One for the bucket list

Some weeks ago, Dver suggested a challenge, to wit:

What if we made September a month of polytheists blogging about their actual practices? No talking about what other people do or should do, no politics unless it’s an integral part of the religious practice described, no controversies, no denouncing, no complaining about how other bloggers make us feel. Just sharing our religious lives, the things we are doing in this month to honor the gods, spirits, ancestors, nature, or whatever.

I immediately liked the notion, but my participation has been at best spotty.  I’ve written three posts this month, and only one was about my actual practices.  On the other hand, I didn’t engage in politicis, controversies, denouncements, or complaining.  September is nearly over, and I’d like to improve my average a bit.

Over Labor Day weekend, I became a priest.

Specifically I became hiereus, a temple priest in service to Poseidon.

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To me, this seems both quite sudden and the culmination of my entire adult life up until now.  It was a year ago next month that Neokoros Timotheos, head of the Hellenic Temple of Apollon Zeus and Pan of which I am a member, broached the subject for the second time.  I had been taken aback the first time he’d suggested I consider it, but this time I found myself agreeing.  That felt fast, given that I’ve only been on this particular path for a half-dozen years.

Looking at it another way, I’ve been on this path since my earliest days growing up — as I have said — close enough to the ocean to smell low tide, but not to be able to see it.  The theoi enticed me with the mythology my parents kept in copious volumes.  On the cusp of adulthood, I became a lector at my Catholic church in an attempt to get closer to something I couldn’t describe.  It wasn’t long after I discovered Paganism that I secretly called myself “priest,” although I didn’t fit any human definition of the word.  As sure as Poseidon answered my call for the Green Man, I was trying to answer a call to be a priest before I was old enough to legally take a drink.  I actually started taking classes at Cherry Hill Seminary when it was still on Cherry Hill, in the Green Mountains of Vermont, but life interrupted that particular attempt.

The weekend retreat at which I took my vows on the head of Zeus and received the purple stole which is reserved for priests in my tradition was a whirlwind of co-instruction, ritual, and contemplation.  Each of the four priests there with me were responsible, as was I, in providing continuing education to one another.  My part included a ritual of purification, and another that I call the blessing of the boats, which was a chthonic ceremony seeking aid from Poseidon’s underworld aspect.

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None of what happened during the retreat, I suspect, would have changed my successful evaluation.  The work over the preceding nine months were what counted.  I’d constructed a temple space and built a khoanoam to house the spirit of Poseidon, when he chooses to occupy it.  I learned about basic ritual structure and wrote the ones I led at the retreat.  I read Burkert and modern Pagan theologians, striving to find what role I might fill as Hellenic priest in the 21st century.  Coaching skills, ethical guidelines, and how to apply both divination and other oracular skills as a priest were also covered.

Nevertheless, when during the final ritual Timotheos turned to me and said, “Now, make offerings to the appropriate gods,” or something to that effect, for a moment I was convinced I would screw it up entirely, maybe by pouring a libation to Freya or Jesus.  (Somehow, I managed to figure out who was expecting what from me.)

Right now, I am in what feels like neap tide:  the rituals are complete, but there will be a public ceremony in a few weeks, at which time I will be given a symbolic key to my own temple.  I make offerings as both priest and devotee, and I find myself practicing coaching skills and turning more often to divination, but it’s otherwise quiet.  Not a lot has changed as a result of this work.

It will, though, likely soon after my public installation.  It appears that I am living in interesting times.

Support community journalism

Friends, Romans, co-religionists, lend me your eyes.  It is my intention to extol the virtues of The Wild Hunt, its importance to our collected communities, and urge you to action.

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It is my honor to be part of the oldest and most respected Pagan news agency out there.  The Wild Hunt is a labor of love brought into being through the efforts of the incomparable Jason Pitzl-Waters, and built upon by those of us who have taken up his mantle in the years since he stepped away from the project.  Being part of this work is fulfillment of a dream of mine, a dream that I believe is critical to the futures of all Pagans, polytheists, and followers of similar minority religions.

Community journalism serves to ensure that there is at least one news site where the writers are covering stories that are not only important to us, but covering them in a thoughtful manner.  A subject for a recent article I wrote about tarot apps had been interviewed by a reporter for a mainstream outlet earlier; that journalist didn’t even know what tarot is.  The Wild Hunt fulfills, first and foremost, a promise that the reporter is at least familiar with the concerns and terminology which are important within our overlapping communities.

This kind of reporting isn’t free.

I love writing for The Wild Hunt.  I love it so much that I am willing to get paid less per article than I earn with other, similar work elsewhere.  The mission is that important to me.  However, if I didn’t get paid at all, I probably would need to spend that time each week developing other streams of income, because the bills have to get paid.  Not only does paying people attract more talented people, it also is a testament to the power of our communities.  The ability to pay writers comes from contributions to our annual fall fund drive; the generosity of you, dear reader.

There are criticisms of the work we do, and I welcome them.  Tell me if you think I missed an important source, or my reporting felt biased, or if there is a story brewing in your neck of the woods that deserves some attention.  Think we have too many columnists, or too few?  Don’t like the time of day that we publish, or the color of the logo?  Please, let us know!

I have grown as a Pagan and a journalist since I began writing for The Wild Hunt, and this past year as assistant editor has helped me to glimpse the big picture all the better.  Journalism, enshrined as a free press, is one of the distinct rights guaranteed under the Bill of Rights in the USA, in the same amendment that protects our right to worship as we will.  These rights are protected in other lands as well, but in the United States they are given equal weight.  Using this one freedom to protect another is a sacred duty for me.

Help us continue to shine a spotlight on the doings within our communities, and the pressures exerted on their members by the overculture.  Donate today.  Any amount is fine by me.  In fact, if every one of our Facebook fans donated 31 cents, we will have hit our goal, which means we can:

  • hire more news reporters to cover a growing number of daily stories,
  • expand the representation of diverse voices in our columns, and
  • reach out to more people on the ground at Pagan events.

Many, many Pagans and polytheists freak out when they realize they are talking to a reporter, and with good reason!  Most reporters coming into our communities do not have enough basic knowledge to even know what questions to ask.  Our reporters, our columnists are part of these communities.  We are much more qualified to provide accurate reporting than that person from USA Today that just called you for comment because you’re a witch and it’s October.  That’s a lot less of a learning curve we have to master, and the only reason we can continue asking the right questions is because you are supporting this important work.

Be the change you want to see in the world.  Support The Wild Hunt.  Donate, in any amount.  Share this post, or the campaign link, to increase how many people know about the need.  Read our stories, and (dare I suggest it), comment on them.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you for supporting this work.

Book review: The Art of Ritual

Genre: Paganism
Title: The Art of Ritual
Author: Rachel Patterson

daf3b2_b87dc2817fc541ba929c5ae7d52e27f2Overview: Within these pages is a guide to creating rituals. It uses more common elements of Pagan worship, but the underlying principles are useful even if you’re not the sort to cast circles and honor elements. In fact, there are many details drawn from non-circle-casting Pagan traditions, such as a Druidic call for peace and the Hellenic use of khernips, or lustral water, for purification. (One of these days I may just collect all the khernips recipes people use, because there seems to be no end to their variety.) If you are entirely new to Pagan ritual, go with this suggested form and you’ll likely never have any problems, as long as you remember that there’s no such thing as a universal Pagan ritual. If you’ve circle the fire a few times, then feel free to pick and choose what you like; by now you should understand the importance of placing ritual elements in their proper context.

Quibbles: There’s not enough cake! Patterson does make plenty of cake mentions in this book, but unlike Arc of the Goddess, there are no actual recipes for cake. Perhaps she wrote this book first. Perhaps I’m spoiled. Perhaps my mouth is watering because I have written the word “cake” so many times.

Quirks: Patterson uses the kind of slightly-saucy language that many Pagan authors shy away from, and more’s the pity. For example, when she breaks down how she thinks gender-specific items should be laid out on an altar, she writers, “Basically boobs and wombs on the left, willies on the right.” I hope that doesn’t offend any of her readers; it certainly didn’t offend me.

Author: Rachel Patterson
Publisher: Moon Books
ISBN: 978-1-78279-776-0

The space between

The equinox is a liminal time, ideal for a liminal god.  Poseidon was given the portion which is neither above nor below.  He is Domatites, of the doorway which stands between here and there.  He is Epaktaios, of the coastline between realms of land and sea, both of which comprise his domain.

2016-09-21 16.11.59.jpgI brought my offerings to my outdoor shrine to Poseidon, a mossy patch from which his metal face emerges.  Here, he is holder of the earth, plant-nourisher, the reason why I have adored green man iconography for as long as I can remember.

Barley, and wine mixed with water, because that’s tradition going way back.  My equinox prayer to Poseidon (which is in Depth of Praise but has never been published online), because he wouldn’t have asked me to write it if he didn’t intend for me to use it.  Another offering of barley, this mixed with roast coffee beans, because it’s referenced in the prayer but this would be the first opportunity to follow those instructions.

Inside, the daily offerings to Hestia Caffeina also change: now comes coffee with the barley.  In a few months, the barley will be abandoned and she will receive only dark, chthonic offerings to reflect the darkest time of year.

Now does Phytalmius turn to sleep, and the icy breath of Glacius begins to quicken.  This balancing point signals that the Poseidalia is closer at hand than I can possibly believe.  Perhaps this year shall be the one in which I invite others to celebrate with me.