My personal practice: keeping track

As I have added additional layers to my personal practice, one way I have kept it simple is with a system of keeping track. It’s got two components: keeping track of what is to come, and keeping track of offerings already made.


A calendar is critical to remembering what’s to come.  My daily offerings don’t vary much, but there are weekly and monthly obligations that I write down.  I use a lunar calendar, and most of what I do is triggered by the dark of the moon.  Looking up helps, but I also use an app to track the exact moon phase.

It’s the yearly stuff that is trickiest for me; I nearly forgot about the festival of lilies this time around and need to step up my game.  Luckily my observances tend to be stacked upon each other; honoring my ancestors, flowers for the gods, vigil for the bulls.  I only need to remember the first to recall each in succession.  While I’m loathe to depend too much on electronica, it serves better than paper for me.

A couple of years ago I began the habit of writing down the offerings I made, much like my ancestors did.  It was inspired by a combination of Galina Krasskova’s moneyworking class and the work of PT Helms, who himself pondered adopting this old way.  These records were quite particular in antiquity, noting how much oil to the dram and otherwise being precise, but my focus is on the what, not the how much.  Each day after my worship I jot down that “what” in a formerly blank book.  While I wont say that this constitutes an offering in itself, it extends the period in which I remain in a state of worship, particularly receptive to any gifts which they may desire to bequeath upon me.

This act of writing down also serves as a record of what I’ve offered in the past, as a guide of what to offer in the future.  Not all of my offerings are attested to in ancient records, and it’s good to be able to seek inspiration in my own past, and to see patterns as they emerge in my practice.

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

That’s exciting

I got the first draft of From the Roaring Deep to review yesterday.  It’s quite a rush to see one’s work alongside that of very talented people.  Maybe it’s that format, but when I reviewed my work, I had the reaction of thinking, “wow, I wrote that?”  None of my submissions to that anthology will be new to my small readership, but it really is a rush to see it in such a prestigious collection.  Humbling, too.

That sense of excitement moves me to announce that I am collecting all of my devotional writings for Poseidon into a book, to be called Depth of Praise.  The project is moving along swimmingly; I’ve secured the services of a designer and paid for cover art.  The only delay is the writing.  I had thought the 29 pieces I wrote initially would be sufficient, but Poseidon has inspired me to continue adding to the work.  Therefore, this is a bit of a tease, but I promise more updates as they are warranted.

Maya Angelou deserves better than this

I understand how the wrong quote ended up on the Maya Angelou postage stamp, I really do. Poetry isn’t my thing, I’ve never read her work, and I might have made the same mistake.  What I can’t comprehend is why doing right by this preeminent poet is so hard.

Credit: Dave Itzkoff, via Twitter

One does not have to appreciate poetry to understand that a writer who deserves her own stamp deserves her own work on that stamp.

One does not have to be a woman to wonder if the United States Postal Service would allow this mistake to turn into disrespect if she were a man.

One does not have to be a person of color to wonder why, when we are trying so hard to recognize that not everyone who has done amazing things in this country was white, we can’t take the time, and spend the money, to reissue this stamp.  It can be with a quote of Angelou’s, or at the very least, with proper credit for Joan Walsh Anglund, whose line of poetry, “A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song, ” has apparently been misattributed to Angelou for years.

Therefore, I did something about it, but it won’t be worth much unless I can get a hundred thousand like-minded individuals to help by signing the petition that calls for this mistake to be fixed.  Because making  mistake is human, but coming up with excuses not to make it right is just pathetic.

Please sign, share, reblog, and put up a stink.  Thank you.

Pronouns

I dove into my article on gender and pronouns out of a desire, as a writer, to find a better way.  While I have tried to use the singular they instead of the cumbersome “his or her” or visually irksome “he/she” (slashing is noWordle: pronounst the answer, I recall reading in an essay in college, because violence never is), my dear wife finally convinced me it was incorrect, and I was discontent.  The fact that I was discontent is a form of progress:  I am in essence a conservative, which means that I want good justification before I change something that appears to work perfectly well, and the generic “he” worked quite well in my mind for a long time.  Once I accepted that “he” doesn’t quite include everyone, I wanted to get away from the clumsy alternatives, which happily led me to recognize the need to get away from gender entirely in pronouns, if possible.

Preferred pronouns, I reasoned, did not serve that end, because I saw them referred to as “the pronouns e prefers” rather than what these sets are, more inclusive pronouns than what we’ve got.  What I learned in my research is that, even if they are simply a step in the right direction, it could be a big step if we start working on the cultural shift towards associating pronouns of preference with everybody, not just the few who stand up and say that two genders are not enough.  I was further taught that, in such a world, quite a few of us identify as one of those genders might realize we’re not entirely comfortable with the binary system, either.

And then I got very, very stressed, because when you interview a lot of people with pronoun preferences, you need to keep track of them all and get them right.  That’s not a comfortable place to be.  Granted, it’s surely not even close to living a gender that our culture doesn’t recognize as legitimate, but as a writer, I thought my head would explode.  Although I can envision pronoun preference being the norm, I think the generation that embraces it would have to be normalized to it in its youth.  What we have now is a tiny sliver of society — transgender folks and their allies — attempting to navigate a difficult transition towards a new way of thinking and communicating, and these are chaotic waters.

While I’m an ally, I don’t know any trans* people that I see on a regular basis, so the only support I can offer is through my writing.  I’ve learned more about the issues — far more than I could even cover for The Wild Hunt — but I’m left wondering if there’s more that I can do with words than simply reinforce the idea that special people deserve special pronouns, which will not sway the hearts and minds of the vast majority of people, who don’t even know the word “cisgendered,” much less that it describes them.  My desire to unfetter English from this unintended bias remains strong, but the way forward for me is not clear.  It is better, though, to lack clarity thanks to knowledge, rather than to be clear due to ignorance.

End of the line

Nothing else interesting this way. Move along.

It was fun, but now it’s done.  Over the course of Maimakterion I wrote 33 hymns to Poseidon, including all the epithets I know were used for him in antiquity, several that I’ve been assured were or should have been used no matter what the limited records say, and a couple that I’m almost certain have not been uttered up until now.  I think this assignment was only to prepare me for two successive months of Poseideon, but as I write this I don’t know what is expected of me.  I don’t expect further daily demands upon my blog, but I haven’t actually asked yet.  (Divination might work, but I’m also a Quaker, and weekly worship is often where I get my messages.)

The product of this month’s work won’t be restricted to my blogging, though.  Astute readers may note that I have only posted 29 hymns here, but claim to have written 33.  (There’s also a bit of prose that came out, and I’m really excited it did, but even though I know what it’s trying to say, I barely understand it; clearly, it needs a wee bit of polish.)  I do intend on submitting the original 29 for consideration for inclusion in From the Roaring Deep.  I was excited when I learned about this anthology months ago, thinking it would make a good read, then I put it out of my mind.  A few days into my hymn-marathon it was again brought to my attention, and the fact that it opened for submissions during this month was not lost on me — I can be dense, but sometimes a sign is pretty clear.  Beyond that, I know I have more writing to do, because no matter what gets included in that worthy tome, I intend on putting out a collection of my own, one that will include the four I haven’t shown to anyone yet.

Once that book is published, I’m permitted to take on an additional name to mark that offering.

Being a simple guy, I’ve been stunned by the amount of interest and support this work has received.  I’ve seen over 60 hits on this blog some days, and a couple of my posts have nearly 10 comments!  (Seriously, it doesn’t take much to please me.)  Some people have given me particular support that is worthy of public gratitude.  They are:

  • My wife, who I am not naming just because I haven’t ever asked her if I could do that here.  She’s the one who first pointed out that I had a problem with Poseidon, even though she may not think that’s what she was doing, and despite being on a different path, her unwavering support of my religious life makes it all possible.
  • Sannion, the first person who called me on the fact that I really never talked about Poseidon.
  • My priest Timotheos, who pointed that that Poseidon also had noticed.
  • Jolene Poseidonae, who has been an enthusiastic cheerleader and constant inspiration.

The fact that I was experiencing a lot of repressed anger is less interesting to me than the assignment I was given to work on that:  write about him to learn about him, I was told.  I don’t [yet] think that my questions have been answered (except for that one Sannion got an answer to via divination; for some reason I never got the email and ultimately I decided I didn’t want it, not that way), but I now have some tools to help me ask better questions.

Wiccanate is here to stay; here’s why

“Wiccanate” as a word didn’t really enter the collective Pagan consciousness until a few months ago, when it started getting concatenated with “privilege.”  It’s a clumsy-looking, awkwardly-pronounced word which refers to those collected practices and traditions which outwardly resemble what most of us think of as Wicca, e.g. casting a circle, balancing gender poles, invoking elements, and things like that.  It’s a spot-on definition of the type of Paganism I practiced for the first twenty or so years on this path.

I don’t think it’s a particularly attractive word, and wish that whoever coined it had come up with something that feels more elegant to the tongue and the ear.  But wiccanate is here to stay, despite my misgivings.  That’s because it does, in fact, accurately describe an existing subset of Pagan existence.  The debates around this word have been instructive to me, because I’m pretty suspicious of neologisms, thinking that it’s silly to make a new word if another one will do just as nicely.

But the word that I used to use to describe this concept was “Pagan.”  Somewhere I have a notebook with all sorts of ideas about rituals and concepts which are universally Pagan, but in fact were wiccanate.  I was unaware — some would say I failed to ‘check my privilege,’ but the reasons I disagree are numerous enough to require a post to themselves — that there are forms of Paganism which do not in any way resemble the outward forms of Wicca.  Practicing Hellenismos has helped me understand that yes, there’s a whole world beyond that, dissolving my ignorance.  I wish we could use “Pagan” like I used to, but it’s just not true.

Shortcomings aplenty accompany this word, though.  Let’s take a peek.  It’s got:

  • Condescension appeal.  I’ve seen wiccanate used with a sneer, as if the writer were looking down upon those who practice such a religion.  I’ve also seen it put in “condescension quotes,” expressing a clear view that the word — and everything it represents — is made-up fluffery. That baggage comes from the writers and the readers, not the word itself.
  • Awkward spelling.  Put “ate” at the end of an English word and it’s not clear if that syllable includes a long ‘a’ or a schwa, an unstressed syllable.  Either one doesn’t trip off the tongue too teasingly, but it’s the word we’ve got, and repetition makes awkward things seem comfortable with time.
  • Capitalism.  This word is being capitalized, but I reject capitalism.  It’s appropriate to captialize “Wiccan” as the adjectival form for Wicca, but wiccanate is not an adjectival form of a particular religion, so it doesn’t deserve that much credit.  It’s just an adjective, and we don’t capitalize adjectives in English without good reason.

There you have it:  wiccanate entered our conversation charged with lots of emotions, terrible spelling, and inappropriate capitalization, but all of that is overcome by the fact that it defines something which needed to be defined.  Any questions?