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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.

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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.

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Apollon touched me once; I don’t know why.

A cool breeze on the back of my neck,

on a hot day; the hairs stood up, there

where he touched me. The breath of a god

on the back of your neck will chill you,

will stop you, as you’re walking down

the street. Who is that? you ask yourself

What just happened?

 

Apollo is a god of light, but not a god

of heat; he illumines without burning.

He shoots from afar, the Greeks said,

he and his sister Artemis. He doesn’t have

to come close to touch you; you will not

see where the arrow comes from, or

who it was that spoke. Only the clouds

will suddenly clear, the sun will be

visible, and you will feel, not warm,

but cool.

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In the heart of a piece of coal

both the fire and the diamond

In the heart of a human body

both the blood and the pulse of nerve

In the heart of a clod of dirt

the spark of the star that birthed it

In every heart, in every hearth,

in flame, in lamp, in power plant,

Vesta, Vesta, Vesta

 

Goddess of the primal fire

who humbly consents to warm our homes

to cook our food, to drive the machines

that serve us, Vesta Dea,

may we also serve you

with prayer, with praises,

with fuels that burn clean,

with clean and focused hearts,

Goddess of the primal fire,

Vesta Mater, fire of life.

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I’ve quoted this poem many times on this blog. I think I am finally beginning to understand what it means.

You do not have to be good. You do not have to be special. You do not have to have a god-phone, or a shamanic crisis, or a great epiphany.

You do not have to be a witch, a psychic, a sorcerer, a mystic, a shaman, a spirit-worker, or anything in particular, to approach the gods. You only have to be human, and willing, and courteous.

Bring an offering. It can be a cup of pure water, a tea light, a stick of incense, a portion of your meal. Pray aloud, using respectful words.

“Do ut des,” the Romans famously said: I give so that you may give. It might also be said: “I give because you have given.” The powers give blessings. Humans give offerings. It’s an exchange, a cycle, like the water cycle, or the conservation of energy and matter.

While I was writing this post, my pet cockatiel came to sit on my shoulder. He gave me a long serenade of clucking and whistling, pressing his face to mine and lifting his wings in a heart shape. This was nothing but a demonstration of his affection for me. We have been flockmates for fourteen years. I hope it does not seem blasphemous to say that if we can bond with animals through giving them food and drink, satisfying their needs for touch and companionship, and appreciating the ways they show us affection, we can bond with the gods in much the same way, sharing our food and drink with them, showing our reverence and devotion as best we can, learning from one another.

I don’t see visions of the gods. I don’t have voices talking in my head. I do feel things. Very subtly. A feeling of presence and of approval. A feeling like being nudged, or steered, or perhaps led in a dance. I never learned to follow as a dancer, but I think I am learning to be led in the dance by the gods. I am learning to let the soft animal of my body love what it loves.

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“A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The was deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.”
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires gong out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty, and charging high prices.:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we lead all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I have seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

–T.S. Eliot

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Ah to be alive
on a mid-September morn
fording a stream
barefoot, pants rolled up,
holding boots, pack on,
sunshine, ice in the shallows,
northern rockies.

Rustle and shimmer of icy creek waters
stones turn underfoot, small and hard as toes
cold nose dripping
singing inside
creek music, heart music,
smell of sun on gravel.

I pledge allegiance

I pledge allegiance to the soil
of Turtle Island,
and to the beings who thereon dwell
one ecosystem
in diversity
under the sun
With joyful interpenetration for all.

Gary Snyder

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