Not so long ago, I mentioned an offering to Athene that I’ve been working on for some months, knitting what I believed to be a scarf, and how I got prompted that it’s time to finish that project up.
That offering, which I long believed to be a scarf, is now complete, and it is not, as it happens, a scarf. At first glance, I wasn’t entirely sure what it is, and my wife — with just a wee bit more knitting experience than I — wasn’t entirely sure how I’d created this piece, given that I set out to knit a scarf. Was this a time for anxiety to set in? Had I failed Athene?
Nah. Arete is all about excellence, and doing one’s best. It is not about perfectionism, and becoming convinced that one’s efforts are never good enough. A close inspection will reveal that there are some dropped stitches and loose spots, betraying my inexperience in this craft. I truly put my best effort in, though (and went the extra mile to make sure to purify myself by washing my hands in khernips before I picked up this project, every single time, because that’s what this goddess asked of me), and it represents the very best work I was capable of during its creation. It is the very essence of arete, and it’s also the essence of learning, in which Athene takes great interest. I have already started a new project, and it will surely be technically superior to this one, because I have become more skilled in my service to Athene. In no way does that diminish this offering.
As for this offering, it’s really quite amazing. When I laid it out as pictured, with the mu that pushed me to finally finish and an owl bottle stopper to represent the goddess herself, my first impression was that it reminded me of the wings of Isis. The amount I know about Isis would fit into a canning jar, but I know there connections between Hellenic and Kemetic deities, so that may not be a coincidence. Then, while attending meeting for worship, I was given a vision of it being used as a mantle to confer blessings of knowledge and education upon the wearer. Indeed, I’ve got a whole ritual around that idea to I’m due to write.
No matter what else this offering represents, for me it carries a simple lesson: arete is about excellence, not perfection. There is a difference, and not to understand it is to stagnate out of fear that one is unworthy to do anything else.