The 18th Annual Indianapolis Pagan Pride Day

Yesterday, I took a few hours to attend the Indianapolis Pagan Pride Day, an event which I love dearly.  My very first time meeting other pagans was at something like the 4th or 5th Indy PPD, and I have loved seeing the event grow and change and become a major community staple.

These days, Indy PPD feels more to me like a vendor fest than an easy place to meet other pagans and experience other practices.  Unfortunately,  the schedule of rituals and workshops isn’t readily posted anywhere (not even online!) and the organizers of those events have a tendency to cancel last minute anyway.  Still, there’s usually a great event or two.  This year, my most powerful ritual experience was one crafted by Novices of the Old Ways.

The sign above Novices of the Old Ways' information booth.

The sign above Novices of the Old Ways’ information booth.

Novices of the Old Ways (NOW) is a group based out of New York City with chapters in various regions across America.  They describe themselves as a progressive Witchcraft community, which they further define as being based on a philosophy of using whatever methods necessary to better serve the immediate and broader communities rather than being based on a formal tradition.  They do, however, promote connection with Deity on a personal level as being of vital importance.  There is, naturally, a great deal of eclecticism in their practice, but they stress the importance of being thoughtful and selective in their choices, and they adapt praxis to the specific purposes of a ritual.

And man, did they ever create a great public ritual.  There are so many things that can go wrong in creating a ritual for many people.  It has to be simple so that many people can perform it and find meaning in it, but it also has to have strong visuals, ‘audience’ participation, and be fun to boot.  NOW pulled it off seamlessly.

The larger-than-life papier-mâché Gaia NOW created for the ritual. I was beyond impressed.

The larger-than-life papier-mâché Gaia NOW created for the ritual. I was beyond impressed.

The ritual began with NOW members carrying a papier-mâché sculpture they had created of Gaia into the ritual space while singing an adaptation of Reclaiming’s Harvest chant:  “Our hands will work for peace and justice.  Our hands will work to heal the Land.  Gather ’round the Pride Day Circle.  Let us vow to heal the Land.”  Gaia was veiled during this procession, and garnered herself quite a bit of attention.  People were ooh-ing and ahh-ing over the spectacle, and quite a crowd amassed to draw near and take in the detail.  I, for one, was utterly charmed by the breaching whales and penguins and erupting volcanoes on her legs, and the dinosaur fossil tucked by her left hand.

When the crowd settled, the ritual leader, Tamrha Richardson, sensibly had us practice the chants we would be using and explained the outline of the ritual.  Essentially, she said that the earth, our mother, is hurting.  We pollute her and have become inured to that pollution.  This ritual would be a sacred marriage in which we would create a vow to Gaia to improve an aspect of our ecological footprint.

Some of the detail work on the back of the sculpture.

Some of the detail work on the back of the sculpture.

From my perspective, NOW accomplished that beautifully.  They had a member with Native heritage offer tobacco to the quarters while we sung Spiral Rhythm’s “Hey Yeh”, which I felt honored the First People and the unique spirit of America without co-opting Native culture.  We followed a simple Wiccan inspired circle casting, with a grounding and centering that used strong, simple visuals on the chakras and elegantly centered the energy medium upon voice.  We invited the quarter elementals to each space, adapting the elementals to quarters that made sense for our geographic location.  People at a quarter simply chanted the name of their quarter in unison-ish, and I was deeply moved to hear and feel the energy waving around the circle, building, ebbing, and building again even stronger.  We called in Deity, with all participants encouraged to call the deities they worked with best (as Gaia is such a massive concept), and hearing and feeling all the different archetypes join the circle was so strangely moving.  A pregnant woman, for example, called upon Isis, and I felt Her enter with such a strong, protective maternal energy, it brought tears to my eyes.

The core of the ritual saw three pairs of officiants conducting a sort of token Great Rite wherein participants would come up, take a wand one of the officiants held, put it into a cup of wine offered by another officiant, and state their vow to Gaia as they directed energy into the wine.  After this, the wand officiant tied a garland of green, white, and red yarn around the participant’s wrist to serve as the outward symbol of this marriage vow we had just made to Gaia.  As different participants were moved to come forward to make their vow, the whole group sang Spiral Rhythm’s “I Summon Her”.  Then, finally, to celebrate our marriage, the whole group danced a spiral dance, then dismissed the Gods and quarters.

My own wee Gaia and our handfasting cord.

My own wee Gaia and our handfasting cord.

Beautiful.  Simple.  Powerful.  NOW’s Gaia handfasting was definitely a textbook example of a public ritual done right.  I watched so many people walk away visibly moved by what they had done, and a large group of people clustered around the ritual leader and talked for a good half hour or so after the ritual concluded.  It doesn’t get much better than that.

Day 273: Devotional Day, Honoring Janicot

Today we are asked to offer devotion to Janicot…but who is this figure?  If you run a Google search, you won’t really turn up much in the way of reliable information.  You won’t really find much if you try to search for images or myths regarding Janicot.  To be honest, just about the only thing I can reliably find about this name is that there are a number of French families with this surname (and they pronounce it Shan-i-co).

Unfortunately for us, some of the best information linking Janicot with any form of veneration comes from the 15th-century French demonologist and witch-hunter, Pierre de Lancre, who earned his place in history by presiding over the 1609 panic in Labourd, a part of the Basque region, where he has been credited for centuries as sentencing 600 people to death, though the more recent scholarship of Gustav Henningsen and Nicole Jacques-Chaquin has placed the number between 50-80 persons.  De Lancre wrote of his experience in Labourd in his 1612 work Tableau de l’ Inconstance des Mauvais Anges et Démons (often translated in English as ‘Portrait of the Inconstancy of Witches’).

I am not able to secure a copy of this to see what exactly it is he says of Janicot, but Dr. Margaret Murray makes note of some of it in her 1931 book, The God of the Witches:

According to [Pierre] de Lancre the name of the Basque god was Jauna or Janicot.  The latter he regarded as a diminutive and says that it means “petit Jean”, and was applied by the witches of the Basses Pyrénées to Christ; a man-witch at Orleans also spoke of the host as “un beau Janicot.”  It may however not be a diminutive, but a form of Jauna with the ending Cot “God”, as in the Northern Irmincot.  In modern times the god, who has now degenerated into a sprite, is known by the Basques as Basa-jaun, the equivalent of Homme de Bouc, Goat-man which brings the whole of the early religion of the Basques into connection with the Horned God.

Incidentally, later in the same book, Dr. Murray also invites her reader to draw a parallel between Little John of the Robin Hood tales and Janicot, simply by comparing their names (this, however, would require a reader to decide that Janicot meant “petit Jean” or Little John).

Of course, Dr. Murray’s scholarship regarding witches has been called into question, and I think that might well be true here with the leaps she takes regarding Janicot’s name.  It is a fact that today in Basque, the root word for “god” is jainko (and that word has many different endings depending on its application!).  With this in mind, it certainly seems likely that the Basque people of Labourd were simply giving de Lancre the name they used to refer to the Christian God, since the Basque region had been thoroughly Christianized for centuries prior to this point.

In fact, it is the complete Christianization of the Basque region that makes placing the name “Janicot” so difficult.  Christianity came comparatively late to the region, with Vasconists broadly agreeing that it arrived in the fourth or fifth century, but that serious activity began in the ninth century and escalated after that.  The overall process of Christianization, despite being a little late, was very thorough, and now there is very little evidence left of what the pre-Christian Basque peoples believed.  The mythology of the region is essentially obliterated, and what is known is the smallest of fragments based on extensive study such as analyzing legends, place names, and the few historical references to Basque pagan rituals.

A rendering of Basajaun and his female version Basandere.

A rendering of Basajaun and his female version Basandere.

Murray, however, was right in that there is a Basque mythological figure called “Basajaun”, but he is no goat man.  Rather, he’s almost like Bigfoot-esque:  a huge, hairy, humanoid creature  who dwells in the woods.  The Basajaun, however, additionally protect flocks of livestock and teach important things like agriculture and ironworking to humans.  Interestingly, the word or prefix basa in Basque means “forest” and jaun means “Lord”.   If this is so, then Basajaun quite literally means “Lord of the Foreds” or even “God of the Forest.”  In the Basque region and in northern Spain today, however, the Basajaun is not viewed so loftily.  In fact, he is basically just the Spanish Bigfoot.

In Wicca, I believe we focus on Janicot as a deity because of the early influence of Doreen Valiente and Gerald Gardner.  I am unsure whether or not Gardner used the name in any of his non-fiction published texts, but it does make quite an appearance in High Magic’s Aid.  Eventually, it is the name that the character Jan takes after his initiation, but Gardner first establishes that it is the name for the Witches’ God:

The gathering was held in a secret place, a different one being used each time.  We were sworn to secrecy and conducted there blindfolded by a masked guide.  When we drew near we were bidden to put our staves between our legs and to ride them like hobby-horses, and so on to the dancing ground.”

“Why this?” asked Jan.

Because their god, whom they call Janicot, is the god of all the crops and cattle and the god of fertility, demanding that all perform this act of worship before him.

f

The God of the Forest

Given that the Basajaun is credited with teaching humanity to tend crops and herd animals, I find that the same essential attribution to Gardner’s Janicot to be very interesting.  That interest compounds in a later description of Janicot’s priest:  “There was a rock or other great stone set up as an altar on which sat the chief priest of Janicot, clad in a hairy skin.  He wore a mask, horned, and a lighted torch was set between the horns.”  Truthfully, this put me in mind of a statue I’d come across of the Horned God, which is pictured right.  The artist called it “The God of the Forest”, and I have to admit…it looks pretty similar to the picture of the Basajaun above, which I found through Wikipedia.  (The same artist’s “Earth Goddess” reminds me of the Basandere, too.)

I have to admit, I’m starting to think I might be onto something here.  It definitely seems a little odd that a Basque name would come to have importance to a British magical system…but then again, maybe not.  Studies based on mapping the Y chromosome have found a strong genetic relation between the Basques and the Celtic Welsh and Irish peoples.  In fact, Stephen Oppenheimer from the University of Oxford has used genetic studies to hypothesize that the current inhabitants of the British Isles have their origin in the Basque refuge during the last Ice age.  Celtic culture also was part of northern Spain at one time, and it appears that vestiges of that time still remain in Spain.  Even today, for example, Spaniards in Galicia play a bagpipe–the gaita–that is very similar to those still enjoyed in Scotland.  If vestiges like this remain, why might not have some myths from this area gone back to Britain?

It is important to note that this line of speculation is one I’ve stumbled into and isn’t exactly the Wiccan party line.  The most we know about the Janicot figure is recorded by Doreen Valiente in her book The ABC of Witchcraft (1973).  She devotes four pages to him here, and spending half of it discussing what de Lancre wrote and what Murray supposed.  Valiente continues her own suppositions and aligns the name Janicot with the Roman deity Dianus or Janus, who she says was known as “King of the Wood” and who was particularly connected with the oak tree.  As Janus, Valiente writes that this god “was the god of doors, both literally and figuratively.  His image, with two faces, was set up at doors” and that “the Latin janua, a door, is derived from his name.”  Valiente also hints that he opens Diana’s door, so to speak, for “the god of the woods is the male spirit of life typified by the phallus, the opener.”  Of course, being the two-faced god, Janus opens the door of death as well as that of life.

Knowing all this, perhaps now I can turn my attention to Roderick’s devotion:

Janicot Practice
In honoring Janicot today, make an altar that includes his sacred symbols.  Cast a magic circle and then slowly intone this old Basque rhyme:

In nomine patrica,
Araguaco petrica
Gastellaco Janicot,
Equidae ipordian pot.

Imagine the image of Janicot entering your sacred space until you feel or sense his presence with you.  Once he has arrived, spend some time contemplating what it might mean to serve this aspect of deity.  Take time to ask Janicot what it would mean to live life through his energy.  Contemplate the sacred dimensions and principles of the lingam:  action, movement, passion, drive.  When you are finished, close the circle as usual.

Spend the day honoring this god by taking action while keeping in mind the big picture (meaning your overall goals, or perhaps even your community or the world).

I think I’m going to skip out on the rhyme and just intone Janicot’s name as I have for the other devotions.  Valiente shares this same rhyme in her ABC, but she shares the fact that it came from de Lancre’s text.  He “had the impression that this was used instead of Christian words when the witches made the sign of the cross; and they told him that it was translated ‘Au nom du Patrique, petrique d’Arragon, Janicot de Castille, faites-moi un baiser au derrière.’  This seems to mean, ‘In the name of the Father, the father of Aragon, Janicot of Castile, give me a kiss on the backside.'”  This refers to the osculum infame, which was a witch’s ritual greeting upon meeting the devil:  kissing his anus, or his ‘other mouth’.  Valiente hints that the Basque witches de Lancre interrogtated described ‘the Devil’ as possessing two faces, like the Roman Janus, with one in the usual place, and the other as a mask upon his buttocks.

Roderick says that some of Janicot’s symbols include the spoked wheel (like the wheel of the year), the phallus, and black and yellow birds.  His tools include the wand, priaptic wand, and the athame, and his essences are similarly masculine:  musk and patchouli.  His directions are the south and the east, and he rules the ability to see the big picture and the true nature of all things and to understand the rhythm of life.  His animals include the goat and the black bird, and his sacred foods are phallic-shaped things (sausage links, carrots, etc.).  His stones include the ruby and turquoise.  I guess I certainly have a neat selection from which to create my altar!

My Janicot altar

My Janicot altar

I created my altar with a plaque I have of the wheel of the year and a smattering of black and yellow bird Christmas ornaments.  Off to the side I have a couple phallic crystal wands, and I also have a couple rocks:  turquoise and ruby in fuschite.  I cut a sprig of newly-leafed forsythia, since that seemed incredibly phallic to me, and finished everything off with a pair of black and white candles anointed with patchouli oil.  Given yesterday’s contemplation, I felt the polarity represented by the candles was important.

The meditation I performed in front of this altar was interesting.  After a short while, I felt this incredible stillness.  The energy was potent, but completely centered.  It knew its place in the world and “walked the walk”, so to speak, every single day.  It felt kind, too, and very trustworthy.  In retrospect, I realize that is the same sort of energy I’ve felt from the really great teachers I’ve had in the past.  I felt like he would bring me to new connections.  I think that living life through this sort of energy would be among the highest callings I can imagine.

Day 212: Devotional Day, Honoring Hecate

An image of Hecate Triformis from the British Museum archives

Hecate, according to the wonders of Wikipedia, is a pre-Olympian chthonic (underworld) Greco-Roman goddess associated with magic, witchcraft, necromancy, and crossroads.  She also has a large history of being associated with various liminal spaces, like doorways, and times, like childbirth and death.

In his work, The Golden Ass, Lucius Apuleius associates the Egyptian figure of Isis with Hecate, giving Hecate (as well as Juno and Bellona, major Roman goddesses) as a name by which others know Isis.  This may indicate that Hecate had a large following and similar symbolic repertoire to Isis elsewhere in the Mediterranean world at that time.

Hecate may have her origins in the Carians of Anatolia, for many names use hers as a root there, and she remained a prominent figure there up through historical times, especially at her cult site in Lagina.  However, it is possible Hecate originated somewhere in Greece for late-dating monuments to her in Phyrgia and Caria have been discovered.  If Hecate was a goddess adopted from Anatolia, it would likely explain the oddities in her stories.  Much of her roles were already filled by the Greek goddesseses Artemis and Selene, and outside of the stories told in the Theogeny, the Greeks do not relate a consistent story of her parentage or of her role in the Greek pantheon.  Sometimes she is said to be a Titaness who was not banished after their defeat by the Olympians for she aided Zeus in the great battle.  Sometimes in the Theogeny she’s said to be the daughter of Gaia and Uranus, sometimes the only child of Perses and Asteria.  Hesiod maintained that Zeus allowed her to maintain her pre-battle positions, and so she had sway in the three realms of sky, earth, and sea.  Therefore, she lent kings counsel in their judgement, she gave victory and glory to the troops and athletes she willed to win, supported horsemen, sailors, and fishermen.  She worked with Hermes to increase and decrease pastured animals at will and became a figure associated with shepherds and pastoralism, and since Zeus made her an infant nurse who opened the eyes of babies to the dawn, she became associated with childbirth, too.

I think this early tripartite sway may have lead to her common depiction as three goddesses or three faces in one body.  In addition, my guess is that her relevance in all three of these states enabled her association as a liminal goddess, for she was able to traverse the boundaries between the different physical states.  I also think this liminality is what eventually lead to her associations with the underworld and with sorcery, both of which rely upon a “between the worlds” sort of feel.  In this state, she became the Roman goddess Trivia, who–like the later Hecate–who “haunted crossroads, graveyards, and was the goddess of sorcery and witchcraft, she wandered about at night and was seen only by the barking of dogs who told of her approach.”

Roderick notes that we can consider the night sky, crossroads, broom, and cauldron as some of Hecate’s symbols and divination tools as her tools.  He also lists camphor, water lily, and jasmine as her flowers and says she has an “inward” direction.  That makes some sense as she rules the “hidden mysteries, old age, wisdom, secrets, death, the underworld, birth, midwifery, herbalism, and divination.”  Some of her animal symbols include the owl, horse, boar, and dog–but it is really the dog who pops up most in Hecate myths.  Her sacred foods include the pomegranate and the apple (she offered help and kindness to Demeter when she was looking for her lost daughter, Persephone), and Roderick lists mother of pearl and amethyst as her magical stones.  He sacred colors are lunar colors:  black, midnight blue, and white.  Roderick also says that “when we tap into the archetypal energies of Hecate, we evoke our own abilities to create magic and to reverse the ‘evil eye.’  Hecate reminds us that we are all multifaceted begins, and that we should honor each of our ‘faces’, both the strong and the less-than-stalwart.”

Hecate Practice

In honoring Hecate today, honor an old Roman custom by going to a crossroads at midnight and leaving an offering of a single apple and a black candle.  Walk away from the offering without looking back.  As you walk, intone her sacred name one syllable at a time (pronounced Heh-KAH-tay) until you feel her presence surrounding you.  Once she has arrived, spend time contemplating how you might serve this deity.  Take time to ask Hecate what it would mean to live life through her energy, and listen for her answer.

Spend time honoring this goddess by considering the mystery behind each aspect of your daily routine and every person you encounter.

Alas, between the rains and the fact that I live in a highly populated neighborhood, I didn’t feel comfortable leaving a lit candle at a nearby intersection.  Instead, I propped up a dark blue candle (I didn’t have black on hand!) and an apple onto my altar when the clock struck midnight and visualized handing these gifts to Hecate.  Then I lit the candle and laid down facing away from the altar and began intoning Her name.

I think I am a little out of practice, for it took several minutes of intoning and changing my breath pattern several times for my consciousness to shift.  When it did, it was the most interesting experience.  The physical entity of myself sort of felt like this black, empty void and the part of me that resonated with Hecate was this silver lining around my black, lumpy self.  This lining wasn’t a part of me per se, but it also was.

After I came out of the trance, I realized that feeling was a very liminal one, and that is definitely a Hecate association.  I meditated on times when I felt that way and realized that living life through Hecate’s energy involves a certain level of living on the fringe edges of society, of being fluent in a social language, but also breaking free of it and staying open to possibility.  Hecate’s energy isn’t a determined sort of rational force, where a pursuit of knowledge is a cumulative progress.  Instead, it’s experiential and a lateral process.  You have to see around the edges of a nominative focus in order to see it.

Day 181: Devotional Day, Honoring Pan

“Ave Pan” by J. Allen St. John

Pan is a god who I find both deeply appealing and deeply confusing.  He’s one of those figures that is so old and so pervasive throughout the history of Greek culture, that he’s got just about a zillion different stories…and potentially a zillion different figures also go by the name ‘Pan.’

In general, though, there’s a “Great God Pan” who may or may not be older than the Olympians or who may, in fact, be fathered by one of them (Zeus, Hermes, Dionysus…take your pick).  Pan’s mother is also a variable factor.  Wherever he comes from, he’s usually the god depicted as a goat-footed creature playing some flute-like instrument.  He’s also often associated with free, uninhibited sexuality.  As Roderick says, he is a god of nature who has been described as a god of the woods, of animal husbandry, and fertility.  Some scholars say his name means “all”, others argue that it connects to the word “paeon” which means “pasturer.”

Roderick says that “Pan is present in your life whenever you feel sexual urges, playfulness, or a sense of inner joy.  He is there in the eyes of any lover, or in the heart of an individual who embraces life no matter what it might present.  Pan’s magical energies are those of ecstasy, connection with nature, happiness, sexuality, and grounding.”

Table of Correspondences:  Pan

  • Symbols:  Acorns, oak leaves, pan pipes, seashells and twigs
  • Tools:  The phallus, the wand
  • Magical Essences/Herbs:  Musk, false unicorn, saw palmetto, patchouli, and myrrh
  • Direction:  Pan is aligned with the center
  • He Rules:  Ecstasy, connection with nature, happiness, sexuality, grounding, life, and health
  • Animal Symbols:  Goat
  • Sacred Foods:  Wine, meats, and grapes
  • Magical Stones:  Obsidian, carnelian, sunstone

Pan Practice

Make an altar honoring Pan that includes his symbols.  Light candles of an appropriate color in his altar and intone his name slowly, fully.  Since Pan is a one-syllable word, you can resonate it loudly and clearly.  Intone his name until you feel or sense his presence.  Once he has arrived, spend some time contemplating what it might mean to serve this aspect of deity.  Ask Pan what it would mean to live life through his energy.  Contemplate how you would live each day as a manifestation of this one unified, immense All, rejecting nothing and embracing the whole.

Spend the day honoring this god by recognizing that which is wild and natural in each person you encounter.

My very odd Pan altar

Right.  My altar construction wasn’t as…oh…elaborate as previous altar constructions have been.  Today I have been feeling queasy (most likely from a return to the co-op beans and grains diet), so I didn’t want to light any incense, and my budget is super, super thin right now, so I couldn’t run out and find any wine, meats, or grapes.  So I basically put my flute and my wand on my bed.  I thought about lighting a bunch of candles, or including some decidedly Pan-dedicated items but decided those was a bit too “come hither” for my tastes this morning.

Still, I think this is a fairly representative Pan altar.  If a little one-dimensional, it clearly pulls upon the energies that this deity has.  And I think you can figure out what energies I felt with him given the phallic nature of the items and where I chose to put them.  Come to think of it, my pondering of Pan off and on since I left for Pennsylvania (I couldn’t help it, I looked ahead) probably contributed significantly to my recent extra-curricular reading material choices.  Maybe I should have added my Kindle to my altar, too?

When I contemplated how I would live day-by-day as that immense ALL of Pan, I sort of became incredibly frightened.  Embracing everything means embracing so much of what I’ve tried to push to the corners of my mind this summer:  my fears that I’m not good enough, not dedicated enough, not bright enough, not ANYTHING enough to follow through with my graduate program.  I know I’m setting myself up for disaster by not owning these fears and working through them…but I’m so scared of them, I’m willing to do just about anything easier than that.  I’ve actually contemplated dropping out, with increasing fondness every time I have that fantasy.  It’s scary, scary stuff.

Day 151: Devotional Day, Honoring Ra

A statue depicting the Egyptian sun god Ra

As most know, Ra is the ancient Egyptian sun god, and is identified primarily with the midday sun.  Ra’s chief cult center was Heliopolis where he became identified with the local sun-god Atum.  Through Atum or the hybrid Atum-Ra, he was also seen as the first being and the originator of the Ennead (which consists of Atum, Shu, Tefnut, Geb, Nut, Osiris, Set, Isis, and Nephthys). His local cult began to grow from roughly the second dynasty.  By the fourth dynasty, his worship had increased so that the pharaohs began being called “sons of Ra” and were said to be Ra’s earthly manifestation.  By the fifth dynasty, he had become a major deity in the Egyptian religion.

As with many of the Egyptian gods, Ra became aligned with other similar gods throughout his worship.  He was most notably hybridized with Atum, Amun, Horus, and Osiris.  His representations also vary:  while the most usual representation is a man with the head of a hawk and crowned by a solar disk, he is also shown as a man with the head of a beetle or a ram.  He is also shown as a full-bodied ram, beetle, phoenix, heron, snake, bull, cat, or lion.

Roderick notes that some of what we can consider Ra’s correspondences include symbols of the sun, scarab beetle, spheres, and eggs.  Ra-friendly tools include the wand, candles, sacred fires, and incense.  Some of his magical herbs include sandalwood, myrrh, and cinnamon.  He is aligned with the east and rule vitality, strength of mind and spirit, potency, and immortality.  His animals include the hawk and lion, his foods are eggs, oranges, and red apples, and his stones include topaz and tiger’s eye.

Ra Practice

In honoring Ra today, make an altar that includes his sacred symbols.  Light appropriately colored candles and intone the single syllable of his name once and again in sustained tones (“Raaaaah….Raaaaah”).  Continue to chant his name until you sense his presence around you.  Once he has arrived, spend some time contemplating what it might mean to serve this aspect of deity.  Ask Ra what it means to live life through his energy.  Contemplate how you might live your life if you were an expression of the sun.

Spend the day honoring this god by acting from the knowledge of your immortality.

My altar for Ra

My Ra altar included my very favorite orange paisley scarf, the beeswax candle given to me at my dedication with Hartwood Grove, cinnamon incense, a Gala apple, a minneola, a pair of tiny honey tangerines, the four eggs my chickens laid today, the carnelian necklace Ted gave to me (he’s always saying I need more sunshine), and a couple tiger’s eyes.  All in all, it is a very solar altar.

Unlike my Dionysus devotion, this one was very hard to ‘get into’.  I’m thinking this might be because I have a pre-existing attraction to Dionysus that is totally absent with Ra.  Nevertheless, I persevered.  Eventually, I felt invigorated and had a strong compulsion to go outside and enjoy the day.  And so I did.

Day 123: Devotional Day, Honoring Dionysus

I can’t quite shake the energy of Dionysus from me quite yet, and I find that works for me.  My body feels heavy, but not the heaviness of indolence or that of power.  It’s more like every part of me has confidence about it.  I don’t have to constantly flutter with activity.  It’s like I’ve learned a tremendous focus and a comfort of being in my own skin.  I don’t have to plan.  I don’t have to be more than I am or strive for a better future because I am fully here, in the present, and I see everything around me as a joy.  I revel in spontaneity, for it provides a sure path of its own, and one more immediate and tangible than that carefully planned and followed.  I am sureness, and I am the present.  I am enjoyment and release.  I am fullness–the heaviness of ripe fruit and grain at the height of their potential–and I invite all to partake of and take joy in me.

Wow.  That was…odd.  I had to ask Dionysus to leave again, for I strongly felt that I was not me alone.  My knees and legs felt so heavy.  The whole room felt potent.  I ended up strongly asking him to leave, and then I threw open my window.  The colder air seems to be doing me some good, though I still feel a sense of immediacy around me.

That feeling of immediacy, of potency, of spontaneity and joy makes sense as Dionysus is most known today as the God of Wine, and when someone is under his special brand of spell, they are thoroughly creatures of their own bodies.  Open to following impulse more than plan and finding joy at every turn, those who drink are far more aligned with earth and water than with air and fire.  Of course, falling too deep into a wine bottle frustrates the potency as it transitions into inability…but remembering that early inebriation and the freedoms it brings, well…that’s the place where heroism and adventure begins.  The ability to let go and actually do and experience fully and sensuously–that’s my Dionysus.

Dionysus Altar

The altar I prepared is strangely Apollonian for a god of liberation and libation.  Everything is very symmetrical and hyperbalanced.  This is mostly a factor of my own aesthetic.  I did everything I could to highlight my plaque of Dionysus, which has been the representation of the God on my personal altar for ages now.

This plaque is from Mythic Images, and is properly called “Bacchus–Spirit of the Vine.”  I acquired it at the last Indianapolis Pagan Pride Day that I attended, and the person who sold it to me gave it to me in exchange for the last few dollars I had in my wallet ($15, well below her asking price) because she adamantly felt he belonged with me.  She was right.  Dionysus is so much of what I think of when I consider “God.”  That spontaneity, of course, but also a level of carefulness.  Viniculture requires so much care and attention that Dionysus as its patron has strong fatherly tendencies for me.  Moreover, Dionysus is a faithful God.  He did not have an easy time of it, what with being killed and reborn and still persecuted by Hera.  He was raised as a girl and went mad, but he emerged from it all with a strong sense of purpose and dedication.  He alone among the Greek Gods remained faithful to his consort, Ariadne.

So I flanked him with purple candles, cedar branches, cedar incense, salt water, wine, my chalice, and my wand.  Had I a few dollars more to my name, I would have included whole grain bread, honey, grapes, and pomegranates.

Whoa! Group Ritual!

Today certainly was full of surprises.  I have all of three days now (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday) to write my paper.  But instead of slaving away, I did errands and ‘fun’ things.  One of which was to stop by the downtown Smith Family Bookstore and browse their pagan section.  I ended up buying a few books and promptly spent the rest of the day reading one, Love Spell, a memoir by Phyllis Curott.  After a couple hours of reading for my paper, I then went to an open ritual held by the Eugene CUUPS group.  This was the first group work I had done since my time with the now-defunct REDE at college.

As with my experience with reiki, this was a big step out of my comfort zone, and–like reiki–it was a positive experience.  Everyone was very welcoming, and it felt sooooo nice to be in a well-constructed circle.  Plus, it was the first time I got to witness a drawing down of the moon, which was very powerful.  The group also did a scrying, and then sort of channeled energy into pairs of people.  That was heady.  I haven’t felt such a strong energy rush in quite some time.

I don’t want to say much more, because I do believe that what happens in the circle stays in the circle and this blog is public (though well-hidden), after all.

I did, however, learn that the Goddess is very much alive and that magic is powerfully afoot.

Day 92: Devotional Day, Honoring Demeter

Today is the third devotional day, and it is dedicated to Demeter.

Unlike the previous two devotions, I have more knowledge of this goddess.  In fact, she’s twined with memories of my mother.  There was a period of time where my mother was phasing out of reading Jordan and me picture books, and one of the last I can remember her reading to me was Nathaniel Hawthorne’s A Wonder Book and Tanglewood Tales.  Jordan and I would pick one of the stories, and she’d read us parts over a week or so.  I very much remember “The Pomegranate Seeds” because it made me so sad that a child could be stolen from her mother.  Hawthorne’s description of Mother Ceres wandering through the world (and looking in all the wrong places because Proserpina was being held in the underworld) made me cry…and made me much more affectionate towards my own mother!

It is from Demeter’s sorrow that we have the light and the dark year, for while she searched the world for her lost daughter, she neglected her fertile responsibilities and the earth became barren.  Now when Persephone returns to the underworld, Demeter grieves until her daughter is returned to her for the light half of the year.

Roderick notes that Wiccans “associate Demeter with the mother aspect of the feminine divine” and that when”you tap into the archetypal energies of Demeter, you also evoke your ability to work within the framework of natural cycles.”  In other words, we see that there is “time for every purpose under heaven” to quote Ecclesiastes 3.1 (or a lovely Byrds song).

Exercise:

Assemble an altar in Demeter’s honor today.  When you have completed this task, face the altar and intone her name, one syllable at a time, until you sense her presence surrounding you.  Once she has arrived, spend some time contemplating what it might mean to serve this aspect of deity.  Take time to ask Demeter what it would mean to live life through her energy and listen for her answer.

Spend the day honoring this goddess by celebrating the diversity and bounty of your own existence.  It does exist.  Look for it!

I was a little flummoxed as to what I should present to Demeter on my altar.  Roderick notes that her symbols include grain and a scythe, and that the boline and other working knives are among her magical tools.  So my boline went on the altar, as did a handful of tiger’s eye stones, lodestones, and bloodstone.  I chose the tiger’s eye because Demeter watches for the return of her daughter, bloodstone for the hardship that colors her most fertile time, and the lodestones to represent the polarity of her calendar and the rhythms it creates.

I also added the Susan Seddon Boulet depiction of Demeter, but my altar still looked pretty empty.  I went to our kitchen to snag some fruit (alas, we only had apples) and to pick up some beans.  When I went to scoop up the beans, however, it just didn’t feel right.  The barley, however, picked me immediately.  I went out to pick some daisies from across the street, but the poppies growing outside our front door called to me.  I chose one of our red ones and a couple wild California poppies, too.

I don’t know if I knew this and forgot, but barley and poppies are both significant to Demeter.  One etymology of her name is “barley goddess” and blood-red poppies often grew among the barley.  The figure ‘Demeter’ may also be linked to a Minoan poppy goddess.  At any rate, poppies seem to fit Demeter for their riotous summer explosion, their pod’s resemblance to pomegranates, the food source of their seeds, and their soporific effects.  One might say Demeter would want to sleep her way through the winter to forget the loss of her child.

Interestingly enough, there are several sources that note that beans were excluded from the feasts of Demeter.  No wonder they didn’t feel right!

After performing the meditation, I came away with the sense that to live life through Demeter’s energy is to accept and move with change.

Day 62: Devotional Day, Honoring Cerridwen

Today is the second of the monthly devotions, and it is dedicated to Cerridwen.

Like Isis, Cerridwen isn’t exactly a deity I have much experience with.  For some reason, I like to deal in the Greco-Roman pantheons–though lately I’m becoming interested in other mythologies.  From the little research I’ve done, however, I know it’s a rather debatable question of whether Cerridwen was ever considered a Goddess by the Celts.  Ronald Hutton, for one, has suggested that she was created exclusively for the Tale of Taliesin, which dates only to the mid 16th century–just a couple decades before he era of Shakespeare.  The earliest reference to her was, however, in the twelfth century.

In modern recreation, however, Cerridwen is a Welsh Goddess, and one who is often depicted as a Triple Goddess.  She is highly associated with the cauldron, and through its greal, change and wisdom.  Because of her pursuit of Gwion and all the forms they took, she is a patron of shapeshifting and magic.  Roderick notes that Wiccans associate her with inspiration and the inner knowledge revealed through initiation.  She is that which can change consciousness.  Above all things, though, she is a reminder of constant change.

Exercise:

Build an altar in Cerridwen’s honor today.  When the altar is complete, face it and intone her name one syllable at a time (prounouced: KER-i-dwen) until you sense her energies surrounding you.  Once she has arrived, spend some time contemplating what it might mean to serve her.  Internally ask Cerridwen what it would mean to live life through her energy.  Listen for her answer and follow her advice.

I had a devil of a time constructing this altar.  It was hard to find things that screamed “Cerridwen” to men.  Ultimately, though, I chose the obvious cauldron.  It’s resting on my copy of House of Mirth, which I will be writing on this term.  It is a text that inspires me (and which I’d like some cosmic help on!).  There’s also a card depicting Susan Seddon Boulet’s Gaia, which shows the Goddess surrounded by a multiplicity of animal forms.  It’s being propped up by a moonstone.  A quartz point, a small pentacle, a claddagh ring, and a couple candles stand by.  I included the moonstone because Roderick lists it as one of Cerridwen’s stones.  The quartz and the pentacle are for Cerridwen’s interest in knowledge and the occult.  The ring is there because it symbolizes transformation and return to me, and the two candles are included for the knowledge and passion I find in the Cerridwen myths.

I had to try the devotion twice, however.  The first time, I couldn’t settle.  I kept getting up and fidgeting.  The second time, however, I persevered and after a moment, I felt this blossoming of limitless potential and discovered that to live within this energy, I would have to find a way to live without barriers–to recognize them, then to see around their construction to the limitless truth.

In a way, this is the object of my work as an English graduate student:  to recognize how culture is a creation that limits, to demonstrate this, and to find the alternate potential.  Perhaps I should learn more about this Goddess?