Tale of the True Pagan Warrior

THIS is a Pagan warrior!

The name “True Pagan Warrior” is perhaps the most uncomfortable one I possibly could have selected for this blog:  it smacks of pretension, inaccuracy, and hyper-expectation.  When I think of a “Pagan warrior,” I think of something more like the fellow in this image than I do the guy I see in the mirror while shaving.  So it’s high time I explained the damned thing.

It began in the most pedestrian of ways, but the gods have a way of taking things seriously.

Since the Great Recession, I’ve abandoned all hope of traditional employment and instead have focused on marketing my own skills.  In the interest of branding, I selected a business name that uses the same initials as my name, TPW.

At the same time, I was looking to abandon my old Wikipedia account name, and decided it would be fun to find one that also used the same initials, so I did a search of acronyms (yes, it’s actually an initialism, but so few people are familiar with that word that it flags my spell-check) and lo and behold, up popped “True Pagan Warrior” as an option.

Mind you, I can’t figure out why the acronym site had that phrase, because I’d never heard it before and still can’t find meaningful results for it online, other than my own work.  (That work, by the way, yields searches that widely stretch the meanings of “true,” “pagan,” and “warrior.”)

I already had a lackluster blog, which I eventually moved to this site, and still more recently reimagined thanks to the motivational force of the Pagan Blog Project.  I added a TPW Facebook page and was off to the races.

And I thought that was the end of it.  HA!

Writing under such a haughty name is not without its costs.  I expected — and have not received — mockery from my fellow humans, but in time I think the label started attracting deific attention.  How can I say that I was introduced to Hellenismos by Ares, and not see a connection?  And even if I can tell people with a straight face that the name has nothing to do with my relationship with Hermes, should you believe a word I say with a straight face in the first place?

And I have been tasked with seeking truth, Pagan truth, invariably with a lot of fighting.  I don’t learn lessons easily, and ofttimes there is a lot of healthy arguing involved as I stretch my mind around the truth.  Those truths are explored here, in my blog about Pagans and money, and in the occasional workshop I give.  It’s often an ugly process, but it’s one that both humbles and stretches me at the same time.  And I’m desperately in need of more flexibility and humbling, so I suppose it was a good idea to pick this wacky name in the first place.

Name magic works, but it can take years to see how it will manifest.

This post is part of the Pagan Blog Project, a yearlong exploration of spirituality.  This specific post is brought to you by the letter S.

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Seasonal visuals

We are turning from barley to coffee.

I continue to be amazed at how my practice of Hellenismos helps me be more rooted in more contemporary Pagan practices, such as the wheel of the year.  The equinox is a time that I honor the turn of the seasons by shifting my offerings to Caffeina.

Let me take a step back, because Caffeina isn’t even a remotely Hellenic deity.  Although I strive to honor the ancient practices of Hellas, or Greece, we only know about the tiniest sliver of them, mostly the things they did in Athens.  Reconstruction is the way we bring that research forward, but I can’t, and won’t, limit myself to a portion of what Athenians did.  We know that the Hellenes honored foreign gods, and adopted foreign practices; in this modern world, I have no problem with the fact that that process is accelerated.

My family had an altar to Caffeina before I was called by the gods of my Greek ancestors, and I honor her as an aspect of Hestia.  Many Hellenic pagans pour a libation of coffee to Hestia, since it is traditional to honor her before all others, so it seemed natural to me to honor one as an epithet of the other, or perhaps as a syncretic goddess.

Stepping forward again:  the equinox is one of the more popular times of the year to acknowledge the change of the seasons.  There are others which make more sense when compared to the actual weather, perhaps, but it’s the one I like to use.  So beginning on the equinox, my traditional first offering to Hestia shifts from barley to barley with ground coffee.  (Ground coffee is distinct from coffee grounds; the former is roasted beans smashed to bits, while the latter have also been subjected to the brewing process.)  I will offer this mix until the winter solstice, at which time I will abandon barley entirely until the spring equinox.

This is a nice visual of the changes in the world, and also mirrors the myth of Demeter, who does not allow the white barley to come forth from the earth while her daughter Persephone is in the underworld.  That’s a deeply Hellenic tale which has been widely adopted in modern Paganism, so it serves to reinforce how the ancient ways are the ways for today.  It also allows me to focus on Caffeina during a time when I am most need of extra energy and comfort.

Since we must make a more intentional effort to be in tune with the rhythms of the world beneath our feet, visual aids like this give us reminders that our ancestors didn’t need.  Do you have visuals that you use to keep your Paganism on track?

This post is part of the Pagan Blog Project, a yearlong exploration of spirituality.  This specific post is brought to you by the letter S.

Strangers

One of the Delphic maxims exhorts us that “if you are a stranger, act like one.”  The learned Elani Temperance does her usual amazing job of explaining the historical context for that bit of wisdom in the post I linked, but I have been trying to practice this particular maxim in a modern context.  The result is that I sometimes gives the impression of being slightly old-fashioned, and I don’t think that’s a terrible thing.

Strangers are people who are neither friends nor enemies.  In her book Longing For Wisdom: The Message of the Maxims, Allyson Szabo says that in ancient Greece, “Strangers were treated with cautious courtesy, as they could easily slide into the ‘enemy’ category, but could also be a god in disguise.”  She goes on to say that, when meeting someone new, the Greek “would be warily friendly.  He was a stranger.  He would not presume to act like a close friend.  Even if he knew a mutual friend, that did not give him the rights of a true friend.”  (I hesitate to impose upon Ms. Szabo by quoting more liberally from her work; she is a stranger to me, so I wish to act like one.)

The wisdom here is we should not presume the comforts of familiarity where none exist.  After considering this maxim for some time, I reached the conclusion that American society has been stripped of linguistic cues regarding relationships.  The French language has two forms of “you,” the formal vous and the intimate tu; we have forsaken the English thou as archaic, so that one’s out.  In my father’s day, people outside of close friends and relations were address with titles, such as “Mr. Smith” and “Reverend Jones.”  Perhaps because those titles frequently announced a woman’s marital status while leaving men to their own devices, the entire convention was discarded as sexist.

All my life I have addressed employers, powerful political figures, priests and priestesses, doctors and diplomats by their first names.  I think early Quakers used plain speech in part to honor that difference; I may be wrong about their intent for using “thee” and “thou,” but the practice has largely fallen by the wayside, and is more of a peculiar distraction than anything else.

But the use of titles, and particularly the avoidance of first names, is something I believe can reinforce the relationship of courteous respect that we should have with strangers.  When we all refer to each other by first names, we get a false sense of familiarity that begets a false sense of privilege.  I use titles and last names as a way of reminding myself that I am a stranger, and should act like one.

Sometimes this raises someone’s hackles, and they ask me to call them by their first name; I have thus far respected the request rather than cause more problems than this practice is designed to solve.  Perhaps if the practice becomes more common, I won’t get quite so many peculiar looks.

This post is part of the Pagan Blog Project, a yearlong exploration of spirituality.  This specific post is brought to you by the letter S.