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Posts Tagged ‘polytheism’

So yesterday I did a thing which I have been thinking about for a while. And I am pretty amazed at myself–and praising the gods, too–because I actually did the thing.

I made a set of prayer beads for Antinous and devotional stuff generally.

I’ve always been really attracted to simple, repetitive prayer. I treasure my rosary of rosewood beads, which I used less for the traditional rosary prayers than for reciting phrases from the Revelations of Julian of Norwich. I meditated over her words on the bus and while working to work for years. And when I became involved with Buddhism, I acquired several malas and enjoyed saying and singing mantras, and still do.

Lately I’ve been sitting down and meditating and actually doing it fairly consistently, really for the first time in my life. At first I was just counting my breaths from one to ten, over and over, which is one of the Zen methods (the easy one). Then one day I began saying “Antinous” over and over, mentally, just as I exhaled. Subsequently it became easier to say the god’s name than to count breaths; I felt more focused. And gradually what had been a purely meditative/contemplative practice became more devotional.

Thus I started thinking about prayer beads for polytheistic devotion. I poked around online and priced some malas of amethyst beads, all of which cost more than I wanted to spend right now. As it happens, though, I live about four blocks from a beading supply store. While my laundry was in the dryer yesterday, I walked down there and came home with about twenty dollars’ worth of stuff and a rough plan for using it.

I have, somewhere, a board for beading. I’d swear I saw it recently. Of course, now that I needed it, I couldn’t find it, anywhere. I want you to know, dear readers, that it is entirely possible to lose something in about 250 square feet of apartment. I could not find my lovely beading board, but I lined those beads up on the table, lit Vesta’s candle and some incense, pulled up an image of Antinous on my laptop, and went to work.

Every so often I get this urge to make something. It must be a divine compulsion, because I failed scissors in kindergarten and have more thumbs than are strictly necessary. I once sewed a Tarot bag by hand out of a scrap of cloth a friend gave me. I’ve never tried to duplicate the feat. Despite my abundant thumbs, despite the crap lighting, I managed to string together what I wanted: Twenty-three sparkly clear Czech glass beads, two silver double-spiral beads, a red bead, a white bead, and a black bead. The red, white, and black beads are for Antinous’ aspects as the Liberator, the Navigator, and the Lover; the two silver spirals are for his association with the moon; the sparkly beads were the prettiest, twenty-three because I hear that’s an Antinoan number.

It’s sitting on his shrine in a little lavender organdy bag. I plan to use it for the first time tonight. I may even try to take a picture on my crap phone and upload it.

Ave Antinoe! In his honor, I did the thing!

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Antinous the Lover

 

You do not have to wait to be chosen.

It is not necessary to be chosen by a god to worship a god. It is not necessary to be a priest, witch, druid, clergy, oracle, diviner, or any kind of specialist in order to worship a god.

Paying cultus to gods, spirits, and ancestors is normal. It may have been forbidden fifteen hundred years ago, it may be unfashionable and strange, but really, like walking and running, it is quite natural. Like breathing, it works if you do it.

“You did not choose me, but I chose you,” says Jesus in the gospels. He is speaking to his disciples, his special students. Put that out of your mind. It doesn’t apply here.

Antinous is my god and my gateway to acquaintance with other gods, spirits, and ancestors. He did not choose me; I chose him. But what is important is that Antinous welcomed me.

I am welcome in his presence, among his worshippers. I am welcome to his help and blessings. I feel at home with him. It seems kind of odd at times to be an ostensibly heterosexual middle-aged woman devoted to Antinous, yet I do feel I fit in.

There have been so many times and places in my life when I did not fit in, when I did not feel welcome, when I tried to cultivate someone’s friendship and good will and was ultimately rejected. To feel welcome with Antinous touches me deeply; it is a source of comfort, strength, joy.

If you are attracted to a god, a pantheon, don’t wait to be chosen. Do some research and find or compose some respectful prayers. Bring food, water or wine, pleasant incense and candles to burn out before an image. Pray and present offerings. Be consistent, be patient. You may well find that the door is opened for you and the gods welcome you in. And that can feel very good.

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Has anyone else had this experience: Become involved in devotional polytheism, start cooking and cleaning more regularly?

I have an ambivalent relationship with housekeeping, though probably no more so than most women of my generation. My grandmother, born in 1899, held a factory job for over forty years, keeping it through the Depression while my grandfather took whatever short-term jobs he could get. My mother made a conscious (and resentful) decision to be a stay-at-home mom, but most of the actual mothering I got came from my grandmother, who retired when I was about four years old. I used to wish my mother would get a job and go out and do the things she loved; even in retirement, my grandmother remained active. (Yes, I have ancestor work to do.)

So I’m an indifferent housekeeper and a lazy cook. But I feel lately this constant nudging–I think of it as nudging, a tactile experience–to cook better meals and to clean up the apartment. To do the dishes and wash my hands before I make offerings for the evening. To cook something so that I can share a small portion of it with the numinous ones. Part of it is an expectation that if I’m going to invite the gods to visit me, by prayer and offering, then I ought to provide a pleasant place for them to visit, as I would for any guest. And part of it, which seems to be coming from the goddess Vesta, is a sense that “I’m worth it”; I deserve a clean, pleasant environment for my own enjoyment, and my home deserves my attention. There is not some higher value for which I can rightfully ignore dirty dishes or a backed-up toilet. No one else is going to do it for me.

And now that my backed-up toilet is fixed and my bathroom is finally clean, I am going to take a thorough shower and then make some offerings. Ave Vesta!

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I have a number of people close to me who are going through a lot of physical and/or emotional crap, people that I think about and worry about pretty much daily. None of them are pagan or polytheist; some of them are atheist or just “not religious”. How does one approach the gods on behalf of friends? What’s a practical way to ask one’s pantheon, please look after this person who doesn’t worship you because they are connected to me, your humble devotee.

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I had a strange Lent and an even stranger Holy Week. While I last posted on Holy Saturday, nearly a month ago, the only Holy Week liturgies I attended were Palm Sunday and Good Friday. For the former, I was the narrator for the dramatic reading of Matthew’s Passion Gospel; for the latter, I went to the little parish where I grew up for a taste of old-fashioned Anglo-Catholic religion.

And then I woke up one day and realized that I no longer believed in what was in the Creeds. Actually, it was probably in the shower. I realize a lot of things in the shower. If I actually believed that other gods existed–which I did, and possibly always had–if I actually believed I could pray to Antinous, a deified Greek youth, and get a response–which I definitely did, and had–then I really was not a Christian.

I still believe Jesus was a historical person who lived and died and was resurrected, becoming divine even if he wasn’t pre-existently divine. I believe he was and is a God on the side of the poor, the occupied, the oppressed, the disenfranchised. It’s just that he and I really don’t have much of a relationship. I don’t think we ever have.

My relationship has always been with the tradition, with Anglicanism, with saints like Julian of Norwich, with the music of Byrd and Tallis, with poetry like Donne’s and Herbert’s, with writers like C.S. Lewis, Dorothy Sayers, T.S. Eliot, Charles Williams. Not, ironically, with the God who inspired them.

I’ve been praying and making offerings to Antinous and observing the festivals of the Ekklesía Antínoou for about the last month, with a good deal of personal satisfaction. I’ve started a side Tumblr where I’ve been writing about my experiments with devotional polytheism, Antinous for Everybody. I will still be posting here and hanging out on other WordPress blogs, though.

I feel like I have suffered a lot of losses in the past two years. Yet that has left me extraordinarily free to pursue my religious and creative aims. And I have been blessed with a stable job, good friends, and the company of my pet cockatiel Rembrandt, aka Spanky. It’s a good life.

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  1. The Spirit Cord by R.J. Stewart
  2. Goddess Murder by Aidan Kelly
  3. Witchfather: A Life of Gerald Gardner, V. 1: Into the Witch Cult by Philip Heselton
  4. Drawing Down the Spirits by Raven Kaldera & Kenaz Filan
  5. Dealing with Deities: Practical Polytheistic Theology by Raven Kaldera
  6. OakWyse Utters an Ogham Charm by Walter William Melnyk

I’m still reading volume two of Witchfather and Stalking the Goddess. I’m also reading Merlin’s Mirror by Andre Norton, a noted children’s/young adult author whose work I somehow missed as a child. I got this title for free on Kindle and am enjoying it very much.

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In my wanderings of the World Wide Web today, I came across a fascinating post by a blogger new to me: The Allergic Pagan’s discussion of “Three (or more?) ‘Centers’ of Paganism”. John Halstead, to give the blogger his proper name (it’s on his “About Me” page) divides Neopaganism loosely into earth-centered, Self-centered, and deity-centered, or in the terms he borrows from Graham Harvey’s book What Pagans Believe, Celebrating Nature, Working Magic, and Honoring the Deities.

Well, give a druid a triad, and she’ll come up with at least nine meanings for it. Halstead’s triad resonated with me strongly; it suggested the three major power centers of the body, belly (body), heart (mind), and head (spirit), and the three major divisions of the spirits in much pagan thinking, land spirits, ancestors, and deities, and all the various correspondences to those triads that one can come up with. More importantly, perhaps, it mapped out my own progress within paganism. I began as an earth-honoring, nature-celebrating eclectic neopagan, incorporated Hermetic magic and theurgy along the way, and finally have gotten round to honoring, and working with, and coming to terms with deities.

I honestly don’t remember at this point how the first contact between my pantheon and myself was made. I might be able to uncover it by rooting around in this blog’s archives, or in my history of Livejournal blogging, but I might go into the labyrinth and never come out and finish this post. Suffice it to say that I do remember wishing I had a “patron deity”, because that’s what all the cool kids seemed to be doing, all the hot pagan bloggers–having intense, melodramatic relationships with patron deities.

… I’ve mentioned my tendency to have relationship drama in religion and not in my marriage, right? Just so we’re all on the same page.

My impression is that while I was wistfully wishing, without an awful lot of focus or really knowing what I was wishing for, deities began to show up. By “show up” I mean that I found myself thinking about them, researching them, and then having conversations with them, usually at their instigation and not mine. Many of the contacts came when I was walking to work, or doing dishes, or taking a bath or shower–that is, when I was in a light trance state due to repetitive activity. I vividly remember one contact that began with a conversation on the light rail: A god appeared to me and identified himself. He was tall, muscular, mature, red-haired, naked except for some jewelry, and… kind of shiny.

I say he appeared and talked to me while I was in a light rail car, riding back into the city from a run to the ‘burbs. What I mean is that he appeared to me in my imagination. Once in a great while I perceive magical or spiritual things with or apparently with my physical senses; it’s not impossible for me, but it’s rare. But most of my spiritual contacts are “just my imagination”. It’s just that I’ve always had the sense that the imagination is not simply a private laboratory where the mind cooks things up; it’s a room with at least two doors, and only one of them is the door from my mind. The imagination is a place where I make things, but it’s also a place where I can meet things. Ancestors, deities, fictional characters, dream people, my imagination is where they come to meet me.

I realized pretty quickly that there was a connection among the different deities who were tapping me. They were all Celtic, mostly Gaulish/Continental, and had been syncretized by the Romans with their own deities. The Shiny Naked Guy who visited me on the train identified himself as Grannos Apollo. The star goddess I was aware of around Imbolc wanted to be called Dana. Shiny Naked Guy had a shiny silver sister named Sirona who liked to visit me in my bath. I was at work when a quiet, gravelly male voice spoke to me from behind me, over my shoulder, and told me he could help me on the job. I never saw him, but I got an impression of age, wisdom, and physical ugliness. He identified himself as Ogmios, cognate to Oghma, inventor of the Ogham… and god of cataloguing?

My consistent contacts have been with Grannos, Sirona, Dana, Lugus, Rosmerta, Taranis,

Relief from Autun depicting Rosmerta and Mercury

Relief from Autun depicting Rosmerta and Mercury (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sulis, Belenos, Ogmios, Nodens, and Catubodva. I have read what I can find about them; most, possibly all of the surviving evidence for their character and cult is in artifacts, not in literature. I go very much by UPG and I freely admit that. The interpretatio Romana and the slightly greater amounts of information available about their cognate deities in other cultures have helped. I have had enough melodrama with them to make an American television series–all of which, honestly, has been my fault.

I called on Catubodva recently, making a considered offering and earnestly asking for help, and she came through. I’m beginning to get little nudges from my pantheon again, to hear them. My intuition/psychism/whatever, such as it is, mostly comes through hearing rather than seeing. I listen to the voices, of a poem, a fictional character, my gut feelings, or a goddess. I am listening to my gods’ voices and, finally, daring to speak aloud their names.

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