What role does mystery play in your tradition?

If I’m not mistaken, the idea of mysteries comes from Hellenic tradition, so there’s that.  Some percentage of Hellenic Pagans have embraced mysteries ever since, right up until the present day.  The question is about my tradition, and that’s the answer.  I haven’t personally been initiated into any Hellenic mysteries, but there is something itching at the edge of my brain which may change that fact at some point.

This post is part of a series of devotional questions for polytheists which were developed by Galina Krasskova.

Wiccanate is here to stay; here’s why

“Wiccanate” as a word didn’t really enter the collective Pagan consciousness until a few months ago, when it started getting concatenated with “privilege.”  It’s a clumsy-looking, awkwardly-pronounced word which refers to those collected practices and traditions which outwardly resemble what most of us think of as Wicca, e.g. casting a circle, balancing gender poles, invoking elements, and things like that.  It’s a spot-on definition of the type of Paganism I practiced for the first twenty or so years on this path.

I don’t think it’s a particularly attractive word, and wish that whoever coined it had come up with something that feels more elegant to the tongue and the ear.  But wiccanate is here to stay, despite my misgivings.  That’s because it does, in fact, accurately describe an existing subset of Pagan existence.  The debates around this word have been instructive to me, because I’m pretty suspicious of neologisms, thinking that it’s silly to make a new word if another one will do just as nicely.

But the word that I used to use to describe this concept was “Pagan.”  Somewhere I have a notebook with all sorts of ideas about rituals and concepts which are universally Pagan, but in fact were wiccanate.  I was unaware — some would say I failed to ‘check my privilege,’ but the reasons I disagree are numerous enough to require a post to themselves — that there are forms of Paganism which do not in any way resemble the outward forms of Wicca.  Practicing Hellenismos has helped me understand that yes, there’s a whole world beyond that, dissolving my ignorance.  I wish we could use “Pagan” like I used to, but it’s just not true.

Shortcomings aplenty accompany this word, though.  Let’s take a peek.  It’s got:

  • Condescension appeal.  I’ve seen wiccanate used with a sneer, as if the writer were looking down upon those who practice such a religion.  I’ve also seen it put in “condescension quotes,” expressing a clear view that the word — and everything it represents — is made-up fluffery. That baggage comes from the writers and the readers, not the word itself.
  • Awkward spelling.  Put “ate” at the end of an English word and it’s not clear if that syllable includes a long ‘a’ or a schwa, an unstressed syllable.  Either one doesn’t trip off the tongue too teasingly, but it’s the word we’ve got, and repetition makes awkward things seem comfortable with time.
  • Capitalism.  This word is being capitalized, but I reject capitalism.  It’s appropriate to captialize “Wiccan” as the adjectival form for Wicca, but wiccanate is not an adjectival form of a particular religion, so it doesn’t deserve that much credit.  It’s just an adjective, and we don’t capitalize adjectives in English without good reason.

There you have it:  wiccanate entered our conversation charged with lots of emotions, terrible spelling, and inappropriate capitalization, but all of that is overcome by the fact that it defines something which needed to be defined.  Any questions?

Slow magic makes me smile

Picture of a glacier filling much of a winding valley.

There’s no rush.

I was slow in growing an interest in magic.  I was slow to trust that using it wouldn’t cause more problems than it solves.  I was slow to find a magic that I have confidence in, and that magic is slow magic.

There’s a spell I’ve been working on for three years, and expect to take another seven to complete. At the same time, I’m stitching some intentions into a counted cross-stitch piece that I am making as a gift; I think I promised it two Giftmases past.

That’s what magic is about for me:  expending small amount of energy on a regular basis to effect some kind of change.  Just like life, the consequences of small acts can be felt for years or decades afterward.  Just like life, it requires no planning but can benefit a whole lot from it.

Slow magic isn’t, so far as I know, a particular tradition or set of practices.  It’s just magic that takes a good long time to use.  There are probably slow spells in many different systems.

And there are parallels for how the slow buildup of energy works, like compound interest.

What I like about slow magic is the sheer power involved if you’ve got the patience to let it build.  Earthquakes don’t happen in an instant; the forces build over long periods of time until they overcome the friction keeping the tectonic plates together.  So too is it with slow magic.  Force builds upon force until it is inexorable.

On the other hand, slow magic lends itself to understanding the consequences of our actions.  It’s the unintended effects that give me pause, and by performing a slow working my mind is all but forced to consider the different alternative results.  Because it takes time for the spell to be cast, this can also provide a safety valve if circumstances change; the working can be adapted as time goes on.  Just like life.

Now if only I could get better at knitting, that would open up all sorts of slow possibilities for me.

Have you ever found it difficult to uphold your end of a bargain with the divinities?

I had a friend once who used as his motto, “No promises made, no promises broken.”  That may be the only way one could honestly answer “no” to this question.

The bargains I have more trouble holding up are the open-ended ones.  Sometimes I will get clear direction to give up or modify a behavior, without it being tied to any specific bargain on my part.  Not knowing the higher purpose of what’s being asked is tricky, but that’s what I generally have to deal with when I don’t initiate the bargain myself.  That’s one of the reasons I never felt particularly led to give anything up for Lent when I was Catholic; the church at that time did a really bad job of explaining why I sh9uld, no one in my family modeled the behavior, and I was never motivated enough to find out why the priests thought it was useful.

When it’s my idea, though, I know what I’m offering, and I know what I’m asking for.  A little concrete thought goes a long way for a practical guy like me.  So I make bargains with Ares to avoid conflict, or to gird myself if it’s inevitable, and I deal with Hermes to protect myself and my home from thieves.  I have a clear goal in mind, and a clear idea of what I want to offer in return — which is subject to negotiation, of course.

Folks who are more sensitive to their gods’ words likely have more productive conversations, and doubtless find bargains initiated by those deities to be less trying.  I don’t hear my gods well, so I make do with what I have.

This post is part of a series of devotional questions for polytheists which were developed by Galina Krasskova.

What sort of festivals, memorials or seasonal observances do you keep throughout the year?

This is where I have drifted from the traditionalist to the localized form of Hellenismos.  I’m very interested in learning more about ancient Hellenic festival structure and applying it to my practice, but applying it in a relevant, modern, and local context is important to me.  So far the only festivals I celebrate are:

  • The festival of lilies, when I give some of the abundant tiger lilies around my home as offerings, and
  • The Hermaia Agoraia, an opening of the markets for the secular holidays.

I’m in no rush to add more, expecting that new ones will manifest when the time is right for them.

This post is part of a series of devotional questions for polytheists which were developed by Galina Krasskova.

Ares in Chains

Excellent post on the role Ares plays in dismantling a culture of rape and abuse.

Aspis of Ares

One of the things that I think is important to discuss in the onus of the recent sexual abuse allegations within the pagan community is the theological importance we levy to our gods. Sannion touched on this briefly, but I wanted to expound on the myth of Ares’ trial for the retributive murder of Hallirhothios and the story’s theological and instructive value to both the polytheist community and pagans who assert archetypal philosophies.

Ares Kills Poseidon's Son

The myth is summed up as follows: Hallirhothios, a son of Poseidon, rapes (and this time in the myth, rape definitely means “sexually assaults”) Ares’ daughter Alkippe. Upon learning of the assault, Ares kills Hallirhothios. Poseidon, of course, is pissed, and so brings Ares to trial. Assembled before the rest of the gods, Ares and Poseidon give their cases, and the gods acquit Ares of wrongdoing; the place of the trial is renamed the Areopagus and becomes a…

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