FACEBOOK & Freedom of Speech
It takes a lot of time and it doesn’t make me any money, but I do enjoy writing honest book reviews. Jason Mankey has kindly given me a higher platform for that work, “Pergamum Unfurled.” Reviewing books are various kinds is something I’ve done for some years; I have even done it for pay. (That didn’t work out in the long run because authors paying for reviews are expecting something unabashedly positive, while I believe my fellow readers deserve honesty. However, I give props to Shirley Roe, who ran All Books Review and hired me even though my test review — of her own work — was frank and not entirely complimentary.)
Part of me is hesitant to do this because I am no speed reader, but I am now accepting pagan books for review. However, be advised I only review books, not electronic files; you will have to mail me a copy of the work. Publishers and authors interested in having a pagan book reviewed should fill out the form embedded herein and I’ll reach out.
My wife and I send cards at this time of year, and not just cards, either: we include a little newsletter giving a synopsis of what we’ve been up to in the past year. It’s old-school, it’s time-consuming, it uses up lots of paper, it’s entirely unnecessary, it often gets little or no response, and it’s entirely worth the effort.
We add people to our list every year, and we’ll send them a card for several years running in hopes of a paper response before taking them off again. Most people are part of that rotating crowd, but the few who do respond make it worthwhile. One friend stopped short of naming me as her inspiration to send out an update, but made it clear in the handwritten note. Another wrote, “It’s always amazing and lovely to receive your letters – thank you! These things mean more and more as the years and social media wear on.”
My life is in that social stratum in which I do not worry about paying the bills each month, but travel is both infrequent and modest. When friends move away, I may not see them again for years, if ever. Yes, they can tag me in memes and like my posts, but the weight of a holiday card is more than physical. We share something of ourselves when we send out this sort of mass mailing. The cards we get back do the same, sometimes through the power of words, but also through images. More and more, I’ve been sending cards that we get free via various charitable organizations, but our friends return ones much more lovely. We have a growing collection of really astounding Pagan greeting cards, as well as a number of secular ones which are quite excellent.
One friend this year ran into me at a Yule ritual, and laid out a selection of cards she’d made herself. “Pick one, and I’ll make it out,” I was told. Who does that? The cards which are a family portrait have become more dear to me as I age; I find myself nostalgic about people growing up and living their lives, connected to mine yet all the same distant from it.
If you believe in the value of community, if you feel you might be able to commit to the practice, if you recognize that time and effort spent yield immeasurable results, ask me to send you a card next year.
I have noted before that I have pulled back on ritual work for the moment, something which Apollon this month confirmed through divination is still appropriate by saying, “Stay, friend.” In practice this means I stick with what’s daily and have laid down weekly and monthly work, including many of my priestly duties.
My oracular work remains, and during my preparations yesterday I was told, “Bring an extra index card with you.” These are the cards on which I transcribe the questions ahead of time, and write down the responses during the session. For this one I had no question.
When my ritual engine is running on all cylinders, my weekly time in the temple space with Poseidon nearly always results in something to be written down. I have pages and pages of words which have come just from being in his presence. Most often it’s just a sentence, something which might be found in a fortune cookie if one were to frequent a Chinese restaurant with an Hellenic bent. Other times, including but not limited to during the Vigil for the Bulls, I’ve received full hymns and even insight into mysteries I’ve never seen referenced in ancient texts.
I could feel his presence more closely than ever before, and the period after each answer was delivered was quite long as I basked in his company. When he bid me pick up the final card — the blank one — it was to give me a gift such as he is wont to in the temple. As it happens, in the back of my mind I have been pondering if the end of my time as a pagan journalist might be better used as the beginning of a period teaching sacred journalism, a way to seek and reveal truth. This has been nought but a notion, no more solid than the diaphanous garments I always find for sale at festivals when I am looking for something to warm my bones. Poseidon warmed my bones by offering some ideas as to the tenets for initiating others into such a path.
What’s curious is that Poseidon isn’t personally vested in sacred journalism. He gave me this because he misses me, and wanted me to know it. I miss him, too, and I am grateful that even in the dark and the silence he is present. I may not be able to bear as much of his immortal self at the moment, but he desires me whole and is patient with the process.
Soon, the temple will be open again. Never doubt the gods are with you, friends, even when you have pulled away or they seem to have withdrawn. The gods are undying and unfailing. The gods make us whole when we are broken or near to breaking. The gods complete the universe.
I’ve read some of these and this book should be in any Hellenic stocking this year.
I’ve collected all the essays I’ve published so far in Hellenic devotional volumes into a single book, available for the Kindle and in paperback. It’s the first time these have been available outside the context of the original devotionals. (*Amazon affiliate link: https://amzn.to/2Eis1P3)
I’ve been serving as an oracle of Poseidon since July, and recently a colleague asked me about my process. There is little which is certain about how such rituals were performed in antiquity; regardless, even if it’s how it happened at Delphi, I’m not planning on inhaling volcanic vapors anytime soon.
Delphi is a location associated with Poseidon, largely before the Apollonian period. The Pythia needed protection as much as Troy did, and I am of the mind that there is more to the relationship between these gods than the scant myths suggest. In any case, my work is done in the shadow of an ancient tradition.
I cannot say why it’s the case, but Poseidon did not send me to the books or demand I master ancient Greek to serve as manteis. I have engaged in ritual possession and deep contact before I walked the Hellenic path, which has helped me gain the discernment to recognize what’s my own voice, and what is not. That being the case, my training in one sense began close to 30 years ago. To refine what he needed of me, however, Poseidon sent me to become a Quaker. What’s relevant of what I have learned as a member of that community is the technique of expectant listening.
On the morning of an oracular session I begin with my usual offerings, then enter the space which my wife is kind enough to allow me to use for this work. I review the questions for the first time, and transcribe them onto index cards. I light incense, pour a libation, and settle into worship. I sometimes use a mild entheogen if I am led to. Whether I wear my wreath or not varies; my the tradition followed in Temenos Oikidios it is not use in chthonic rites, and sometimes that’s what is asked of me. Poseidon is a god who stands between, and brings me his word in the manner which suits him that month.
While my Quaker friends may not use this language, I descend into a trance. They might say I open myself to spirit, which is certainly true. I use the silence in the manner some use drums or chanting. As with any spiritual journey, it can take some time to unload the mental clutter and begin the actual work, but when he and I are in harmony, I reach for the first question.
Invariably I have some anxiety when transcribing these questions. People ask very important things, life-altering things, and I get clutched by a worry that I will lead them astray. When I pick up that first question in ritual space, however, none of that is present. I see the question through his eyes, or maybe he sees it through mine. Sitting before the antique writing desk in the library, my hand reaches for the pen and a response is provided. Watching it unfold, it seems simple enough. Just pick up the pen, and write down an answer.
What seems simple takes most of my morning, though, even when there are few questions to address. In any case, I don’t make appointments for that day to do anything but this work. It’s something for which I have been trained as long as I have been Pagan, and the fact that this is also simply training for what he asks of me next is both daunting and exciting.
It is an honor to serve.
My post on the spirit of depression gets waves of likes from time to time, and the article I wrote on treating depression in a Pagan context remains one of the most popular pieces I wrote for the Wild Hunt. I don’t know that Pagans and polytheists suffer depression more than other people, but it does matter to us.
Recently — and perhaps for the first time — I recognized a pattern which may help me avoid the worst of symptoms. When I am energetic and enthused I commit to things, and those commitments can build like a wave which slams me flat. My mistake has been in committing based on my best days, because when they occur it’s difficult to recall what the worst feel like. That can lead to me falling short, which only compounds the problem.
In recent weeks I have completed obligations around running an event for a hundred people and mostly finalized a budget for a small nonprofit, but I also agreed to several days of travel in the name of my religion and to strengthen ties with my ancestors, all before Thanksgiving, the gateway to American stress season. Oops.
One way I am scaling back is in relation to the gods. I’ve temporarily suspended my practice of writing down all of my offerings, for example. In addition, the temple I keep as priest of Poseidon is in what I characterize as a slow-maintenance period; I dismantled, cleaned, and reorganized the space but I am reinstalling deity therein at a seismic pace. Last week I put a cloth on the altar, and yesterday I placed a candle holder. (Poseidon is a patient god; as long as I move faster than the tectonic plates in this he is not displeased.)
Spirits and gods don’t always understand human needs, but if they desire our service they must sometimes accede to our limitations. If they are playing the long game, they will listen. Poseidon recognizes slack tide. I am grateful for his nature.