On not being a downer

Someday I hope to be able to afford this book.  In the meantime it’s on my wish list in case the gods of gimme choose to smile upon me, but for all its limits my life is actually pretty damned good and think actually asking for a book that expensive would be pushing it.

I suffer from depression, which makes me curious how it relates to miasma.  Since a depressive episode already has the effect of making the victim feel cut off from loved ones — both corporeal and noncorporeal — it would be a real kick in the jimmy if the gods were to turn us aside because of that situation.

What’s taught in my tradition is the the real problem with miasma is distraction, not being able to focus on and give the gods their due.  Depression can make concentration exceedingly difficult, which suggests that yes, the self-perpetuating cycle of depression cutting one off from the gods is a very real thing.

However, a wise Druid once observed that this particular kind of brain fog comes from a cycle of negative introspection, and that focusing on something outside of oneself can be a lifeline.  Carrying this into Hellenic practice makes sense to me:  there are times when I cannot sense the gods even when my mind is clear, yet I pay cultus to them.  Therefore, going through the motions during periods of depression should not be any less sincere than those times, as long as I focus on the devotion rather than on myself.

In fact, were I to stop honoring the gods when I’m depressed, I think it’s a very real possibility that I would never start again.  It is the routine that gets me up each morning, no matter how I feel.  I give offerings even when some dark part of me is convinced that it is a futile act, which means that in that moment I am in no way hoping for something in return.  Offerings cast into the void, because it’s the right thing to do, without hope of future reward.

There is an argument, it’s true, that the empty feeling is because the gods reject my offerings due to my state of miasma.  I reject that argument.  I honor the gods because it is right to honor the gods.  If they don’t wish my offerings, I won’t know, because I certainly cannot perform divination in that state.  Therefore, there is no downside that I can see, and the benefit to the gods is clear:  they retain a follower, one who will surely do their bidding when he can hear them again, and they choose to ask.

2 thoughts on “On not being a downer

  1. I saw your ping-back here to the article I wrote seven years ago on miasma and mental illness and wanted to reach out to you now as someone who’s coming out of long period of depression, and add that my article is long due for an update.

    I agree that a lack of regular connection to the gods, for fear of miasma from mental illness offending them, becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy of depression. Since that time, and with experience, I’ve also learned that the Hellenic gods don’t seem to concern themselves with what’s going on in my head, they care about what I do. They care if I show up and do even small, simple, acts to honor them, be it lighting incense or setting aside my first bite of food of sip of coffee that day. Those small acts give me traction and momentum and eventually help pull me out of my mental fog.

    In ancient times large rituals were performed by a community on behalf of the entire community, regardless of how much each person could participate. Today, I’m also finding it helpful to be part of group rituals when I can, even if I can’t “carry as much weight” as others leading it. I don’t think that’s polluting the group space, I think it’s doing my part to honor them to the best of my ability.


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