For the many gods: a reader challenge


I posted to Mousaios the other day for a reason.  When the head of my temple read that prayer during my ritual of ordination, it was unfamiliar to some of us, and one of my (now) fellow temple priests said that he could write one that includes more of the gods than even that stupendous litany, and perhaps do a better job organizing it as well.  I will not say that more gods are necessarily better, but I do recognize that there are some among the theoi whom I honor and are not included.

Let us then seek to honor the many gods.

What I ask of you, dear reader, is to write a litany that praises your many gods.  Include only those deities to whom you have ever made offerings, and try to include each and every one of them.  It is my intention to do the same, but it will take time to go through my book of offerings to identify them all.  If you don’t like the Orphic style, another format is used in Devotion: Prayers to the Gods of the Greeks.

This is a contest, and there will be a book involved.  The winning entry — which will be selected using a method that will be determined by a form a divination that itself will be determined at a time and place yet to be determined — will earn its author either a signed copy of my first book, Depth of Praise, or a batch of my home-baked Noumenia cookies.

In addition, that entry and others that I select will become part of the book I’m planning.  Credit will be given, as well as a copy of that book to anyone who gets into it; your entry in this contest presumes that you are granting a non-exclusive license for me to do so.  Those litanies will be used to anchor hymns I will write praising many gods individually; I intend on writing one for each god named in the contributions.

Fervently I hope that this will be a tremendous amount of work.

Email them to terence@terencepward.com, include them in the comments, or send me a link to where it’s published (trackbacks count).  You have until the summer solstice of 2017.

Depth of Praise is now published


Depth_of_Praise_Cover_for_KindleIt is done.  With the click of a mouse, my first book is released to the world.  Depth of Praise is now available via CreateSpace, and this Poseidon devotional will be available via Amazon.com in 3-5 business days.  It is not, and never will be, available in any electronic form.

My Kickstarter backers were advised earlier today about this good news; even now, copies of this book are being prepared and rushed to my door so that I may fulfill their many expectations.  These good people waited far, far longer than I expected that they would, and that was my fault.  I did not fully understand the process of working with an illustrator, and believed I had built enough wiggle room into my estimates.  We live and learn.

As I noted above, there are no plans to offer any electronic versions of this work.  I have seen far too many books by Pagan authors available for unauthorized free downloads around the internet, and I do not wish to chase down violators on my lonesome.  However, that surely makes these autographed copies of Depth of Praise all the more valuable.

It pleases me to no end that I have completed this important task for my patron only days before the retreat at which I hope to become his priest.

My personal practice: epithets


When I look back at how terrified I was to get things wrong as I attempted to honor the theoi, particularly around the use of ancient Greek, I’m amazed that I didn’t simply smile and decide that this path wasn’t for me.  I did before, when I was invited to join a group of people who aspired to Druidry and ADF membership.  Yes, I’ve probably got more Irish blood in my veins than anything else but no, I didn’t have any interest in wrestling with Gaelic or whatever language it was that I’d have to master.  I’m good at one language, and I don’t believe for one second that specialization is for insects; in fact, I think it’s one of the great strengths of humanity to be able to specialize.

Beham, (Hans) Sebald (1500-1550): Der Narr und die Närrin.

Long before I ever thought about Hellenic gods, I was a fool, and I still take the job very seriously.  I’ve assumed the office of jester in a coven, inducted people into the mysteries of Bill the Cat, and tales of what transpires when I draw down the Lord of Misrule are recounted years after the fact.  Being a fool is to master the art of applied ignorance, and I always considered Socrates to be my role model in that regard.  (Yes, writing this makes me realize I probably should be paying him hero cult, but I don’t wish to get ahead of myself.  Baby steps.)  One step that I took in my Hellenic education would be considered quite foolish to some of my co-religionists:  I joined Tumblr.

Here’s another thing I’ve learned by being a fool:  you can’t consider the source.  More specifically, there is no value in dismissing a source because they happen to use a lot of profanity, or they were born in this century, or even because they got started in their religion because of some guy’s books.  If I considered the source, I would never have found a particular blog on Tumblr, written by a particularly potty-mouthed someone who clearly reveled in blog-battle.  As it happens, one of that really nasty blogger’s posts laid out the structure of a basic Hellenic ritual in a way that, for some reason, clicked with me.  I was probably at close to two years of formal instruction by this point, but the presentation spoke to me in a new and important way.  I can’t find the post, and frankly I’d rather not link to it anyway because there’s no need to invite trouble, but it got me thinking about epithets.

It was the notion of calling a god by many epithets, “or whichever name you wish to be known by,” that got my gears grinding and enabled me to level up.  This is something I can anchor in time, because I distinctly recall that when I attended the Polytheist Leadership Conference, I was proud that I had memorized seven for Poseidon.  It took a few weeks to commit all of those to memory, and to be honest I’m still not convinced I’m pronouncing most of them correctly.  Still, that was the beginning of a process which has exploded for me.

Poseidon, by Grace Palmer

Poseidon, by Grace Palmer

Honestly, I would have been quite content calling Poseidon by seven epithets important to me, reading a simple hymn of my own creation, offering barley and a libation of coffee.  Longtime readers may recall that I was challenged — from several sources — about whether I was doing enough for him, and that ultimately he assigned me the task of writing hymns for each of those epithets, and a whole lot more besides.  Those hymns are the core of my book Depth of Praise, promised for well over a year but finally in the design phase.  That’s exciting in and of itself, but I expected that my daily practice would calm down after I wasn’t writing something new every day.  The creation time did fall away, but somewhere along the line the number of epithets that are part of my standard practice ballooned to 29 different titles.

That means that over the course of roughly five years, I went from making a fixed number of offerings to one god in return for a favor, to layers upon layer of daily, weekly, monthly, and seasonal practice.  There is no question in my mind that I could not have and would not have started on this path if I was told that this would be expected of me down the road.  He who shakes the earth also knows how to move the ground with an imperceptible slowness, allowing me to feel like it was no change at all.

The task for me, and for anyone with a few years of practice, is to see one’s own practice through the eyes of a neophyte, and understand that this is not where anyone should begin.  Even if they take on a multilayered calendar of offerings with zeal, they are likely to burn out.  Even more common is what I decided about the Druids:  “Thanks, but no thanks.”  Who knows what opportunities I missed?  Who knows how many doors I might close to someone simply by showing them what I do on a regular basis?

By the word of Hermes, I will lie and deceive to avoid scaring a seeker.  I will hide my practice and reveal my knowledge only when it requested, and then in appropriate measure.

By the word of Apollon, I will try to recognize how much truth a seeker is ready to know, so I dole it out at a pace the gods decree, rather than let my passion and excitement trample over the curiosity of another.

By the word of Poseidon, I will root myself in the patience of the tectonic plates themselves, and trust that it is through me, and not from me, that wisdom may flow.

There is more to tell about my personal practice, but it’s mostly frills and shiny things.  Stay tuned.

Offerings to Poseidon


The theoi, in Hellenic practice, should be given offerings that stimulate the senses, be it a sumptuous feast which delights the eye, nose, and tongue, a prayer said aloud with heartfelt intent, or a few granules of incense strewn over charcoal. Tangible offerings are what these gods have been given for millennia. Poseidon is no different, so I have compiled a list of offerings that I have myself made, which might serve as a launching point for the reader’s relationship with him.

Poseidon shrine

Shrine for Poseidon

While a table listing the astrological, animal, herbal, seasonal, lunar, and syncretic correspondences for each of Poseidon’s epithets would no doubt delight some readers, no such resource is being proposed by me at this time. Below is simply a list of offerings and, when appropriate, the epithet(s) with which I have personally found them most strongly associated. Other devotees might provide different suggestions. For more information, consult an oracle or perform divination to discover what Poseidon asks of you.

Animals were more commonly sacrificed in antiquity than they are today, although a skilled sacrificial priest treats a sacrifice with caring and dignity, far different than the fate of animals in modern factory farms. Cookies or votive objects in the form of horses are suitable for Hippios (and yes, that includes animal crackers). Likewise are representations of bulls something which could well delight Taureos. I also have been known to offer duck figurines for reasons that are beyond words; therein lies a mystery as yet unfolding. If an actual animal sacrifice is desired, one should seek out someone who has training and experience in making this kind of offering; a trained sacrificial priest will ensure that all legal and ethical requirements are complied with, and will also be trained to recognize if such an offering is not ultimately desired. I have never asked for or attended such a sacrifice.

Barley is a good, basic offering in and of itself, and is often the first one made to any of the theoi. It is also used for purification, and cast upon another object to signify that it is also an offering (such as a votive object or food).

Coffee is my main libation. The association I have between Poseidon and coffee comes from the Moby Dick character Starbuck, whose love of coffee has permanently associated the brew with the sea in my mind, which is why I offer it to Pelagaeus, Asphaleios, and Labrandeus.

Epithets, as many as one wishes to include, are often part of the invocation to any of the theoi. To a mortal, there is no sweeter sound than one’s own name said with love; I feel that so too is it for the gods, and that their names are thus a worthy offering in their own right. If epithets are included, it’s good to make the effort to pronounce them correctly, whether they are ancient Greek or from a more recent language. (I had to train myself to pronounce “Poseidon” with a long a sound rather than a long i in the second syllable; it turns out is really is all Greek to me.) It’s a common Hellenic practice to a phrase like, “or whichever names you wish to be known by,” to the end of a list of epithets.

Fish is an offering I reserve for really big things, like the swearing of oaths. Fish are imperiled and precious, and a worthy gift, particularly for Prosclystius and Basileus. Because I do so rarely, I have not noted that some fish are more appropriate for certain epithets, but this is quite possibly the case.

Grape juice was my go-to libation beverage of choice for a long time, and I never received complaints. Go for the 100% juice, if possible. If I were avoiding alcohol, I would offer grape juice especially to Phytalmius because of its association with plants.

Ground coffee can be used in conjunction with, or as a replacement for, barley when offering to Poseidon Psychopompos or Poseidon Kthonios. (Note that this is not the same as coffee grounds, which are the remainder after one brews coffee.) I drew this conclusion based on the practice in antiquity of offering white things to ouranic theoi, and dark things to the kthonic.

Hymns, be they ancient, those offered in this humble volume, or something of the reader’s own creation, should always be read or recited aloud. While it’s commonly believed that reciting the hymns which have survived from antiquity in the original ancient Greek is preferable, it’s probably better to use one’s native tongue unless one has mastered the pronunciation. The gods are not omniscient, and could well struggle if one’s accent is thick.

Mint was suggested to me by another devotee of Poseidon, specifically in the form of chocolate mint candies. The plant’s protective properties makes it suitable for Domatites, and the coolness it evokes brings to mind Glacius and Pelagaeus. Mint is also strongly associated with Haides, suggesting that it’s an appropriate offering to Poseidon Kthonios.

Incense is an ancient offering. Myrrh and frankincense are perhaps the most common ones to burn for Poseidon.

Ocean water can poured as a libation, if easy to acquire, or left in a sealed container as a votive offering, if it’s a more precious item in one’s locale. As I live inland, I hope to get water from all the world’s oceans, and especially the Mediterranean Sea, to leave on my altar.

Salt is something I occasionally get asked to provide, and when I offer salt, I go for the very coarse-grained varieties. Prosclystius, Katharsios, and (curiously enough) Petraios have all asked sea-salt of me.

Water is a perfectly acceptable offering. I have not yet been asked to mix salt into the water, but I’ve heard that others do this. Hudsonios may well ask for some salt in the water.

Wine mixed with water is the traditional Hellenic libation. I offer it at my shrine to Poseidon Phytalmius, to Poseidon in all his epithets on the eighth day of the lunar month which is sacred to him, and during my priestly devotions. I don’t mix the wine when I offer to Poseidon Kthonios or Psychopompos, pouring the cup out completely upon the ground as a holocaust offering, one that is destroyed completely and not shared with the god. I’ve also made libations specifically of white wine for Pelagaeus; I picked up the notion that it’s more evocative of the ocean than red, and that resonates with me.

Note:  this post is an excerpt of my upcoming book, Depth of Praise.  It is being provided now in answer to a reader’s question.  Do not share without linking back to this post as the source.  Thank you.

“I’d rather Poseidon stay in the ocean.”


I visited a group dedicated to the Green Man to talk about Poseidon.  “Did you know that Poseidon has a Green Man aspect?” I asked, eager to share my enthusiasm for that theme.  I was devoted to the Green Man for many years, and was absolutely floored to discover that maybe I wasn’t worshiping an archetype or force of nature as I thought; it could have been Poseidon in the forest all along.

The only reply I got was from a member who said something like the title of this post.  “There’s so much need to clean up the oceans,” he explained, that he’d “rather Poseidon stay there.”

While I appreciate that there’s a lot of ugly in the world that needs fixing, I hardly think it’s up to us to tell the gods where they ought to focus their attentions.  Or what they should have influence over.  If I were a more hotheaded polytheist, I might have likened such comments to hubris, but I really do understand the spirit in which they were made.  However, I do not agree, not even a little bit.

Since I’m writing about Poseidon’s life beyond the ocean, check out my latest update, in which I talk about the cthonic Poseidon.

Final push for an illustrated Poseidon


Pretty_Please

That’s right, I’m bringing out the cats.

Raising money is not the money work I am best at, so as I move into the final days of my push to illustrate my Poseidon devotional, I understand I need to both step up my efforts and get more help from those readers I’ve already got.

  • Contributing just a dollar will get your name added to my morning devotions to my patron.
  • Any amount totally counts as an offering to Poseidon, so don’t be shy.
  • I’ve added a new reward in honor of the sacred marriage of two friends today.
  • If you follow me on Tumblr, WordPress, or Twitter, and choose to boost the signal, I will be pleased to retweet or reblog one of your posts, or follow you back as thanks.  Just let me know which.
  • Yes, some of my rewards are quirky, but my work is deadly serious.  I would have been swept away without Poseidon, and I need to give him back more than I have the talent to provide.
  • Suggestions for finding those people who a) are interested in prayer books focused on Poseidon specifically or Hellenic gods generally and b) have a few books kicking about would be very much appreciated.

Each and every time each of us supports the work of others to support the gods, we amplify the message that these are gods worthy of honor and glory, who are still worshiped today, and who save and transform lives.  Be the change you wish to see in the world.

Imagining


phytlamiusToday’s Kickstarter update was a musing on what an illustration of Poseidon Phytalmius might look like.  There are so many really excellent pictures drawn of Poseidon relating to the ocean, but not so many covering his earth-god aspects.  That’s really part of why I want to illustrate Depth of Praise, to visually call out his more-than-just-the-ocean-ness.

Of course, if I completely ignore his watery ways, I may end up all wet myself.  Rest assured, breathless reader, I shall not.  Indeed, my first illustration has been sold, and I am contemplating creating a few more to capture such epithets as “he who dashes against” and “of the coast” in my inimitable style.  While you wait, feel free to dangle this post in front of anyone who might be willing to help get this project funded, or who has a bunch of friends in such circles.

Stay tuned.