Friday, August 29, 2008

Artemis Devotional

Posted on behalf of Thista:

Don't forget, there's only one month left to get your submissions in for the Artemis devotional! We've got some great stuff but more would, of course, be better, so take a look at the moon, go for a walk in the forest, or spend some time with your pets and write whatever comes to mind! Let's make this devotional just as amazing as the last one. :)

You can send submissions and any questions about requirements and details to artemisdevotional [at] gmail [dot] com.

The deadline for this is September 30, 2008.

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I submitted a poem and a short story to the devotional. I'm not a big Artemis person, and don't know her beyond the more public myths, however... I decided that I wanted to write something. Please consider doing so, and I'm morally certain artwork would also be welcome!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Victory Garden


In the 40's, with the war going on, the American government urged its citizens to ration their food. They also wisely suggested that the average American citizen start something called a "Victory Garden." This was a garden, as large as you could manage, that was intended to feed your family with fresh fruits and vegetables that were otherwise scarce during wartime.

Some great video footage is available here. Scroll down to "Victory Garden (this is hardly organic!)" for a great blast from the past. I really enjoyed watching it, although the caveat is quite true!

This is, essentially, what we are trying to do with our new home. We've identified a piece of land which we really like. It's high on a (small) mountain, with views on all sides, plenty of land for crops (about 8 to 10 acres could be devoted solely to crops with no problems) and animals (another 3 or 4 acres could house animals, plus a hay field for forage). We're going to have our own "victory" garden, of sorts, but the victory will be ours, as human beings. As the sign says, we'll grow vitamins at our kitchen door. Well, actually we'll grow vitamins at our barn door, because the garden plot will probably be across the "road" (and I use that term loosely) from the house, beside the big barn.

We've had several discussions about what to do about our housing situation. One of them is to use the big barn as the frame for a new house. It would be bigger than the main house, which is fine. We have to have it inspected anyhow, so we're going to have them check out the foundation and such, so we know what we're getting into. With luck, we'll be able to put up a little framing, fill it with appropriate insulation, and drywall over it. Laying a floor would be last, and blocking out rooms. There's already an upstairs in the barn, quite well built. This barn is made with 10x10 beams, not the "not quite 2x4's" of today's building practices. The upper "floor" is actually two sides, and would translate into two separate "rooms" with the opening to the main part of the house in between. It would work very well for our family, because sis and I like our separate bedrooms, and this would give us lots of space, with room for the twins and living space and kitchen and bathrooms and such down below. There would be lots of privacy in the house if it were set up that way. I rather like that idea!

I think what I'm most excited about is cooking on our wood cookstove. I know there will be a learning curve, but the idea of having hot water for tea and hot chocolate, and a bubbling (but NOT burning) stew sitting on top of the woodstove just makes me happy. I can almost smell it already. Along with that lovely stove (see the picture - that's it!), in the kitchen proper there is an old electric range, which has a proofing oven! This means that, if I can just, somehow, get my stuff together, I can make bread several times a week, maybe even daily. What an idea.

See, this is what I have been talking about. We need to calm our lives down a bit, find that silent place within, so that we can be at peace. I want that, very much. I have always wanted to have a try at following Ma Ingalls' catechism for running a household:

Wash on Monday,
Iron on Tuesday,
Mend on Wednesday,
Churn on Thursday,
Clean on Friday,
Bake on Saturday,
Rest on Sunday.

Perhaps I could do without the ironing part. Most of our clothes don't require it, anyhow. Hehe!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Daily Doings

Morning Salutation

I open my eyes and see You,
In symbol or in statue,
Hera, Hecate, Dionysos, Zeus
Hestia, Aesculapius, Nyx.

I bid You good morning
As I wipe the sleep from my eyes
And contemplate hot coffee
As a morning libation to You.

It's only in passing,
This brief salutation,
Yet it is the start of my day
And adds balance to my day.

My Gods, I ask your blessings,
As I go about my day.
I start my day with thoughts of you,
And whisper prayers and beg softly.

Let my mind be clear,
Not clouded with grief, anger, or frustration.
Let my words be peaceful, calm, and kind.
May I bring honor to You in all that I do.


Afternoon Reminders

The blood in my coffee stream
Has become untenably thick,
And the work has piled high around me.

My temper is rising,
My shoulders tense as stone,
And my teeth grit at others' stupidity.

Then I pause and breathe deep,
Inhaling the raw essence
Of the Gods that cherish me as their own.

I thank you for keeping me
Mindful of who I am:
A child of my Gods, within and without.

Praises to you, O Great Ones!
You keep me focused,
Happy to serve Your purposes.


Evening Prayers

Night has fallen.
Cool breezes stir
Drifts of pollen.
Our heartstrings blur.

Sing their praises
Of Gods worthy.
On us impress
Gentle mercy.

Stars shine brightly
In the heavens.
Praises rightly
To Them go.

Poetry for Ampelia

Ampelia

I was walking quietly down the street,
Minding my own business,
When his hands grabbed me.
One went over my mouth,
The other grasping my breasts
In lewd, lascivious gestures.
I could not scream.

It took me only a moment
To realize that it was Him,
My ivy twined God.
My panic ceased not one bit;
What was he doing to me?

I was forced down,
Pushed into a concealing bush.
His vining friends grew around me,
Holding me tight as his hands
Became the iron within velvet
That I love and hate so much.

I fought - how could I not?
No matter how much I love Him,
That kind of force leaves you breathless.
His pure, unadulterated vegetable self
Was overwhelming and terrifying.

Yet he paused not a moment,
Only grinning at my struggles,
A thick, hairy thigh pressing between my legs
As I squirmed and tried to escape.

I found myself chanting,
That inevitable sound made by every female in fear and need:
Stop! Please! Don't! Stop, please! Don't!
Stop! Please don't stop! Please don't stop!
The tears fell from my darkened eyes,
Watering his twining ivy,
Fertilizing it,
Causing it to thicken and grow long.

When I gave in,
It was with a yelp of horror
That I could lose myself so quickly
In his luscious embrace...

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Commentary on Miasma

I wrote an article for the Neos Alexandria website, and I'll share it here, too.

Miasma

It's somewhat embarrassing, but until the last couple of weeks, I did not really understand what miasma was. Oh, I understood it in a historical sense, but not in a truly personal sense. It didn't seem to apply to me, in the here-and-now. We live in a world where such things as spiritual “dirtiness” are verboten – they smack too much of Christianity, which many of us have left behind, and thereby brings up bad memories. While I was never Christian, I still grew up with the idea of sin because it is the most vocal and public of the religions where I live.

Most of the gods I have worshiped have been cthonic deities. In other words, they have no worry about the general types of miasma picked up by people nowadays, those associated with death and birth. Hekate is said to be one of the torchbearers showing the dead soul to the underworld, and Dionysos revels in birth, death, and other unsavory subjects usually suitable only to mortals.

Lately, however, I have been garnering a relationship with Zeus and Hera, whom I see as the supernal father and mother. I also have begun to give honors to Hestia. These are not cthonic deities, to say the least. They are quite Olympic in nature, and that changes my way of worship. Much of my “general” worship has remained the same, but there are details which have changed.

The change was most noted this past week, when I was mourning the death of our unborn child. My sisterwife was 17 weeks pregnant, and the baby died due to genetic issues. It was a very sad time for us. For the first few days, I held everything together, and kept my grief close to my chest. I felt that it was my duty, in a way, to keep things on an even keel for my family. I am the priestess, the minister, and it's my job to help others deal with their grief. However, I was not giving myself time for grieving. After everyone else was over the worst of the emotional storm, I finally broke down.

When I learned the child had died, I immediately covered my altar upon which I keep my Olympic deity items. Zeus, Hera, and Hestia were all shrouded, kept apart from my grief. I didn't feel it was necessary to shield Dionysos or Hekate, as they have often been my companions in grief in the past. Initially, I shrouded the altar because I had heard it was something others did when they were “polluted” by death. I wasn't sure it was necessary, but I wasn't certain that it wasn't necessary, either.

I'm glad I shrouded the altar. When I broke down, I took a shred of comfort from knowing that Hekate and Dionysos were with me, but I also looked up at the covered Olympic altar and realized that it was very right that it should be veiled. There was no need for the Olympic gods to see me wallowing in my own mortality.

That was what I realized, then. The idea of miasma is not one of sin, but one of pollution. It isn't so much that the gods would be offended by our grief, but that they have no need to see it. Their interest in us is as servants to them, as worshipers of them, and supplicants to them. During the deepest days of grief, or the days just after a birth, our focus is not on the gods but on ourselves, or our families. That is not wrong, but it is not serving, worshiping or asking something of the gods. It is a time to be mortal, and to fully embrace our mortality. If we did not, we might be bordering on hubris, and that is decidedly not a good thing.

The Greeks used a variety of methods by which they cleansed the body and soul of miasma. These ranged from the simple washing of the hands (something done before prayers and meals alike, as all were considered sacred) to the slaughter of a pig and the sprinkling of its blood. It's unlikely that those of us living in modern North America are going to have pig blood handy for cleansings, however it's not beyond us to use water, either spring water or purified tap water. Some people also advocate the use of salt in water, while others feel this is contrary to the idea of purification. Like most things we do within the Hellenic Polytheistic communities, each of us must use our personal feelings and study both historical texts and modern experiences to find the most appropriate methods.

The Greeks of the Hellenistic era followed certain rules in regards to funerals and miasma. When someone died, they would clean and dress the body with oils and perfumes, and put the body into a clean outfit, usually pure white. Then the body was attended for a time (and I have heard that the lying out time was anywhere between 24 hours and 3 days; my guess is that it depended a lot on the temperature, as if it was hot out, the body would spoil quickly). After the relatives watched over the body, it would be taken in a long procession to the place where it was to be buried or burned on a pyre, and a funeral rite would be conducted. Three days after the completion of this ritual, the participants, relatives, and those who had actually touched the body would undergo a purification process, and would go to the burial or pyre location and make libations and sacrificial offerings. The offerings would be made again nine days after the initial funeral rite, and a last time 30 days after the rite.

Keeping this in mind, I went through the worst of my grief (unintentionally) 3 days after the death of the baby. Though we have not had a formal funeral, I am considering the day of my intense grieving to be the funeral day. Three days later, I underwent a cleansing that I created myself, spontaneously.

We are lucky enough to have a largish above-ground pool in our backyard, and I went into the pool during the morning, and floated in its cool water, allowing the warm rays of Apollon to burn away the last of my grief. Just after noon, I went into the pool again, this time making an effort to physically scrub my body while in the pool. Late in the evening, after it was quite dark outside, I went into the pool one last time. This last time, the water was quite chilly, and the air was chill as well. I spoke an impromptu prayer, thanking the gods for being patient with me in my grief, promising offerings the next day, and asking for their continued love and blessings.

When I returned to the house, I felt very alive, very alert, and much lighter in spirit. Though I was tired because of the late hour, I was revived and I felt very good about taking the veil off of my Olympic altar. I exposed Hera and Zeus and Hestia, and spoke prayers to them, and made offerings of barley and fresh water.

This morning, I showered and washed vigorously with a lye soap that I made myself. I picked fresh flowers and made a special bouquet which I placed on my Olympic altar as an offering for Hera. I also dedicated a special gift for Hera as well.

The miasma is gone, washed away in the light of the sun, in the caress of the waters, in the earthy strength of my soap. My soul feels brighter, and I am happier. Perhaps my practice was not what an Athenian in 300 BCE would have done, but then again, perhaps it was.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Images of piety

I am finished my grieving time, and am moving on with life. In honor of unveiling my Olympian altar, I picked flowers from the garden at our old house, and created a small bouquet with them, which I gave to Hera this afternoon. I am quite pleased with how it looks, both on the altar and on its own. I took pictures to share, because I felt like injecting a bit of color to my journal today. I also include a picture of the offering dish that I was given by a close friend, J, which I also dedicated to Hera. Not quite sure why I'm on such a Hera kick, but it felt right, so I'm running with it!

Here are the images:
New altar photos

Cleansing the Soul

Today, I spent time in the pool, floating placidly on the top of the water, spread eagle, naked. The new filter creates quite a draw, and so there is a subtle but strong current within the pool. I truly enjoyed basking in Apollo's golden rays. I let the sun leach out my negativity, my miasma from the past weeks. I let the water of the pool wash it away, and visualized the filter pulling it all out. I spent a good hour out there, doing little more than laying there, face up. I needed to feel the healing rays of the sun, and the cleansing wash of the water over me.

This evening, I took a single candle outside with me, and Farnham and I went into the pool. It was very dark, and the glow of the candle lit up very little of the space. The pool was a black pit which we slid into silently. The chilly water engulfed us, drawing out the last of the lethargy, the misery, and the grief. For ten minutes, we prayed, dunked ourselves, and moved about trying to keep warm. It was good - when we finally got out, we felt clean, inside and out, body and soul.

I feel so much lighter, now. My mood is lighter, my outlook is lighter, and life seems lighter. I came down to my room, and unveiled my Olympic altar. It is wonderful to have it open again, available for me to stop and make offerings at, and prayers.

Life isn't perfect, but it's much better. I am glad to be cleansed of my miasma.