Review of Hearthstone’s books

When I started my formal study of Hellenismos, Hearthstone was required reading. Eir two books of interest, Devotion: Prayers to the Gods of the Greeks and In Praise of Olympus: Prayers to the Greek Gods have become some of the most well-used books in my collection. Almost daily I read a Hearthstone prayer to one deity or another. I got Devotion about six years ago, but when I bought the other recently I decided that these books deserve a review before I wear them out and have to buy new copies.

It’s with Hearthstone that I first learned to appreciate poetry. What’s otherwise stopped me is what seems like rampant pretentious behavior in and near poems and poets; these are written for the gods, which perhaps makes such ego exercises impossible. The turns of phrase make my heart flutter with their elegance. Here’s an example about Hermes:

In any land, in any age, your people prosper; in any land, in any age, you find a place; in any setting, you belong.

There’s just a flow created by the word choices which carry the reader on. That’s particularly important for reading aloud; many writers — myself included — don’t think about how long sentences challenge the voice. Yes, there’s a few really long ones among these prayers which might leave the unprepared reader gasping for breath, but Hearthstone is more than generous with commas, semi-colons, and dashes to help us through the tough times. Silently or aloud, the words drip with passion for and power from the divinities thus celebrated.

There are other things about Hearthstone’s writing to make me swoon; for one, the use of semicolons is correct. For another, the word “god” is not capitalized in any of these prayers, for Hearthstone (or her editor) knows that it never should be. It’s no wonder reading these works makes me feel faint after a day scrolling through Overcapitalized Blog Posts about Important Subjects.

At the core of Hearthstone’s work, though, is an insistent power. The reader may not feel it by browsing the book, or reading it cover to cover. It may take actually using these prayers, speaking them aloud, to sense it. It may take reading them over and over again, but the power is there, and it becomes more evident with each pass through these words. If it weren’t for my robust mustache, I’m certain I’d detect sweat on my upper lip. These are prayers that get the attention of gods in part due to their muse-inspired beauty, and in part because many English-speaking Hellenists are using them.

The author explains in the introduction to Devotion that she began writing these prayers in part because there weren’t many out there at the time. Many others — myself included — have composed and even published books of prayers to the theoi, but only rarely do these more recent offerings match the passion expressed by Hearthstone. For beginners on the path, those only passingly curious about Hellenic worship, and seasoned devotees alike, these books would only enhance a library to which they were added.


Real money magic: thrift

In a fascinating post that examines the impact of free events on the economic viability of the Pagan community, Sable Aradia uses the tongue-in-cheek subheading of, “Pagans are . . . Thrifty” to drive home a point about one of the ways we struggle with financial issues. What she means is that we’re cheap. While I won’t take exception with that — heck, I come from a long line of tight-fisted folks which I could probably trace back to the invention of money itself — I do wish she would take another look at what the word actually means.

I think she would find that thrift is a sincerely Pagan value.

The word stems from þrift, a Norse word meaning “thriving condition, prosperity.” The Institute of American Values defines thrift as “the ethic and practice of wise use.” Intentional spending falls under its purview, but the word includes all manner of disciplined conservation of resources. While the thrifty person intentionally chooses when not to spend eir money, the cheap person chooses not to spend even if it is to eir detriment, or that of those e cares about.

Thrift is a value which encourages more savings and less accumulation of debt. The result is more money at one’s fingertips, where it can be channeled into projects which reflect one’s values. It flows into another value that I daresay is near universal under the umbrella of Paganism: supporting community.

Thrift also inspires recycling, upcycling, reuse, and living outside of the purely consumer culture. Spending more on a higher-quality item because it will replace many inferior ones that would be tossed in the trash over its lifetime. Not buying something at all if the perceived need is based purely in an emotion of the moment. Tree-huggers are thrifty, and so are adepts. The roots of the word are Heathen, and the practice is very much in keeping with the Delphic maxim, “give a pledge and ruin in near,” among many others. Magical and earth-focused Pagans deepen their practice with thrift; I can’t think of any sort of Pagan who couldn’t do the same.

I support the idea of a healthier relationship with money in the Pagan community. Many of use have seen money used to work serious mischief, and some of us want nothing to do with it. While I respect and understand that choice, I walk a different path. I have felt shame when I have needed to ask for a scholarship to a festival or money to solve a serious domestic problem, but no more: that shame stemmed from my lack of generosity when times weren’t so tight, from judging others who needed a hand, from being cheap, not thrifty. I am not controlled by fear of scarcity any longer. I am thrifty, but I am not cheap.

The Boy Scouts listed “thrift” first among its values when the organization first formed. It dovetails quite nicely with leave no trace, a value which the scouting movement shares with many Pagan ones. Isn’t it time we reclaim this value as our own?

A version of this post appeared on in 2014; it has since been removed by the publisher.

Real money magic: priming the pump

What’s to be done when a well runs dry? Here’s a tip: try priming the pump before calling a well driller. The same can be said for when we run dry, creatively or spiritually or even financially: with the right skills and components, even on our worst days we are not lost causes; our pumps too can be primed.

Applying that to money can seem like a catch-22: if it takes money to make money, where in Tartarus should I look if I don’t have two cents to rub together? The fact that this is not an easy question to answer is a deep and enduring problem in our society. Those resources which do exist to help the penniless can be hard to identify, and even when they are known there can be barriers from geographic to bureaucratic in the way. While it’s been decades since I needed to rely on public assistance to pay for rent, food, and medical care, I haven’t forgotten how efforts to prevent welfare fraud made it harder to earn enough to escape that trap. I had to use the most dangerous pump-priming technique available to me: taking out student loans, hoping I’d eventually make enough money to pay them off.

For the most part, I don’t borrow money that I don’t know I can repay. I am risk-averse, which means that my pumps don’t get primed as quickly as some. Priming a pump with borrowed water when there’s no guarantee I’ll be able to repay right away is something I’ve done more than once with dissatisfying results. I understand that there are others for which the combination of timing, circumstance, and personal motivation make this a risk well worth it; recent history is peppered with examples of stupendous success based on other people’s money. Infomercials, too, are filled with those tales, and it’s largely due to that sort of soulless shilling of dream-chasing that I have sometimes nearly come to ruin. Lending that targets the desperate is often particularly predatory. Feel free to borrow if you wish, but it’s rarely something I counsel. If you come to me with a tale of woe, I will listen sympathetically, but when asked for advice to avoid doing to oneself again I will definitely recommend not borrowing more money as a first step.

Borrowing aside, what remains is finding ways to increase income, and, for the advanced practitioner, controlling expenses.

The former, identifying new or greater sources of income, might involve seeking a raise or a new job, find an additional job, joining the gig economy, selling things that are lying about the house, or turning hobbies into revenue streams. It is not the purpose of this passage to give specific tips on doing these things, the specifics of which can vary. (Moreover, my life experience only includes a couple of years surviving solely on thanks to government assistance, and that was before Clinton gutted most of those programs.) What’s important to recognize is that there is almost some level of control over how much money comes in, although making more money usually requires a sacrifice of time spent doing other things. If it means watching less television, that might not be too bad, but if the sacrifice is time with one’s children, the calculus gets trickier.

Find what you’re willing to give up — even temporarily — and you’ll have a sense of how much time you can focus on earning more money. That equation can change from day to day, even hour to hour; sometimes it’s going to be a tough choice between spending time with the kids and ensuring they have food to eat, but mostly not. The key is that we make these decisions all the time, and the challenge is doing it consciously.

In short, working with money is, and always will be, something that carries with it risk. That’s especially true when undertaking new ventures, for which the downside is unclear. Priming the pump represents that initial risk: is the water I have in this container before me going to yield more if I pour it down that hole than if I pour it down my throat?

The answer to that question can only be determined with some discernment, but that’s a big enough topic it deserves a post of its own.

Real money magic: cash money spells

Money spells: who doesn’t love them? From dressing lodestones to scratching off lottery tickets, there’s lots of methods which are supposed to bring money into one’s life. Occasionally I will try out a spell I find online, or actually buy a spell kit, to understand how they’re put together. Along the same lines, I once wrote a column reviewing lottery games; each as is much magic as the other. I find it interesting to deconstruct them, and try to evaluate how effective they are.

There is a class of money spells that I find to be quite effective, to the tune of several thousand dollars that has come into my life because of them. The qualities these spells share include slow development and an emphasis on how money flows. For all it’s associated with earth, money does an awful lot of flowing; whether that’s indicative of water or magma, I’m not yet clear.

Bad news first: if it’s not already clear, lottery tickets don’t make the cut. Sure, there is an opportunity to win beaucoup bucks by playing, but anyone who believes they can wrap their head around just how small that chance is going to be is kidding themselves. I do buy a lottery ticket from time to time, but I do so as an offering to Hermes, and never expect a winner. That way lies madness.

My reference to “slow development” might also be disappointing; if there is magic which showers the user with lots of money within hours or days, I haven’t found it. Money just doesn’t seem to move all that quickly, and it might take a tremendous amount of energy to change that. (I searched high and low for a datum about the physical speed of money to no avail, but I assure readers it’s measured in miles per year, if that fast.)

Nevertheless, there are spells which I have used to good effect in helping me accumulate money. The astute reader might notice a theme.

  • Weekly dollars: On the first Sunday (a day good for money work) of the year, I light my money candle, take out a dollar bill, and recite a prayer to my patron:
Khaire, Poseidon Asphaleios.
Guide the tides around me
so that my efforts here
will secure my future.
I do the same each Sunday thereafter, only increasing the amount of money by a dollar each week. The last Sunday of the year that’s $52 I drop in the pot. Increasing the amount over time makes it doable for me, because I can make adjustments to my spending habits gradually. I’m like the proverbial toad in the pot of water being boiled, and I think most other humans are as well. This is not about ripping the band-aid off; it’s allowing it to drop when it drops. If you’re ready for radical transformation, go for it! This spell is intended for the rest of us.

Spells work better if there is a specific intention; for this one I focus on needs for my home. I am presently working toward a fireplace insert to make a home warmer than 60 degrees in winter affordable; I’m on my fourth annual cycle, and expect to make this offering to Hestia next summer.

  • Daily cents: This is another incremental saving spell, but it focuses on pocket change. I was given a lovely pottery container, and on the first day of the year into it I deposited a penny while saying:
Penny by penny,
cent by cent,
to pay for my funeral
is my clear intent.
I repeat this every day, adding one more cent to the pot daily, meaning that on the last day of the year I’m putting in $3.65. For those not reading closely, the intent I have chosen for this spell is preparing for my own death. First on the list is purchasing plots in a nearby natural-burial cemetery; in future years I’ll set aside money to be used for whatever friffery my survivors decide to put me through on the way to that hole in the ground.
  • Fiver diversion: For about seven months I’ve been avoiding spending five-dollar bills; instead, I put ’em in special money jar I originally prepared for the “daily cents” spell, but proved too small. I have accumulated about $400 thus far, for which I have not stated an intention. Money magic without intention is only for advanced practitioners! Set a goal for every spell; don’t be like me, or you might discover you blow your wad and have nothing to show for it.
  • March of dimes: Pinterest wisdom is that a two-liter soda bottle filled with dimes yields about $700. I haven’t tried this one yet, because we don’t waste enough money on soda to justify the big bottles of the stuff. It’s true that the price per unit is much lower when buying in bulk, but I personally would rather not save money on something this awful. Yes, I drink soda, and I don’t want to have any excuse to think there’s any benefit once it’s past my taste buds. No, I’d rather not feel morally superior about drinking soda, thank you very much.
  • Found money: I pick up pennies in the road. I scoop change out of the lint trap and couch cushions. I discover crisp bills in the pockets of pants I haven’t worn in months. Some of this money was technically mine all along, but either I didn’t miss it or I adapted to its absence. Either way, it’s a blessing to have it in my life and I set this money aside as “luck money,” to be used when times are lean (to counter bad luck) and when celebrating the bounty in life (such as giving to panhandlers or purchasing lottery tickets).

None of these spells have made me rich, but those I’ve used have ensured I have money when I need it most. Some might say that this isn’t drawing money to me, because it’s mostly about money already coming into my life. If capturing the money coming in before it disappears isn’t magic, then why aren’t more people doing it?

Real money magic is part of a wider project, Thrifty Pagan Writings.  If you think this stuff is utterly amazing, please convince me to start a Patreon account.

Real money magic: volunteering

“I would never volunteer,” remarked the grandmother of a friend of mine. “Why give it away if you can get paid for it?”

That’s the quintessential problem with money: once it’s introduced into a society, the temptation is to quantify everything. The insistence of that grandmother to have all her time be measured in dollars comes from the same state of mind that spawned the idea that human lives can be bought and sold. The same magic that allows money to bring good things into people’s lives can be used to reduce every human interaction to a number.

I don’t think it’s fair to blame money for this desire we have to see all things through the lens it offers. We are malleable mortal beings, and encounters with spirit always carry with them the possibility of the profound. Some spirits, like that of opium, I steer away from because those encounters are incredibly dangerous for humans. Other spirits, like air, I must engage with lest I die. Money carries with is some of both perils, tempting us to frame our world as profit statements and deliverables.

Not everything of value can be priced, and not everything that can be, should be. It’s a human failing to use too much of a good thing, whether it’s money, sugar, heroin, sex, or curling; humans seldom pursue any form of pleasure in moderation.

I don’t have much time to volunteer, but I’m glad to do what I can. Lately that’s been helping to steer a local nonprofit farm that’s got a heavy emphasis on feeding hungry people. Due to how the systems are structured, I don’t have direct contact with the people getting fresh produce to supplement the crap they’re stuck eating because they live in a food desert. I can’t even take a tax deduction for the time I spend, but that’s not the point. People are getting fed. Children are learning where food comes from. I am meeting people in my community I didn’t know lived here, and strengthening my ties to my home.

The benefits of volunteering may not be easily quantified, but they are incredibly valuable, both to the volunteer (although the research doesn’t confirm causation, there’s definitely a relationship) and to anyone who is a recipient of those efforts. I don’t think I would have been able to convince that granny of this truth, but truth it is.

What is difficult for Grandma Worksforpay and many who live in capitalist societies to grasp is the value proposition of the anything that cannot be quantified or, more specifically, priced. That is not their fault; one does not expect the fish to notice the water. In The Soul of Money, author Lynne Twist begins with the tale of Chumpi Washikiat, member of an Amazonian tribe called the Achuar. Washikiat’s people didn’t use money, weren’t familiar with the concept of money, and got along just fine without money. Historically, that dynamic has not gone well: land conscription, resource exploitation, and slavery are common results of early contact between monetary and non-monetary peoples. The Achuar were trying to get ahead of the curve, learning about money before money mowed them down. Writes Twist:

“When the Achuar are in their rain forest home they are prosperous and have everything they need, and have been so for centuries, even millennia. One step out of the rain forest into our world and they can’t eat, find shelter, or live for any length of time without money. Money is not an option; it is a requirement.”

Plenty of people — albeit not necessarily readers of my humble blog — would nod their heads sagely as they read that passage, perhaps sympathetic to the simple savage trying to make his way in the civilized world. I see a different message, as did Twist herself, that within “civilization” it’s difficult to imagine life without money, perhaps as difficult it is to imagine how one thinks before learning language. In Debt: the First 5,000 Years, David Graeber frequently returns to the amount language which is couched in monetary terms, showing as “owing” someone because of a small gesture, such as letting the other person merge a car onto the freeway. Even those of us who are cognizant of money, or try to be, think in those terms frequently throughout the day. I’m tempted to call it a “startling” or “alarming” frequency, but it’s no more alarming that the rising water temperature around that proverbial toad, about to be boiled alive.

There is a Jewish tradition of anonymity in charity, baked into Maimonides’ eight levels of giving. I believe that’s intended to separate doing good things from the quantity of money involved, to some extent, but I’m not sure how effective it is. The person who gives will always know how much they give, even if they don’t know to whom they actually gave it. Granted, this system prevents the one from lording it over the other, and that’s an important acknowledgement of our fundamentally jerky nature, but I believe the ideal extension would be giving which is so anonymous that the donor isn’t even aware that the money is gone.

However, that’s another discussion. This post is about volunteering. (Focus, man!) This post is about giving time in lieu of money. Here’s a few things I’ve done in recent years, for which I have not even gotten a t-shirt for compensation:

  • collected food for a local food bank
  • volunteered reorganizing all the canned goods at said food bank (side note: food banks tend to be full of crap no one wants to eat, which for me includes canned olives and hog’s feet. Pro tip: it’s nice to know that something you’re not eating isn’t going to waste, but please consider buying an extra box or can of something you would eat, just to mix it up a bit)
  • sitting on the board of a farm which has a substantial food justice mission (and if readers are sensing a trend, they may not be incorrect)
  • growing a mustache to raise money for cancer research
  • taking care of kids while their parents attended a political caucus
  • picked up trash that magically accumulates over the winter in my college town

Whatever the skills, whatever the time availability, there’s a volunteer opportunity for that. Some of my neighbors organize the library book fair each year. A friend of mine knits caps for premature babies. My mother delighted in her time at a local thrift shop, the proceeds from which supported a sliding-scale mental health clinic. The opportunities are without end, and the need is great.

Coming back to that grandmother I once knew who would never have volunteered, well, more’s the pity, because I am richer for the time I have given away than ever I could be from the time I spend for pay.

Real money magic is part of a wider project, Thrifty Pagan Writings.  If you think this stuff is utterly amazing, please convince me to start a Patreon account.


bearded PoseidonPhutalmios, verdant one,
plant-nourishing Poseidon,
such bounty has been born of earth!

Phutalmios of the waving fields,
sun-dappled, wind-kissed,
flowing nectar and sap.

Phutalmios of the deep woods,
lord of life’s quiet secrets
and keeper of hidden oaths.

Phutalmios of the silent eddy,
swirling seed to ground
and guarding is rest.

Phutalmios of the white barley,
a geyser erupted,
beard of the world.

Phutalmios, cloak swirling,
covered in night
to sleep once more.

A child’s debt

My parents reared five children and helped them each with college. In the end, there wasn’t enough money left to keep my mother out of a Medicaid-funded nursing home. Many of the people who work there are unaccustomed to patients who are still aware of their surroundings, making the situation less than ideal for her.

When I think about debt owed to my parents, that’s the kind of debt I mean: the opportunity cost they paid by having just one more kid, me. I think I made out well, what with being alive and all, but it’s important to recognize the tremendous amount of sacrifice made on my behalf. Not only might the gray hairs have accumulated more slowly in my absence, it’s possible the money might have lasted a bit longer as well.

I owe something of a debt to Gaia on account of my life, as well, or perhaps that debt falls to my parents. There is no greater environmental impact a human being can have upon the earth than creating another human being to live upon the earth. I always enjoy spending time around children, yet I have never pursued procreation precisely for that reason. What could I possibly do to mitigate the impact of another life upon the planet, when I barely make a dent in my own debt? Even as I write this, I’m aware that some of the electricity powering my computer is derived by burning coal, and that the processors within contain rare-earth elements the extraction and disposal of which is highly problematic. My every breath impacts the world around me, and as a human my activities can change the world more, thanks to technology, than can an individual of pretty much any other species. I don’t think about that impact constantly, and even if I did it’s still incredibly difficult to have zero impact at all.

That is the sort of thinking which can lead to guilt and self-loathing. I mostly avoid doing that to myself. Suicide, which is the alternative most likely to be suggested if I whine about this on the internet, has impacts itself. Some of the people who love me may just call me on the carpet at their ancestor shrines if I were to pull that without telling them, and I am not interested in that having that conversation whether I am dead or alive, thank you very much. I’ve also had people propose the “solution” of having children and then teaching them my values. Which ones, exactly? It might be awkward to tell my offspring that I do not believe in having offspring, and I don’t think that they should, either.

It’s the debt to my parents which I sit with most, though, since I am not remotely contemplating a final solution for myself. Including public college, that’s now in excess of $350,000 in my part of the country according to this calculator. That could have paid for a heck of a lot of care. Unless there’s a lucky lottery ticket in my future, that’s not something I can pay back, not that either of my parents would ever have suggested such a thing. The very notion would likely offend, but I think it’s okay to contemplate the choices my parents made to give me life, and then to provide me with the upbringing that they could best afford without contemplating what it might cost them in turn. It’s really the minimum we expect of parents, and that’s a lot to ask considering how little thought is actually needed to create a child.

The debt to my parents is, in fact, incalculable. It’s my duty to honor that choice, even as I choose for myself to make a different sacrifice. Unlike them, I may well die alone, as I have no blood issue, and do not wish to add the burden of another human life to this beleaguered planet. I wish more people would make that same sacrifice, but I recognize that when done correctly, either choice carries a high price.