Devotion while depressed

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.

Blogging tip

The only person who will notice how long it’s been since your last post is you. Therefore, the least interesting way to open a post is by referencing how long it’s been.

Metaphysical gauntlet thrown down

Witches and other magic-workers setting their sights on President Trump was the topic of my article yesterday at The Wild Hunt.


An unflattering image of the president is a components in one of the public spells that I looked at, which reminds me of their use in political advertising.  Overculture, meet subculture.

For me, the most interesting bits are the reasons why it probably won’t work.

The final solution

For this week’s story on The Wild Hunt I asked some Pagans about the death penalty.

sling-1222466_1280While I was looking for the views Pagans hold on execution, I was really curious if those views were informed by religion.  While some of the respondents did try to articulate their opinions in a religious context because I asked it of them, they tended to be clumsy theological exercises.  My sample was small, but my sense is that — for American Pagans, at least — the death penalty is a question of justice and politics, not religion.  That’s not terribly surprising given the overall culture; many Christians in favor of the death penalty don’t appear to struggle with it theologically, either.

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.

Book review: Arc of the Goddess

2daca1_0f13271010e44147b896ac66a54cb04fGenre: Paganism

Title: Arc of the Goddess

Author: Rachel Patterson & Tracey Roberts

Overview: This is a book that takes on the challenge of putting the “practical” into a yearly cycle of goddess-focused practice. It’s set up to follow the course of a calendar year, and the reader is invited to focus several different kinds of devotional activities on a different goddess each month. If you jump in with gusto, you’re going to feel and look radiant thanks to a monthly home-made beauty product, and you’re also going to have the opportunity to indulge in a wide variety of cakes thanks to the twelve delicious recipes within.

Based on a course that Patterson and Roberts developed, each chapter includes information on goddesses from many different religions, as well as feast and celebration days from antiquity forward that are celebrated during that month. After studying the material, the student is provided the text of a guided meditation during which the month’s goddess is ascertained. Much of the information about spell work, rituals, altars, and related activities is repeated in each unit (fulfilling a promise that the reader can begin with any month), but with month-specific variations on the activities. Herbs and stones that are aligned with the season are also discussed and then used in mandalas, crystal grids, oils, and the aforementioned beauty product. The cake recipe is tied into the feasting component, making me all the more eager to dive right in.

What’s valuable about this book is 1) the framework for someone to explore relationships with different deities and 2) the extensive information about known goddesses and holy days to guide that exploration. I can see it used as a springboard to develop a much deeper relationship with a particular goddess, or built upon to develop a strong, personal polytraditional practice. Either way, this is definitely not the worst tool for upping one’s game if one isn’t part of a clearly defined tradition.

Also, did I mention cake?

Quibbles: There’s nothing wrong with taking a personal tone while writing a book, but the way it’s done in this book is less intimate than it is confusing. That’s because there are two authors, but the text is dotted with “I” statements that don’t make it clear which of the two is sharing an opinion or experience. It’s possible that they are of one mind, but I could also be projecting.

Quirks: An implicit assumption in this book is the subscription to the idea that all goddesses are, at least to some extent, one goddess. That doesn’t mean that the material can’t be used by someone with a different cosmology, only that the language used may be distracting.

This book is British, which means that some of the ingredients in the recipes may be unfamiliar. It’s nothing a decent search engine can’t resolve, and it adds a cultural flavor that I am glad was not stripped out for American audiences.
Title: Arc of the Goddess
Author: Rachel Patterson & Tracey Roberts
Publisher: Moon Books
ISBN: 978-1-78535-318-5