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Pagan Blog Project: F is for Faith

One of the things that drew me first toward paganism was that faith was not required. As a likely-related note, one of my issues with Christianity was the focus on faith--the need to believe. Belief is not a thing you can force, or a thing you can choose. It is there or it is not. Faith is there or it is not.

So the notion of a religion based on practice--on things that are under your control--was huge for me.

Ten years down that road and suddenly, the faith was there. (Thank you, Aphrodite.)

Funny how that works.
Yesterday's PBP post got me thinking about the five gods whose images have been on my altar for years but who haven't made it into my daily devotions yet, because sometimes I am lame. I am hereby and officially adding them.

Ariadne, quick-witted and wise, who knows much
of love and of loss, I praise and honor you.

Heracles, stout and stalwart son of thundering Zeus,
able one, of might unmatched, I praise and honor you.

Hebe, good and gracious goddess, honored one who bears
the ambrosial cup, I praise and honor you.

Bright-crowned Helios, master of the fiery wain,
the feverish steeds before it, I praise and honor you.

Selene of the night sky, who bears the crescent
on her brow, watchful one, I praise and honor you.

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Pagan Blog Project: E is for Every Day

I am, after all these years, still pretty good at keeping to my daily devotions.

Every day, I pray to the Norse gods, twenty-two of them. Every day, I pray to the Hellenic gods, also twenty-two (I am open to adding in either case but have not yet felt the need). Every day, I pray to Zeus, to Aphrodite, to Hekate, to Brigid, to Hathor and to Bast.

My daily devotions have expanded over the years, but I have kept to them for probably a decade or more.

Daily devotions quickly become habit, and although I'm not particularly organized in general I do manage to maintain them.

Now, non-daily devotions are another matter. Monthly and weekly observations just don't seem to stick in that same way. Seasonal rites are easier but still don't become such an integral part of my existence. Sometimes I manage well with calendars, but at other times I do not.

I've long thought that had to do with the fact that while a daily observance becomes automatic--if you go to bed without doing it it doesn't feel right, so you quickly learn not to forget--other rites lack that consistency. But lately it's occurred to me that a daily devotion (the ones I do, in any case) tend to have a direct, personal quality, perhaps because of the frequent contact. I suppose it's something to think about with regard to non-daily devotions and rites as well.

Pagan Blog Project: E is for Ebb and Flow

Is "spiritual enough" a real thing? Is it even possible? (Or, for that matter, advisable?)

I think it's normal, for a lot of us, NOT to be fully immersed in our spiritual life at all times. To strike some sort of balance, however uneven.

There are certainly times when I am--when every waking moment that isn't occupied with other life requirements is spent writing or praying or researching or making things or doing ritual. There are times when I think of nothing but the gods.

But there are also times when I do my daily devotions and that is it. Times when I'm occupied primarily with other things.

And sometimes during those times I feel a bit guilty--that whatever I am expending my efforts on is a waste of those efforts.

But I'm learning not to feel that way. I'm someone who is always going to live in the world and I think that has to be all right.

As a multi-faith (polytraditional?) person, I think this may be more of an issue. My spiritually-focused times tend to be fairly specific to one of my several practices at a time. I do maintain the basics for all, but the extra work is all or nothing. I think it may balance out in the long run but I really have no way of knowing this for sure.

But in my experience there is little in life that is unchanging. Sometimes it's one group of gods I feel more strongly, sometimes it is another. Ebb and flow, as one moves away for a while, another comes closer. And it's the same with god-focused time and world-focused times--ebb and flow. That's not a bad thing.
I got my first set of tarot cards when I was twelve years old, a knockoff Rider-Waite deck I think, a Christmas gift from my parents. I'd just gotten a book on fortune-telling from Scholastic Books (for those unfamiliar with Scholastic, you could order cheap paperbacks through your school, usually every few months), and while I had a palm to read and could make my own I Ching from popsicle sticks, making a set of tarot cards was well out of my artistic range.

I read for myself as a teenager; when I got to college I'd read for friends as well and got a great deal of practice. Even in my 20s and early 30s I kept up with it. I certainly acquired a sizable collection of tarot cards, although I always did prefer the ones that used the Rider-Waite symbolism.

But eventually I stopped. I've tried a few different methods of divination over the years--runes, ogham, etc.--but none of them have really stuck with me, either.

The older I get, the less interested I seem to be in divination. To some extent that makes sense--I think the older we get, the more control we feel we have over our lives and perhaps we feel we can handle what comes our way--but I'm also less interested in the analytic sorts of readings.

Maybe I just had my fill of the whole thing?

Prayer to an unknown goddess

Goddess, I offer you my fear,
the nameless, baseless terrors
that rise in the dark, in the light,
with no warning. I offer you
the long late nights, the days when sleep
is rest and hiding place in one,
for courage is yours to grant, O goddess.

Goddess, I offer you my weakness,
my shrinking world, the limits
that cling like moss to a stone.
I offer you those things I once did
with ease but do no longer,
my long-lost trust in my own might,
for strength is yours to grant, O goddess.

Goddess, I offer you my lies,
the tales I've told to ease my way,
the pretty stories, nearly so,
the truly false, the falsely true,
the memories that flex with time,
I offer you all self-deceit,
for truth is yours to grant, O goddess.
First off, I want to make it clear that I, myself, am not a Dionysian. I know a lot of Dionysians and they are pretty much all really cool people, but I am not among them.

So I am writing this piece about Dionysos from the point of view of one who is quite clearly not one of his.

But I'm also writing it as someone whose limited interactions with Dionysos resulted in some of the most profound and experiential god contact I've ever had.

More than a few years back I took an online class from one of my favorite Dionysians. Lots of study, lots of deep thought, lots of ritual. Nothing I haven't done for other deities at other times in other contexts. But as for what happened? That was different.

I heard things.

I saw things.

I had physical offerings disappear from my altar.

I had energy coursing through my body and out the top of my head.

(None of this had happened before, or since.)

And I was informed, very kindly but very specifically, that while I was not unwelcome, I was not one of his.

And I was fine with that. :)
I am a semi-reconstructionist, multi-faith pagan. That means that I honor several groups of gods, each more or less within the parameters of their own custom. Those several groups of gods include (in order of appearance) the Greek gods, the heathen gods, and the Egyptian gods. I honor the heathen gods with my kindred, while the rest is wholly a solitary practice.

There's another group (I won't call them a pantheon because they really aren't) of gods, though, with whom I have a more complex, less definable relationship. I'm a little hesitant to use the word "relationship" because that seems to imply a constancy and consistency that is not there, but I think it's a broad enough term by definition that it applies.

Many years ago, my spiritual group decided to split the year between the Celtic and the heathen gods to reflect the current focus of group members. It's not an uncommon thing among mixed groups, solar festivals done with the Norse gods, fire festivals done with the Celtic ones. After a while, it became pretty obvious to all that, apart from Brigid, most of the Celtic deities were simply "not all that into us" while the heathen gods were readily and clearly present. We subsequently became solely a heathen group, which has worked well for roughly the last decade and a half.

In the mean time, I have continued to honor the Greek gods, and later the Egyptian deities, as an individual. The last gods I expected to hear from, ever, were the Celts.

So you can imagine my surprise when, not all that long ago, I started to find my attention drawn in that direction. Pretty soon I found myself writing prayers to them--first to the Irish gods, then the Welsh, and finally and most extensively to the gods of old Gaul and Britain, the gods we know so little about, whose tales are long gone, whose names are dug up from the dirt by archaeologists every so often. I'll admit that I have never been immune to obsessive fascinations, but this was a new level of all-encompassing, and I wrote and wrote and wrote for months, and in spite of the dearth of research material it was fast and fierce and the inspiration was steady. It was simply like nothing I'd ever encountered.

And then when it was done and I had written it all down and made it as available as I could, that was all. For a while I maintained a practice of saying the prayers, but then there was a point where that was no longer...I don't know, no longer a thing I was to do.

And apart from the prayer I say each day to Brigid (and not one of my own composition), that is where that relationship stands these days, and I am fine with that. I sometimes think of it as "work for hire" where I was paid in inspiration (and believe me, inspiration is excellent pay!). More often, I think of it as representative of the fluidity of the god-to-mortal relationship.

Pagan Blog Project: C is for Candles

I hadn't planned to write about candles for the C week; candles are not really a large part of my practice these days. But I just looked up from my chair and saw candles everywhere. We had a power outage last night and my daughter brought down ALL the candles (a group of votives on a dinner plate puts out a good amount of light, by the way). We have many. So, candles.

I have a whole little cabinet with nothing but candles. Votive candles, mostly in white, or pink for Aphrodite. Tapers in various sizes and colors (extras in gold and silver) to light my altars or during prayer. Little spell candles in all different colors (just as a FYI, if you have a bunch of candles in all different colors, DO NOT store them all together for years at a time because the dyes will transfer). Tea lights in the most colors (for Temple of the Twelve devotions, among other things).

The thing is, I really don't find myself using candles nearly as much as I used to. When I set up Aphrodite's Lantern on her altar, I chose to use an electric salt lamp, both because the light needs to be constant and because it was the least expensive option among many. Three of my shrines are enclosed, so I tend to use battery-operated candles there for any but the briefest lighting, for safety reasons. My Goddess altar has fairy lights hanging, which is a marvelous effect in a cabinet altar. I also have battery-operated pillars on two of my larger altars (cream-colored on the Greek altar, pink on Aphrodite's) that I use on occasion.

So I suppose what I am really talking about here is the significance of a candle as opposed to other types of light.

There is something about a candle that is special. The sound and smell of the match being struck, the uneven flicker of the flame, the potential for revelation based in fire and smoke and shadows cast. And the fact that a lit flame is fragile and ephemeral, easily ended either intentionally or accidentally. A candle needs some care, some watching. If all I want is to see what I am doing, any sort of light will do although some are more atmospheric than others. Using candle-light expands the possibilities.

Pagan Blog Project: B is for Balance

Balance is something I strive for, in my life and in my spirituality. I don't always succeed at this; I tend to focus (obsess?) on one thing to the exclusion of others, and that seems to be the best way for me to be productive. In the short run, I may not always be in balance; hopefully in the long run I am.

Mind: I have a weakness for study and scholarship. I'm not a full-blown reconstructionist by any means, but I like to be well grounded in the historical worship of my gods, regardless of how closely I adhere to it in my own practice. And I am at home with books and research, so it's easy for me to slip into student mode and stay there.

Body: I'm relatively healthy, but this is really my weak area. I'm in lousy shape, and I don't get enough exercise. This is definitely where I am most off balance.

Spirit: I pray, I write for the gods, I keep my altars, I make offerings, I hold ritual. I do what is within my capability. I do not do what is not.

So I may not be the best example of a balanced individual, but as I said I do strive for it. I recognize that it isn't an easy thing, and I recognize that I will always be imperfect in this respect. It is a process, not something to be achieved, a constant sliding back and forth of weights on the scale.

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