As I go about my daily business this week, I feel a swath of closeness to the gods that sharpens my awareness of them and makes it so much easier to be mindful of their guidance. It’s an effect that I carry away each year from Laurelin’sLughnasad festival, and that hasn’t changed since I started walking the path of Hellenismos two years ago. In fact, it’s made it all the more moving for me.
This may feel counterintuitive, because Pagan festivals can be hard for non-Wiccans. Casting a circle is about as inclusive to our diverse community as the “non-secular” prayers I recited on Boy Scout camping trips as a kid — you know, the ones that invariably invoked Jesus, much to the chagrin of my Jewish friends. Workshops and rituals tend to reflect the attendees’ interests, and most active members of the Pagan community have, at the very least, been influenced by Wiccan tradition.
Laurelin’s Hestia shrine
But Laurelin is different. I’ve danced to raise energy according to Kemetic tradition on that land, I’ve taken classes on Houdou practices, and this was the first place I paid honor to the ancient Greek gods.
That honoring was in the form of a procession to the shrines of Hestia, Hermes, Pan, the nymphs, and Aphrodite. Participants washed their hands in khernips, purified water, before casting barley at each shrine and pouring libations of watered wine as the priestess led chants and prayers in ancient Greek. Although it was intimidating to me at first, it was my gateway to the religion of some of my ancestors.
To be fair, there was no shortage of cast circles and directional invocations at this festival. The annual games, held in honor of Lugh, took on a somewhat Biblical feel for this end-of-the-world-themed event, with the teams being named for the Four Horsemen. And those shrines were, and continue to be, used in ways that my Greek forebears probably wouldn’t recognize as their religion. But I felt rooted by those standing stones, by my daily processions to those shrines, and by the ad-hoc shrine to Poseidon that I erected for the time I was there.
Such was the pull of the gods upon me that I was forced to miss a workshop my first morning; I was instructed to go forth and write hymns to several gods. I wrote in English, because it is the language of my thoughts. There are excellent reasons for speaking to the gods in the language they first heard from man, and I incorporate as much ancient Greek as I am able, but the muses have made me a master of but one tongue, and that is the one which expresses my love and faith best.
I completely understand how practitioners of Hellenismos, or any other religion which has been reconstructed from ancient days, can feel like they are on the sidelines of the broader Pagan community. I do not. It is my very good fortune that my favorite Pagan festival roots me in my faith, and allows me to participate in the practices of others. I wouldn’t have found my gods otherwise.