Oracle for one


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.

Poseidon and chariot

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  Never doubt the gods are with you, friends, even when you have pulled away or they seem to have withdrawn.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.

Glimpse into my oracular process


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.

Death sandwich


A sandwich is a thing framed by another thing, with the thing in the middle being the part that matters when it’s being named:  it’s a ham sandwich, not a rye sandwich.  This is why I find the phrase “compliment sandwich” utterly nonsensical; it should be called a criticism sandwich, a putdown hero, an insult slider, or something of that sort.

I can say with confidence that the warm part of this year, for me, has been a death sandwich.

To begin with, my wife and I bought our graves.  It’s the most expensive thing I have ever purchased as a result of writing an article for the Wild Hunt.  Spending is in my nature, which is why I focus a lot of energy on saving.  I bought something pretty much anytime I went on a trip, and any number of items in my possession resulted from an interview I did, like the Hermes oracle cards I got after lunch with Bob Place, the stone divination set I picked up at Changing Times-Changing Worlds, or the steampunk belt with thigh holster I ordered after seeing one at Rites of Spring.  It was when I wrote about my friend Deana Reed, and learned that she was buried in a natural cemetery just one town away from my own, that I knew it was time to invest in some real estate.

IMG_6493.JPG

Not mine; looks like a neighbor is moving in.

My dear old dad used to say, “Just toss me naked in a ditch,” knowing full well that he had a guaranteed spot in a veterans’ cemetery which wouldn’t allow for that.  I’m not entirely sure he was joking, and regardless I find the idea appealing.  Certainly more appealing than embalming, or cremation (which can also include embalming), which are really quite nasty from an environmental perspective.  Now that we have the deed to two adjacent plots in the wooded natural burial section of this local cemetery, I’m that much closer to getting away with it.  Certainly I cannot be buried with any artificial fibers or plastic crap, and my only container options are a pine box or just a board.  If I outlive my wife, I think I can probably get away with naked, but it would certainly take careful planning.

A sandwich, I already noted, is a thing framed by another thing.  Purchasing a grave is not death, and even if it was this is the bread, not the meat.  The meat of a death sandwich is death.

I told my mother about my new purchase when we took our annual pilgrimage to my father’s grave around Memorial Day, when the flags are everywhere.  As was her wont, she looked at me like I had two heads, not for planning ahead (she’d planned and paid for her entire funeral some 15 years ago), but for my enthusiasm.  I was thinking her reaction two months later, when after a month of drifting back and forth through the veil, I was again at that cemetery to commit her mortal remains and rejoin them with those of her beloved husband.  I and others shepherded her as best we could in the weeks ahead, and I continued that work with offerings of tea with milk as she transitioned to being an ancestor.  She was ready to get to work in short order.

A death sandwich is death framed by another thing.  The thing which sandwiches death for me this year is the idea of death.  In the spring I purchased a grave, acknowledging death, and this autumn I acknowledge it again by inviting my co-religionists to honor Haides with words.

October 31 is when submissions open for The Host of Many: Hades and his Retinue, and it is long in coming.  I frequently see posts from Hellenic polytheists grumbling about portrayals of Hades in popular culture, or expressing frustration that his emerging cult doesn’t have a lot of historical sources upon which to be built.  This is an opportunity to change that.  At the same time, I know there are a huge number of underworld deities and spirits who might never see the cover of an anthology; they deserve honor, and I dearly hope to see as many submissions about these lesser-known gods as I receiver for Hades himself.

Do the research.  Write the paper.  Script the ritual.  Offer the prayer.  Help me finish making my death sandwich.

Real money magic: my vote matters, your vote matters.


The miasma which leads a sizable majority of Americans not to bother to vote is the idea, “my vote doesn’t matter.”  I know better:  I saw a local race decided by one vote, and the loser didn’t vote for himself.  My vote matters.

Received yesterday:  this sigil, which I then empowered to pull that cloud of miasma from the eyes of any who see it by conveying this message:  “my vote matters.”

Put this sigil on paper money.  Money is a very effective tool for political magic, as the present state of affairs should demonstrate clearly.  I’m trying to put it over George’s third eye, as well as the eye of the pyramid.  (I hope to get it better centered with practice.)

[Sara Mastros.]

A little to the left . . .

An invocation to use, if one is the invoking sort:

For the good of the polis,
may the mist be made clear.
For the good of the people,
see the vote, hold it dear.

The more this is shared, the more it is implemented, the more effective it will be.  Reblog, share, retweet, slap the image on Instagram or run it around Tumblr.  Social media shares are good for rousing individuals out of torpor, but actually putting it on money works the spell on a deeper level that addresses how equating money with speech has distorted our political system.

On the Wild Hunt


A few hours ago, I ended my time at the Wild Hunt after a number of months of reflection on, worship over, and seeking guidance about what nourishes me and serves my highest purpose.  While it might have appeared sudden to most people, as it’s none of their business, it was anything but.

However, complete strangers have since approached me, asking if I “lost my job” over the last article I wrote.  I did not.

For one thing, no one can be fired from the Wild Hunt, and anyone who claims to have ever been fired is either ignorant or a liar.  This is independent contractor work, not a job.

I did not participate in an editorial decision to replace that news article with an apology.  I was not told my services were no longer needed, and I was not asked to resign.  I am simply in need of change.

While I mourn the change, I also know it will open for me new possibilities.  I wish those who carry forth the valuable tradition of truth-speaking all the blessings of Hermes in their work, and the knowledge that bright Helios watches them.

A Mystic Guide to Cleansing and Clearing: a review


Genre: Wicca

Title: A Mystic Guide to Cleansing and Clearing

Author: David Salisbury

In this work, Salisbury draws on research into several traditions, seeking to distill the essence of cleansing practices for use in a Wiccan context. In that, I believe he succeeds. Moreover, based on the one tradition he references with which I am deeply familiar, I daresay he provides an accurate overview of how these practices are used, and is mindful of concerns about cultural appropriation which get raised more and more frequently in these cases. In five relatively quick chapters, the author touches upon tools used in cleansing, practices for cleansing people and places, how to deal with negative energy situations such as crossing and hexes, and his understanding of spirit entities which might be problematic.

Salisbury’s selection of tools is substantial, and I like the fact that he acknowledges what he’s used and what he’s simply researched. There is special attention paid to herbs, and the discussion around the usage of animal parts in a respectful and legal manner touches on one of those subjects we Pagans are trying a lot harder to get right. He observes that “bones are the gemstones of our ancestors,” and if harvested respectfully can be powerful cleansing tools.

The book also has chapters on self- and house cleansing, as well as one which covers hexes, crossings, and curses, and another focused on spirit entities. The author remains unapologetic about his Wiccan framework (the book is rife with clever rhyming couplets, for example), but that actually makes it easier to translate the techniques for another tradition. Specificity is strength. Far too many Pagan authors seek to be overly inclusive in their writing, making it nearly useless for anyone. This is not such a book.

Instead, the reader gets specific spells and recipes, and is not left wondering why any particular ingredient is included because the author has included that information. A lot of the books which came out before the turn of the century were either written with the expectation that the reader had a certain education in magical correspondences, or would simply accept the author’s mantle of expertise without question. Salisbury assumes nothing, and that makes him a stronger expert than any of the big names from the 1980s and ’90s. When authors make assumptions, readers do as well, and they’re often not flattering ones.

Nevertheless, this book might not be incredibly helpful to a reader focused solely on the practices from within a single tradition, unless that tradition happens to be the one the author practices. Since no such promise is made or implied, this doesn’t bother me one whit.

For those who are seeking to fill in gaps in their historic practices which have opened over time, as well as those simply interested in a comparative understanding, A Mystic Guide to Cleansing & Clearing is a decent beginner’s overview.

Title: A Mystic Guide to Cleansing and Clearing
Author: David Salisbury
Publisher: Moon Books
ISBN: 978-1-78279-623-7

Mysteries of the bull


Dear Poseidon,

This year’s vigil is at an end.  All that remains is to print out the rituals and hymns to preserve in my book of practice.  All that’s physical, at least.  There is much I need to ponder, as well.

I know you exposed me to some of your mysteries.  For a writer, that’s not difficult to discern; I tried writing down what you taught me, and then I tried to make sense of the words after the fact.  Curiously, while I recognize that nothing coherent can be made of what I scrawled upon the page, that gibberish rekindles the fire you lit in my mind.  The full understanding washes over me, triggered but not described by the letters I penned in the moment.  Perhaps that was the purpose of the ear of corn to initiates of Eleusis.

Not all you revealed slips entirely free of language.  I now have some inkling of your consort Posedeia, and recognize that her being all-but-forgotten may have been by design.  Others may know something of she who was lost to history, or the impossible child which she did — and did not — bear you.

[Michelle Young.]

Frankly, I expected none of this.  This is the Vigil for the Bulls, after all, and bulls are about which I was prepared to ponder.  On that topic, I am gobsmacked.

Well I know the myth of the Tauros Kretaios, the magnificent bull which Minos asked of you to ensure his kingship.  Had he but sacrificed it as he was expected, many significant events would never have been spun out by the Moirae.  Now I hold a new version of that tale in my head, one which adds depth to Minos’ betrayal, and a bittersweet dimension to all which resulted from his desire to own that beast, rather than cede it back to you.

I was led to believe that this is a vigil at the intersection of politics and practice, an opportunity to bear witness to the grief you feel over the terrible choices humans have made.  I did not understand that joining a god in grief opens pathways to other regrets.  I did not understand that to share your sorrow is to bear my own.  I did not understand that I might gain from this service.

The ocean is heavy, and the earth heavier still.  Never could I bear the full weight you carry, Poseidon; Atlas himself might shy from that burden.  That you allowed me to even glimpse the scope of what is upon your vast shoulders is both an honor and a challenge.  I pray I am worthy of both.

Your humble priest,
Terentios