I do not “worship” the gods.

el-salvador-337441_1920To worship a being means to deeply respect and revere that being. That basic definition is powerful and meaningful for me personally because by that definition I worship all beings – deities, humans, animals, plants, rocks, you name it. However, when most people use the term worship, it is understood to mean that one not only respects and reveres a being but also submits to and defers to that being. That understanding of worship centers hierarchy and the logics of domination in my opinion, which is not really my bag.

statue-250819_1920I honor the “Powers That Be”, I praise them, I edify their holy names, but I do not worship them in the sense that they are better than or more important or more holy. The worlds gain nothing by asserting the worth of one class of beings over another. Do the gods have power and influence beyond my own? Hell yes they do. So much so that it scares me sometimes. But there are human folk who fit this description to a degree too. Honestly, President Obama has more power and influence than lots of people, but he’s not worshiped. I think that’s because his worth is obviously equal to other people’s. In my view my worth and every other person’s worth is equal to the worth of the gods, pandas, slugs, herb plants, river rocks, and the host of other beings in our universe. The gods have great worth and so do I. The gods have great value and so do I. I appreciate the gods influence in the worlds and their power to effect change, but they are not better than anyone or anything, and neither am I.

statue-1405539_1920I prefer ecological models of relationship to hierarchical ones. Hierarchies obscure the ways that we are utterly interdependent and interconnected. We are side by side, not one above or below the other. If any one group of beings is removed from the ecology, the entire system shifts for all beings involved.

Honoring a deity takes strength of spirit. Worship is what we are often encouraged to do in relation to “higher” powers. From my experience of worship it easily gives way to obligation and bondage. The soul caliber required to choose a deity and be chosen by them and to continually choose one another and the Work that you both value for it’s impact on the world shapes many aspects of my spiritual journey and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I have come to believe that power, value, and worth are really best figured horizontally rather than vertically, ecologically rather than hierarchically.

Wayfaring Woman: Honoring Hekate in the Rite of Her Sacred Fires

Hekate Kerberos Herakles

Hekate with Twin Torches, from ancient Greek vase

I have updated my Wayfaring Woman column at The Agora on Patheos.com. Check out my latest post, Honoring Hekate in the Rite of Her Sacred Fires!

A Mercurial Encounter

At this time of year (and during Mercury Retrograde cycles) I often find myself reviewing old journal entries and taking stock of what the Powers shared with me in earlier times. In my readings today I encountered a few reflections from August 2012 on an encounter with Mercurius. The journal entry reads:

I began the ritual by purifying myself with castile soap and florida water. I then cleansed the space with Sage leaves. I lit the hearth candle, prayed to Vesta, and then invoked Mercury using a combination of ancient prayers from Horace and Ovid. Mercury filled the space. At that time I made offerings of Zeylon Cinnnamon, Mercury Incense from Alchemy Works, Mercury & Shower of Gold oils from Beads n Botanicals (a local Pagan shop), as well as Mercury stick incense from Beads n Botanicals. I also gave him a glass of beer. After offerings I slipped into trance unexpectedly.

He nearly shouted: “I am a living, breathing god. The spirit of this world. I am in sight, and sound, and sense. Come to my temple with incense and I will tell you more.”

By “spirit of this world” I gathered that he meant to align himself with the essence of civilization and of the relational economy of this planet’s living breathing beings.

I put more incense on the charcoal. I commented that I was not expecting him to be an “ecstatic/mystical experience kind of god”. He said, “Expectation is for the dim witted.” Openness is what I truly need. Expectation narrows the field of vision.

Mercury went on. He communicated the importance of sensing and making sense of experiences with the entire body. Our logical minds receive input from a host of human senses and the output of our logical minds is applied via a host of human senses. Nothing functions within a vacuum. I had been relegating Mercury to the airy realms of mind and logic and cold calculated distance but in reality, he is one of many lords of the senses and relatedly of perception. And so he is one of the many lords of the world. He sees the patterns but he sees with more than just his eyes from a distance. He touches this world! He smells it and tastes it and hears it too! Then he laughs and jets off to the next experience.

Near the close of our conversation he breathed upon me and I was entirely within my body. There was no other time, no other place, no other moment. Only me. Only here. Only now. I nearly passed out. And then he was gone.

Hailing Hekate at the Crossroads

“Hekatê of the Path, I invoke Thee, Lovely Lady of the Triple Crossroads,
Celestial, Chthonian, and Marine One, Lady of the Saffron Robe…
I pray Thee, Maiden, to be present…”

Hekate by Stuart Littlejohn

Hekate by Stuart Littlejohn

On August 25th, the night of the Dark Moon, my thoughts turned to the passing lunar month, to its challenges and mistakes, but also to its resolved struggles and notable successes. I let myself take note of the lunar month’s sweet fruits as well as its bitter fruits. Hekate receives all things that pass away, the good and the bad, and so I prepared to give Hekate her due at the time of the Dark Moon.

For the Nightwandering Queen I gathered offerings. I lit a blessed candle and burned rich incense for the Dread Goddess. I also selected a bottle of Leinenkugel Honey Weiss beer to satisfy her thirst and only the deepest red-black cherries to satisfy her hunger.  In addition to food offerings I gathered the month’s scraps from my altar which included remnants of candles, nearly spent candle wicks, ash from burned incense, scraps of tissue used to dust the altar, drops of spilled oil, empty vigil candle glasses from spells worked, and the like.

With beer, cherries, and altar leftovers in hand I journeyed to the three-way crossroads near my home under cover of night. I walked boldly and with words of reverence on my lips for the Terrible One, the Destroyer, the Queen of Those Below, and for the Torchbearer, the Attendant Who Leads, the Mighty One. With each step I felt the growing chill in the air and I sensed the spirits join me in honoring the Queen of Night. Once at the crossroads I disposed of the month’s altar leftovers with words of reverence and thanks, thereby purifying the temple and opening the way for the next lunar month’s blessings. I next prayed over the cherries and placed them on the ground, then poured the honey beer with still more holy words on my tongue. With a final prayer I turned on my heel and walked away from the triple crossroad. As is traditional I did not look back. I continued to honor Hekate with words from my heart on the walk back home. I felt incredibly close to her in that time. It has been nearly a week since the Dark Moon and I am still buzzing from that night’s Work. 

Hail the Lady of the Wayside and her howling retinue! Long may she bestow her blessings upon us!!

For Freyja

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Mistress of Sessrumnir, you whose luminous heart-hall has many rooms, may there always be a place within your might for your devotees. Glorious Giver, you whose most goodly gift is in the power of connection, may the transformative fires of joining burn brightly wherever your blessed names resound. Lady, may all worry and woe fade in the warmth of your radiance leaving only pure love and sacred pleasure. Sensual Queen of Joyous Life Unfolding, may your praises rise on the voices of your open-hearted supplicants forever. Hail Freyja!!