Positive Asceticism

I am a very distractible person. I tend to huff at the general overuse of ADHD, but if you know me IRL then you know I am a constantly shifting tide, physically and mentally. So in my draft blog writing I’ve been hopping around, because I don’t have an established writing practice (working on it). So, I’m once again jumping topics, because this one happened to be what I finished first. Apologies for being abrupt and out of sequence.

A theme I’m going to explore, probably regularly, is the concept of “polytheist monasticism”. I am part of a loose network of pagans (etc) with this interest, and I am certainly not the first. (More on the concept and on established groups in another post.) This post is somewhat of a an off-shoot of that topic.

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For reasons I only half understand, there is an active undercurrent against “asceticism” withing pagan and polytheist discussion. Typically verbalized as “paganism is about embracing life!”, it is a reaction generally to what practices are perceived as toxic leftovers of Christianity. Asceticism is viewed as a denial of reality, a rejection of the natural body, and therefore of the natural spiritual body and one’s place on Earth — a foolish, often elitist self-view born of the idea that humans are superior to “animals”. This goes against what is arguably the core tenet of (neo-)paganism, which is the reverence for “Nature”. Additionally, this Christian-based image of ascetic practice-as-denial smacks of servitude and slavery, self-flagellation, and shame-filled suffering, done in order to punish oneself as commanded by the superior Deity for one’s Sin. Sin has a greater weight to it than simply a failure, mistake, or inferiority; it has a connotation of disease, malignancy, a deformity of one’s very soul. Applying a moral toxicity to the natural body and natural world goes against what is considered healthy and “right” to most everyone in the pagan-umbrella, and often plays a part in those who “leave” Christianity, and certainly is anathema to most people raised in pagan families.

The view of asceticism as a negative ideology/practice seems to me to stem partly from a lack of understanding or experience with ascetic practices, and partly from an internalization of our Western culture’s materialistic values, which are so ubiquitously promoted. Indeed in the US, consumerism is considered a “national trait”, in a positive sense, and even those who verbally deride it actively participate in its mores without awareness. We are taught that our possessions speak for us, represent us, reflect our core selves – and so materialism is no just the norm, it is almost a necessity. For pagans, it seems to be an overwhelming idea that asceticism is always an expression of the Christian self-abuse seen above, an extreme — or even essential — practice of denial of the natural body.

What is asceticism? Here’s a general description from Wikipedia:

Asceticism…is a lifestyle characterized by abstinence from worldly pleasures, often for the purpose of pursuing spiritual goals. Ascetics may withdraw from the world for their practices or continue to be part of their society, but typically adopt a frugal lifestyle, characterised by the renunciation of material possessions and physical pleasures, and time spent fasting while concentrating on the practice of religion or reflection upon spiritual matters.

It goes on to quote Wimbush and Valantasis, who describe ascetic practices in two categories “natural” and “unnatural”. The former is a “lifestyle” based on a minimalization of materialism. The latter “is defined as a practice that involves body mortification and self infliction of pain”. I think this distinction is interesting, because it reveals a flaw in the thinking of the “embrace life!” pagans of the first paragraph; clearly their intent is not necessarily to promote hedonism, and in fact a brief glance at pagan lives will clearly show that many practices in the “natural asceticism” category are frequent. These include things like morally-guided dietary restrictions, meditation, and a rejection of many materialist aspects of modern-day life which non-pagans, including the majority of Christians, consider “necessities”. While I do think there is a pagan push against minimalism in the general idealistic sense (part of natural asceticism here defined), it’s very clear that the rejection of “asceticism” is targeted to those practices loosely defined as “unnatural”.

What are some “unnatural” ascetic practices? I am not so sure this line between natural/unnatural is so easily drawn. I doubt that the average pagan (if there is an average) would consider meditation or occasional fasting to be extreme or unnatural, however I’d presume they think hours-long meditation/prayer and lengthy starvation-level fasting certainly is. (Note that I’ve also seen people say that any sort of fasting perused for the purpose of spirituality, rather than health, is unacceptably unnatural.) Chastity and celibacy are usually denounced outright by pagan, as they are believed to be prudishly antiquated, or morally anti-sex. While many pagans wear symbols of their faith, few have religious-based restrictions on their clothing like modesty or even theme (1). (Discounting those folks who are also vegan and avoid animal products, which is sometimes morally driven but not religious per se.) Other practices are “self-imposed poverty, sleep deprivation, and secluding oneself in the wilderness”, and also taboos or commitments such as nonviolence, standing while eating, avoiding medical procedures, sleeping uncomfortably, exposing oneself to the elements, and so on.

Very, very few pagans pursue “body mortification” and intentionally self-inflicted pain, and those that do are considered fringe whack-jobs by the mainstream pagan community; the word “cult” has been seen applied here. However, lesser forms of asceticism are still regarded as “fringe”, particularly the idea that one would spend the majority of one’s daily life focused on one’s spirituality. For the majority of pagans (and witches and polytheists and heathens, et al), spirituality is only one aspect of their lives, and while it may be an important part, it is not the dominant focus of their lives.

310px-EmaciatedBuddha[Image: Gautama Buddha during his ascetic period,
emaciated from starvation. Would you like a sandwich?]

Religion is used by most people as an enhancement on life, not as the driving force of their lifestyle. In the United States, and basically most of the Western world, the idea of dedication of one’s life to religious pursuit is, frankly, sneered at. You don’t want to be too religious: that means you’re either old-fashioned and “backwards”, unenlightened by superior modern civilization — or you’re just nuts. We have a view of über-religious types as generally goofballs, and conjure up images of certain antisocial Baptist protesters, nefarious megachurch televangelists, starry-eyed New Age hippies waiting for the Space Brothers….and of course the weeping self-tortured monk whipping his own back with thorns. (To be extreme is considered pathetic and scornful in our society; the same reaction is given to other counter-cultural practices, too.) Religion, somewhat rightfully, is associated with the shittiest parts of human behavior, and in the US it is intrinsically linked with bigotry and violence of all kinds, as well as individual psychological repression.

And so as pagans in general are reactionary against this effect that Abrahamic Monotheism and religious essentialism has had on our culture (we can note that pagans almost to a one will tell you there is no One Right Way or One True Religion), while still recognizing the need for a spiritual dimension in human life. But again I ask: where is the line drawn? How much meditation or fasting is “right”? How much religion is “too much”? Perhaps it is more important to analyze how we draw the line between natural/unnatural, because in general I do not think most people do so with a critical eye; after all, it’s already seen that some ascetic practices are perfectly accepted by pagans, their benefits recognized. I think this paradoxical rejection of some ascetic practices as “unnatural” stems directly from a push-back against (toxic) Christianity, and indirectly from our cultural socialization to be anti-religious.

A brief interlude….I confess that asceticism has always interested me. I am a type of person who desires to have some “goal” in life, some sort of guiding philosophy which encompasses all of my daily actions. As such monasticism and asceticism are attractive to me, because I perceive them as specific work done to achieve concrete result, as opposed to just “life”, which is a meandering aimlessly. This is clearly just a personal part of my psychology, and I expect some others with interest in such thinks feel similarly. I do find it frustrating that this life-view, which I don’t impose on anyone else, is so derided and sneered at. But separate from my personal feelings, I think the automatic assumption of asceticism as negative is false and ill-informed. 

maxresdefault[Image: Hotei, the Laughing Buddha. This fellow seems much
more level-headed. But he wandered around with an empty bag.]

Perhaps it is because I’m more aware of Eastern philosophies, but I think ascetic practices can be applicable to us (speaking as a polytheist). Properly used (de-Christianized) asceticism is not self-punishment or self-denial. These acts are intended to increase spiritual awareness and strengthen one’s connection to the Powers.  They can be a means of showing devotion and dedication. They can be methods of putting oneself into “headspace” or trance, to open oneself to Divine communication. They can be a way to disconnect from the toxic aspects of material culture, at least temporarily, so one can shift their viewpoint towards better spiritual understanding. Asceticism, even much of the painful bits, is not some way to create a suffering believed to be deserved, but a way to create an experience that enhances.

Almost every very devoted person engages in some of this: purity rituals, exhausting prayers, excruciating writing projects (ahem), and so on. I suggest that for people who feel they are “missing something” in their paganism/polytheism, one option to explore is the use of ascetic practices. Positive Asceticism can be seen if one steps away from the stereotyped images of flagellating friars. For complex reasons, self-discipline is much maligned in the West recently, confusingly totally backwards to the ideal of “American Independence”, I think…but it probably stems from the “speed” of our society, the fact that almost everything it a click away. Self-discipline isn’t self-punishment. It is skill building. Specifically, self-discipline is a form of repetitious practice to build the emotional skill of handling frustration, which is what makes accomplishing long-term goals possible. It is the same for spirituality: the only way to reach the depths and heights are long-term dedicated practice. Some (most?) people will not get there by merely baking on Yule and wearing a necklace.

And yes – some people don’t want that depth. There are lots of ways of worship and they are all valid. But if you do want depth, as people interested in monasticism presumably are, then you might consider re-thinking your view on asceticism.

As mentioned, there will be concrete evidence that such acts as self-imposed poverty or strict “rules” are actually beneficial to the individual, in terms of their psychological health. We do not picture the chanting Japanese priest standing under the frigid waterfall to afterward return to the monastery in a depressed, self-hating state. Rather, he is improved, strengthened, more open to compassion for the world, more connected to nature and to his own body, and more connected to his Gods. Isn’t that what we, as pagans and polytheists, aim to achieve?

Misogi[Image: a man praying and chanting beneath a
winter waterfall. I think I need a warm shower now.]

While all this is probably rhetorical for folks with no interest in monasticism, for those of us interested in creating and maintaining polytheistic Orders, I think the understanding of ascetic value is essential. In fact, I would argue it’s the entire point of monasticism. You’re right, self-punishment and denial of the body have no place in a pagan space. But the reason a person creates/joins a monastery or becomes clergy is because they want to dedicate the majority of their time and energy to religious practice. This will automatically mean a reduction of “worldly” things — they take up too much time. As a group, following the same rules and schedules and modes of dress are to create a sense of group identity, which in turn enhances the ability to stay in a spiritually-focused state. When your life is devoted to simplicity, it removes the need to spend huge amounts of personal energy into material-based decision making (what to wear, what to eat, what to buy, etc). It helps self-identity too, because there is no worrying about fashion trends, social standing, body-image, and so on. You are solidly who you are: a Dedicant.

Similarly, I think the awareness of what more seemingly-hard practices can do should be examined and put to use for monastic-minded polytheists. Experiencing harshness and pain does not have to be a denial of Nature. Tattoos hurt – are you “suffering” when you get one? Are you denying nature or your body? Unlikely. Spirituality is no different. In fact, am of the personal view that asceticism, and excess, are flip sides of the same coin. You can be obsessively excessively ascetic, which will result in unhealthy pathology (there is a clear difference between religious fasting and Anorexia Nervosa). I believe that some ascetic practices can actually be an embracing of the body and of Nature, that testing the limits of the body, and experiencing extreme conditions of Nature, creates a greater understanding of one’s place as a part of the natural world.

Overall I think the false and unnecessary rejection of ascetic practices is a knee-jerk reaction against Christianity, not a critical analysis (3). I do not think this rejection holds with history (for those of us who are historically based or inspired) — and I also do not think that any practice is automatically “unnatural”, because the proof is in the pudding, as they say, and it will be apparent in an individual whether “extreme” asceticism is having a positive or negative effect on them. Asceticism is not a rejection of the Natural; rejection of the Natural can take many forms. And so can the embracement of life.

In an up-coming post I delve into polytheistic monasticism, which certainly incorporates some level of (“natural”) ascetic lifestyle. I want to talk on a more personal level about how I practice my own form of “polytheist monk life”. And other topics, including the 15 drafts I have going….

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(1) There are increasing numbers of polytheists practicing religious clothing restrictions. I like this and have been working to include this practice myself; however I watch this behavior with some trepidation because, in my experience, it seems to be predominantly practiced by women. If the practice of, for example, headcovering or hair-wearing is limited only to one gender, it runs the risk of reinforcing systematic sexism which has direct impact on people’s lives. We need to encourage non-gendered and universal forms of polytheistic symbols, particularly among men. (I tend to feel that the Amish, for example, are far less sexist in this specific area, since while the clothing itself is gendered due to tradition, modesty of dress is universal.)

(2) Perhaps you noticed that I used non-Christian and non-pagan images in this post??? The Christo-centric and European focus we have in our discussions is very noticeable, sometimes, and I think it skews our viewpoints, even when the topic is itself ethnocentric. Asceticism has been practiced all over the world, of course. I think we can learn a lot about the practical and healthy applications of some of these practices by comparison to other models besides just Christianity. 

(3) But I’ll also note, there are plenty examples of positive asceticism in Christianity as well. This post isn’t intended as Christian-bashing, merely critical analysis of toxic elements of Christianity.

 

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Divination Issues

I’m having some difficulty writing the next post for this blog, because it’s giving me an uneasy feeling – not content-wise but responsibility wise. The short story is that I had a rather confusing divination session recently, and I haven’t decided what to do about it. It’s sort of put my spiritual life on hold (of which the blog is a part), because, while my daily practices are the same, I don’t know how to proceed with my future growth. (I might honestly end up sharing it here, I’m so dumbfounded. At the very least I’m going to contact a friend or two and maybe a pro.)

I have like 20 drafts in progress on topics of my Gods and how I worship Them, on holidays, ethics and natural harmony, monasticism and service. I’m also reading a book (read: lengthy academic tome) which is not pagan per se, but involves the Celtic Revival and reconnecting to one’s lost heritage. While I am reading it for non-religious reasons, I immediately recognized the tie to myself individually, and it is coincidentally highly relevant, I think, to certain political issues in the US currently. So I want to do a big review of it, specifically in a polytheist context, because I hope it can provide maybe a new level of insight on the “sociology” of connecting to the Ancestors, as well as practical suggestions.

My Pantheon: Hardness, Density, and the Nature of the Gods

Every post I’m going to make on this silly blog is probably going to start with a lengthy disclaimer, which is somewhat unfortunate. But with the current social environment, both under the pagan umbrella and larger society, it seems a lot of derailing comes from semantic arguments, a huge hindrance to any depth to discussion. I think frequent clarification is going to be part-and-parcel for polytheist blogging in my case. The disclaimer for this post is two-fold:

  1. First, these views are my own hypotheses. I am not asserting them as fact. I am not preaching or proselytizing these ideas as “right”. I don’t care a whit if you view the Gods differently – because neither of us has any irrefutable proof of fact on the true Nature of Gods.
  2. Second, as I recognize and readily admit that I don’t always have all the facts on the known universe, I might change my mind. Gasp. It’s a good and logical thing to update one’s viewpoints when presented with new information, despite the (Christian-based?) American view that changing one’s mind is a signifier of weak-mindedness. Perhaps my future practice will lead me to other conclusions…but this post is what I feel for now.

Usually I’ve found Polytheists to be a-okay with the sort of “fuzziness” I’m talking about here, but, who knows. Am I being grumpy again?

What’s a God? The Nature of Deity

In some ways, this is a “Pagan 101” post, but the Nature of Deity is also central to the theology of any religion. Deity is something no religion agrees on, but it is often the origin-point for choices about mundane social behavior – how do we choose to live, if we know our God is the Only Real One? Or if Deity is inherent in everything? Or if our Gods are omniscient and omnipresent – or not?

I do not believe my Gods (or the polytheistic gods in general) are “Creator-gods” in the Monotheistic sense. I don’t believe in creator-gods at all. There was no supernatural dude, or powers, who consciously created everything with his magicness. Not all polytheists agree with my belief, and many folks in world religions believe all creation stems from the power of the Gods. (And that’s fine. We can get along. No worries.)

Personally, I view the Gods as natural beings like all beings, creations of natural phenomenon. I suspect They are inherently linked to our planet and are not necessarily Universal (though similar beings might be elsewhere). I think the “species” of Gods has something similar in function to us, like all sentient spirit-havers, but I believe our limited perception through our physical senses makes it difficult for us to perceive and interact with Them. They are Spirit Beings, sharing our world, who have been with our ancestors for a very very long time. I also think They are “enlightened” beings, and with Their vast knowledge and compassion They are positively inclined to help Humans develop and advance their Spirit aspects. (Side note: I also view Them as either Dharma Protectors or Bodhisattvas, but that’s another talk.) While They can influence the physical world, I don’t think They have ultimate power over it in ways that conflict with natural law.

I think I’m interacting with a variety of Gods who responded to my call based on ancestral (or similar) link. Which is to say, some distant part of my ancestry “knew” Them, and like meeting the nephew of an old friend, I am already familiar to Them. I don’t mean there needs to be some direct blood-connection at all to some group or pantheon, but simply a network of communication, the same as people and other sentient animals have. I didn’t find Them through living people. When I went looking for Gods, They were already there.

How Poly is Polytheist? Hardness and Syncretism

I typically use the word “pantheon” with a lowercase “p”, for its colloquial sense. (1) Sometimes people misinterpret the word pantheon and read more into it than I’m intending…I have a network of gods that are a clan, or work together, or something. They’re the group I interact with on the regular. While I do believe They form a perfect union, the word “pantheon” sometimes makes people think of…I don’t know, a cast of characters specifically designed for a story. It’s not so structured for me. (Any Gods can, in theory, form a perfect union…because They’re Gods.)

Here’s the last shoe to drop, the One Thing I keep meaning to address on this blog, but I’ve been wishy-washy about: I struggle with the nature of ‘syncretism’ and the ‘solidness’ of my deities. I’m very reluctant to declare my Gods as The God, especially since some of Them have very…unclear identities to me. I feel embarrassed about this. However, from reading tentative talks from other polytheists, I have the feeling it’s not uncommon at all.Once you get to talking to polytheists you see it’s pretty typical that the same Gods appear rather differently to each individual, only linked by a common theme. One person, for example, might receive the Goddess Hera in a Queenly aspect, while another in a Maternal aspect. When we talk to the Gods, we’re only perceiving a sliver of Their personalities, so this makes sense.

Unfortunately I’m also nervous since I am not convinced my Gods are even the same Gods whose names I use. Oops! Yes. My practice has a mostly-Norse “gloss”, which I pursue due to my interest in my ancestral heritage, as well as respect for continuing the traditions of my ancestral cultures. But some of the Deities are noticeably lacking in some areas of lore…or my experiences of Them differs quite a bit from the main story. I tend to believe I’ve got a variety of Gods who’ve teamed up for me (Norse, Baltic, Gaulish, and Celt), or that perhaps all of my Gods were standard Northern European or PIE gods known by many names, some of whom lost favor/info over the centuries, as we know sadly happens. So, I know the “psychic imprint” of the Deities in my pantheon, and I have a general idea of who each of Them are, and They in turn seem okay with using the name and “mask” I put on them. A few of them, though, are still frustratingly unclear.

I deal with this by referring to my Personal Deities as epithets/titles. When I worship, I call my Gods by Their titles, not names. This is important to me, partly for psychological reasons: my brain doesn’t need to go in useless circles trying to explain the nature of the Gods pointlessly, since both They and I know who I’m referring to. However it’s worth noting that a huge number of PIE-descended Gods have “names” that originally seemed to be titles anyway. I feel it’s historically justified.(2) My Personal Deities are not the same as the more general/universal deity, but rather the Aspects/masks/rays/parts of the Deity I deal with directly. Does that make sense? If I was invited, for example, to a ritual for the God Odin, I would treat that separately than I would a personal appeal to my God the All-Seer, even though I think They are one and the same. In some ways this is a matter of “spiritual politeness”.

It also keeps me sane so I don’t fall down the “comparative research” hole, which is bottomless. I’m the type of person who wants to Categorize Everything in that Crowleyan 777 way. You don’t get to know a person by reading their Facebook profile any more than you can know a God from Wikipedia, or even the Eddas. The tales we have show an aspect of the Deity’s personality, so we can get a sense of Them, so we can understand something about Their nature – but They are not Their stories just as the land is not the map. My answers aren’t to be found in the intellect alone, unfortunately.

Some pagans/heathens/polytheists are sneering towards syncretism, but I feel it is also historically justified. In polytheistic Europe the reality of gods was just taken for granted; but that doesn’t mean our ancestors all had the same views of Their nature. We know the Romans believed that all Gods were aspects of their own, who appeared a bit different to other cultures. We know the Greeks had “new” Gods join them after being carried to their city-states by believers. It is thought that Baltic peoples believed that the Gods were all emanations of a central Deity (or did they?). The Egyptians regularly syncretized their own Gods, those Deities combining by Their Power and Will into new necessary Gods. And so on.

So you, dear Reader, might recognize some of my Gods, and perhaps are dealing with the same ones. Or we’re dealing with different aspects, or perhaps syncretisms. Or maybe you think I’m full of shit and only you’ve got the Real Thor or whatever. Have at it. I kind of go back-and-forth with what I believe and the “hardness” of my polytheism, or who They even are, but having talked to a handful of much more experienced polytheists they have all agreed that my approach (home: my mess, outside: individuals) is right and respectful. It’s what I would suggest to others were they similarly confused.

Who Are the Gods? My Pantheon

Finally at the heart of the matter! Who cares about all that boring philosophical schlock? What Gods do I actually worship?

Oh dear, I don’t really want to answer this question. I feel it’s invasive. It also feels false to me to make a tidy list out of these great Beings. I’m literally wringing my hands and getting up for more coffee so I can think about it before typing. I’m going to be talking about the gods anyway, so why not just say so?

I’m going to go half-way and share with you those Gods that are the main Gods of my heart. This is not a complete list. There are Others I honor regularly, with dedicated space on my shrines. But these are perhaps the ones deal with most directly, and will likely be mentioned frequently here.

  • The Dark Mother is the most amorphous and is missing from Norse lore, but She has been with me for decades. I call her Ragana. She is a Witch-Queen and the Goddess of Toads, the healer-poisoner mystic.
  • The Bear Mistress has been with me just as long. She may be an aspect of Skaði, but perhaps Artio and/or Mielikki. She has not deigned to tell me. She is the Huntress through wild moonlit forests, who destroys weakness.
  • The Gold Lady and the Good King are Iðunn and Bragi. She is the Rosy Dawn and the Renewal of Spring and the Gods’ End. (She is fantastic!) He is, of course, the most honest of Speakers and and Protector of Wyrd.

Gosh, that list seems so short! But these three Goddesses (plus Consort!) are Those who receive my primary attention and after whom I model my spiritual journey. I am devoted to Them, though not in a sworn-capital-D way. I will definitely be exploring Them, along with the rest of Their cohort, as this blog plods on.

I also keep an ancestor shrine with photos and heirlooms, and one to the Vaettir, animal, and plant spirits.

(1) Somewhat recently PSVL talked about this on Pantheons as the Battleground of Syncretism, and goes into some other related polytheistic experiences.
(2) After writing this page, I saw that Marc on Lārhūs Fyrnsida talks about this in Prayer in a Heathen Context. Happy to see I was already incorporating some of these elements!


Phew! I am so glad that’s over with! Now I can get on with actually talking about what I do with these Spirit-Folks. My next post is going to go a little bit into the orthopraxy-orthodoxy framework, and how I think it can be applied practically.

Small note: I finished this post on 2/2, but tried to set it to post 2/8, to spread it out from my brief Imbolc post. It didn’t post because I fail at WordPress, oops – but it’s okay because I got to revise it a little. From now on, I am going to try to work on this blog/the shrines on Thursdays (my day of rest) with the goal that I’ll at least get one post per month.

 

Blessed Imbolc to All

I made a promise to the Hearth Mother that I would make at least some effort to do something of value today, for She appreciates nothing like Hard Work. I wrote three poems today, which for me is a deluge. None of them were to Her though, oops! I’ll try to remedy that tonight. Eventually, when I have a good “themed” collection going, I plan to gather them into little hand-bound booklets, probably sometime this year. I’m hoping they will each be dedicated to specific deities, but I may not be that prolific. (These booklets are going to be really cool, just wait.)

For Imbolc every year, besides some general baking, I always try to spend some time spinning, a hobby I don’t get to do as often any more. I have some arthritis in my hands, so my yarn-crafts are only occasional and extremely drawn-out affairs. But since spinning is especially sacred to the Hearth Mother, and other Godesses around this time, I make a special effort to offer this work as a gift of contemplative worship, and later use the yarn in a sacred or magic project – usually practical things like binding herbs or what have you.

There’s a special anecdote, though, that goes with my holiday spinning. Several years ago (six?) I spent a lot of time walking, many miles a day. I’m a big fan of thrift shops, so I was a regular at the Goodwill about 2 miles from my home at the time. One particular walk, I was delighted to discover two lovely drop-spindles in perfect condition for something like $10, and these models were not cheap when new. Guess what day I happened to be taking that walk?? Yes, Imbolc.

Hail to the Hearth Mother, everlasting,
Her head shall ever be crowned in gold, 
may She purify my heart as would the flame!

Sooo one thing I haven’t had the chance to go into yet is the nature of my “pantheon”, which is unfortunately a rather essential topic in my writings here. I want to do that before I start getting specific on each Deity, which is why I’m kind of skirting around this Holyday in this post. I’m going to go work on that post right now, which is partway finished and sitting in my drafts, and maybe I’ll have it up sometime within, oh, the next century.

(I’m also avoiding political talk here. I promise I cannot shut up about it elsewhere.)


Edit 2/4/17: I’ve finished another post, but I’m scheduling it to post next Thursday, on 2/9. No sense in posting in sudden deluges separated by vast droughts. 

(hello)

Yes, hello, I’m still alive. 2016 was a totally shitty year, wasn’t it? I’ve been super busy with both the normal holidays and my Total Life Overhaul, impending my return to college next week. A half-apology for the blog, but that’s life.

A huge part of my future degree is writing. In fact, that’s most of it. As part of this, I’m going to be slowly developing a more regular writing practice, and this blog is going to play a part in it. So I hope to complete all my “Drafts” sometime in the next few months as I get settled into a new routine.

I’ve also started working on several “Online Shrines” to some of my particular Deities. The first is to Iðunn, who I am close to and who I think is vastly underappreciated! I’ll be posting these as I collect and construct them.

Other than that, I hope everyone had a blessed Winter holiday to recoup from the mess of 2016.

Oh, and today is my birthday. I’m 33 today. That’s a thing.

Minor Update/Hiatus

Hello folks, just wanted to give a quick update. I currently have no less than 10 half-written posts saved to my Drafts, waiting to be finished. However, I’m also working 60-hour weeks, with a 1.5 hour drive to get there, plus dealing with a work-related injury and the resulting doctors and paperwork, AND I’m doing the prep-work to go back to college this Winter…. Suffice to say, I’m busy.

So I’m still here, but on a mini-hiatus for the next week or two. There’s all kinds of stuff coming up: lots of divination, introspection, exploring topics like monasticism and the nature of the Gods, and current events – which is to say, personal events in my spiritual life. I’ll be back.

Review: Poseidon of the Ponds

Here’s a little thing I didn’t plan to do, but I think it’s very important we support the work of other folks who do the work of the Gods. So I’m already putting aside my “no linking to others” to do a little ebook review. (Though this will probably be more of a “personal tangent” than a review….) (Did I do this instead of completing the prayer I was supposed to finish? Oops.)

Poseidon of the Ponds caught my attention since I’m also working on a “liturgical calendar” for myself and my Gods. This small eBook is the second part of a series where the author, Jolene Dawe, a 20-year dedicant of Poseidon talks about the development process of her personal celebrations. As she explains, this isn’t a “how-to manual”, but is rather more a memoir that gives a glimpse into her personal practice and is origins.

With polytheists, it seems, no two practices are identical. I would argue it’s because most(?) of us are trying to develop a “relationship” with the Gods. There is a lot of tailoring that needs to be done for individual daily devotion, because while the basic methods are generally the same (“functional polytheism”?) the specific words, acts, and “aesthetic” are often unique. Even if someone is using words that another person wrote, those words are selected for a personal reason – because they are the best for representing symbolically what the ritual means to the devotee.

One excellent point Dawe brings up, which is something near and dear to me, is the act of being seen. I have a weird struggle with being observed in relation to Pagan/Polytheist matters, a lingering fear of being seen as “crazy” or “stupid”. This would come as a surprise to folks who know me IRL, because I’m not someone who generally gives a Damn for other people’s blockhead opinions (to the extent I’m pretty oblivious to them even looking). The solution to this fear is always get out there and do it anyway, and to do it like you mean it, but I bet it’s a struggle a lot of us have. Personally, some this is linked to group-dynamic, and the implication that because we are a minority religion we are not “valid”. You don’t look crazy if everybody else is doing it too. Just something to think about.

Another personal tidbit I enjoyed is that the Poseidon of the Ponds ritual looks an awful lot like the basic animistic rituals I used to do “on-the-fly” when I lived in the woods instead of the city. At the time I was frustrated with the sort of “aimlessness” of my practice, but on the flip side, I felt so much healthier and more connected to the vaettir and the land. I lost a lot of this when I moved to a place I could no longer just open my door into nature, and it’s hurt me in ways I never thought would be so deep. The ebook talks about the author’s sense of disconnect from Poseidon when she moved to an area where there was less water and summer drought. How do you feel the presence of a water god when there is no water? It’s definitely something I relate to – and Dawe’s resulting ritual reveals a wonderful truth concerning location and our Gods.

(Without going into detail, I’m actually working on making major life-changes right now, because this is such an important aspect of who I am. I hope to say Goodbye City, Hello Forest sometime soon. Eventually.)

I too struggled to follow another tradition’s calendar, though I do follow the general Wheel of the Year. There are always Gods I don’t have connection with, and always Gods that are conspicuously absent. I do try to align some of my festivals/rituals with historical dates or those of modern traditions, because I feel having a “community” aspect is important. (I’ll get more into this once I finish and post about the actual calendar.)

However, Poseidon of the Ponds really reminded me of the beauty that comes from insight, the natural organic process of interpreting the Mysteries of the land. Like, of course there would be a ritual recognizing of the necessity of water during a parched drought period! How utterly logical and natural. I don’t work with Poseidon-by-name, but Dawe’s ritual is an excellent inspiration to develop poignant celebrations to any God of Waters, including my own. Ponds makes it clear that if we’re limiting ourselves to the obvious (Poseidon=ocean, no ocean=no Poseidon) then we’re completely missing the point.

It’s also a great reminder to stop drowning myself in intellectual “research” in hopes of finding “true” answers! The answers are with the Gods. The answers are in the practice, and are revealed through the exposure of the link between us and Them. One of the purposes of ritual, for me, is to recognize the link between ourselves, the Gods, and the natural world, in concert with each other, not separate, intrinsically bound. I think Poseidon of the Ponds is a great example of this healthy and clear mindview.

I’m looking forward to supporting more of Dawe’s work, once I have more than 98 cents in my Paypal account…..

You can purchase Poseidon of the Ponds on the author’s Esty or on Amazon. Her blog post about it is here on Strip Me Back to the Bone, and there is also a bog specifically for The Poseidon Liturgical Year Project.

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Standard Disclaimer: When I link something from this blog, it does not mean I automatically agree with or endorse everything in that link or everything the author says or thinks.
Review Disclaimer: I purchased this ebook and reviewed it on my own. I do not receive compensation for the review or links.