I have very little time and inspiration for blogging today but I didn't want to go the day without posting so here are three Inkubus Sukkubus songs I've been enjoying today. You're welcome. Tomorrow I'm blogging about miasma so check back then.

Pagan Born

Io Pan

Goblin Jig

Disclaimer: I'm not a huge fan of Inkubus Sukkubus. They're very anti-Christian in their lyrics and I don't support that. They're also a bit too dark for my taste and their link to Hellenismos is loose, at best. Yet, about once very year I go on a binge and reclaim a bunch of Pagan Pride. I think this year's binge has started. 

[This post was first published in the Summer 2012 issue of Little Witch Magazine. Read the original version here.]

Pagans of all denominations seem to have a problem with money. We struggle to bring it in, don't like to give it away and, perhaps most importantly, we tend to ignore it until it becomes a problem. 

Most Pagans get by. They're not well off, but they manage. Authors, lecturers, workshop organizers, blog writers... all do what they do out of love, devotion and the crafting of skills, but very few actually pay their bills with their 'pagan job'.

There are a few difficulties in the Pagan community that make 'profitable Paganism' virtually impossible. For one, money is such a terribly mundane thing to be worried about, it takes away from the transcending nature of many (religious Witchcraft) Traditions. As Pagans, there is nothing worse than going to a retreat, fair or other religious even and coming home to debt. Yet, that is what many of us do regularly; we have our religious and spiritual awakenings somewhere else and then pay interest on it for up to several months. 

Money is a dirty word within many branches of Paganism. When you're striving to leave the toils and troubles of daily life behind and to focus, instead, on the Divine, nothing is more difficult than subjecting yourself to a job you might dislike just for the money to pay for your mortgage, your food, your utilities and still end up with nothing to spend on the things you like and a lot of time seemingly wasted. This is problem number two; most Pagans have no drive to get rich or even well off because it takes them away from the things they love to do; explore nature, participate in ritual, meet up with friends and the community, work in the garden, and so many other things.  

Issue number three comes in the form of guilt. As Pagans, those of us with a skill worth selling will have no problem charging the non-Pagan community but somewhere, somehow, it became a practice to identify with your Pagan patron's plight and knock a bit off of the price of a service of product 'because we practice the same faith and we should support each other'. It's a wonderful idea, and if everyone had money to spare, it would even work, but currently this just means that Pagan artisans, diviners, writers and healers are doing a lot of work for very little money. And they are supposed to be grateful for the little they did receive because it was a gift. Those who do charge a fair and universal rate for their work are often met with little patronage and judgment. They have broken the super secret Pagan code... because the want to stay out of debt. This code is especially prevalent in (Neo-)Wiccan circles and the majority of Witchcraft Traditions. It's rarely found amongst the Reconstructionist faiths like Asatru, Hellenismos and Kemeticism. In fact, the Reconstructionist faiths tend to be very open to a monetary reward for services rendered or items bought. That's what used to happen in the Olden Days; someone crafted a vase, another person saw the vase and liked it, so they bought it, or they traded it for something of equal value. Everyone went home better off at the end of the day. If the patron could not afford the vase, they didn't get to take it home. Priests in Ancient Greece oversaw ritual sacrifices and got to take home a share of the meat. They were paid for their services because priests, like anyone else, need to eat.

Paganism doesn't have paid clergy. This is issue number four and it's a difficult one to tackle. Research into the (American) Pagan community has discovered that the majority of questioned Neo-Pagans would like to have paid clergy available to them. Yet, they are are still not there. A major issue seems to be the fact that Neo-Pagans are scrooges when it comes to money. We don't have much of it ourselves and if we do have it, we will only spent it on things that will buy us something, be it an item or knowledge. Any money we part with needs to be met with an equal pay-off. This is in part to do with the fact that there are no Temples to tithe to. Most of us aren't raised with the request to donate money to a religious cause on a weekly or monthly basis. Those that were, often have turned away from those places and any tithing will leave them with a bad taste in their mouth. Because of this, there is no money to pay for someone to take up the role of community priest or priestess. Often, the closest we get to it is charging admission to public rituals and feeling guilty about it. But paid clergy can be so much more and there is no need to model the job the Christian way. 

Paid clergy is an ever-available listening ear to the beginning Pagan or the Pagan with (religiously fueled) marriage problems. Clergy can organize regular rituals, lectures and workshops which tighten the community and push Paganism forward. They can get certified to legally perform marriage ceremonies and can be hired to see to Pagan funeral rites, something that is becoming an issue now many of the first and second wave Pagans are reaching the age where they pass over. 

Money can buy a lot and it is not evil, or even mundane. It's part of our spiritual practice and should be seen as a blessing, not a curse. There is nothing wrong with striving for riches. These riches support your local Neo-Pagan shops, support the information sources you frequent but are charged nothing for, support rituals and fairs you can attend and, mostly, they help you invest in the future of Paganism. A future where skills and crafts are valued fairly so those who can do, get to focus on it full time and teach these skills to others so they don't get lost (again). Money helps us be better Pagans and it's time we started acknowledging that.
Religion is a very serious subject in my life. When I interact with the Gods, I try to practice with complete piety. Yet, I don't think the Theoi are without humor. In fact, humor plays a large role in Hellenic mythology. While pranks are kept to a minimum (unlike in Norse mythology), there is an interesting story about the wonders of jokes.

Iambe was a wonderfully cheeky, sexually liberated and very wise woman. She's most famous for her role in the story of Persephone, Hades and Demeter. The cliff-note version; Hades fell in love with Demeter's daughter Persephone and abducted Her, causing Demeter--Goddess of agriculture and harvest--to forsake her duties and causing winter to come to the lands. Demeter was inconsolable. Both men and Gods despaired and all agreed something must be done so Demeter would resume Her duties. None knew what, though. Demeter wandered the lands in the guise of an old woman. When She reached the city of Eleusis, She was taken into the King's home to act as a nanny to his newborn son. Iambe, an elderly servant of the king, struck up a conversation with the depressed Goddess and managed to get a few small smiles out of Her with some risqué comments. Then, Iambe stood in front of Demeter and lifted Her skirt. What Demeter saw there is unclear but whatever it was, it made Her laugh and Her depression lifted. Fueled with new-found energy, She turned to Zeus and implored Him to interfere on Her behalf. Eventually Zeus did interfere and a deal was struck; Persephone would spend half of the year with Hades and the other half with Her mother.

Humor is a healer, a reliever of pain and suffering. Sadness and depression are destroying forces in our lives and humor lifts their hold. Paganism offers a wonderful stage to expand our knowledge, experiment and come together. Mistakes, failures and embarrassing situations are bound to happen during our practice. During my initiation as an Eclectic Religious Witchcraft Priestess, I managed to slam my Athame into a chair during the closing of the circle, sending it flying and me scrambling. It was completely embarrassing but it still raises a chuckle when I think about it.

We shouldn't take life, and Paganism, too seriously; humor is a much better guide than shame or anger. During our rituals, things go wrong. Sacred candles blow out. Black-outs happen. Things take longer than expected.  There is nothing wrong with it; we're human and as such, we mess up. We're not the Gods' fifth try at a human race for nothing.

Next time something goes wrong during ritual; allow it to go wrong and smile about it. Fix it and continue. It won't take away from the ritual at all. If all else fails, think of Iambe and lift your skirt in any way that you can.
Yesterday, I had the good fortune to attend a rendition of the opera Orpheo ed Euridice at a former royal palace near my home. This is the trailer of last year's cast performing it, just to give you a sense of the mood.


There are some differences between the opera and the myth of Orpheus and Euridice, most notably that Amore (that would have been Eros, to the Hellens) restores Euridice's life despite Orpheus turning to look at her. In the myth, Orpheus must lead his dead wife from the Underworld to Earth without looking back at her. She is so silent, he eventually starts to doubt and just before they reach the Earth, he can't take it anymore and turns around. In the opera, the two haven't even started their ascend yet, when Euridice bewails her faith that Orpheus won't look at her and refuses to move until he does. When he eventually gives in, she dies again. This is where the myth ends, but in the opera, Orpheus' story goes on. Before he can take his own life so he can be with his love, Amore comes and tells him that his love has saved Euridice and she can return to him, and Earth, after all. 

I have an issue with the opera adaption; the myth ended with Euridice's death for a reason. Life is for the living; those who die should stay dead or be reborn. Hades rules supreme over the dead and once you are dead, you're done. Amore does not have the power to overrule Hades when it comes to the dying. The dying are dead, as they should be. It's the natural order to things and should be preserved. 

The ancient Hellens believed in ghosts; they were the people who could not find the entrance to the Underworld or who didn't have the money to pay Kharon for their passage. Those who were not properly buried were also doomed to wander the Earth for a hundred years. Interestingly enough, Hellenic heroes were also considered ghosts and were honored in the same type of rites as other types of ghosts. 

The Ancient Hellens held festivals in honor of ghosts, and the Theoi that presided over them, so they would be sated and appeased and would not haunt them. Most of these festivals included a holókaustos and were solemn affairs, conducted at night and without an offering of wine. 

This fear of spirits and other supernatural entities was named 'deisidaimonia' (δεισιδαιμονία). The ceremonies of riddance were known to the Hellens as apopompai (ἀποποπμαί), 'sendings away'. There isn't a single word in the English language that conveys the practice. Closest would be 'exorcism'. 

Becoming a ghost was not a good thing. While heroes like Hēraklēs, Theseus and Orpheus head into the Underworld and return from it alive, they never do so without a struggle and the fact that heroes were considered ghosts is food for thought. They have seen the Underworld and have not left the whole of it behind. Ghosts were feared and needed to be appeased, fed with blood to sustain them and/or warded off. 

Orpheus looses his wife for a reason; yes, he doubts the word of Hades but more importantly, I believe Hades knew Orpheus was doomed to fail. He knows that those who have good and properly died, need to stay dead. If He didn't, I doubt He would remain an active participant in sustaining the Underworld. Immortality is reserved for the Theoi alone. Those who strive for it, who are not sufficiently pious or simply need to be honored, become ghosts, who wander the Earth without finding rest, warmth or solace. Some, like the heroes, can be petitioned for aid and counsel but the others, the unfortunate souls, are to be feared and 'send away'.

One of the Delphic Maxims is 'grieve for no one' (Μη επι παντι λυπου). Death is a reward in and of itself, especially if you have lived a pious life. Death is not to be feared and those who die, do so for a reason; all mortal life must end, simply because it sets us apart from the Gods. To mourn the dead or fear death itself, is to question both the will of the Gods and mortal thought
Tonight, I played Fallout 3 and thought of nothing. I have no deadlines in the foreseeable future, nothing to prepare. I can't remember when this last happened. There is nothing spiritual about it, or this post, but it's a wonder none the less.

I forgot how much an empty head lifts the spirits. It leaves me (as I hope it does you) with an almost childlike  sense of possibilities. I could do so many things now I don't have anything I should do. There is no guilt for not doing what I should be doing. I can catch up with my (religious) reading or just play a game, nap or spend my time any other way I see fit.

Now, I don't advertise sloth; I doubt it would go over well with the Gods and I know for sure it's bad for the mind and soul. Just like too much stress, too much of nothing freezes the mind. Staying active but not getting overwhelmed is probably best. It's solid advice I've been given a lot and have ignored just as many times. I tend to do too much. Period.

But if there is one thing I can do, it's enjoy the spare time I have. Today, that means a short post here and a lot of time sniping Glowing Ones. C'est la vie.
I'm home after the Midsummer celebration. It was a wonderful experience, full of the best Eclectic Witchcraft and Neo-Wicca have to offer. Good people, good fire and good food. As one of the organizers, it's not up to me to say how the ritual and meditative parts went, but it was a pleasure to watch adult men and women chase after each other in a game of tag.

After this post, I will return to hellenic writing. I miss it. I had an incredible time today and I wouldn't have missed it for the world but coming home and replacing my electric flame for a real one on Hestia's candle and offering Her some of the food I had today almost brought tears to my eyes. It's such a simple practice I have begun to value so very much. It offers me at least one, but usually two or three, moments in my day during which I spend time with my Gods.

We didn't call any Gods today; our ritual summoned the elements and continued to focus on the Oak and Holly Kings. I hadn't intended it to but it did, and it gave the whole affair an earthly and festive mood which I greatly appreciated. Our thirtyish guests seemed to appreciate the mood as well.

Organizing these celebrations makes me realize I really enjoy spending time with other Pagans. They're--in general--easy going, friendly and forgiving people. If something goes wrong or takes a bit, it's never a problem. They appreciate what they can get; either because there is nothing better out there or simply because they enjoy spending time with other Pagans as well.

We are diverse people who try to come together under the same banner when the opportunity arises. It's a wonderful sight to behold. Sharing faith is important to me and I'm glad I got to indulge in it today. Tomorrow, I'm returning to joyous Hellenic ritual and I am happy about that. It's nice to rehash what I had before converting, but I have definitely converted. Hellenismos is my home. Eclectic Witchcraft is a wonderful friend I like to visit but could never live with again. So until the next visit, I will stay home and remember the good times spend with friends.
Tomorrow is the Litha celebration and I admit to being a little nervous. It's funny because until this morning, I wasn't nervous in the slightest. I've been too busy to be nervous. Besides the day-to-day stuff, there were the festival days, university stuff and days where I simply had to sit around in my PJ's so my head wouldn't explode.

Today I bought the last of the supplies we need tomorrow and I've been reading through the ritual. I have a couple of 'features' I need to pull off with verve for it to work and I haven't had a lot of time to prepare them. Today I got to do a walkthrough in my head and while I have it set in my head now, it has also made me more nervous.

I've been wondering where the nerves come from; if I'm insecure about my ability to lead the ritual or the fact that I'll be leading it in front of at least thirty people. I think it's the latter. I've done Neo-Wiccan ritual for years, although only one for a small group. I know what I'm doing. I can invite the elements, direct the cone of power. I have a good working knowledge of the Gods and am not afraid of public speaking. I have faith. I am a priestess.

And yet, I'm also just me.

Tomorrow, I will get up early, shower, dress in my ritual wear and haul the last of the bags to the car. I'll eat a light breakfast and meditate a little to settle my head. I'll get on the road at 9 am to drop off my girlfriend, get gas, and then I'll drive the hour it takes to get to the ritual site with the radio on blast setting. My friend and High Priestess will be waiting for me, as well as two of her first degree initiates who helped us set out the ritual. We'll set up the ritual site with flowers, lights and an altar. By then, the nerves will be gone and I'll happily slip into my priestess persona.

By the time the guests arrive, I will be ready to practice ritual; something I love dearly. Until then, I'll most likely be a bit of a nervous wreck, and you know what? That's alright. We're responsible for a good time for a lot of people, a lot of them first timers. There is a spectacular chance of rain. I have to start a fire--something I'm terrible at--and all kinds of unforseen issues can come up. Being nervous means I care. Being nervous means I understand the responsibility placed on my shoulders. Being nervous means I want things to go well, for the guests, for my fellow priestesses, for myself and the Gods.

I may be nervous, but I'm also greatly looking forward to it.
It's been an odd couple of days. For a little over twelve years, I have observed Litha, the Neo-Pagan festival of Midsummer. There were years I performed lavious ritual for the God and Goddess, others I just prepared a special meal and yet other years, I did no more but think about it and smile. This festival was the first Neo-Pagan festival to come 'round since I converted to Hellenismos and it was incredibly odd to celebrate Litha alongside the Athenian new year, Hekate's Deipnon, Noumenia and Agatós Daímõn.

Due to their somewhat unfortunate calendrical placement, I think this beginning of the new Hellenic month was probably not the best one for me to start out at. Yet, I did, and I made it through all of them with piety--and most were on time.

I think Hekate's Deipnon probably went best as I had been preparing for it a while. I could not pass up on the chance to honor Hekate, a Goddess I love deeply, and rid my house (and mind) of all the old that needed ridding. Noumenia had to be a day late due to some unfortunate news, a trip to the city and the tradition of festival dinners, and was celebrated with Agatós Daimõn, something that was done in Ancient Times, but usually on Noumenia. Well, you can't have it all. I also didn't have honey cakes but the spirit of the sacrifice was to give something you rarely have but greatly enjoy. And that, I happened to have: Pringles, which I buy perhaps once a year.

And so, I ended up offering Pringles to the Theoi (= the name the Hellens use(d) for the Gods; Theos = God, Theia = Goddess, Theoi = Gods) and the Agathós Daímõn. All offerings were accepted with relish so who knows; They might have actually liked them.

As for Litha, I will hold ritual for that on sunday but I doubt I would have observed it otherwise. I would still have hosted the dinner, because it's fun and light and it does feel good to offer something to the God and Goddess on this day. Still, for something that I have observed yearly... I was shocked at how little I cared about it. It's astonishing to see the changes within myself. They have happened so fast and feel so final, I would be scared if I didn't have faith that I belong in Hellenismos.

This sunday, I won't be the one to actively call on the God and Goddess and deep within, I'm happy and relieved about that. I'm not sure that right now is the right time for me to act in that capacity. I do look forward to sunday. I will be amongst friends and I will do something I love; hold ritual.

Yet, I'm not sure it will top my Pringles sacrifice.
I made it!

It's been a struggle but the Summer issue of Little Witch magazine is up and although it was more of a rush job than ever before, I'm quite happy with it. This issue, we share our top ten fictional witches with you, we get you stared on the creation of your own divination system, we discuss the seven types of magick and we talk about atheism, monotheism, duotheism and polytheism within Neo-Paganism. There is also an article on money and paganism in there that I'll post here with a couple of edits when I get to the M's in the Pagan Blog Project.

PS: you can find the Dutch version here.
I might have stepped away from Eclectic and Neo-Wiccan practices, but at the Summer- and Winter solstices, I will always spend some time thinking about the Oak King and the Holly King, brothers who rule over the seasons. The Oak King rules from Midwinter to Midsummer and his brother from Midsummer to Midwinter. At the solstices, they battle and one of them gets defeated.

The legend has Celtic origins but within (Neo-)Wicca, the two are often considered two aspects of the Horned God. Whatever the interpretation, the two are inseparable and one can not exist without the other.

This sunday, I'm hosting an Eclectic Midsummer celebration with a good friend and part of the celebration will be the battle between the Kings. As I pitched this idea to said friend, I wrote a bit of text for both Kings to say before they started the battle. As we're not using it anyway, I can use it here to make a point:

Oak King:
"I am strong and powerful! Why should I relinquish my crown to my brother? Have I not taken care of you since Midwinter? When my brother wins, the long winter will return. The leaves will fall and you will go hungry. Cheer for me during the battle and I will bring you the sun!"

Holly King:
"Yes my brother speaks truth! I bring you cold and misery. Your fields will freeze over and you will not be able to produce food from them, but listen to me before you choose his side. I am the darkness of winter, the calm inside human and field alike. The rest both need to recharge and renew before Spring. Without me, your fields would become barren and you would still die of hunger. My brother is charismatic and speaks, as is only logical, half of the truth. Look into your souls and hear my words; I bring you sun and quiet, so children of Mother Earth, cheer for me!" 

We need the Holly King, even if you don't subscribe to this myth. We all need times of quiet and contemplation. Somehow, the entire reign of the Oak King seems to be filled with changes for me. It's a recurring theme in my life. The first part of the calendar year always rushes past. It's one, long, sprint from January through June. I long for the summer, the slowing down that starts in its brilliant sunlight. It's barely Midsummer and I'm already looking forward to winter.

So this sunday, I will be cheering on the Holly King at the top of my lungs. I'll shout for him to win and beat his brother down so the earth, and I, can find rest. And in half a year's time, I'll stand before them again and I will cheer for the Oak King all the same. Because they belong together, and I can't have one without the other... and I doubt I would want to, even if I could.
For about a year and a half, I have spearheaded the creation of a quarterly on-line magazine called 'Little Witch magazine'. As the next issue comes out on thursday, I'm slightly absent here as I have a lot of work to do.

I make Little Witch with a couple of Pagan and non-Pagan friends and we release it both in Dutch, my native language, as well as in English. This means that every article that is written needs to be edited, translated and prettied up. It's quite a bit of work but I adore doing it.

Somehow, though, the creation of Little Witch always falls at an auspicious time. Usually I'm swamped with school, work or Pagan related things. This is not necessarily a problem but it makes for long days and short nights.

I started Little Witch in September 2010 as a tribute to Brighid. It was a way for me to keep writing and keeping up skills, like InDesign, that I'm good at but have no reason to use beyond some rare events. I used to role play a lot and that forced me to write but as life got busier, I had to let that go. Little Witch brought me closer to Paganism, forced me to do a lot of research and it opened a lot of doorways into the (on-line) Pagan community. It helped me figure out a lot of issues I had with my faith and my place in Paganism. It's not yet as inclusive as I would like it to be but I'm always hoping more guest writers will apply (*hint*, *hint*) and share their expertise.

So this explains my absence a little. I will be back regularly after Little Witch goes up. I will post the magazine here as well, just because it's part of my writing, but you can always visit the website and read up on the older magazines now, if you're curious: www.littlewitchmagazine.com.

Often times I am very proud of our Neo-Pagan community. We have accomplished so much together and sometimes we even manage to reconcile the various Traditions and form a cohesive front with which to present ourselves to the outside world. Yet, sometimes I am ashamed to be part of the Pagan banner, of the decisions we  make and the intolerance we display.

We struggle with the seekers whom we call 'wannabees', fight against Traditions like the Dianics and the Fairy Tradition and often times we don't take people who are part of a different Tradition than our own seriously. Simply because it's not 'the way we do it'. We judge others upon the decisions they make, even if they are part of their Tradition.

We keep score.

When a Tradition is wronged, they keep score. When a Tradition messes up, we keep score. We drag each other through the mud, out of indignation or elitism. We don't allow other Traditions their traditions out of a misplaced sense of 'our way is the right way'. Witchwars, flaming. We have a tendency to throw our Elders under the bus. Z Budapest over Pantheacon, Laurie Cabot over the way she continues to dress. We forget (or are never taught) what our Elders did for Neo-Paganism.

Let me be clear: we owe our Elders everything we have gained.

If we can't deal with each other in a civil manner, how will we manage to claim our share of the religious landscape? How can anyone from one Tradition represent the whole of Neo-Paganism during interfaith meetings if that person refuses to look beyond their own Tradition?

When we take up any Neo-Pagan practice, we automatically adopt its history and, perhaps more importantly, we become part of its future. We will pass our Neo-Pagan Traditions on to the next generation. I sincerely hope we pass it along with dignity, tolerance and acceptance.

I hope we finally stop keeping score.
I think one of my J's should be a mandatory post of journaling. This is a shame, really, because I don't like keeping a journal of any kind. It was a sort of must in my Neo-Pagan and Eclectic practices and even then, I didn't do it. As far as I can tell, it's not a (big) part of Hellenic practice to keep a journal, so the irony of starting a blog the second I give into my need for Hellenic practice is not lost on me.

I could show you some valiant attempts at keeping a magickal diary. I still have them. Books with a few pages written on, a few scrolls, some loose notes. I gave up on an ordinary diary a long, long time ago but a magickal one has always seemed like a must to me. So I tried. And failed. I never read anything of it back besides dates, certain binding runes I had made for the occasion or some other basic fact I knew I had written down in one of my journaling attempts and simply could not find in the many books I possess.

I do keep a Book of Shadows (as the term goes), but it's nothing like a regular diary. What's in there are things that are important to my path, indexed neatly. A few examples:
  • UGP's
  • Binding Runes
  • Delphic Maxims
  • Healing properties of the Runes, logged per rune
  • My views on the origins of Divinity
  • A description of my initiation into Eclectic Religious Witchcraft
  • etc.
It's an extended reference guide for things I don't want to forget or simply hold so dear, I want to have them close. My book is a leather bound volume which smells divine and is never too far away from my altar. Keeping this journal is easy. But it's not a real journal.

My 'Book of Shadows'

I have never really felt the internal need to keep a diary. I prefer to process things in my head. I don't want to record every small thing. I want to add them to my growing fount of knowledge and experience and move on.  Perhaps I will regret this in later years. Perhaps I would like to look back, eventually, on every interaction I have had with a certain Deity and gain some divine insight from it. Even now, many rituals I have done are lost to me. I can recall certain smells or a certain way of feeling but that's it. I have never found this harmful or sad.

I do ritual for the Gods. I gain something from the experience but in the end, it's for Them. The memory is Theirs to keep. I take a fragment of it and add it to my fount. It strengthens me, even if the memory is eventually lost. Besides, I tend to feel that what I write down is final. If I write something down, I stop thinking about it for a while, until something related to it comes up and I resume thinking about it. I don't want to stop and look back at every turn. I want my memories to fade into a collective memory of devotion.

So, I have given myself permission to not journal. I can look back if I want, write down something if I want, but there is no pressure. If I ever feel the need to start journaling, I will and if it never happens, that is fine as well. 

For those of you who do keep a journal, my hat off to you. I think it's a beautiful practice. I have seen exquisite and exquisitely kept journals I truly wish I had the ability to create. But I don't and the practice... well... It's just not for me. 
For my first of the J's I want to address two Delphic maxims I hold very dear;

Judge incorruptibly (Αδωροδοκητος δικαζε)
Make just judgements (Κρινε δικαια)

I spoke to you earlier about my vow of temperance and what it means to me. These two maxims tie into it heavily. A large part of temperance is to refrain from judgement upon others. I judge myself heavily but try to leave another's decisions and actions to that other person. It is not up to me to influence another during their decision making process or judge them once made. 

Sometimes we do need to judge, however. Even I, who try not to. We need to decide if differences are unreconcilable,  if we can live with the choices we make, if other people are worthy of our attention and which one of our friends we'll support in case of a break-up.

Judging in objectivity is one of the hardest things a sentient being has to do. It means taking a step back from our (sometimes inflammatory) emotions and trying to see both sides of an argument. In a way, this is temperance in judgement.

Judge incorruptibly asks us to not only be above reproach when we judge but that any judgement we pass is solely based upon our own reasoning. We may listen to the words of others and take into account their behavior but in the end, we can only judge anyone if our own reasoning is sound.

Hellenismos gives us ethical guidelines to judge others by, if we are forced to do so. Yet, what these maxims mostly tell us is to become aware of how often we judge the world around us and those in it. First impressions can be deathly. In this world, people are judged on age, gender, skin color, sexual orientation and a good many other variables that we really can't help being born with. It's not constructive to society and humanity.

So keep these maxims in mind the next time you come upon someone or something new. Take a step back and find the source. You may discover a great many things about yourself, things you will need to know if you want to judge yourself or others in the future.
Working with Deity, for those who do not (or not on a regular basis), appears to be a mystifying, dangerous or useless affair. There are scientists who believe that for some people, the brain is hardwired to believe. Those of us with brains like that, have an easier time sensing the presence of Deity, making it easier to believe. There is an article on this here. The wording is very Abrahamic-centered but the information is clear and concise.

Wether you are hardwired for religious worship or not, I firmly believe everyone can form a connection between Deity and themselves. Not everyone wants to and that is fine. For those of you looking to find religion but experiencing difficulty doing so, this blog post offers some advice.

  1. Believe
  2. Put in the work. Building a relationship with Deity of your choosing takes time and effort. Religion is active, not passive. Set aside time for daily study, meditation and/or offerings. Try to engage in activities your chosen God(s) or Goddess(es) appreciate. If you are looking for a connection with Apollon, try reading and writing poetry, get up at dawn for a week to praise Him and step out into the fading light at dusk to thank Him for that same week. This allows you to live His life a little and understand how He might appear in your life.
  3. Keep an open mind. While you're looking for Deity, try not to close yourself off to any other God or Goddess who might have already taken an interest in you. It's a safe bet that without first resolving your involvement with the interested God or Goddess, the God or Goddess of your choosing won't contact you. It would be plain rude to do so.
  4. Consider Reconstructionism. For those who are interested in connecting to a pantheon; consider a Reconstructionist approach. These are the rituals, rites, ethics and activities the Gods you are looking to connect with understand and appreciate as being dedicated to them. Everyone knows what role they have to play in the exchange. It's a win-win. Now, if a full Recon path is not for you, this is fine. As an Eclectic, you can take what you need and do away with the rest without ramifications, as long as you keep the base of the Recon practice alive.
  5. Build religious credibility. I firmly believe Gods speak to each other. This is a little easier between Gods of the same Pantheon but Wiccan and Neo-Wiccan rituals tend to call upon a host of Gods and Goddesses from a multitude of Pantheons. Often, during public ritual, I have giggled at an image of the invited Gods gathering above the Circle and rolling their eyes at whomever got invited this time. It makes me wonder if the Gods have a crazy uncle as well. At any rate--the Gods interact so if you build some credibility as a worshipper of one or more Gods or Goddesses, the rest will likely know about it and offer you assistance more freely.
  6. Do the work and make good art
The link above leads to PANTHEOS, Star Forster's blog and one of my favorite Pagan corners of the internet. In it, Star combines two of the internet's most inspiring things in a long time; Neil's Gaiman's graduation speech for the graduating class of the University of the Arts in Philadelphia and Donald Michael Kraig's fantastic post over on Llewellyn’s website. Links to both in the article. I've shared Neil's video with a good amount of friends since I first saw it a couple of weeks ago. It's made a wonderful impact on me. These are the bits of advice I took from it, as applied to religion:
  • Whatever you do, try to connect it with your practice or--even better--choose whatever you do with your practice in mind
  • Set clear (religious) goals and work towards them. If you find yourself lost, see how what you're doing relates to your goals
  • Make sure your practice never feels like work, that way life never feels like work
  • Never do something you can not completely stand behind, as it's doomed to fail anyway
  • Don't get side-tracked from what you love to do
  • Find what you're good at and do it as only you can
  • 'The moment that you feel that just possibly you feel like you're walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind, and what exists on the inside showing too much, that's is the moment you may be starting to get it right.'
  • Two out of three ain't bad
  • Enjoy every minute of it!
  • Be your own voice, because no one knows how the (religious) landscape will change in the coming years
  • 'Pretend to be someone who can do it'... and then act like they would
  • Make. Good. Art.
In the end, doing the work and making good art are at the base of any religious practice, as well as an inspirational way to go through life. It starts with making up your mind. After that, you simply go for it with all you have. Take on too much so you can leave some practices behind. Pick your battles and find your loves. Whatever you do, make sure you love every minute of it.
For those of you unfamiliar with the runes, they are a letter set which, in modern times, are used in Paganism and Asatru for divination and healing. They were granted to us by Odin after He hung from the World Tree for nine days and nine nights without food or water. For more information on them, visit here.

While the runes don't tie in with Hellenismos at all, they were one of my favorite parts of my Eclectic practice. I will most likely continue to use them for healing purposes as well as sigils, if not for me than to help others. But this is not what I wanted to share. I wanted to share my epic love for one of the most wildly misinterpreted and unused runes in the set; Isa.
Taken from: Letters

Isa, literally, means 'Ice'. It stands for one's ability to stay still and as such it's one of my favorite runes to work with in healing. I add it to just about all my rune sets when I practice healing arts as it's a pain reliever, a fever breaker and a boost to the immune system. It settles the mind when one is worried or can't sleep. In short, it acts as a full stop at the end of a sentence; it marks the end of all that came before and gives a little breathing space for all that comes after. 

Isa is a rune of rest; of water, solidified, of earth, frozen. It encapsulates the current circumstances and dulls them. Its applications are endless and yet is seems to have gotten a bit of a negative connotation. We, as people, like to move forward, to press on. Being sick or tired has become a faux pas. Yet, we all get sick and we all get tired. Gods knows I do, at least. So in our progressive world, a rune like Isa seems out of place, yet is so very important.

Isa reminds us to indulge our ego's sometimes. To get or do what we need every once in a while. It's a little vacation from responsibility. Be careful, though, Isa offers only temporary relief. A temporary break from pain and life. It doesn't work on the source of your pain or stress. But if you need a break, Isa is the perfect rune to give it to you.
There is a real post coming in a bit so enjoy this one to tide you over.

Yesterday, I lost my bracelet. Thankfully, I recovered it again (after some long and hard begging because the remaining pendants are emotionally quite valuable although they no longer have an influence on my practice). It made me think, though. Why do I still wear the pendants if that way is not the way I choose to practice anymore? And so I took them off. It's a big and scary step for me.

I should clarify something, as it might come across that loosing a bracelet of pendant on it should be a regular occurrence. Thinks get lost. Sure, that is true, but I've been wearing those pendants and that bracelet for a multitude of years and it has only come off once during that time, and that was when I got caught behind something and tore it off, along with a good bit of skin. For those of you eating, sorry for that mental image. What I wanted to convey with it was that this bracelet and its pendants only come off when they choose to do so. And they did. So when I recovered it, I took off the pendants and kept the bracelet. I am still religious, after all.

So now I'm on the hunt for new pendants, pendants to tie me to Hellenismos. An owl for Athena, perhaps, or a lightning bolt for Zeus. It has struck me that, twice now, after writing something at Baring the Aegis, Divinity has intervened to solidify my claims. I really should be careful about what I write here.

So there you are, a tiny update that will probably only interest me. But some things just have to be said.
Hellenismos is a practice of the home. Daily ritual, family and piety to the Gods are fundamental. The home has a very special place in Hellenic practice; much more than the actual temples to the Gods, the home is the main worship area. Focal points are the main shrine, a shrine to Zeus in the pantry, a shrine to Hestia near the hearth, a shrine to Apollon, Hekate and Hermes near the door and a shrine to the ancestors and the family's Agathós Daímōn.

In a previous post I wrote that I don't honor my ancestors. This isn't completely true, much to my surprise. Looking around my home I realized I have had a small shrine up for them for years. All I did to validate it is to acknowledge it and add a toy snake to it that has been with my family for years and years, a favored item. It's on top of a soundbox that doesn't work. I've made a some pictures so it's a little clearer for those of you far away who take this journey with me.

My Ancestral shrine with my representation of the Agathós Daímōn I'm not sure is there yet

The hourglass and binoculars were heirlooms from my deceased grandmother and grandfather, respectively. They have always meant a lot to me. I have another item of my grandmothers but it has its own place and I do not want to move it. This will have to be enough for now. I'll attempt to implement worship at this shrine in my day to day life. This will mean an inclusion of my deceased and alive family members and it's not something I'm relishing. But it's good to feel connected to them, even a little.

My main altar has been adapted from my Pagan altar and currently houses a flame to Hestia, an offering jar, a bit of green I got as a present and the small wooden pot I use to burn incense and food on. 

Two images of my main household altar.

My shrine to Zeus is a little affair as it only holds a Kathiskos and an offer place for incense. A Kathiskos is an offer jar of foodstuffs used to protect the household's food storage. Typically, it has olive oil and water. The rest is up to the household. Mine has some honey, spaghetti, couscous, chocolate and a strawberry. The Kathiskos is dedicated to Zeus Ktesios, guardian of the household. The jar is typically emptied into the compost bin or garden and refilled with fresh foodstuffs every month. 

My Kathiskos

Then all that remains is the shrine dedicated to Apollon, Hekate and Hermes. This shrine tends to be an outdoor shrine but as that is not an option for me, mine is indoor. It's used to petition the Gods for safe travel or to keep a traveling family member safe. By offering, the shrine remains active and simply touching it with a prayer for protection as one leaves the house provides the blessing.

My travel shrine to Apollon, Hekate and Hermes

As you can probably tell, the disk represents Apollon, the keys are for Hekate and the feather is for Hermes. The bowl below it is used to offer libations and offerings of incense. 

I apologize for the quality of the images. I took these with my mobile phone on a grey and rainy day. I might replace them eventually but for now they serve the purpose they were created for. 

These shrines are quite new, as one might imagine, so I'm still figuring out if this is what works. I am still looking for a small oven pot to burn food offerings in, which will be placed near the main altar. Besides that, I am pretty happy with the set-up. Are these the best shrines there have ever been? Probably not. But I'm still fledgeling and I'm simply making every effort to please and honor my Gods in a way They expect.

If you feel drawn to share yours, I'd be very happy to see them. I'm always looking for inspiration. Now if you'll excuse me, I'll be over there, offering at my shiny shrines.
Baring the Aegis is one week old today! Long live Baring the Aegis! I was shocked by this discovery as so many things have changed for me in that week. While some of that change took place in my regular, daily, life, most of it happened in my head and in my Paganistic practice. I still consider myself a Pagan... but I am no longer an Eclectic Religious Witch. In my head and heart, I am Hellenistic. So much change in one week. Most of my Pagan friends I haven't seen this week, so this is mostly for them (and anyone else who is interested in Hellenismos and my blog) so they can catch up a little.

What is Hellenismos?
Hellenismos (Ἑλλήνισμος) is the modern reconstruction of the ancient Hellenic religion. It focusses on the worship of the Twelve Olympic Gods--Zeus, Hera, Athena, Hēphaistos, Apollon, Artemis, Demeter, Hestia, Hermes, Ares, Poseidon and Aphrodite--along with Hades and Dionysios (when said to have replaced Hestia). Most Hellenists honor other types of divinities, including nature spirits (like Pan, Gods of rivers and Gods of the wind directions), Khthonic Deities (like Persephone and Hekate), and heroes (like the Argonauts). We tend to be hard polytheists although I'm sure there are some soft or middle hard polytheists walking about. 

Hellenismos is known for its highly developed ethical system, derived from ancient scripture like the Delphic Maxims I keep going on about as well as scholarly works like the Homeric Hymns, the Tenets of Solon, the Ethics of Aristotle (1,2), the Golden Verses of Pythagoras, the Philosophy of Epicurus, the Stoics, Works and Days by Hesiod and many, many others. 

I think Hellenismos often has the image of being stuffy and boring, focussed more on acquiring knowledge than actual practice. In my experience, this is plainly wrong. Yes, you're expected to read through the works mentioned above, as well as some of the greats like the Ilias, the Odyssey and the Orphic Hymns but when your interest is with this pantheon and the stories that depict them, this is no punishment at all. Also, there are actually daily rituals one is encouraged to perform as well as at least seven or eight libations, festivals or dedicatory moments to observe throughout a single month. Piety, in Hellenismos often called 'eusebeia', is of great importance. 

Is it Pagan?
Well... yes. It is. Sort of. So I still call myself Pagan but only in the sense of the umbrella term that Paganism has become; a practitioner of a non-Abrahamic faith. Even though I've barely started, I can see that this manner of worship in no way resembles the worship I undertook when I was an Eclectic Religious Witch. I've been separating the rituals for a while now but amongst other things;
  • Hellenists don't 'work with' the Gods, they honor Them and provide offerings in the hopes of establishing a system of reciprocity
  • While some items have been repurposed, almost every item I used in Eclectic Religious Witchcraft has become meaningless to me; including my Athame. I have an entirely new shopping list
  • There is a lot more to study and there's very little 'winging it' involved in Hellenismos as compared to my previous practice
  • (Almost) no borrowing from other pantheons or systems allowed
  • There's no magick (this is not entirely true as the term has a different meaning but any low magick becomes high magick in Hellenismos)
  • Nature and ecological activism are a lot less important in Hellenismos than in non-reconstructionist religions (but see nature spirits above)
  • No Calling Corners, no Circle work, no Cakes and Ale/Wine; Hellenistic ritual followes a very simple structure: procession, purification, Hymns, sacrifice/offerings, prayers of supplication and thanks, feast and, on occasion, games or competitions
  • Daily practice in Hellenismos focusses on the home, the hearth and family
  • There is no (well, very little) clergy as clergy was of very limited importance in ancient Hellas. As a result, there are no degrees one can get, no certificate. You either are (by following all the above) or you're not
  • There is a full body of work to practice from in Hellenismos and you are expected to do so
All of the above make me so very happy. It's what I've been looking for in Neo-Paganism for years now and have never been able to find. In all honesty, it's what I've been doing already only now it has a direction. I'm still struggling along, trying to find the resources to make sure I do it right, but I'm getting there.

I feel I should make one other note, concerning Hekate, as She is of immeasurable importance to me. While She is (most likely) a Pre-Olympic Khthonic Goddess--a Titan--She's been welcomed into the Hellenic pantheon and even has an Orphic Hymn dedicated to her (the first of them, even):

"I call Einodian Hecate, lovely dame,
Of earthly, wat'ry, and celestial frame,
Sepulchral, in a saffron veil array'd,
Leas'd with dark ghosts that wander thro' the shade;
Persian, unconquerable huntress hail!
The world's key-bearer never doom'd to fail;
On the rough rock to wander thee delights,
Leader and nurse be present to our rites
Propitious grant our just desires success,
Accept our homage, and the incense bless."

In Hellenismos, Hekate is not seen as She is by many Neo-Pagans;
  • In Hellenismos, She is not a triple (Maiden-Mother-Crone) Goddess
  • She is not a Crone Goddess at all (She's a maiden)
  • She is not solely a Mistress of Magic (although that is an authentic Hellenic conception of Her) 
  • She is not solely a Goddess of Death (although one of her functions is definitely to act as a Psychopomp) 
Although UPG is not a huge part of Hellenismos, it is to me, and what is stated above is something I have experienced with Her as well. Of course all are entitled to their own opinions and I will respect them as such. I simply want to point out my views, as subjective as they are, so it's easier to follow my practice. 

So this is the basis of Hellenismos and my practice. I enjoy it greatly and everything feels very natural to me. I've been holding off diving into Reconstructionism for so long that, now I have opened myself to this path, I feel like a sponge; sucking up every bit of information I can get my hands on. Yet, I am no authority of Hellenismos and not all Hellenists practice the same. If you are Hellenistic and you are reading this, you might not agree with me on all points. That is alright to me and, hopefully, to you as well.

While others might disagree, I feel Hellenismos is something you must really want to be a part of, else the workload might hold you back from practicing (and experiencing) it fully. There is a lot of reading and a lot to study and practice. Not everything is mandatory but it feels wrong to me to pick and choose which Gods to honor within the pantheon. So I try to honor everything I can and am greatly looking forward to it. If this is something that draws you as well, enjoy it!
Family tree of the Hellenic Gods -- Click to enlarge and go to Wikipedia

I don't have a good relationship with my family. I feel I probably should, Delphic Maxims and all, but I don't. I rarely see my parents and I haven't seen my grandmother in at least ten years. The rest of my direct family I barely even know by name and who knows who is part of my extended family. I don't, at any rate. Because of this, I don't honor my ancestors. It's not part of my practice at all. Besides my Grandmother, who passed over when I was still a child, I doubt there are any family members looking out for me from the other side. As far as I know, all were buried with the proper burial rites connected to their faith so I assume they have passed over safely. As it stands, I don't contact them and they don't contact me. It works.

Still, ancestry is important. It helps us find out where we came from, who we came from. It matters to our point of view. When looking at the Theoi, this is equally true. The first thing one notices is that it is a large family. A very, very large family. I have a different version of this family tree in a book of Hellenic mythology published in 1916, including creatures like Hydra, Cerberus, Pegasus and (nearly) all the demi-Gods. It runs from Chaos all the way down to Iphigenia and Paris. There are a good few differences between my genealogical table and the one posted on Wikipedia. For one, in my version, Chaos had one child, Erebus, who went on to create Hemera, Charon, Eris, Somnus and more (with his mother, Nyx, as the mother of his children). From Hemera sprang forth Gaia, Eros and Pontus and so on. In the Wikipedia one, Chaos gave birth to Gaia, Tartarus, Eros, Erebus and Nyx. Tartarus isn't even mentioned in my book's tree, H. A. Guerber's 'The Myths of Greece & Rome', third edition. I'm sure there are many more versions of the Hellenic family tree and it's highly confusing, at least to me.

Which version of mythology you accept as truth is mostly up to you. There are so many versions of the birth of the universe floating around, as well as stories of who sired whom, choosing one really is a gamble. Take Hekate; often she is seen as a Khthonic Theia who outdates the Hellenic pantheon but in other versions of mythology, she is a Titan or the mortal Iphigenia and a priestess of Artemis who commits suicide. She is then turned into a Goddess of night, witchcraft and the Underworld and renamed Hekate by Artemis.

As a budding Reconstructionist, these discrepancies bother me. I practice mostly by myth--although I'm slowly adopting more scholarly works into my practice--so if scholars can't agree on the myths, I lose my foothold. So this is why I study Hellenic Genealogy a lot. It's a big part of my practice. I try to find as many versions as I can and then I look to UPG to determine what works for me. This changes with time. While I first considered Hekate a Goddess (Ouranic or Khthonic), contact with Her has changed my mind and I now view Her as predating the Hellenic pantheon, but being adopted into it as a Titan.

There is a certain beauty in genealogy. It's a visual representation of so many lives lived. A prelude, an index, to the many, many stories that make up mythology. My interest does not stop entirely at the Hellenic pantheon. I also adore pouring over genealogical tables of the Egyptian, Norse and Celtic pantheons. Any others are appreciated if I stumble upon them. Just running my fingers over the lines, wondering how this child came to be and why that bloodline stops there gives me great fulfillment.

One sad part of studying Divine genealogy is that there is an end. The lives of the Gods have come to a halt. We rehash the stories but no more children are born, no heroes rise. It makes me wish for the inclusion and revelation of UPG into Hellenismos. New blood, new stories, could really benefit the practice and believes of Hellenic practitioners. A new Divine child to shake up the pantheon, a new child of Zeus who grows up to fight new (or returned) monsters. Sacrilege, some say, and they might be right. But I admit to staring at the pages of genealogy in my book and wishing the lines, somehow, someway, extend to include more of the Divine family.
This Maxim is one of the ones that always makes me smile when I read it. Not because I think marriage is an institution that is for everyone or should be a goal in everyone's life but because of the underlying message of the Maxim; find stability in your life, find a home to return to at the end of the day.

In my previous blog post I wrote about Zeus and how He returns to His wife Hera every night despite his affairs. In the Odyssey, Odysseus's entire journey is aimed at going home to his wife Penelope. Marriage provides you with a stable foundation; it's family. Even if you are not close to your own ancestors, you can find and/or create love and shared DNA.

Marriage is a sacred institution. It's presided over by Hera and She can be petitioned concerning everything that surrounds it. As such, I always feel She is especially in change of this Maxim. If you want to honor Her, perhaps holding fast to this Maxim is a good way to start.

This Maxim inspires twofold;
  • Live life looking for someone to settle down with
  • When you find them, stay with them and be faithful to them (or else you'll probably be 'intending to get married' again)

We are social creatures. We like stability and thrive on love and praise. A spouse can provide that and even if you never find a partner to settle down with, it's the intend behind it that really powers this Maxim; go though life looking for a stable base to live from. Settle down. Stop wandering. Find maturity. Work. Share your life with the person or people you love. And never take it for granted. 

Alright, I feel better so lets move on to a lighter topic, shall we? Gender-roles in Hellenic mythology. Hellenic myth isn't the most balanced or forward mythological system when it comes to gender roles. In fact, I strongly believe it's a gender package no one comes out of, looking better. Women have three choices; rejoicing their femininity and inherent sexuality and leaving themselves open to kidnap and/or rape, tempting and/or raping in return or becoming warrior virgins who (only go through attempted rape but) will never know love. Men have two choices; either they become brutes who chase every bit of tail that comes their way or they become tricksters, harmless to the females around them as well as the egos and reputations of the males. I've seen better options.

Lets look at the women first; The first option is to be so beautiful and/or innocent and/or conveniently available that the male God or hero can not restrain himself. He must have her and so he takes her from her home and (often) has sex with her. Persephone is a textbook example of this. These rapes (although the sex sometimes is concensual) often end in pregnancy and the birth of a new hero. Examples include Perseus and Kastor and/or Polideukes. Often the women get punished severely for their part in the sex/rape. Just look at Médousa.

The second option is to be in control of one's beauty and sexual prowess but eternally alone. The Odysee is full of examples of this one; the sorceress Circe, Calypso as well as the Sirens. All tempt Odysseus to various degrees of success, sometimes taking his faculties from him so they can take from him what they want.

The last category for the women is to become a warrior and remain a virgin. The only way to find love is to revert to one of the other two options. The Goddesses Artemis and Athena are amongst these, as well as the Amazons.

The men have different options but it comes down to two words; power or trickery (or a combination of both). The men-who-become-brutes tend to be the ones who chase women down in lust until they have her and can make love to her or rape her or until she is taken from them by the intervention of another deity. See Médousa for the former and Daphne and Minthe for the latter.

The tricksters include Gods like Hermes and perhaps even Apollon; They find love but only by avoiding the men and women that the brutes are attracted to. More often than not, the tricksters get assigned their partners by the brutes.

Now, this is an overgeneralization. There are many shades of grey here. Rape, in Hellenic myth shouldn't even be interpreted as rape as we know it; in myths it's the pouring out of Divinity over mortals. In general, it can even be seen as a blessing, of sorts.

I do not condone rape in any way, shape or form. I am merely saying that women in ancient Hellens were considered to be property of the men in their lives. Any sexual encounters they had was rape, by definition, as it was a property crime. So consensual sex was still rape... well... a property crime, because the word 'rape' did not exist in ancient Hellas. Of course, this whole thing is still a tangled web of hurt that is beyond the scope of this blog post. Perhaps when we get to 'R'. For now, I will limit myself to the gender-roles listed above.

There are lessons to be learned in these stories. While the Theoi are fully fleshed out entities, who are perfectly capable of thinking for Themselves, most of Them did get pigeonholed into certain stereotypes in the myths that survived the ages. There are many, many cases of UPG and SPG that give light to a whole other side of these Gods and Goddesses. Often, Their stories also distract us from what They did have and from the stories that were never told or not often focussed upon. Zeus, for example, has children with many mortal (and immortal) women but he returns to the bed He shares with Hera every night. While She may spurn him for his dalliances, She seems to be very aware (as is He) that His needs are really only sated with Her and Hera rules the daily going on's on Olympus in His stead. Persephone might not hate the time She spends with Hades at all; She seems to have taken Her rightful place by His side as Queen of the Underworld and who knows? Perhaps She ate those pomegranate seeds of Her own free will?

I admit that the gender roles of ancient Hellas bother me. Reading these myths can leave a sour taste in my mouth that only washes away when I look beyond the words, to the messages themselves. By filling the gaps between myths, one can often reconcile their worries about the myths with their personal creed as well as moral guidelines like the Delphic Maxims. It's also very important to note the time period in which these myths were formed; Hellenic culture has its source in Mycenaean Hellas, starting roughly 3900 years ago. That's a lot of time to go by and women's rights weren't really a part of ancient living. Men were expected to provide, and healthy, powerful man simply had more prowess. It's not odd to think the Gods mirrored these societal bounds.

I doubt many (if any) Modern Hellenics long back for a time when men ruled over women in the way that is portrayed in myth. Rape is not condoned. Modern Hellenics try to read beyond the words to get to the message(s). The myths tell us something about the Gods but, like us, They have had a lot of time to evolve. This is a thought that must not be forgotten.
I am trying to graduate. So far it's been a frustrating, humiliating and painful experience. Things keep going wrong and then I have to go through the institution to get them corrected. So far it's 3-0 for the institution, no matter how far I've gone over my own limits and have groveled to get some help--any kind of help.

The banes of my existence are currently one computer program, one man and enough bureaucracy to cover everyone's ass but mine. It's beyond frustrating and we've only just started round four. If I loose this round, I'm looking at another year of college which I can not afford due to some insane fines the government has put on sixth year student--even if they are doing a second study. In short, if I fail, I don't know what I'm going to do.

And so I'm tempted to turn to the Gods and magick for aid. I haven't done this before, not actively. I have asked the Gods to strengthen me and help me remember the theory and I've done magick towards the same goal but I have never implored either to influence someone who was unaware of me doing so.

The thought of it makes me nauseous but I don't see another option. I don't know if I'll be able to go through with it, mostly because I worry I might not be able to keep my anger under control and steer the Gods or the spell wrong. I know the man isn't screwing me over intentionally; he is as bound by the bureaucratic BS as I am... but taking it out on him would be so easy. I have enough anger to power some pretty desperate spells. And that scares me. I don't know if I want to take responsibility for an act like that.

Now, I am all for fighting the institution. In my second year, a teacher judged one of my reports unfairly because I stood up to him in a full lecture hall. I took that all the way to the top and got the grade overturned. He got a permanent mark on his record. I hated having to do it but I wouldn't be able to live with myself if I had let him abuse his power. But isn't that exactly what I'm proposing; using my power to screw over someone else because he's pissed me off?

As a witch, I have a lot of tools to work with. It was Ani DiFranco who said 'every tool is a weapon, if you hold it right', and she was correct. I have an arsenal of weapons to fight with and I am afraid to use them, even if it means saving my future. It's not what I do. I practice temperance. I don't enforce my will upon others. But this fight I have been put in has left me powerless and without weapons, except for the ones I am willing to bring. So I am tempted but for now, I will not cave. I will fight the institution but I will do it my way, the non-magickal way. This is my intention but in all honesty, I am not sure if I will not cave eventually. I would be ashamed of myself if I did, but it's not completely improbably it'll happen.

There is a lesson here, about Pagan ethics and the responsible practice of magick but I'm too tired and angry to write it out now. Please, draw your own conclusions from this rant. If you have any advice, please share it in the comments. I would really like to hear it as my mind won't supply me with any. I promise the G's will be happier and more Pagan-y but sometimes you don't pick your subjects, they pick you.
There are times in our lives when we all fail at something, may it be a test, a project or at being a good person (or a bad one, depending on whom you wanted to be in the first place). Within Paganism, failing is widely considered another version of success. As long as you have tried your best, put in the effort and honestly gave it what it deserved, you have no reason to consider your failure anything else than as a teaching moment. And if you didn't give it your all, well, then you can still call it a teaching moment, only this time it tells you something about yourself.

I don't know about you, but I think failing at something is one of the worst feelings in the world. I'm a bit of a perfectionist and if there is one thing I... fail at, it's failing. Even the thought of failing something in the near future makes me nauseous, takes away my appetite and keeps me up at night. This is why I am writing this at 5 a.m; I am so stressed out, I can no longer sleep.

I don't fail often. If the task was insurmountable in the first place, I don't worry about it, I try my best and promise to do better in the future. I have learned to pick my battles. Yet sometimes, battles are picked for you and it is all you can do to scrape by, at the skin of your teeth, and hope you have done enough. I have a test next week and I'm not sure if I will pass. If I don't, it's going to be one hell of a mess. So I worry, and I fail in advance.

It are times like these when I try to find solace in my faith. I turn to mythology and try to find heroes in a similar situation to mine; at the start of a test so great, there is no way to tell if there is even a chance of success. I envision myself on deck of the Argo, heading towards Colchis to procure the Golden Fleece. I think of Hēraklēs, standing in front of Eurystheus' throne as it's proclaimed he must complete ten (or twelve) labors to redeem himself after murdering his children in a psychotic break induced by Hera. I think of Perseus, who must have stood in defeat as his stepfather Polydectes proclaimed he must bring him the head of Médousa. With heavy sighs, these men took up sword and shield and forged on. To do, or die. When the price for failing is that high, it can not even be an option.

Nor Iásōn, nor Hēraklēs, nor Perseus had to complete their tasks alone. Iásōn had the Argonauts, but all of them had the help of the Gods. Athena gave Perseus the Aegis so he could see Médousa without laying eyes on her directly, Hera helped Iásōn along his journey and Hēraklēs had the help of Athena, Artemis, the Centaur Khiron, Hēphaistos and many, many others.

And all succeeded.

So I try to find their strength of character and their faith in the Gods as I struggle along towards my own test. I may not be saving my life or that of any damsel in distress in the process, but in the grand scheme of my life, this thing is pretty damn important none the less.

So I will not fail and I will find solace in my faith. I will rise to the challenge and complete the task laid out in front of me. I will pick up my sword and shield and do my absolute best and I will pray for guidance, motivation and inspiration.

And, Gods will it, I will succeed.
Sustenance is an important part of Pagan ritual. What we eat and drink before, during and after ritual often holds meaning. What we take to potlucks or make for our own holidays helps to set the mood and to feel included and involved. We make conscious decisions what we do and do not eat and drink inspired by our believes. And I'm not even talking about the social importance of sharing food and drinks.

Taken from: Theoi.com

Today I tried to make a list of all the occasions food and drink matter in Paganism. The list is probably not complete but these are some of the most important occurrences:
  • Cakes and Ale/Wine - a well known part of (Neo-)Wiccan ritual
  • Offerings - as they are eaten in some traditions
  • Feasts - cooking special meals on special days
  • Potlucks - bring your own food and drinks, usually tied to a theme
  • Holidays - a lot of Gods have special days attached to their name and many are honored with food or foodstuffs
  • Dietary choices - biological food, vegetarianism, veganism
  • Abstinence - Not eating certain foods or drinking certain drinks outside of ritual
For a lot of Pagans, and I count myself amongst them, what we put into our bodies, matter. The saying 'my body is my temple' might be a tad trite but it's also true to me. When I step into the Circle, I need to feel I have done my best to keep my body (and mind) pure for the Gods. This means a shower, clean clothes and a diet as healthy as possible under the stress of daily life. Now, there are things I would still like to improve, regular exercise being amongst them. It's an ongoing battle, that one. But I have adapted my diet to the point I feel confidant and comfortable in the Face of my Gods. I don't drink alcohol outside of the Circle. I rarely eat meat and when I do, it's biological. It works for me.

As for feasts, I host a dinner for all eight of them. Usually it's a very small group; two to six people. We make a three course meal in the spirit of the feast and eat it together, around a table. We talk, sometimes about the feast, most of the time about nothing at all. The first cut or spoon full of every dish gets offered to the Gods. These are some of my favorite Pagan moments throughout the year. 

I've done a good few Cakes and Ale/Wine ceremonies over the years. I have very little, if any, connection with them. In fact, I think I mostly did (and do, when I practice a Neo-Wiccan ritual) it because it's a part of the ritual. I ground myself through it, although I prefer other methods. The funny part is that, when I did a ritual for a friend to Dionysos, I drank with Him and we shared food. It left me completely filled and grounded. I realized that this is what the Cakes and Ale/Wine ceremony is supposed to do for you and I think I might understand it better now. After all those years of practice. 

Food is a basic necessity in our lives. If we don't drink, we die. Sharing these with friends, fellow practitioners and the Gods helps us understand each other better. All humans need the same basics. It connects us all. And although the Gods probably don't eat like we do, They require sustenance as well. And we all know that most of them, at least in the Hellenic pantheon, love Their food and (alcoholic) beverages.

Some people have difficulties eating food, either in public or at all. Anorexia, bulimia, as Pagans, we are not automatically exempt from these diseases. There are alcoholics and recovering alcoholics in Paganism. For all of them, it might be hard to get through the rituals and ceremonies associated with them. So I offer a few thoughtful words: should you ever hold a ritual where food and alcohol play important parts; offer alternatives. Grape juice works just fine for a Cakes and Ale/Wine ceremony. Allow people to say no and offer them room to talk to you about their issues with food or alcohol. Someone might even have food allergies you might not have known about and which can easily be worked around. 

When I host my dinner parties and I stand at the stove, a romanticized version of ancient Pagans doing the same thing always comes to mind. People whose lives revolved almost solely around food and their crops, a tight community where feasts were held not only out of joy but also out of desperation. If the crops didn't grow, the entire community would suffer. So they prayed. And they feasted. And they remembered that every year could be the last. And when I eat, I give thanks to the society I usually loath; a society where food comes in abundance and in which I don't have to worry about ever going without. 

And that is my Pagan connection to food; it reminds me of the romanticized version of old society I fell in love with when I was thirteen. I might not be a big fan of food in day-to-day living, but I do love it in Paganism.

I was already heading to bed when I decided to pop over to PANTHEON to read Star's daily post. The lesson here is that I should not do this now I have a blog on which I can publish my opinion on subjects that interest me.

Star's post today is entitled 'Search Not My Heart' and in it, she speaks more clearly than I will ever be able to do about the orthodoxy that is slowly creeping into Paganism, a rather frightening trend I've been noticing as well through my interaction with the (on-line) Pagan community. While I oppose this orthodoxy (perhaps mostly because I don't fit in it), I want to address something else she wrote about and which raised my eyebrows.

"In the conversations over yesterday’s post someone was surprised to learn I believe that the Gods can assume a mortal form. I got the impression it was as bizarre to them as if I had said that I believe the Gods are the bacteria the live in the drain of my sink. It was a small interaction, and not dramatic in the least, but it stayed with me."

 ...and all I could think upon reading that was 'doesn't everybody belief that?' Because I have never believed anything else. As you can see to the left, in my bio, I practice mostly by myth and mythology is filled to the brim with Gods and Goddesses assuming human (or animal) form and walking amongst us. To warn, to test, to support, to punish, to make love to, to rape.

It's times like this when I realize how hard my polytheism actually is; I have difficulty imagining other people might view Deity in a way that does not grant them personalities, lives and the ability to do what they do in myth. I have less trouble accepting that people do not believe in Gods than accepting people see Gods as archetypes or parts of a larger entity. Yet, like Star, I am so grateful that other Pagans believe and practice differently than I do. Because I dare to wager that our differences are what makes Paganism so dynamic. It provides it its longevity.

That is why I oppose the formation of a Pagan orthodoxy and I still believe in the Pagan label; we are a varied bunch and some question who should and should not be able to lay claim to the name. Pagans define what Paganism means. The label consists out of commonalities found within most practitioners. This is unfortunate, as it tries to limit a term that is, by nature, unlimited. Perhaps, internally, we would all be better off without the Pagan label as it holds no meaning to us. We all identify ourselves differently under the Pagan label anyway. But towards the outside, towards the major religions, we need it. Because if we ever want religious rights, if we ever want to be understood instead of feared, if we ever want to leave our fringe position behind, then we need to stand behind our Pagan name. Not because it’s accurate but because it matters to be heard.

So no matter how far removed I might feel from the Pagan label, I will fight for it. And for my believe in the Gods within that label. Because like everyone else, I have the right to believe what I believe. I have the right to tend to my altar in the way I feel I best serve my Gods. When I read mythology, I have the right to take this as a description of history and not as a story someone thought up. And I have the right to believe I walk this earth with my Gods at my side. I may be wrong but really, why is it up to anyone else to decide this for me? It's not. It's really, really not.
When I was an adolescent, I took a conscious vow of temperance. I would no longer judge others, unless asked. I would remove myself from the affairs of others, unless asked. I would offer no opinion, unless asked. And I did. I have lapses, sometimes, but on the whole, I have managed to hold onto this vow. It has enriched my life in ways I would not have been able to predict when I first started out. Perhaps I will touch more upon this when I reach the 'T's.

Today I wanted to address something else; the importance of education in Paganism. There are so many ways to educate oneself and others. By reading, by listening, by watching, by trying out things and seeing what sticks. What's important, to me, is to never stop learning. I needed to write about my vow because what I really wanted to write here was: "What's important is that you never stop learning'. 

I have no say over what you do or don't do. If you want to stick with what you know, do it. If you want to study, do it. It is your life and your practice and I have no say in it what so ever. But I would like to share something I have discovered: that the more you learn, the more you challenge yourself, the easier you accept the 'Ah-ha!' moments that make Paganism so worth following. When we understand the history behind our practice, when we understand why we are taught which colors go with which elements, when we understand our view of Deity, we allow ourselves to open up to our own thoughts and experiences. It gives us the ability to assemble our own practice while letting go of some doctrine we no longer feel connected to.

As I move towards Hellenismos, I once more step into a territory about which my knowledge is limited. It's a little daunting but in a good way. It's a new frontier and I look forward to being educated, by the greats of antiquity, by others who have walked the path longer than I have, by myself and by my Gods. Once more, I get to experience the rush of knowledge. Even now, while my practice is still at its infancy, I have found connections to my life and my previous practice I would never have valued the way I do, now I learn more about my path. 

So I am going to try and work around my vow and offer some advice. If you aren't feeling happy with your practice right now: educate yourself on your path and your needs. If you doubt something you've been taught: research where it comes from and see if you can still stand behind it. Reach out and find teachers. Find friends. Talk to everyone and be open. I'm not telling you to break your Tradition. I'm imploring you to think for yourself. Because Paganism offers a kind of freedom so rare in other religions, and it would be a shame to waste it out of fear, tradition or sloth.