The Problem of Temples

•January 29, 2015 • 5 Comments

There’s an article up on The Wild Hunt today about Building Pagan Temples. As appealing (both spiritually and aesthetically) as the idea of modern temples is, I have generally always taken the stance that you really need an active community first, before trying to build something so big – which is affirmed by the examples given in the article of successful projects; they all had a vibrant, dedicated community, even if it’s a small one, supporting them. But even if you have that, there is always the problem of money and resources, and I wonder if we polytheists might, in a way, be in an even less advantageous position regarding potential temple-building than other types of pagan (if you even consider us pagan, but that’s another topic).

In most types of polytheist tradition, a temple functions as the home of the god(s). You might congregate there for rituals, offerings, sacrifices, initiations, oracles, etc., but a temple is generally not *required* for those things, and it is not used as simply a social gathering space, the way many churches, synagogues, and even the Hindu temple mentioned in the article, are. So that causes the first obstacle, in that most people (not me of course, but most) are social creatures, and tend to put a higher value on projects that include a social aspect. They would rather support a place that could also function as a community center, classroom, library, meeting space – not, for instance, something like an ancient Greek temple where you didn’t even go inside to sacrifice.

Secondly, whereas in many forms of neo-paganism, one might need a few special ritual tools but otherwise not be required to purchase anything (even if there are a lot of tempting tchotchkes out there), engaged polytheism usually demands a constant stream of offerings to keep up relationships with the gods and spirits. Sure, these don’t have to be extremely expensive (they don’t all necessarily cost money at all), but the general tendency is to give what one is able – so if I have paid all my bills and have food and shelter and still have some money left over, I’m going to buy that nice bottle of wine for Dionysos, because I can, and I want to show Him my gratitude for His blessings. Multiply that by several times, since most polytheists are involved with several deities and spirits at once, and it can account for a lot of one’s resources. Plus, since we tend to have our own home-based shrines (mini-temples of sorts), not only do we need to spend some of our money on their upkeep, but we aren’t in dire need of a place to make our offerings and commune with our gods.

Simply put, there are few polytheists who are going to have enough disposable income to both keep up with their usual offerings and festivals (and possibly more expensive religious duties such as an occasional pilgrimage) AND make the kind of regular, significant donations required to pool enough money for something as large as a temple. Not to mention – a temple to which god? In which tradition? Since polytheists all practice a variety of paths with different pantheons, and even within the same path have different primary deities, it would be unlikely for enough people to agree on just one (or even a small group) to devote that much money and work to.

Which isn’t to say it’s impossible – I tend to think that if a god wants this done, They might inspire Their worshippers to go above and beyond, and/or prioritize building such a temple above other offerings for a number of years – and there have been some examples of this. But in general, I think we need to stop worrying so much about having grand temples “like the old days” and start appreciating what we are able to give our gods today. Who is even to say that any particular deity truly favors having one large, impressive structure over having dozens of much smaller, individual, but passionately tended, shrines around the world? Seems to me that we have created homes for Them in hundreds of different places already.

[A reminder that my fundraiser to get a new laptop and write my next book will be going on through February!]

New Incense!

•January 28, 2015 • 2 Comments

I have just added two new sets of incense to my Goblinesquerie shop.

IMG_3779bThe first is my popular Darkwood incense cones, which were snapped up in a single day last time I offered them. Same blend, featuring vetiver, sandalwood, red cedar and patchouli, only this time the cones are a little smaller (which burn better) and therefore they are sold in sets of 12. Strong, woodsy scent which has been described as “strange and wonderful.” They are my personal favorite, and I use them all the time. I note that these incense cones are also one of the perks of my laptop fundraiser, if you want them but would also like to contribute something towards my goal.

IMG_3785The second is a new incense powder blend, called Midnight. It features dragonsblood, benzoin and African myrrh resins, patchouli, cinnamon bark, cloves and licorice root. It produces a dark, sweet, heady scent when burned on charcoal tablets. A little pinch goes a long way! This is a fairly similar blend to my Orphic Incense Powder, so if you liked that one and want more, you’ll probably like this too. Comes in a half-ounce cobalt blue glass bottle, without any labels or logos so that it might blend in well when set on a shrine or altar (this is something I prefer myself, and thought other people might appreciate if they’re using it for ritual).

Fundraising for New Laptop

•January 26, 2015 • 4 Comments

This year, I plan to write my next book, about the wonderful Amanita muscaria mushroom and its many manifestations in human culture. Amanita is one of my primary entheogenic spirit allies, and I’ve been feeling it pulling me towards this work for awhile now. However, I really need a new laptop to properly work on this, due to my back/neck pain issues, not to mention the fact that my current (desktop) computer is on its way out. Last week, I decided to start a little fundraising campaign to help me accomplish this, because living paycheck to paycheck is not exactly conducive to major purchases like this. Then this weekend, an unexpected dental expense came up, and so now I’m going to need this help more than ever.

I have put together a selection of what I hope are some really nice perks as incentives to donate – incense, books, divination sessions, gift certificates, etc. Please take a look and consider contributing (every little bit helps!), and even if you can’t do that, I would greatly appreciate anyone spreading the word (especially on places like Facebook where I don’t go). Click on the picture below (that’s me with the largest Amanita mushroom I ever found, a few years ago) to go to the campaign homepage – and thank you in advance!

bigamanita1

Hermes in the Cemetery #1

•January 21, 2015 • 18 Comments

As part of my Year with Hermes, I’ve decided to visit each of the cemeteries in Eugene, one per month, and build small hermai (stone piles) at each for Him. It turns out there are eight cemeteries here, so that works out perfectly, and I’ll be wrapping up in time for things getting more intense next fall. This gives me a chance to “shadow-walk” with Him (inhabit a space between the worlds while moving through this one), look for omens, discover hidden treasures, make offerings, and connect. Both of the Mystery rites and many of the smaller rituals I’ve done for Hermes were in cemeteries, and they certainly are a traditional place for Him too. While I do not by any means document or share everything I do in my spiritual life, for whatever reason it feels appropriate for this particular project, so I’ll be posting photos of each of my adventures.

Today was my first trip, to Mt Calvary Cemetery, which is actually very close to my house, though I’d never been because it seemed fairly dull and it is also a steep climb. The cemetery proper is indeed pretty unremarkable, but then I followed a muddy path down, down, down and found a wonderful patch of wilderness.

The entrance

The entrance

As you can see, very few tombstones, most are flat against the ground so it just looks like a hillside park

As you can see, very few tombstones, most are flat against the ground so it just looks like a hillside park

My first good omen - this statue of St. Francis (I have a personal connection between his iconography and Hermes so it was perfect to find this here)

My first good omen – this statue of St. Francis (I have a personal connection between his iconography and Hermes so it was perfect to find this here – I left an offering of birdseed at the base).

Next to two large monolithic tombs (for ashes, I assume) was a tree covered in windchimes. I put my four stones in a pile beneath it.

Next to two large monolithic tombs (for ashes, I assume) was a tree covered in windchimes. I put my four stones in a pile beneath it.

The herm up close. I am glad I brought some stones (just in case) since there weren't any around to collect.

The herm up close. I am glad I brought some stones (just in case) since there weren’t any around to collect. I hate overly manicured cemeteries!

After I followed the path down, I came to a hidden bit of nature with lovely views. Hawks were calling from the high trees (hawks being sacred to Hermes, that's a second omen).

After I followed the path down, I came to a hidden bit of nature with lovely views. Hawks were calling from the high trees (hawks being sacred to Hermes, that’s a second omen).

The moss- and lichen-covered trees here never cease to fill me with awe.

The moss- and lichen-covered trees here never cease to fill me with awe.

A stang at the exit of the wilderness, pointing the way out.

A stang at the exit of the wilderness, pointing the way out.

Hermes Playlist

•January 13, 2015 • 1 Comment

As I embark on my Year with Hermes, I will probably try to add to my music playlist for Him. However, thought I’d share what I currently have, in case it inspires anyone else. (With links if you want to listen, and snippets of lyrics.) You’ll note that many of these songs have something to do with dying (or going underground, or crossing the river), walking/travelling, night, or making magic with words and lies.

Way Down by Tori Amos (“On the way down, the way down, she knows….”)
Magic Man by Heart (“Try try try to understand, I’m a magic man”)
Even Deeper by Nine Inch Nails (“I’m on track, on my way and I can’t turn back”)
Roadkill by Faun Fables (“And the grey road is the grey worm that meets its tail on the far side of the world”)
Edge of the World by Faith No More (“Come here my love, I’ll tell you a secret – Come closer now, I want you to believe it”)
I Will Follow You Into the Dark by Death Cab For Cutie (“If there’s no one beside you when your soul embarks, I will follow you into the dark”)
Strange Days by The Doors (“As we run from the day to a strange night of stone”)
Walking in My Shoes by Depeche Mode (“Try walking in my shoes, you’ll stumble in my footsteps”)
Hunter by Bjork (“If travel is searching, and home what’s been found, I’m not stopping”)
Fascination Street by The Cure (“Pull on your face, pull on your feet and let’s hit opening time down on Fascination Street”)
Traveller Returning by Faun Fables (“I am the traveller returning, put down the bed and light the lamp”)
The Libertine by Patrick Wolf (“The motorway won’t take a horse, the wanderer has found a course to follow, the traveller unpacked his bags for the last time”)
I’m a Man You Don’t Meet Every Day by The Pogues (“So be easy and free when you’re drinking with me, I’m a man you don’t meet every day”)
The Highwayman by Loreena McKennitt (“When the road is a ribbon of moonlight, over the purple moor, the highwayman comes riding…”)
Song of the Magician by Tim Buckley (“Casting spells from the well, I can tell you the bells listen to my magic voice”)
Waiting for the Night by Depeche Mode (“When everything’s dark, keeps us from the stark reality”)
Telling Lies by David Bowie (“I’m your future, I’m tomorrow, I’m the end”)
Red Right Hand by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds (“He’s a god, he’s a man, he’s a ghost, he’s a guru”)
River Forktine Tippecanoe by Munly & The Lee Lewis Harlots (“…shuffled cross the deck of my houseboat, yanked hard on my line then up through the air arced a red slider turtle”)
The Humbling River by Puscifer (“Open your heart and hands, my son, or you’ll never make it over the river”)
The Quest to Question by Lasher Keen (“I give name to the unnameable universe”)

Blog Recommendations?

•January 9, 2015 • 32 Comments

Wondering if any of you might know of some good spiritually-oriented blogs (polytheism, animism, etc.) that I might enjoy reading, that aren’t on my list (below on the right)? I am feeling rather uninspired by most of the blogs I see these days, but I figure I can’t possibly have encountered all of them, and perhaps there are some hidden gems. Also open to blogs about art if they generally match my aesthetic. Feel free to recommend your own blog if I might not have seen it!

A Year with Hermes

•January 8, 2015 • 14 Comments

As I’ve talked about before, in addition to various festivals throughout the year, for many years now my religious calendar has included monthly holy days (based on the lunar cycle) for each of my most important deities and spirits. Currently, there are six of these. On such days, I at least make an offering of some kind, often I do a more elaborate ritual, and sometimes I devote the whole day’s activities to Them, down to what I read, what I eat for dinner, etc., and really immerse myself in Their essence. I find this to be a good way of “touching base” with each of Them, making sure I never go too long without acknowledging Them formally. I admit that for awhile I let myself get a little too bound by this structure – I would sometimes even put off doing something for one of Them when it felt right, because I thought it would be better to do it on the holy day, and then that holy day would come around and something would go wrong and I ended up doing nothing at all! So now I have a lighter grasp with these – I still like having these points of special sacredness during the month, but I make sure to put more priority on cultivating the relationships on a constant basis, and especially responding when I feel I’m being called, regardless of the date.

In the last couple years, though, I’ve been experimenting with somewhat longer, but still finite, periods of time devoted to various gods/spirits. For instance, each month from October through December was dedicated to Someone, one flowing naturally into the next. Whichever spirit or god was being prioritized during that month dictated a lot of my activities and focus, from what art I made, to what books I read, to which local sacred places I visited, to what sorts of entheogens I took or what types of trance I utilized. Within that month I would also make special daily and/or weekly offerings. During such periods, I don’t stop worshipping or interacting with my other gods and spirits, but They perhaps do not receive as much attention, and often I approach Them in the context of how They relate to the primary god/spirit being honored. This seems to work out okay for Everyone involved, since the distribution of such periods is fairly equitable.

Now I am about to embark on something slightly different – during my Eriounia festival on the 1st, it became clear to me that it would be very beneficial to dedicate this entire year, 2015, to Hermes. I’m not yet sure exactly what this will entail, since the duration being a full year means I cannot quite so fully devote my attention away from the Others – then again, part of what this seems to be about is exactly how Hermes and His sacred functions are related to my Work with Everyone else, so that shouldn’t be necessary anyway. (In fact, one of the primary threads of my spiritual life right now originally began with something He showed me during a Mystery rite for Him at least 10 years ago, though I didn’t know what to do with it at the time… when you walk this sort of path, it can sometimes take a very long time for things to come to fruition.) There will certainly be some special rituals, but I suspect it will be more about incorporating His worship (and His lessons) into my everyday activities and spiritual practices in a more frequent and in-depth manner.

Whatever the case, I am rather excited about the concept. Hermes has been coming to the forefront for awhile now, and He always makes things very….interesting…. so it should be a good ride.

 
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