Moon Rites for Hekate

Beginning in July 2011, I started holding small celebratory rites in Hekate’s honor. Each rite opens the way between worlds and allows ritualized time for communion with my Lady. I hold rites at both the dark and full moon. Some are elaborate, some are simple but all are heartfelt.

In the more elaborate rituals, I cleanse and purify myself and the space, sing hymns, invoke the goddess, meditate on her greatness, and celebrate her might. During more simplistic rites, the basic steps are the same but instead of a cleansing bath I might wash my hands; instead of singing a hymn, I might offer a brief prayer; instead of a four verse invocation, I might speak a few short words of welcome; instead of mediation, I might fall asleep with thoughts of Hekate meandering through my mind.

Elaborate or simple, long or short, big or small, my rites for her emerge from the recesses of my soul. Every one that I have completed thus far brings me closer to her and her mysteries. Every one offers the best part of me for her pleasure and for her glory.

Thus far, I have not missed an opportunity to sing her praises at or near the full and dark moons of each month. I plan to continue these observances for many more moons to come. As a lady with strong lunar associations, I find these to be excellent times to reach out and seek her. Hail Hekate, Mighty and Blessed Lady of the Moon, of Magic, and of Mystery!!

Reaching Deep Roots: Reflections on My Ancestor Altar

On March 30th, I posted an image of my Ancestor altar in its infancy. My altar at that time reflected my young relationship with my Ancestors. Fortunately, my ancestral connections and thus my altar have grown quite a bit since March. 

Not only is my altar space occupied by images of my Beloved Dead but it also contains waters (pure water, Florida Water, and an Ancestral Scrying Water), offerings (candy, copal resin, candles, and alcohol), and symbols (cowry shells, rattles, skull images, pennies, beads, charms, dried flowers, veves, etc.) that speak not only to the Ancestral Dead but also to the two Orishas with whom I work, the two Lwa with whom I am building a connection, and a few Saints who have offered me some quite unexpected assistance in the last several months or more. My awareness of my roots has deepened and my altar has become more integral to my spiritual practice. I conduct my rites of offering at the altar as well as divination rites and other informal rituals of reverence and connection. Thus far my Ancestor altar has been a wonderful gateway to the realm of the Ancestral Dead and to making connections with the Orishas, Lwa, and Saints. When I started the altar, I really did not expect my roots to reach so deep. I did not expect to begin profound relationships with the Spirits (i.e., Orisha, Lwa, and Saints) that many of my ancestors honored.

At the moment, I still consider myself to be deeply engaged in the early building phase of my relationships with these very different but connected entities so I try not to light candles and make offerings for the purpose of making requests and having them satisfied. Instead I make offerings in recognition, to give honor/reverance, and out of appreciation. Does this mean that I will never ask for anything? Well, no, I believe in reciprocity – a gift for a gift, but I also believe in having a strong and respectful connection, a meaningful relationship. That is the foundation on which exchange and reciprocity are laid. Out of respectful reverence, I try to acknowledge and show appreciation for the myriad gifts that have already been given. I feel I am still in that phase. I am sure the time will come when I feel called to ask for something but right now, I am enjoying the process of appreciative gift giving. Overall, I am super energized around these budding relationships and I look forward to strengthening connections, and reaching more of my roots.

Athena

“I begin to sing of Pallas Athena, the glorious goddess, bright-eyed, inventive, unbending of heart, pure virgin, saviour of cities, courageous, Tritogeneia.”
~From Homeric Hymn 39 to Athena~

Over the last several weeks (since late June), I have been struggling to find the energy and desire to complete certain duties and tasks. This struggle has included everything from cleaning my apartment to working on scholarly manuscripts for publication. Needless to say, this struggle has caused me some distress. Enter Athena.

Her first appearance was subtle. I did not expect her to be so stealthy. Actually, I did not realize her initial approach as such until about two weeks after the fact! Athena’s overture was at PSG 2011, the week before period of distress began. There was no fanfare or chorus to announce her presence, I just lost my glasses. This is a very big deal for me, not because I do not have contact lenses but because contacts are not convenient at 4am on a camping trip when I have to get up in the middle of the night to use a port-a-potty and everything from tents to guy-lines to mud hills stand between me and that simple goal. I was very annoyed and very upset and very annoyed and did I mentioned upset, but this major glitch in the matrix did not smack of anything divine. I chalked it up to carelessness on my part and huffed my way in the dark to my nightly destination with one blurry contact to not so clearly show the way. This nightly ritual of course contributed to my second vision-related concern which was that I only had one pair of contacts to last me for eight days in the woods where anything from a wayward flying insect to a strong gust of debris-filled wind could have taken out my only source of sight. Not to mention the problem endemic to putting in contacts in the dark with less than immaculately clean hands! Again, this problem was big, so needless to say I surprised myself when I neglected to check the campgrounds and visit the lost and found in search of my glasses. However, in the interest of full disclosure, let it be known that I had those glasses since my sophomore year of high school (which was nearly 15 years ago!). The prescription was almost useless. The glasses afforded me just enough perception to avoid stubbing my toe on obvious obstacles but the  ability to visually sense the fine details and nuances of my world – the subtleties that elevate the work of the eyes from mere seeing to sight – were essentially gone. And so, I accept that it was long past time for those glasses to leave me in the rearview mirror because I had not instigated the separation on my own.

Why is this story about my glasses relevant? Athena has a special and pronounced affinity for the eyes. The Greeks associated her with the eyes themselves, eyesight, keen perception, and foresight. A few of her epithets are related to these areas of jurisdiction. For example, Athena Oxyderkes (sharp-sighted) was honored at Argos. At Sparta, Athena Ophthalmitis (of the eyes) was glorified. Pausanias tells of a man who, having lost one of his eyes, prayed to Athena and was saved from losing the other. In gratitude the man erected a temple to Athena Ophthalmitis. Athena Ophthalmitis seems to have glanced in my direction. I say this because my eyes and my sight have always been a major concern for me. Not only is my vision generally poor, but I was also born with amblyopia (colloquially referred to as a lazy eye). Every doctor I saw as a child warned my mother to guard my
“good” eye. I was regularly reminded to be careful when playing and to wear my glasses in order to maintain decent vision. Also, when I began wearing contact lenses, my doctors told me to be especially attentive to any discomfort – however mild – because it could be a sign that I needed to stop wearing them and go back to glasses exclusively. Luckily, I have done very well with contact lenses but I neglected to update my prescription for my glasses which I was wearing at home and on short excursions. Anyone who wears glasses knows that an inadequate prescription can cause strain on the eyes, ill-advised for the one-eyed. So, I think Athena was doing me a favor and helped my glasses get lost. The absence of my glasses had the added benefit of provoking a lot of thought about my poor vision as a metaphor for what I was not seeing clearly (or not seeing at all) in my life. Given my state of distress, that thought project was both a blessing and a curse but a necessary first step to making so much…much needed changes. And, anyone who has changed, knows that change is work.

Fortunately for me, hard work/labor is another area that Athena patrons. In her capacity as a hard-working builder of crafts, systems, and institutions that edify both the individual and society, she appeared to me in a dream on July 11th. In my dream, Athena was accompanied by Erikhthonios (born of Gaia, fostered by Athena) in the form of a black serpent and by Hephaistos, whose presence in the dream was more implied than stated. He appeared more abstractly as the raging fires, cool waters, and billowing smoke of the craftsman’s workshop. Together they are Athens’ inventor trio, the gods of craft, work, and civilization. They support the labor of building a civilization, of painstakingly crafting tangible tools, edifices, and monuments, tangible resources, the foundations for accomplishment. Both Athena and Hephaistos have titles specifically associated with crafting and work. Even Erikhthonios, their child, was the mythical first king of Athens said to have brought a host of tools, techniques, and institutions to the Athenians, pulling them out of wildness and into the Greek ideal of civilization. Athena’s appearance in my dream along with Erikhthonios and Hephaistos was incredibly heartening in my time of trouble.

By this point in mid-July, I was beginning to feel a little better but I still had (and have) a few more miles to walk yet in terms of feeling like I am on my A-game again. So, much to my delight it turns out a friend of mine who lives in the DC area wants me to come visit her (I leave later this week!). Travel always cheers me up! She and I had discussed the visit in mid-June before I left for PSG but we had not made any concrete decisions. Our plans did not firm up until July 13th. It was not until July 21st when I actually booked the tickets and started researching attractions in DC that Athena shifted from talking to me to shouting at me! Here’s how things progressed during the early stages of planning my trip: “DC is none other than the US capitol, the civic center of my nation. Hmm, I should go see the Capitol building. Oh, very cool statue on the top. Wonder what it is. Holy crap! It’s an Athena inspired statue, the Statue of Freedom. Shut up! Hmm, Library of Congress would be cool to visit too. Get out! You mean to tell me there are two statues of her there. Just hush!”. So, the goddess of labor and state is calling me to my capitol.

Now here is the real kicker. While processing the experiences with my glasses, the dream, and the fast approaching visit to the capitol, I was also researching Athena via some websites and several books and articles on Greek religion in general and Athena in particular. In the process I even discovered a few interesting travel destinations; it turns out Nashville, TN has a reproduction of the Parthenon (!)…but I digress. As a part of all this research, I grabbed Parke’s Festivals of the Athenians, the book opened to page 93, and I found out about two holy days important to Athena in ancient Greece and I thought to myself that it might be great to try to celebrate at least one, if it was upcoming. So, I noted the two festivals on the page: Khalkeia (also sacred to Hephaistos!) and Panathenaia. Then I scooted over to Temenos and to Hellenion and found out that Panathenaia was not just happening soon but during the entire last week of July, which coincides with when I am going to be in DC (Thursday afternoon to be exact). In addition to being the biggest festival in the Athenian calendar, it focused (focuses) on crafting, on work, and on the birth of the city and of Athena herself. In ancient times, it even included – wait for it – a procession from outside the city walls into the Acropolis, which maps nicely onto my trip into DC.

I have a lot of work to do in the coming months and it seems that Athena may be willing to offer her blessings during that process. She and I have a lot more communicating to do about future direction, but I hope, at the outset of this new task-oriented partnership, that I can show my gratitude for current and future blessings in ways that are pleasing to her.

Eight Tips for Managing Multiple Deity Relationships

As you may have noticed, I chose to answer the call of many deities. The challenges endemic to that choice might have been lessened had the deities originated in the same pantheon; however, that is not the case for me. The gods with whom I work are from all over – Greece, Rome, Germany and Scandinavia, and the African diaspora (Africa, Brazil, and the Caribbean in particular)! So, how do I manage? The answer is only a little better than marginally, but there are certain lessons I have learned along the way that allow me to manage to that degree and have given me the foothold that I need to continue to improve my multiple deity relationships!

1. Know your gods’ lore and cultural context.

When dealing with many deities from many different cultures, it really, really helps to know more than a little bit about that deity’s traditional attributes and lore as well as quite a bit about the culture in which that deity first functioned. Everything, including gods, function within a context. That context can and does change but you need to be versed in its iterations nonetheless. The gods can be engaged without that cultural/contextual awareness, but I personally wouldn’t recommend it, not because they will smite you or anything but because it just isn’t very savvy in my opinion. I speak from experience; I am still trying to repair a faux pas from early in my relationship with Elegua!!

2. Identify and practice with a divine communication method that works for you.

Develop an effective method for listening to the gods. Tarot, runes, direct communication, etc. work well for many. Find your tool, hone your skill, use it well. Obviously, the more gods you work with, the more important this is because you have lots of folks taking to you at once. Refining your hearing so that you can tell who is talking, when, and what they are saying is super important! Step one: practice with whatever method you have elected.

3. Create a communion and sacrifice schedule.

When working with multiple gods, it is helpful to have designated time for performing major rites and offerings for each god/group of gods. I have found that if I just honor who ever when ever, I end up forgetting folks and/or pissing people off. Saturdays, Sundays, and now Mondays are the days that I do the most work and make offerings; everyone gets their due and their time that way. I also engage in impromptu workings, rites, and offerings but the scheduled time ensures that everyone is remembered and honored.

4. Do what you are able to do.

When it comes to altar construction, making offerings, communing with the gods, and completing the personal and public tasks that they ask of you, do what you are able to do (but always everything that you said you would do, even if it takes more time to make it happen). If you can afford nice fabric for a deity altar, by all means purchase enough to cover the altar and rejoice in the beauty of it. If the god is fond of a particular hard-to-obtain mineral, grain, alcohol, or other substance and you have the time, money, and resources to procure it, then by all means do so. If you are able to efficiently, effectively, and reliably meditate/commune with the gods only once per week then meditate efficiently, effectively, and reliably once per week. Any more or any less might impair your ability to be efficient, effective, or reliable. In the end, I have found that the gods – at least the ones I work with – want you to do what you are able to do. What they do not want you to do is starve your children, not pay your bills, be unethical, or otherwise fail at being a responsible, decent human being in their name.

5. Do not agonize over what you are unable to do.

Do not become emotionally weighed down by the thought of what you are unable to do. If you cannot afford super expensive altar items, or the bomb-ass incense for this week’s offering, or that really cool silver-rimmed drinking horn for your next ritual in honor of Odin, do not become so sad and depressed that you fail to do what you are able to do, or fail to take pride in the honor you are able to give the gods within your means. If you feel like crap while making your offerings, meditating, making altars, etc. because of what you cannot give, something is wrong. Figure it out and get it sorted with your self and with your gods!

6. Do well those things that you are able to do.

The gods, like most others we are in a relationship with, appreciate a little sacrifice every now and again to show that you are serious and committed to the relationship. So, if you have an extra hour this week instead of starting that new book you really want to read, consider engaging in a deeper meditation or go on that wild harvesting herb excursion you have been promising Eir. If you have the extra funds this month (meaning you have extra after you pay your bills and take care of other financial requirements), splurge on that drinking horn. In a nutshell, when it comes to the gods, if you are choosing between fine and finer – and you are still able to feed your family – choose finer every time and the gods will notice!

Also, the more thoughtful and planned your altar, ritual, meditation, etc. is the happier most gods are. Its not about perfect execution or everything going as planned, it is about the attentiveness and devotion in taking the time to think things through and plan in the first place. The gods I work with dig that sort of thing.

7. Feel it!

You are in a relationship. When you stop being yourself, when you stop connecting with the gods, talking to them, inviting them into your life, mind and heart, you have stopped honoring them, even if you are still making your regularly scheduled offerings. To my thinking, Pagan spirituality is about heart and soul in addition to ritual, offerings, and the like. A part of the goal is to “feel it”. When you don’t feel the relationship (i.e. you’re distracted, you’d rather be somewhere else, your new devotional craft project is lopsided, poorly constructed, and a little smelly from cat urine and you don’t even care), something is wrong. Figure it out and get it sorted with your self and with the gods.

8. Experiment until you find a combination of divination, rituals, sacrificial rites, festivals, etc. that efficiently, effectively, and reliably cultivates your relationship with the gods.

Working with many deities is alchemical! Lots of varied chemicals have to come together, and with a little magic, make gold. Some combinations of time, energy, ritual, and offering will blow up in your face. Others will work for a time and then start to revert to lead. Experiment. Don’t be afraid to try things out. There are many folks who are more than happy to nay-say or – even more annoyingly – try to tell you the definitive way to do X Y or Z but I have found that other people’s formulas, while great for them, sometimes do not work in my lab. Sometimes they do and that’s awesome but sometimes they don’t and that’s awesome too because its an opportunity for me to work in a new and interesting way with deity to craft unique formulas and test them. As long as you keep the avenues of communication open and remain respectful (but not humorless) the gods will accept your growing pains and they just may see you on the other side of them.

In Search of the Roman God Mercurius

I have been working with Mercury also known as Mercurius (the Roman God of Exchange et cetera), since 2008 but have only recently begun to scratch the surface of his personality (let alone his mysteries!). I have encountered him as stately diplomat, knowledgeable teacher, wordsmith, swift-footed divine messenger, animal husbandman, lord of commerce, patron of public transportation, god of communication, and also as meddler, confusion monger, cheat, liar, and thief of wit. His facets are many. In addition to his manysidedness, I will say one of the greatest challenges in my search for Mercury has been his syncretism with Hermes. Sometimes I think I am one of zero people who actually think of Mercury as an individual god, separate from Hermes. To my thinking, they are like twins; they look alike, but they are different people with their own unique proclivities and personalities. A few times I have actually given up and tried working with Hermes. Each time, both gods protested! The second big challenge to working with Mercury is the scarcity of scholarly, English language works that treat him within his Roman cultural context with minimal (or even simply moderate) reference to his Greek brother. I have no trouble locating the precious few books that exist but they are in a language that I do not speak (usually French)…So close, yet so far. Each time this happens I hear Mercury whisper, “You know, you could always learn French.” Given the problem at hand (my lacking French knowledge not being the least of it), I appealed to him and constantly received the message that direct communication with him was best anyway, whether I had the scholarly sources of not. Who’d of thought it? The god of communication wanted me to actually communicate with him. Such rocket science was beyond me in the early stages of our relationship, but I eventually figured it out.

We slowly made regular direct contact; however, over the course of the three years that I have known him, at times he has seemed utterly present and at others profoundly distant. At first, I childishly thought it was me, that he did not like me or that I was not doing enough to honor him, but based on further conversations with him, I discovered that being everywhere and nowhere, present and distant is part and parcel of his nature. This realization was solidified for me in a vision from about four weeks ago. In it, I was in the middle of a vast ocean standing on a very, very tiny landmass. I felt very insecure and unsafe. The water was everywhere and I was nowhere. When I took control of my emotions in the situation I could suddenly leave the tiny landmass and navigate my way to more solid ground. When I arrived on the much larger, lush tropical island, Mercury was waiting for me on a high cliff overlooking the vast ocean that I had traversed. He actually looked completely out of place (black shirt, jeans, and bare feet sans wings) in this tropical paradise. We talked for a time and he helped me to see that I was being too clingy for a swift-footed god of wind and change. When I began to accept his transient nature, he reminded me of some old roles and began cluing me into other roles that he was playing in my life at the time. In the very same vision, as divine messenger (an oldie but a goodie) he returned my attention to Elegua, who also happened to be on the island and who had some words for me regarding our budding relationship. As I began speaking with Elegua about offerings and other matters, Mercury flitted off.

Mercurius’ transitory nature as expressed in the vision is consistent with other experiences I have had. Earlier I had noticed that he was exceedingly good to me when I needed him for “the big stuff” and wily as ever when I wanted him for “the little stuff”. For example, when my life changes majorly, that often but not always heralds the coming or going of a deity or spirit in my life. When the deity or spirit is coming, Mercury is usually the one who makes initial overtures with deities (before I figure out what the heck is happening), drafts contracts and the first set of “rules of engagement”, and arranges for the preliminary sets of signatures. This is the behind the scenes stuff that he only recently saw fit to share with me via an impression during a divination session; by the time I get a tap on my noggin (i.e. Mercury patching a call through from a deity), he, Hekate, Odin, and the other deities I work with have already come to some conclusions about their relationships with one another and the basics of how and why they will involve me. In the case of my March 2011 initial contact with Dionysos, by the time my head stopped spinning from the initial encounter, Mercury had a contract and sticky notes labeled “Initial Here” on the proverbial table for me to sign. He’d all but licked the tip of the pen. On the flip side, when I have to be out and about by 8:30AM, I hit snooze at 8:15 for ten minutes and then jump out of bed yammering prayers to Mercury to make the bus late. He pats me on the head for being audacious, and then chuckles knowingly as I exit my apartment just in time to see the bus sail by…without me on it. The bus was indeed late, but not late enough. He gets a kick out of that sort of thing because I was foolishly more than half serious in my brazen request.

The search for Mercury has been long and hard, but I think that fact is my fault. The tighter I squeeze the farther he flies but, when I relax and go with the flow, he’s present in some way or another, or sometimes he isn’t but in either case I am alright. Whether our relationship continues or ends in the near future, I feel blessed to have known and worked with Mercurius. But I won’t lie, I hope to get to know him better in the coming months! At this point, my intuition tells me that Mercurius and I have a least a few more encounters to look forward to.