My god is an awesome god (The Pagan Experience, week 3)

Somewhat recently I was listening to an interview with a Catholic nun during which she spoke of Psalms. More to the point, she spoke of the belief that, when a Christian calls out to their god, when they reach out in need, in pain, in suffering, their god hears them and reaches back. The sister was recounting a particularly dark period in her life, sharing with the listeners a moment of perceiving the state of her soul, becoming aware of her suffering, and being lifted up and out of herself, and being made aware of a sentient being who saw her, heard her, and was with her. The story was a touching story, and it was one I could relate to.

I was younger when I met Poseidon than she was when she met her god, by about a decade, but there were similarities. The most important similarity, to my mind, was being at the bottom. I find it difficult now, nearly two decades later, surrounded by my family whom I love dearly, living a life that I find fulfilling, to recall just how it felt to be at the bottom. Backed into a corner, with nowhere else to go, with no hope in sight, and just being . . . done. So very done. I know that I was there. I know I felt shattered. I know that, with the way that I am, with how stubborn and how grounded and how hard it is for me to release control, that what happened could not have happened if I hadn’t been at the very end of my rope. I was suffering. I was in pain. I needed saving. She spoke of her heart crying out for help, even though she was not aware that it was doing so, and I thought, Yes, yes! Yes, me too! She spoke of the generosity of her god, the goodness, the compassion, the great love, and I thought, yes, yes! I know this!

neptune and amph

And I do. It’s just that, when I speak of the god who saved my spirit, the god who saw me shattered before Him, who scooped me up, brought me close, and has never once let me go since, I’m speaking of Poseidon.

I know how it sounds, or how it could sound. I know the words I use: humility, compassion, love, grace, empathy. I know that with my veiling, and with my mode of dress, my inclination to be at home with my family and my preference to not mingle socially or casually with people, how it could look. With compassion being my biggest signpost along the way, I’ve had people point blank ask me why I’m not Christian.

My path is created (or co-created?) with my gods. I look toward the Hellenic stuff because of Poseidon (and never mind all this “Hey, about Vishnu . . . ” because oh gods all the things to read, why, I thought You loved me, waaaah). I look toward the Heathen stuff because of Pops. (Er. Odin, to those of you new to the blog). But, I’m Poseidon’s, heart and soul, because when I was in that space, when I was a wretched soul in need of saving, when my heart was in its death throes and in need of shelter, it was His hand that reached out and covered me. It was His touch that brought me into His heart. When I was in need and not really looking for anything other than an end, He brought me home.

I am His. I love my Father. I love my Family, and I’m grateful every day for all of t/Them* . . . but I am Poseidon’s. I don’t care that my path looks to some like maybe this crazy lady shouldn’t really be calling herself this thing or that other thing. I don’t care that people consider compassion and healing to be way outside Poseidon’s realm. His realm is whatever He decides it will be . . . and I will be there, because there is no where I’m going without Him.

*In our household, family is a pretty open-ended term. Or, rather, it’s rather narrow in its definition but wide in its inclusion. We are not a speciesest house, nor do we require our family members to be incarnate. Our immediate family is made up of two humans, an assortment of feline and canine spirits in various stages of incarnation, Poseidon and Odin. Their family is also our family, and our extended family thus becomes even more . . . varied.

 

 

Racism in Religion — a link and a rant

“Racism actively harms Heathenry because it is damned hard to shake the public perception that anyone who worship the Norse, Germanic, Ænglisc, and other continental and non-continental European Gods are racists. The tattoo I bear on my chest for Odin, a valknut on my left breast, is seen by many as a symbol of hate. The valknut I wear around my neck is seen by many as a symbol of hate. Even my son’s Mjolnir necklace is seen by some a symbol of hate. The symbolic representations of my God, and the Runes He sacrificed Himself to Himself for, namely the Runes Tiewaz, Sowilo, Algiz, and Othala are seen as symbols of hate. The Rune Othala is actively banned from display in Germany due to its use by the Nazis. The Rune Sowilo similarly is problematic as the SS officers used it in their insignia. Were a Heathen to seek to use the flyfot or swastika on a banner, as a tattoo, or in art otherwise, those who use it would be seen to espouse racism, genocide, and anti-Semitism.” Sarenth Odinsson on Why Racism Harms Heathenry

I really, really suggest you click the link and go read the whole article. Consider this my standing ovation.

I’ll admit, as I’m forced to admit time and again — I live in something of a bubble. Community-wise, anything that isn’t my household tradition is held a bit at an arm’s length, and I have an interesting connection with Heathenry in that I waffle, time and again, about whether or not that’s a label that can best describe me. (I’m back to feeling more dual-trad once again, and I know that’ll change because ugh compartments, but whatever. I can’t keep pretending that the influence of Poseidon’s various peoples various cultures don’t influence my practice, cuz they do. But, I digress.) So, I have no idea at all who these Irminfolk people are or what they’re about, but I have been involved with Heathenry — even on the periphery as I am — to know that racism within Heathenry is a huge, huge problem.

It’s disgusting. Furthermore, I am continually, constantly baffled at how closely associated with this racism, with these racists, Odin tends to be, in the minds of both them and people who don’t know any better. This has baffled me since the beginning. Have these people met Odin? I know that people rebuff the idea of Odin being (one of the) creators of humankind by saying, no, He created the Germanic race, not humanity itself. (Nice selective reading, but okay.) That aside — where in the stories we have of the Alfather (*ahem*) do we have an example of a god who stays within one cultural group, finds nothing of value outside of his own tribe, and is the epitome of racial purity. Never  mind that the gods aren’t human — Odin isn’t 100% all what he is, either — unless we’re saying that he’s all Odin, in which case, yes. He is of mixed parentage. His parents are from two different tribes, and dare I say different cultures. I truly do not understand this mindset. “My race is superior! Odin is the figurehead for us!” .  .  . er?

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This coming Saturday Beth’s daughter is heading into NYC with some friends to take part in a Millions March. The idea of  her being makes me incredibly proud, makes me wish I could join them, and makes me want to vomit and cry and beg her not to go. When speaking to my brother about this yesterday, he expressed that he thought it was great that she was going, and that if he had a way into the city it’s something he would like to be a part of, too. And then, we realized together that the idea of him going did not make me want to vomit or cry or beg him not to go. The difference? My brother is a white male who can easily slip into a space of using his privilege as a mantle of safety, whereas Beth’s daughter is a biracial female — and in these cases, the ‘biracial’ bit is overlooked, forgotten, meaningless.

I’m still proud of her. I still wish we could go with her. I still want to vomit over the thought of her being there, in that crowd, in that place, at this time.

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Racist attitudes and opinions need to die in a fire. There is no colorblindness — and if you get to be colorblind, you are willingly deciding to not deal with the shit that needs to be dealt with. Look, i get wanting to live in a bubble. I do. The world sucks. A lot. And there are a ton of things that need to be changed, and we can’t do it all. I retreat into a bubble myself, time and again — but I do it less and less these days, and for smaller periods of time, because I can’t go into that bubble anymore without carrying the awareness that I <i>get</i> to go into that bubble of ignorance, and that retreat is part of my privilege . . . and it’s not fair that I am allowed to do so simply because of my skin color.

Names Don’t Matter — An Update

My post Names Don’t Matter (or what to do when your god pokes around with your identity by poking around with his own) talks quite about about gods, identities, and the trauma that can come about when They play a sort of bait-and-switch on you. (Okay. It wasn’t exactly a bait-and-switch, but it was . . . something. Certainly something.) I’m a big fan of “keeping it real” — the goal I have with sharing glimpses into my spiritual life is offering a living example of how it can be — and that means showing how it can be terrifying, scary, miserable, and harrowing even as it can be joyous, wonderful, uplifting, nourishing, and can provide great strength. I understand people wanting to only show the good, the positive, but part of my way of making sure my vulnerabilities do not control me or grow into mind-numbing fears, is by naming them and exposing them to the light of day. I’ve had too many comments from readers who have thanked me for writing as I do to pretend that what I share and how I share does not help others. So, yes, that’s part of it. Keeping on keeping on. But, naming things and exposing them is a sort of letting things go, and it helps me even if I had no audience.

I do have an audience, though, and so many of you were so very kind and supportive in the aftermath of that post. I’ve wanted to explore this whole thing more — and I may still — but right now, words are not coming. I’m sitting with it, as He asked me to do so, and I’ve reached a point of not really being able to talk about where my mind is going with all of this. But, because so many of you were so very kind and supportive, I wanted to provide a small update. Another thank you, and to let you know that the mad-feeling (as in madness, not as in angry) flailing has subsided. The whole thing did work to get me unstuck from a Hellenic approach (He’s back to being MY Poseidon, informed by history, but rooted in o/Our past, if that makes sense? Our foundation is o/Our foundation. He’s back, I suppose, to being my Hearth, in my mind — my center, rather than this distant figure from history that belongs to everyone. Of course, He belongs to everyone — or, those He chooses belong to Him, rather — but . . . I can’t explain well. O/our foundation is better, because of all of this, and I’m rooted in Him, rather than in His history, or any history at all) and has me exploring more widely again, and this is very, very good. I’m holding the whole Hindu stuff at an arm’s length right now (in part due to NaNo being right around the corner — we’re about to get to writing for serious!) which is a timely and useful and valid excuse.

That’s where we’re at, right now. And it’s good. It’s very, very good.

Keeping it Real; or: I am grateful for moments of humility.

Today was an errand running day for me. In my capacity of (volunteer!) Fiberwytch Assistant (or, F’wytchlet), I made my way to acquire some additional storage drawers, a bead-and-charm organizer, and a sync cable that did not come with the new store camera, despite the sales clerk insisting that it did, indeed. Heading out to our big box stores is always interesting to me. If I only look at the buildings, I realize could be Anywhere, USA. It’s a type of magic, really, that playing with reality and space, that something can be the same no matter where in the country one find’s oneself. When I look at the scenery, everything changes. Huge open sky. Mountains in the distance — from one particular vantage point, I can see a snow-capped peak most of the year. At the right time of year (read: most of the year) I can see the storms as they roll in. It’s a beautiful location, and I enjoy the trip out, every time I go. I don’t go often, because I hate shopping. I hate being in stores. I hate being away from home. But, this trip needed to happen, both for the store and for a few things we needed for the house, and so off I went, knitting in tow.

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Every time I venture to Walmart, a conflict sets up within my mind and my heart. It’s uncool to be seen as wanting to shop at Walmart. It certain economic sectors it’s undesirable to be seen as financially supporting Walmart as a business, considering how they treat their employees, how they’re underpaid, etc. If that’s not enough, it’s uncool in my particular location to choose to support the big box stores rather than thrift stores or local crafters/artisans/what-have-you. And, of course, I would rather purchase a handmade bedspread than a mass produced polycotton comforter — who wouldn’t? It’s all very well and good to say make do or shop local, don’t support this big box store that does not pay its employees well enough that they can afford to live on their own . . . .

Except, my employer does not pay well enough that I could live on my own. I work full time. I’ve been with them for a decade. If I was on my own, I’d qualify for food stamps. I cannot imagine doing this with children to support. This whole ‘eat locally, live sustainably,’ push is not going to work before we make wages high enough that people can live sustainably. It’s not going to go the other way around. I would love, love to be able to shop thrift stores — but I’m too fat and too short. I’d love to buy handmade or at least locally made goods. I often do go without. Currently, my wardrobe consists of two pairs of slacks for work, two tops for work, a pair of jeans, and one extra top. I own a pair of four year old sandals, and shoes for work that need to be replaced before real winter sets in. (heh. So I’ve got another two months before I have to worry about that.) Today’s trip included getting a second pair of sweatpants because the nights are getting colder, a second pair of jeans for Beth, an umbrella, and a splurge on a second set of sheets for Beth’s bed. I bought a three-drawer plastic drawer unit for the store, because Beth’s storage consists of shoving her material into bags, into the closet. It takes her most of her production time to simply find the material she needs for any given project. I have moral, ethical issues with the amount of plastic in our lives . . . but the solution isn’t always going to be go without, and the changes in a lot of these cases are not going to come at a lower level. How we consume needs to be changed . . . but there are some things that cannot be changed on a individual level.

Never mind that Walmart and Target and other box stores in my area employ local people. My neighbors. You want to see these people working better paying jobs at local-focused industries, that pay them a living wage and allow flexibility? Unless you’re stepping up with a solution to that problem, pipe down. Also, get over yourselves with being too good to shop in “those” places.

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I know I dislike shopping in Walmart, but so much of that for me is the atmosphere — not the people (and I despise people making fun of people shopping at Walmart, and how they may or may not look. If you laugh at people based on how they look, shame on you, and kindly remove yourself from my blog, thank you, bye) — but the lights. The vaulted ceiling. The noise echoing. It’s too much background stimulation, and it’s uncomfortable. (As in, now that I’m home, I’m pretty much done for the whole day. I need to nest and regroup). I do like being able to go and get a bunch of much-needed items for a price that isn’t going to break me.

I dunno. Relevant to my spiritual practice because now and again I get full of myself — “I’m going to eat locally! I’m going to eat organically! I’m going to support local artists and craftspeople and recycle/upcycle/do everything from scratch!” Except, I have three jobs. THREE JOBS. And a very expensive dog, a slightly less expensive Beth, a slightly less expensive cat, three low-cost cats 😉 and a house to help upkeep. I don’t have time to do it all from scratch.

Get over yourself, Jo.

And keep it humble. Keep it real. Stop the shame-cycle, even when it’s just effecting yourself.

on Compassion and Setting Boundaries

Long-time followers of this blog will know that, in sharing the ups and downs of my path, it is incredibly important to me that I keep shit real. We as people are encouraged to write about the good things, to talk about the good things, to share the positive stuff, to put a positive spin on things, to put on a happy face. I don’t believe that this is always a bad thing – I believe that there is honest sincerity in the “fake it until you make it” adage, and that for some people that works. I also know that for some, airing things publicly is the worst thing they can do in order for them to move beyond whatever “it” happens to be. I’m not going to make that call for anyone else. For myself, in knowing myself, in knowing my quirks, and also in knowing what has helped me, when reading about other peoples’ experiences, I can say: transparency. Keeping shit real. I love my gods, I love the conscious living that I strive for, I love my family, I love this semi-secluded lifestyle Beth and I have going on. But there are ups and downs. It’s not perfect. There are struggles, some the type you would expect, and others the type that you really can’t prepare for. And, more often than not, the struggles fall somewhere in the huge range between the two extremes.

Currently, I’ve got some stuff going on in the non-spiritual part of my life centered and is more potential hassle than actual big bad thing. I’m hesitant to label people as toxic, and I’m always mindful of compassion when dealing with people I’d rather not be dealing with. I’m also wretched at standing up for myself, and unexpected questions (“Can we do X?”) throw me for a loop and wind up with me making ‘maybe’ responses that I later feel badly backing down from. Giving our word matters, and never mind that there is a huge difference between ‘giving my word’ and ‘maybe’; in my default mindset, my wants and needs matter less, so it’s nothing to sacrifice my time/comfort/own goals in order to do this other thing for this other person who isn’t really much in the way of a friend. There is added grey areas when I find myself conceding that said person is likely being as good of a friend as they know how to be. It is simply not where I’m at in my life. Worse, we have nothing that I rate as important in common. They are not spiritually minded; they are more social/more extroverted/they are not interested in metaphysical stuff/writing/history/anything really that we could have common ground in, and I am more a listening ear than anything else.

There is no perceivable-as-kind way to say, ‘We aren’t really friends, you aren’t really friend material for me, I’m not interested in cultivating a friendship’. That said, how much of my own comfort do I give up to try to be kind to someone whose presence is not welcomed in my life? Does it matter, to a point, that that sounds terribly cold? Am I so concerned about compassion for others that I’m ignoring my own compassion, and self-care?

So, currently: I have a full time job outside the home. I have a very full and fulfilling spiritual practice that I’m not willing to give up even a little bit. I have a chronically ill partner, two chronically ill (one of which is also terminally ill) family members, and, thanks to humbling support of some generous fans, a steady part time writing job that I desperately need to find more time to sink into. (Website! Formatting! Editing! Things to learn and do well!) That doesn’t count the friends and family I am struggling to keep in steady contact with. I’m not saying I’m closed to meeting new people and making new friends – but I really don’t want to do that in ‘real’ time, in ‘real’ life. I certainly do not want to get together with people to go shopping or to hang out and chat small talk stuff or bitch about the annoyances of our daily lives. That’s not to say that I don’t do those things, because I do. But, I do them with my family.

That thought brings me to: my idea of family does not meet the cultural standard for ‘family’. Because when I say ‘family’ . . . there are layers, right? It’s a group of concentric circles. There’s a hierarchy. I’m fucking tribalistic when it comes to understand human relationships, and that’s not about to change. Even when we’re talking about global communities, that falls in a tribal landscape for me. So I have immediate family, and the extended family and it goes out from there. I don’t really seem to have casual friends – if you are a trusted member in my heart, you’re part of the family, ranging from immediate to extended – and, you need not be human, is another bit that is maybe different from ‘normal’ society’s understanding of family. The hierarchy, one’s placement within those circle, is largely dependent upon 1)how much you factor in my day to day life and 2) how dependent upon me you are for your well being, shelter, care, etc. Call me cold, but being a blood relative doesn’t get you an automatic ‘in’ – though in my life, those who are blood are pretty high up in those circles. I have more blood relations that I don’t really know one way or the other, and I have one in particular who, despite a shared history, is not my family, will not be my family, is a hair’s breadth away from being part of the “and everybody else in the world” crowd.

The friendships that I cultivate, the people that are part of my “spiritual family”, are inside the family circles. They are trusted and they get to see bits of me that other people may not. I don’t have casual friendships – I have family, and I have acquaintances. This is my preference.

This is the important part for me. I like it this way. I’ve cultivated my life to have it be this way. I live a semi-secluded life. I don’t make spur of the moment plans. I want weeks advance warning. Hell, the people I adore and miss terribly, I still need to make phone dates with as much to factor in our schedules as to give myself time to psych myself up for the phone call. Interacting with people is exhausting for me, and it’s part of my full time day job. It’s not not exhausting because sometimes it’s the people I love dearly. (I’m more willing to talk to people I love dearly when I’m feeling like I’d rather scream than have a conversation, than I am willing to talk to people I’m ambivalent about) I have my home life the way I want it to be. My time home, away from errands and away from the day job, is my retreat from the world at large that I need and, more to the point, want. This is what I keep getting drawn back to. Want. This is what I want. And is it my responsibility to help other people who aren’t part of my family to gain what they want, simply because I am good at putting my own wants aside for other people?

I am naturally a care-giver type person. This is not a bad thing. I am able to provide for my family with this particular skill set and ability and willingness to set my own issues aside when they need me. I’m easy going – for the most part I don’t have day to day plans when it comes to projects and goals, and I don’t care enough about a lot of things to get overly worked up. I’m way more of a beta type than an alpha type personality. But in this, in establishing boundaries and feeling like I have a right to said boundaries, this is to my detriment. I’m 36 this year; this is beginning to feel pathetic.

I’m trying to institute stock answers. “I’ll have to check my schedule.” “You know, that sounds like it could be fun, but I really don’t have the time.” They feel forced when I practice them, but they’re not exactly untrue. The truth is: I have two days off a week. One day is for running errands and spending with Beth, our only day off together. The other day is my writing day. So I’m not lying when I say I don’t have time. It may be “I don’t want to give you that time,” because essentially that’s what I’m saying – but shouldn’t that be a given when said person is not my partner? But my stupid brain. I say things like, “I’m working that day,” and it runs with “but you’re not working at your real job/you can write any time/insert all excuses they could think of here.” Given enough breathing room I arrive at knowledge that, if what is important to me isn’t a factor to them at all, they have no place in my life. But out of the blue questions don’t give me that breathing room, so “I’ll have to check my schedule,” is better. Really, what I want is to be comfortable saying, “No.”

And I’ve tried – because bitching aside, said person is not someone I dislike, although in my course of not standing up for my actual wants, there’s an association of dislike, and that’s on me really, my fault for not honoring those boundaries in the first place – I’ve tried to give said person some of my time, now and again, and then they get graspy about it. Clingy. Let’s do more things, let’s go places, let’s hang out. The kindest answer at this point, simply, no. If that makes me an asshole in their eyes, then I’m an asshole.

Situations like these, I wish so badly I had an easy way to say, “My house is my cloister and I leave it only when I must.”

(Our Pagan Cloister. Beth, maybe we should rename our house? Hrmm . . . )

I know that this is something I need to get under control. I know that this means, most immediately, there is going to be some “breaking of my word”, and disappointment on their part. The question is: am I okay with that enough to put my family and writing and wants first? The answer is: yes. But it’s still going to be annoying and bad-feeling-making to deal with. Why is it on me to care about other peoples feelings and what they do with them?

Frustrated. Keeping it real, and right now, real is frustrated.

Elemental ritual cords, blog posts, videos, random sharing stuff!

First: Beth’s got some new, elemental ritual cords up for sale — do yourself a favor and check those out! Hand-spun, hand-dyed, hand-sewn beauties! Her ritual cords are one of her most popular items, and for good reason! I love watching these things come into creation.

Also blog- and vlogospheres:

I came across this touching blog post that reminds me, as I think of the troubles half the world away, in Gaza, in Iraq, in Nigeria — or even the troubles closer to home (I’m looking at you, Ferguson, but Detroit, you’re not that far behind) — that there are people in this world who get it, regardless of what their faith may be, regardless of what path they walk and which gods walk with them. It reminds me to be compassionate, and gives me something to cling to. As I pray my nightly prayers for oh-too-many who are suffering, as I purposefully expand outside of my bubble, this is the tool I use to keep myself from embracing apathy and despair, and I will take whatever tool I can find to fight that battle.

Another blogpost that’s stuck with me this week has been Heather’s post regarding the concept of community worker as a default setting for any and all spirit workers and/or people involved with the spirits. Beth’s reblog commentary is also worth a read. Let me add to this: I know all too well how caught up in the idea of The Work we can get, especially when others are talking about their Work. My “Work” with Poseidon has always, always been about healing, both self-healing and other-healing. What it’s never really been about has been human-healing. I do have Reiki as part of my particular skill set, and that is human-healing that I do offer, but I do not go out of my way to offer Reiki sessions to people in general. I do semi-regularly offering Reiki sessions to various Other Folk, but if I could be accused of serving a community at Poseidon’s behest, it has never been one that is human-centric. Even when I was doing these offerings four times a month (I had them tied to the moon phases, but that is too much and it fell to the wayside for me) it was something I wanted to do, not something He decided I had to do. I wanted to do something Meaningful(tm) with my life, and if I wasn’t going to go to school to be a vet tech or to help with people, by golly I could do this little thing. At the end of the day, though? I want to write stories. The healing work that I do it by and large for me, and it involves Others, but not other people much, and that’s fine. And it’s stuff I’ve instigated, not stuff Poseidon has wanted me to do, or ordered me to do. They can. They do — I’m not saying it won’t be about the Work, for some. And, it is for me, too — but my Work is writing my stories. It’s sharing the parts of my religious life that I’m (mostly) (more or less) comfortable sharing. It’s living my pagan, polytheistic, married-to-a-god, bound-to-another god life somewhat openly, because in this part of the country that I live I can do so without many negative ramifications. That is my activisim. To live visible all the fringe-ish parts of my life, so that we are not in the shadows, so that we are not pushed back into the darkness, so that those who come after us can live openly, too. They won’t be my daughters or my sons through blood, but they will be, at least in spirit.

I believe that the Gods can get Their messages across without us. How many years of monotheistic tradition has separated us from our pagan ancestors, and look, we are calling the Gods back, more and more and more. No, I don’t believe the Gods need us in order to connect with our descendants five centuries from now . . . but how great will it be for those descendants to not have to do the work we’ve had to do to get as far as we’ve gotten. So, the Gods can do it without us . . . but should They have to?

Speaking of living, breathing traditions, I’ve watched some neat videos this week, as well. (And made some!)

Here’s a glimpse of our Poseidon shrine here at the Nunnery. Hail Poseidon!

Silence has posted a tour of one of his shrines, which of course you should check out. (Watch the rest while you’re there!)

Miaerowyn recorded a response to the 7 Witchy Questions tag, and I’m so glad that she did!

And last, but not least, Beth’s made a tour of our Odin shrine, which you can watch:

Orthopraxis, truly?

As mentioned previously, I’m reading through Introduction to Roman Religion by John Scheid (slowly. Oh so slowly), and it’s causing me to ponder over a large part of the vocabulary that makes up our language when we attempt to speak of our religious and spiritual practices.

Very early on, the author introduces the notion that, within polytheistic Rome, religion was an orthopraxis rather than an orthodoxy. This is a familiar concept for pagans, and it’s a term I see used especially a lot within the more polytheistic minded (which may mean nothing more than I read more from the specifically polytheistic minded than from more general-pagan writers, to be fair). It almost seems like a no brainer, right? We are not about having One True Way to do things, it’s not about our specific *belief*, it’s about right practice. Right?

Except, we all know of people who want to decide for us what that right practice is or should be, people who say that if we are not giving cult to our ancestors in this precise way, if we are not worshipping the gods with these particular steps and this particular mindset, then we are failures, we ought not even bother, etc. My personal theory is that much of that behavior is instinct driven (we are social animals, no matter how much of a loner we are or are not; our preferences may counter our animal instinct, but I suspect instinct still influences our behavior more than we care to admit), the need to create an us or them, tribe or not tribe boundary. But, holding the concept of orthopraxis in mind, I can’t help but think of the people I’ve come across who with one breath claim that what we have in paganism is orthopraxis, and in the next, want to call people out for doing it wrong.

That’s not orthopraxis as I understand it. That’s orthodoxy in pagan clothing.

The other bit about orthopraxis that this book has me turning over in my mind is: context. When this author speaks of state religion and orthopraxis being more important than one’s particular belief — that is, you go to the public rituals you are expected to go to, you play the part you are expected to play, you honor the god(s) in question in the state sanctioned manner, and when you are home you can view Minerva however you like — the author is speaking of a time period when polytheism was the shape the state religion took. Even thinking about right practice as endorsed at government level makes me incredibly uneasy; orthopraxis beyond one’s immediate and chosen groups, if one even has such a thing, makes me uneasy. I think we all know what a government sanctioned orthopraxis would look like, at least in the US, and I don’t relish the idea of giving up my Sunday mornings to go to church. Our state sanctioned orthopraxis would not be polytheistic.

My challenge to myself is this: to be sure that when I speak of right practice, of orthopraxis, that I am keeping true to the meaning of the word, and not using it as a measuring stick against others. I do not want civic religions, not even if polytheism where the dominant view held by our country. Religion is private. Relations with the spirits is private. I do not hold that there is one or even a number of Right, True Ways to maintain our relationships with the gods and spirits, and I give over entirely TO the spirits and gods, deciding how and what is appropriate. Not other humans. I’m not immune. I’m human. I have moments of, “Why are they doing *that*? That’s ridiculous!” but I try my best to catch them and root them out, because it truly, truly is none of my business, and I believe completely that the spirits can correct people if people are “doing it wrong”; they don’t need my help.

Devotions — Morning

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Morning prayers are not the first thing that I do upon waking. The first thing that I do is feed the starving — er, annoying — er angelic cats. Then I put water on for tea, and run Corbie out to water the lawn. By the time he’s satisfied with the saturation of the soil the tea water is boiling, and so I set the morning cuppa to steep. I light my flame, I do some breath work. Once the tea is ready to be poured, I do so. Poseidon gets 8 teaspoons from my mug — because He prefers it without cream, and because otherwise it’s too hot for me to partake of it with him for the morning sharing. We share that first sip, and then the rest is left for Him. I have a morning prayer that I wrote, that I recite when I’m feeling formal or when I’m not feeling it at all, and otherwise, it’s a touching in to my heart, a touching in to that place that is us. It as an alignment of my spirit, of my day, of my existence, with Him. That is how I start every day. Bits fall to the wayside from time to time, but that touching in with Him does not, and has not in years.

For those who are curious, my “formal” morning prayer is:

Hail Poseidon, Keeper of my heart.
Hail my Lord, my Husband, my God.
I ask for your blessing this day, and all days
Let my feet tread your path
Let my hands be Yours in this world,
Let my heart carry You forward
Let my tongue speak Your praise
Walk with me, my God
May I treat all with compassion and awareness, as You guide me.

Yeah, I squirm, still, over the compassion, from time to time. But, it has been His decree almost from the very beginning, so I can’t discount it. I will embrace it. Even when I’d rather not.

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Confession time: my previous post? That’s me, waffling back and forth between deciding to disengage entirely from the ‘pagan/polytheism’ debate that keeps circling around, and deciding to respond/contemplate/consider/keep aware of. I do waffle between the two, because the conversations often lead to interesting contemplations of my own, and I do gain from it. I’m one of those in an uncomfortable position, because there are those whose treatment of those they don’t agree with/don’t understand I cannot abide, and yet, I have more in common with them, in my approach to my gods and my devotional life, than I have with some other sorts of pagans. I’ve striped my life of anything that does not support my relationship with my gods, and I cannot imagine living any other way. I don’t want to. I simply don’t think that this way is for everyone, that this way is the only valid way of being pagan, and that one word has to mean one thing to all people. That is, at the end of the day, I believe the gods can take care of themselves, that it’s our specific traditions and not our gods that are threatened by people not understanding/listening/supporting them, and since I’m not involved in anything more complex than a household tradition, I don’t care about my tradition continuing beyond us. The gods do not need me to keep them in the world. Can they use me to help them be in the world now? Yup, and they do. Once I’m gone? No, I’m not a useful tool for that task.

And that may be the difference, in my wiring, between myself and other polytheists who are more vocal in these conversations. Once I’m gone, I want the world to forget about me. I don’t care much about leaving a legacy.

Also: I love stories. I love hearing about how people interact with the gods or the divine or however they are able to view that, I love hearing about the varied ways that these beings can touch our lives, even within what I view a limited scope that those who do not believe in them allow — because the spirits are clever and resourceful. I don’t believe our gods are archetypes, but I believe they are capable of using them, and I believe they alone know the bestest possible way to reach the people they want to reach, and if it looks like a long, meandering route to my view, so what?

I don’t believe there’s a resolution that’s possible. It’s a thousands of years old argument, and I stay out of it mostly because the hostility turns me off, and makes it difficult to sympathize with those I have more in common with. But, I do enjoy the introspection the discussion provides.

So, conflicted. And will likely remain so. After I posted, I realized that the above was actually the post I really wanted to write. Don’t we argue that we’re about orthopraxy, not so much orthodoxy?

I see Him in everything, everywhere . . .

With my focus turned toward the elements, and contemplating which element I have the most affinity with, I naturally thought of Poseidon, and Water. Because . . . well. Obviously, right?

Except, when I think of all the elements, I think of Poseidon. Earth brings to mind many things: Earth-Shaker, Holder of the Earth, His ties to horses and bulls, His connection with Rhea and with Gaia, with Demeter, the thoughts of some that His name means Husband of the Earth, the connection with Neptune and Neptune’s connection with the cornucopia . . . it goes on. Fire brings to mind earthquakes and volcanoes and the fires of the earth . . Air brings to mind hurricanes and violent rain storms. Yes, these last two bring Pops to mind as well, but Poseidon, everywhere, always, Poseidon.

It’s happy-making, realizing how much space He takes up, within my soul.

Back to Basics

There’s this cycle that my spiritual life takes. The bare bones, when I’m practicing the way that is ideal to me, looks a bit like this:

I wake up in the morning and set tea water to boil. While it’s boiling, I stand before my shrine, light a candle, and say my morning prayers. Depending on my mood, and depending on the time of year, these prayers can be formal (I started on a Prayers to Poseidon book last year) or they can be a wordless opening up of myself to His presence, or anywhere in between. I then sit and move through a gentle yoga routine, which is both touching upon a foundational devotional practice and tending to my physical needs. At then end of that I perform the shielding/raising awareness of my connectedness with the worlds/chakra cleansing thing that I do.

Once the tea is steeped, I offer Poseidon the first bit of it. At His insistence, His libation is taken from my mug. If I could tolerate the still very hot tea, I’d have to drink some first before giving His libation, but my teeth are sensitive and so we make do by having it spooned from my mug once I’ve added the sugar and cream, rather than before, so it’s clearly the “same” as what I’m drinking.

Lunch is taken away from my day job, so I have so buffer time, and when I’m not enthralled with either a book or a project, I journal and keep Him in my mind, bringing Him more into my day, and bringing my awareness more in line with Him. There are songs I sing to help with this.

In the evening, there is a “closing of the shrine” which is more like a formal saying goodnight. Depending on the time of year and how I’m feeling, it can be formal or informal and wordless. I wash out the tea mug, I get ready for bed. I’d like to say that I go to bed with Him in the center of my mind, but I go to bed plotting the next bit in whatever writing I’m working on.

The key word here is, ideal. In actual practice, this varies. It fluctuates. But when I’m tending to my needs and when I’m focused in the manner that I strive to be, most of the above happens in any given day. That will continue until something happens. Sometimes it’s a moment of epiphany that shakes me to my core. Sometimes it’s something as mundane as a migraine that outclasses all migraines. What tends to happen is that I let some of the above (sometimes all of the above) slip. I’ve noticed over the years that, if everything else falls away, if I only keep Poseidon in my mind, if I only keep a meditation practice, I don’t stumble as much, or for as long. But, that something does happen, and then, slowly, I have to start building up the practice again. It is always slowly, one piece at a time.

For years I resented this. It made sense, right, when i set things down of my own accord. But those moments of epiphany? When I reach a greater understanding of my God, when I reach a deeper place with Him? Why does that cause me to set things down and move into stillness, in my practice? Why does that not propel me into greater regularity with my acts of devotion? Shouldn’t it do that?

Shoulds aside, it doesn’t. The awe generally moves me into that still place, and I have to build momentum, once again. And, maybe it’s obvious to others, but to me? It’s only been the last year that I’ve realized that this constant return ‘back to the basics’ is a crucial part in integrating those deeper understandings, those moments of closer connection, into my life lived with my mind on my God. It’s gaining new perspective and then going back to the beginning with that new perspective. It’s actually quite awesome. This particular perspective has made me realize that the process of returning to foundational work, again and again, is something that I enjoy, is something that I can now savor. Hurrah for that.

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