Keeper of the door

Why is it that Poseidon is called Domatites, of the doorway? To what home does he seek entry?

Surely he stands guard at the doorway of Hestia, first and foremost. It is her hearth at which the builder of walls desires to warm his bones, and it is her heart which he desires to shore up and protect.

Hestia rejected a proposal of marriage from Poseidon, a decision which is reflected in the physical world: our homes remain above the waves in all cases, and while the walls are strong from without, they should ever feel inviting to those welcomed within. It is in our nature to need water, but water is not our home.

We do not dwell in the ocean, yet we are never far from it. The similarity of blood and sea water is overstated, but they share a common ancestry. It’s poetic, but still not unreasonable, to say that the ocean flows in our veins.

Another of his epithets, Epaktaios, also speaks to the liminal nature of this god. Here, Poseidon is of the shoreline, between land and sea. It is not difficult to see him standing guard at the shore as Gaiêokhos, holder of the earth; this parallel to guarding the sanctuary of Hestia suggests a role that Poseidon might play in mysteries, barring the door to a space he cannot or will not enter.

Prosklustios, who dashes against, is Poseidon in his power but also Poseidon between. Here he might be seen as the protector of the sacred precincts, testing the walls of Troy to detect any weakness. The theoi are often masters of opposing forces, and this epithet also suggests the wearing down of defenses, the seemingly inevitable destruction which ocean brings to earth. Much is written about how the gods seek to break down and rebuild us better than we were; Poseidon dashes against the walls around our vulnerable parts, seeking or creating an opening through wish to wash away all flaw with the purifying force of the sea.

In another sense, Poseidon stands at the doorway of death. His temple at Tainaron was a psychopompeion, a gate to the realm of Hades. Poseidon is said to have received that place in return for giving Pytho to Apollon, and the temple there was a place of sanctuary, oneiromancy, and necromancy. This suggests he stands between his elder and younger brother, facilitating congress with his siblings; Apollon receiving the premiere oracular function in return for this relationship suggests the nature of the sacrifice involved.

Does this mean that Poseidon does not use oracles? Not necessarily, although those he did use may have been connected to death. Perhaps that was due to the dearth of active worshipers Haides had to choose from, and a need for there to be oracles connected to the underworld as much as Delphi received words spoken on high. This jibes with another gnosis I have had about Poseidon, that he has a preference for mortals past a certain age — maturity level might be a better way to put it — in certain relationships with him. The longer we live, the more likely we are to have stood at the gateway of death ourselves, or in companionship with one who is crossing over. The longer we live, the more likely we are to know loss. The longer we live, the more likely we are to be ready to hear words tinged with death, as the drowning sea is tinged with salt and the gaping vent is tinged with magma.

I have been called to do oracular work for Poseidon, which will take place on the first Thursday following the first Monday of each Athenian month, beginning Hekatombaion of olympiad 699, year 2; I expect this work will last for a full year as a continuation and evolution of my priest-craft. That means the dates will be July 19, August 16, September 20, October 18, November 15, and December 13, 2018; January 17, February 14, March 14, April 11, May 9, June 13, and July 11, 2019. I will post a call for questions ahead of each session.

While I am not permitted to ask for payment for these sessions, oracular work is an intense process which is physically and spiritually demanding on the worker, and as such is a service which has significant value. In short, this is a gift to the community as much as it is to me, and if I am permitted to continue beyond these dates, I plan on charging at that time. For these sessions, an offering to Poseidon by the querent will be all that is required.

The space between

The equinox is a liminal time, ideal for a liminal god.  Poseidon was given the portion which is neither above nor below.  He is Domatites, of the doorway which stands between here and there.  He is Epaktaios, of the coastline between realms of land and sea, both of which comprise his domain.

2016-09-21 16.11.59.jpgI brought my offerings to my outdoor shrine to Poseidon, a mossy patch from which his metal face emerges.  Here, he is holder of the earth, plant-nourisher, the reason why I have adored green man iconography for as long as I can remember.

Barley, and wine mixed with water, because that’s tradition going way back.  My equinox prayer to Poseidon (which is in Depth of Praise but has never been published online), because he wouldn’t have asked me to write it if he didn’t intend for me to use it.  Another offering of barley, this mixed with roast coffee beans, because it’s referenced in the prayer but this would be the first opportunity to follow those instructions.

Inside, the daily offerings to Hestia Caffeina also change: now comes coffee with the barley.  In a few months, the barley will be abandoned and she will receive only dark, chthonic offerings to reflect the darkest time of year.

Now does Phytalmius turn to sleep, and the icy breath of Glacius begins to quicken.  This balancing point signals that the Poseidalia is closer at hand than I can possibly believe.  Perhaps this year shall be the one in which I invite others to celebrate with me.


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.

Poseidon Epaktaios

Neither land nor sea does the coastline be;
and the god who dwells within is swathed in mystery.

Hail, Poseidon Epaktaios!
Keeper of the coast,
holder of the boundary
‘tween realms of life.

What secrets are beheld
where wet and dry now meld?
What life therein resides,
that can nowhere else abide?

Let us walk upon your coastline
feeling salt and sand and sky,
in this place of holy power
shall the oaths we swear us tie.

To cross the line of shore
is a simple act, one step;
to travel in a foreign place
quite beyond our depth.

No life can leave the mighty sea
or plunge within from land
and not risk ending all they know
by gasping, gulping end.

Yet that very step, once made,
gave living voice to rocky land.
So too did some again return:
whales and dolphins, the currents turn.

More clearly than the forge’s heat
does temper steel to strength,
than does the soft coast life transform
across its breadth and length.

Keeper of coastlines,
transformer of all!
Mold me, Epaktaios;
already in your thrall.