30 Day Paganism Meme: Day 27 ~ How Hellenismos has helped me in difficult times

I really don’t know why I never changed this topic. Anybody who’s read this far can probably figure out how a religion like this can help a person through difficult times — unless, of course, that mushy grey stuff between one’s ears exists for the sole purpose of keeping one’s skull from caving in.

When I’m upset or distressed, I typically light a candle and some incense and pray. It’s not a big thing, but it’s a thing to do. I don’t live in ancient Thespiae, so I can’t really go to a temple.

If I feel the situation calls for it, I do a divination to get an answer to interpret, but sometimes the answer to the answer doesn’t come right away, in which case, I figure the situation is not of immediate concern.

But hey, look, pretty music!

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30 Day Paganism Meme: Day 7 ~ The power of prayer/reciprocity

First off, I would like to apologise for the prolonged absence of posting to this blog and also the Media Project — life has been kind of insane around here, and it feels kind of serendipitous that I’m going to write an entry about prayer after the 17-year-old cat had a seizure (probably a brain tumour, according to the emergency vet) and my flat-mate got laid off.

First off, I want to say that the ultimate purpose of prayer is communique with the Divine. Northern Tradition for the Solitary Practitioner: A Book of Prayer, Devotional Practice and the Nine Worlds of Spirit by Galina Krasskova and Raven Kaldera describes five basic types of prayer that I feel are fairly universal: the Thank you, the Please, I Love You, I Am Sorry, and The Universe is Wonderful With You in It. Think about it, if and when you pray, it probably fits neatly into one or more of those topics. Each of these has its own purposes, and each aids in weaving a pattern of reciprocity with the Theoi.

I think the traditional Hellenic prayer stance —standing, face forward, palms open— also helps. I see a common explanation for this as “well, we sure shouldn’t prostrate ourselves like Christians“, and I went through a very short period of advocating that defence. Other popular defences I see are “because I respect myself” or (most appalling, I think) “because we are equal to the gods”. I think these are all very misguided. What I feel now, is that even though we are unequal to the Theoi, the point of standing (or at least sitting — just anything-but-kneeling, under most circumstances; I’ll get to that in a sec) and face up, is to make your prayers heard. We tend to be taught as children to face authority figures when speaking to them, because it’s harder to hear some-one who is speaking away from you; we are also taught to approach a person when speaking rather than to speak across the room. Now there are ancient examples of kneeling in prayer, typically of a woman praying on behalf of the entire family, or when praying on behalf of the very sick or dying; it’s not the most common, and it does seem exclusive to women, but in considering a woman’s primary roles in ancient Hellas, and the circumstances under which this was depicted, it could be said that this is not an act of prostration, but a symbolic stance of taking on the burdens of others — while almost definitely unspeakably odd for an ancient Hellenic man to take this stance, a modern man who has taken the role of nurturer for his family may find it appropriate to, at times, kneel.

There is a power in all forms of communication — with people and with Deities. That power is the simple act of making your needs and thoughts heard and, hopefully, known and understood. It may be one of the most basic powers, but as all of my teachers had told me, you can’t un-say something; sure, Internet communications may create that illusion, what with message boards that allow users to delete their own posts, but the fact remains that anybody who read it will know what you said — and know that you deleted it, as if to try and un-say it. The listener also has a power to do something about whatever it is that you said, and the actions may be in your favour or disfavour. This is true for both men and Theoi.

It’s a very simple power, but it also has the potential to be very profound once that string of actions is set in play.

That’s not to say prayer is all that is necessary to accomplish great things. After all, the Gods help them who helm themselves; while I tend to see more atheist and agnostic-leaning people interpret this as “self-help is the best help”, I tend to see it more as a reminder that one has to not only pray themselves out of the ditch, but if you’re willing to put your shoulder to the wheel and give it the first nudges, They will see this and add to your strength — I see this most literally in the phenomenon of mothers who are temporarily witnessed of super-strength when their baby appears endangered (after all, “adrenaline rush” only explains the chemical process, the How; not the Why). Prayer, though, does articulate things.

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After the shower

shower prayers and ritual

The following came to me, pretty much as-is, fresh from my shower:

I shave my face in honour of Apollon
Preserving the face of an eternal kouros
Keeping the passions for life and art and love
Eager to learn the wisdom of self-betterment

I, too, care for my hair in honour of Apollon
Its strands long in honour of The Eternal Kouros
May its length take my passions and desires
On the breaths of the Anemoi to yourself
And the Mousai, high on Mount Helikon
And may you all instruct me how to mould my passions
In the ways that best honours You.

I perform these tasks daily before my mirror
Which reminds me of how the Thespian youth,
Narkissos, finally wept, and may He, as a beautiful Daimon,
protect me from destructive self-love.

[extinguish candle lit before shower]


I give thanks to Pan
God of the wild things
Of the forests and the streets
And to His companion Kybele
To whom Theban women sing
Mother of Earthly life

A couple of weeks ago, my room-mate’s cat was diagnosed with cancer (well, sort of; there was no biopsy, but the vet said that’s probably that that mass on his liver is), and so this last couple weeks, he’s been on a steroid chemo, if only just to make his last projected year easier on him and in less pain. The cat in question is fifteen, which is a pretty old age for a cat (think of the human equivalent being 80 or so), so it’s not like it would be totally terrible if he really did only have one more year — and this is also the cat who tackles the vacuum cleaner hose attachment, so whatever gods of animals must be smiling upon him for battling the enemy of all house-pets so bravely, a slightly shortened life would be a small price to pay for a seat in Cat-Halla.

So far, it seems that his health has progressed wonderfully, as he’s been putting up a bit of a struggle with taking his pill this last few days, and my room-mate even thinks the cat has put a little weight back on.

Bedtime prayers

I have my evening devotionals, which are taken partly from the outline offered by Drew Campbell to Hellenion (link); the slight changes i have made are:
1) where is says “Hymn to patron/matron deities, I keep it simple: Eros and Apollon. Apollon was the Theos whose reverence “brought me back” to Hellenic polytheism, and Eros is He whose cultus I feel ever so slightly closest to. If this makes Them “patrons”, then fine, but there are several reasons i don’t apply that word to my relationship with Them.
2) at the point in the outline for “supplications and thanksgivings”, I first offer a simple praise to many Thespian and Theban deities and legendary kings.
3) I don’t offer the Orphic Hymn to Zeus, but instead a prayer of my own device to Zeus, as king of the Gods and thus God of kings, and to Posiedon, the mythological father of Boeotus, for whom Boeotia was named.

As I crawl into bed, I turn on some music (an old habit going back to my childhood; when i was very young, my mother used to sing me to sleep, and later she got in the habit of putting on a record or turning on the radio), and then I wind my watch and my alarm clock. As I wind them, I say this prayer:

Holy Khronos, Father of Time, I ask that you see these ieces run as they should, and not a minute too fast or too slow,
And I ask that The Most Revered Moirai, Mothers of All Destinies, please see that i may have the honour to wind them again.

Shower Prayer to Asklepios & Hygaeia

So, here’s my shower ritual — everybody has one, mine just involves lighting a candle and saying a prayer:

*procession (head into bathroom)
*light candle at shrine to Asklepios & Hygaeia
*turn on water, sun a bar of strongly scented soap under tap to fill the room with the scent of lavender & anise (serious, that Zuma(?) slice-off stuff from Whole Foods is not only expensive enough to serve as an offering, but it’s got a strong enough smell that this is all you need to do to make the whole bathroom perfumed for hours)
*step into shower
*recite prayer as I wash

O Athanatoi,
Praise of the highest to Apollon, His son Asklepios, and to Hygaeia and Her sisters, daughters of the first doctor,
As I shampoo my hair, i ask that it be free of grit, superfluous oils, and excess dander,
As I condition my hair, I ask that it shine and be full of body, attractive enough to approach the Theoi who preside over the aesthetic arts,
As I wash my face, I ask that the pores be free of grit and excess oils, and that the hairs of my jawline and brow be pleasing to the Theoi of the aesthetic arts,
As I cleanse my body with mildly-scented soap, I ask that my skin be free of grit and excess oils,
I ask that my arms and shoulders be strong enough to display my virility when needed but yeild to the embrace of a lover,
I ask that my belly become full at no later than the necessary moment,
I ask that my back stand up to the demands of the day,
I ask that my legs and feet be strong enough to carry me on the day’s journeys,
And I ask that my groin and arse prove fulfilling to what-ever mortal man may lie with me, and even more so if he should prove a god in human form,
As i stand and rinse my body clean, I ask Hygaeia to kiss the water with her blessings,
And I ask the Moirai to see that I may enjoy this pleasure again tomorrow.

Transgender Day of Rememberance

[This was originally cross-posted to the Hellenion_Chat and Neokoroi e-mail lists, and it just occurred to me that I didn’t get around to posting this here, like I said that I would, because the latest FireFox update is total crap and keeps freezing up and the only way to fix it is to reboot this eight-years-old eMachines piece of poopie.]

For those not in-the-know, 20 November is the Transgender Day of Rememberance for TS/TG persons who have died as victims of hate-crimes and is an important day for TS/TG persons (MTF and FTM) and their friends, families, and allies.

As one whose gender has often been debated by others (even though it’s been clear to me for the last two decades and some [note: I consider my condition one of many states of being a “biological eunuch”, in that I did not go through a normal boy puberty; but just for the record, I’m male-identified and making several hormonal and surgical “corrections”]), I plan to just simply offer libation, a small portion of lavender, and some music by Jayne County (who is awesome), recite my version of the Story of Hermaphroditos [note: to be posted later, currently in Iss#17 of He Epistole, ask me for a PDF or printed copy], and give this small prayer:

O Kybele, O Hermaphroditos,
Theoi of changed forms,
All I ask of you on this sacred day to those of similar fate
And of form andro-gynos by birth or by hand,
Is to seek justice for those whose time was cut short,
And to aid and protect those who remain in a world less understanding.
May Persephone and Adonis lead those passed safely to the Fields of Elysium,
May those who brought them to You too soon be dealt their due justice in this world,
And by Those Who Judge the Dead.
May Athene and Zeus guide the judges of the living to seek mercy on the deceased,
As you, O Andro-Gynos Theoi, give comfort and confidence to the living.

My rituals are usually very simple, consisting of little more than offering of food and/or herb and libation.