B – Blessings in Disguise, or Even Bull-headedness Has It’s Limits (PBP week 4)

Photo credit:  Chris Gold.  Used under Creative Commons license

Photo credit: Chris Gold. Used under Creative Commons license

So, I was supposed go to San Francisco last Monday.  My husband had a doctor’s appointment.

It’s a 500 mile round trip, and we only had about $75 to make it on, so I was very worried.  Still we had to go – Francis had waited 2 months for this appointment and if he rescheduled, he’d probably have to wait 2 more.

So, we arranged to borrow my mother’s car, which had a full tank of gas and gets much better mileage than ours.  (Mom’s car has been known to have some weird ignition problems, but we’re covered under her roadside assistance, so I wasn’t too worried about it stranding us.)  I packed up a cooler full of food so we wouldn’t have to stop for road food along the way.  We’d planned to drive down, go to the appointment, then drive back the same day – getting us home by bedtime.

We arose early Monday morning and got the car packed up.  I was feeling very competent, for once I hadn’t forgotten anything – food, water, directions, meds (in case an emergency delayed us past time to take them.)

Last thing before we left, we made an offering to Hermes for a safe journey and return.  Or that’s what we intended to do.  He misspoke the prayer and instead of asking that we travel “in safety and without incident,” he said “without safety.”  A minor error.  He corrected it an attempted to make the offering.  After 3 tries the coals would not light.  This made us uneasy, but we started over from the beginning, saying the prayer correctly and everything went smoothly.

So we said goodbye to mom, climbed into the car and turned the key.

It wouldn’t start.

The ignition problem.  Usually, if we switch keys it’ll work.  I borrowed mom’s key.  Nothing.  About half the time he tried the key there would be absolutely no response – the usual problem.  The other half of the time, the dash lights would come on and the car would ding at him for having his door open with the key in the ignition.  Something new.

I thought maybe it was the battery, so we tried jump starting it using our car.

Again, nothing.

We were obviously going to have to use our car for the trip after all.  I had done the math, and the only way we could make it there and back was if the car’s freeway mileage was significantly better than in town.   And by “significantly” I mean 8 – 10 mpg  better.  It’s an old car.  I was not confident.

We decided, with mom’s permission, to try to siphon some of the gas out of her car to give us an edge.  So, after crawling around the attic looking for a proper hose, Francis tries to suck some of the gas out.  He can’t get any suction.  Neither can I.  I fill the hose with water to check for leaks and try to get the siphon started that way.  (Most of the water poured out onto the street as planned, but now I’m afraid some of it might have dribbled into her tank.)

It didn’t work either.

Apparently her car is protected against that sort of thing.

We look at our car.

“We’ve got roadside assistance.” I tell him, trying to be optimistic.  “If we run out of gas, they’ll come and get us going again, right?”

“They’d probably only put in a gallon or so.  If we can get within 20 miles of home, we’re free and clear.”

“2o miles, huh?  It’s unlimited calls.  Do you think they’d let us call them every twenty miles?”

Pause.

“Yeah, we’re not supposed to make this trip.”

Happy ending:  when Francis called the doctor’s office to reschedule, they were able to give him an appointment for this Monday, which is after we get paid.  It will be a much more relaxed trip.

I don’t know what would have happened if we’d tried to go anyway.  At best, I imagine us stranded by the side of the road trying to argue the Allstate people into putting more gas in the tank.  At worst?  I don’t want to think about it.

The Gods do look out for us.  Just not always in the way we’d like Them to.

Apologies

There I was, all excited about starting the Pagan Blog Project 2013 from the beginning so I wouldn’t have to play catch up, and what do you know?  It’s January 23 and I’m already two weeks behind.  Going on three.

In my defense, the job search has been eating up all of my time.  I think I’ll actually have more time for blogging and other things once I’m working full time again.

This month I celebrated Hecate’s Deipnon, Noumenia, and made libations to the Agathos Daimon for the first time and a possible result is that my luck has taken a major turn for the better.  I feel like a job – which would be the major turning point – is just around the corner.

In the meantime, I’ll be playing catch up for awhile, just like last year.

B – Brighid (PBP week 3)

Imbolc is approaching, and it is one of the only neo-pagan holidays I still celebrate.  This is because of its relationship to Brighid, and the special place She holds in my heart.

If Odin was the first pagan deity that I had direct experience of, Brighid was the second.  And it was a far more pleasant experience.

Several years ago, I had decided that I needed to strip everything down and go back to basics.  My soft polytheistic theology wasn’t working for me any more.  I realized I had come to think of the Gods as unique individuals, or perhaps I always had and was only then comfortable with going my own way.  Either way, I needed to work this epiphany into my faith and practice.

When I started re-reading mythology with an eye towards finding a deity to approach, Brighid’s name just jumped off of the page, and I had what I think of as a “well duh” moment.  I had studied Celtic mythology years earlier – thought it would be a good fit, since so many of my ancestors were from Britain and Ireland – but it didn’t resonate with me.  I didn’t feel a connection with any of the Gods.  Except Brighid.  So here I was, years later, and the same Goddess was speaking to me.

I decided to start worshiping Her.  I set up a small shrine and burned candles and incense to Her nightly.  I learned prayers in Irish that I would say throughout the day as needed.  I joined a flame keeping cill.

And, unlike when I called to “the God” or “the Goddess,” I felt something respond.  I never really saw an anthropomorphic image of Brighid in my mind, but I came to know Her presence – a feeling akin to the heat of the sun, or of a forge.

Time went on and I was feeling very good about the way things were going.  I began to seriously consider becoming a devotee, pledging myself to Her.

That’s when things got weird.

Brighid had became more distant.  Though She still responded to my prayers, I would often find my thoughts directed to the Roman goddess Minerva, then the Etruscan Menrva, and finally to the Greek Athena.  (At this same time, and completely unrelated to my spiritual practices, I had been developing a strong interest in Roman history and culture.  I blame James Purefoy and Ciaran Hinds.)

At first I was confused – it almost seemed like She was trying to direct me back to the “all goddesses are one” perspective.  Except the experiences I was having with each of these goddesses, brief as they were, showed me entities with very distinct personalities.

I finally guessed what was going on was that Brighid didn’t want me as a devotee.  I didn’t belong to Her.  She was basically taking me by the and, and step by step, through my Roman interest and paths that I would understand, was showing me where I did belong.

Remembering my childhood love of Greek mythology, I tried meditating on that pantheon, Athena in particular.  The response I got from Her was welcoming, but a little stand offish.  As though She were saying “No dearie – you think you’d be mine, wouldn’t you?  A studious little girl like you?  But no.  Have you met my little brother?”

And that, as they say was that.

I suspect I’m not the only one who had this sort of experience with Her.  Brighid is extremely popular in neo-paganism.  I think, perhaps, one reason might be that She has taken it upon Herself to welcome many of us into the fold while we become acquainted with how polytheism works.  Just speculation on my part, but it’s a comforting idea.

A – Ariadne (PBP week 2)

Ariadne by John William Waterhouse

I knew all along that when the Pagan Blog Project came back around “A,”  I would be writing about Ariadne.  As the wife of Dionysos, she is an important figure in my faith.  I imagined, however, that this post would be along the lines of the one I wrote last year for Semele:  basically a recap of Her mythology and various cultic honors, interspersed with my own feelings about Her.

But then, that was before we were properly introduced.

It all started with a dream.  I won’t go into the details here, but it was one of those dreams that you just know comes from somewhere outside of your own head.  Suffice to say that it was about Dionysos – I had been questioning whether I was really fit to be His follower, and the dream was addressing those concerns.  Ariadne Herself appeared at the end and gave me Her nod of approval.  Apparently I was acceptable as “one of the girls…”

Bacchus and Ariadne by Gros

Or maybe it started before that, when I turned a corner at the Phoenix Art Museum and found myself face to face with this painting:  Bacchus and Ariadne by Antoine-Jean Gros.  I rarely like how Dionysos, or Bacchus, is portrayed in art of any period except ancient Greek, or the occasional contemporary piece.  This painting was is exception.  But Ariadne was a different story.  She captivated me.  Every time I returned to the museum (which was fairly often, it being one of the few places I actually liked in Phoenix) I would find myself coming back to this painting, standing enthralled before Her until something broke the spell.

So now I find myself slowly getting to know Ariadne, not as a distant figure in myth, but as the living goddess that She is.

A goddess who was once human.  She was worshiped in places as Ariadne-Aphrodite, but unlike the Olympian Aphrodite, Ariadne has experience love as a human would.  She has made mistakes.  She has faced rejection and a broken heart.  In the end, she triumphs.  In this aspect she is a comforting goddess.
Her aspect of Mistress of the Labyrinth hints and a much darker mystery.  I am intrigued, and must explore deeper.

Unfortunately my understanding is too fragmentary, the acquaintance too new, for me to be able to write further today.  For a more coherent perspective on Ariadne, I recommend the links below.

http://www.theoi.com/Georgikos/Ariadne.html

http://seastruckbythecrossroads.wordpress.com/2012/10/21/meditations-on-ariadne/

A – Agathos Daimon (PBP week 1)

One of my New Year’s Resolutions for 2013 was to make the changes in my religious practice that I’ve been telling myself I’d like to do “someday.”  I’ve decided someday is now.

The first of these things I plan to incorporate into my practice are a trio of household observances undertaken at the time of the new moon, when one month changes to the next.  On the last day of the month is Hecate’s Deipnon, a day of purification when offerings are made to Hecate and the home is rid of anything one does not want to take into the next month.  On the first day of the new month is the Noumenia, a day of blessings.  Offerings are made to Selene, Apollon, Hestia and the household Gods, and the family makes for the coming month.  The third and last day of this triad is when the Agathos Daimon is honored.  While our family will be doing all of these, it is this last practice that I want to talk about today.

“Agathos Daimon” simply means “good spirit.”  He is an entity that watches over the household and the family that resides in it, possibly an aspect of Zeus, as the Father of the Gods often bears this epithet, or Dionysos who shares the epithet.  A serving of unmixed wine was often drunk in his name at the closing of feasts or symposia.  It seems more likely to me that this is a lesser spirit, somewhere between Gods and humanity and possibly a little alien to both.

The Agathos Daimon is often represent as a young man hold a cornucopia, or as a snake.  When the family is on good terms with their Daimon He can provide them with luck, protection, and some kinds of assistance.

My family could certainly do with some luck, protection, and assistance right now.  But that actually is beside the point.

When our family first moved in to this new house early last year, we discovered that a beautiful little garter snake was living under our laundry room.  We see him very rarely and I, as I have learned more about this particular household practice, my thoughts keep going back to him.  I have come to think of him as a manifestation of the Daimon of the house.  Starting this month, when we begin making offerings, we will be doing so in the part of the yard where the snake has most often been seen.

 

Resources:

www.theoi.com

www.hellennion.org

Many thanks to the people at Hellenion for their very useful version of the Athenian calendar and explanations of the festivals.