Sunday, September 30, 2007

Samhain, Cronings, and Comings of Age

In the midst of all my exploration into the world of Hellenic reconstructionism, I have been asked to do a special ritual this Samhain. So rather than make it simple, which is probably what I should have done, I've decided to do it so over-blown that it will never be forgotten. That is how I tend to work, though, isn't it?

This Samhain I will be doing a more traditional Wiccan ritual, a celebration of death, and rebirth. The "special" part will be the Coming of Age ritual for Gray's daughter, who is turning 19 at the end of October. And since I am doing that, I thought it was only right to do the Croning for Kerrydwen that I promised her about a year ago. Hm... maybe two years ago. Whew.

I haven't written anything yet, but I started some research this morning. The actual framework I could do in my sleep - I've been doing Wiccan framework rituals for 18 full and busy years, and I know it so well! But I want to make this ritual special for our young adult, and for our incipient crone. I also know we have many people to say goodbye to this year, unfortunately.

I will write more when I have more research completed.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

A Tale of Survival... or is it?

In a Sept. 11 survival tale, the pieces just don't fit

She had, she said, survived the terror attack on the World Trade Center despite having been badly burned when the plane crashed into the upper floors of the south tower.

Read the rest of it here: http://www.iht.com/articles/2007/09/27/america/27survivor.php?page=3

This woman told people that she'd gone up in flames in one of the towers, and had been put out by a volunteer firefighter. She told people she made it down, and when she woke up several days later, she was in a hospital and was told her fiancee Dave was dead.

Only now, it turns out that no one in Dave's family knew about her. Her claim that they lived together seems to be false, because he HAD a roommate, a male one, at the time. The place she claimed to work, has no record of her. No one knows what she was doing before 9/11. Literally.

No, she didn't commit fraud - she never took money from the 9/11 fund or anything like that. But that doesn't change the fact that her story wasn't true. Or at least significant parts of it. It leaves me wondering, with a sick stomach.... did she do it for the attention? Was she involved in some way? Did she know something? I mean... what would cause someone to make up stories about THAT day?

Sigh...

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Seedling: Pagan

It was late at night, on a full moon in November of 1989. I stood, naked and nervous, in Lord Davydd's dingy apartment. Dusty books covered floor to ceiling shelves on three walls, and the fourth was dedicated to a large, conspicuous altar. There were no seats in his living room, but the carpet was inviting, as were the two cats staring intently at me with their glowing green eyes.

The books covered every subject, fiction and non-fiction, large and small, and the largest section (four bookcases worth!) was full of religious texts. The Bible, the Koran, and the Torah were there, next to copies of Gerald Gardner, Lady Sheba, and the Farrars. A haze of dust motes floated throughout the room, mixed with the smoke from Davydd's cigarette. His experienced hands quickly arranged the altar, smoothing the black altar cloth down and brushing away the salt that littered the top of it. The electric lights were doused, plunging us into the semi-darkness of the candle light, which wavered each time he moved within the small room.

He finally turned to me, his naked body neither young nor old, but simply there. I found him attractive, to be sure, but that wasn't the important thing, that night. He looked me up and down, much as a dojo instructor might evaluate the physical capabilities of a new student. A moment passed, which seemed like an eternity, and then he stubbed out his cigarette and took the two steps to the altar.

Steady hands, thin but strong, lifted his athame high, the candle flame glinting off its polished blade. I remember holding my breath, unconsciously, and then gasping when I realized I needed to suck in air. I could feel the tension in the atmosphere around me, and as he began to cast the first real Circle I had ever been in, the energy rose up in startling, electric blue arcs. He traversed the edges of the room, casting more of an oblong shape than a sphere, but the containment was complete. There was no more dust in the air. The temperature rose several degrees, and I found, embarassingly, that I was sweating profusely.

Davydd called the Quarters, invited in the God and Goddess of his Tradition, and then turned to me. I was already enthralled by the sheer ecstacy of the moment, but when he spoke to me, his gravelly voice shook me to the core. With shaking voice, and trembling hands, I accepted his welcome, and met his challenge. I felt my stomach drop a thousand miles as his hands touched mine, and I knew this was the Right Thing to be doing right now.

I was Dedicated to the ways of the Wicca that night. When I think of that moment, the moment that I consider my first true step on the pagan path, I sometimes laugh. The Circle is no longer so awe inspiring. The rituals I found so unique back then are now commonplace words that I have used time and again, over 18 years. Looking back on it is good... It puts the awe back into my view of the world, and helps me to better understand where I might be going.

I compare that moment, to the one I experienced a few days ago, at my Dedication to Dionysus. There were many similarities. The stomach drop. The feeling of knowing I was right. The sense of total and unconditional acceptance.

All of life is about new beginnings. My pagan beginnings were life altering, a definite new beginning in the full sense of the statement. I left behind the abuse and lies of my past, and walked bravely into a new world, where I was master of myself (or at least was beginning to learn to be), where what I felt and thought and cared about MATTERED.

Davydd didn't introduce me to the pagan world. He did, however, help to make me a pagan of caliber. I will forever remember that night, amongst the heady incense, the guttering candles, the vibrant red wine, and the pure joy of my first wine blessing.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Seeds; thank you Dianne!

One of my favorite recent Wiccan authors is Dianne Sylvan. Imagine my surprise when I ran across her blog while looking for something else! She's a talented author. I consider myself passable - she has greatness.

In her blog, she invites us, her "...long-suffering readers, to give me ideas to blog about. The challenge is this: leave one word in comments that you think will spark an interesting (or at least entertaining) post. It doesn't matter if the word is related to Wicca or not; it can be "rutabaga" for all I care. If it's not obscene I will find a way to produce at least a short entry on the subject. I can't guarantee it'll be a particularily profund entry. Try me."

I would like to try this with my own friends. :) Post me a word, provided it's not obscene, and I'll do my best to write about it in some way, shape, or form. My mind is skipping from subject to subject a lot lately, and I hope, like Dianne, that this might inspire me to calm down, to focus, to visualize more effectively.

I'm excited!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

And ... done.


Tonight, I did my dedication to Dionysus. It was... interesting. The ritual itself came off alright, although there are a few things I think I'll end up tweaking. I like the idea of the sacred space, but not the Circle being there. It felt fine... We don't normally need any huge reserve of energy, which is the main reason for casting a Circle anyhow. The biggest problem was that no one really understood what all we were doing (even me!), and so there were a few uncomfortable pauses as I went through what I had in the script. There were too many libations and not enough focus on what WE could do for US. One of the things that makes Amber Moon what we are, is that we focus on bettering ourselves through our spirituality and religion, and our rituals usually reflect that. This one didn't, really. But, we live and learn. Everyone found it interesting!

The dedication went well, I believe. It felt nice, although not at all like a Wiccan initiation. Then again, it wasn't an initiation, so... During my moment of silence, I was holding a huge bunch of purple grapes, and the phrase, "Dionysus, purple robed god of abundant clusters" went through my mind several times in rapid succession, and I got this huge flush of ... desire, I suppose, is the best word for it. I felt extremely warm. I also felt "embraced", as if I were being held closely, as if by a lover. It was very intimate, considering I was standing on Farnham's back lawn in the dying fall sunlight.

The party afterward was rather nice. Farnham played guitar and we all sang. We enjoyed a wonderous feast together. We talked about future dreams, and possibilities. I had my 3 glasses of wine, although they were small glasses, and I now feel pleasantly buzzed, and somewhat tired. I think it is almost time for sleep.

Above, you can see a picture of my chaplet, the first one I've ever made. I'm rather proud of it - I made it with real flowers purchased at the store today, and English ivy out of Farnham's back lot (I made him a chaplet of plain ivy, too).

Friday, September 21, 2007

And my Dedication to Dionysus

Dedication of Ariadne to Dionysus

Ariadne must bathe and purify before the ritual. She should fast that day. It will be her responsibility to create the water for all of the later purifications and sanctifications.

Take a bowl and fill it with water. Hold it aloft and say:

Water, be pure! Become like the tears that my namesake Ariadne shed when she behold the beauty of Dionysus on Naxos; become like the streams that flow through the forests on Mount Nysa, where the pure and lovely Nymphs dance; become like the waters that washed off the foolishness of Midas. Water, you are pure! You are pure! You are pure!

Pick up the bowl of salt. Hold it aloft and say:

Salt, be pure! Become like the bones of Dionysus which are stored in the tripod at Delphi; become like the rich, black soil of Nysa, nourished by the dancing feet of the pure and lovely Nymphs; become like the bran smeared on the face of the Initiate in the Lord's secret, nocturnal rites. Salt, you are pure! You are pure! You are pure!

Pour some of the salt into the water. Mix it thoroughly, envisioning the two essences uniting. Then wash your hands and face with the holy water, feeling it carry off whatever miasma has attached itself to you. Pour some of this holy water into the bath water before bathing.

Climb into the tub and bathe. While bathing, meditate on purity, and what it means. When done, drain the water, and watch the dirt, both emotional and physical, drain down with it.

During the ritual, when it comes time to do the Dedication, Ariadne should approach the altar with her sacrifices, wine, food offering, etc. She should pick up the water, and sprinkle herself with it three times, saying:

Let all things profane depart!

She should stand there, mindful that she is before her Lord. She should speak words to him, like this:

Greetings, O Dionysus! You who are hailed by the maenads as the beautiful one, the fertile bull, the dancer on the mountain, mad one, boisterous one, full of life, ecstatic, many-formed and many-named Lord of ineffable mysteries, hear my words, my praise, and my pleas.

The first offering is of incense. She will toss the incense into the flames, and say something like this:

As fragrant as your skin when you appeared to Ariadne on rocky Naxos, are these herbs. Sweet smelling mint, fresh and inviting, and dusky, musky oregano, deliciously scented. Fill this sacred space with the scent, that we may rejoice in you!

She shall light a candle and place it in the middle of the altar. Her right hand shall rise to Dionysus, her left shall pass over the candle flame, feeling the warmth on her palm. She should say something like this:

This flame is lit as a reminder of you, O Lord, for you are the one who leads the torch-song on the Holy Way from Eleusis. You appear out of the dark, when we most need you, to guide us into the light. You show us the way to live more fully, to embrace the heat of passion, to ignite the molten core within us until it burns as brightly as the shining stars in heaven, who dance forever in your train!

She shall hold up the bottle of wine to Dionysus and say something like this:

This, O Lord, is your greatest gift to care-worn mortals, for it eases our suffering, and when we are drunk from it, we are filled with joy and a lively spirit. Without wine, there would be no festivals, no fine banquets, no sacrifices for the Gods, and love would completely disappear from the world. But wine is even more precious than that, for this wine is your blood, first poured out upon the black earth when the Titans set upon you with their murderous knives. A part of you dwells in each sip of wine, and dwells within us when we drink it.

She shall pour out the libation, and then share the wine with everyone else. When the wine is drunk, the food offering should be made, then shared with everyone else. Then she shall say something like this:

O Lord, you have called to me from the vines, as you called to my namesake as she wept on the rocks of the isle of Dia. I am learning, slowly, to answer your call. I beg you to accept me as your priestess, to help me to become better in your service. I approach you with the four virtues firmly in mind: courage, temperance, wisdom, justice. I am not perfect, but I am yours. In honor of you, I take a new name, and henceforth I shall be known as Sofia Ariadne, that I might always be mindful of the wisdom you can grant us.

I also take pause to libate to Hecate, my Lady for so many years.

She shall libate wine.

Hecate was first to call me, and I shall never turn away from my service to her. I owe her many debts, and much love. I thank her for her patience as I, stumbling and occasionally blind, learned better and greater ways to honor her. I shall now serve you both, your priestess.

Sacrifices of icons or images of both Dionysus and Hecate shall be commended to the flames at this time. The priest shall say,

Let all be silent.

After a few moments, Sofia Ariadne shall turn to the attendees and greet them all, newly reborn into the service of the ancient Gods.

Bibliography:

Sannion's Sanctuary. Hellenic Polytheism. http://www.winterscapes.com/sannion/hellenic_polytheism.htm

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Final draft of my first Hellenic ritual

Assemble all the items for the ritual: bells, drum(s), water in large jug, large bowl, oil lamp, barley, flowers, icons, wine, cup, bowl for libations, cakes, personal offerings, and a basket to hold things. Have them ready, either on the altar or in the basket, as appropriate. The wine should be a bottle reserved just for that ritual, as there are many libations. Any left over may be imbibed by the attendees.


Procession

Assemble everyone inside, and explain the procession. Let people walk quietly, piously, into the ritual area. This marks the change from profane to sacred space. Bells may be rung and the drum beat slowly to accompany the pace.


Purification of the People

Just outside the sacred space, a vessel of water and a bowl should be waiting. All those entering the sacred space must wash their hands with the water, into the bowl (the water in the bowl is considered unclean, and so should not be touched). The
water is poured by the priestess, and the bowl is held by the priest.


Sanctification of Sacred Space

The remaining water (in the vessel) is used to sanctify the sacred space, and the altar. The priestess enters first, using a branch to scatter droplets of clean water around the entire area to be used during the ritual. As she walks, the bell and drum should accompany. She says:

Let all that is profane be far from here!

She ends her slow procession by sprinkling the people attending. The priest then takes the offering basket up to the altar, and places it before it. Everyone can enter behind him.


The remainder of this ritual can be found at:
http://paladinwiki.cyberpaladin.com/wiki/Wicca:GreekFirst


Bibliography:

Neokoroi - The Temple Keepers. Template for Noumenia Ritual. http://www.neokoroi.org/noumenia.htm

Sannion's Sanctuary. Hellenic Polytheism. http://www.winterscapes.com/sannion/hellenic_polytheism.htm

Fairbanks, Arthur. A Handbook of Greek Religion. http://books.google.com/books?id=rPD40gMzVbAC&dq=a+handbook+of+greek+religion&pri

Diasia/Chloaia. A ritual. http://www.flyallnight.com/VHD/Diasia-Chloaia.htm

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Children and the practice of religion

It's been posed many times, on various message forums: what do you tell your kids? The answers differ, depending on the place the respondent lives, and their age, and what religion their parents belong to. It also depends a lot on their job, and what other minorities they belong to.

I've always been of the firm opinion that children should not be 'brought up" in any religion. Any child, and "child" should be defined as anyone not adult under the law, is incapable of making the decision to follow any God. They simply do not have the sheer life experience necessary to commit themselves, body and soul, to the worship and service of one Divine Being (or more).

This does not, however, mean that children should be excluded from religious activities. There are some things it is perfectly reasonable for children to attend and join in with: singing songs, prayer at mealtimes, respectful silence at appropriate moments, and even rituals provided they are not rife with adult material (bleeding men on crosses, and Goddesses giving bloody birth are NOT child friendly images).

There is even a time when ritual can be taken down to the level of a child. If a young child expresses an interest in what you do, then they should be encouraged to ask questions, and get the answers they seek. Sometimes, it's as simple as wanting to see what mommy or daddy is doing when they're out of the house at Noumenia or Full Moon ritual. If planned in an appropriate manner, this can be a wonderful time to share (without pushing) your religion with your child.

Many years ago, when I lived in BC, Canada, I spent time planning public rituals. Every Mabon, we held a children's ritual. I did the basic ritual outline, but the kids got to help pick songs, and decide what to do. They would be responsible for carrying a basket of fruits and vegetables and cookies, around the Circle and to the offering place. They would chant or sing, and sometimes dance. Often they would enjoy dressing up, with robes or fairy rings or other outfits. We would finish up by blessing milk and the cookies, making a small libation to the Gods, and then sitting down to eat together.

Was this a "traditional Wiccan ritual"? Nope. All it was, was something that appealed to the child's mind, teaching them a tiny bit about ritual, and a lot about how to act in group, how to cooperate, and about mythology. They loved it, always. It was the best way to celebrate Mabon!

The way I share my religion with my children, is simply by living it. If they happen to be near me when it is my meditation time, I will invite them to join me in sitting down, staring quietly at the candle flame as it flickers. I will pick a simple chant, and let them join in. If they come to ritual and it's appropriate for them to participate, they're welcome to. I pray at mealtimes, and they are included in and see that, nightly at the very least (we don't always eat the other meals together, and I often pray silently then).

The main things that make me who I am, are not religions, per se. They are spiritual. I do not lie, nor do I condone lying. I treat others as I would have them treat me, were our positions reversed. I make honor and piety an important part of my daily life, even in little things. Children see these things! We don't need to lecture them on it, if they see it every day. They will pick it up the same way they pick up language, the same way they learn to walk and eventually run. They simply absorb it, by watching the adults around them.

This is, I think, the key to teaching our children respect for religion... all religion. There's no need to indoctrinate, and teaching can begin when they're old enough to ask questions that you can answer. By living honestly and lovingly, we teach our children to do the same.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

My first Hellenic ritual

Set Up

Assemble all the items for the ritual: bells, drum(s), water in amphora, large bowl, oil lamp, barley, flowers, icons, wine, cup, bowl for libations, cakes, personal offerings. Have them ready on the altar. The wine should be a bottle reserved just for that ritual, as there are many libations. Any left over may be imbibed by the attendees.

Pomp (Procession)
Assemble everyone inside, and explain the pomp. Let people walk quietly, piously, into the ritual area. This marks the change from profane to sacred space. Bells may be rung slowly to accompany the pace.

Purification of the Sacred Space
Just outside the sacred space, a vessel of water and a bowl should be waiting. All those entering the sacred space must wash their hands with the water, into the bowl. The remaining water is used to sanctify the sacred space, and the altar.

Ritual Lighting of Sacred Fire
The oil lamp is lit, with a blessing to Hestia. This should be impromptu and not scripted.

Tossing of Barley
Barley is scattered around the sacred space and altar, from a basket of barley, flowers, and other items.

Preliminary Invocation
O Deathless Ones!
Gods of Starry Heaven,
Broad Earth,
And the Great Below,
Hear us, Theoi!
Hear, and Attend.
Bless us with your presence,
as we would honor you.

Libations
First libation to Hestia since it is traditional to offer Hestia the first and last portion of any offering.

Receive these libations, and rejoice,
for your joy is ours this night.
Hestia, Goddess of the Hearth,
Keeper of the Sacred Flame,
Guardian of the Home,
For you we pour out the first portion,
as yours is the first and the last.
(pour libation)
Be well disposed.

Libations and special mention of the gods who preside over the ritual:
For the gods beloved of those assembled,
I pour out the next shares,
For it is under your auspices we gather tonight.

For Lord Dionysus,
Purple robed God of abundant clusters,
Son of glorious Semele,
(pour libation)
Be well disposed.

For tender hearted Hecate,
Bright coiffed Lady of torches and light
Daughter of valiant Persaeus,
(pour libation)
Be well disposed.

For our household Gods,
Those ancestors who have chosen
to watch over and bless us,
(pour libation)
Be well disposed.

For the Agathos Daimon,
Winged serpent,
god of good fortune,
beloved of Tyche, kindly one,
(pour libation)
Be well disposed.

And for All the Blessed gods,
Resplendent, Beautiful, Immortal,
I pour now
An equal measure
Of sweet wine/water.
(pour libation)
Be well disposed.

Formal Invocation and Praise of All the Gods Honored
Kind Zeus and Gaia,
heavenly and pure flames of the Sun,
sacred light of the Moon,
and all the Stars;
Poseidon, too, dark-maned holder of the earth,
pure Persephone
and Demeter of the splendid fruit,
And Dionysos,
the dancer, whose honors among the blessed gods are the highest.
Strong-spirited Ares,
holy and mighty Hephaistos,
and the goddess foam-born to whose lot fell sublime gifts,
and you, divinity excellent, who are king of the Underworld.
And upon Hera, buxom wife of aegis-bearing Zeus.
And upon Hermes, messenger and herald of those in heaven;
upon Themis, too, diviner of men I call,
and on Night, oldest of all,
and light-bringing Day;
Chronos the ever-flowing,
the splendid water of the Styx,
all these gentle gods,
and also Pronoia,
and the holy Daimon
as well as the one baneful to mortals;
Then upon divinities dwelling in heaven, air, water,
on earth, under the earth, and in the fiery element.
To all those who have not been named,
But are as important and holy,
And to those who have no names,
Yet exist to be worshipped,
Beginning and End, too,
which to all is most important,
and ask them to come in a spirit of joyous mercy
to this holy rite and libation of reverence.

Offerings (Thusia)
Enumerate and present offerings (worshipper may have already placed offerings on the altar and may simply choose to indicate them now. Each offering should be lifted by the person offering it, and accompanied by a small prayer or song to the God in question.

Prayer

To Hecate:
O beloved mistress, Three-faced Hekate
Kindly hear my sacred chants.
Goddess of the triple ways, who holds
Untiring flame in triple baskets,
And you who often frequent the triple way
And rule the triple decades,
Unto me who am calling you
Be gracious and with kindness give heed,
You who protect the spacious world at night,
Before whom daimons quake in fear
And Gods immortal tremble, Goddess who
Exalt men, you of many names, mother of Gods
And men and Nature, Mother of all things,
For all things are from you, and in you do
All things, Eternal one, come to their end.
Hail, Goddess, and attend your epithets,
I offer you this cake, this wine,
(libate)
Goddess of dark, quiet and frightful one,
O you who have your meal amid the graves,
Night, Darkness, broad Chaos: Necessity
Hard to escape are you;
You're torment, Justice and Destroyer,
O you who brings death and destruction,
Who devours those dead untimely,
Come to my sacrifices,
And bestow your blessings upon us.

To Dionysus:
Dionysos, I sing, whose head is twined with ivy
and grapes in ripe bunches that tumble to his gentle shoulders,
clad in their fawn-skin cloak.
Swift-moving God, racing down the side of Olympos,
or through the wooded coverts of the Nysan plane,
attended by goat-footed Satyrs, and the lovely Nymphs,
giving out the call, "Evo!"
All-conquering, fierce-eyed One,
who wields his thyrsos like a fiery brand,
striking with madness those who offend him.
Mystery discovered through our bodies,
in dancing round bon-fires till exhaustion overtakes us,
and the touching of trembling flesh against trembling flesh
underneath the all-seeing moon.
I offer to you this fruit, this wine,
(libate)
I suppose there are older Gods, and stronger -
but there has never been a God dearer to my heart
than the son of Semele and Zeus who reigns in Heaven!
Come to our sacrifices,
Bestow your blessings upon us!

Thanks to all Gods
Thanks be to all Gods,
Those both named and unnamed,
Who heard our call this eve,
Enjoyed our libations, our offerings,
our sacrifices.
Thanks we give, freely, to all!
(libate)
Please accept our thanks!

Last Libation for Hestia
Receive these libations, and rejoice,
for your joy is ours this night.
Hestia, Goddess of the Hearth,
Keeper of the Sacred Flame,
Guardian of the Home,
For you we pour out the last portion,
as yours is the first and the last.
(pour libation)
Be well disposed.

Bells and drum should be played during the return, silently, to the home. The feast should commence soon after!

***

Credits:
Neokoroi - The Temple Keepers. Template for Noumenia Ritual. http://www.neokoroi.org/noumenia.htm

Sannion's Sanctuary. Hellenic Polytheism. http://www.winterscapes.com/sannion/hellenic_polytheism.htm

Fairbanks, Arthur. A Handbook of Greek Religion. http://books.google.com/books?id=rPD40gMzVbAC&dq=a+handbook+of+greek+religion&printsec=frontcover&source=web&ots=cz8_mj0bE1&sig=D7e6OvTroYUhiavFhMKpt96QOV8

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Books

Back during my Wiccan days, I had a Book of Shadows. Actually, more correctly, I had a Box of Shadows, and a Harddrive of Shadows, but the premise is similar. I stored printed and digital copies of notes, essays, even entire books such as Aradia, whose copyright had run out. I frequently referred to my Book(s) when studying, performing rituals, and when setting things up for meditation or festivals.

When I stopped calling myself Wiccan, I set my Book of Shadows aside. I still referred to it from time to time, but for the most part, I had reached a comfort level with the material inside it anyhow. After 10 years of using the same (or very similar) material, I had it almost memorized. With the Book set aside, I felt an initial rush of freedom, but eventually fell into a rut, copying what I'd done as a Wiccan or working from published books, or print-out copies of online information. Things became very disorganized, and a lot of things I found and loved, disappeared.

I tried to resurrect the Book of Shadows, but it wasn't the same. What I had done years ago, did not work today. But the IDEA behind the Book of Shadows is a good one. There are certainly many published books worth having on the bookshelf, but you do not necessarily want to carry them into a ritual with you. The important parts, the bits and pieces that mean something to you, can go into a book similar to a Book of Shadows.

Call it what you will, the basic issue is that it is useful. I have begun the process of making a new Book for myself. After long consideration, I have decided to do it "scrapbook style". This may sound a little odd, but it works, for those who have that love of scrapbooking that I have gained recently. I'm no artist - I can't draw a straight line to save my life, and portraiture is far beyond my meager skills. So I can't draw anything in a regular BoS. I tried pasting images in my old BoS but I decided it looked very tacky. On the other hand, when a book is INTENDED to be done in this style, it can look quite classy.

I have been pleased with my outcome. The book cover that I chose is a brushed silk style, with a ribbon down the left hand side, all in black. I chose black not for its "shadowy" connotations, but because it had a serious, not-hokey look. It also feels good in the hands. Because it is expandable to allow up to 300 pages inside, there should be plenty of room for anything I might want to write about. The pages can be moved around, if I add a note or poem or ritual that needs to be in the middle, and it doesn't destroy the flow of the book. If a page is damaged in the process of ritual, through dropping wax on it, or accidentally getting salt water over it, I need only change the single page damaged, instead of starting the book again.

The use of different pages to represent different moods and themes really appeals to me. I have information on Hecate on a 12x12 page that looks like Roman or Greek columns and friezes. I have my Dionysus information on a green page covered all over with green flocked vines. They feel bright, and vibrant, and creative! I LIKE looking at this book.

I think I would like to name it "Knowledge of the Mysteries" only in Greek (in English lettering, though). I THINk it would be written, "Gnosis Mysteria." I'm not sure if there is a transitional word for "of", though. We'll see, I guess. I'll ask on my Hellenic list and see what they have to say.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Psychiatry and the modern pagan.

I love my psyche. He's one of the best things that's happened to me. He's not judgemental, and yet he's also not afraid to tell me when he thinks I'm being an idiot. He's honest without being painful. And he listens wonderfully. He is what I would wish for every practicing occultist out there.

Dr. D is a "mystic" Christian, very tolerant of other faiths and beliefs. It doesn't phase him the least to know that I'm pagan. He's been extremely supportive, and doesn't hesitate to take a few minutes after a session to talk about the book he's writing, or what I'm reading lately. He's also very aware of things that most people, especially psyches, are uncomfortable with.

For instance, tonight's conversation included a variety of topics, ranging from frustration over money matters, to a love issue I'm having and practical ways to improve it, to my change in religious belief. During the final part of our session, I began to explain to him some of what's brought about my change in religion. I haven't associated with "Wicca" for a few years, but I've basically introduced myself as "gnostic pagan" for quite a while, for lack of anything more concrete. Tonight, I called myself a Hellenic pagan for the first time. I'm not "a recon" for reasons I've mentioned previously, but I realized that my beliefs have certainly centered around the Hellenic part of the world. The fact that part of the cementation of my beliefs focuses on Unverified Personal Gnosis (ie "the Gods talked to me and told me things") didn't even phase him momentarily.

He listened attentively and asked appropriate questions, as I described the gist of my latest communique with Dionysus. He found parts of it amusing (as did I, once I was through with the actual experience), and not at all startling. He also didn't start looking up mental diseases in the Psyche Handbook, which was encouraging. LOL...

He was also extremely encouraging in regards to my Chaucer college course, and my (s-l-o-w) reading of the Illiad. He agrees with me that keeping the neurons firing rapidly, through self-education, is vastly important for mental health. He also pointed out that reading Chaucer is much like reading Greek myth, and that I might be doubling up on some of my stories and legends because of it, which I found funny.

One thing which I'm still struggling with, slightly, is the idea that I'm about to begin taking anti-depressants. Lexapro is the newest drug on the market, and so that's what I'll be trying. Since I have the opposite of most people's blood pressure problems, and my cholesterol levels are just peachy, there shouldn't be any problems. I still worry, though. I've often heard pagans mention that drugs dull their senses and their creativity. Then again, being horribly depressed and unable to function in even a most basic way is somewhat annoying, too. This is not a "for life" thing; I'll be taking the pills for a few months, until we get past the massive ball of stress that is part of the cause of my depression. This is one of several coping techniques Dr D has suggested, and all of them have worked well, even if they aren't "solving" my problem all at once.

Tomorrow, I have my Master's Hearing about my divorce. Considering I've been separated for well over ten years, have been living in a different country from the ex for five of those years, and I've been in the process of this divorce for well over a year, we're hoping this is just a formal meeting which will take no more than a few minutes. We'll see, though. There's a part of me that figures the ex will win again, somehow (he's successfully dodged the bullet about three or four times now, simply by doing nothing at all). I hope the Master will simply grant me the damn divorce, and let me move on with my life. If I do get my divorce tomorrow, I plan on having one heck of a party to celebrate. :)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Love does not come in numbers.

This afternoon, I was checking the headlines, when I ran across this article:

Girl, 14, fled abuse, 'mind control' of polygamy

It is a terrible thing that is happening to the young women who are prisoners in the FLDS compounds. At no point would I attempt to lessen the horror of what they are forced to go through, being married as children, being raped, forced into unwanted marriages, made to bear children and be in relationships that they wouldn't consent to if they had a choice. When I think of some male telling my 13 year old daughter that she has to marry a decrepit old man that she doesn't even know, my blood boils.

Yet, not all polygamy is like that. The poly (the short form for all multi-person relationships) people that I know and associate with are equally horrified by Warren Jeffs and his abuse of his position and authority. My own relationship is one of those positive poly situations. The difference, in my opinion, is where the focus is.

The adult members of my family consist of myself, my partner Gray, and his other female partner, who we call "sis". Then there is Farnham, and his wife, who live up the road from us. We have four children that live with us, Gray's two teens, and Gray and sis's almost-2 year old twins. I have a daughter who lives far off, but who I maintain a strong relationship with via video chat, email, phone and letters. Farnham's kids are grown and have kids of their own, that we also consider part of our "brood" but who do not live with us. Basically, our family centers around the kids.

That's right... we focus on the kids. That doesn't mean we don't enjoy sharing kid duty and getting out as adults once in a while. Part of the great joy of having five adults around, is that you CAN do that! But our central focus is our children. They are what make us a family, rather than just a group of diverse people who hang out together.

When one part of our family hurts, the whole family hurts. When Gray lost his job, we all pulled together to help out. We took on extra work, tried our best to support him and help him in job search, and we kept his spirits up. When Farnham had to have minor surgery a couple of years ago, we arranged for him to have a drive out and back, and people were with him the whole time, so he didn't have to be alone, or afraid. When Mrs. Farnham was having problems because of severe asthma, we gave her our air scrubber. That's what families do.

We all share in educating and caring for the kids. Farnham and his wife are not here every day, but they're here several times a week, and the kids all know them and love them. The older kids help them out with chores in the yard and garden, and the younger ones keep them entertained and happy. When the twins ended up in hospital over last Yuletide, in St. Louis of all places, Farnham was ready to drive out and pick us up if we needed it. We all financially support our kids, and we treat them as equally as we can.

I love my family. We don't coerce, and we don't force our lifestyle on the others. If the children, when they're grown, decide to marry into a group, then that's great, but we won't look down on them for finding a great monogamous relationship, either. Commitment has to happen, one way or the other, and whether it's to one or more, really doesn't matter. Gray's eldest daughter is now 19, just about, and is contemplating boys and relationships and such. She's not sure poly is right for her, but she hasn't ruled it out. She's seen the benefits and drawbacks of our lifestyle, over the past five years of her life. She knows it's a bitch to have two mother types around the house, because you never get away with skipping homework or chores. But she also knows that she has a place to go to talk to about the various important things in her life, and sometimes she comes to me, and sometimes to sis. Sis tends to get the wardrobe choice questions, and the angst over what career to choose, while I field the stuff about sexuality and boys. And it works.

I'm proud of our kids, all of them. I'm proud of my family. ALL of them.

Burn Warren Jeffs - he is an abuser, proven many times over. But don't burn the relationship style. Just because one Christian is hurtful or nasty doesn't mean everyone in the religion is.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Paranoia and Pagans

When we delve into the occult, we constantly risk the possibility of losing our ability to think clearly. That's one of the reasons it is so vitally important that any serious practitioner of magick or the occult have a good quality therapist of some kind to talk to. We need to be able to talk to someone removed from any issues we are having, someone we trust to set us straight.

It is likely this loss of ability to think clearly that began many of the so called witch wars of the 1960s and 1970s. It is somewhat understandable, but also something that we must be vigilant about today. Descending into that madness is not healthy, and for those of fragile mental mindset, can be downright devastating.

Picture, if you will, the typical person entering the newly discovered pagan world. They are eager as puppies, ready to soak up all information thrown in their direction. They read avidly, everything they can find. Communities are joined, email lists participated in, local events attended. Often, today, the first introduction is to Wicca, but there are other groups out there, too, with as charismatic figures heading them. And so our hypothetical new person finally settles on a path, and formally joins a group.

This person is now in a very vulnerable state of mind. They are open, without mental shields of any kind. In order to become open to the occult in their new family (for the coven or grove or temple does become a new family!) they must let down their guard. Whether this new group of people has their best interests at heart, or is intent on swindling them, really matters not one bit. At some point, the group's leaders will fall down, showing their humanity, and the new person's rose colored view of the occult world will be shattered.

The usual response would be to shrug, and move on. Having learned from the experience, they will either look for a new group or coven to join, or they will decide that the occult is not for them. Either response is quite valid, and reasonable. But there is a small portion of our hypothetical pagan population that is not normal or usual. In some cases, because the occult tends to draw people who are already on the fringes of society, it seems as if we have a much larger percentage of odd people. Statistically speaking, this is correct.

For the unbalanced person, a snub from a new group might cause internal distress. In stressed situations, it might cause them to react in a violent or extreme manner. Sometimes, even frequently, this can cause a slight break with reality. The offended person becomes convinced that their former group mates are "out to get them." And so the witch wars begin.

Paranoia is a very frightening thing. It can cause seemingly normal people to blow things hugely out of proportion. Once you've had a taste of paranoia, it can easily become something that takes over your life. This can be very damaging, on all sides.

For the person who believes they are being persecuted or pursued, feelings of intense insecurity can build up. They may feel they are being watched, spied upon, or talked about behind their back. They can also become violent, lashing out and doing irrational things, purportedly to get back at their imagined attacker(s).

For the people who are assumed to be the persecutors, this is a very trying time. They may be doing their best to move on, forget the past, and concentrate on the future. They may also be smarting over the words and actions of the paranoid person, which, while easily passed off as nonsensical, can still hurt emotionally. Worst of all, they may find themselves drawn into the paranoid experience of the first person, living out the very things they were accused of doing.

For everyone else, those who witnessed only the outer ripples of all this frustration and distress, it may seem quite insane: perfectly reasonable people accusing other people of perfidy, former friends closing ranks against one person, charges of collusion and character assassination, and other heinous acts. How is the community supposed to react to such things?

It can be even worse when one person is a charismatic type of leader, and commits acts that his followers consider unethical or alienating. When a leader is exposed as being just as human as the rest of his followers, it can be a shock. Even if, in quiet moments, they understand that leaders are not gods, but are just as prone to bad days, lapses in judgment, and emotional bad hair days, during the moments of stress and anger, it can be difficult to be understanding and calm. This is a part of the "drawing in" action that happens in these types of situations.

Perhaps the worst thing that can happen, when communities are involved, is for a schism to happen. People end up choosing sides, and there is no winner at all. The community itself is a casualty, and sometimes, it never recovers.

What is the answer, when these things happen? One can simply walk away. It's the simplest answer, but not always the most viable. One can address the issues head on, but that can sometimes bring tempers to a boil quickly, causing more anger and more splitting. One can try and calmly talk it out, but that can be difficult if one or more parties are disagreeable. Communication must come from all involved parties, or it will quickly break down.

There is no clear cut answer when someone enters a paranoid state. The best you can hope for is that it will die out quickly, and that they will get help. Sometimes, it takes community intervention before that happens, but it is the best scenario. The worst, however, is what often happens. And the only thing we can do then, is mourn.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Festivals of Dionysus and Hecate

The 29th of each month is sacred to Hecate. This is the day that "Hecate's Suppers" would be left at crossroads. This is also the day Greeks ritually purified their homes.

The 13th day of each month is set aside for Dionysus, celebrated with a "Theoxenia" or feast of the God. This is a day to drink wine in his honor and make pious libations.

January
12-15th Festival of Vats - The wine was mixed. It is a day when vegetation is wakened from its winter slumber.

February
Mid month Triumphal Procession - A celebration of personal triumph over obstacles.
Late month Anthesteria - Three day festival. First day celebrates the "Opening of the Jars" and the first taste of new wine. The second day commemorates the marriage of Dionysus and Ariadne. The third day honors the spirits of the dead.

March
9-13th Greater Dionysia - Five days of plays, beginning with tragedies and ending with a comedy or satire. Dionysus is honored as the liberator of the land from bondage. The last day, civil honors are bestowed upon worthy citizens.

April
13th Meilichia - A day of sweetness. Figs are featured. This is a day of healing from distress, anxieties, and emotional problems.

May
21-23rd Anastenaria - Christianized festival celebrating fire. Firewalks are often performed, mostly by women, mimicking the "madness" of the maenads.

June
(none yet)

July
1st Bebakcheumenia - A day of being filled with Dionysus' frenzy, highlighted by drunkeness, madness, ecstacy, and prophecy.

August
13th The day of offerings to Hecate for a good harvest.
19th Day of the Vine, commemorating Dionysus' vegetative epiphanies.

September
19-21st Ariadneia - A three day festival in honor of Dionysus' wife.

October
7th Mimneskia - Day of Remembering, when we remember religious martyrs.

November
30th Night of Hecate - The Greeks made sacrifices in her honor on this day.

December
(none yet)

There are many more festivals to these two deities, than just what I've shown here. These are the ones that made sense to me, that called specifically to me, personally. I also celebrate the solstices and equinoxes, and the "secular holidays:" Ostara, Beltaine, Samhain/Halloween, and Yule. There are reasons specific to myself that I celebrate each of these. I do so not because "everyone else does" but because I feel that it is right and good to celebrate these days. I'm sure that, as I grow in my spirituality, I will add to this list, making it greater and more accurate.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Rediscovery

At 36, almost 37 years old, one does not expect to re-discover themselves, religiously speaking. I expected to go through the usual soul-searching accompanied with the sagging of breasts and peri-menopause, but I wasn't counting on going through a religious conversion.

Well, conversion isn't quite the right term. I am expanding. I had my beginnings in no religion, and moved into Wicca rather comfortably and solidly at 18. Now, 18 years later, I am hungry for more, desperate for something deeper. Greek religion, both ancient and modern style practices, seems to be the place for me to explore, considering the deities that have called me are Hecate and Dionysus.

I find that the truly "reconstructionist" rituals, done solo, are quite short and to the point. I find myself standing around, wondering where the rest of the ceremony is. It feels abrupt. The first time I did a true offering to Dionysus, a sacrifice of wine as thanks for something, I poured the wine and prayed, and then stood there rather awkwardly. In my Wiccan days, it would have been time to chant or sing, or dance, or call or dismiss Quarters, or something. But I knew that those things were wrong for this... and yet the lack of "ceremony" really bothered me. I stood there, shifting restlessly from foot to foot, until I got a distinct impression of, "Yes? I heard, you're welcome, and was there something *else* you wanted?" I realized I had "left the phone off the hook," so to speak. I was rather embarrassed and rushed to close things down.

I am NOT a Greek Recon, though. I doubt I ever will be. My interest in magick is too full and vibrant. I don't over-use it, but I do like to have it as an option, and my understanding of the past is that magick was considered impious to the Greeks. Honestly, I doubt they meant the kind of magick I do, but still... I am aware of labels, and I won't take one I consider wrong. I am not trying very hard to reconstruct the past, and so I am not really a reconstructionist, am I?

What I AM doing, is educating myself. I'm reading the Odessy, and I have the Illiad for when that's done. I have a Greek recon book on the way, which I plan to read through thoroughly. I will, in the vernacular of the times, take what I like and leave the rest. I value UPG (unverified personal gnosis) highly, for my personal worship, and am pleased when it "works" for the others that I worship with on a regular basis. I don't present it as a truth of any sort - they know it's UPG, and are actively seeking their own UPG to verify or question my own.

I do love my Gods. Hecate is often like an old friend, although perhaps a very powerful one. My interactions with her are well-oiled, and move smoothly. I have worshipped her and served her for many years, even throughout my Wiccan days. Dionysus is different, much more gentle in his approach to me, and yet much more forceful in other ways. I feel his touch in my relationship with my partners, oddly enough, and I am thankful for it. He has lent me calm when I needed it, and the ability to get upset in a useful manner when that is what is needed.

My altar is slowly progressing away from the Wiccan look, to something more syncretic, I suppose. But then again, the Greeks were always rather syncretic, blending other religions into their own. I'm not going to do "Greek Wicca" or anything like that, mind you. That sounds decidedly "Not Right." So... I'm creating, with a critical eye on re-creation.