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?”


“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.


T – Gods, Technology, and the Modern World (PBP week 40)

(So far I’ve been doing these posts a few days ahead and scheduling them for Friday.  This is the first time I didn’t do that and, what do you know?  My family decided they really needed my undivided attention yesterday.  Ah well, so I’m a little late.)

There are those who believe that new Gods have been born, Gods of the information age, Gods of the Industrial Revolution.  That television is our new God.  Or the Internet.

This might be true, but when I look at these marvels of the modern age, I don’t see new deities emerging.  I see instead proof that the old Gods are still actively educating and inspiring mortals.

From a Hellenic perspective, I can’t use the Internet without thinking of Hermes.  Is there an invention out there that speaks more of Him?  I mean, worldwide instantaneous communication?  Come on.  As a God of Travel, I imagine He delights  in the automobile and the jet airplane.  I see His darker side in the spread of cyber crime.

I believe Hephaestus gave us the modern steel that supports skyscrapers, as well as the internal combustion engine.  I see the hand of Demeter in the new strains of wheat that have helped ease famine in many parts of the world.  And if Prometheus stole fire from the gods for the benefit of mankind, could he not also have stolen nuclear power from the sun itself?  I imagine Ares delights in the use of automatic weapons and patriot missiles.  Dionysos taught us to make not only wine, but I believe the modern entheogens like LSD and MDMA as well.  (I mean the drug is even called ecstasy!  Seriously.)

Just because we know the names of the historical figures who invented our modern tools, does not mean they weren’t divinely inspired.  And just because humanity has misused so many of them doesn’t make them less divine.  The holy is dangerous, almost by definition.  How may have died by Prometheus’ fire over the millenia?  How many lives ruined by wine?

In the end, I don’t believe we need new Gods.  Whatever the future brings us, the Gods we know are already on it.

1 – The Magus

Card: 1 – The Magician or Magus

Tarot: The Vertigo Tarot

Visual Description: Timothy Hunter from the Books of Magic, a young boy with glasses rather reminiscent of Harry Potter, wearing a red cloak and surrounded by the tools representing the suits of the Tarot. He holds a flaming wand, the other three tools float before him. An open book is superimposed over his forehead, while behind him are faint dials suggesting clocks or barometers, and branches reaching up for the sky. In the foreground of the card, several of the flowers that appeared on the Fool.

Character analysis: I’m really only familiar with Neil Gaiman‘s four book miniseries that introduced Tim (first published in 1990 – several years before Potter. Just sayin’.) In that series he was a normal 12 year old boy who had the potential to be the greatest magician the world had ever known. So, assuming he eventually reaches that potential, he’d be a good choice for the Magus. Seeing the face of a 12 year old on this card is a little unsettling, though.

Astrological Association:  Mercury

My Stuff:

Guide or mentor

Hermes as guide of the dead or protector of Dionysos (as The Fool)


Power and the appropriate use of it

Someone who has all the answers, in control of the elements

Secret knowledge passed down from a teacher

New discoveries through study

Ceremonialist, formal


As Above So Below



Jimmy Page

Copyright Susanne Spencer 2011, all rights reserved


Greetings all!  (She says optimisticly…)

As an introductory post, I feel the need to talk a little about myself and what I want to do with this blog. 

I am an ecclectic pagan who has been practicing on and off (more on that later) for nearly 25 years.  Through the years I’ve practiced solitary NeoWicca, hedge witchcraft, and ADF style Druidry.  It was because of the ADF Dedicant program, part of which includes finding a hearth culture and a patron deity, that I finally found a real spiritual home worshipping the Greek pantheon. 

I am a follower of Dionysos above all, and have an intense interest in Hermes, my husband’s patron.  I think of them as our “household” gods, but attempt to give due honor and respect to all the Theoi. 

I eventually left the ADF.  While I love its combined emphasis on scholarship and practice, it has a definite Celtic flavor, despite its attempts at Pan-IndoEuropean inclusiveness.  This framework did not feel like a good fit for worshipping Hellenic gods.  I still have a lot of respect for the organization and use much of what I learned from them in my own practice.

(I have also recently felt pulled towards certain Buddhist philosophies and even aspects of liberal Christianity – although I’ve put these interests somewhat on the back burner for now as I piece my primary path back together.)

So now I’m somewhere in the mists, trying to find my way once again.  At least this time I have guides.

I’ve looked at Hellenic Reconstructionism, as I have many online contacts who practice this faith and it looked like an obvious alternative.  I want to worship my gods in the way that they have chosen, yet it seems impossible to recreate a municpal religion with only two worshippers.  I also don’t feel qualified to offer the blood sacrifice that was such an important part of ancient practice.  I’m not particularly squeamish about animal sacrifice – at least, I could get over any squeamishness I do have:  I am an omnivore and hate hypocrisy – but I don’t have the skills or the facilities to do it properly.

I will probably never be a Recon, but I am beginning to research ancient Greek household practices and the Mystery cults, and let the gods guide me where they will.

On a personal level, I suffer from major depression and have all my life.  Spiritually, this means I will often go for long periods where I completely neglect my practice and, while the gods are always in my mind, I never seem to turn to them in these times of greatest need.  This is what has happened to me recently.  I’m just starting to climb out of the worst depression of my life, during which I moved from Phoenix back home to California.  I only recently realized that, while I have dutifully unpacked Dionysos’ shrine and am keeping it pristine, I haven’t made an offering to him since I left Arizona in December.  One of my major goals, as I start to regain energy and interest in life is to reaffirm my faith and attempt to repair my relationship with the gods.

That’s where this blog comes in.  I’ve attempted to keep spiritual blogs in the past, both as part of the ADF Dedicant program and on my own, but I’ve never been able to keep at it for long.  I’m using the Pagan Blog Project as a framework to encourage me to post more regularly this time.  Many posts will deal with personal discoveries and insights, though I will try to keep them useful or interesting to any followers that happen to come along.  I also intend to post more scholarly essays as I get the braincells firing again and am able to do proper research.

That’s all for now.  Blessed be.  Namaste.  Peace, love and soy products… and all that jazz.

R – Raccoons! (PBP week 35)

How could you not love those faces?

The common raccoon, Procyon lotor, is a nocturnal, omnivorous, and highly intelligent forest creature native to North America.  The name “raccoon” is a bastardization of a Powhatan phrase that translates roughly as “one who rubs, scrubs, and scratches with its hands.”  In many languages the names these animals were given refer to their manual dexterity or their peculiar habit of dowsing their food in water.

Raccoons are very common in the Northern California redwood forests where I grew up.

When I was a girl, my family would spend every summer camping in Humboldt Redwoods State Park.  This is where I met my first raccoons.  They would occassionally wander into our campsite in the evenings looking for handouts – sitting just outside the firelight while the kids tossed them snacks.  Just as often they would come into the campsite after everyone went to bed and break into our food locker.  Padlocks were no obstacle to them.  (Did I mention “highly intelligent?”)  Even so, they were much more welcome than the other wildlife that frequently made its way to our camp – the skunks. 

Angry raccoon is angry! 
Do not disturb his sleep!

Sometimes the raccoons would visit looking for other kinds of amenities.  One night I and my god-sisters, all pre-teen girls, wanted to sleep outside in our sleeping bags.  My parents agreed, but only if my older brother, Russ, camped nearby to keep an eye on us.  To this day, my mother delights in telling the story of Rusty waking up in the middle of the night to a growling noise.  It seems a raccoon had crawled into his sleeping bag for warmth and resented it when my brother rolled over on him.  Both brother and raccoon were out of the sleeping bag in seconds flat, unscathed, but never to see each other again.

What?  Cunning?  Who, me?

I’ve been searching online for raccoon lore, because of the experience I wrote about the other day, but I haven’t found much.  Since they are North American animals, there is no mention of them in the European traditions that I am familiar with.  Raccoons appear in the stories of several of the First Nations, often as a trickster who outwits other animals.  They have the reputation as cunning bandits, due to their intelligence, manual dexterity, and facial markings.  Oh, and their tendancy to claim any food product that isn’t nailed down. 

A bit of UPG (“Unverifiable Personal Gnosis” for those unfamiliar with the term):  If raccoons had been native to Europe, I think they would have been strongly associated with Hermes.  I get the impression He likes them.  (The mask-like markings make me think of Dionysos as well.  But then, that’s just me.)