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To Serapis

O Serapis, husband of Isis, I have no husband.

O Serapis, father of Harpocrates, I have no father.

O Serapis, father of Hermanubis, I am travelling alone.

O Serapis, bearded lord, sometimes I am afraid,

travelling alone, and then I am ashamed of my fear.

If you watch over me, Serapis, I would be grateful.

If you would send your son Harpocrates to wait for me

when I am out late at night, if you would send your son

Hermanubis to guide me safely out and home again,

if you would look after me like a father, Serapis, and ask

your holy wife Isis to look after me like a mother,

I would be grateful, and I would sing your praise.

I finally updated two features of this blog today: First, the list of links, and second, my book lists on Goodreads, which appears in the sidebar along with the links. 

I simplified the links to three categories: First, the blogroll proper; second, other sites where I may be found; third, websites I particularly like that aren’t blogs. I think I have included all the blogs I’m currently reading through Feedly. *crosses fingers*

Yesterday I decided to do some decent cooking for the first time in a couple of weeks. I had everything I needed to make a quick ‘n’ dirty version of seafood au gratin with that frozen imitation crab stuff and a proper beef stew.

Putting the faux crab au gratin in the slow cooker was easy, but when I got into the beef stew, everything started to go wrong. One of the two packages of beef I bought had gone bad. I knocked over the bottle of wine–thank goodness, it was well corked. I cut up some red potatoes and raw carrots, once the beef and mushrooms were going strong, and pieces of vegetable were flying off the cutting board. Now, I am the farthest thing from Julia Child with a knife in my hand, but this was ridiculous. Things weren’t just popping off the cutting board onto the table, they were diving for the floor.

As I was bending over to pick up yet another wayward chunk of carrot, I suddenly said aloud, “The gods are hungry. You haven’t fed them in a while.” And it was true. If I cook something that takes a bit more effort than just opening a jar or a can and heating stuff up, I usually offer a portion the first time I eat it. I hadn’t done that for a while. I promised aloud that I would give them some of this stew, but I still had a few more mishaps to get through before my food prep was done.

When I was ready to eat the beef stew last night, I poured wine for the Powers and for myself. I lit candles and incense. I served Them a bowl of stew, then myself. The stew was delicious, one of my best efforts, and I felt a sense of appreciation and blessing flowing from the Powers.

This is how I understand sacrifice. It is not giving something up, or giving it away. As environmentalists say about trash and recycling, there is no “away”. An offering or a sacrifice is given to the gods, and/or ancestors or spirits, who are here in the world with us. But what we offer is made out of things that the gods have given us already, before we asked. The Romans said, “Do ut des,” I give that You may give, but they might also have said, “I give because You have given”.

The Christian theology of the Eucharist actually helps me out here. God gives wheat and grapes. Humans make bread and wine, which is then offered to God. Bread and wine becomes God’s flesh and blood. What gods and mortals give one another is always given back. It’s an exchange, a cycle. It’s animals breathing out carbon dioxide for the plants who breathe out oxygen for animals. It’s flowing water that doesn’t stagnate because there’s always fresh water coming in while old water is going out.

However you may feel about controversial topics like animal sacrifice, the exchange of gifts between gods and mortals, the seen and the unseen, is not optional. It’s just the way things work. Not to make offerings is like taking a deep breath and holding it, and thinking you’ll be okay like that.

I’ve recently realized I am properly a dumbass polytheist. A dumbass polytheist is one who buys a nice bottle of wine, with a cork, as an offering to the gods, and then discovers the corkscrew went to her ex.

(I bought a new one this weekend.)

Now that I have that out of my system…. I did something yesterday which I’ve been meaning to do for weeks, namely, to visit the museum and look at the ancient art with an eye to god-spotting and ancient religious practice.

I’m pretty familiar with the collections at my museum, but it was eye-opening to look specifically for and at religious themes, religious art (with a couple of side tours into ancient jewelry… *sigh*). The Egyptian collection has a lot of representations of deities, all of whom I greeted sotto voce. In one area, two statues of Isis suckling Horus and of Osiris, each twelve to eighteen inches high, face one another, forming a quartet with the busts of a pharaoh and a priest. “Mery”, the museum’s resident mummy, lies in her painted coffin accompanied by four Canopic jars capped with the images of the sons of Horus, a box for the jars that also depicts Isis and Nephthys, and an array of amulets depicting or symbolizing Thoth and other gods. I saw images of Bes, Hathor, Amun, and Taweret in addition to the deities already mentioned, and the entrance to the Egyptian rooms is flanked by two images of Sekhmet as a couching lion.

The Greek and Roman exhibits have covetable jewelry but fewer divine images. I had hoped that I might see Hadrian and/or Antinous, but there seemed to be no representations of them at all. I saw Diana, Venus, Athene, Eros, and some other deities, but the highlight of the Greek and Roman collections was a splendid large head of Serapis. Even missing his basket crown and body, his image was beautiful and moving. I snapped a halfway-decent phone picture of him, thanks to the natural light in his location.

Altogether it was a worthwhile trip and a good way to get out of the house on a lazy Sunday. Hail to the gods and goddesses of Egypt, Greece, and Rome!

 

Earth under my feet,

Water under the earth,

Fire under the water:

Such is Neptune.

 

Neptune, Poseidon, Nephew of the Waters,

Keep the earth steady beneath my feet.

Neptune, Poseidon, Nephew of the Waters,

Keep the waters flowing in the dry times.

Neptune, Poseidon, Nephew of the Waters,

Keep the secret fire alight, share with me its divine power.

 

Ave, ave, Neptune, khaire Poseidon,

god of the oceans, god of the waters.

When the music starts playing, the dancers wait to feel the beat. They find the rhythm and then move into it. As the dance progresses, the rhythm moves into the dancers; it inhabits them and they inhabit it. At first you may have to think about what to do with your arms and legs, your head and feet, but the goal, the joy of the dance is to move beyond that self-consciousness and be the dance.

I’m starting to get a taste of that in my devotions: I think I’m in the beginning stages of grooving on the rhythm. Things have slowly crystallized into a daily practice and some customs for festivals.

The first thing I do when I get up in the morning is greet my cockatiel, Rembrandt, and uncover his cage. I then proceed to make a pot of tea, sometimes with my bird’s “help”, sometimes not. I start my breakfast with a bowl of cold cereal and milk. Before I sit down to eat, I pour a small bowl of milk and put it near my potted plants, saying, “Good morning, house spirits. Here is your milk.”

By the time I have finished my cereal and am thinking about some protein, my tea is ready. Before I I drink my own and have something with eggs or yogurt, I pour a small cup, fix it with milk and sweetener, and offer it to the ancestors. My most important ancestor is Mom, my maternal grandmother, who drank tea and passed her preference on to me. I have pictures of her, my grandfather, my dad, and some other folks on my desk now as an ancestor shrine. I say good morning and ask them to be with me through the day.

When breakfast is done, it’s time for my morning writing. About twenty years ago, I started doing Morning Pages as recommended by Julia Cameron in her book The Artist’s Way. I have done them on and off ever since, but in the past year I shifted from longhand writing to using 750words.com. (I got tired of using up notebooks only to store them and eventually throw them out or recycle them.) Before I start writing, I light a candle from my stove with a prayer to Vesta, and light incense as an offering to the gods. I make a brief request for blessing with my offering.

Because I am weird, and because I lived for a long time with a spouse who always had to leave for work before I did, showering and dressing are the last item in my morning routine. After I am dressed for the day, I pick up a small piece of amethyst and say a short prayer to Antinous composed by PSVL. The amethyst goes into my pocket as a reminder; I also sometimes carry prayer beads or a scarab bead I bought at a museum store. Then I put out the candle and start putting together my lunch.

On a normal day, that’s pretty much it. I sometimes make another incense offering in the evening. If I actually cook something for dinner, in a way that goes beyond just heating up food, or I order something delivered, I put a small portion on a plate and offer that to all the powers. If I indulge in ice cream, which I do more often than is good for me, I usually offer some of that, too.

If there’s a festival, I try to do more. I’m following the calendar of the Ekklesia Antinoou,which includes Greek, Roman, and Egyptian deities as well as dates specific to the lives of Hadrian and Antinous. This gives me something to work with, as Lupus often posts poetry for the festival and commentary upon it. I offer food, tea lights, incense, wine, and poetry, sometimes music. I decided a while ago that rather than trying to make friends with all the gods, all at once, I would use the festivals as a way of getting to know the deities and initiating a relationship. This has so far worked very well; I feel I made a strong connection with Flora and then Vesta during the Floralia and Vestalia. I’m particularly interested in the Roman deities and their festivals.

In addition to the daily and festival stuff, I read polytheistic and other blogs, translations of things like the Homeric Hymns and the Orphic Hymns, books on Buddhism. Some kind of study is always part of religious practice for me. I’m also trying to establish a sitting meditation practice (something which which I’ve never had much success).

The most interesting thing, for me, the best thing, is that my practice is passing my personal tests for determining whether a spiritual practice is working for me. Am I writing? Yes, quite a lot–fanfic, poetry, this blog, my Tumblr. Am I handling everyday stresses well? Yes, I am. Is my default position kindness to myself and other people rather than anger, irritation, impatience, self-criticism? Pretty much, yes. No fits of anger over tiny issues or panic attacks at every bump in the road.

The dance may get more complicated, more demanding as it goes on, but right now, I’m really enjoying just grooving to the beat.

I have been housesitting for friends this week, so I have with me only a minimal shrine, some incense to burn, tap water to offer. I decided I would write some prayers for the day and share them here, as well as say them later, perhaps with an offering of hot dogs and beans (my celebratory national holiday dinner *g*)

Prayers for Independence Day

 

To Columbia

 

Great goddess of these western lands, Columbia,

We whose ancestors came here have not always lived well.

We did not honor the gods and spirits who already dwelt here.

We were often brutal and dishonest toward the people of these lands.

We often took what was not ours and used it for our own gain and used it up.

And yet we recognized you and gave you a name, albeit the name of an invader.

 

Come to us now, Dea Columbia,

not draped in stars and stripes or wearing liberty cap,

but crowned with tobacco leaves and buds of peyote,

dressed in fine leathers or hand-woven gown,

bearing sheaves of the golden maize, heaps of tomatoes,

all the foods these lands have given the world.

Teach us to belong here as those who are born here,

teach us to eat and to drink what we find here,

teach us to use well the mind-changing plants,

teach us to speak to this land’s gods and spirits.

Make peace between us and our gods of the old lands

and the ways of this new land whose spirit you are.

On this Independence Day, hail to you, Columbia!

 

To Liberty

 

Hymned by so many poets before me, goddess Liberty,

you lift your lamp still by the door and still summon those

who seek a better way of life. Gift between allies, your noble statue

embodies the best of what we call America.

 

Mother of Exiles, shine your light on our future.

Bring greater liberty to this land of the free.

Bring greater justice to this shrine of democracy.

Bring greater wealth to the poor’s huddled masses.

Bring illumination to our understanding.

On this Independence Day, hail to you, goddess Liberty!

 

To the Founding Fathers and Mothers

 

On this anniversary of Independence Day

I call on George Washington, first President

of our nation, commander in chief, general

of the Revolutionary War, and on his wife Martha

 

I call on John Adams, second President of this nation

on his wife Abigail and on their son John Quincy,

sixth President of our nation, on their daughter Nabby,

who died of breast cancer, and on their other children,

Susanna, Charles, and Thomas.

 

I call on Thomas Jefferson, composer and signer

of the Declaration of Independence,

third President of our nation,

and on his wife Martha and his mistress Sally

and on his children, both free and slave

 

I call on all the signers of our Declaration of Independence

and on their wives, their children, their slaves,

their unrecognized, unremembered helpers, supporters, enablers.

 

I call on our Presidents from James Madison to Abraham Lincoln,

on their wives, their children, their servants, their slaves.

 

I call on the generations of Native Americans who helped European settlers,

fought with them, made treaties with them, were made war against by them.

 

I call on the Founding Fathers, the forgotten Founding Mothers,

the Native Americans and enslaved Africans,

the immigrants from Ireland and Italy, Germany and the Ukraine,

Russia, China, and lands around the world, drawn by

the torch of Liberty held aloft over New York harbor.

 

Hear me, noble ancestors, as I pray to you for help.

Help us to live out the potentials of Jefferson’s words,

that all men are created equal, that all human beings are persons,

that all persons have equal rights before the law.

Help us to keep separate church and state,

never to let one dominate the other,

never to let them join hands and become one.

Help us to treasure and conserve the lands

that were clean and wild and revered by their people

when our ancestors came to these shores.

Help us to do no more damage to our land,

no more damage to the lands of other sovereign peoples,

no more damage to the poorest among us.

Let there be liberty and justice, prosperity and peace

for all Americans.

 

Honor to the ancestors of the United States of America!

Honor and blessing to them, and may their blessing be upon us.

 

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