Holiday greetings


My wife and I send cards at this time of year, and not just cards, either:  we include a little newsletter giving a synopsis of what we’ve been up to in the past year.  It’s old-school, it’s time-consuming, it uses up lots of paper, it’s entirely unnecessary, it often gets little or no response, and it’s entirely worth the effort.

IMG_7460We add people to our list every year, and we’ll send them a card for several years running in hopes of a paper response before taking them off again.  Most people are part of that rotating crowd, but the few who do respond make it worthwhile.  One friend stopped short of naming me as her inspiration to send out an update, but made it clear in the handwritten note.  Another wrote, “It’s always amazing and lovely to receive your letters – thank you!  These things mean more and more as the years and social media wear on.”

My life is in that social stratum in which I do not worry about paying the bills each month, but travel is both infrequent and modest.  When friends move away, I may not see them again for years, if ever.  Yes, they can tag me in memes and like my posts, but the weight of a holiday card is more than physical.  We share something of ourselves when we send out this sort of mass mailing.  The cards we get back do the same, sometimes through the power of words, but also through images.  More and more, I’ve been sending cards that we get free via various charitable organizations, but our friends return ones much more lovely.  We have a growing collection of really astounding Pagan greeting cards, as well as a number of secular ones which are quite excellent.

IMG_7461One friend this year ran into me at a Yule ritual, and laid out a selection of cards she’d made herself.  “Pick one, and I’ll make it out,” I was told.  Who does that?  The cards which are a family portrait have become more dear to me as I age; I find myself nostalgic about people growing up and living their lives, connected to mine yet all the same distant from it.

If you believe in the value of community, if you feel you might be able to commit to the practice, if you recognize that time and effort spent yield immeasurable results, ask me to send you a card next year.

IMG_7462

Mysteries of the bull


Dear Poseidon,

This year’s vigil is at an end.  All that remains is to print out the rituals and hymns to preserve in my book of practice.  All that’s physical, at least.  There is much I need to ponder, as well.

I know you exposed me to some of your mysteries.  For a writer, that’s not difficult to discern; I tried writing down what you taught me, and then I tried to make sense of the words after the fact.  Curiously, while I recognize that nothing coherent can be made of what I scrawled upon the page, that gibberish rekindles the fire you lit in my mind.  The full understanding washes over me, triggered but not described by the letters I penned in the moment.  Perhaps that was the purpose of the ear of corn to initiates of Eleusis.

Not all you revealed slips entirely free of language.  I now have some inkling of your consort Posedeia, and recognize that her being all-but-forgotten may have been by design.  Others may know something of she who was lost to history, or the impossible child which she did — and did not — bear you.

[Michelle Young.]

Frankly, I expected none of this.  This is the Vigil for the Bulls, after all, and bulls are about which I was prepared to ponder.  On that topic, I am gobsmacked.

Well I know the myth of the Tauros Kretaios, the magnificent bull which Minos asked of you to ensure his kingship.  Had he but sacrificed it as he was expected, many significant events would never have been spun out by the Moirae.  Now I hold a new version of that tale in my head, one which adds depth to Minos’ betrayal, and a bittersweet dimension to all which resulted from his desire to own that beast, rather than cede it back to you.

I was led to believe that this is a vigil at the intersection of politics and practice, an opportunity to bear witness to the grief you feel over the terrible choices humans have made.  I did not understand that joining a god in grief opens pathways to other regrets.  I did not understand that to share your sorrow is to bear my own.  I did not understand that I might gain from this service.

The ocean is heavy, and the earth heavier still.  Never could I bear the full weight you carry, Poseidon; Atlas himself might shy from that burden.  That you allowed me to even glimpse the scope of what is upon your vast shoulders is both an honor and a challenge.  I pray I am worthy of both.

Your humble priest,
Terentios

About Greece


Dear Poseidon,

I’ve been thinking about Greece. It’s in the news a lot now, as it goes through the most recent — and apparently most dire — throes of the debt problems that have plagued it since that country joined the Eurozone. I don’t know how many of my ancestors made offerings to you, Poseidon, but I do know that if they did, it was probably in Greece that it happened. Greece, where you were old when Homer was young. Greece, where today your worship is not recognized at all. Surely there is a lesson hidden in this chaos.

To hazard a guess, I’d have to say that debt is the problem. We love to borrow money, but paying it back isn’t as popular. I’m not a big fan of debt, because I am an animist who honors the spirits of money, and I believe that debt is miasma for those spirits. Debt will show up in a ledger as balanced, because the credit (the amount borrowed) is equal to the debit (the amount owed). That’s tidy, but on a spiritual level the transaction isn’t balanced until the debt is paid. The sheer amount of debt in the world’s economy creates a massive amount of money miasma, which can be mitigated, but really just needs to be paid off. Greece’s government wasn’t able to hide large amounts of debt by inflating the currency once the country adopted the Euro, but its problems were not created by the currency switch. Larger nations and combined economies like the Eurozone can absorb more debt for longer periods of time than Greece could, but eventually we will all be too polluted for the money spirits to work with us.

I’ve long felt that you have a powerful role in the economy, as Asphaleios and Agoraios, so I kind of suspect that Greece going through this is either tough love or dire warning. If I’m correct that debt is the problem, it’s going to be quite interesting to try to solve it. If the cause is something else, I hope we can set aside the hubristic attitude that we control money long enough to figure out what you’re really trying to tell us.

While I’m on the subject, I do you hope can smooth things out for the Greeks, Poseidon. They are lying in the bed that their forefathers made without looking at the instructions. Mistakes were made, and we will all pay for them in full, but if you could manage to help them find the new normal without too much misery, that would be nice. I know lots of regular people are pitching in, so maybe you could, too.

Thinking of you,

TPW

PS — thanks for sending me those extra hymns to write for my devotional to you. The last two really surprised me.  I think I will have the last hymn written by the dark of the moon.

About Nepal . . .


Dear Poseidon,

This whole Nepal thing has really been eating at me. I feel like I understand, and yet I don’t. These people, clinging to life on the sides of mountains, surely have enough challenges without the touch of Ennosigaios to wipe nearly everything they know from the face of the earth.

But.

Science makes clear what living on the slopes of the Himalayas brings with it. Nepal’s earthquakes are some of the most regular tectonic disruptions known. So regular, in fact, that I expect the eldest Nepalese remember a time, when they were young children, that the otherwise solid rock beneath their feet shook like curtains and rippled like water. The sharpest among them might even recall that their own grandparents and wizened elders told tale of the time when this happened when they were young children, skipping two and three generations, but never so many that none living could recall that earthquakes are nothing new. This greatest of mountain ranges is built upon plate tectonics, as India dives down beneath Asia, and such majesty does not arise without violence. In a way, the Nepalese are blessed like no other people, because they at least have a sense of when the inevitable shall occur. No one in California can say that.

But.

Widespread disaster never seems to touch our shores. The worst losses of life in my country have always been created by us, not the gods. In the United States, we have the knowledge and resources to prevent so many of the deaths once caused by earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods . . . and yet countless thousands die in Ares’ name, or by human folly. Passion drives us to create more powerful weapons, more effective medicines, more troubling food systems, more potable water, more disconnection from the gods, and simultaneously more skepticism for the science that was supposed to replace them. I live in a great bubble, Basileus my king, that tries to muffle your influence but creates new forms of suffering to balance accounts. My life is nothing like that of a Nepalese family living high in mountain village that can only be reached by a thin ribbon of road, or perhaps a helicopter if one is available. Their struggles are not my struggles. The amount of money I make, the amount that sometimes keeps me awake at night worrying what the future might bring, is still more in most weeks than many Nepali workers earn in a year. Sheltered by industry and empire, even if I am ever in the crosshairs of your rage, Labrandeus, my life will still materially rebound much, much faster than it will over there. Part of me wonders if the people of Nepal haven’t been kicked in the teeth, either for no reason, for because they deserved it for reasons I cannot fathom.

But.

Death by landslide or cholera or malnutrition is not all that face the people of Nepal. As unwelcome as their suffering surely is, this quake is the sort of disaster that can bring humanity together, because its onset was sudden, its victims blameless, and its destruction is being relayed around the world. Whatever money is pooled to aid the Nepalese may or may not be enough to rebuild what was lost, but it’s arriving much faster than did relief for Ebola. Stories of aid supplies backlogged and not arriving in the remote villages where they are desperately needed is still better than stories of people dying because no help has been sent at all. Managing the logistics of compassion is worthy work, and I cannot help but believe that each attempt to work together on missions of aid elevates our entire species. Humanity’s spirit needs opportunities for elevation, but we are probably missing a lot of them. Are we so deep in our ruts that thousands of people need to die in a distant land before we are shaken out of our complacency, Ennosigaios? And why did you choose Nepal to set your clock by?

You are god of sudden change, Poseidon, and it can take a long time to learn the lessons that you unexpectedly bestow. May you grant at least the full eighty years to allow this one to sink in.

Thinking of you always,

TPW

Dear Poseidon


Dear Poseidon,

I got your message today. You obviously asked Hermes to deliver it, because it arrived when I was driving. That he’s all about travel and pranks, as well as communication, makes giving me a message when I can’t so much as write it down make a lot of sense. I’m not so sure about the ones that pop up when I’m in the shower, or otherwise indisposed, but that’s all part of the mystery, isn’t it?

Anyway, the message, “You should compile a book of your letters to me,” presumes that I’ve been writing letters to you in the first place, which I’m sure you know I have not. I have to commend you on your hints, then: I think you’re starting to realize how useless subtle is around me. Lots of people are really good at recognizing signs and interpreting their meanings, but that first step is a pretty big sticking point for me. I can’t interpret what I never notice. I definitely notice that you think I should be writing letters, so here you go. I hope I do better than when I was sending mail home from college, but I’m not swearing any oaths about keeping this up, okay? I don’t make promises I don’t know I will keep.

Writing letters is a pretty good idea, though. I have so many questions for you, and I’m probably not the only one. I know people who get into conversations with their gods — you included — but that’s not how it works between you and I, is it? I hear from you when you deem the time is right, and by way of whatever means you consider appropriate. Your messages come through dreams, divination, and dropped right into my head, and it’s not lost on me that discernment is pretty important for all three. After all, I dream dreams that don’t come from you, most of my divination probably isn’t your doing, and sorting out the thoughts which didn’t start out in my cranium takes practice. No doubt you’re trying to train me to notice you when you’re subtle, too, by mixing it up. If I just write to you, though, I can control my message as much as you do yours. We might have to work on delivery methods, but even writing down words forces my thoughts to clarify. Well played.

This is just a short note, to let you know I got the message, and I’m on it. If I remember, I have a lot of questions about what’s going on in Nepal and the Mediterranean. There’s also a question of possession that I need to broach with you. I have to go now to write for The Man, but I’ll be getting back to you soon.

Take care,
TPW