For my third visit, I chose Mulkey Cemetery, a small but fairly old cemetery that also happens to be the site of my initiation into Hermes’ Mysteries, which I performed almost exactly eight years ago. (I did actually do a Mystery rite a couple years before that, in Montana, but felt it hadn’t quite clicked – although later I understood that it simply planted a seed that took years to grow.) I had not been back to Mulkey since that night, and things looked quite different than I remembered. This has got to be the most well-tended cemetery in Eugene, unsurprisingly in a fairly upscale neighborhood, with lots of flowers and elaborate plantings surrounding the tombstones.
Going to be offline most of this week due to a family visit, so just wanted to check in here and note a few things:
- 20% off coupon in my Etsy shops lasts through Friday
- Have been really excited by all the responses to my post on the Hellenic festivals book. This is starting to look like my next project (while I work through the vast research for the amanita book). If you haven’t responded but have ideas or questions, I’m keeping this post open for comments throughout my planning period!
- I’ve modified my Carnival Talk website a little bit recently. Now that WordPress allows Paypal buttons, I’m selling the books and postcards directly from the site – no more Etsy shop. Much simpler this way. And I’ve added the first quote in the Share Your Story section.
- Another project in the works is that I’ll be officially offering my book-design services to the greater public soon, including e-books. I will announce it when the new site is ready, and will offer some kind of discount for my fellow polytheists.
- For those of you who chose the signed book perk during my fundraiser, your books are going out in the mail tomorrow.
- Happy Spring Equinox in advance!
I am considering writing a short book on celebrating festivals in a Hellenic polytheist context and wanted to get some feedback from you all. Basically, I have spent 15 years doing various iterations of Hellenic festivals, both ancient and wholly modern, including the many years Sannion and I spent creatively crafting our own festivals together, and I thought it might be helpful to share some of that experience and knowledge with other polytheists who might be struggling with the festivals, which are so important to the Hellenic tradition. I am well versed in the ancient festival calendar, but am more interested in how to distill the basic concepts of ancient festivals and put them into practice in a totally contemporary manner, one that both properly honors the gods and daimones, and is also personally fulfilling and enjoyable. I was thinking of covering topics like:
* why festivals are important, and reasons why they are created
* what the core elements are
* calendrical issues – whether or not to use the lunar calendar, etc.
* bringing festivals from secular culture or other branches of paganism into a Hellenic context
* how to invent your own festivals, and adapt the ancient ones
* how to have proper festivals with only one or two people
* how to incorporate your local landscape and spirits
* activities beyond formal ritual to flesh out a real festival
* little ways to make every aspect of the celebration special and meaningful
* budgetary considerations – doing a lot without spending a lot
* lots of specific examples from my own experience (like I did here with Anthesteria, for instance)
So I have two questions for you all (obviously this is primarily geared toward those practicing some form of Hellenic polytheism, but if you’re interested in any way, I don’t really care what your tradition is):
1. Is this something you’d like to see published and would be likely to buy?
2. Do you have any questions or concerns about celebrating Hellenic festivals that you’d want to see addressed in such a book?
As part of my Year with Hermes, I already shared my playlist of songs for Him, now I wanted to share some of the images I have saved for Him (especially as today is Khutroi, the third day of Anthesteria, when Hermes Psychopompos is honored). I keep similar folders of images for all my gods and spirits on my computer, and set them as a slideshow screensaver on holy days (my usual screensaver just runs through all my images). I’ll begin with ancient images:
And then modern depictions meant to be Hermes or Mercury:
And here are some that I personally associate with Him, regardless of the artist’s intent:
You’ll notice some themes here – the Magician is obvious, but the crow/raven connection is a personal one (although of course Hermes has a traditional association with birds, especially birds of omen). I will also note that while I prefer the bearded version of Hermes, as seen in herms and many other ancient depictions, almost all modern images specifically intended as Hermes show Him as clean-shaven, younger, and usually have the whole winged sandals/cap thing in there somewhere.
I do not think there will be photos of this year’s Anthesteria celebration like there were last year (sometimes it feels right to document and post, sometimes it doesn’t). But I did want to share this one thing – I was in the store looking for appropriate wine for the various days. I bought Sangre de Toro (bull’s blood) for Khoes, and one with a few flowers on the label for Pithoigia (plus the fireflies remind me of flitting souls), but the biggest find was for Khutroi:
A skull surrounded by tons of flowers, called The Messenger?! That hits death, flowers and Hermes, along with the wine for Dionysos of course those are the major themes of the festival. Oh, and I just noticed as I was writing this that there’s a butterfly (psukhe, soul) too. I love it when things like this happen. It’s the little touches, everything imbued with meaning, that make festivals special. (It cost twice as much as I had budgeted, but sometimes you just need to buy the offering and worry about it later.)
This year Anthesteria falls really late, due to the repeating Poseideon month, and spring came early here, which means this feels a little strange and “off”. I figure I’ll just use that dissonance to help achieve the properly ecstatic state of mind. Happy Anthesteria!
For several years now in various spirit-work communities, the term “god-phone” has been used as short-hand slang for the ability to hear the gods and speak back to them in return. A full explanation and examination of the term can be found here. I think it’s a useful metaphor, for the most part, and it fairly well describes the experience of what is probably the most common level of divine contact for spirit-workers. You are able to talk back and forth, in real time, with the gods or spirits, using a generally reliable connection that allows for understanding on both ends, and can be initiated by either party (although, to extend the metaphor, you might get no answer, or a busy signal, at times). Of course, many things will affect this connection and the ensuing “signal clarity” and it’s not as if you can always pick up the phone any time you want regardless of mental, physical or spiritual receptivity, but the basic principle still stands.
However, there are other levels of divine contact that are just as important for a spirit-worker (or other type of mystic). I think the god-phone is pretty much the middle of the potential spectrum (this isn’t addressing periods of no contact whatsoever, which do happen to everyone).
To one end of the spectrum, we find a process more like mail than a phone. Messages can be sent and received from either party, but they are not necessarily communications in real time, nor do the parties need to be co-present. Messages from us to Them might be in the form of prayers, petitions, devotional acts, questions posed to divinatory methods, etc. Messages from Them to us might be in the form of omens, answers given through divinatory methods, words delivered via another mystic or even an unsuspecting person, etc. This is the level that non-mystics – everyday worshippers – generally experience (although even this takes a certain amount of effort and attention), but that doesn’t make it any less important to a spirit-worker’s practice. Especially because it requires a lot less energy, clarity and openness than other levels – making it more accessible in any sort of circumstance, as well as a lifesaver when we’re going through fallow times.
To the other end of the spectrum, we find an experience more like having a conversation with a person standing right next to you (or in the case of my spirits, behind you, as that tends to be how They manifest with me). If the relationship is a particularly intimate one, it may even be like They’re whispering in your ear. You are co-present, in real time, with nothing between you to relay or translate the communication. They absorb your full attention, unlike god-phone interactions which can sometimes be carried out while engaging in other tasks. You may also see or feel Their presence (depending on how you are oriented) in an immediate way you don’t get with the god-phone. This is the most direct, most personal form of communication.
It’s worth mentioning, that just because we use this terminology that involves “speaking” and “listening” does not mean you will necessarily “hear” Them as such – either with your physical ears, or internally (the way you might hear music in your head). Obviously, as in the mail metaphor, messages can be conveyed through other means. Not everyone is geared toward auditory input just like not everyone is geared toward visual input (which is why not every spirit-worker has visions). Nor are all the gods and spirits going to communicate in the same way.
Sometimes “hearing” is just a convenient way to express a much more complicated or nebulous experience. For instance, there is a certain quality of inspiration that I know, from confirmed experience over time, comes from my spirit-Husband. I might describe such an instance to someone else as “He showed me a mask to make” or “He told me what to do next” but that doesn’t mean I saw or heard anything. I received the information, and experienced the connection nonetheless.
So your god-phone might function entirely through pictures, your mail might be delivered via a sudden lack of balance (we have more than five senses), your intimate conversation might feel more like a synaesthetic dream than a chat with another human. It doesn’t really matter how it happens, just that you figure out how it works for you and for Them, and keep practicing to attain both breadth and depth to your communications.
In Galina’s recent post On Being and Becoming in Devotion (which is worth reading in full), she talks about the potential for miasma resulting from certain sensory input:
“If we can be contaminated spiritually by what we see and hear, by what we experience, then the logical curative is to be vigilant with regard to our senses….How much are we shaped by our experiences? How much might our center be shifted by what we watch, or what we hear, or the settings to which we expose ourselves?”
I feel this more acutely as time goes on. At first, it was just noticeable during and around ritual practice – for instance, a desire to limit the topics of conversation on a holy day to those suitable for a spiritual mindset, or to avoid areas of excessive commercialization when going out for a festival. Eventually, it began to permeate my everyday life, especially as my spirituality more deeply infused every part of my life.
There are things I simply do not want in my brain, and they give me a strong feeling of miasma. These things feel distinctly incompatible with the spiritual forces that I surround myself with. And to a lesser degree – not miasma-inducing, per se, but not conducive to the mindset I prefer – I avoid being in the presence of too many reminders of mainstream American culture and other distasteful aspects of the world I must live in. As Rhyd noted about visiting my home, I do not have much technology there, I try to limit the amount of plastic I have to see around me every day, choosing instead to have reminders of my spiritual relationships and priorities everywhere I look. This even extends to the city I live in – I chose a place where my walk to work each day passes gardens and trees and (in the more commercial areas) a lot of locally owned shops, where the forest is extremely accessible, where the culture is for the most part supportive of my values…I can’t imagine how much my daily experience would change if I had to walk down a loud, crowded street in a big city full of chain stores where, say, fashion and the latest gadgets were the priority of everyone around me.
I think this is one of those things that might have more impact than we think. At the very least, our surroundings, the media we consume, the sights and sounds we are subjected to, influence our mental landscape and therefore affect our ability to dwell in the spiritual world. At worst, there may well be a spiritual-sickness, a miasma, associated with some of this sensory input, that might tangibly harm our well-being.
Galina goes on to consider whether such miasma can be fought by an overabundance of positive input:
“Is it possible to fill the mind and heart so with praises and prayers and devotion to our Gods, fill to overflowing so that every moment of every day as we move throughout our worlds there is no room for corruption or contamination to exist?”
I personally really like this approach, as I’ve used it before as a protective device (i.e., instead of warding or shielding against negative forces, I simply fill myself and the space up with my spirits and Their power to the point where there’s no room for anything else). However, I think it’s a difficult trick to pull off on a constant basis, even if it’s a good goal to have, and it would probably still be more effective in the interim to be culling negative input where possible.
That might mean a somewhat harsh evaluation of what we’re taking in, and why. I’ve found, for instance, that sometimes my so-called “guilty pleasure” activities (say, eating certain foods, or watching certain shows) are actually doing more harm than good, polluting my body and mind in a way that sets me back in my spiritual pursuits – in those cases, it is usually possible to find replacements that are better integrated into my life but still provide needed relaxation and enjoyment. Yes, that can be annoying at times, having to examine everything one does and everything one is exposed to, but it facilitates a life in the company of the spirits. And anyway, I’ve seen the sorts of people who consume what our culture tells us to consume, and I certainly don’t want to be one of them!