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.

My personal practice: Hellenic flavor

There came a time when I started to understand more of the elements of Hellenic ritual, and desired to include more of them.  First came Hestia.

Statue of Caffeina rising from a coffee cup, which is between a coffee press and a hand coffee grinder. Another hand coffee grinder is behind the statue and a tiger lily blossom is before it.

Cult statue of the goddess Caffeina.

I learned about how Hestia is, in many Hellenic homes, honored first and last, and how there seemed to be no small number who poured a libation of coffee to her in the morning.  I considered the Caffeina shrine that we already had in our home, overseeing our waking lives.  Caffeina, who had been the goddess at our handfasting.  Caffeina, over whom my wife and I had bonded.  I realized that — for me, at least — the syncretized Hestia Caffeina was definitely a goddess.  The fact that our existing Caffeina shrine backed up against the far side of the fireplace didn’t hurt, either.

Two things I did not anticipate came from that syncretization.  First, Caffeina started getting paid her due much more often; until then, it was left to seasonal celebrations.  Second, since I drink coffee every day, it made sense to pour a libation just as regularly; thus I shifted to a daily practice without really even noticing.

Apparently that wasn’t quite enough, because somewhere along the way I put a candle for Hestia on the mantle over the hearth, which some might find redundant.  I might agree on those mornings when I light it over a blazing fire, and particularly that time we played “Fireplace in Your Home” on the television next to the blazing fireplace beneath the burning Hestia candle, but none of that was to happen until more recently.

By bringing Caffeina and Hestia together in my practice, I gave it a bit of a kick-start that led it to grow, by and by.  Barley.  Khernips.  Lots more incense.  Eventually, I even started buying wine.  I doubt I could have set out to begin a daily practice on purpose, but inside of my existing habits that happened of its own accord.  Gods work in mysterious ways and, for me, that meant helping me find the energy and momentum to give them more.  Very clever, them.

30 days of devotion: UPGs about Caffeina

That’s “unverified personal gnosis” for all of you folks who loathe initialisms and other lazy abbreviations as much as I do.  I only use it for Google’s sake.

I’ve already touched on the most significant revelation that I’ve had about Caffeina, that it’s perfectly acceptable to worship her as Hestia Caffeina in keeping with Hellenic practice.

This really speaks to the question of what kind of polytheist I am, because I am saying that Caffeina is an epithet, or title, of the goddess Hestia.  This syncretic practice describes one as an aspect of the other, which makes a lot of sense if you consider that Hestia is the first to be honored each day, a place which Caffeina understandably holds for her devotees.

However, does this mean that I no longer acknowledge Caffeina as a unique, individual being?  Not at all.  Both she and Hestia are individuals in my mind.  Those offerings I make to Hestia, other than a libation of coffee, are not to Hestia Caffeina.  Likewise, when my wife (who does not follow a Hellenic path) and I worship together, it is to Caffeina we pray, not Hestia Caffeina.

Simply put, I don’t think that my limited concept of the nature of deity is at all qualified to define individuality.  They are separate, and they are not.  It’s paradoxical, and I’m okay with that.  I consider myself a polytheist, and not one of those polytheists who believe that all of the gods are facets of the same unknowable whole, either.  The ideas of “one” and “many” are entirely human, and I am content with the seeming madness of suggesting that both are likely true.

This post is part of a series, 30 days of devotion to Caffeina.

Seasonal visuals

We are turning from barley to coffee.

I continue to be amazed at how my practice of Hellenismos helps me be more rooted in more contemporary Pagan practices, such as the wheel of the year.  The equinox is a time that I honor the turn of the seasons by shifting my offerings to Caffeina.

Let me take a step back, because Caffeina isn’t even a remotely Hellenic deity.  Although I strive to honor the ancient practices of Hellas, or Greece, we only know about the tiniest sliver of them, mostly the things they did in Athens.  Reconstruction is the way we bring that research forward, but I can’t, and won’t, limit myself to a portion of what Athenians did.  We know that the Hellenes honored foreign gods, and adopted foreign practices; in this modern world, I have no problem with the fact that that process is accelerated.

My family had an altar to Caffeina before I was called by the gods of my Greek ancestors, and I honor her as an aspect of Hestia.  Many Hellenic pagans pour a libation of coffee to Hestia, since it is traditional to honor her before all others, so it seemed natural to me to honor one as an epithet of the other, or perhaps as a syncretic goddess.

Stepping forward again:  the equinox is one of the more popular times of the year to acknowledge the change of the seasons.  There are others which make more sense when compared to the actual weather, perhaps, but it’s the one I like to use.  So beginning on the equinox, my traditional first offering to Hestia shifts from barley to barley with ground coffee.  (Ground coffee is distinct from coffee grounds; the former is roasted beans smashed to bits, while the latter have also been subjected to the brewing process.)  I will offer this mix until the winter solstice, at which time I will abandon barley entirely until the spring equinox.

This is a nice visual of the changes in the world, and also mirrors the myth of Demeter, who does not allow the white barley to come forth from the earth while her daughter Persephone is in the underworld.  That’s a deeply Hellenic tale which has been widely adopted in modern Paganism, so it serves to reinforce how the ancient ways are the ways for today.  It also allows me to focus on Caffeina during a time when I am most need of extra energy and comfort.

Since we must make a more intentional effort to be in tune with the rhythms of the world beneath our feet, visual aids like this give us reminders that our ancestors didn’t need.  Do you have visuals that you use to keep your Paganism on track?

This post is part of the Pagan Blog Project, a yearlong exploration of spirituality.  This specific post is brought to you by the letter S.

Not knowing is the worst

Today marks a week since I’ve seen my cat . . . and five years since my father finished dying.  There are a lot of unknowns associated with loss and death, and they really speak to the human condition.

Myrlyn was meant to be wild and free, that much I know.  His mishaps and maladies have come mostly from the human intrusions in his life.

  • He nearly fell out of a second-story window right after I got him.  I was petting him and he was stretching into it, so when the screen gave way I caught him.
  • He did fall or jump off of a second story balcony a couple of years later.  He was terribly lonely because I had taken him from a home of constant companionship to an apartment where he was stuck for hours on end while I worked and socialized.  He was missing for three days that time before a friend of mine helped me find him.
  • The last time he was missing was particularly bad, because he’d never been outside in the time I’d known him, and he had a radar-dish collar on which made it probably impossible for him to hunt or fight.  The collar protected a massive wound he’d given himself by excessive grooming between his shoulder blades.
  • That wound was caused by vaccinosis, a condition not accepted by the medical community.  I didn’t understand that the irritation and increased aggression was in part due to me getting him rabies vaccines, year in and year out, despite the fact that it’s been established that one is enough for a lifetime.  His loneliness may have pushed him over the edge.
Once we finally started letting him out when we owned a home, he did get into some fights as he established territory, but they were all of his choosing and he was happier for it.  He established himself as an accomplished hunter and railed at our desire to keep him in overnight.  He sometimes would not come home for dinner if he’d caught his own, but he’d always be back by morning.
Until last week, of course.  Was it the storm?  Did he get his collar off again, and get caught as a stray?  Was he trapped seeking shelter?  Hit by a car?  Forcefully adopted?  I just don’t know, and I really don’t care, as long as he comes back.
Posters and knocking on doors hasn’t worked.  Offerings to Poseidon, Artemis, Hermes, and Hestia Caffeina  have yielded only troubling results.  Every offering to Artemis in particular results in me seeing deer, most strangely a doe and two fawns in midday grazing and playing near a backhoe.  Is that a hint that I should look to new life?  I’ve certainly seen many kittens as I’ve searched what I know of his territory.  The fliers I hung over the mailbox and altar keep falling down . . . is it that the tape won’t stick, or is that to encourage me to look downward, to where his spirit now rests?
I’ve always believed Myrlyn to be the sort of cat who would simply never come home one day, but I can’t say I am ready.  He’s not even ten years old, dammit.
That this is happening during the anniversary of my father’s death-cycle is also on my mind.  I gave him offerings on the anniversary of his birth, which is also the anniversary of the day he fell and sustained a subdural hematoma – bleeding in the brain.  Today marks the day that we took him off life support.  I was his health-care proxy and held the power of attorney, and I believe I failed him.  I knew that he didn’t want to be on machines, and I knew within a few days that he wasn’t going to get better.  I had the legal power to end it, but I didn’t press the issue because our family just wasn’t ready to shift into mourning.
At the very least, my mother and sister and I were very clear about his wishes, but I alone was able to see the truth in the moment.  That’s why he trusted me to do the right thing, and I feel that I caved to pressure and didn’t follow through soon enough.  When the brain surgeon described how patients who recover act, I understood that my initial instinct was correct, and yet here we were ten days later and I hadn’t had the guts to give my father the peace he had asked me for.
What lies in death is unknown, so we react to what we know, the living people, and thoughts and hopes of the breathing ones.  I am filled with doubt about how good a son I was, and doubt about how good a cat companion I am.  There’s just so much that can only be taken on faith.
Just as I did with Dad, I’m not giving up hope for Myrlyn even though the gods and logic both tell me that our chances of being reunited are slim.  I guess that dichotomy is just another puzzling part of the human condition.