30 Days of Poseidon

XVII.How does this deity relate to other gods and other pantheons?

I’m not 100% sure which way this question is meant. Are we talking, how does Poseidon get on with other gods and other pantheons, or are we talking, what other gods fill similar roles as Poseidon?

In the first instance: it depends on the Power in question. There have been a few cases of seeing Poseidon and Someone Else not get on well, but generally, despite His reputations in the myths, Poseidon is pretty easy going. The cases where I’ve run into Him not getting on with Someone, it is impossible for me to say how much of that is about the Power in question and how much is situational or circumstantial. In my experience, Poseidon and Dionysos have a tense relationship. Dionysos had a (small) role in my getting my relationship with Poseidon back on track, and my interaction with the God was positive – but also extremely unlike anything I expected. Since then, I am only allowed to honor Dionysos extremely formally, at very specific times, and never singularly. For example, He is one of the Powers I honor during the Vigil for the Bulls, along with a host of Others, but I am not allowed approach only Him. The feeling is not quite animosity, and I know of people who interact with Them Both just fine. I can’t hope to know exactly what’s up, and I’m not saying that They are enemies. But, it’s . . . tense and uneasy.

In the second instance, this is something of a sensitive topic for me at the moment (more on that later on). Gods that, in my head at least, belong to the same sort of ‘type’ tribe as Poseidon include: Manannan, Neptune, Ogun, Enki, Aegir, Njord, Varuna, Yam, apparently Vishnu, to an extent Veles. . . meh. I’m not super comfortable with this topic. There are a number of Powers that have spheres of over lapping influence. I’m a hard enough of a polytheist that I don’t think these are different names for the same Power . . . but at the same time, some of them, the individuation gets . . . murky, if you’ll forgive that pun. I also don’t think the Powers are as attached to names as we are, and I think They’ll use whatever works in order to make communication possible, up to and including slipping on a familiar face when we have a hard time connecting. If I say things like, my Poseidon is the same as Neptune, does that mean that the being I connect with is always the very same being as Neptune as He connects with others? No, I’m not. I’m also not saying He’s not, but I am saying that I’m not dictating to Him how He is in the world and what name He must wear. That is, I’m not deciding for Him that He must do names and stories and faces the way we do them.

30 Days of Poseidon

XVI. How does Poseidon represent the values of His pantheon and His culture/s of origin?

Judgy Poseidon is judging you.

Judgy Poseidon is judging you.

Confession: I’m a polytheist, and I’m a devotee of Poseidon, but for all of that, I am not a Hellenic polytheist. I find the history of the various cultures in the Mediterranean fascinating, and I do like to learn about them, because I do like to be able to put Poseidon’s historical cult into context when I can. (That, and I simply find history interesting. People are fascinating). Now, maybe it’s because of my history with Poseidon, and how o/Our relationship formed; maybe it’s because during the formative years I stubbornly ignored all the Hellenic stuff; maybe it’s because I grew up in an alcoholic home and do not have an attachment to place; maybe it’s because I’m essentially a loner, definitely an introvert, and do not see family as the be all end all, or at least, I do not understand attachments for the sake of tradition’s sake if there’s nothing else there to keep it together. Maybe it’s because I’m really not a speciesist, and it shows even in this. I don’t know. Whatever the reason, the end result is: the cultures that worshiped Poseidon in history are not my culture, and I don’t feel particularly connected to them.

I believe the gods are real, distinct Powers who are not trapped in the past. I believe that the gods can feel an affection, even a possessiveness, for particular groups of people and cultures, but I also believe They are sophisticated, complex beings Who understand that cultures change over time. I don’t have a great love for our American consumerism culture, mind you, but I also don’t hold any of the various cultures from the Mediterranean world as being some spiritual-cultural center for me, either. I also do not believe that the Gods ‘belong’ to any one culture. Saying ‘Poseidon is a Greek/Hellenic God’ and understanding as anything more than shorthand for saying that Poseidon was primarily worshiped in particular cultures is, to my way of thinking, wrong. Poseidon is not Greek. Poseidon is a God. He’s a cosmic Power. I do believe the Gods do have what passes for Their own cultures and values, but to take cultural values of a particular time and place those values upon our Gods can be a dangerous thing, and it’s something I strongly hesitate to do.

Does Poseidon represent the values of His particular Family? Eh, maybe? I don’t know that They’re a Family the way we understand family, and I think we run the risk of making Them too human when we think about Them this way. Yes, I talk a lot about Poseidon’s Family — I talk about Apollon being His favorite Nephew, for example — but I do so knowing that my words are falling short. I do so knowing ‘family’ is just another way we tell stories about our lives (what is ‘family’ but a story being told about patterns and connections we’ve agreed exist?). In the story of Poseidon’s Family, Zeus is the patriarch, and all fall in line with Him. It’s a story I can tap into, but my reality with Poseidon tells me that that story is a tad bit off. Does Poseidon share values with those in His Family? I believe that’s part of what draws Them together — but I’m not going to name them. I’m not going to decide what those are, beyond what He tells me they are, and I’m not going to decide for others what those values need to be for them.

I’ll own that this may be due to my coming from a secular society that heavily influenced by monotheism, largely Protestantism, that I do not come from families with strong connections to the Old World. I realize that there are nuances that I’ll never understand personally because Poseidon was no worshiped by any of the cultures that I could claim connection to, I went far enough back, and because even if I could, that is not my experience and it does not inform my interactions with Him. I live where I do as a result from a hostile take-over, and I’m one of those people who can only name my ancestors back three generations at most. My life is not rooted in the past the way some people’s lives are. That colors how I’m able to think of things.

Even with that caveat, I don’t view the Gods as ‘belonging’ to specific cultures. Doing so dances too close to comfort to the idea that ‘only certain people’ can worship particular Gods, and I am not going to tell Poseidon, after all this time, that I cannot be His because my ethnicity is ‘wrong’.

Bottom line here is: I care far more about what Poseidon has to say about cultural values of today, than I care about how He reflected values of ages long ago

30 Days of Poseidon

XV. Mundane practices that I associate with Poseidon

In Drew Campbell’s book Old Stones, New Temples*, the author suggested activities that might help one connect to the gods. With Poseidon, there is not anything that springs to mind that is obvious in the way that “go to the theater” is obvious when wanting to connect with Dionysos in a mundane way, though Campbell does suggest things like going horse back riding or visiting the ocean.

Honestly, the separation of “mystical/spiritual/religious” and “mundane” is a false dichotomy that I don’t encourage. Here is where my daily life is inspired by various monastic types who seek to bring their god into all their mundane tasks and interests. Am I perfect about doing this? Of course not; at what point have I ever said I’m successful in these things I strive to do? Nonetheless, I do the best I can to bring Poseidon into all the things I do. Maybe it’s a tad easy for me, given the interests that I have that could be seen as mundane, though, as you’ll see, it’s more about my mindset and less about the activities being “Oh, obviously Poseidon.”

Knitting is a favored pass-time, and depending on the project, knitting can be extremely meditative – hence, a great time to connect with Poseidon outside of ritual and just experience either being with Him or holding Him in my mind.

Writing, specifically writing fiction, has been my ‘natural’ way of keeping myself open to the worlds around me. There is a definite corrolation between those times when I have a harder time connecting with Him or Odin or the various other spirits I’m involved with and the times I’m not working, in some way, on a story project. I’m not one of those writers who interacts with any particular being or power as a muse; in how I explain how stories come to me, I say that the characters bring them to me. And that’s been somewhat annoying in my trying to figure out how to involve Poseidon in this act. Writing is one of my prime devotional activities – and it counts as a devotional activity for me even when I’m not writing about Poseidon, because it honors this connection with the otherworlds in a way that goes beyond words. But, because I’m pedantic, this bothered me for a long, long while. How can I call it devotional act if it’s not directly about Poseidon?

As I was getting ready for last year’s NaNoWriMo, Poseidon dropped a story idea on me, complete with title. The story was about Him, and I love it (and no, it’s not ready for public consumption yet, though you can read an excerpt here) and someday it will be released. The important thing He taught me during NaNo though was: to bring Him more directly into my writing activities, my writing did not need to be about Him. I had to include Him in the process. Not so that other people could see, but in my own process. He has become the main audience member in my story idea bouncing process. He listens while I talk plot issues out. He’s my sounding board.

These are the two most regular activities that I do that could be considered mundane**, and Poseidon is totally there, but you’ll notice that these are not “things I do that are mundane to fit into a specific Poseidon-theme”; rather, these are activities that matter to me that I bring to Poseidon, that I invite Poseidon to be a part of. This goes back to my giving Him my life. While there are some things that I have cut out of my life as part of being His (primarily, mindless activities. That is, whenever I do something I strive for it to be mindful, even if I’m mindfully doing something escapist) I find that it’s equally important to bring Him into the things that matter to me that maybe don’t seem like ‘Poseidon’ activities. To my way of thinking, part of bringing our gods into our world is bringing Them to the things that matter to us, even the ‘mundane’ things.

*way expensive book that’s out of print. There are other, better books that you can find on Hellenic paganism/polytheism/reconstructionism.

** I’m pretty boring, I suppose. I enjoy knitting and writing and studying and snuggling with my critters. Don’t judge.

30 Days of Poseidon

XIII. What modern cultural issues are closest Poseidon’s heart?

My first impulse is to say: the environment, and while that’s true, I think more, suffering. I struggle with this, because . . . well, it’s all so insurmountable, and I don’t think anything will really change until power is taken out of the hands of those in power and changes are forced . . . and I don’t believe that a revolution lead by people is going to be what changes things. We do not live in any sort of a sustainable way, and the option to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle is a privilege that many people will never have. So-called ‘green’ solutions are adopted by some – using non-toxic cleansers, eating organically, supporting local agriculture, adopting a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle, recycling, etc. So much of this depends on where you live, what your area offers (curb-side recycling is not an option everywhere, and any sort of recycling in such areas presupposes one has a car, which is kind of cutting off the nose to spite the face). Is eating organically better or worse than eating locally? How does eating locally and seasonally work in a place that has a short growing season, and one is digestively impaired? How is using linen napkins and towels in a household with babies or the ill or the infirm, thus requiring frequent washing, using energy and water, better than using disposable cleaning supplies that requires less water usage? Do we spend time making all our own cleaners and tending to the house with no help from time-saving, harsher chemicals when so many of us are slave-wages, working 40 hours or more, with inadequate, or no, vacation or personal time.* Do we give up what little “free” time we have to be slaves to house upkeep? What about those of us who do not have the option or ability to do it this way? This does not even touch the legal issues that many people looking to live more sustainably face – consider the legalities facing the tiny house movement, of the fact that in many places collecting your own rain water is illegal, or that composting toilets are not options for many. This is also doesn’t touch upon the problem that, of the three sacred Rs of the green movement (Reduce, reuse, recycle), recycling is the one that gets the most focus, and that, as regards plastics, recycling does not mean what most people think it means.

And that’s assuming you can even “recycle” anything more than your 1s and 2s in your area.

See? Insurmountable – though, admittedly, I have something of a defeatist mentality.

Oddly (or not?), Poseidon was the first one to make a dent in my prison of pessimism, and it was over our effect on the environment, to boot. He was the first to allow me some distance, to breathe and to look at the problem. It took a long, long time for me to reach where I’m at now. My stance now? Yeah, you know, I don’t think it’s going to make a difference. I don’t think that, if we all start recycling now, we can alter the course we’re on. I don’t think that we care enough about ourselves or the world for a change to happen. I don’t believe our idea of how to live and be in the world is going to change, on a societal scale, until the interconnectedness of the globe is less, until we are forced to live a slower paced life. Recycling isn’t going to do any good. All the green cleanser in the world isn’t going to help. We’re doomed, and I only wish that we weren’t going to be taking others with us, but mass extinctions are a part of being on a planet with carbon based lifeforms.

I’m going to recycle anyway. I’m going to do the things that I can do, as I can do them, because it’s reached a point for me where it’s as much about alleviating the suffering of others if I can, when I can, as it is about saving the planet.

My getting to this point has all been Poseidon’s doing. He started by making the actions and choices of my species impersonal – we do not control our circumstances to that degree, and most of us are simply trying to survive, and most of us do not want to have to also swim upstream in every aspect of our lives.

I have a terminally ill dog who is on diuretics. He pees a lot. We used to have small throws tucked around the house in his preferred accident places; but this meant we were washing blankets every day. How much soap going into the water supply? How much water being used, and energy, drying everything? Every day. Sometimes twice. Our apartment is small; we have no place to store soiled linens until we have a “full load” for the washer.

We use disposable pee pads now. We don’t go through them super-fast, but we do use them, and will continue to do so for the remainder of his life.

Environmental concerns do matter to Poseidon. They matter a lot. But another concern, which I fear is over looked too often is that of suffering.

The Last Day of Pompeii Karl Brullov

The Last Day of Pompeii Karl Brullov

Suffering is at the heart of Poseidon’s . . . er . . . heart. That it happens, that we cause it in others, that we experience it. There’s a certain lack of value-judgment placed when one is considering suffering. Now, to be honest, when its suffering we’re inflicting upon others (and by ‘others’ I mean those we share the world with as much, or more, than I mean other humans) I’m pretty sure that the lack of value-judgment is deliberate. I’ve glimpsed His anger and grief over the state of the waters on the planet, the tiniest, smallest glimpse, and for us to face that is to be rendered impotent – and that could be good, if everyone saw this, but we know they don’t. Our Gods, They are smart. They know what They’re doing. Rendering us immobile does nothing to get us to make changes. So much of the stillness I experience with Him is Him being still so as to not cause undue damage.

But I’ve also been with Him during the aftermath of devastating earthquakes. I’ve felt His anguish at the suffering of untold thousands after the earth betrayed them and danced like liquid across the landscape. My god feels, and He feels deeply, and He cares about suffering. He cares about those in pain. He reaches out His hands and He wants so much to comfort to soothe, to reassure, to ease that pain. Species does not matter. Heck, kingdom (in the scientific sense of the word) does not matter to Him. When we think of sending aid, we concern ourselves with our own kind, or our pets or our livestock; we think not at all of the other animals hurt or killed during such disasters. It’s natural, it’s to be expected, but He’s not human, this god, and He cares, deeply, for those living, those dying, those whose lives are changed by disaster. The natural disasters connected to Him – earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis – these things cut at Him, and His empathy is a thing to witness, and I wish more people saw that.

*to illustrate my point: I don’t consider myself part of the working poor. I make more than minimum wage at my 40 hours a week job, but I certainly could not afford to live on my own. If anything happens to Beth so that she cannot work, things will become extremely bleak. I have paid sick time (two days, after being with my company for a decade) and vacation (two weeks.) I’m on vacation this week. This is the first time since spring of 2012 that I’ve used my vacation time for vacation. The remainder of my vacation was used up in 2012 to attend funerals for my grandparents; 2013 went to my back injury and household illness; 2014 went to my surprise dental surgery. While I’m grateful that I was able to get paid for the time I missed at work, better ‘personal time’ coverage would have enabled me to have some time off, to rest and enjoy life. And, so that we’re clear, I recognize that I am lucky to have had the paid time off at all; I know that is not the case that many people face.

30 Days of Poseidon — sacred places

XII Places associated with Poseidon and His worship.

Once again: if you’re interested in reading about historical places that were associated with Poseidon and His worship, check out theoi.com. Read Pausanias. Check out the sources. The one thing I’ve found, over and over again, as I’ve studied Poseidon’s cult in history?

I am damned envious of His ancient worshipers that were able to worship Him in His own temples. Can you imagine? I mean, can you imagine? Statues painted brilliantly. Offerings, libations, sacrifices made, hundreds of people gathered together to pay Him honor? Can you just imagine?

Alas, I can, and there are a few pieces of knowledge I can’t shake free of, not even to suspend disbelief long enough to let a fantasy play out in my head. I’m female, which means that any role I’d have in this public worship would be slim to none – there’d be a good chance, even, that such a thing would be barred to me. Yes, women and girls belonging (literally) to a particular class (or, you know, caste) had places within the civic religion, and yes, there were priestesses. But there would not be the freedom of worship that I enjoy now, and all the temples in the world cannot replace the intimate relationship that I share with this god. We fantasize about what the world would be like, if the Christians hadn’t stolen or destroyed our temples. We fantasize what it would be like if monotheism hadn’t oppressed polytheism for so long. What ought not be overlooked, and I fear often is, is the liberating force that Christianity was for a number of the classes of people who were counted as sub-human in the Greek world. It wasn’t overnight, of course, but Christianity did not draw people to it in the beginning because it failed to address the problems people wanted help with. We fantasize, and in doing so, I think we romanticize a bit more than we ought to. Bottom line for me is: I’d rather worship here and now than travel back to ancient Hellas, even if this means I’m worshiping in my living room and not in a temple proper.

river oct 27 13What are places sacred to Poseidon, as far as I understand it? Any place with water. Those spots where the water and earth meet are especially powerful, and certainly sing to me of His presence. The ocean, of course, but equally so the rivers, the ponds, the lakes. It isn’t all about the sea, but water cannot be escaped. More so than any other sort of place, it is by the waters where I find my Beloved out of doors.

100_1790I want to have a longer list. I want to have specific places; alas, in my relationship with Him, Poseidon has been as much about specific places as He has been about material things — attachments made to something that isn’t Him, in the worshiping of Him, is not encouraged. Places and things being used to add depth and texture to His worship is allowed, but only provided that they not reach a status of import that detracts from His worship, His Mysteries, His presence. Your miles may vary here; my Poseidon is less “all the things” treasure keeper of the deep and more “it’s all just stuff, don’t get distracted by it.”

30 29 Days Posts of Poseidon

XI. Festivals, days, and times sacred to Poseidon.

I’m not diving into research for this. This topic not a sore spot any longer, but for a number of years it was. We know that ‘Poseidea’ was celebrated in a number of places, most roughly around the time of the winter solstice (for those of you with access to Jstor, there’s even an article about this, or you can purchase it here). Anyone who has thumbed through H.W. Parke’s Festivals of the Athenians will have noticed that a lot of the festivals survived in name only, and at least with regards to Poseidea at Athens, this is true. We know the festival happened, because the month name has survived, but we don’t know exactly what the festival entailed. (This isn’t true for all of them; we do know that chariot races and mock sacrifices were held during Poseidea in Mantinea — which, I don’t know about you, but, not really something I’m looking to reviving). Poseidon was also honored during other festivals, such as Athen’s Skirophoria, but with a lot of these it’s more the case of wanting to cover the bases rather than the festival being about Him.

Phyrne at the Festival of Poseidon by henryk siemiradzki

Phyrne at the Festival of Poseidon by henryk siemiradzki

There’s also the tradition, again in the Athenian calendar, of honoring Poseidon on the 8th of the month. I’ve been known to grumble about Others having specific days, and Poseidon having to share His with Theseus. What the heck? Why can’t He have His OWN day?

I have, at various times in my life, adopted this practice and set it down. I’ve adopted the Athenian calendar (modified to my location rather than based upon the moon phases of Athens, because I do not live in Athens) at times, and set it down at times. The sole reason why I’m drawn to staying aware of it at all is because of the months that bear His name — months, because their leap year month bore His name as well.

So, that’s history. What about today?

Once again, I can only speak to my experience, my calendar, etc. I’ve written about this is more detail before, but to recap: I was not the least bit happy with this dearth of Poseidon festivals to celebrate. I wanted plenty of opportunity to praise Him throughout the year. I wanted my festival year, my Wheel of the Year, to reflect my devotion to Him. I didn’t want to “fit Him in” to extant holidays. I tried, and sometimes the fit was a good fit (He’s always been interested in being a part of our Yule celebration, and it took me an embarrassingly long time to stop fighting this) but sometimes it was unsatisfying.

Festivals, Rituals, and Days of Obligation I observe in honor of Poseidon:

Early January is when, if the vegetation dies back at all (generally it does not) things start growing again. I use the first bit of new growth to gauge when I’ll honor Poseidon Phytalmeos. While the myth recounting this story of His focuses on the freeing of food crops from brine (He was angry), I use this as a way to tap into Poseidon’s more greenman influences and remind myself that walking with Him means not being so human-centered. In my experience, He is a student of Ge’s mysteries, and as such, the regeneration of the plant world matters to Him, and thus to me, and this is what I’m marking. (If I start vegetable gardening again, I may move this, but currently that’s not in the cards, so here it stays).

Our Anniversary falls in February — February 9th or 8 Anthesterion, depending on that calendar I’m marking it by, and yes, I decide based on whichever one happens to work with what we may have going on that particular year.  For this, there is generally wine, offerings of sweets, sometimes a whole meal cooked with portions offered to Him and the rest shared with the household. Meditation and making sure to spend time with Him, with the focus being on our relationship, is the mos important aspect of this day.

IMG_20140818_105906My festival honoring Poseidon Hippios is held in April. I aim for the 8th of the month, in a nod toward tradition, but this isn’t a hard and fast rule. I honor Poseidon, Pegasos, and Sleipnir during this festival, with offerings of oats, apples, carrots, and sugar cubes. Because healing is such a big part of my path with Poseidon, there is some time set aside to offer Reiki to the various equines in the world, wild, feral, and tame. When finances allow, donations to equine-focused charities are given.

We hold a small ritual in June, honoring Frigga and Poseidon, centered around sheep and other fiber-bearing animals, which is part of our outing to our local wool and fiber festival. May seem like an odd combination, but the story of Poseidon being hidden within a flock of lambs has really stayed with me, and who doesn’t like sheep?

Vigil for the Bulls just wrapped up yesterday, running July 6th-14th.  This is less festival and more holy days of obligation. The amount of ritual that is involved with this varies from year to year. For example, this year was more energy work and less ritual trappings.  There have been years when it’s been accompanied with formal ritual. I let Him guide it, pretty much. Bare minimum, there is incense, prayers, and libations.

a meal shared

a meal shared

Poseidon of the Ponds falls in August, at the height of our dry season. This involves a trip out to one of our watery places, and consists of offerings of fresh water to the land spirits and Poseidon. (This is a bit reminiscent of Neptunalia, it would seem, though I only learned about that a few years ago.)

Poseidon Salisbureos is my horrible attempt to Hellenize the name of the place I met Poseidon (Salisbury Beach in Mass.) mostly because Poseidon of Salisbury does not so much as roll as stumble off the tongue. It’s also the anniversary of our original meeting, during the full moon in August. This is the newest addition to my calendar; I only started marking it last year, and I’m thinking Selene’s going to piggy-back on this one, too. Heck, it may be that this becomes a Poseidon, Hekate, Ge, and Selene festival.

I honor Poseidon, Maker of the Rains, during the first rains that end our dry season. As such, this is an impromptu, and spontaneous festival, and thus generally pretty basic. Libations, and a whole lot of dancing around in the rain.

Poseidea which in our house is one part of our Yuletide festivals.

These are by far not the only festivals we mark, and starting in September, running through to Yuletide, we are awash in days that center around Hunt Season, of which Poseidon is a part. Poseidon is always honored during our celebration for Ewemeolc on February 2nd.

The moon phases are also a big part of my calendar, though these are more “Work” days, when Reiki is offered with/through Him, rather than festivals held in His honor.

30 Days of Poseidon

X. Offerings

Nike pours an offering to Poseidon_jpgFor all that Poseidon is only recently gaining in popularity within the modern pagan community, He was a Big Deal in the past. Anyone to whom ruined temples survive was a big deal, frankly, and we have a few of His. The offerings given varied from place to place, but in the Hellenic scheme of things, if there was an altar involved, there was animal sacrifice. The gods were also given votive offerings, non-blood offerings, libations. If you want to read about the historical offerings and sacrifices given to Poseidon, seriously go check out theoi.com.

I’d rather talk about modern offerings. More to the point, I’d rather talk about the offerings I give my god. The offerings I give to Him are not better or worse than the offerings other modern day pagans or polytheists might give to Him, and those He asks of me He may not ask of others — I’m not trying to play any sort of one-upmanship game here. I simply can only speak to my experience, and I hope in sharing this, other people will be encouraged to make the giving of offerings be a personal experience for them. Or, I hope it encourages people to allow the experience to be what it is to be, without looking toward outside expectations.

The offerings I give Him easily fall into two distinct categories. There are the offerings I give because they are something I think He’ll like, or because they made me think of Him. These are things that, bottom line, I have selected to give to Him. The vast, vast majority of offerings that are rooted in the physical are these sorts of offerings. In no particular order:

Tea. When I’m having tea in the morning, which is most of the year, Poseidon receives a portion. (Eight teaspoons worth, to be exact). The rules for this are, it has to be out of my mug, not poured separately, and it has to be already made up as I’m going to drink it, not before I put the milk in, so as to make the clean up that much easier. He seems rather indifferent about the milk, but I will say that, unlike Odin, Poseidon has a sweet tooth, and sometimes He thinks maybe I should put more sugar in than I do.

Incense. I’m highly sensitive to scent, so the type of incense is generally pretty simple. Nag Champa is our current favorite, but I do love myrrh when we have it. (Beth’s incense sticks are especially nice.) I burn candles, too, but incense is my go-to in the morning, and lighting it and saying my morning prayers (which often sound a bit like mnnnnnnng; articulation first thing is not one of my superpowers) is my “opening up the shrine” routine, even without the tea offering.

Flowers. Not as often as it used to happen, because I have some issues with killing plants just to place them upon the shrine. Once upon a time I had a rose of jerricho, and I’d like to keep a live plant indoors for Him again. Still, sometimes it’s hard to resist the arrangements our local florists have out, and He’ll wind up with flowers upon the shrine. I’ve learned the hard way that, though He is partial to pink on clothing on women, He does not care for pink flowers upon His shrine. Three times I gave Him some with pink, and each time the pink was dead and dried before the rest of the bouquet. Lesson learned, Sir.

Poseidon Hippios shrine

Poseidon Hippios shrine

Food. In this He really doesn’t seem to have any dislikes or taboos, though He does encourage less meat and more veg. Fruit is a big deal. Cheese, too. Figs. Olives. He has an appreciation for Mediterranean fare, for certain. Seafood is a funny thing — I don’t give Him offerings of sea food. For a long while, I did not eat sea food, but for a variety of reasons, some has been reintroduced into my diet. Even still, it’s never been an offering source I’ve been comfortable giving Him. I am too aware of, and too aware of His being aware of, the depletion of the ocean life do to our over-fishing and pollution.

These are all very nice. They’re important. I enjoy being able to give Him things, and I enjoy that He enjoys receiving these things. There is a real, tangible benefit to sharing bits of mortal life with Him. It binds u/Us more closely together. It’s important. But these are not, as it where, the important offerings I give Him. Except for the sharing of the morning tea — which is a physical act signifying the sharing of my day with my Beloved — these are none of them the heart of the offering act. The heart of the offering resides in the offerings He demands from me. One might argue that, if they are demanded of me they are not properly offerings. I don’t agree. In the end, these things are given to Him, and willingly. Just, not always happily or comfortably or graciously.

An Open Heart. That is, He demands that I feel. That I feel and experience the full range of human emotion, without censure, and that I not hid it from Him. More, He demands that I share this with the world. Emotions are tricky. They’re no stable, they’re mercurial, and as such they are maybe not the best thing to build upon, so there’s a certain amount of detachment that He’s helped me develop when it comes to them. Even still, they are not meant to be denied or hidden or repressed.

102_0133Being Seen. This is a huge one, and He’s demanded this from the first day He moved in. I am not allowed to hide who I am. I’m not allowed to pretend to be other than I am. He has pressed this by making me go to places I otherwise might not, to interact with people rather than falling into the background. Because of this I’ve gone to meditation retreats, I’ve played leading roles in public rituals, I’ve adopted a veiling practice, I’ve done yoga in public. Because of this I have a blog, and because of this I’m not trying to keep Pagan Jo and Author Jo separate. I’m a devotee of Poseidon’s in this day and age, and I’m not allowed to really have compartments in my life. At least, I’m allowed minimal compartments, at best.

In essence, my life. In my example, this bit is pretty formalized. I gave Poseidon marriage vows. I have a family, but my family is built around this vow, and my partner likewise gave marriage vows to her Husband. I haven’t changed completely — and this took a while for me to realize, that I did not have o completely change once I gave Him those vows, that He was interested in me and my interests mattered to Him. My writing, my storytelling, my passion for storytelling, did not have to be set aside so that I could become a scholarly expert on Poseidon’s ancient cultus. He wanted, He wants, to be a part of my life. He wants to share the entire thing with me. He wants me to put my strengths into my devotion, and into my being seen and into my having an open heart. Edited to add: I don’t believe that one must do this the way I have, or even close, in order to have a God or Power be in the center of how you live your life. I don’t believe that you have to forgo a “normal” life in order for the gods to be a priority in your life. Not all devotion or dedication looks the same and people do not need to be able to look at your life and see your devotion to Whomever clear as day in order for your dedication to be real, authentic, or valid. Not all paths look the same or even similar. One of my things is being seen. If Poseidon or Whomever does not demand that of you, that’s just as authentic and valid as what I’m doing.

Awareness. Compassion. Healing. In whatever forms those take, those are the offerings He demands of me. These are the things that matter, more than the fruit and flowers, more than the incense. More than the things. He wants the heart. Things are nice, and the sharing of these things are wonderful. The exchange, the mystery of Gebo is important, and we’re physical, right? So physical things matter to us — and they should. But those come after. If I’m not giving Him these three things He demands of me, all the incense in the world is not going to trick Him into thinking I am.

30 Days of Poseidon — two piggy-backed in one!

This is going to be a possibly disappointing post, because

VIII. Variations on Poseidon (aspects, regional forms, etc.)

This is one of those things that you can find if you visit places like theoi.com. I may sound like a broken record by now, but we are fortunate to have source material that others don’t have, and so much of it is online and free and there’s no excuse not to use these resources!! I love reading about this stuff; I’m not so much interested in just regurgitating what you can find elsewhere. Check out this page and this page referencing Poseidon’s historical cults.

IX. Common mistakes about this deity

This is less about common mistakes and more about my own pet peeve, and it goes beyond just Poseidon. I realize the need for shorthand, but I cannot stand the X the god of Y. I know why it’s done, but oh, it gets under my skin. Yahweh is not spoken of as the god of y. He’s just god. Aphrodite the goddess of love. Poseidon, god of the sea. It lends to a narrow superificial understanding of our gods. Poseidon is known as a god of the sea, a god of earthquakes, and of horses — and these are important parts of Him, but it’s not all, and it does a disservice to our gods to think in those terms.

This is short. Words are difficult today, and I’m just not in a place to be annoyed, so, I’m moving on now. 🙂

30 Days of Poseidon

VII Epithets!

Epithets are interesting things. As someone who likes to learn words, I’ve enjoyed coming to know Poseidon’s historical epithets — the names He was called in various places at various points of His worship. Of them, Earth-Shaker (I keep typing that as Earth-Sharker, and it cracks me up every time) is, I believe, the oldest one we know of. In the Illiad, for example, Poseidon is referred to as Earth-Shaker (or rather, ἐννοσίγαιος — ennosigaios — shaker of the earth) just about as frequently as He is referred to as Poseidon. There are other historical epithets, as well; a quick glance at the indices in Pausanias’s Guides to Greece make it clear that Poseidon enjoyed a more varied cult than we are lead to believe by our relegating Him as nothing more than a sea god.

I love learning words, and it’s been my experience that studying His ancient epithets have deepened and broadened my understanding of this god. In this area it was made clear to me that going to primary sources — and even delving into other languages — can be invaluable. To illustrate: in Greek Religion, the late Walter Burkert wrote: When an earthquake strikes, everyone starts to sing Poseidon’s paean, and to invoke [H]im with vows as the god of steadfastness, Asphaleios.”*

This is a misleading reference, because as I’ve written before, when I tracked it down, the context had little to do with earthquakes and everything to do with success in the marketplace:

The original reads:τούτων δὲ οὐ πόρρω Γῆς ἱερὸν καὶ Διός ἐστιν Ἀγοραίου, τὸ δὲἈθηνᾶς Ἀγοραίας καὶ Ποσειδῶνος ὃν ἐπονομάζουσιν Ἀσφάλιον, καὶ Ἀπόλλωνος αὖθις καὶ Ἥρας,

The translation provided to us by the Perseus Project reads: “Not far from them is a sanctuary of Earth and of Zeus of the Market-place, another of Athena of the Market-place and of Poseidon surnamed Securer, and likewise one of Apollo and of Hera.”

The translation I have renders the secion thusly: “Not far from here is a sanctuary of the Earth and of Market Zeus, and one of Market Athena and the Poseidon called Safe Poseidon, and one of Apollo and Hera.”**

I bring this up as a way of saying: doing your own research can be a great thing, providing you like that sort of thing. I do, but I realize not everyone does, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Learning about how our gods were approached in the past can teach us a lot.

Know what else can teach us a lot?

Learning about how our gods are being approached now.

I don’t often use epithets in my prayers and rituals, even when there are other people present. I tend toward calling Him Poseidon. Even during the Vigil prayers, I rarely address him as Poseidon Taureos. I do use epithets when writing, from time to time, and I do utilize them as a way of broadening my understanding of Him. But I find that modern epithets (Like Poseidon Labrandeus, or Poseidon Hudsonios, for example) are just as informative, and may certainly be more relevant, as those ancient epithets may be.

Neither do I think we have to “Hellenize” them (for want of a better term) though I do appreciate the poetry to be found therein. Poseidon Hudsonios sounds a bit more poetic to me than Poseidon of the Hudson does, as an example. You’ll see in my own posts that I rarely go through the work to make sure my suffixes are correct. I honor Poseidon of the Ponds, and Poseidon of the Swaddling just as readily as I honor Poseidon Hippios and Poseidon Phytalmios.

So, yeah. If it’s applicable to you, hit up the Perseus Project and Theoi.com, sure. Learn about the other names applied to your deity, and learn about the contexts surrounding said names. More knowledge is better than less. Please don’t allow the study of history to trap you in the past, and please don’t think that just because something is old it has more inherent value. Our gods are not relics, and it should not all be about studying the past.

* Burkert, Walter; Greek Religion pg 138
** A is for [Poseidon] Asphaleios, written by moi

30 Days (tentatively consecutively) of Poseidon

VI Other Deities or Entities Related to Poseidon

For this entry I’m going to have to further come clean about some things, some things that I’m not sure I’ve blogged about publicly, and some things that may not seem like a big deal at all, but definitely feel . . . argh. The older I get, and the more compassion as a way of interacting with the world and, more to the point, with humanity, becomes instilled within me, I have a difficult time saying things like: I hate humans. I don’t, actually, and that’s a feat to place squarely upon Poseidon’s shoulders, because oh boy, did I have a hate on for humanity. Not people, not specific people, but our species, collectively. One thing that made Poseidon Someone I could relate to is His lack of preferential regard to humanity. He is this maddening blend of cold indifference and aloof distance, and curiosity and delight, and outright pessimism. Mortality, physicality – these things fascinate Him, in all the forms they take, and that’s part of where the seeming aloofness comes into play. I may get into that during another topic. I bring it up now only to show maybe how my understanding has come about for these other relationships Poseidon has, and to show a bit how and why I also don’t hold humanity as some pinnacle to be achieved and to be lauded.

There’s this layering to Poseidon. We know that attributing the sea to Poseidon came rather late in history, that before that and far from the sea He has other realms of influence, right? You see some of that survive in the tales about Neptune, for example, where the fresh water aspects are played up a bit more, and where the cornucopia is one of His symbols. I won’t deny – I can’t deny – that Poseidon embraced this role as a sea god. I met Him at the water’s edge. Every time I go to the ocean it’s all Him, all the time. I know there are other spirits there, and I honor them as well, but they are trickle compared to His enormity. His role as a King of the Sea is built into the foundation of o/Our relationship, even as He sent me upon the task to find Him everywhere. I don’t yet get to even live by the sea; I rarely manage to make it to the coast. It’s okay. It’s even necessary. But I can’t deny that connection He has. So when I speak of these other connections, I’m not trying to dismiss this one connection, and when I speak of the association to the sea coming late, I’m not trying to diminish or discount it.

Aside from the Family that Poseidon brought in with Him eventually, aside from Those that might show up on classical family trees, Poseidon also brought with Him a connection to the water spirits. It’s this second tribe of which He is very much a part. It almost seems like a secret society at times. They are spirits of all sorts of water, and throughout the world water spirits have a reputation for being . . . cold, at best. Think of kelpies, of sirens, of selkies – and those aren’t the worst examples. We tend to see them as amoral or even evil, though I believe that “evil” is a moral designation that we only be applying to our own species at best (and I think we misuse it far too often, or that we allow the designation excuse us from addressing actual issues; that is I think the evil we visit upon one another is a sympton rather than a disease.) There’s a range to the ability to interact in a way that is meaningful to humanity, among the water spirits; some will never do anything more than see us as prey. That’s as should be, and I don’t deem them “evil.”

Still, I can’t deny there is a kinship between these beings and Poseidon, and I feel this connection in the moments when my God is the most removed from humanity that I experience Him. This is the Earth-Shaker that I know, who is as much about the liquid fire below the earth’s crust, who is an initiate into Ge’s deepest mysteries, mysteries we will never, ever be privy to, mysteries that began long before carbon based life was born and will continue to exist after our species is extinct. I glimpse Him even as He grieves for the agony suffered by those torn apart as the ground moves as liquid, utterly alien, so alien as to render the word meaningless.

And that’s another connection, too – because at a certain point, the depths of the sea, the depths of the earth, what difference is there? There’s a common language between these “classes” of Beings, and Poseidon is, if you’ll forgive the pun, fluent in this language.

I don’t speak about it much, but there is kinship between Him and the various Other Powers of these realms. I see them as cousins to one another, and He’s close to some, less close to others. It’s hard to talk about, it’s hard to name, and it’s really not my place to do so. This is one of those things that I think you either come to know or you don’t, and either way is just fine.

I feel the need to talk about other things, too – like how I’ve suspected for a long while that there are other beings, other mortal beings, that He has relationships with. I know that His interest in mortality is not relegated to the human realm alone. In the story I tell myself about how things are, He has other devotees in various physical, non-human, mortal form. Can I prove it? Nope. Do I want to? Nope. Those aren’t my stories to tell. Which makes makes talking about them difficult, but I mention them only to bring up the possibility that they might be true. What does that mean for us, in how we treat the world, if our gods are also reaching out to other mortal creatures? What could that mean, and shouldn’t we consider its possibility?