Jarred by dreams

I’ve been a Pagan for 24 years, but it wasn’t until I settled into Hellenismos that I started getting messages in dreams.  I believe that’s a clear sign that I’m on the path that suits me best.  (That thought is not intended to suggest that Hellenismos is the One True Way.  Find that path that resonates with you, not with me.)

Ktesios jar

This morning I was jarred awake . . . by a jar.  I’ve been preparing a Ktesios jar, which is a shrine and offering vessel to Zeus Ktêsios, he who keeps the pantry full and abundance at hand.  Yesterday I made a snake out of polymer clay and baked it onto the jar’s top; Zeus Ktêsios appears in the form of a snake.

The jar itself should be filled with herbs, dried fruits, perhaps honey or vinegar; the exact composition varies by household but generally it’s foodstuffs that offer protection and abundance.  I’ve read about people putting in grains or fully-prepared foods, as well.  Then it gets placed in the pantry, or someplace appropriate if the home doesn’t have a pantry . . . I am fortunate in that my home does, so I don’t have to think so much.

When I went to sleep I had decided that I should wait until the fifth of the next month to fill the jar, since that’s his sacred day, or at least do so on a Thursday, the fifth day of the week.  But this morning, I was, as I say, jarred awake by a very clear message:  you will make this offering today.

Today being Easter, most businesses are closed, so I accepted that the first offering would be from existing stores.  Dried apricots?  Check.  Cardamom seeds, a cinnamon stick, and several herbs and spices including whole sage joined the mix, and olive oil filled the remainder.  I tied it up with white wool which my wife spun; she does not follow Hellenismos, so it’s always a pleasure to find ways to merge our beliefs.

This is a skeptical, secular world.  There have been times when I have gone months without thinking about my religion, and years without practicing it.  To get such a clear insight into the will of my gods is thrilling, to say the least.  It takes the chances of me slipping into secularism and divides them by zero.

I’d love to find out how gods make their will known to other Pagans.

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Investment covens, or Pagan investment clubs

Years ago, at a time when only the wise knew that stocks prices ever went down, I unsuccessfully tried to start an investment club.  Today I found myself with the thought in my head that it may be time to revisit that idea, in a Pagan context.

Despite the fact that self-identified Pagans have such diverse views, I think that some of the more widely-held Pagan beliefs would help such a club focus its efforts, things like:

  • A focus on environmental consequences
  • A concern for ethics
  • Awareness of longer-term impacts
  • A desire to act with intent
Investment clubs generally teach themselves how to evaluate stocks, and each member contributes regularly to the collective funds and helps decide on the purchases and sales.  There are some wonderful resources to help with that, as well as the accounting and tax filing requirements to keep everything on the up and up.  But a group of Pagans an some kind of  . . . investment coven or circle or grove, may choose more esoteric criteria as well.
It might be social justice on steroids, with the club looking at ethical or magical impacts of the company.  Does it serve the aims of the club’s patron deity?  Are meetings conducted within a sacred circle?  Do astrological events and lunar cycles get factored into deciding when to buy, and when to sell?  Are decisions made using divination, maybe numerology, or consensus?
The possibilities would be limited by the ways the members’ beliefs overlapped, but I would suggest to any such group that a common agreement to learn about investment basics, as well as a commitment to membership for the long haul, no less than twenty years barring something really terrible, and a willingness to read this sentence to the very last word as I explain that embracing long-term investing in such a manner could only be enhanced by overlay of Pagan beliefs, would serve such an “investment coven” well.
I don’t know who put the idea in my head today, but I’m grateful.

Panhandlers

My reaction to the panhandlers in my small town was, for many years, one of frustration and annoyance.  They aren’t really homeless, after all; they’re called “travelers” by the local kids and simply choose to “spange” (ask for spare change) while they’re in town.  They congregate in front of local businesses, disrupting foot traffic, because their often-untrained dogs and strong body odors tend to offend people.

But that was before Hermes.

For about six months I have carried a dollar coin in my pocket for the express purpose of giving it to a beggar.  That’s a good offering to Hermes, who protects all travelers, and is known for disguising himself as a mortal to see how well he’s treated.

This is a case where action preceded mindset.  My attitude on people asking for money wasn’t altered by that coin in my pocket, at least not at first, but by committing to giving it to someone who asked for it and offered nothing in return, I have seen a change in my thoughts.  Yes, it’s rankling to see some smelly dude intimidating people into giving him money when he could just get a job . . . but that requires me to be judgmental, and I don’t know enough to judge the circumstances of another.  “Think like a mortal,” cautions one of the Delphic maxims.

What a glorious gift it is, to have one’s well-justified attitudes questioned by a diety.  You’re not in a position to outwit a god, so you’re forced to look inward, instead.

Charitable deductions

My ongoing exploration of Pagans and money has found an intriguing void surrounding the question of charity.  Specifically, there appears to be a dearth of Pagan non-profits which aren’t organized as churches.

Is there a Pagan way to let money go?

This isn’t to say that Pagans aren’t charitable.  There is no question that some Pagans give to charity.  But for a number of reasons, there isn’t a place where a Pagan can go to answer the question, “Where can I donate money or time to support the Pagan community?  Some of the reasons I have come up with based on my observations and interactions include:

  • Diversity.  Paganism is a much wider umbrella term than Christianity, or even Abrahamic.  Many of us are fiercely independent and resist the idea of believing together.  The label itself is controversial inside the community, as well as without,  Try applying it to a practitioner of a Native American, Hellenic, or Germanic religion and the individual may agree, or be very offended.  The word is also a flash point for some fundamentalists, which leads to the next reason, which is . . . 
  • Paranoia.  For good or ill, Pagans are extremely suspicious of strangers, particularly ones they meet online.  The Wiccan concept of “perfect love and perfect trust” doesn’t apply, nor does the Hellenic concept of xenia, and while I’m not familiar with most other traditions, I suspect whatever they teach about human kindness is similarly ignored in the face of the unknown.  Pagan charities probably use code words to avoid the ire of angry outsiders, and those who know about such organizations guard the knowledge as if it were a blood-sworn coven secret, rather than a publicly registered 501(c)3 which could receive more donations if it got more publicity.
  • Scarcity.  I also think that many Pagans are crushed by the scarcity mindset.  I don’t know a lot of truly wealthy Pagans, and the churches I’m familiar with don’t exactly have the bottomless coffers that build huge temples.  But a lack of money alone doesn’t prevent charity from happening; I work in the non-profit sector and it’s widely agreed that those with the least often give the most.  But take a look at money magic and you’ll see there’s a wide variety of spells and writings about drawing money into your life . . . but how much work has been done on how to spend money with intent?  Too much fear of having nothing makes it more difficult to let money go.
  • Non-religious alternatives.  Environmental causes, human rights organizations, and foundations for the betterment of mankind are abundant.  There are plenty of worthy organizations that Pagans may donate to in order to further their beliefs.  It could be that it’s easier to give to those groups than try to create the Pagan answer to the Salvation Army, given the first two reasons I articulated.
There are plenty of legally-recognized Pagan churches in the United States and elsewhere, and that’s an appropriate place to tithe, if one is so inclined.  But if one wishes to donate to a cause which is specifically Pagan, but not a particular tradition, the list of Pagan charities is still pretty darned small.

Where are the charities?

An online search for Pagan charities doesn’t yield much.  Many Pagans choose to contribute to organizations that resonate with them, be it agencies that defend the environment, improve human living conditions, or promote equality for women in all aspects of society.  Lists of Pagan charities tend to be short and out-of-date for that reason.

There are many possible reasons for a lack of specifically Pagan charities, or the difficulty in identifying them as such.

  • Pagan religions don’t always call themselves that.  
  • Organized churches may be doing charitable work under those auspices, rather than forming independent organizations (think Roman Catholic Church vs. Salvation Army).  
  • Unlike other umbrella terms, such as Islam and Christianity, Paganism encompasses an array of theologies which, at its extremes, have so little to do with each other that there’s little impetus to work together.
Those are just some guesses.  Is there a need for Pagan-specific charities, or would it dilute the field in a time when non-profits are already struggling?
I believe that spending with intent is an important part of living with intent.  To that end, I’d like to raise the bar and promote more Pagan charities.

What Pagan charities do you know of?