illness shouldn't be a witch, or even a pagan. (As if any sort of ill person should be banned from religion?) What in the world? Look, I've been a witch and a pagan for well over a decade, and the idea I shouldn't be doing this because someone else, who doesn't have any idea what it's like to deal with one of these illnesses, thinks they can make that call for me? Fuck off with what nonsense.

Not all mental illnesses are the same. Not all people dealing with even the same mental illness face the same situations. If you've never been in that situation, and you're trying to make that call for someone else, maybe you need to step back and actually listen to the people who are actually living with it - and there are plenty of us in the community doing just that.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is in two days here in the US, and I think this is the first Thanksgiving in a few years where I am basically free from kitchen duties! Usually Thanksgiving is at my grandparents, and I help them cook. This year my partner and I are in Denver with her family, and she's the one who gets to help with most of the cooking. My contribution is a bag of frozen meatballs dumped into a crock pot with some whole berry cranberry sauce, and some cocktail sauce. Might sound strange but it tastes good. Thank the Gods for crock pots, let me tell you. Even my grandmother gets a year off, since she is going to my Dad's where he will have done the work. (He bought a new house earlier this year which actually fits guests!) It's not that I don't like cooking, but who doesn't want a break now and then? I'm sure after a million years Mama feels the same.

Since I'll have more free time this year, I've decided to take the time to properly honor Hestia, and make the offerings for a safe winter, since I did not do this during Samhain as I normally would (and it's finally getting cooler out). Since it's Thanksgiving, it seems like an appropriate time to, you know, actually give thanks and all that.

Speaking of Hestia, my hymn was accepted for the devotional to her that will eventfully be coming out, so that's quite exciting for me!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Moon Phase Wall Calendars

I have a product to plug for today's post - nothing I'm selling or anything like that, just something someone recently told me about, and I think it'll be amazingly useful for me, so I'm passing the info along.

I'm sure these are old news for some people, but they're new to me, wall calendars that have the moon phase pictured on every day. The one that was originally shown to me was this one Lunar 2017 Wall Calendar: A Glow-in-the-Dark Calendar for the Lunar Year. Each month has a photograph of the moon as it's image, and each day has the moon phase drawn out, rather than just a percent listed. Also, it apparently glows in the dark, which is always a bonus in my book.

Another I found was Lunaria 2017 Lunar Astrology Wall Calendar. This one has various classical paintings, with poems, myths, folklore, and so on. This calendar also has the moon phases clearly drawn on each day, but it also includes more astrological information on each day. This one is also actually laid out in lunar months, meaning it begins with the new moon (0% illuminated), rather than following calendar months - although each standard calendar month/day is listed as well.

I like the simplistic approach of the first, since I don't really need all the extra astrological information, but the art and such of the second appeals to me more. (As well as actually being laid out by lunar months!)

I know there are various apps and the like out there, but for me it's nice to have something paper that I can flip through to plan out festivals and such, since most of them are calculated by the lunar date. Should be a helpful item to have.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Hekate's Night?

So, apparently yesterday was the festival of Hekate's night. I've read about this a bit before, but it's something I chose not to incorporate into my practice. Since my personal practice has a mix of modern and ancient holidays, I thought I'd write a little about how I do choose to bring in festivals, using this as an example.

First, I like to look at the details and history of the festival (be it ancient history, or more modern). In this case, Hekate's night does not seem to be an ancient festival, either Greek or Roman. Perhaps it comes from some other culture, but I have found no evidence for that.

I have sometimes seen this festival called Hecatesia, with an alternate date of August 13th or 16th, but again, there doesn't seem to be any real information on this festival. Sometimes the August 13th festival is presented as something different. Since I have seen Artemis mentioned with this one, I wonder if it stems from the Kourotrophos festival? There are also possible Roman origins there, but again, in those cases it would be something other than what is presented on November 16th.

All of this kind of hits on a personal pet peeve of mine, which is modern 'made-up' information being passed of as something with legitimate history behind it... but of course, the history is rarely really there.

So, looking to the modern practices, information is kind of scarce there, as well! Hekate is described as wandering that night with her hounds and other spirits, and suppers are left out for her, which sounds no different from the Deipnon - which is a monthly festival I already celebrate. (Actually, a theory I have seen is that the date comes from a misunderstanding. Someone wrote about celebrating the Deipnon on that night, but did not note that it was a moveable lunar festival, and copy and paste, copy and paste... and so Hekate's night was born.) The only additional tidbit I can find is it's apparently a night that witches are initiated into her cult, but again, there never seem to be sources to dig into this deeper. Also, this wouldn't fit in with my particular practice anyway.

Another aspect to celebrating holidays in general is fellowship, knowing you're celebrating something other devotees are, but... well, again, I get that with Hekate's Deipnon each month. Aside from that, I feel more called to the modern Rite of Her Sacred Fires when dealing with that aspect - that's the real fellowship night of the year for me, since a large part of the festival often involves sharing your altar and experiences with others. I did consider that a celebration in November might be an interesting counterpoint to Sacred Fires, which is held in May, but that's basically what Samhain is acting as these days.

One last thing to consider is that the more parties, the better, right? Well... my personal calendar isn't exactly empty, you know? (I should blog the whole list, some day...) That's why I consider which festivals to celebrate a bit more carefully. If it's not adding something different or particular for me, there are other things I could be putting my energy towards. That's how I feel in this case. There's nothing particularly special about this night, it is too similar to other aspects of my practice, and I don't feel I'd get much from it. It doesn't mean that no one should celebrate it, of course, but for me it's a no go.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Full Moon Ritual for Selene

This is a simple little ritual that I try to do each month when the moon is full. I prefer to do this ritual outside if at all possible, even on cloudy nights, or inside at a window from which the moon is visible if outside isn't an option.

I begin the ritual by lighting some incense. I often just use sticks or cones of jasmine, gardenia, or other white flowers. For those who prefer lose incense, the Orphic hymns recommend burning aromatic herbs such as bay, lavender, basil, rosemary, thyme, mint, lemon balm, and chamomile.

I take a few moments to focus myself, and then I recite the Orphic hymn to Selene (hymn number 9):
Hear me, O Divine Queen,
O light-bringing and splendid Selene,
O bull-horned Moon,
crossing the air as you race with night.
Nocturnal, torch-bearing,
Maiden of the beautiful stars,
O Moon, waxing and waning,
feminine and masculine,
luminous, lover of horses,
mother of time, bearer of fruit,
amber-colored, moody,
shining in the night,
all-seeing and vigilant,
surrounded by beautiful stars,
you delight in the quiet and in the richness of the night,
you grant fulfillment and favor as, like a jewel, you shine in the night.
Long-cloaked marshal of the stars,
wise maiden whose motion is circular,
come, O blessed and gentle Lady,
lady of the stars,
through your own light shine and save, O maiden, your *initiates.
(Original line is new initiates. I also sometimes replace initiates with devotee/devotees.)

After reciting the hymn a small libation is poured out for Selene. I often just use cool water. While pouring I say something along the lines of, O Selene, may you be well pleased with this offering.

I follow the libation either with my own personal prayers, or more often, silent meditation. After I thank Selene for her presence, and leave the ritual space.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Support

Tonight I went to an interfaith meeting at the reform Jewish temple my partner's family sometimes attends. It was specifically an event for the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim communities in the area (the Jewish and Christian groups actually share the temple/church together), but you know, secret agent pagan? In truth I've attended a lot of events there and never felt unwelcome, and the same goes for tonight.

The meeting was a support group of sorts? It was a night for the three communities to come together, share some prayers and songs, and speak a little on what the future would bring, and so on. There were potions where we spoke to those around us about our fears and hopes for the coming few years. There are, understandably, a lot of worries. And there is, thankfully, hope to be found, and communities coming together to lift each other up.

This is the beginning of something bigger for this group. Unfortunately, not living in the area, it's not something I'll really be able to participate - but it does make me think about seeking out these sorts of things at home. Now is a good time for it.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Oh, America...

I don't usually get into politics here, but you know what... I just feel so disappointed in my country right now.

I'm queer. My partner is trans. We, along with many others in the community are quite worried about what Trump/Pence will be bringing. This morning my own mother tried to tell my sister (not her daughter), who is a lesbian, and myself that Hillary would have been worse for us. What? Worse than a guy who outright says he wants to roll back marriage equity, who wants to do away with protections that are in place... And, you know, a guy who, from all the people he could have picked, picked Pence. The guy who wanted to defund HIV programs and use that money for conversion therapy. (And that's just one of many nasty things on his record.)

This morning I had a little moment of panic, maybe we should get married right now! But then I remembered, if it goes back to the states to decide, we don't live in a shit state (at least in that sense). My heart goes out to all the people that do, however.

NH isn't doing great in other ways, however, and I am likely to lose my healthcare. I am thankful that I got the surgery I needed before it became an emergency that would put me deep into debt. I don't know what I will do about the medicines I need.

If I can go back to my mother for a moment, I saw her earlier saying strong women don't get sexually assaulted - this was to excuse some of the things Trump has said, and did. For obvious reasons, she does not know about the fact that I have been sexually assaulted.

And of course it's not just these things. There are many, many communities out there right now who are very nervous about what the future will bring. I can't blame them at all. Everyone says it will be fine, he won't really do X or Y, but as of right now we have no idea what he will or won't do. Maybe he will be an amazing President, wouldn't that be something? But we can't know right now, we can only know what he has said he wants to do. If you're reading this, and you care at all, please stand up for these communities, fight for them. Fight for yourself. Don't let these things happen without a fight.

Everything that is going on right now is making me sick to my stomach. I'm going to spend a long, long time outside looking at the moon and praying to Selene tonight, because I really need her peace right now.

(And I'm pretty sure this whole thing just caused my relationship with my mom to crash and burn. She wouldn't let up on Facebook, so bye. We were never super close, she didn't raise me, and we've lived in different states for the past decade. I'm not as torn up about it as I imagine I should be. I mean I love my mom, because she's my mom, but I'm an adult with my own boundaries, and she's crossed them over and over today. I do not need that in my life.)

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

A New Book

So I decided to treat myself to an 'early' Yule present (but not that early, because it won't be here until mid-December anyway) - a new book of shadows to write in.

For many, many years I just used a three ring binder and regular notebook paper. It wasn't elegant, but it was practical and it worked very well. Eventually I began using a hardcover sketchbook, then another, and things started getting broken up into different books. Using sketchbooks definitely let me add a lot of personal artistic touches, which was great, but the 'journal' style format, using different books for different subjects (due to size, or trying to keep some organization going), it just doesn't work as well for me.

So I decided to take the leap and buy a nicely made book from an online crafter. It's got a beautiful design on the outside, and while the overall size isn't huge (like so many books seem to be!) it's got tons of paper in it... and the best thing? It's a post bound book, meaning I can add additional paper if necessary, move pages around as much as I like, I can take the pages out and print on them if necessary, and so on.

I've seen various post bound books floating around before, but I was never sure if that's what I really wanted, since I don't always like how they look - and, well, a lot of the nicer ones tend to be expensive. I think it will be worth it in the end, though. After having tried all these different things, I do think this is what's going to work best for me. And it will be nice to actually have everything back together in the same place again.

So it won't be here for a while still, but I'm really looking forward to creating something a bit more lasting than my previous attempts.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Colder weather?

Today is the day I traditionally make a special offering to Hestia, keep her fire burning all day, in the hopes that she will keep my family and our homes safe and warm during the winter months. Fuel is expensive, things go wrong and break, power outages... All bad when it's below freezing out.

The thing is, I'm just not feeling it right now. It's been high 70s, even up into the 80s, the past few weeks in Denver. Meanwhile, it's in the high 40s back home. I've kept a candle lit today for Hestia, I'm trying to think of back home, but this weather has me all in the wrong mind.

I know a lot of people would be saying, hey, don't complain, it's too cold! But, truth is, I've just always liked colder weather. (After living in Western Washington five years, the one thing I missed the most was the snow.) Temperatures in the 50s? Great day for me.

One of my favorite memories from when I was little, was when it would snow in the late evening. It would be dark out, and my grandfather would turn on the porch and garage lights, and plow the driveway so it wouldn't be as bad in the morning. Playing out in the front yard in the dark, under all the giant pine trees, snow still coming down. There's just something magical about it. Even now, when the snow starts coming down in the night, I'll still go out and roam around in it, enjoying it.

Monday, October 31, 2016

What kind of gods...

I spent the day at the botanic gardens. There were a variety of Dia de los Muertos memorials around the park, including one for the victims of the Pulse Nightclub shooting.

A story has been making the rounds in the LGBTQA community about a group of Christians trying to use the Pulse massacre in their hell house.

If you're lucky enough to not know what a hell house is, it's where they show a bunch of sinners, like a woman getting an abortion, people partying, doing drugs, whatever, often these people then appear in a hell scene, and at the end you're supposed to be so scared of what you saw you jump up and get saved by Jesus.

Frankly, I think the concept is disgusting altogether, but the idea that these people wanted to show off the 'sins' of people who were brutally massacred, as if they deserved that sort of thing... how fucking gross do you have to be? And to top it off, the event was canceled because they tried to hold it in a public school (apparently misrepresenting the event to get there), and the organizers have the audacity to say that people are a bunch of haters? The lack of self-awareness is amazing. Apparently "God will work it out," though. Hmm... well the event was canceled, so maybe that's God's way of saying you shouldn't be hateful, insensitive people. Whatever happened to that whole love and compassion thing Jesus was so big on?

Meanwhile, in the polytheist community, in India some Muslims destroyed some Hindu temples, and personal property. Apparently retribution for... someone mocking them? Article was unclear. In reply to this I saw a Hindu saying that their gods were laughing at the Muslim children and widows in the middle east. I know there's a lot of bad blood there, and that's putting it mildly, but holy shit man... if you all ever see me saying my gods are laughing at the suffering of children, please take my keyboard away from me.

I know Greek myth is full of some nasty events, but there's a reason why most Greek polytheists don't take the myths as literal 'word of God' events. They're human stories. Humans trying to grasp something so much bigger. So while I don't want to speak on the behalf of any gods that are out there... like... you know, if your God is cool with exploiting a recent tragedy, if you think your God is sitting up there laughing at suffering children, well, maybe you've got some shitty gods. Or, more likely, maybe you're just a shitty person.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Behold, an update!

I meant to put this in my sidebar ages ago, but I can be found on Instagram as HearthAndHedge - mostly seasonal nature photography, but some art and witchcraft related bits, as well. (Working on getting some more of the witchcraft in there...)

Also, just to try and simplify across the various platforms I'm on, I've dropped my old 'pen' name Siona, and I'm just going by Allie now.

Aside from all that, it's that time of year where my partner and I travel from New England to Denver for two months. It's a bit later in the year than we normally make this trip, which is depressing for me, because, well, no place does autumn like New England! (Not that I'm biased or anything...) However, the upside to being in the city for a while is at least there's interesting things going on at the gardens, science museums, art museums, and there's a big library to explore. Hopefully that will make for more regular updates in the near future.

Friday, August 12, 2016

UPG: Polymnia and Kleio

Polymnia and Kleio are two of the nine Olympic muses. Polymnia is the muse of hymns, sacred poetry, and so on, while Kleio is the muse of history. (You can read more about both of them in this post.)  I am still only in the very beginning of my journey to know these two goddesses, but I hope to add to this post as time goes on.

I have found Polymnia to appreciate offerings of light white or pink wines, usually those which have been watered down, as well as fresh figs. For incense I would suggest light, airy scents (but not necessarily floral). Something like sandalwood, perhaps. I have come to associate her with the colors light blue, grey, white, and a light sandy gold color. In addition to the symbols associated with her in antiquity, I also associate her with butterflies, and with the pitcher and bowl, two items many modern worshipers of the Hellenic gods often use in their devotions - either to purify before devotions, or to make libations at altars.

In antiquity Polymnia was known to wrap a long cloak or veil around herself. Although not something I have worked with yet, I do feel somewhat called to wrap in such a cloth before calling on her for inspiration.

Kleio I have come to associate with the colors orange, red, yellow, and gold. Strong, vibrant colors, as well as with lions. Offerings of frankincense. Strong spicy teas, and maybe coffee? Non-physical offerings of studying history, teaching history, and so on... although, that's probably an obvious one, considering her role.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Trouble With Life Expectancy

Life expectancy is something I see getting brought up occasionally in pagan conversation. The trouble is, a lot of people don't really seem to understand what life expectancy means. The person who most recently brought this up to me was attempting to say, well, the ancient Greeks had an average lifespan of only 30-40 years old, so a lot of them probably never communicated with a deity. (So whatever they had to say was probably not worth listening to? Ironically, this person was only 30, so...) I find this a very, very bizarre statement all around, but mostly because... well, it's not like people in Ancient Greece were all just falling over dead at the age of 35.

See, the thing about those lifespans that look so low to us now, is that they include infant deaths. Death was indeed very common for infants and young children. All those young deaths brought down the average as a whole. However, if you made it out of young childhood, you had a much better shot at leading a fairly long life. Sure, disease was still an issue, war, and of course childbirth itself was very dangerous, and social status played a part as well, but you know, a lot of people still managed to live into their 60s, 70s, and so on.

I mean, after all, you had to be at least 60 to be a member of the Spartan senate. And it's not like they had a hard time with this, getting into the senate was quite a competitive thing, and people who did enter the senate often served for quite a while.

So life expectancy doesn't really tell us about any of that, how long people might live once they were out of early childhood. What we can see from life expectancy is that, say, in the modern US, thanks to medical advancements, many infants and children are no longer dying so early. And yeah, that's a good thing. I'm not knocking modern life, modern medicine, modern technology. I'm a fan of all that good stuff. Just don't think we should misunderstand or underestimate our ancestors, the lives they lived, what those lives were like, and yes, the things they did accomplish. Because they accomplished a lot.

Monday, July 25, 2016

UPG relating to Hekate

So, considering my recent post on the whole UPG thing, I figured maybe it would be a good time to actually share some of mine, little things I've discovered that aren't historical in nature. In this case those relating to Hekate, but others will come later in the week...

For offerings I have found Hekate calls for the fat rendered off from cooking beef. I believe the first time this happened I was cooking some ground beef on the night of Hekate's deipnon (a monthly festival dedicated to her, which is from antiquity), and I just had the overwhelming urge to save the fat which I would have otherwise discarded, to add it to my offerings that night. I did, and I have tried to do so whenever I cook beef. Apples are another offering I find she likes, that doesn't seem to have been emphasized historically.

I associate red roses with Hekate, and it seems quite a few people actually do this. Someone once said to me they associate no flowers with Hekate, because she was not a 'flowery' goddess, but that's why I like roses for her. They're beautiful, like she is... but they have thorns, they can draw blood, and they have a reputation as difficult to grow. Yet, those that grow them find the time and effort worth it. 

I have also come to associate common sage with her (not white/smudging sage). And for stones, labradorite and lava rock. I find wells to be sacred to her, among other deities - perhaps because they are a liminal space, a link to the underworld. In the Orphic hymn she is called "Hekate of the Roads," and this is something I have come to emphasize in my own practice in many ways.

For symbols I tend to look to her historical ones, but there is also the crescent moon with it's 'horns' pointing downward. I associate this with all chthonic deities, but Hekate especially.

I find she likes frankincense and myrrh, although both would likely have been offered at some point in antiquity. Patchouli is another incense for her, as well as other deep earthy scents, or the scent of heavy night blooming flowers. Thick, sort of sweet, the scent of a hot, humid summer night.

I have come to know her as "queen of the night-singing ones," in other words, those insects and other creatures which call at night. Again, very much the sound of summer.

I suppose my associating her with summer is an odd UPG in itself. Many seem to see her more in the autumn weather, and I do see here there as well, she is present all year, but there is simply something about a summer night that makes me think of her in so many ways. Especially when a storm is brewing in the distance. That charge on the air you don't often get in autumn.

As far as other modern practices go, again, there is the Rite of Her Sacred Fires which I celebrated this year. It's not personal, I didn't create it, and a whole bunch of people participate in it, but it is modern. As, at this point in time, I do still celebrate the wheel of the year, and so I honor Hekate at Samhain. Again, perhaps not that unusual in modern paganism, but it is not an ancient practice, so I'll include it. Samhain reminds me a bit of her monthly deipnon festival, and it is one of the liminal times of year, where everything is moving from life to death. To that end, I also associate her a bit with Beltane, the other half of that time, when things move from death back to life.   

Sunday, July 24, 2016

UPG and Modern Practice

So I like history, that's no secret to anyone who's interacted with me for more than five minutes. When it comes to my spirituality, I do have some reconstructionist tendencies. Say, for getting to know deities... the cultures they came from gave them particular meanings, some specific to the culture, they worshiped them for hundreds, if not thousands of years, established their rites, and so on. These people knew their gods, and I think we'd be kinda silly to ignore the surviving knowledge and understandings these people had.

Some people tend to see that, and think oh, hey, this person is stuck in the past, they don't like anything modern. Which isn't true. Hell, I wouldn't even flat out call myself a reconstructionist. I'm not at all against modern practices, creations, and I'm not against unverified personal gnosis. (UPG - the idea that I might have a particular spiritual practice that doesn't necessarily apply to others, and isn't 'verified' by sources from antiquity.) I have partaken in modern rites (Her Sacred Fires, for example?), I have made my own modern associations for the deities I have built relationships with.

What bothers me is when people try to pass of these things as ancient, when they're not. Like, the Ancient Greeks didn't offer pumpkins to Hekate on Oct 31st, because the ancient Greeks didn't have pumpkins, nor did they have a calendar that would easily correspond to our idea of Oct 31st. Does it mean no one should do this? Nope, if you feel called to it, go for it... just, you know, don't paint it as something it's not. Don't tell me this is what the Ancient Greeks did. That sort of thing doesn't help anyone, and only makes it more confusing for those seeking out the historical side of things.

I am not at all against modern practices... but don't call them something they're not. If the practice is valid, even if only for you, you don't need to take a fake history onto it to make it sound better.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Happy New Year

A few days ago was the first day of the new Athenian year, and I celebrated in the tradition way... which is to say, I didn't do anything at all. For whatever reason, the Athenians didn't really have any specific festivals for the new year. City officials made offerings to Athena and Zeus on the last day of the year, and all business, trials, and so on, had to be finished up before the new year began. I probably should have made some offerings at the end of the year, but real talk, I am tired as heck and it's been a rough week all around. I'll make the offerings next month. Kinda the nice thing about Greek polytheism, the unit of the month tends to be much more emphasized over the year, every month has the festivals for ending and beginning new again.



Monday, June 27, 2016

Reconsidering Smudging With Sage Bundles in Neo-paganism

Cultural appropriate is a real hot button issue for a lot of modern pagans, particularly when it begins to concern Native Americans. Although some Native tribes are quite open to those who are sincere, many Native Americans have come forward and asked people to please stop taking their traditions, and please stop taking them and using them out of context, or without any relation to a tribe, and so on. This is often met, unfortunately, with cries of things like "we're all one people," "spirituality needs to be shared," and "you should feel grateful that people want to emulate you." I would think one only needs to consider the history and current issues facing Native American populations to realize why these aren't exactly great things to say. (And yet...)

But the use of sage in particular is an issue I find interesting. Smudging with sage sticks, generally white sage (Salvia apiana), is just so ubiquitous within modern paganism, nobody seems to question it, or look at it's origins. White sage is native to western North America. The spiritual associations of it, using it for purification, the rituals surrounding it, and so on, all originate with some Native American tribes. White sage is also not the only plant used in such a way, of course, sagebrush, cedar, and other local plants would have all been used by various tribes.So why is it this one thing which seems to have become so widely spread throughout the pagan community? Especially when we consider that the pagan roots we tend to draw from have their own purification traditions.

Let's look at Greece, for example. C
ommon sage (Salvia officinalis) is native to the Mediterranean. Same genus as white sage, but a different species. Common sage, sometimes also called garden sage, is what you're likely to find in grocery stores for use in cooking. (Although white sage is edible, and was/is used as a source of food.) Common sage is found in Greece. It was very, very likely that it was one of the "aromatic herbs" burned as an incense offering to some of the gods. The Orphic Hymns recommend aromatic herbs be burned for Hestia, Hera, Athene, and Selene, for example.

But the Greeks didn't use common sage in smudging rituals like some Native American tribes would do. In Greek ritual, purification of people and spaces would have generally been accomplished with lustral water and barley.

Which is all not to say that no one else ever purified with incense, smoke, sacred fires, and so on. That's found in many, many places all over the world. It's just, there are so many ways to do this without pulling from Native American customs. So again, I can't help but wonder why that in particular was the thing to become standard practice for so many folks. Particularly when, for many pagans, connecting to our ancestral roots is such an important element of the practice. Why didn't we look more to what they did? Their traditions are just as valid, and often easily accessible, after all.

I doubt that I could ever talk someone out of using a sage stick if it's become something they've done in their practice for quite a while, and I'm not even sure if that's my 'goal' here, so to speak. But I do think paganism, as a whole, would benefit in looking at, and finding the value in some of our other purification traditions.

As a final note, I'm always someone who's often going on about the importance of looking locally, working locally, and so on, in witchcraft. However, it's quite possible to work locally, and even respect indigenous traditions, without lifting elements of their spirituality directly from them. Living in those areas would probably open you to the use of these kinds of sage in general, but I think there would have to be ways to utilize these plants respectfully, you know? Being aware of the cultures that still use them as part of their living tradition. Not living in an area where sage is native, I can't speak more on that. There's not really an easy equivalent where I live (not to mention, so many plants here have been imported, so they are local but not native). I'd be interested to hear more from witches living in such areas, however.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

I'm not and have never been a Christian. Also I made a sworn enemy and didn't even know it.

Oh gosh, while all that other stuff was going down someone said sent me a message - now on Facebook if you're not friends with someone, their message gets sent to the requests folder. Which apparently also has a filtered section as well(?). I did not know this. I had three messages in it, two of which I felt bad about missing for so long, one of which has provided some amazing entertainment after a somewhat stressful night.

So a month or two ago I had to ban someone from a group I admin for. I banned for them bashing Christianity and bashing a few other groups within paganism. Then personally insulting me when I said, hey, admin here, could you not? Which, all that, against our clearly stated rules. Anyway. So they also sent me a message after that. Most of it was just self-righteous babbling. With the lovely ending where they tell me to admit I'm an idiot or "you've otherwise just made an enemy you don't want who's remarkably popular and who doesn't take kindly to shite like this."

Oh. My. God. If you have to say something like that then, you know... mayyyybe not as cool as you think? (I was 'warned' that admins meet some real interesting people, heh, guess that was not a lie.)

But there was something in the message that made me pause. She said because I was defending Christians, I must be one. I've heard this before from other pagans. Some of which have also said I'm clearly carrying around baggage from my Christian upbringing.

Here's the thing. I was not raised Christian. I have NEVER truly been Christian. My grandmother is Shinto/Buddhist/sort-of-atheist, my grandfather is a theist who introduced me to many religions, and supported me in studying paganism. The closest I came to Christianity was a single year of a Christian kindergarten, because it was the only place that wasn't super far away from the house. You know what I remember from that year? A teacher telling me not to say something was wicked awesome, because wicked is bad. (I live in New Hampshire, things are wicked here. That's the law.) I have not been a Christian, I am not a Christian nor am I a Christo-pagan. I just don't like when people make broad, ignorant, sweeping statements about the followers an entire religion. Debate about Christian beliefs would be fine, I have engaged in it myself, and there are many aspects of Christianity I disagree with... but that doesn't mean I'm into insulting the whole lot of it, and those who believe in it. If you can't make a point without resorting to personal insults, your point must not be very strong.

Meanwhile both this person, and the others who have said this to me... were raised Christian or have ties to Christianity. Kinda ironic, huh? Kinda good to examine your own baggage before guessing about another person's.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Oh boy...

You know what I didn't miss in my break away from the pagan community? People who tried to pass their personal opinions off as historical facts.

For example, someone flat out claiming "(Hekate) is not the goddess of magic." Ummm, okay... Because, I mean, she certainly was, and is. She is a goddess of witchcraft and magic, that's like, one of her major functions. There are bunches of primary sources from antiquity which show her in this light. Since there's some confusion about what that means, a primary source is information that comes directly from ancient Greece. Not archeologist speculation, or someone writing about their thoughts on her in the modern day. It's stuff that comes directly from the ancient Greeks themselves.

Of course that doesn't matter. Because. "
Who's says the research you are studying is even the right research????… Who says the Greek were even right???" (Direct quotes folks, because the more question marks the better!)

Yes. Who is to say the ancient Greeks were even right. Those silly ancient Greeks who worshiped her for centuries, who erected countless shrines to her, who (in Athens anyway) celebrated her supper on the last night of every lunar month. What do those crazy people even know? After all, what are a few measly centuries compared to, you know, the few years you've put in...

But hey, it's just her opinion, right? Look, I'm all about the continuing growth of deities, their mythologies, and having personal relationships and understandings with these deities... but when you flat out state a fact like that? That's not an opinion anymore. You can say, hey, you know, I never really connected with that aspect of Hekate, it doesn't fit into my practice, and that would be fine. But to act like it doesn't exist at all? Nope, sorry, that's not how it works. That's no longer an opinion, not a belief, and it is factually wrong. It is not insulting a belief to point out an incorrect fact, because it's not a belief.

To end of this little rant, let me tell you about a book my partner and I have been listening to in the car. It's about aliens coming to take over the earth (and kill all people in the process, it seems), and a group of people who want the aliens to come do this. My partner's kinda caught up on that, why would anyone want aliens to destroy all people? Me. I do. Fling us all into the sun. Go for it. We probably deserve it.
(Okay, okay, not really, I don't really want aliens to fling us all into the sun. Even if sometimes the Internet makes me reconsider.)

((Edit: I also love backpedaling. Now it's just, well, Hekate wasn't only goddess of magic! Of course she wasn't. Also there are about a thousand better ways to say that. And you know, when it's clear someone has misunderstood your (super unclear) statement, the awesome thing to do is... you know... clarify. Not throw a fit and start ranting about sources and ancient Greeks and whatnot.))

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Ethics and Morals

So, one last post on this subject before I move on to (hopefully) more interesting topics.

When it comes up that I don't believe in karma, the law of three, or the Wiccan Rede, some folks have jumped to the conclusion that I have no morals whatsoever. Someone actually called me dangerous because they assumed I was just cursing people left and right for funsies.

Yeah, I don't actually do that. Real talk - I am a very lazy person. Very lazy. It takes a lot of prodding before I decide to get off my butt and whip out the big guns. To put it another way, in the last ten years I can count on one hand the number of times I felt that was necessary, and two of those times dealt with feeling repeatedly physically threatened. And even then we're not talking super curse that will curse you and your mom and your kids for seven generations or whatever, just like... some good old fashioned drive away magic. (Particularly harsh drive away magic, but still.)

I also find it odd that people would assume I have no moral guidelines at all, simply because I don't share theirs. Not true, of course. While I have no hard and fast rules or laws, I do look to things like the negative confessions of Egypt, and the Delphic Maxims of Greece, for guidance. Not all of them really apply to life in the modern age. (Rule your wife, for example...?) But there's a lot of wisdom there to pull from... control yourself, control your anger, love friendship, don't look down on people, give back, don't waste, don't gossip, despise strife, don't be deceitful, and so on. I'm sure somewhere in there is also don't be lazy, but look, we can't all be perfect.

In all of this, I am continuously reminded of an ancestor divination that was done for me many years ago. The ancestors saw me as scorpion, that is, someone who is very happy to go about their business in peace, but we all know what happens when you piss off a scorpion. (Also, fun scorpion fact, some species of scorpion can lower their metabolism significantly and spend a lot of time just sitting around. So it's fine if I am lazy. Right?)

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

No, I really don't believe in karma.

Sometimes I feel a bit like a broken record. I do not believe in karma. This seems like such a shocking topic to a lot of folks. Even in a traditional witchcraft forum, where I would not expect it to be controversial, and yet...

Turns out when I say this, some people seem to think I mean that I do not believe that karma has any sway over me, and just me. That I just consider myself above and untouched by the concept, while the rest of the peasants are all still getting pulled around by their karma. Which isn't the case at all. The truth of it is when I say I do not believe in karma, I mean exactly that. Not for me, not for you, not for anyone. The whole thing just does not exist.

And I don't know why that's such a weird thing to some folks. Certainly you've met someone who doesn't believe in all the exact same things you do, right? So how come this seems so different? It's not even like this was some universal thing in ancient paganism, lots of pagan cultures wouldn't have really had concept of karma as most see it today.

"So you don't think your actions have consequences?"
Well, no. Of course they do. All actions have consequences - I just don't think it's as simple as good for good, bad for bad. (And I certainly don't think there's any sort of times three, or times ten, or whatever involved.) Sometimes someone can do something bad and "get away" with it. Sometimes bad things happen to someone who is otherwise a good person. To me this is not all part of some great cosmic balancing act, it's just the way things are. As they say, shit happens, for better or worse. My own observations of people around me just do not point to karma being a thing.

And I realize a lot of folks do involve the concept of karma in their spirituality or practice of witchcraft, and that's fine, we're not all going to agree on everything after all - but when I say I don't, that's really all I mean by it. Doesn't make me better or worse than someone who believes in it, just different.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Witches don't hex? What?

So I guess a few days ago good old Raymond Buckland decided to come out and say that witches don't hex people. Look. I don't care how influential you are in the community, you don't get to call the shots for all witches across all traditions. Period. End of story.

But apparently some are trying to say, oh, he didn't mean witches, he meant Wiccans! Dude has been part of the community for how long and still doesn't know there are non-Wiccan witches, and that you really should use the word Wicca for referring to, well, Wicca? Come on now. Plus, it's still not true. Neither Gardner or Valiente took a 'never hex' stance, and I kinda think they both count as Wiccans, considering, you know, they were the ones who really created Wicca.

Heck, Buckland himself includes some hexes and the like in his Practical Candleburning book, but in a second post he says woah now, that's not witchcraft, that's magic! Uh... okay? He also seems to want to double down on the whole witches follow the Wiccan rede thing. I honestly do not understand how anyone could actually be actively involved in the community for so long, and still hold such an outdated misconception.

So let's say it again. Not all witches are Wiccans. Not all witches follow the Wiccan rede, the rule of three, karma, or any other such notion. Witches certainly do hex. There have always been witches who hex. If some witches or traditions make the choice to never hex, that is their call, and I will always respect that - but again, none of those folks get to make that decision for everyone. That's just not how it works, and not how it should work.

And look, I do get where he's coming from, the overall point it seems he's trying to make. A lot of people have worked hard to shed some of the stigma around witchcraft, and so all this hexing talk that's been going on as of late, I get why some say, hey, that doesn't really make the community look great... But there's a right way and a wrong way to discuss that. Coming out and saying witches never hex, disregarding anything that's not Wicca, etc, is a truly terrible way to open a dialogue in the community. There are so many better ways to talk about your experiences and get your message and opinion out there, do we really have to resort to dictating how others practice? How is that helping anyone?

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Summanus

Summanus is the Roman god of nocturnal thunder – counterpoint to Jupiter’s daylight thunder. In Rome a temple was dedicated to Summanus sometime around 278BC, after lightning struck a statue of Summanus that stood on the temple of Jupiter one night.

The temple was formally dedicated on June 20th, and each year on that day wheel-shaped cakes made of flour, milk, and honey (called summanalia), were offered to Summanus. While these cakes may have been a solar symbol, two black oxen (or castrated rams) were also offered to Summanus, and black animals were usually offered to chthonic deities.

The origins of Summanus are not clear, but it is possible he may have originated with the Etruscans, if he was not even older than that. While he was once a popular god among the Romans, likely even more popular than Jupiter at one point, in later times much of his character was unknown even to them. The Roman poet Ovid once wrote "the temple is said to have been dedicated to Summanus, whoever he may be."

Sunday, June 12, 2016

The confusion of karma...

(I'll start this post with a big old disclaimer: I don't really believe in karma as a lot of folks seem to, if even at all. This isn't a post about what I believe, just speculating about some things I've seen.)

A few days ago there was a post on a forum I frequent that I've been mulling over a bit. A person had posted a public prayer of sorts, asking that karma make her rich so that her family would know they treat her badly.

Now, first of all, I'm not exactly sure that plan makes a lot of sense. If she gets rich, her family is just going to hound her for money, and if she doesn't give it to them they're just going to continue feeling justified in treating her like crap because she's selfish, or whatever... Not a problem money is going to fix - although it could at least get her out of the house, a good step in her own healing - money won't change someone else like that.

But beyond that, it brings me back to some confusion I have about karma as some see it. Isn't karma like.. always going? Doesn't karma affect what sort of family you're born into? Or your life situations? If you're in a shitty situation, isn't that supposed to be your karma playing out? How is it karma can be invoked to make her situation better, but at the same time a lot of these folks look at other people going through a hard time (deserved or not) and just sort of shrug it off as karma. If karma is bringing around bad stuff to some people, why is it not responsible for the bad stuff you're going through again? I've just seen a lot of cherry picking of what karma does or doesn't do, and it just seems odd to me.

Actually, this line of thinking almost strikes me as sort of viewing karma like luck, or fortune in a way, rather than some more cosmic force that's keeping everything in check.

I think I had an easier time of understanding karma when I studied it more directly as it's found in some schools of Hinduism, that great cosmic force of sorts... didn't really agree with it then, either, but at least it seemed more consistent? Who knows. I freely admit it's a concept within modern paganism I've always had a hard time wrapping my head around, and what people mean by it, which is a pain since it seems a lot of pagans do subscribe to the idea.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Travel and Spirituality

I had an interesting conversation last night about travel and enjoying 'pagan' or spiritual spots while traveling, and wondering why more pagans didn't travel more, and explore these thin spots more.

And I can only speak for myself, of course, but for me, well, I can sure show off some beautiful pictures from my travels, like this shot from Colorado last summer, or I can tell you the stories of the thin spots. The spots that matter to my practice of paganism. They're not the same, and they don't generally come with such exciting pictures. (Although I think they're nice.)

Groves of old pines, the hidden crossroads in the woods, the meadow just past that, the quiet stream. Even the altar in my own kitchen.

Don't get me wrong. I love to travel, I am moved by the extraordinary beauty of the world around me, and there are quite a few ancient ruins I would love to someday pay my respects at, but for me, these are not the places where the work is done.



But, perhaps that is just part of being a hedgewitch. I've come to know and love the land around me, to care for the land around me. I travel when I can, it's always good to experience new places, get a feel for these other lands, but I always have that longing for home when I am away too long.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Exploring the Myth and Imagery of Psykhe (Psyche)

When studying Greek mythology, it is very important to know that, for the most park, Greek myths are not to be taken literally. They are not “word of God” literal accounts, but often are symbolic, or in some cases, not much more than entertainment. So if we are to study Psykhe’s myth, we should first consider her name, as psykhe is the Greek word for the soul. The word is also used in modern psychology to describe the totality of the human mind, the conscious and unconscious together.

But when we first see Psykhe in her myth, she is only known as an extremely beautiful woman. So beautiful, that people stopped worshiping Aphrodite (Venus), and began to worship Psykhe instead. But Psykhe was only a mortal woman, placed up on a pedestal, and while her sisters were finding love and marriage, the idolized Psykhe could not form such bonds with anyone.

Meanwhile, in the myth, Aphrodite is angry that people are neglecting her worship, and sends her son Eros (Cupid), the god of love and desire, to cause Psykhe to fall in love with an ugly man. However, Eros scratches himself with his own arrow, causing him to fall in love with Psykhe. Since Psykhe is unable to find love, her father consults the oracle of Apollon, who says that Psykhe will marry a horrible monster. Psykhe is dressed in funeral attire for her wedding, and goes to her fate – to meet the unknown, in both marriage and death.

She is swept up by the west wind and brought to a palace. Here she never sees her husband, despite joining with him in the bedroom many times. Psykhe’s sisters are soon allowed to visit her, and seeing the wonderful palace in which she lives, they become jealous and try to convince her to see and kill her husband, who is surely the horrible monster the oracle foresaw. Psykhe, at night, looks upon her husband, and sees none other than Eros. She is so startled by his beauty, she manages to prick herself on one of his arrows, and spills hot oil on Eros, who flies away.

Psykhe then begins to wander the earth, searching for her love. Her sisters, on the other hand, become even more jealous when finding out who Psykhe’s husband was, and both offer themselves to Eros, jumping off a cliff in hopes the west wind would carry them to the palace… but, both fall to their deaths.

In her wanderings, Psykhe first comes across a temple of Demeter (Ceres) that has fallen into disarray. Psykhe, in contrast to the beginning of the story, realizes that the proper worship of the gods should not be allowed to decay, and sets about cleaning the temple. Demeter, however, tells Psykhe that she cannot help her. Psykhe runs into the same problem while serving Hera (Juno), and she realizes that she must go to Aphrodite herself.

Psykhe is sent by Aphrodite to complete a number of seemingly impossible tasks, which she manages to do with the aid of nature and the gods. Aphrodite then sends Psykhe to the underworld to obtain some of Persephone’s (Proserpina’s) beauty. This is similar in symbolism to Psykhe’s earlier wedding, where she was dressed in funeral garb. She enters into the land of the dead, and by escaping, is reborn. Similar myths can be found in many cultures, including Inanna’s descent into the underworld to retrieve her own lost love.

Psykhe passes by many challenges in the underworld, meets with the Queen of the Dead herself, and is given a box to take to Aphrodite. it is not until she is back in the land of the living that she is overwhelmed by curiosity – she has to know what, exactly, it is that Persephone has given to Aphrodite, and if she can use it herself. Remember, this is a human woman who is already said to be more beautiful than Aphrodite. So of course, it doesn’t end well for Psykhe. All the box contains is sleep, and she falls into a complete torpor.

The myth ends with Eros finding Psykhe, and using his powers to wake her. Eros then asks Zeus (Jupiter) for help, and Zeus agrees – with the stipulation that Eros helps Zeus with love when asked to do so. Psykhe is made immortal, and she and Eros are finally given a true wedding, this time as equals.

The whole myth is symbolic of the fall and redemption of the human soul. It is a story of transformation, and this is why in art Psykhe is often shown accompanied by butterflies, or with butterfly wings, as butterflies are also a symbol of transformation.

Beyond that, there are perhaps also some parallels with the mythology of Krishna and Radha, where Radha is seen as the longing and love a human might feel toward the divine. But more than that, Psykhe’s tale is also one of the human soul’s longing for love and union – again, be it with the divine, with those around us, or even in finding completion in ourselves. It is not just a story of two lovers finding each other, but the story of the human soul struggling to become whole onto itself.

In the story, some might see Psykhe’s act of looking on Eros as a stupid mistake. Things were going good for her, why would she listen to her sisters? Well, beyond thinking she was in danger, this is also the true beginning of Psykhe’s transformation. If she had chosen to never do this, she would have stagnated, and never would have grown. It would be like a caterpillar staying in its cocoon, never transforming, never emerging as a butterfly.

Psykhe would have continued meeting with Eros only in the dark, and their union never would have come to conscious light, and Psykhe would not have found lasting happiness and true love. Instead, she shines the light on the unseen, and although at first it seems this was a mistake, in truth in each following task she becomes stronger.

She chooses to search for Eros, she wanders until she discovers the correct path. She meets with Aphrodite who forces her to sort seeds (sort out herself, in a sense), to gather fleece, which she does when she realizes that she should use wisdom over brute strength, and so on. It’s not easy, but the soul is transformed through hard work, not through sitting stagnant.

With each task Psykhe wants to give up, she feels she can’t do these things alone - but of course she doesn’t have to. She succeeds in her tasks with the aid of those around her. However, although she is given instructions on what to do in the underworld, who to avoid, and so on, when she descends into the underworld to meet with the Queen of the Dead, she does so alone, and in the same way, she ascends back into the light on her own. There are some places within us that only we can journey to. And likewise we must know and travel our subconscious, the dark places within and without. If we don’t travel these paths, embrace them, can we ever truly become whole?

And who, on a spiritual journey, has not faced a large setback? No matter how far we might come, it’s always a possibility. Psykhe, free from the underworld, so close to the end of her journey, opens the box. She returns back to sleep, to unseeing, unknowing, unconscious. It is love, desire, that brings her, once again, back to the light.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Too many calendars.

On a side note to my last post, having been following the Greek festival calendar these last few months, which again, runs on lunar based months. So, while this current moon cycle is the blue moon (running with the seasonal method), the same cycle is also the month of Thargelion. This leaves me with some overlap, each 'month' essentially having two names, which leads me to several questions... 

Do I want to continue thinking of the moons in that way, is there a point to continuing to do so, especially when I find myself not really focusing rituals around them so much anymore? Is there a way to incorporate these cycles into the monthly Greek cycles of the new crescent moon's Noumenia, Artemis' sixth night, the rites I preform for Selene on the full moon, Hekate's supper at the end of the month? Could there be an overlap, or is it just taking on too much, and not letting something go just because it's what I've done in the past?

Truth is, I'm not really sure at all yet! I do think it's important to honor my local cultural cycles, which I'm not sure the Greek calendar really lines up with. I do plan on continuing to celebrate the solstices, equinoxes, and cross-quarters. Perhaps those meshed with the Greek months would be the best? No idea yet. I'm excited to see how the next few years end up playing out, though.

Side note to my side note, I sort of love being on an evolving path. I know I've said that before, and I'm sure I'll say it again. Some things stay the same, some things change, and that works well for me. Even if it's not always easy to figure out how some things fit together, or when something is no longer working for me, in the end it's worth it.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Oh, the blue moon, and those crazy luni-solar calendars.

The blue moon is something I've written about before, way back in 2011, and again in 2012. But just to re-cap, there are two ways of marking a blue moon. Many are familiar with the second full moon in a calendar month as being a blue moon. However, the older definition of a blue moon was the third full moon in a season with four, where most seasons only have three.

The two in a month definition actually came from a mistake printed in Sky and Telescope magazine, and it's stuck ever since. This makes sense, as most people are probably much more familiar with the every-day calendar than they are with astronomical seasonal cycles. (Here's an article from 2006, which explains in depth about the history of both terms.)

Now, the recent full moon was actually a seasonal blue moon. This lead to some confusion because, again, most folks know and go by the twice in a month definition, and that's fine. But I did run into one very special lady who was very... well, pissed off about the whole thing. She kept saying that she was sticking to the "old way" and that this was new internet hype and nothing more!

So, again. No. The twice in a month method is less than a century old. The seasonal method dates back to at least 1819, and is likely older than that. This isn't internet hype by any means, and a lot of us have been using this method for quite a while.

Now she did ask an interesting question of why the third full moon is blue, and not the fourth. Unfortunately, she later said this was a totally rhetorical question to show how little sense this method made, and I really should stop imposing information on her! Yeah, really.

The thing is... it actually does make sense. The third moon is given the blue name to keep the other lunar names matching up with their seasonal events as best as possible. The third moon instead of the fourth keeps the whole season from being "moved up" too far. That's really all there is to it. It's often why old luni-solar calendars stuck their occasional "leap month" into the middle-ish of their year, and not just at the end, so that seasonal festivals would still be around the same time as they should be.

Speaking of luni-solar calendars, this same woman also insisted that lunar and solar calendars have always been separate and it's only recently that Christians and neo-pagans have tried to mash the two together to try to fit in with the Gregorian calendar! Which shows an amazing lack of understanding about history. Luni-solar calendars are pretty darn ancient. They predate Christianity by a long shot. This is a calendar that is based on lunar months, fixed around a solstice or equinox. For example, the ancient Greeks fixed their lunar months around the summer solstice. This lady kept going on about the Celtic calendar, too, which is funny because the oldest known Celtic calendar we can reliably assemble is, you guessed it, a luni-solar calendar. 

Really, let's be honest, the twice in a calendar month method only makes sense with the modern Gregorian calendar. If you go back to lunar based months, of course you couldn't have two full moons in a month, because one moon cycle is one month. Not that all these old calendars actually had something called a blue moon, or cared so much about the moons in their seasons, but again, it's not like this is some crazy new idea. Entwining lunar and solar calendars is really darn old school.

And I'm not trying to talk anyone out of using the twice a month method! It obviously makes sense to a lot of people, since again, the Gregorian calendar is one most of us use in our day to day lives! But it's always good to know the origins of what you're using in your personal practice. Especially if you're going to hang out in a public forum and try to call out people for being dumb internet-hype loving neo-pagans...

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Rite of Her Sacred Fires

Last night I preformed the Rite of Her Sacred Fires, in honor of Hekate. It was very interesting to do a ritual exactly as many people all over the world were doing. I was surprised how many people, in how many places, actually participated in the ritual.

I used oil lamps for light during the ritual, but the actual 'sacred fire' used was fire I lit in a small cauldron. Part of the rite involves reciting the Ephesian letters, a sort of mantra for Hekate, so to speak. While reciting them, the fire went crazy! That's something I'll have to follow up on, for sure.

Another interesting thing was how alive the woods around me became. There was movement all around the clearing I was in, unlike anything I've ever experienced before. The night before I'd held a small ritual for Selene in the same spot, not much later in the evening, and the woods were quite still and tranquil.

I was also out there much longer than I realized. The whole rite only takes some five minutes to complete, without the meditation bit, and I stayed out there for almost an hour without really realizing it. It was a very nice night.


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The oldest religion?

Earlier today, a discussion was started about what the oldest religion is. Interestingly, a few people said Buddhism was the oldest, but Buddhism came out of Hinduism. Hinduism was also a common answer, one some folks were very sure of, but Hinduism is only truly the oldest if you stop counting religions that fell out of practice. For example, the Egyptian pyramid texts are said to be the oldest religious texts in the world, so older than the Vedas, and yet we know that there were more religions that predated the pyramid texts.

Unfortunately, we'll likely never know what the actual oldest religion humans practiced was. All we can really do is speculate about what our most distant ancestors got up to, how their spirituality might have looked, perhaps it was shamanistic, animistic, but the truth is that information has been lost to time.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Home Again

Well, things have settled down a bit, and I'm back in my apartment, for a few days at least. My grandfather is finally up and about after his knee replacement, doing very well.

While at my grandparents' I was not only helping out with the household needs, but I was also swamped in work, and I came down with a head cold, so not too much time for other activities. But, I did manage to get the altar built!

It's not quite what I had in mind, but I figure I can always add to it as needed. It was quite the undertaking to haul the larger stones out to this spot. (It perhaps looks a bit taller than it is? It's meant to be knelt at.) There was a lot of sweat, some blood, and... well not tears, but germs, from coughing all over them. So, that's great.

I only finished assembling it last night, despite the stones sitting around for what, a week? But with it being the sixth of the lunar month, Artemis' day, and the Thargelia festival, I figured I must get it done.

Thargelia is a festival dedicated to Artemis and Apollon. In antiquity is was a festival to celebrate the new shoots of the spouting harvest, and a time to drive away all bad things, purify, and welcome in good things. The agricultural aspect of the festival doesn't fit in very well with life in New Hampshire, as farming wise, there's not going to be any planting for another week or two. But foraging, there are thing starting to come up, like fiddle-heads.

The purification aspect worked well with finally getting the altar built. I went out a bit after sunset, with the moon already high in the sky, and washed the altar down with blessed water. Next I took barley, and sprinkled it on the altar and the space around it. Finally, I burned a mixture of patchouli, mugwort, and rosemary and carried it around the ritual space, and fanned the smoke to the altar.

I dedicated the spot generally to all the Gods who bring good things, and then more specifically to Artemis, Hekate, and Selene, who will be seeing the majority of worship here. In fact, as I mentioned earlier, I'm only in my apartment for a short while, as I plan to go back to my grandparents' next weekend for the full moon, which brings the Rite of Her Sacred Fires for Hekate. (http://hekatecovenant.com/rite-of-her-sacred-fires/) I am not a member of the covenant, and have not done this rite in years past, but this year it seemed appropriate. There's just something about many people, from many traditions, coming together at the same time, to do the same ritual in honor of a deity they all feel called to.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Outside of the Maiden-Mother-Crone Triad

I'm sure many pagans are familiar with the Maiden-Mother-Crone goddess often found within Wicca and other modern forms of paganism. There seems to be a misunderstanding, however, that this was a widespread ancient Goddess. I am only aware of one example of a goddess, Hera, being worshiped as girl, wife, and widow in one of her ancient shrines - and she was not a moon goddess. Additionally, some take this to mean that all ancient Goddesses can, or should, be put into one of the three even when they, historically, would not fit into one. Hekate comes to mind first, often called a crone goddess, and yet she was very much a virgin-maiden to most of the ancient Greek world. I have no doubt she appears as crone to some, yet the Greeks saw her this way for a reason, and to completely overlook it misses out on understanding a big part of her character. (Really, the whole Artemis-Selene-Hekate thing is bound to be it's own post, soon enough.)

But really, it's not just goddesses, but women who try to fit into one of these three groups. For some women these are powerful archetypes to connect with - but there are many of us who just do not fit in. Some try to work around it by saying, well, if you create, or nurture, then you are a mother! But... I create art. Why do we lump artist in with mother? Why can't artist be it's own stand-alone archetype. Well, I mean it is, there are so many more archetypes for a woman to explore if one wants to do so.

I'm not a mother. I do not fit with that group, and I do not want to take away from the mothers by insisting that I somehow fit there, for doing other things that don't really have to do with motherhood. So does it make me a maiden, or crone?

Well, no. I am thirty years old. There are some aspects of maidenhood still within in me, for sure, but there is a lot that is no longer there. I am not a mother, as was said, and in fact the medical issues I had last year? They resulted in a hysterectomy - at my own choice. I have never wanted biological children, and I do not want children at all. I love kids, I really do, but I don't want to be a mom. So having had the hysterectomy, did I jump right into being a crone? Well, no. Again, thirty years old, not quite what I'd call a crone - even if I do notice some traits associated with crones starting to emerge.

Honestly, this is something I have seen a lot of women struggling with, especially those of us who have had early hysterectomies - and especially those who did not want them, but had no choice. They end up feeling left out, when that's not necessary at all! Where is the warrior, the queen, the poet-scribe, the artist, the muse, the hunter, the healer, the priestess?

Humans are complex creatures. I do not think there are many of us who fit totally into one nice neat archetype. A mother can be an artist. A maiden can be a healer. A crone can be a warrior. A woman can reject maiden-mother-crone and still find herself priestess-queen, or anything else. So often pagans love to reject labels, want to be outside the box and all that, so why are we limiting ourselves to these three archetypes as if that's how it's always been, or all there is?

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Melpomene, whose name is derived from a Greek word meaning "to celebrate with song and dance," is a Greek goddess, and one of the nine Mousai, or Muses. Her sphere of influence is tragedy. Her symbols include a tragic mask, a sword or knife, a club, and kothornos, a style of ancient Greek boots, and one which was popular with Athenian tragic actors. Her high wasted outfit is also reminiscent of what tragic actors would often wear.
Thaleia, or Thalia, whose name is derived from a Greek word meaning to flourish/bloom, or festivity, is a Greek goddess, and one of the nine Mousai, or Muses. Her sphere of influence is comedy and idyllic poetry, which are poems descriptive of rustic countryside life. Her symbols are a comic mask, ivy wreath, and shepherd's crook. The vaudeville act of pulling someone of the stage with a hook is perhaps a reference to Thaleia's crook.
Terpsikhore, or Terpsichore, whose name means "delighting in dancing," is a Greek goddess, and one of the nine Mousai, or Muses. Her sphere of influence is choral song and dance. Her symbols are a lyre and a plectrum/pick. In some myths she is described as the mother of the Sirens, although in others her sister Melpomone is given this credit.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Building the Altar

I began my day by heading out to the clearing where I want to build an altar. As I suspected, when the moon hits it's peak in the sky it is perfectly visible from the clearing - even when it's higher or lower in the sky, it will still be well visible. Same for the sun.

Later in the day I went out with the rake and started cleaning the area up a bit. I also purchased some stones and blocks to build with. I was hoping they'd have some round paving stones, had an interesting potential design in mind for them, but no luck there. So right now there's just a very basic table design, and a few square stones to help mark the boundary - all to be assembled tomorrow, hopefully. Just in time to break it in with a Beltane ritual, if all goes well.

While I was there I also noticed some hooks, for hanging bird feeders or planters on, but they'd work well for holding little candle lanterns, too, which might make an interesting addition to the site. It will be fun to add to it over time.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

THE PERFECT ALTAR SPOT

I know I've probably mentioned this in the past, but I spend a lot of time at my grandparents' house (where I was raised), about an hour away from my apartment. I'm here now as my grandfather just had his second knee replacement. He's doing fine and will make a quick recovery, but it does mean I'll be here for at least a week, probably longer, as no one else in the house can drive.

Now they live in a very rural area. I can go in the backyard and do rituals without a bunch of neighbors wondering what the heck is going on, and beyond the backyard is a ton of woods. (A much shorter trek than my usual spots at the apartment.) Usually I just sit under a big maple tree, or sometimes I use the fire pit they have.

But I was in the woods just near the backyard this evening with the puppy, and my gosh, the PERFECT spot is right out there. It's just right beyond the wood line, a circular clearing. I was standing there with the dog thinking it was a shame that a lot of trees had been cut down in the area few years ago... until I realized, that, you know, I now had a perfect view of sun, moon, and stars, through the trees. It's a completely private spot, not far from the house, amazing sky view... how could I not take advantage of this?

So tomorrow I'm going to check out a few hardware stores, see what they have for paving stones, garden rock supplies, that sort of thing. I'm thinking I can build a nice stone altar out there, flat surface to actually hold workings on. I also need to rake the cleaning out a bit, to give a nice area to build on. Perhaps partially outline the circle in smaller rocks from the backyard. A lot of ideas floating around right now.

I'm very excited to have found this spot that is so private, and yet, is also not a long hike through the woods. It means that I can actually build something that is more than just a small pile of stones, like the small shrines I've built in the woods around the apartment. I can finally have a large, permanent, outdoor working area. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Mounykhia

On Saturday evening I celebrated a festival called Mounykhia. It is held in honor of Artemis in her roles of Lady of the Beasts, and as a moon goddess. This festival is, to my knowledge, the only festival held specifically for Artemis at the full moon - her sacred day was the sixth day of the lunar cycle, and so most of her festivals would fall then.





The traditional offering made to Artemis at this time would be round cakes, called amphiphontes, which means something similar to shining all around, which were decorated with little torches. It would seem these cakes were offered before the sun set, but after the moon had risen. Unfortunately, this wasn't possible in my location, as the moon wouldn't rise until well after sunset.

So I offered a cake and flowers in the woods at sunset. A honey almond cake, topped with walnuts, lemon zest, and sweet goat cheese. (Goats were also a traditional sacrifice at this time, so I wanted to include some sort of goat product.) As well as a libation of mead mixed with honey and olive oil. I spent some time meditation on Artemis' Orphic hymn.

Later in the night I poured out another offering of warm milk, honey, and cinnamon, and meditated on Artemis as goddess of the moon, and as light bringer in the dark. I also spent some time praying for others who had requested it.       

During both events, something interesting happened. I have never in my some seventeen odd years of practice considered myself a priestess. Either because I belonged to a specific tradition where being a priest held a particular meaning, or because as a solitary practitioner it seemed like an unnecessary thing to do. And yet on that night, for the first time, for some reason, I felt somewhat like a priestess. I do not particularity know what to make of that. What that actually means. It's something I'm sure I'll be turning over in my medtations for a good while.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Solstices, equinoxes, and sabbats, oh my...

Today I was going to write about my Mounykhia celebration, but I'm still processing it a bit, and there's something else at the front of my mind right now.

I've seen a lot of confusion about what a solstice is today. I've spent, well, honestly more time than I should have trying to clear up the confusion. Honest mistakes are one thing, we all make them now and then, but some people would rather eat their own faces than admit they might be wrong, apparently...

So yeah, let's start this talking about what a sabbat is. The term sabbat comes from Gerald Gardner and Wicca, although it's spread to many neo-pagan traditions these days. There are, to most who follow this system, eight sabbats in a year. Two solstices, two equinoxes, and four cross quarter days. (Esbats are another beast altogether, and these days usually refer to a full moon celebration, or other lunar celebrations.)

I think for some the confusion is simply mixing up the word sabbat and solstice. Truly though, there are only two solstices in the year - one in June, and one in December. In the northern hemisphere these days mark the astronomical beginning of summer and winter, and fall around the longest and shortest days. (In the southern hemisphere, this is reversed, with the June solstice being the winter solstice, and the December solstice summer.)

If you want to read a bit more about the two solstices, take a look at this webpage. You can see in the last section the mention of equinoxes. Again, there are two of these in the year, one in March, and one in September. The word equinox is derived from a word meaning equal-night. In other words, on these two days the length of day and night are both equal to each other, or close to it. (The actual day this happens in your area might not be on the day the astronomical equinox occurs, but it will be very close.

Now, these four days, the two equinoxes, and two solstices, are sometimes called the quarter days. If you draw a circle, then draw a line from north to south, and one from east to west, you'll see why. Each point where a line touches the circle can represent one of these days, and they seem to cut the year into fourths, or, in other words, they quarter the year.

So, if you then draw an X through the + in your circle, you can see how there are four more days that cross the quarters, or, in other words, the cross quarter days. These are the sabbats Imbolc, Beltane, Lammas, and Samhain. (Or by any other variant name/spelling one might use for these days.)

And here's what is probably the worst Wheel of the Year graphic out there, but hey, hopefully it gets the point across.

It's probably also obvious from this image why it's often referred to as the Wheel of the Year. Looks like a wheel, turns like a wheel, and like a wheel we always come back to the same spot eventually, the seasons just keep on turning.

Okay, now why does it matter? What's the problem if people want to call everything a solstice? Well, I mean, would you call an apple a cheeseburger? Would you call a bucket of ice cream a cheeseburger? What about a bowl of cereal? No, probably not, because that wouldn't make much sense. And if you did, people would probably get confused real fast. It is essentially like calling Halloween, Easter, and all other holidays Christmas. You might know what you're talking about, but other people are going to have no clue. So if you're, you know, online for the sole purpose of talking to people, that making sense bit is rather important.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Fun Fact!

If I have no idea who you are, you've never commented on my blog before, and you decided to leave a comment that's advertising something? Even if it's semi-pagan related? It's spam and it's getting deleted.

The Muses, Part Two

Kalliope, or Calliope, whose name means beautiful-voiced, is a Greek goddess and one of the nine Mousai, or Muses. Her sphere of influence is that of epic poetry (such as Homer's Iliad), and she was also said to bestow eloquence, especially on kings and princes. Her symbols are a tablet and stylus, a scroll, or a lyre.

Erato, whose name means something like "beloved" or "lovely," is a Greek goddess, one of the nine Mousai, or Muses. Her sphere of influence is that of love poetry and erotic poetry. Her symbols are the lyre, or a similar instrument, the cithara. Beginning during the Renaissance, she would often be shown wearing a wreath of myrtle and roses.
Euterpe, whose name means "well pleasing," or "(giver of) delight," is a Greek goddess and one of the nine Mousai, or Muses. Her sphere of influence is that of music, song, and lyric poetry, which is a form of poetry which expresses personal emotions or feelings. In Greece this type of poetry generally would have been sung, and accompanied by a lyre or other stringed instrument. Her symbols are the aulos (a type of flute), pan pipes, and a laurel wreath.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Fate, Revisited

A few years back I wrote a bit about fate, the future, and foresight. It's a topic I've been revisiting a lot lately, after discussing the idea of fate and predestination with someone.

My basic thoughts on the subject have not changed, but the discussion did provide with some interesting insight. This was a person who did believe in predestination to some extent. That fate was a thing, we all had one, and there was no escaping it. Coincidences were not a thing, everything happens for a reason. Again, not my personal belief, but I get that it's a belief that's been around for a long, long time.

What was interesting to me, though, is they said if I didn't believe in such things, why would I be practicing a religion with rituals or doing spells, or anything else? Because if nothing is fated, or meant to be, what's the point?

See, to me, I feel the exact opposite way. I can't wrap my head around the idea of believing in predestination and doing spells, because what would the point be? Why do a healing work? Either someone would be fated to get better, or not. Why do a prosperity spell? Either the extra money will come your way, or it won't, and so on.

On the other hand, if you don't believe in fate, if you believe that there's freewill, that the future is malleable, it sure makes sense that people would be interesting in doing spells to gain favorable outcomes.

I do realize it's not all one or the other, that one can believe that only a few events in life are fated to be. It's this grey area I've been wondering about lately, thinking about how it may fit into my beliefs, if, truly, it fits in at all. At this point, I'm not sure that it does...

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Hypocrisy In Spellcraft

Today the subject of banishing came up in a community I belong to. For some reason, people seem to think that banishing has to be this awful, negative, harmful thing. It really does not have to be. (You all know you don't have to banish someone to the deepest pits of hell, right...?)

But what bothered me, is they said there's always an alternative, like if you have an awful neighbor, you should pray for them to get an out of state job, or whatever. You wouldn't want to be banishing them, because that would be influencing their situation. That was their direct reasoning for not wanting to banish, because it would influence that person.

Here's the thing. Banishing someone sure is influencing them - but so is praying for them to change jobs.

I get that a lot of witches aren't into causing harm, or working on magic on someone without consent, and fine, whatever works for you. But come on. If you're going to follow that (and often while insisting others do, too), shouldn't you be following it all the way? If you're against influencing people, you have to understand that even "positive" things are still influences. Also, just because you might think something is positive, doesn't necessarily mean the recipient thinks so.