That’s a mouthful of a title, but I really don’t know what else to call this. I’ve been observing the Vigil for the Bulls for five years now. The idea is pretty basic: I honor Poseidon Taureos by holding awareness of Paplona’s Running of the Bulls festival in the forefront of my mind as much as possible. This is one of a very few holy days that is ruled by the clock. My vigil is marked by the running, which falls around midnight my time, and the beginning of the bullfights, which happens later on in the day and invariably conclude with the slaughtering of an animal for sport and profit. You can read more about it here.
The vigil has morphed over time. It’s less specifically about this one particular occurrence of bull running and bull fighting (they are both common enough in parts of the world, and they fall across the calender), and more specifically about letting Poseidon share with me as much of His Grief, frustration, even anger at situations that He cannot change as possible. The anger generally comes later; during the height of this vigil He is very present with the suffering of others. He bears witness, He shelters and eases pain as He can. It’s exhausting, and it’s somber, and it’s heartbreaking, and I generally come out of the vigil incredibly heart-sore. I come out hyper-aware of my Beloved’s love for the mortal realm, and His incredulousness at humanity’s heartlessness. But, He’s a sophisticated God, is Poseidon, and compassion is paramount. I come out of the vigil heart-sore. He comes out of it radiating a detached stillness and a dedication to compassion, even extended toward humanity. There is anger, but He is always so very careful to be still with that anger. I come out of the vigil feeling polluted by my species. I feel unworthy to be in Poseidon’s presence. This is, interestingly enough, the only time on a regular basis when the concept of miasma touches my practice. I have purification rituals built into my day, but they are all about clearing out the improper mindset and mundane contaminates – the secular mindset is all around us, is insiduous, and centering oneself regularly is important – and not so much about actual contamination that makes me unfit to stand before my Gods. That isn’t the relationship I have with Him; He has never allowed for those sorts of boundaries. The bits of life that make us mortal and messy, He very much wants to be a part of. He is not cerebral, this God. He is passion and emotion as much as He is detached compassion. So, when I come out of the vigil and I feel sullied and unworthy, filthy and repulsive, He gets right in my face, presses a hand to my back, and makes sure that I can not so much as wiggle away.
My aim for the vigil, other than to be with Him and hold my awareness as much as I can upon the Vigil itself, other than bearing witness and sending what help I can, is to share the pain. I want to take on the exhaustion and the emotional and physical suffering. I think of holy days like the Jewish Tisha B’av, and the Christian Good Friday, and I think of the lamentations of Isis (Aset) for Osiris (Asar) when I think of the Vigil – days set aside for a specific sort of mourning, but which can also be cathartic in unexpected ways.
One benefit of having a living relationship with ones Powers is that They are able to provide immediate feed-back and insight. I started holding this Vigil to honor Poseidon, but it became clear quickly that I’m holding this Vigil with Him, and not so much for Him. As time goes on, I’m finding that Poseidon and I are often worshiping together, that He teaches me by the doing rather than by instruction, that He is my priest as much as my God. Am I setting myself up as His equal? If you think that, you haven’t been paying attention to what I write at all. But I won’t pretend that our r/Relationship is other than it is, and often we are by our shrine, held in awe by Mysteries that He is devoted to. The distinction between worshiping Him and worshiping what He venerates exists only on the page; in practice it’s all part and parcel of worshiping Him.
The offshoot of holding this Vigil with Poseidon rather than for Poseidon is that He directs where it goes. The painful, exhausting, and arduous theme for each Vigil is decided by Him; He picks what it is that I will face and be forced to come to terms with. In the past it’s been physical pain, bereavement, illness, surgery. This year?
Way back in October, Poseidon introduced the idea that Vishnu might be part of His past, or His family tree, or however you want to articulate how the Gods are with Each Other. There are the cultural families, but then there are the families of types – the way that I experience all the water-connected deities being connected to each other. It goes beyond having a job in common; maybe it’s a bit like being fellow initiates to a particular group of Mysteries. What I know is that, in October, Mr. “I Am Poseidon,” suggested oh so gently, “I am Poseidon, yes, but consider that I am also Vishnu.”
Specifically He drew me to two avatars: Matsya and Narasimha. Because I’m a story teller with a story teller brain and because I like to make things connect, I now have this story of Poseidon being the depressed, angry, sick of the family avatar of Vishnu who went vacationing on the Mediterranean and never went back. Do I think that’s how it was or is? I don’t think time or existence works for the Gods the same way it does for us, and mostly I don’t try to make it. I think Poseidon is as much an avatar of Vishnu as I think He and Zeus are brothers – that is, I think that we’re applying words and connections that help us understand Them that maybe have no real place in Their inter-relationships. I believe that ‘brother’ is shorthand, and is a distinctly human concept.
I digress. October He brought this up and said, sit with this. Don’t do anything more than sit with this. I flailed and I cried and I was scared. I discovered that being Poseidon’s is as much a part of my self-identity as being a writer is, and I did not want Him to take this away. “You can’t be Vishnu – I don’t want to be devoted to Vishnu. I want You.” The Poseidon I know and love may not fit other people’s understandings or experiences with Poseidon, but He’s been with me for half my life at this point, and the idea that He might take away His name was terrifying.
But, no, He meant sit with it and do nothing else. Me being me, I studied, but even that was tentative because, well, scared.
I had signs, before the Vigil started, that this would be a theme for the Vigil. Hell, I had His input. “You’ve sat with this enough; I want you to start moving this awareness into your devotion.” The first week of July found me clobbered with signs. I live in a fairly hippy/yippy-ish city, so seeing people walking around wearing Oms and such is not totally uncommon . . . but I was clobbered. One day it was no less than five signs, either of jewellery or clothing or some overheard reference to Hindu Powers. Oms, hamsas, people sporting henna tats on their hands, shirts with Ganesha, with Shiva, with stylized representations . . . It trickled as the start of the Vigil approached, but it didn’t exactly stop.
I took vacation time for some of the Vigil, and one day I decided to duck into a thrift store while couriering for Beth. I’ve often lamented that I never find cool religious stuff at the thrift store . . . and I came across this lovely mask of Durga. Of course I bought it. Of course I brought Her home.
And then came His command. He wanted an icon of Vishnu upon the shrine. In fact, He wanted this so much that He’s relaxed His mass produced icon taboo. I shopped around, but I haven’t made any purchases yet, and for a while this fed into my sense of being overwhelmed. Part of dismantling that overwhelmed feeling is realizing that, though He wants this to happen, and to happen in a particular way, the time-table is open. Finances have been so that accumulating two new icons (because Lakshmi is going to be part of this, too) is outside the realm of possibility right now. In a few months, as we dig out from under the vet bills from Corbie’s illness, yes. Right now? No.
I want the icons, though. Finding the Durga mask, and then having some minor interactions with Her – I feel embraced and welcomed. I’m half in love with Lakshmi. Vishnu feels distant and immediate at the same time, and I think of the times I get glimpses of Big Poseidon – who loves me, but who holds so many in His awareness that I am one drop in the ocean. Beloved, still His, always His, but also one of many. I don’t feel neglected or unwanted in those moments, but I do feel . . . tiny. Big Poseidon and Big Vishnu feel . . . akin, and it doesn’t hurt my head nearly as much as it used to.
Poseidon says that fitting Them into my devotions right away does not mean having to have icons or even photos yet. That holding Them, especially Vishnu, in my mind, is enough. That moving beyond just being aware of Him and bringing Him into my Poseidon devotion is enough. He is not, nor has He ever been, a Thing God, with me. The accumulation of stuff is not important. Things will get added, but my pace is okay, so long as I’m moving forward. And I am. I am.