Pouring Over the Icon

The most familiar images of the gods that we possess tend to be humanized icons in appearance of gods and goddess in various forms and depictions of strength, grace and beauty. Yet I have found that these images have a tendency to be treated with a certain delicacy and untouchable status. In some cases this is understandable if the icon is made from terracotta or some substance that will be ruined if not set in some secure position in your worship in which the icon is kept sterile and removed from direct interaction of the cult activity.

The problem with this in my own observation is that the god becomes isolated in direct involvement of the worship. I mean it is all fine and good offering a vessel of wine, water, mead or juices of fruits to the gods, but for me there is not the personal and most direct manner of giving the offering as comes when pouring it over an icon. Of course the result is that not only you are directly feeding your icons and more directly the deity in question, but you are also having to engage in more personal maintenance and caretaking of the icon in a direct manner such as bathing the icon so that it remains clean and pure. When I first began to really engage in polytheism I had small statues of the primary deities of my household made of suitable material for which I was able to feed my statues wine. Sometimes the aftermath with wine can look a little gruesome, particularly with my habit at the time of pouring the wine directly over the lips rather than over the whole of the statue which made the statues look more than a little vampiric, but all the same I found it be an immensely satisfying way of life that I still engage in to this day.

Of course there are some risks involved. Some material, such as alabaster, is prone to staining. An image made of a good stone or resin seems to work the best for directly feeding statues. Yet with some deities it is even easier….I am speaking of gods with aniconic images, which is typical among Zeus, Apollon and his famed Agyieus stone, and the herm of Hermes….yet we also know from notes of Pausanias that several deities were likewise represented in a herm like fashion with nothing more than a carved head which would suggest that nearly any deity was potentially worshipped in such a manner, although the three aforementioned ones were those most commonly associated with the household above all in these forms. When it is a stone it makes life a lot easier. You still have to clean it and maintain it, as it is still an iconic of your deity and representation of them manifested, but the cleaning and maintaining because much easier.

This is not say that our alabaster and terracotta images don’t have a place. My large terracotta images  of Apollon and Artemis overlook smaller images which are the more direct cult image over which offerings are poured. When set up together on a shrine the icons collectively together become different kinds of vessels acting in worship. Each having their place and importance. So I am not suggesting that anyone needs to ditch their more delicate icons, but rather it may be good to include more basic icons that can have more direct interactions that can be fed and even swathed in lovely materials after fed and cleansed, and so adorned beautifully. To experiment and experience such may very well lend another dimension to how you experience your relationship with your gods that may be worth exploring. At least I have found it to be so! And my more resent engagement with Hinduism has reinforced this for me as being profound, even as I have seen it as powerful through ancient practices. Just think of how importance the festive bathing and dressing of the cult statues was in ancient Hellas! There was an obvious direct interaction through the icon of the deity that was valued.

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One thought on “Pouring Over the Icon

  1. Very interesting, indeed! I have never even thought of feeding the icon directly. I have experienced leaving offerings in the woods, and giving gifts of food to others in the name of God/Grandfather. I have seen statues of Christ and his saints, as well as other gods and goddesses with flowers, silk, and hats as adornments. There are many statues where monetary gifts are left along with prayers written on paper (not necessarily meant to go together, but I am sure that there are some that do). I am not sure about feeding the statues myself. However, I am intrigued.

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