Review of Hearthstone’s books


When I started my formal study of Hellenismos, Hearthstone was required reading. Eir two books of interest, Devotion: Prayers to the Gods of the Greeks and In Praise of Olympus: Prayers to the Greek Gods have become some of the most well-used books in my collection. Almost daily I read a Hearthstone prayer to one deity or another. I got Devotion about six years ago, but when I bought the other recently I decided that these books deserve a review before I wear them out and have to buy new copies.

It’s with Hearthstone that I first learned to appreciate poetry. What’s otherwise stopped me is what seems like rampant pretentious behavior in and near poems and poets; these are written for the gods, which perhaps makes such ego exercises impossible. The turns of phrase make my heart flutter with their elegance. Here’s an example about Hermes:

In any land, in any age, your people prosper; in any land, in any age, you find a place; in any setting, you belong.

There’s just a flow created by the word choices which carry the reader on. That’s particularly important for reading aloud; many writers — myself included — don’t think about how long sentences challenge the voice. Yes, there’s a few really long ones among these prayers which might leave the unprepared reader gasping for breath, but Hearthstone is more than generous with commas, semi-colons, and dashes to help us through the tough times. Silently or aloud, the words drip with passion for and power from the divinities thus celebrated.

There are other things about Hearthstone’s writing to make me swoon; for one, the use of semicolons is correct. For another, the word “god” is not capitalized in any of these prayers, for Hearthstone (or her editor) knows that it never should be. It’s no wonder reading these works makes me feel faint after a day scrolling through Overcapitalized Blog Posts about Important Subjects.

At the core of Hearthstone’s work, though, is an insistent power. The reader may not feel it by browsing the book, or reading it cover to cover. It may take actually using these prayers, speaking them aloud, to sense it. It may take reading them over and over again, but the power is there, and it becomes more evident with each pass through these words. If it weren’t for my robust mustache, I’m certain I’d detect sweat on my upper lip. These are prayers that get the attention of gods in part due to their muse-inspired beauty, and in part because many English-speaking Hellenists are using them.

The author explains in the introduction to Devotion that she began writing these prayers in part because there weren’t many out there at the time. Many others — myself included — have composed and even published books of prayers to the theoi, but only rarely do these more recent offerings match the passion expressed by Hearthstone. For beginners on the path, those only passingly curious about Hellenic worship, and seasoned devotees alike, these books would only enhance a library to which they were added.

For my many gods


Follower of gods and friend of mortals
let this work be shared with you and by you,
for as offering to the deathless ones
I pray it shall ever more delight their ears.

Begin always with Hestia,
first among those who dwell on high,
who walks as one with or beside
the wakeful Caffeina, bringing the gods to mind.

Remember too life-bearing Gaia and expansive Ouranos,
who began many things, and Eos, who greets the day,
the good spirit of the home
and any whose oaths expect it.
In this way let all beginnings be begun.

Honor thundering Zeus,
his brothers both kindly and implacable
Hera in whose eyes all love abounds
as well as fruitful, questing Demeter,
for in this way are the six remembered.

Forget not to honor the sire Kronos
from who seed those strong ones sprang
and beloved mother Rhea, who loves her children.
Offer as well to their holy kin:
Hekate, who walks all paths,
all-seeing Helios and dynamic Selene,
broad-shouldered Atlas, Themis the just,
and their brethren, known and unknown.

To high Olympos cast your thoughts
and lift your voice thereto.
Cast praises before foam-clad Aphrodite,
brothers Hephaistos and Ares, whose hands
differ in their tasks and from the craft
of aegis-bearing Athene. To Dionysos, wine,
and grant the twins their due lest truth
be turned to unwelcome purpose.
Whisper too sweet words in the good god’s ear
and know he will bear them to all.

The world is full of gods, good friend,
and to these too make offerings just.
The wild god, the healing son,
the cleansing and purifying holy ones.
Life-affirming Eros, laboring Ponos,
Ploutos who blesses without judgement,
the god of each river crossed or drawn from,
as well as Kairos, in his due time.

Be they daimones or deities,
honor spirits of place, and know your own.
Celebrate neighborhood nymphs,
spirits of home and health,
and that ancient one who calls cannabis home;
mint of the path, stream in the park,
Nikthing who guides through light and through dark.

Remember too those foreign gods who bear
prosperity close to home: Buddha and Hotei,
in their own way. The dead are countless and too often unnamed
but honor the ancestors:
those of blood,
those of spirit,
and all the priests who ever paid honor
to the deathless gods.

If not forsworn to acknowledge the past
then honor again the gods that thou hast:
the eponymous ones, Goddess and God,
the horned one, the Green Man,
the traveler unshod.

Honor the gods, good friend,
not because of what they may bring
— though their blessings are without end —
but because they are the gods
and no other reason is required.


Herein is the hymn to my many gods. Will you write one as well? Submissions close June 21, 2017.

Instruction


Orpheus to Mousaios
translated by Athanassakis

raffaello_concilio_degli_dei_02

Friend, use it to good fortune
Learn now, Mousaios, a rite mystic and most holy;
A prayer which surely excels all others.
Kind Zeus and Gaia, heavenly and pure flames of the Sun,
Sacred light of the Moon  and all the Stars;
Poseidon too, dark-maned holder of the earth,
Pure Persephone and Demeter of the splendid fruit,
Artemis, the arrow-pouring maiden,
And kindly Phoibos, who dwells on the sacred ground of Delphoi.
And Dionysos, the dancer, whose honors among the blessed gods are the highest.
Strong-spirited Ares, holy and mighty Hephaistos,
And the goddess foam-born to whose lot fell sublime gifts;
And you, divinity excellent, who is king of the Underworld.
I call upon Hebe, and Eileithyia, and the noble ardor of Herakles,
The great blessings of Justice and Piety,
The glorious Nymphs and Pan the greatest,
And upon Hera, buxom wife of aegis-bearing Zeus.
I also call upon lovely Mnemosyne and the holy Muses, all nine,
As well as upon the Graces, the Seasons, the Year;
Fair-tressed Leto, divine and revered Dione,
The armed Kouretes, the Korybantes, the Kubeiroi,
Great saviors, Zeus’ ageless scion,
The Idaian gods, and upon Hermes, messenger and herald of those in heaven;
Upon Themis too, diviner of men I call,
And on Night, oldest of all, and light-bringing Day:
Then upon Faith, Dike, blameless Thesmodoteira,
Rhea, Kronos, dark-dwelling Tethys,
The great Okeanos together with his daughters,
The might of preeminent Atlas and Aion,
Chronos the ever-flowing, the splendid water of the Styx,
All these gentle gods and also Pronoia,
And the holy Daimon as well as the one baneful to mortals;
Then upon the divinities dwelling in heaven, air, water,
On earth, under the earth  and in the fiery element.
Ino, Leukothea, Palaimon giver of bliss,
Sweet-speaking Nike, queenly Adresteia,
The great king Asklepios who grants soothing,
The battle-stirring maiden Pallas, all the Winds,
Thunder, and the parts of the four-pillared Cosmos.
And I invoke the Mother of the immortals, Attis and Men,
And the goddess Ourania, immortal and holy Adonis, beginning and end, too
Which is the most important,
And ask them to come in a spirit of joyous mercy
To this holy rite and libation of reverence.