Um, Silent July, August, and most of June…

So, I really had no intention of going silent for July.  Or August for that matter.  (Not that I don’t understand and respect the reasoning of those who did.)

I just sorta stopped being interested in blogging for awhile.

I’d like to think I was “doing stuff” instead of “writing about doing stuff,” and that was definitely part of it.  To  be perfectly honest though, it’s not like I was so busy with devotional practice and art I couldn’t slip a post in here and there.  I just didn’t have much to say I guess.

I decided to quit doing the Pagan Blog Project because, while I love it and enjoy seeing the posts everyone comes up with, I found myself feeling pressured to write just for the sake of having written.  (Also, when you’re in the middle of a ritual and find yourself thinking about just how you’ll word the description of the experience, it’s probably time to take a break from the internets…)

So, what have I been doing instead?OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I’ve set up an altar to my ancestors and beloved dead.  At this point, I’ve yet to really begin regular offerings, but it’s good to have the constant reminder that they’re there.  I’ve found myself talking to them more often as a result, which has got to be a good thing.

Continuing my daily prayers and offerings.

I’ve also been doing art, devotional and otherwise.  I’m quite proud of the mask I made for Dionysos.

Also been doing regular life things like holding down a job and taking care of  a sick puppy.

Still, I like having the blogs.  I’m going to try to find a happy medium between never posting and never doing anything else because  I’m focused on writing about it.

Any suggestions?

Another Day in Another Life…

Previous incarnation of Dionysos’ shrine, since simplified (and expanded)

There seems to be a new trend in the pagan blogosphere of sharing what one’s daily devotions look like.  I like it.  (Plus, it’s far healthier than the other bandwagons I’ve jumped on lately.)

Many who have shared are hardcore mystics and spirit workers.  My practice is much simpler than theirs, though I wouldn’t quite call myself a lay person – I feel called to a much more involved practice, but I am only just beginning on my path.  (Despite 20+ years of paganism!)

So here’s what my day looks like right now, religiously:

I wake up in the morning, get a cup of coffee and check out my blog roll.  Often this means I’ll quickly find myself bogged down in the pagan dramas of the day.  To avoid this, I try to pick one or two things to read that look inspiring or at least interesting.

(After all, I can always pop me some popcorn and read the train wreck later if I really want to.)

Once I’m fully awake I shower or – depending on the occasion and need – at least wash my face and hands.  Then I dress in my normal clothes for the day, gather my offerings and go to Dionysos’ shrine.  I’ll take a minute to prepare the shrine – tidying up, putting incense in place, lighting the candle – then I step away.

Then its time to get my head in order.  I’ll go over any prayer I intend to recite in my mind, then let it go.  I focus my thoughts I Dionysos alone.  When I feel ready, I approach the shrine (a processional of maybe 4 steps, but it is effective) and raise my arms in prayer.

I am not a poet.  I begin by reciting a written prayer, usually Orphic hymn #30, but others – ancient or modern – as I feel inspired to.  (If I make a mistake in the recital, I will step away from the shrine and begin again, unless the spirit draws me onrward.)

Then I offer thanks.  I do this in my own words.  I thank Him for the many blessings He bestows on the world and upon myself, and for specific gifts and blessings as appropriate.  I asking Him to accept my offerings, and with them my love and gratitude.

For offerings, in the morning I always offer incense.  I will add to this as inspired – most often wine, of course, but other items as well.  They are usually pretty traditional.

After I make the offerings, I speak to Him from my heart, offering praise and sometimes discussing my concerns of the moment – though I usually leave those for less formal prayers throughout the day.

I like to chose and epithet of His and spend a few moments in meditation on it.  It will stay with me throughout the day, keeping my thoughts with Him.  (I haven’t been doing this part as much as I’d like of late, though.)

I offer praise a final time and leave the shrine (backing away the first few steps as I believe it is rude to turn one’s back on a God.)

If it is a morning where I will have to leave for work right away, I will return and blow out the candle immediately.  Otherwise I leave it burning at least until the incense is done.

Then I finish my mundane rituals for the morning – make up, shoes, occasionally even breakfast – and spend some time with my family.

Before I leave for work (or on days off, immediately following my time with Dionysos) I approach my hearth shrine – the one in the public portion of the house – tidy it, light the candle, and make sure offerings are in reach.

Then I step away again and focus my thoughts on the Gods.

I return to the shrine and pray, using some variation of the following (my own, pardon the plainness):

I pray to Hestia, the great Goddess of the Hearth and Home

I pray to the household Gods and the Agathos Daimon

I pray to the Theoi who dwell on Olympus, greatest Gods of all

I thank You for another day, and for the many blessings you bestow upon the world and upon myself and my family

I will add my thanks for specific blessings as appropriate.

I then ask Them to accept my offerings, always incense and pure water* but often other things as well – olive oil, herbs, essential oils.

I pray that They will watch over, bless, and protect myself, my family, and our home on that day and the days to come.

Then I will offer praise to them, and back away from the shrine.  (Returning to blow out the candle immediately if I am leaving right away.)

Throughout the day, I will offer informal prayers to the Gods as inspired, often speaking to Dionysos rather casually about my thoughts and concerns or simply that might be of interest to Him.  I try to be open to His (and Their) presence in the world, though the challenges of modern life make this easier said than done.

When I visit places that remind me of him I will offer a greeting – for example, there is an “ivy tree” on the path I walk from my work to the bank every week.

(That’s pretty much all I do every day right now.  The following are practices I have done but have become sporadic due to the demands of life.  I am in the process of reinstating them.)

When I return home, I will burn incense at the hearth shrine for the Agathos Daimon.

Before retiring for the evening, I will return to Dionysos’ shrine for “quality time.”  (Not that the morning devotions aren’t “quality” as well.)  This is where I offer wine or whatever spirits I have on hand and share a glass with Him.  I will meditate, dance, listen to music.  I try to remain open to Him throughout the rest of the evening as I go more mundane things and “family time.”

If I have any questions for Him I will mull them over in my mind as I fall asleep, hoping for a moment of clarity between sleeping and waking.  I rarely have dreams from any of the Gods.

That’s it.  I’ve felt a pull for quite some time to begin honoring my ancestors and beloved dead, but I’m at a loss how to begin.  The same is true of the nymphs and land spirits, and other deities I wish to honor more directly.

I will do these things in time, but right now I have to remind myself that I am still recovering and my practice is growing slowly.  Rather than jump in with both feet and fail – as I have done many, many times in the past – I am trying to establish practices and show that I can stick with them before adding on something new.

So, um, anyone else feel like sharing?

*On water offerings:  I know that several people take issue with this practice on the grounds that in the west, pure water is so abundant and readily available that it is not a real sacrifice.  I choose to make these offerings for the following reasons:

     – Water is a powerful substance.  Without it, there would be no life on earth.  It is one of the greatest gifts of the Gods.

     – I understand “sacrifice” to mean to make holy.  Any sense of hardship on the part of the one making the offerings is secondary at best.

     – I have been poor enough in the very recent past – while living in a desert no less – that, even if I were to subscribe to the more common meaning of “sacrifice,” I have no illusions about the ready availability of necessities like food, water, and shelter.  Even in the industrial west.

E – Enthusiasm (PBP Week 10)

«Nothing great was ever achieved without enthu...

(Photo credit: ebenimeli)

One of Francis’ favorite things is a little stone plaque with a quote from Emerson.  It says “Nothing Great Was Ever Achieved Without Enthusiasm.”  He acquired it right before he opened his restaurant and has found it very inspirational.

Sometimes he leaves it lying around in places where I’m sure to see it.

My own enthusiasm waxes and wanes.  This is the case for most people, I’d image.  It’s hard to remain at a fevered pitch about any one thing for a long period of time.

Take this blog, for example.  When I first started it, I couldn’t write enough.  I’d have PBP posts done and scheduled weeks ahead of time, plus many additional entries.

Then came the time when my PBP posts got later and later, finally disappearing altogether.  Regular posts became sparse.

Sometimes it’s a case of being bad at multitasking.  I seem to be able to get passionate about one thing at a time.  When I’m focused on my paintings, I can’t bring myself to blog.  When I’m intent on making jewelry, I don’t do either of the others.

But too often, for me, it’s a lack of enthusiasm for anything.  I get overwhelmed.  I start just going through the motions on necessary tasks and completely skipping those that seem less critical.

One of the things I can get very enthusiastic about it my religious practice.  (Interesting etymological fact:  the English word, enthusiasm is originally derived from the ancient Greek entheos, meaning “possessed by a God.”)  This waxes and wanes as well.

On the upswing, I want to live every moment of my life as an offering.  I want to always be doing something for my Gods. In the quieter times, I still want these things – in theory.  I just can find the motivation to actually act on that desire.

One of the benefits of an orthopraxic faith is that one can “go through the motions” and still be doing things right.  Yet, it’s very difficult for me to perform the rites when I don’t feel anything.  I don’t mean not feeling the presence of the Gods – I am incredibly grateful when They do pay a visit, but I hardly expect to get Their attention every time I light a candle.  I mean not feeling anything inside.

Francis often tells me I need to “find my joy.”  I’ve decided that this means that, instead of waiting around for enthusiasm to strike out of the blue, I need to actively cultivate it.

One of the things I learned in therapy for depression is that the old axiom “fake it ’til you make it” can be incredibly helpful.  Acting as if one is happy will, eventually, lead to being happier overall.  In the same way, going through the motions religiously allows one to be open to the Gods, open to being filled by Them, open to entheos.

Meaning:  step one is to get off my backside and do stuff.

I know I’m not alone in this problem.  Do you have down periods in your practice?  Are you able to keep going during these times, and if so, what helps you do this?

C – Search for Community (PBP week 6)

I don’t miss a lot about my days as a Christian, to be honest.

OK yeah, they do get all the great music.  (Seriously:  Gregorian chant, Schubert’s Ave Maria, U2 – I am covetous.)

But the one thing I really do miss (’cause it’s not like I don’t listen to U2 everyday anyway) is being part of a community of worshipers.

While the church I belonged to would have dismissed all that great music as not Christian, two being Catholic and one *shudder* rock and roll and, what’s worse, politically liberal, (this was a crowd that found Amy Grant questionable,) there really was a strong sense of brotherhood among its members.  And it felt good to be part of that.

Some pagan faiths have a built in community.  Wicca, being coven centered, certainly has this potential.  So do some of the Druid organizations, like ADF – at least for those living in areas with a large enough pagan population.  Those of us who live in small rural communities are often solitary by necessity.

The internet has done a lot to soften this isolation, sometimes providing a way to bring people together in the real world ( a la Witchvox), but more often it is a source of online communities and support.

If we want shared worship and don’t have our own coven or grove to turn to, the options are slim.  We can attend large public gatherings like Pantheacon or small ones like those provided by local ADF groves.  The Unitarian Universalist church has a pagan group, CUUPS.

So far, none of these has proven to be the right answer for me, but I’m still looking and open to suggestions.

Do you feel the need for religious community?  Is it something readily available within your faith?  If not, how do you satisfy that need?

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.

Well, I’m Back… I think

Olympian moon

Olympian moon (Photo credit: Greg Gladman)

It’s crazy here right now. Literally crazy – but I seem to have adjusted well to the medication. And figuratively crazy – the holidays, the job search, the landlord expecting rent money… But I think I’m back to a place where I can start writing again relatively regularly.

I’ve signed on for the Pagan Blog Project for 2013 and am excited to be able to start from the beginning. I’ve got the first several weeks worth of topics pinned down. We’ll see how long that lasts.

Some New Year’s resolutions: Though I make no claims to being a reconstructionist, I’ve been wanting to add more practice to my practice. So I’ve made myself a copy of the Hellenion calendar and have promised myself I will start making monthly libations to the Olympians using their schedule. I’ve also committed myself to making monthly offerings to the Agathos Daimon (my first 2013 PBP topic) and a few other practice related things. Will keep y’all updated here as to how that all goes.

Happy John Lennon Day!

This is a free account and I can’t imbed videos. So I’ll just make a strong suggestion: everybody go find a copy of Imagine (here’s one) and give a listen. Go ahead and do it now, I’ll wait right here.

Now don’t you feel better?  More hopeful about the future of humanity?  What, you feel like crying instead?

Yeah, I get that too.

Anyway, this post is actually meant to be relevant to this blog in more than just a John-Lennon-was-Awesome sort of way.  With Samhain coming up, like many pagans I’ve been thinking about ways to honor my ancestors.  For a long time I’ve wanted to incorporate an altar for the beloved dead and regular offerings in my practice.  I really want to include all of my “beloved dead,” not just family.  There are many among my beloved that aren’t related to me at all – I never knew them in this life.  Like John, they are not great heroes of my nation or direct benefactors of my family.  Yet, I adore them and they had a part in making me the woman I am today.

Ryan at Pagan Reveries talks about the cult of the poet hero in this and many excellent posts following it.  This is kind of what I’m thinking about, but not all of my beloved were poets, either.  Cultural heroes, maybe – as in heroes of arts and science?

Lennon, Morrison, Vaughan, Tesla, Einstein, Galileo, Lovelace, Byron, Shelley, Emperor Julian, Hypatia, Hildegard von  Bingen, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Josephine Baker, Rumi, Wilde, Bradbury, Vincent, Leonardo

Those of you who do honor your ancestors as a regular practice, do you only include those genetically related to you?  Or do you also honor those people who have made you who you are in ways other than biological?  Or do you feel this would be a slight to your physical ancestors?