Regional Cultus in Contemporary Polytheism

So it looks like I’ll be drinking talking at this thing in New York this July:

In the ancient world, the idea of religion and religious structures and traditions were a lot different than the common conceptions most contemporary American Paganisms and Polytheisms have been supplying people with. Geographical diversities in religious practice, ritual technology and even foundational pantheon relations were great and varied in the ancient world, where religious structures were drawn from a close and intimate relationship with place, with specific lineages, with the spirits and of course with the gods and goddesses Themselves. Yet despite these emphatic variations, with complex customs and cross-overs and syncretisms woven between them — and indeed likely because of them — there were likewise emphatic structures to how all of these things unfolded. There was no “Pan-Hellenic” or “Pan-Celtic” big umbrella patterning of religion in the ancient world; rather, there existed specific regional, tribal, ethnic, and initiatory lineages and structures of theistic and ritual engagement. For contemporary expressions of Polytheisms to survive their current infancy in Western revival, an emphasis must be encouraged upon the acknowledgement of these variations, and the development of the structures that will contain them. By exploring, building and navigating such understandings, we as practitioners, dedicants, devotees and clergy can do more than merely claim title or social identity through them. Through disciplined individual and interrelated regional cult structures, we can indeed endeavor to see these things come enlivened in our worlds, newly cast from ancient mold and method in ways that fit into our post-post-modern frameworks.

Also, stay tuned for blog updates, now that I have an internet connection again!

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Sacred Offerings

Posted: April 10, 2014 in Uncategorized

Signal boost:

Sacred Offerings of Michael, an esotericist and student of Dionysian ecstatic practices. Operating out of the Pacific Northwest of the US, he offers a range of services including some talisman crafting (as informed by the GMP). I’ve known him for years and he is one of my go-to sources for sounding board discourse on various occult and religious matters.

His services and talismanic offerings available are listed, described, and readily available for your viewing pleasure.

The water that nourishes

Posted: March 28, 2014 in Uncategorized

Sannion wrote, following some discussions we had over whiskeys and cigars here at my new place in the Empire State, about the importance of understanding our roles as guests, and hosts, when we are interacting with the deities and spirits of our traditions. He brings up important pieces often overlooked in our work and discussions, such as the vital significance of the divinities who are not gods or goddesses, such as land-spirits, nymphs, and others.

When we bring [Dionysos] into ritual with us he is essentially our guest. After all, his homes are on Mount Parnassos, Mount Olympos, Mount Nysa and in the underworld as well as all of the temples that have been consecrated to him over the centuries. Even when we give over space in our homes to him by setting up shrines we are still, by default, the owners and maintainers of that property. Setting up a fully functioning temple is an entirely different matter as I’m sure my Thracian Adversary can attest…Therefore as host it is proper that we should demonstrate generosity and devotion as we feast and celebrate him.

This is an important thing that I think a lot of people fail to understand and navigate, primarily because it doesn’t seem to get taught anywhere at all anymore, in either a religious or a mundane context. To name it, we’re discussing hospitality… which is supposedly one of the “big ticket items” in our ancient Polytheisms and Paganisms, and is claimed to be held to in our modern revivals and reconstructions today. And yet, many people struggle with understanding the importance of the foundational concepts such as place, and space, and the importance of non-relative role assignmentwhich in the case of hospitality is assigned not by interpersonal (or even transpersonal) associations, but literally our relationships (or lack thereof!) to the place, space and circumstance in question. I first wrote about this topic in the early winter while reflecting on hospitality of a more human variety, and began to discuss my Polytheism as a relationship with the gods based upon the language and roles of “guestship” and “hostship”. Because a lot of people have their own ideas of what some of these words mean, I want to pause and just reboot the conversation a bit to the basics:

Etymology of “hospitality”

From Old Frenchhospitalite (Frenchhospitalité), from Latinhospitalitas (hospitality), from hospitalis (hospitable), from hospes (guest”, “host). Displaced native Old Englishgiest-líðnys (guestliness), from giest (guest).

Etymology of “guest”

From Middle Englishgest, from Old Norsegestr, replacing Old English ġiest, both from Proto-Germanic*gastiz, from Proto-Indo-European*gʰóstis (stranger, guest, host, someone with whom one has reciprocal duties of hospitality).

Etymology of “host”

From Old Frenchoste (French: hôte), from Middle Latinhospitem, accusative of hospes (a host, also a sourjourner, visitor, guest; hence, a foreigner, a stranger), from Proto-Indo-European*gʰóspot- (master of guests), from *gʰóstis (stranger, guest, host, someone with whom one has reciprocal duties of hospitality) and*pótis (owner, master, host, husband).

Important to note in the above is the essential interrelatedness of “host” and “guest”. A guest is one who “receives hospitality” whereas a host is one who “receives guests, provides hospitality”, and that these roles are assigned not by the being’s relationship to one another but by their assigned relations to the place or circumstance in question.

If I meet you on the street and we are strangers in “neutral territory”, hospitality does not apply, although other customs of normative behavior and cultured regard for another being certainly will. If, however, you are a stranger to my native city and I, a local who happens upon you with knowledge of your “guestship” in that place, hospitality in a general sense should apply. Certainly if you come to my home, I am your host, and you my guest, not because you are a stranger — for it would be the same if you were a sibling, cousin, elder or deity much beloved! — but because it is my home, and not your home. Indeed, a violation of the reciprocal bonds of hospitality would be if you as guest acted as if the home were your own.

The common expression, “Make yourself at home!” is a misleading and non-literal idiom, in that it can only be uttered from a host to a guest without losing all sense, since if taken literally the guest would then assume hosting responsibilities rather than receiving guesting treatment. It literally means “make yourself comfortable and feel free to forego formal guesting regards”, making it the hospitality equivalent of the military expression “at ease!”, which relates to a position of relaxed stance assumed by a soldier (without moving from place or being given leave to speak). These ideas of formality versus informality are largely lost on our lay culture of couch potatoes and slouchers — the Thracian says while typing from a slouched position reclined into a sea of sheepskins on a hardwood floor, beside an uncorked bottle of whiskey and an emberlit cigar — and yet are essential for understanding the classically intended (and contemporarily essential) concepts of hospitality.

My home is not your home, unless you live here, too. This, then, means that the ancient laws of hospitality are in assumed effect any time that you are present here, without residing here. If you are visiting for a lengthier stay, rather than just a brief visit, it would be reasonable to assume you are to be given your own quarters or space — a guest room, or an office converted to such — in which you can relax from the stresses of hospitality reception and even informal demand. If you are staying in my home, and I cordon off a space for your exclusive use, as such, that space becomes your dedicated space for the agreed upon term of visitation. It would be a violation of my responsibilities of hospitality to enter that space without permission (unless agreements allow for it, such as allowing me access to something stored within that space), and so forth. And, if I enter that space while you are there, I am in a way “your guest”, though you are still my guest in the greater household. It gets complicated.

It is similar with gods and spirits. Sannion continues, from above (emphasis mine):

[W]ith ancestors and land-spirits the situation is reversed – we are coming into their territory as suppliants. In the case of the ancestors we have our whole existence through them – we owe them for the flesh that adorns our bones, the blood that flows through our veins, the traits and culture, the fortune and luck that has been handed down through their line. In the case of the land-spirits they are the place where we build our homes, the soil that produces the food we eat, the water that nourishes and cleanses us and when we go out to the woods or down by the shore of the river or deep beneath the earth in a cave – in these particular places that are unlike any other place on earth – it is them that we are visiting, and we should ever remain mindful of that. As suppliants we should treat our hosts properly and request of them what we desire instead of just greedily taking it. And I think it is proper for a guest to ask a favor of their host for that enhances their stature and gives them an opportunity to demonstrate their power. And when applied to spirits, approaching them in such a fashion keeps us mindful of the pervasiveness of their dominion.

We are not John Wayne Cowboys, no matter what our pop-culture Western ideologies might suggest to us as we gaze longingly into our own eyes reflected in the many metaphorical mirrors we raise as edifices to our own grand masturbatory majesty. We are not gunslingers, most of us, and even if we were, the supposed “fierce independence” that is discussed often in literature addressing the modern “cult of the individual” phenomenon, there would still be sanctions and responsibilities levied against (and from) us, and it is the cooperation or rejection of those considerations that would define the expression of individuality. (In other words, to rebel against societal norms, one must first acknowledge that they exist in the first place!)

I have heard urban gardeners supposedly involved in “nature worship religions” ostensibly called Paganism declare that they hold no debt or obligations to the land that they work. They express that their act of tilling soil and planting seeds and harvesting yields from little plotted sections of earth somehow creates an egalitarian relationship of reciprocity and balance and… blah blah blah. Fuck that. If you come into my home and think that marinating a steak you found in my fridge — using marinade you found in my cupboard — somehow entitles you to a sense of independent ownership of said steak, you will quickly find yourself corrected of these assumptions. That the steak is mine to offer or withhold in my home is what makes me a host, and you a guest. If you are a good guest, you might get a good steak; if you are a shitty guest, I’ll fry you some damn eggs and smile just as much while serving it. You’ll still be hosted, but I am under no obligations to pull out the red-carpets for muddy-footed peasants, too ignorant to take off their shoes when they enter my domain. Why should it be any different in the wilds, in the gardens, in the yards, in the forests and in the street where we so ignorantly stomp our feet as we traipse blindly through this world?

We are guests here. That places lawful sanctions and demands against us, things which the spirits of a given place may choose to hold us to strictly — in which case most of us are fucking screwed — or more loosely, as those spirits are our hosts, and they are as possessed of free agency as any other damn or blessed being. At least, it should be assumed, they are as free-willed and autonomous as you.

But often we do not do these things, think these things, acknowledge or move with an awareness of these things. This is shameful, and yet we the shameless masses proceed forward anyway, gayly ignoring the fact that we offend with every footstep through the pristinely imperfected red-carpeted mud of the Earth.

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Sabazios Lives!

Posted: March 28, 2014 in Uncategorized

Hail! Sabazios! Hail! the Serpent-Soldier, who slays Himself! Hail! to the god of the space between all things!

My god Sabazios has been getting all kinds of awesome press this week, and has been present in not a few people’s lives in big and transformative ways recently, in many of His myriad forms.

PSVL shares with us a poetic praise piece:

Serpent Sabazios

Upon his horse, he defeats serpents,
horned and hooded, vipers and pythons,
but upon the earth and within it
he is the Serpent Itself.

He passes, golden, between the breasts
of the initiates, through their hearts,
and emerges below, whether male or female
or neither, from the region of their sexes.

The burrows through the earth he makes
are the trackways to Hades and Tartaros;
the ways he clears through our hearts
are devotion and virtue and good speech.

Thracians have known this for centuries;
Bithynians and Phrygians as well,
Karians and Lykians and far-off Scythians,
Keltoi and Galatians, and even the Greeks.

Through Meroe of Nubia and Egypt,
the Samothracian isles, and ancient Canaan,
through the marbled streets of Rome
and the forests of Gaul and Germania.

From the pristine landscapes of Hyperborea
to the titan-haunted halls of Olympus
the fame of Sabazios as serpent
is older than Chronos and Kairos.

His flitting tongue upon ears
is the beginnings of prophecy;
his venom in the veins
is intoxication and madness;

his coiling around the finger
is mastery of spear and sword;
his trampling underfoot
is the beginning of liberation.

(But is it the hero who tramples him
or is it he who tramples himself?
Only the eyes of a shadow can see it,
can know it with certainty.)

Through the breasts of gods, even,
he has wound his serpentine way…
therefore, for him this day
may offerings and praise be gathered!

 

And over at the Cave of Night we have a piece linking to the above, and praising the God Who Rides in some of his other forms, through Thracian to Samothracian to Phrygian to Egyptian expressions of divine being.

Very soon I will be making some updates to the website that I put up for Him, Sanctus Σαβάζιος, but in the meantime I look fondly on the wooden St. George curio cabinet hanging to the side of this room in my new home, smiling at the image, knowing that it is none other than He who resides within it.

 

Hail! Sabazios!

If Death or Delight

Posted: March 25, 2014 in Uncategorized

To Kotys

by P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

 

From the deepest waters your blessings come
from the Baptai who bestow your mysteries;
a great lady, goddess of serpents and songs
who dwells beneath with chthonic kings.

Yours are rites of the senses and sexes
unknown in number, name, or narration;
down steps in a darkened cave they came
to meet you in death in a drowning pool…

But not death, joy in its stead they found
as ecstasy and delight overtook their eyes;
you smiled a serpent’s smile in return
and gave sorrows and sacredness in equal measure.

To you are rites of marriage and conception performed,
your words are prophecy to those who are wise;
the ecstasy of death is a pleasure to your children
when they come to you as you were taken hence.

Strength and peace, Kottyto, I beg of you
to embrace what comes, no matter the fate;
if poison or pestilence, if choking or crushing,
if drowning or debility, if death or delight.

*****

Khaire Kottyto!

Smoke and Hailshowers

Posted: March 19, 2014 in Uncategorized

Back in New England briefly, mobile once more, for equinox tattoo rites and some lighter moving of ritual supplies and antique furniture back to New York. Drove way too many miles today; was on the road for most of the last 12-13 hours… Smoked a cigar in a New Hampshire hailstorm and praised my gods in snow fall. Spring arises, but the reach of Winter is long and its grip firm.

Dreams of torchlit Temples and new beginnings and raven’s wings were the stuff of my coiled serpentine evening, and warm time spent on the road with blessed ally my day.

Its a damn fine Night to be a Polytheist.

Rest in Peace

Posted: March 18, 2014 in Uncategorized

RIP Donald Michael Kraig, author and magician and elder to many many many people in our communities. Please consider donating to help offset the likely staggering medical expenses this year brought to his family, and to help with covering the often equally staggering finances of funerary arrangements and memorials.

We don’t live in a country or time where illness and death are things that can be done on the cheap; please be generous with what you can spare, as these are the sorts of expenses that can pin the loved ones left behind with debt that lasts years. Grief is a natural and sacred and blessed process; debt is not.

I didn’t know Donald well, but we’d met a few times at PantheaCon, and he always recognized and remembered me each successive year, which I was impressed with, given his celebrity. He struck me as a man who genuinely cared, a quality visible clearly in his eyes. Even as he gave lectures and workshops, at least those few that I attended, he had a genuine attentiveness to his audience… not just as “a collective audience”, but to each person who raised their hand or commented or even sat in knowing receptive silence. He looked at them with eyes that saw, and when you’re a presenter who is getting pestered and bothered by so many people at such a frenetic event as PantheaCon, that attentiveness is a noble, noble virtue.

Rest in peace, Donald.