Exploring spirituality somewhere between the Emerald Isle and the Black Land....

Monday, December 30, 2013

Wepwawet, God of teh Cute

I recently took up a new craft: needle felting. One of my first projects was this, a little Wepwawet doll. I still haven't decided if I'm finished with it yet or not, but he looks pretty darn cute in the meantime. Not too bad for a beginner, I think!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Polytheism 101: Offerings

The second post in my "Polytheism 101" series will cover appropriate offerings for various pantheons, and what to do with them after they have been offered. I feel I should also note that though this series will be called "Polytheism 101," the ideas and methods shared here can be applied to just about any Pagan path.

While the short answer to the question of what to offer the gods is "whatever you have to give," I'm betting that if you came here, you're looking for a more substantial answer. So here it is, my meatiest, Manwich-iest of answers:

There are three main places to turn to when figuring out what to offer the gods. The first is to look at the region your gods are from. If you follow Hellenic deities, you might want to offer Greek food. If you are Heathen, try Germanic or Scandinavian foods. Second, look to the myths and symbology of the god in question. At a ritual I once held for Sekhmet, an attendee brought some pomegranate infused beer because they read the story in which Sekhmet was pacified with beer dyed red with pomegranates. A cauldron could be given to Dadga or raven figurines to Odin, as those things have mythological significance to those gods. Lastly, as you continue your research, you'll find out what kinds of things are proven (or at the very least, likely) to have been offered in antiquity. From there, it becomes much easier to figure out suitable modern or local counterparts to give, which is especially important if some of these things aren't easily acquired (such as offering venison instead of gazelle meat).

If you are at a complete beginner, following a more obscure god/pantheon, or otherwise at a loss of where to start, there are luckily a number of things that make great offerings to give to any deity of any pantheon. I've found that vegetables, fruit (dried or fresh), water, fruit juice, bread, and alcohol are always a safe bet. As far as items go, incense, flowers, coins, and pretty stones or crystals are also great catch-all offerings. As you gain intuition and familiarity with your deity and their pantheon, it will go a long way in deciding what to give.

As far as the disposal of offerings go, composting or burying them is probably the most common thing to do, though burning or sinking them also works. When disposing of offerings, it is important that you to be mindful of what you have offered and how you are disposing of it. For example, if you offer chocolate, don't leave it lying around in a park where someone's dog could find and eat it, and don't burn an offered item if it could produce harmful fumes. What exactly you do with them may also be determined by where you live; I live in an apartment, so burning or burying anything on the grounds is out of the question, and I'm well out of walking distance from the nearest lake or river, so I just put natural (e.g. flowers, rocks, etc.) and edible offerings under a tree for the wildlife to take. (As I said before, if you are going to do this, be mindful. You don't want to leave something that will make an animal sick!) Just use common sense, and you'll be fine.

The following is a list of more traditional offerings for the Irish, Kemetic, and Canaanite pantheons. I've compiled it from my own research, as well as a bit of personal experience. Hopefully it will serve as a good starting point for you as you continue to build your own practice.

Irish Celtic offerings

Edible offerings: Alcohol is a favorite among the Déithe. Mead, beer, and whiskey are the definite forerunners, though I've known them to enjoy wine or hard cider. Apple juice and milk are great non-alcoholic alternatives. Beef, pork, and salmon are ideal meat offerings. Apples, hazelnuts, cheese, and honey (or pretty much anything with honey in it) are also great choices, though I have found that hearty foods in general tend to go over well with the Déithe.

Incense: Juniper incense seems to be well-loved, as well as cedarwood and sage. I've also had great results with cinnamon, amber, and cedarwood. Basically, anything woody and earthy is a good choice.

Items: Flowers and other natural items, or things carved from stone or wood are great. Weapons, real or miniature, are popular with warrior deities. As humans were sacrificed in ancient Ireland, human effigies are a suitable and powerful offering, though in my opinion, they are best saved for special occasions.

Food offered to the Déithe likely was not eaten, so you may want to avoid doing so. The best way to dispose of any offering to them is to burn, bury, or sink it in a body of water. Man-made items should be destroyed (broken or otherwise rendered useless, as was done back in the day) then burned, buried, or sunk. However, since items won't spoil, I find that it is sometimes acceptable to leave them on the shrine for an extended period of time first. (Devotional jewelery is my exception to this rule; such items I keep and wear indefinitely.)

Kemetic offerings

Edible offerings: As far as food offerings go, it could be said that the Netjeru have simple tastes. Bread, water, and beer are are the most basic, yet most ideal offerings. Beef, milk, onions, dates, figs, and wine are also appropriate. Game such as gazelles was also offered, so I think deer or elk could make a suitable substitution.

Incense: Frankincense and myrrh were commonly offered, and are probably the best choices if you can get your hands on some, though the Netjeru seem to love resins in general. I've also had good results with lotus, cedar and sandalwood, jasmine, and fig. When offering incense, the most important thing to keep in mind is that some brands use dung as a binder. These should not be given to the Netjeru, as dung is considered impure for ritual purposes (for obvious reasons; I mean, it's poo). I've put together a list of pure incense brands at the end of this post.

Items: The ankh, ib (heart), feather of ma'at, and udjat (Eye of Horus) are all things that were offered to in ritual. Jewelery and perfume, or pretty much anything that's pretty will be enjoyed by the Netjeru. For as simple as their tastes in food offerings can be, when it comes to stuff, they enjoy fine things.

Food offered to the Netjeru was eaten by the priests, so if it is up to you if you would rather eat or bury them. Items which were offered were also used by priests, so you can use them yourself, in honor of the god(s) it was offered to, leave them at the shrine, or bury them. Fire was typically used for banishments or execrations, so I wouldn't burn anything that was given to the Netjeru.

Follow this link if you would like to read more about Kemetic offerings.

Canaanite offerings

Edible offerings: Wine, figs, pomegranates, dates, grapes, hummus, olive oil, flatbread, beef, lamb, and goat are some of the best things to offer. Do not offer pork to the Iluma; it wasn't offered in antiquity, and is likely considered inferior or impure. They prefer farmed meat over wild game.

Incense: When it comes to incense, the Iluma seem to share many of the same tastes as the Netjeru. Myrrh and frankincense are ideal, as are other resins and floral scents. Offerings of incense to the Iluma  also carry the same requirement of purity as those for the Netjeru.

Items: Perfume or olive oil infused with essential oils are always enjoyed by the Iluma. Flowers, art, and jewelery make great offerings as well.

Disposing of Canaanite offerings is much the same as with Kemetic ones; priests used or ate what was offered, and you may choose whether or not to do so yourself. The main difference is that Canaanites performed burnt offerings, so burning them is an option.

If you are interested in reading more, this post has an in-depth account of offerings preferred by the Iluma.

Pure incense brands:

Other posts in the Polytheism 101 series include "Building a Shrine" and "Ritual."

    Friday, September 27, 2013

    Papyrus Painting - Wepwawet

    My latest painting is of Wepwawet. All of the Netjeru love gold, but I've long had the feeling that Wepwawet is also extremely fond of bronze. So naturally, I used lots of bronze-colored paint in this picture.

    I may have overdone it a little....

    Thursday, September 12, 2013

    Polytheism 101: Building a Shrine

    This is to be the first post in my "Polytheism 101" series. As the title says, it will cover the basics of putting a shrine together. I feel I should also note that though this series will be called "Polytheism 101," the ideas and methods shared here can be applied to just about any Pagan path.

    How you decorate a shrine is largely a personal matter. Your own taste, which tradition you follow, and which gods you honor - if any in particular - will determine what exactly your shrine ends up looking like. Big or small, extravagant or simple, the sky's the limit. So my focus here will be about the various items that are used for ritual and devotional purposes.

    Items that are commonly used for a shrine are a pitcher and bowl for libations, a small dish and cup for food offerings, an incense holder, a candle holder, a bell (or a sistrum or drum), and a deity image or religious symbol. I set up these items as an example in the following picture:

    I set up this sample shrine on an empty spot on my dresser. For your own shrine, any such clear surface will do, but I do prefer my shrines to have an entire surface all to themselves (such as on a shelf) to ensure that any clutter doesn't encroach on the shrine space. As for items, for my libation bowl and pitcher, I used a cruet that I bought at a supermarket for $3, and an onyx bowl that was given to me as a gift. For an offering dish, I just re-purposed a saucer from my cupboards. The tea light candle holder and "incense holder" (it's just a pretty dish I liked and put one of those Morning Star incense tiles in it) were purchased at a craft store for $1 each. The offering glass was a thrift store find for about a dollar, and as you can see, the deity image is just a picture of Wesir that I printed from my computer. My splurge item is the bell, which I got at a local metaphysical shop for about $6 or $7. The reason I'm explaining where I acquired everything and for how much is to demonstrate that a shrine can be assembled easily and for little cost.

    I remember that as a young pagan, I would often read about all of the things one "needed" in order to practice a certain path or tradition successfully, and feel overwhelmed by them. Such lists (especially those for more Pagan/Wiccan leaning practices) are often quite long, and the task of acquiring so many things can be very daunting to anyone who is practicing casually or in secret, or who has a limited working space or tight budget. Yet the more experienced I became, the more practicality became my rule of thumb. You don't need a wand, special robes, or crystals. Even an athame can be left by the wayside when you have a perfectly good index finger to direct energy.

    Even my list, as short as it is, shouldn't be seen as a list of requirements that you absolutely need to be a decent polytheist. The items on this list are the things that have proven to be the most used in my own years of experience. But if you feel that you would rather offer a glass of water instead of making a libation, then obviously you can forgo the pitcher and bowl. If you would rather clap your hands or use your voice, then you can skip the bell. Even the deity image/symbol isn't a necessity, as not everyone finds visual foci useful.

    You can see more examples of shrines in my post about 'Anatu and Athtartu,  and in last year's posts about Wep Ronpet and the Day of Chewing Onions for Bast. There is also the website Shrine Beautiful, which features shrines, both simple and ornate, from many different paths.

    Other posts in the Polytheism 101 series include "Offerings" and "Ritual."

    Thursday, August 22, 2013

    The Ultimate Cocktail: Mixing Pantheons

    When I first started this blog, I thought I'd be writing a lot more about what it's like to follow two different paths at the same time (and now three, because back then I wasn't a Canaanite polytheist yet). It's pretty clear now that the reason that I only write about them separately is because I keep them separate in practice. It only makes sense that my blog would follow that same pattern. But here at long last, I have something that involves all three.

    One issue that pops up on various forums and groups is whether or not it is appropriate to follow multiple spiritual traditions or paths, and how to go about doing so. It is this issue that I'm going to address today.

    To anyone who has has read this blog before, it must be unsurprising to hear me say that I think it is absolutely appropriate to honor more than one pantheon of deities. I'm sure it is also unsurprising to hear me say that what I recommend is keeping your practices separate. The only real trick to this is keeping a separate shrine for each pantheon, and after that, tailoring your rituals to each specific path in regard to that path's gods, their mythology, and the culture from which they come.

    One of the most basic reasons I say this is because once you've separated everything, it's easier to get a sense of what works well for each pantheon, and which deities or practices (if any) mesh well. Another important thing to consider is that one thing that is acceptable to one pantheon's practice might be taboo in another. Blood, for example, can be a powerful offering to certain Celtic deities, but in certain Kemetic religions, blood is fairly widely considered to be an inappropriate thing to have at a shrine. Other such offerings include pork (which was never named in Canaanite texts as as an offering to the Iluma) or incense made with dung as a binder (which is a big no-no in both Kemetic and Canaanite traditions). Kemetic and Canaanite religions also often require some form of purification before ritual, whereas ritual purification isn't as commonly practiced in Celtic traditions.

    So let's say you're working with two different pantheons of deities, and you are keeping those paths completely separated. How do you make this work? How do you strike balance between them and give a fair share of your time and effort to each?

    Well, if you have a path that is primary, that pretty much solves the problem right there. You may only practice your secondary path as you see fit, or perhaps once every month or so. However, if that's not the case, one thing that works well is dividing ritual time evenly between the pantheons. For example, if the Netjeru get offerings one day, the next offering can be made to the Déithe. Or you can alternate between weeks or months (or whichever time period works for you), with the Netjeru getting all of the offerings and rituals for one month, and the Déithe getting all of the offerings/rituals the following month.

    The only issue with this is that every now and then you may feel the need, either on your end or the gods', to focus on one deity or pantheon for weeks or even months at a time. A pantheon might suddenly become primary (if one wasn't before), or whichever pantheon was primary might change for a while. For well over a year, I was focused very heavily on my Kemetic path, but once I established my Canaanite shrine, my path was almost exclusively dedicated to 'Anatu and 'Athtartu for about three months. In my experience, the gods tend to be quite understanding when it comes to realizing what you need at any point in time. Besides, another deity's turn probably won't be far behind. The key to this is that it requires a certain amount of attention and intuition to maintain this balance, to know when which god wants what when, but you'll get better at it as you go along.

    However, I know from experience that it's not always possible to have the space to set up two or three (or more) different shrines. And I'm sure there are also cases in which keeping them separate just doesn't work for an individual. If you want to mix different paths into a singular practice, the most important thing to keep in mind is what is considered acceptable to the deities (purification, blood, etc.), which I mentioned before. If I had a shrine to the Iluma and Déithe, I would refrain from offering "impure" incense at that shrine. I might not offer pork, either. Pig may make a wonderful offering for Celtic gods, but not so much for the gods of Canaan. If I felt I needed to give Mannanan Mac Lir some bacon, I might make a small, temporary shrine elsewhere, and offer it there. Again, attention and intuition are very important here. As you go along, the gods will let you know where the lines are.

    While I will freely admit that I don't get the appeal of mixing deities of different pantheons into one practice, the recon-snob in me can't make too much of a fuss about it, because it was done in ancient times. Greeks honored Heru and Anpu as Horus and Anubis, and Egyptians honored 'Anatu and Yamu as Anat and Yam. Moreover, the Greeks and Egyptians honored these gods within the religious contexts into which the deities were adopted. I know that there are plenty of discussions as to how appropriate doing a similar thing in modern times is, and I think there are good points on both sides. But in the end, I think that as modern polytheists, honoring our gods and having respect for them and their cultures is the most important thing.

    Monday, August 5, 2013

    Asherah Calls

    Today I want to share a lovely song that a friend of mine wrote.She kindly gave me permission to make a video for it, so that it would be easier to share with all of you. I hope you enjoy it!

    Asherah koret li mehaadama,  (Asherah calls me from the land)
    Aherah koret li, vekola nishma'  (Asherah calls me, and Her voice is heard)
    Asherah koret li, vekola na'im,  (Asherah calls me, and Her voice is pleasent)
    Asherah koret li, koret mehagalim  (Asherah calls me, calls from the waves)
    Asherah koret li, koret li HaGvira  (Asherah calls me, the Lady calls me)
    Asherah koret li, veani ona  (Asherah calls me, and I answer)
    Asherah koret li, koret mehae'tsim,  (Asherah calls me, calls me from the trees)
    Asherah koret li, ruach hachaim,  (Asherah calls me, the spirit of life)
    Asherah koret li, koret li mehayam  (Asherah calls me, calls me from the sea)
    Asherah koret li, koret li mehadam  (Asherah calls me, calls me from my blood)
    Rabat a'tirat yam, rabat a'tirat yam,  (Great lady of the sea, great lady of the sea)
    Haholechet al galim, hatova et hachutim  (Who walks on waves, who weaves the threads)
    Asherah koret li, mehaadama,  (Asherah calls me from the land)
    Asherah koret li, koret li HaGvira,  (Asherah calls me, the Lady calls me)
    Asherah koret li, koret mehae'tsim,  (Asherah calls me, calls me from the trees)
    Asherah koret li, mikoach hachaim.  (Asherah calls me, from the power of life)

    *I wasn't able to find all of the the artists who created the pictures in this video. If you are responsible for creating them, or know who is, please let me know and I will happily give you credit!*

    Monday, July 8, 2013

    Polytheists vs. Pagans

    For over a decade and a half I have identified as pagan, yet in the last couple of years of that time, I have identified specifically as a polytheist. The reason is not because I have divorced myself from the pagan label or that community, nor do I have any desire to do so. I identify as a polytheist simply because that term is more specific to my beliefs. While "Earth-centered" still applies to the things I believe and the way I live my life, over the years the gods have become just as important in my beliefs, and primary in my practice. I like to think that my blog reflects this dual approach, and is as appealing to polytheists as it is to pagans.

    When I first came to paganism all those years ago, I embraced archetypal interpretations of deities. In hindsight, I realize that I thought that believing in ideas of gods somehow gave my religion more credibility. While monotheists sometimes get flack for believing in just one deity, polytheists can be thought of as being even more "backwards," because it is assumed that people don't believe those things anymore. If someone raised a skeptical eyebrow when I told them that I believed in a bunch of gods, it was a comfort to be able to tell them, "it's not like that! The gods are really just manifestations of the human psyche!" or any number of definitions that pagans use.

    More than that, I found the non-literal interpretation of the divine to be very liberating. To say that I was raised Catholic is an understatement. It was pushed upon me, and the harder I resisted it, the more it was thrust upon me. I think that my time as a monist/agnostic pagan was necessary to cultivate my own spirituality, as it deconstructed (what were to me) damaging ideas of what divinity is. Only after that was I able to approach religion and spirituality with an open mind and heart. There are a number of pagans who have experienced similar things, and to these people, freedom of their individual religious expressions are of utmost importance. I cannot resent this. Having been there myself, I have a deep understanding and sympathy for this need.

    Yet as my time as a pagan wore on, and I continued to call upon and interact with the various names of the deities, more and more I became unable to think of them as mere archetypes and so on. To me, the gods became more real, distinct, and individual.

    Our relationships with the gods can be compared to our relationships with other human beings. When you first meet someone, you may simply know them as "that guy who fixes computers." If there's something wrong with your computer, he's clearly the person to call. But unless you spend the time to get to know him as a person, he'll never become more than another tech geek. You may never learn that he loves spelunking and has a phobia of bubble gum. You may never fully appreciate him for the unique individual that he is. Likewise, I see my transformation from an agnostic pagan to full-fledged polytheist as the result of spending time with the gods and getting to know them.

    I don't say this to imply that I'm doing religion more correctly, or better than anyone else. I simply mean to say that these are the things that I believe, why I believe them, and how I came to believe them. My becoming a polytheist was a natural evolution of my spirituality, and necessary to fulfill that spirituality. You are probably going to believe something completely different. And you know what? That's ok.

    The awesome thing about paganism is that it is open and accepting of all kinds of beliefs. The frustrating thing about paganism is that it is open and accepting of all kinds of beliefs. In my years interacting with other pagans, there have been times when they've been so focused on what makes everyone's belief systems similar, they neglect what makes them different. And when we neglect those differences, misunderstandings happen. Our differences should be as recognized as our similarities because they can give us understanding, context, and a new appreciation for the things we do and believe as individuals, as well as a diversity and vitality that makes our communities richer.

    At least, that's the ideal.

    In the quest for finding sameness, pagans can be very insistent about Jungian archetypes or monism. There are times when I've found it frustrating, offensive even. But guess what? For all the times I've been annoyed by the insistence that "all gods are one," or some other idea, there are pagans out there that have been annoyed by a polytheist's insistence that all gods are separate.

    Which brings us to the major point of contention: Crack open any dictionary, and it will tell you that polytheism is the worship of multiple gods. And according to polytheists, gods are gods. Archetypes are not gods. Natural forces are not gods. However, gods are big, and can do amazing things. From a polytheist's point of view, gods can represent archetypes and manifest as forces of nature as well as being separate, distinct entities. However, the opposite is not necessarily true. The way they see a humanist pagan's view is that a deity is reduced to only an archetype or only a force of nature. And polytheists find this insulting, to their gods.

    I once heard someone say that when you define what your beliefs are, you are in a way denying someone else's. At first I balked at this idea. "No way! My beliefs are, like, Über tolerant and junk!" But as I thought about it, I realized that it was true. When I say that I believe in many gods, this statement is the antithesis of what a monotheist believes. My statement, in an indirect way, denies what they believe. There is nothing malicious about this; it is simply a matter of people having differing points of view.

    And this is the key to the problem that pagans and polytheists are having.

    In the "pro-polytheism" posts that I've been reading, the authors take a very firm stance on their beliefs. They draw a line, and they defend it. And then some of the pagans get offended, interpreting these declarations of belief as attacks, as one person telling another what to believe and how to worship. I know there are those who would disagree with me, but I do not believe that this is the case. And even if it was... so what? No one has to do or think what Random Internet People say. Your beliefs are your own, and no one can change that. If that is not the case, your beliefs must not have been held very close anyway.

    At the beginning of this debate (or more accurately, before I realized that it was a debate) I was very pleased to see my fellow polytheists standing out and declaring what they, and by extension I, believe in. But the deeper I read into the debate, the deeper I saw the contention and nastiness run, until this whole kerfuffle has left me feeling very disheartened. Instead of grown people discussing what they believe and why, egos get in the way and people bicker about who's "righter," slinging personal insults along the way and arguing about who fights dirtier. But all of this is useless. The important thing is not to fight over who is correct. It is to understand each other, and find harmony with each other.

    How do you do this when people on both sides have scoffed at the idea of having to accept each other's beliefs? After all, saying that you accept those beliefs is a way of saying that you believe them. And why would anyone want to say that they believe something they don't? Luckily, the solution is simple.

    We need only to accept that we are different, and that that is ok. No one has to accept your beliefs. No one has to accept my beliefs. But as decent human beings, we all have an obligation to respect that we have them.

    If you want to read more about The Great Debate, I have compiled some links below (in no particular order):

    Wednesday, June 26, 2013

    Papyrus Painting - Mut

    A picture of Mut that I painted. I thought about putting a was scepter in her empty hand. I've not seen a picture of her holding one, but since she's a queen, I think it would have made sense. But in the end, I painted her so that she's holding out her hand in a summoning gesture, calling for her follower (which would be me).

    Monday, June 17, 2013

    Response: What Makes a "Devout" Polytheist?

    Today's topic is inspired by a post I recently read on The Twisted Rope entitled "What Makes a 'Devout' Polytheist?" If you haven't already, you should take a few minutes to read it. Go on, I'll be here when you get back. I promise!

    Her point could be summed up with these questions: "isn’t there more to your religion than the shrine you bow in front of? Isn’t there more than one way to show your devotion to the gods and the religion that they are a part of?" She talks about things like blogging and writing, community building (both online and off), crafting, or just talking to other polytheists about religion and gods as a form of devotion. And all of those can be just as meaningful as sitting in front of a shrine. Yes, spending time at your shrine is important, but devotion is something that you live in all aspects of your life. Otherwise your spirituality looks something like that of the anecdotal Christian who attends church every Sunday, yet acts in a decidedly un-Christian manner the other 167 hours of the week.

    I know that for my part, my devotion is shown in the adoration I feel towards my gods, in the sense of peace and joy I feel whenever I glance across the room at my shrines. It is a simple, but profound experience every time.

    While I more or less agree with everything that Devo said, one important thing that she didn't touch on is that (in my opinion) a big part of devotion is the way in which you treat your gods, inside ritual and out. Being a polytheist means viewing the gods as independent, distinct beings - and treating them as such. I believe that the gods care about us; they want us to be happy and whole, and they can help us to become so. However, this does not mean that the gods exist simply to please us or solve our problems. You shouldn't go to them with offerings and praise only when you want something in return, because the gods are not your personal biatches. In that sense, being devout is being able to honor the gods just for the sake of honoring them.

    The other significant point here is that Devo (rightly so) differentiates between the devotional responsibilities between priests and laypeople. And that difference is what I really got hung up on.

    For much of my life, I have wanted to be a priest. Even when I was a little girl and Catholicism was all I knew, I wanted to be a nun. A life of devotion to one's god and service to one's community is an intimidating prospect, but that life is one that has always been extremely appealing to me.

    So where does that leave a polytheist wannabe-priest? More to the point, where does that leave the misfit tri-pantheon polytheist wannabe-priest? Can I be a priest of three pantheons at once, or do I need to pick a primary one to be a priest of? What do you do when you feel like you have no one community to call your own? Can I call myself a priest when I serve the gods but no community?

    Among my friends, I have described myself as being my own priest, but I mean that in only the most matter-of-fact way. I literally do act as my own priest in the majority of my life and spirituality. But what does that even matter in a religious group filled to the brim with self-described priests?

    So that's what Devo's post did to me. It reminded me for the hundredth time what a weird half-place I'm in. I enjoy ritual more than many things in my life (despite the fact that it is a chore on occasion). Aside from the good it does the gods, ritual is fulfilling and it brings me peace. As cheesy as it might sound, I really do feel like it is a way in which I am meant to bring some small bit of ma'at into not only my life, but into... well, everything. I try to do ritual and give offerings every day, and I often succeed. But I also fail miserably at times, so where does that leave me? I think of being a priest as a lifestyle, a profession, something that you not only want to fulfill, but are obligated to. But is that even possible - or more importantly, fair - when I also need to make a living and may not be able to put as much time into a priesthood as I feel I need to?

    Dear Deithe, Iluma, and Netjeru, I feel so hopeless sometimes!

    Tuesday, May 21, 2013

    Diancecht Is Not a Jerk

    A while back, a well-meaning friend gave me a book called "A Druid's Herbal for the Sacred Earth Year." While I have to admit that the book does have some useful information as far as herbology goes, the mythological and theological approach the author took was frustrating, to say the least. I can't help it; anytime someone goes around saying that Morrighan is a triple goddess, I kind of want to smack them. (She isn't. The triple goddess concept is not Celtic.)

    Now, I could continue to pick apart all the nonsense the author said about Morrighan, but I'll settle for telling you that if you decide to read or have read that book, you
    might as well disregard everything the author says about Morrighan. Today, there's another deity I feel I need to stand up for. And that god is Diancecht.

    Poor Diancecht has such a bad reputation. In the retelling of his story in "A Druid's Herbal," as well as retellings I've heard many other Pagans repeat, it's the same thing. "He's angry! He's jealous! He murdered his son!" Ok, so that last one may be true, but that's not what I'm going to focus on at the moment. It is the words "angry" and "jealous" that I get hung up on when people try to tell his myth, and I'm going to try to explain why.

    The story in question occurs after the battle between the Tuatha Dé Danann and the Fir Bolg. Nuadu's hand had been cut off, and Diancecht created for him a new one made of silver, which had the movement of a real hand. However, Diancecht's son Miach wasn't at all satisfied with this cure. Miach restored Nuadu's severed hand, healing the king. It is at this point that Diancecht seems to loose his shit. He threw his sword at Miach's head, cutting into the flesh. Miach healed himself, and Diancecht struck him again, this time cutting into the bone. Again Miach healed himself, and for a third time Diancecht struck him, cutting into his brain and killing him instantly. Diancecht buried his son, and 365 herbs grew from the grave, the same number as the joints and sinews of his body. At that point Airmed, Diancecht's daughter and Miach's sister, spread her cloak on the ground and picked and sorted the herbs according to their properties. Diancecht then mixed up all of the herbs, so that no one knows all of their healing properties.

    Now I'm going to talk about the texts themselves, how I interpret them, and why. If you want to read them for yourself, translations can be found here and here.

    Regarding Diancecht's "jealousy" about Nuadu's newly healed hand, one of the texts says simply that "Dian Cecht did not like that cure." Another says "But Diancecht was vexed when he saw his son doing a better cure, than himself..." Admittedly, it is an argument of semantics to say that Diancecht's annoyance at his son doing better cure isn't the same as saying that he was jealous of it, but I will take on that argument.

    In this story, I look at Diancechet as a god of doctors, healers, and physicians. Miach is also a god of healing, but more than that, I see him as a god of regeneration. Therefore, to say that Diancecht was annoyed by his son's cure or that he simply didn't like it, is a mythological statement of fact. Humans cannot regenerate missing appendages. Until recently, reattaching missing body parts was a medical impossibility, and even now the process is iffy. This is why I say Diancecht's dislike of Miach's cure was not borne of jealousy. It is simply a statement that Miach's cure was something outside the scope of human ability.

    So how do you get from disliking something that someone does, to repeatedly hurling a sword at that someone's head? Well, for one thing, I think this is another exploration of human ability. Flesh wounds and broken bones can heal on their own, barring any sort of infection, but once you damage the brain, you're pretty much screwed unless you have immediate and extensive medical care. In some movies, damaging the brain is even how you kill zombies, like in "Shaun of the Dead." Remove the head or destroy the brain, right?

    More significantly, I see this as a sort of origin story of healing herbs. Just think about it - from the grave of the god of healing and regeneration comes 365 herbs, each corresponding to his body parts. In a mythological sense, the herbs that heal us could have only come from there. And in this sense, Diancecht's act is one of necessity, for without the felling and burial of Miach, we would have no medicine. Likewise, I see Diancecht's scattering of Aired's collection of these herbs as an explanation of their complexity. Being a competent herbologist takes years of study, and even so, no matter how experienced you are, there is always more to learn and discover.

    Some may think that my interpretation of this myth is a stretch, but one has to remember that mythology is metaphor. In my experience, myths are about more than they appear to be on the surface. So the next time you tell this story, or hear someone else doing so, please don't be so hard on Diancecht. He is not a villain. He is one of the Tuatha Dé Danann. He is a god.

    Tuesday, April 16, 2013

    And Then There Was ‘Anatu and ‘Athtartu

    Or, "Why Kaif is a Big Fat God Slut."

    Some time ago, I stumbled across Tess Dawson's website, Natib Qadish: Modern Canaanite Polytheism. After poking around a bit, I found a brief description of the goddess ‘Anatu, a deity of war and loyalty. She was described as being young, fierce and fearless, and ready to defend those she cares about.

    Despite how short the description of ‘Anatu was, it really made an impression on me. The feeling I got reading about her was kind of like the feeling you get when you meet some one new, and know instantly that you're going to be friends. Needless to say, I was immediately hooked, and eager to learn more about this deity. Yet at the same time, I must admit that part of me was a little frustrated as well. I had just gotten a handle on my Kemetic goings-on and wanted to continue to focus on that, to continue to nurture the relationships that I had spent roughly a year developing. However, the feeling I got about ‘Anatu was one I had learned not to ignore. After some extensive internal debate, and some reassurances to and from the Netjeru, I eventually managed to strike a compromise with myself. My immersion into Canaanite polytheism or Natib Qadish was a slow process as I learned about ‘Anatu and her fellow Caananite gods, culture, and religion bit by bit, while still keeping the focus on further establishing my Kemetic practices.

    Eventually, ‘Athtartu started creeping into my mind as well. Tess Dawson's website describes her as "a goddess of compassion, restraint, and peace," and a goddess of justice. In other words, very different from ‘Anatu! It confused me a great deal that these two very different deities were both so appealing to me (or that I was so appealing to them, whichever the case may be), but I eventually learned that according to legend, ‘Athtartu and ‘Anatu were friends and would go hunting together. Discovering that was one of those beautiful moments when your own intuition can be validated by research, and that's when their connection really clicked for me. It is difficult to put into words as this understanding is so visceral, but it's about the wholeness of two seemingly separate and opposing parts. They are the warrior and the diplomat; the need to fight or make peace, act or react, and to me, together they represent the need and the wisdom to take the appropriate action at the appropriate time. This insight gave sense to my fascination with these goddesses, since one of the things I've struggled with all my life is knowing when to push and when to pull.

    I recently decided to take the plunge and give the goddesses a shrine of their own, and begin some sort of formal practice for them. Despite my limited skill, I had previously made statues for them. ‘Anatu is in a smiting pose similar to those of other Canaanite warrior deities, holding a spear in hand, and ‘Athtartu is in a gentle pose, sporting the prominent pubic triangle with which she is often identified. I put these statues on a shelf with some modest decoration, and while it's a simple shrine, I like the result:

    The shrine of ‘Anatu (on the left) and ‘Athtartu (on the right), with offerings of a candle, incense, and water.

    If you are interested  Cananite Polytheism, check out Natib Qadish: Modern Canaanite Polytheism and Kinaʻani: Impressions of Tess Dawson, Canaanite Polytheist. For more information about ‘Anatu and ‘Athtartu specifically, read "Oh My Goddess-es: Identities of Inanna, Astarte, Ishtar, ‘Athtartu, ‘Anatu, and Athiratu" to learn more about them.  :)

    Tuesday, March 26, 2013

    Heka, Masaru Emoto Style

    I thought this video would make a good follow-up to my previous heka post. It is a brief yet brilliant summary of Masaru Emoto's work. For those of you who are unfamiliar with it, in a nutshell, Mr. Emoto took pictures of water molecules after they had been exposed to various words and intentions. I first heard of Masaru Emoto's work several years ago, but didn't give it much thought then. However, coming to Kemeticism and learning about the concept of heka gave me a new perspective on what he has done, as well as a great appreciation for it. Just watch this video, and you can see why.

    Remember, words have the power to create. They have the power to heal. Saying so is not just fluffy nonsense - it's true!

    Monday, February 11, 2013

    Moon Ritual

    As a followup to my sun ritual, I want to share with you a moon ritual as well. Because of my Irish Celtic focus, I always sing the following song for Boann, but it can work for any lunar goddess, such as Selene.

    Simply go out into the light of the moon (a full one is most appropriate, I think!), light some incense and a candle, sing, and pray.

    Welcome to you,
    Jewel of the night!

    Beauty of the heavens,
    Jewel of the night!

    Mother of the stars,
    Jewel of the night!

    Fosterling of the sun,
    Jewel of the night!

    Majesty of the stars,
    Jewel of the night!
    Jewel of the night!

    Monday, January 21, 2013

    A Sun Ritual

    Sometimes, the simplest rituals are the most meaningful. Imagine going outside at dawn, lighting some incense, and then singing a song of praise to the sun as it rises....

    I want to share with you a song I learned during my time at the temple. It can be used as I describe above, the crown of a simple outdoor ceremony, or integrated into a more elaborate ritual of any style. The song (and accompanying ritual, if you wish) is perfect to perform at sunrise or on the winter solstice. Or whenever the mood strikes you. I often sing it on cold days when the sun has come out to warm me up. In fact, because I enjoy singing it so much, I frequently find myself singing it just for the hell of it!

    So here it is, "The Sun":

    Welcome to you, O Sun of the Season!
    You, walking high in the heavens,
    your footsteps strong on the wings of the heights;
    you, the adored Mother of the Stars.

    You lie down in the destructive ocean
    without misfortune and without fear;
    you rise up on the forked wave of peace,
    a queenly maiden blooming.