Pagan Issues and Racial Issues

This is mostly addressing the white majority in the pagan communities. I have been sitting on this a bit, ever since news regarding Ferguson and subsequent events broke out. Racial/ethnic issues have been one that has been close to my heart for as long as I can remember, ever since childhood when I discovered a fascination and love for different cultures and delved into my studies in history. Over the last couple of years it has become a more personal issue too, which I admit probably does give me some bias, involving the birth of my biracial infant and my engagement to her father who happens to be African American. As a Caucasian woman I know I live in a bubble of security and privilege, something that my fiancée has reminded me by his own stories and experiences. The fact that it doesn’t even occur to me to carry my ID when I am not driving, whereas he NEVER leaves home without his and was actually asked for his ID by a police officer while waiting for his work place to open and the start of his shift has perhaps driven this home better than anything else. I take for granted that if I do nothing wrong that I will left alone, and yet I know that this is not so for everyone….and if things don’t change my baby will likely also grow up in an environment of discrimination.

What saddens and disappoints me though, as much as events have pissed me off, is the apparent apathy I see among pagans towards these events. As much as the so called pagan community gets roiled up regarding matters of rights in LGBT issues, in religious rights issues (which is understandably close to home), feminism etc, why is there so much silence in support of the rights of the African American segment of our population? Do we not realize that we have fellow worshipers among us who face these prejudices every day, who are personally touched by them? Racial issues are a part of Pagan and Polytheistic issues whether people want to acknowledge them or not. And we are not exempt! How many communities among pagans and polytheists are not in fact racist, spewing forth about ethnic purities. I have even seen someone once suggest support for separation of racial groups in the Hellenic religion based off an Orphic hymn to Apollon in which the translation on hand by Thomas Taylor suggested that Apollon separated the races, in which it was suggested that the gods themselves did not desire for the races to mingle. It disgusts me every time I think about it to be quite honest that a co-religionist could have that view! But these things exist among us as much as homophobia and misogyny and it deserves our attention and rallying for the welfare of our fellows, that all my enjoy equal freedoms and liberties.

And by that  do not support ideologies of being “colorblind”. This is fiction. Even small children notice ethnic differences. This was abundantly clear when I moved to Arkansas for a period and my daughter, who was 6 at the time, asked where all the black people were. There is no such thing as being color blind, and the sooner we get over this idealized personal myth that one ought to strive to be color blind, we are doing more harm than good. we are ignoring the problem, and also doing a disservice to the minorities in our communities (religious and local).

Honestly at times it seems that there are a number of pagans who think that the pagan community is beyond race issues, that pagans are above it….a delusion I fear. To suggest racism often invites defensive dialogue. How many pagans out there have white washed ethnic traditions? Gods of African diaspora traditions are almost as frequently found in  imagery to be Caucasian as they are in African form as far as I could tell from googling. And don’t get me started on all the white people who claim to be native American tradition shamans. I happen to think that this is part of the “every one is the same”/ colorblind mentality. t brings a presumption that by everyone being the same that we have equal rights and ownership to ethnic cultures and traditions, eventually making the original ethnic character disappear. The original ethnic face becomes replaced. We see this in the arts with music, fashion and so forth in general society, and we see this religiously among pagans and polytheists where one apparently can not  love something of a different ethnic origin from our birth without seeking to change it and make it look like us.

I am not saying that is intentional or that pagans are in general  racists, but rather that Caucasian privilege, including the privilege of being “colorblind”, is active within the religious communities which makes it a pertinent issue within pagan and polytheistic discussion. We should not be striving for a colorless sameness, some fictional  cohesive oneness, for this is part of the problem and is what is adding to people ignoring the issues, hoping that they go away. Assuming that they are not part of the pagan and polytheistic world typically and that  the community just needs to lead by example. What a poor example we are as we are living in a fantasy. The fracturing between polytheists and pagans  earlier this year should have demonstrated that there is no such thing as a blanket oneness, no cohesive sameness. And that is just small potatoes compared to the race issues within the pagan community.

Just as with the world at large, we need to recognize, acknowledge, respect and appreciate the black people within our various religious and local communities. Recognize that there are differences but these differences  does negate that all are deserving of the same equality and privileges.That the differences enrich our world and are deserving of support and nurturing. Acknowledge the crimes of the past, the deeds of our ancestors and Caucasians in general. By doing so we are able to make the first steps in trying to make a difference and fulfill our obligation to change the world for the better that non has to suffer with such harm and indignities again. Respect the autonomy of black people.  Trying to change the conversation to ones about reverse racism, apologist arguments or lump summation of what “they” do that is potentially deserving of ill treatment is NOT respectful. And also appreciate black people as fellow human beings who bring something unique and diversity. How welcome do you make a African American fellow worshipper feel in your worship community? How do you treat them? How do you treat an African American boss, co-worker, employee or neighbor? IS it any different that you would treat a white person

Because, ya know, black people matter too, and black lives matter. Pagans and polytheists should be giving our support and having dialogue on these issues that rocking the world. Be a voice against oppression and hate, be the change.

Another possible Jarilo link

I came across this blog post on Jarilo that made some further details on associations that I made in my previous post regarding Jarilo (or Yarilo) and Apollon. the relationship with his twin sister, though different a bit from Apollon’s relationship with Artemis which though had tensions was not a marital relationship (though Roman interpretation seems to bring some of the romantic tension between the twins in Ovid’s interpretation of the story of Orion. However, Artemis bears a lot of similarity to the twin of Jarilo, so it may make a case why IF Apollon originated as Jarilo that when his cult entered Hellas with the Dorics that Artemis (whom most agree originally did not have a twin) was twinned with Artemis who represented similar forces as Apollon as acting twin parallels in the cosmos and nature. Artemis assumed the position of his twin which has become part of her identity since archaic worship of the twins together. This identity is now inseparable from her, but this would be a reasonable origin of her twin relationship if Apollon did indeed arise from Jarilo….and though Apollon is not strictly speaking a vegetation deity (vegetation deities being characterized as dying with the crops…though I haven’t seen anything that says Jarilo *dies*), he is only present during the season of growth and that goes to Hyperboreia…a far land where migrating swans go that is characterized as a garden of the blessed and shares a lot of similarities to the Slavic underworld! Additionally, we find similarities in his role as a herder, and his return to the world corresponds to the Doric/Theban/Delphic birth of Apollon in February. So I highly recommend reading this!

On a related note…I have found an image called the welcoming of Jarilo in which the god appears to be almost like a centaur but goat rather than horse, with goat horns…may this be behind the goat horns of the Doric Apollon?

Doric Apellon and Slavic Belobog and Jarilo

As a follow up on my previous post I found myself curious about taking a brief looking at Slavic gods. I had thought about this before when encountering research in which some scholars have speculated that Apollon had an origin from the general area of Russia or the Russian steppes, stating that the Riphean Mountains over which Apollon crosses is in reality the Ural Mountains and that Hyperborea may have originated in the furthest northern reaches of Russia or even into Syberia. In fact some Russian researchers have indicated that the mythical Hyperborea was originated in their arctic when in early history the climate may have been warmer, lending the arctic to a temperate climate.

When I was writing the name of Apollon, I was discussing possible origins of the name of Apollon  and the fact that scientists were at lost for a possible common origin for his name as nearly all placed mentioned by ancient Hellenes as a possible origin for Apollon never bore any relation to his name. So it looks like before publishing I will need to look at one more angle that occurred to me today.

I thought to myself, I wonder if there are any Slavic gods, given the many opinions that have persisted that Hyperborea may have originated beyond the Scythians who occupied the Steppes region. While Hyperborea is at the same time a kind of underworld conceptually, a blessed paradise, garden of Apollon, the myth as being a key to the origin of Apollon may be a very real possibility. So I decided to look at the Slavic language, mainly because the Cyrillic alphabet shares a common origin with the Hellenic alphabet. With this in mind I figured that the Russian Slavic language was a good place to look for a similar name.

As a reminder, the Dorics called Apollon by the name Apellon. The slavs have a god called Belobog (the latter part, bog refers to him as god, likely referring similar authority as the A in Apellon. If we remove these authoritative or distinguishing additions to the names we have Pello and Belo as the roots of the names. If the Doric race was returning from the north (entering into the Northern part of the Peloponnese), it is possible that the race spent some time among the slavs and returned with the god with the name slightly changed by the Doric dialect. The close proximity by landmass between the slavs, Steppes, and the near east could have confused the narrative of the god among Hellenes, leaving all the remained a myth of familial origins in a far northern Hyperborea. On a personal note, the close relationship between the Slavic and Baltic pantheons could have some additional hereditary attachments playing on my part as I had a Prussian Great grandmother, in addition to the Italian element in my heritage from the god so adopted by the Etruscans (I am of Tuscan heritage) called Apelu/Aplu.

Like Apellon, Belobog (who is also called Belun) is a god of light and associated with the sun, so called the white god.  He is a counter against evil, as we know Apollon is a god who averts such as well. There is of course some thought that Slavic deities were shown in oppositional forms when concerning heavenly and chthonic forms of the same god (or rather god above and god below). In such case it is probably that the white god and his opposition the black god may have been one in the same. This would be remarkable similar to the black and white characteristics of Apollon’s cult.

Similarly, authorities concerning Lydian origins on Leto’s name I think bear stark similarity to a name of another Slavic goddess named Lada (yes the exact same name proposed as being of Lydian origin to mean lady), or Lado as she is also apparently called, is a supreme goddess of summer (the season of Apollon), love, harmony and marriage. That she was a goddess who provided salvation (like Persephone) is apparent in Christian denouncing of her as a goddess who provides salvation, but rather it would be found in Jesus.

While there is no evidence of a mother son relationship between the two, rather Lado is connected to Jarilo, a prominent god who also bears a name similar to Apollon’s name, as a god of the late spring/summer who presides over harvest, fertility etc. Association of green branches and horse riding being common between the two in addition to being the son of the thunder god, ruler of the heavens. It is quite probable in my mind that Belobog may have been a god who originated from Jarilo  as Apollon may also have. That Jarilo was raised by the  cattle herding god of the underworld, keeping in mind that it is likely that Perun and Veles may have been conceived as the same god above and below the mountain, may have leant to associations with herds whose young would have been born in the spring and reared in the summer. It is quite probable as harvest god he would have been viewed as , like his father, both a white god, and the oppositional dark god (Belobog and Chernoblog) of whom no evidence is found other than place names (rather like Lada who is also thought to possibly be a non-existing goddess aside from her name appearing in songs of marriage which rather belies that). the white/dark god  almost perfectly imitates Perun and Veles, but rather than being a god above and below a mountain, he is a god  of the presence and  absence of light and life. As a god who returned every spring along with other similarities as well as similarities of names, it is easy to see how this could be one possible origin for Apollon/Apellon.

The Winter Veil

Starting at the autumn equinox Apollon has been for these last two months (just about) wearing his black veil draped over his head and shoulders, concealing his face from view, draping him in mystery. He is like a shadow on his own shrine. Just as during these Hyperborean months he is as a shadow. Winter is often a personal time in my worship. He is closer in a more personal sense, but he is like a shadow and obscure. He is a comforting presence in the winter, a reminder that a departure from the world is not an end of things. That even although our beloved ones cannot cross the threshold back to the living except for an allotted night every year (which varies from tradition to tradition), he crosses with ease by the barking griffins as is rules his Hyperborean seat in the next world. Out of respect  for his summer office he conceals his bright face, and the northern hemisphere is concealed in the fall of darkness. In Alaska this is more prominent than in other places. In November the sky is fairly dark at 4pm. In December this will be even more extreme. It is no wonder so many people experience seasonal depression. In a way it makes sense that Apollon would in a way remain (even as he is in the next world…hey he is a god, it is not an either or situation!), concealed in darkness as Helios refrains from the heavens, to bring even the barest light on another level to the hearts of those who are his.

But this is the first year I have veiled his primary cult statue. His other statues remain uncovered, but the primary statue is like a shade. Whenever I look at it I hear the howl of the winter winds, a rattling shake of bones, the smell of fire on hearth logs, a brush of fur. It is powerful. In fact veiling his statue has brought home just how powerful and primordial this half of him is. It comes to my mind that he is, in this form, as a great shaman of the Siberian steppes region. Power flows. He may not shine this time of the year with the radiance of summer’s light, but he is like a hot electrical current at this time. Like the rise of the aurora borealis in the dark skies of the night.

There is part of me that is uncertain how to react this is part of himself that Apollon is revealing to me. As in years past, the warm drape of comfort and love is still present. He still croons singing by the hearth. A protective present in the household as he sings of passing ages. But this year this has been a new element as I followed as he bid to veil him. On an instinctual level it raises the hairs, and is unfamiliar for a god who has been so familiar for a decade. A small part of me, even as I stand in awe before him, and find myself attracted as a moth to his shrine, wants to pull off the veil. To return to what is familiar. But I know this is part of himself he wishes to reveal to me. something that will be important in our relationship in the years to come. So I resist that childish impulse. By seeing him obscure I am seeing what I have overlooked or refused to see before…or perhaps only saw that one part that was familiar to what I knew before.

Even an interesting journey.


Originally posted on The Poems and Verses of Lykeia:

Hail to you O gracious mother of the rolling seas
You dwell in the depths, beyond sea-grass reeds,
Beyond the fishermen’s nets and current’s swell
Enthroned upon crimson coral and pearly shell
Where crystalline sand paints your shining skin
As in bliss you recline upon an iridescent fin
Amid the curtain of abyssal-dark tendrils of curls
Wafting upon a breath, at turn lengthening and furls,
As you nod your regal head to the girth of your womb
From which sweet water ever flows to your maternal croon,
You from whom the wealth of the sea issues forth,
O lady of fish, O lauded mother of supreme worth
Nurturer of children, bringer of joy, banisher of strife,
Hail O briny-crowned Tethys, abundant in life.

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Apollon’s Black and White Devotional Necklaces

Constructing a devotional/devotee necklace to Apollon needs not to be too complicated; however, it is easy to get side tracked amid although the possible hues and suggested shades that one may wish to attribute to the god. For Apollon this can be any shade of the heavens. Often blue is assigned to Apollon, crocus purple, amber orange. But when it comes right down to it these myriad colors are best concentrated in but two colors (although other colors can be used modestly as a highlight), and that is black and white. Perhaps more significantly the suggestion of all the hues of the heavens and earth as property of Apollon, lord of light, the father of color by saturation of light.  White is the father of all colors in this case.

Whereas white would seem quite practical in these regards, one should use an equal number of black beads to the white beads. This illustrates the unified harmony of Apollon’s nature. Even as light is life, generator and nurturer, Apollon too is the destroyer. He is the black Apollon Agyieus, the protector and averter of evil. He is the dark pillar ward. He is the shade values darkening the pigments, bringing depth and clarity.  Even as he is light, he is the source of light absent of radiance. When Homer says that Apollon in his anger that his face is black, I take this as demonstrative of this quality of Apollon. That the luminance of his grace is also by his power absent when he so desires. Light issues from him, but it does not mean that he is nothing but light. He may shine his luminous beams upon us, or close them to us as he shields the innocent from his most destructive radiance. His darkness is a mercy and a kindness even as the gentler beams of his light which illuminates are sweet and life-giving.

So for a devotee/devotional necklace I would say to make out of a total of 99 beads. Out of 98 of these divide them in half between black and white beads. The 99th center bead is one of your choice. I prefer to use amber as this is traditionallysacred to him and as a fossil is pertinent to his nature. Other options can be a garnet, a turquois, a quartz crystal of some variety and so forth.

I am willing to do these of course and they will be available in my shop in the near future.

The Familial Religious Life

Despite how powerful the personal expression and understanding of the gods may be, and it is indeed very much so, the family is the center of Greco-Roman religious life, and this means that there is a big emphasis on the familial religious duties and responsibilities. Religion is not a thing external to the family, but part of its core and roots.

The complex relationship between honoring the gods and the nature of the household, and the family unit itself, makes honoring the gods inseparable from honoring one’s home and places a huge importance on ancestor veneration. We honor those who came before us as a means of honoring the influence of the gods that have provided the continuation and blessings of our family. The gods who have provided offspring, (such as Leto who graces mothers with motherhood, Hera who brings for lawful heirs, and Aphrodite who is by her very nature of attracting unions is generative), and those who nurture the children born into the family and protect them (such as Apollon, Artemis and Hekate). These are the gods who have blessed the marital unions that have led to the expansion of our families (Zeus Teleios and Hera Teleia). We recognize too that our ancestors also had personal complex relationships with the god(s) that they worship which benefited the health and welfare of the family. They have offered praise and prayed over sick children and grandchildren. They have tended to the health and welfare of the family with the grace of the gods. So we honor our ancestors who embody the love of the gods in our lives and in our families. Those who protect our families, those who provide comfort in our families, those who fed the members in our families and so forth. We honor them that they continue to care for us, their descendants, as they did in life.

We also recognize that the household itself is alive with the blessings of the gods and welfare that they provide our families and have provided. The very house itself becomes a thing pertinent in our religious life. More so in cases of ancestral homes that have been handed down through the generations I think. Nowadays we have significantly less ancestral attachment to our homes as we do not feel the ties to the home for the birth place of generations. It may even be hard for some to imagine. But even still the gods are imbued in the physical structures of our house where they reside and bestow their blessings. Hestia at the hearth, Zeus at the center and in the courtyard (if your home has such a thing which is rare in this period), Apollon in the foundations and at the entrance with his twin, Hermes, Herakles and Hekate, Poseidon holding up the walls, the Dioskouri upon the roof. It is by tradition that the gods were honored at these places as honoring the gods who dwell within the house. The blessings are bestowed through these centers of the house. For instance the Herm and Apollon Agyieus stone was literally worshiped outside the entrance of the house. Hekate was honored before the doors within the home, protecting the sanctity of the house which served as the very heart of the family.

Ancestors and household aside, the familial religious life also is part of how we treat the members of our families, the support, love and devotion to our families. It is part of how we are expected to treat our parents, our grandparents, our brothers and sisters, our children and stepchildren (for the latter we can  look at mythic example by telling us how not to treat  our children and stepchildren through tragedies and other media. To betray or otherwise render some assault on  our family is to dishonor the laws of the gods, and dishonors the gods themselves who care for and provide for our wellbeing and the wellbeing of our families. They who reared us within the families that we have been allotted. This matter was taken so seriously in ancient religious thought that a number of the Delphic Maxims deal with familial  responsibilities and interrelations.

Therefore our religious duties extend to honoring our families, the living members and deceased members  as part of honoring the gods. To honor them in a fashion (and to show what love, affection and respect we have for  our families and ancestors) honors the gods, and by honoring the influence of the gods in the household we again honor the gods in their greater common manifestations.  This recognizes the gods in our  daily lives  in a more intimate and personal level, and it helps us  not only establish such kharis between our selves and our families with the gods, but also enriches and informs  personal devotional relationships  with the larger governing nature of the gods n the world and cosmos.