Piety to the Gods and Spiritual Community

There seems to be focus recently on spiritual community, the value of said community and its strengths. In fact this is nothing new, religious community has been a big deal online for years, a focus on finding others, and a sense of desiring solidarity of belief and ethics on a spiritual level. I have come to the opinion that this is largely a monotheistic hangover. While it is nice to have other folks who “get it”, our desire to have this solidarity is religio-political more than anything else, and likely something which helped Christianity to overwhelm and crush polytheistic worship. Because of its political effectiveness, there are many who feel that this is a strength. And certainly a coming together of various groups in a loose form of solidarity has helped make some positive changes. The problem is that any form of spiritual community and solidarity is not much more than illusion that some people try so hard to cling to. A desire that pervades that we should all be under one strong identifiable umbrella for religio-political reasons. However along with trying to fit under an indefinable singular “pagan” religious movement rather than many spiritual movements working cooperatively is that it forces the position of identity that does not fit everyone for the sake of having a political religious identity that is identifiable in a legal sense. The reason I say it is an illusion is because it is entirely forced rather than organic and placing an importance on a singular religious community idea that  has never been a huge part of many historical polytheistic traditions. Trying to make such diversity agree as a singular body is ultimately impossible.

Yet this pursuit of spiritual community will leave people feeling as if they need to find this fit of community, and encountering lacking in that area can lead to feelings of befuddlement, alienation, and isolation. This is, more often than not, a result of placing worship focus on having community. In “local pagan communities” (I am using the term here very loosely for a purpose) you find people operating on a principle of participating in worship as a community service. A “I will support your worship by attending if you will return the favor” mentality. This is making worship in a social support in which religiosity is based on spiritual community.  In a sense it is the same as above by enforcing an idea of spiritual standards which it is assumed that everyone adheres to and which is translatable across everyone under this imaginary “pagan umbrella”.

The reason why Polytheists can have such a difficult time with this, from my perspective is that most of us are deity focused rather than community focused. This aligns with our spiritual heritage in which the importance is placed on the gods and family rather than a sense of a broad “community”. In fact often time efforts to make everyone fit into a singular Hellenic body among Hellenics for instance has failed miserably. Why? Because like many Polytheists religious groupings, we don’t have that underlying spiritual agreement. The core values of the Hellenic religion, and a number of other polytheistic traditions,  are focused on piety to the god, honoring one’s family/parents/ancestors and service to one’s state (not spiritual community but literal local state/country and the laws governing it).  This is something that Pagans can have a difficult time understanding, and their understandable frustration that most Polytheists just aren’t interested in “playing nice” and working within a larger pagan community, and in fact often aren’t part of it at all. This is not the case of all Polytheists though, there many folks who comfortably sit in both camps. Still for the larger majority of Polytheists who just do our own thing I can understand why it is frustrating, because it is not part of our spiritual core values. This is not to malign Pagan traditions which do share common core spiritual values that make them more cohesive as a community than Polytheists, but to demonstrate why most of us don’t fit within the Pagan community framework.

To put it more simply I will put it this way to show how, as example, Hellenic “community” worked. When someone says that a traditional polytheistic religion is a home cult foremost, that is quite literal. Attention to one’s ancestors is priority and the gods of one’s household. While often households had a common set of core deities that presided over the households in general, each household literally was considered as being spiritually individual and unique with its own collection of household gods which overall could and did vary from household to household.

Of course one might protest and point out how many public festivals were held and temples were erected. In response to this I would put it simply, such things were civic (part of the government structure) which depended on the devotion of the people and their piety to the gods. To put it another way people did not worship with each other in a sense of a singular cohesive spiritual community, but rather coming together solely in spirit of giving honor to the gods and to affirm the relationship of the people and the city overall with the gods. It had nothing to do with a core set of personal shared beliefs so much as respect and piety towards the gods. As such you find very different festivals and regards to the gods that varied sometimes drastically from city to city. Dialogue regarding spiritual corruption more often than not  was about civil disturbance that was seen to disrupt the relationship of the city with the gods. Not about personal belief. The coming together for the purpose to honor the gods is the core of Polytheistic community. Worship is not about community but about the gods. The numbers involved just depends on how many people have the desire to give worship at that time to that deity. The deity or deities being honored is the sole purpose, and the priority. Who gives worship and doesn’t give worship doesn’t matter as we don’t worship for purpose of community. It is the individual piety one has towards a particular deity that determines whether or not they participate and is no one’s business but their own. Participation is between the individual and the gods. Even the mystery programs were highly personal experiences and such highly mystical, rather than a cohesive spiritual community in the way that people seem to define it.

Of course from the outside view this gives the appearance that we don’t have strength as a Polytheistic religious movement. That we have no cohesive identity. Yet our devotion and spiritual focus to the gods is what makes us strong. We don’t need to have an agreeable singular identity. We don’t need to be the same unlike the Pagan mantra that “we are all the same”. In polytheism is not necessary. In fact identifying and understanding our differences but valuing the richness of the diversity is part of our strength. I have said before in response to posts on other blogs that I get more out participating in rituals to specific deities from traditional polytheistic worship than I do in worship in a general pagan spiritual community. I understand the ethos and the focus and often am participating our of respect to the god, not for some pretend spiritual solidarity. It may not be a god of my tradition and household, nor one that I personally give regular worship to. But if it is a god that I admire and respect I will be there. This is the difference. It is not to say that Polytheism is better than Paganism so much because to each their own (and people will find their own places that they belong in their relationship to the gods and worship), but that it is inherently different at the core. This is to help people understand why having two separate movements are necessary.

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The Temple Building Dream- Economics and Realities

The following mostly applies to America. Some countries have larger populations of polytheistic communities that this really is not applicable for in the most part.

This afternoon I saw a disturbing image from North Carolina in which a sign marking the entrance of a Hindu Temple was shot up. This was the very same temple that I had planned on visiting when I was living there but had not had the opportunity to go to due to transportation issues. But this is not new thing as I have heard reports from other parts of the country regarding vandalizing of Hindu temples. Anyone who honestly believe that having physical temples elevates the social standing and level of respect that a religion has needs to re-examine that in light of how people treat Hindu temples that have memberships of devotees hundreds strong. Anyone who is willing to vandalize a Hindu temple, do you think it bodes well for this dream of achieving a level of religious merit just by having a temple? We certainly see the trouble that the Matreum of Cybele had with their own temple and the local populace.

However, that is just dealing with the earning respect myth. There are several reasons that make raising temples right now extremely difficult that I was discussing last night with several other folks. The agreed upon biggest problem faced by anyone who wants to raise temples is largely the economic one. The following list is a short hand of what we discussed, and the very reason why before any temple can be put up it must have a large enough community of worshiping households that can meet the economic requirements for temple building. The most any small number of people can hope to do really is to put up a small shrine or altar. For even an open air cordoned off temple, much less a full temple, it takes considerable resources beyond just “having acreage”. Land is just the beginning of what is needed for devoted sacred space.

1. Temples are expensive to maintain, there are land taxes that have to be paid, priests who have to be paid if you want to the temple open all day every day (trust me you will want that because the Hindu temple I go to doesn’t make enough capital to hire a priest and is only open for an hour a week every Sunday which makes the temple largely inaccessible to many folks who cannot make it at that particular time or day), not to mention paying for the building of the temple to sacred specifications and the maintenance of the temple itself with repairs, regular cleaning of the temple, electricity used, heat or a/c being used, water used etc. Don’t forget trash removal, you gotta pay for that unless you want to be daily hauling to the dump? Not to mention regular landscaping maintenance for the acreage that your temple sits on to keep the grass mowed down. While you are at it you might want to invest in a timed sprinkler system that will keep everything from just dying on you.

2. Most land available to purchase at a reasonable cost is going to be out of the way. This often means it won’t have dependable paved roads, rather dirt roads, and in some cases you would have to pay for a road to be put in. Nevermind that if your temple is out in the sticks and you live in a place with snow, that means you are going to have to personally invest your money and time into plowing the way to the temple every time it snows.

3. Location location location. Everyone wants to build near themselves, everyone has a dream of putting a temple up in their own locality. But if you are the only (or just one of a handful) of folks of your religion in the area that will actually use it and it will otherwise sit empty all the time rather than being filled regularly with the prayers and offerings of people visiting the temple then how does that benefit the gods? Even if you get together with folks of the same inclination who can all shoulder the expense together this is going to be an issue because if your temple is far away from a significant portion of your fellow worshippers it will not get the presence of much financial support from that segment of the community. People visiting= funds for the temple.

4. Acquiring sacred image(s). For the size used in temple worship this is not cheap. For religious organizations with greater national/international solidarity sometimes temples will donate sacred images to new temples, but this is not a sure thing even then. If you think that paying between 50-100 dollars for a small image for your household is expensive, imagine paying thousands of dollars for a larger custom made image for your temple? Because you got to pay the artisan, not whine that no one is offering up their art for the temple without compensation. Although icons are not a *must* they are typical for temples to have. Said images may  also come with expenses depending on the culture for perfumes, clothes, adornments etc.

5. Aside from the maintenance issues listed above, there are also numerous other expenses that go into a temple for regular worship, such as:
A. Incense to be used for the temple worship. You will go through a lot of incense. Even if you encourage individual to bring incense, regular rituals will consume huge amounts of incense. Again this is a temple, not your home.
B. Fresh flowers. This may not seem like a big deal until you start tallying the floral costs for flowers for the altar on a daily basis. It is going to be more than just a five dollar boquet of flowers. A temple will probably spend hundreds of dollars on flowers alone if that is something that is part of the traditions of that culture.
C. Food offerings. While it can be something supplied by worshipers, the temple will need to have something on hand, especially regular libations which can vary from culture to culture from milk, honey, wine, mead, beer etc etc.
D. If your temple participates in (humane) sacrifice of animals then you are also looking at the expense of either purchasing livestock from local farmers (most likely), or (less likely) have another piece of property away from the temple for livestock to be reared. In both cases you are looking at a significant cost.

The list can go on and on but this is a brief summary. For these costs you can see why it requires a large community to upkeep the temple. Even then for many communities temples were part of the tourist industry for that area, attracting visitors to the temple helped to pay for the expenses of the temple (as did I am sure the percentage that merchants paid for selling goods outside not too far away from the temple). You are looking at a huge vercatile number of people that is necessary for a successful temple who can put large sums of money into the temple collectively. And let me tell you if a couple hundred Alaskan Hindus are barely breaking even without being able to afford a priest, what is the reality of 2-20 people being able to do more than have a small chunk of land with an altar on it. Because that is what is realistic to accomplish, and even then I am sure it is tight coming up with the property taxes, because we all know how hard to is to get folks to part with their own money for religious stuff.

So that may be a huge downer, but look at it this way, it could still happen in the future. We all say that the heart of the religion starts at home. So put a small shrine at the edge of your yard if you like. But more so, invest in your relationship with the gods in your home every day, and just maybe enough households will be there even if it takes several generations down the road, that will be numerous enough to raise a temple. If we can’t build temples in our lifetimes, let us raise our children and support the raising of children in our respective religious communities and having them at religious events etc, make them a part of the religious life with all of its important dedications and devotions at different periods of life as they grow up and we will find that we are ultimately laying the ground work for having temples some day. It will be our great great grandchildren who will remember us and say that we were the generation, we were the people, who laid the foundations to make it all possible. We are the venerable ancestors for reviving our religions and raising temples in the future by what we do today in our homes.

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.

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.

Artemis, Hekate and Demeter

So similar are the natures of Artemis and Hekate that it sometimes causes argument in regards to which is more appropriate for certain forms of worship, namely those various points their natures intersect. I have tried, not quite satisfactorly to myself, puzzle out how these goddesses fit together. After a while I started to come to the conclusion that there is no satisfactory way to separate these goddesses, and I think that this is a conclusion that Athenians came to as well in the classical era where we find references of Artemis-Hekate in the work of Euripedes in his Seven Against Thebes.

For I have noticed something quite distinct, that aside from a few notable sanctuaries (the one at Brauron being in direct competition with Sparta as the inheritor of the Taurine Artemis) Artemis seems to enjoy a bit less popularity than Hekate, and much of worship seems to be very narrowly defined. I think this is part of what causes some to argue that the Eleusinuan temple of Artemis is not really for Artemis, because they see no real function for Artemis in Demeter’s sanctuary, especially when Hesiod, a rather famous Ionian poet to whom the Homeric hymns are typically attributed to, speaks of only the aid of Hekate outside of Demeter and Persephone in the Homeric Hymn to Demeter as the goddesses who aids Demeter in recovering Persephone. This aid was freqently celebrated in Attic vase paintings depicting Persephone with Hekate and Hermes.  So then how possibly could Artemis fit in? To discover that we need to move away from Attic and allied resources and take into consideration that the conquered Eleusis was said by Pausanias to have the exact same rites as those of Demeter at various points in the Pelopennese. In a couple of places this can be attributed to just a migration of the Eleusinuan cult, where Demeter is surnamed Eleusia. But in many cases that is not so. In Messenia we have mention of three Great Goddesses of whom Pausanias doesn’t name, but says that their rites are exactly the same as those at Eleusis. The identity of these goddesses can be peiced together from his subsequent writing on Messenia’s neighbors, Arkadia and Laconia. First he mentions that it is in Messenia, in the feilds of Apollon’s horse herds, that Demeter, in her grief over loosing Kore, hid herself in the form of a mare and there Poseidon, in the form of a stallion, copulated with her. From this mating, Pausanias tells us, Despoina was born. Pausanias tells us that Despoina is a title for the daughter of Demeter and Poseidon, just as Kore is a title for the daughter of Demeter and Zeus. He initially tells us that it is forbidden to say the name of the goddess, but then a few pages later informs us that Artemis is the daughter of Demeter and Poseidon. Which he makes further clear when speaking of the sanctuary of Despoina in another part of the Pelopennese where one enters first through the temple of Artemis Hegemone, and from there you come to the inner part of the sanctuary where there are two images. The main image being that of Despoina (holding the sacred kiste) seated beside Demeter, with another statue of Artemis nearby holding a torch in one hand and a dragon in the other.

Now, this isn’t the only instance of Artemis acting as keeper of a sacred kiste, for in one of her sacred cities in Asia Minor we find her receiving the sacred kiste of Dionysos from Troy in myth. In fact it in Asia Minor you really see the overlay of Artemis and Hekate. For you see triads of Cybele, Hekate and Hermes lining up directly with those of Leto, Artemis and Apollon in differing cities, largely because this part of the world was colonized by Athenians and Laconians both creating a hodgepodge of differing foci. Of course the interesting thing is that Ephesus, whose Artemis so unresembles the Attic Artemis to the point of people saying nowadays that they are not the same goddess, is said to have been mythically founded by an Athenian prince, bears more in common with Artemis outside of Attica. Such can be stressed by very Persephone like imagery in her temple of the Thessalian queen Aclestis, wearing the crown of Persephone as she is escorted back among the living by Herakles. It is also in Ionia that we find Leto identified with a great mother goddess in Lycia and in other parts identified with the dead.  The nature of Leto becomes distinguished as bearing commonality with Demeter. The parental relationship evident with Demeter quite plausibly was well known and recognized in Hellas which likely inspired the account of Diodoros Siculus who said that Artemis and Apollon were worshiped with their mother Demeter in Egypt… their recognized relationship with Demeter probably factoring the Hellenic-Egyptian view of Bast and Horus as twin children of Isis, something that did not previously exist in Egyptian religion before then as far as I am aware.

So then how does Leto, the fruitful mother become distinct with few other instances of her in myth and cult…and never without her children?  It is because this is her identity specifically is attached to het children. She is as the exhalation of the earth that imparts light… just as the natural vapors of the earth mingled with the air in Hellenic thought to provide nature’s relevations through the oracles. Her very nature is meant, as given by her name, to be obscure …and seems quite intentional. As is Hesiod producing her sister Asteria to present as the mother of Hekate. For we see no other mention of this titanide outside of this particular theogony, which states that she was held in esteem by Hera for escaping Zeus by plunging into the sea in the form if a quail, setting up her continued existance as Delos whereas Leto conceived as a quail in one myth.  Thus Hekate for all that Hesiod acclaimed over her, possessed just as vague of parentage.

In fact when it comes to the origin of Hekate we find a differing version inside of Attica alone, in Brauron, where Hekate was said to have originated as Iphigenia. That Hekate is so vastly reduced within Attica alone is rather startling. But as infrequently as one sees evidence of her presence outside of Attica in a truly notable way, it should not be surprising either to find her so reduced. Although among tragedians Hekate’s popularity skyrocketed, in terms of cult she seems to have been honored frequently as Iphigeneia, which Hesiod mentions in his catalogue of women, as she was acclaimed over poetically as Perseis (the daughter of Perses). Certainly as with all gods Hekate has diverse parentage that attributes to her functions as a goddess. As such the stress in her functions likely varies from place to place. So it would be a mistake to think she was held in equal esteem throughout Hellas, rather Artemis and Hekate are almost interchangable depending on where you are. What is clearly distinct of Hekate that is worshiped in Hekate in those few places mentioned by Pausanias is not a kourotroph of nurturing nature outside of Athens, but a goddess of the dead and witchery, a goddess of the night, wheras Artemis is kourotroph.

Neithet position is more correct than the other tho, which was finally agreed on by Athenian playwrites when discussing Artemis outside if Athens, for only then does Euripedes call her Artemis-Hekate in recognition of Artemis bearing qualities like Hekate, and for which we see the goddesses interchangably addressed in the Orphic hymns.

Unfortunately this peaceful interchange has made matters a bit less so among modern worshippers. Unlike Apollon and Hermes who have several areas of overlap but never were identified as more than the closest of brothers and whose worshippers enjoy a happy interaction, the mingling of Hekate and Artemis causes some rather heated disputes, especially as not all worshippers do so through the Athenian lense as it were. But it would be nice to see some positive exchanges.

As one of Pelopennesian leaning and devoted to Artemis I try to not ignore Hekate. As such I honor both Artemis and Hekate at the entrance. I honor both, with Ge, during Korutrophia, even tho it is Artemis I recognize particularly as such. I honor Artemis ad Despoina and companion/sister of Persephone during her time among the gods, and Hekate as her companion in the underworld, and it is Hekate I honor with Apollon in regards to death and burial, just the same as key keepers.

Balance has become the key.

brought to you by my laborous typing on my phone. As always please forgive grammatical and spelling errors.

To Honor Aphrodite

Often the worship we give the gods is built largely on our perception of them, and as such we can become so hooked on singular things under the idea that this best favors the god. I have seen for instance a time where there were those who insisted wine was not an appropriate offering for Apollon, when in fact there is no prohibition against it and he is in fact in the Orphic hymns called Bakkhic, yet a reference to alcohol not being permitted at the Pythian games and  nietzchian view of Apollon and Dionysos at one time had some solid support by many worshipers led by the belief of the few who presented it. It is not that there is something wrong with the perception or practice but that as it is often developed from a single source viewing a god or goddess a certain way that it overshadows other ways we may interact with the gods, some which would be more suitable in different situations.

Different situations may not just apply to other ways we could receive benefice from the deity in question, but also situations which is inclusive of a wider community beyond our own private worship. There are those who honor Dionysos with revelry of a kind, for instance, which may not be suitable for a ritual with families, minors or people with substance abuse issues. No one would say that this is all Dionysos is but as a main form if worship for one, it is naturally the first inclination of worship, or can be. But a public focus so directed it is also likely to be divisive  in a diverse community, and among newer members cause a rather stereotypical one dimensional worship of the god and relationship of the deity. It should not be mistaken that I think that there is anything wrong with how one worships a deity but that we ought to be aware if potential limitations we may be putting on our own relationship with the deity, and even more so sensitive about worship in a community setting rather than among a very small group of similar minded individuals. For example I have no problem with someone who engages is mastibutory practice to worship a particular deity, but I don’t want to see pictures or videos of you doing it, nor would I want to be around it with my children in worship.

This includes language that refers to deities as strictly hetero-erotic or homo-erotic that is often exclusionary to the participation of fellow worshipers and their feeling if fellowship with other worshipers in the community. This also includes divisive and disincluding practices shared among the community based on sex. One way this has manifested is via CIA-female veneration of certain goddesses or the worship of said goddesses been placed predominantly on women (despite evidence to th contrary at times such as with Artemis).

This now comes around to Aphrodite, the goddess that this post shall now address, for such mindfulness is important especially when dealing with worship of her (but is likewise applicable to others. The case being that how the goddess is honored publically has an easy tendency to become inappropriate or insensitive to others, and in the case of this goddesses has in the past caused insensitivity towards fellow female worshipers. Online there was, for instance, an incident where in a community forum, a man offered up a pornographic image of a woman, not one created by the woman in question as a means of worship, as an offering to Aphrodite. Forthwith a number of men in the group didn’t get why a number of women were insulted by this and several left the group. A feeling of resentful betrayal was already in place which only intensified with several men in the group retaliating against one such woman who spoke up. When it goes so far, and I have seen it happen before at other times when overtly sexual pictures are shared, that their is objection about the in appropriateness of sharing such images, insults get hurled. The most hurtful of all being that if you have a problem with it or with it being seen by your children or co-workers etc then you need to “go back to Christianity.” As a woman being told that you are being too sensitive, or that you cannot object to a woman’s sexuality treated as property of men publically as an offering tears at feelings of community and fellowship, and makes can make us disappointed too in people we admired and respected. And for someone to tell you to shut up and put up about because our objection seeks to ruin a patriarchal religion is fuel for anger and does further damage. Does this please or benefit Aphrodite that an offering to her, which was publically inappropriate, caused such a fracture? Does this benefit other gods whose communal worship was directed by said men that those whose who became disappointed in their mysognistic behavior that they drop out of participating in those communal events? How does this glorify Aphrodite?  How does it honor to verbally slap down the women who worship her? Does this suggest that there may be something wrong when I first inclination of praising a god or goddess is publically inappropriate?

Case in point, last year when I was making an invite for a public Aphrodisia, at my house, the first assumption was that it was going to be adults only with overtly sexual participation. The fact that this was the first to come to mind was a bit disappointing, but what was more so was that half the people who said they would come did a 180 when I explained that the Delian Aphrodisia was family safe. Why must it always be overtly about sex?

Sexuality in itself can be implied in ways that would make a virgin blush at noticing it without it being inappropriate. My own teen daughter turned scarlet when she release what a rise bud, viewed from another angle looked like.  Let us not forget that Aphrodite was honored as “the black” because sex was considered something private and as such done under the cover of darkness, rather than something in front if everyone in full visibility as the animals do. As such I always got the impression that she found suggestions vastly entertaining….and such is appropriate in public. This doesn’t mean she doesn’t adore the pornigraphic images that you may place upon your private shrine, but that this doesn’t need to be first thing taken up.

we ought to remember that Aphrodite is about more then raw sex, but also all th tender feelings, romance and courtship that leads up to marriage as Homer reminds us in the Iliad when Zeus tries to sway Aphrodite from participating in war. She is also about beauty, and most particularly that beauty which comes from harmony. She is the bestowed of many blessed things, reinforced by her relationship with the Khairities. There have been times when I haves played with the idea that the goddess called Kharus was in fact her in another guise. There are so many ways we can honor her (and other gods) let not the ways which are inappropriate be of foremost consideration in an environment not suitable for them.

Apollon, Artemis, Dionysos and wild life preserves

As an Alaskan, wildlife preserves are a big part of life. Alaska has considerable amount of space dedicated as wildlife refuges and state parks, perhaps the most well known of which is Denali Park which attracts numerous tourists every year to look at wolves and other critters that live on the land surrounding the giant mountain. The land remains minimally touched (and with strict rules regarding winter activities so not to disturb hibernating critters) in order to afford a sanctuary to wild life. It is all too easy to think that the concept of developing intentional preserves is a product of modern civilization, and thus to make logic assignments religiously to the concept of preserves.

Typically this takes the form of honoring Artemis as a goddess connected with preserves out of an association with her general role as goddess of wild beasts. While this is a logical association to make, I feel that she is best honored in those role in such as she protects the young, as a goddess who protects for the ultimate end purpose of slaying, as she slays the adults. This doesn’t strike me as really the purpose of preserves and refuges, which is better covered regarding laws on hunting seasons and in regards to take immature beasts and does….and general regulations controlled by the Department of Fish and Game. In such respect I have always had trouble really making that association in honoring her as a goddess of preserves and protected wildlife parks, aside from keeping virgin forests and fields in her honor as such that she preferred to stride through and hunt the wild beasts through. So though I never honored her as a goddess of preserves or wildlife parks exactly, I have honored as goddess of the wealth and richness in natural resources that are a part of our state, and as a goddess oversees those who manage such things for the future.

However history does show us that there are instances of ancient preserves and gods associated with them historically. When flipping through a book on Cyprus (because I am fascinated with the Cyprian cult to Apollon who names him as God of the Wood and honors him on the highest point…not unusual for a god honored high in the mountains in other places), the history book makes mention that the forest surrounding his temple, the wood dedicated to him was historically a deer preserve. That there is an intricately interconnected relationship between the domains of Apollon and Artemis is something that I have pointed out on numerous occasions, and why the Cyprians honored Apollon as god of the wood, god of the preserve may be for very complicated reasons. Not only because Apollon is associated with remote places, but perhaps because he is a god likely to keep something untouched just for the sake of keeping it untouched. For migratory animals a preserve is a wonderful thing in giving them safe harbors, something of which Apollon himself presides over.

In reality the concept of preserves can be seen logically as a co-independent effort in a religious frame of mind in which both Apollon and Artemis ideally ought to be honored. From the standpoint that preserves often provide temporary shelter to migratory animals, and often in places which are ideal birthing grounds for herds, we can hail Artemis as a goddess who gives safety to the young even as we hail Apollon as a god who provides safe harbor in general to all things, and provides continual safety for non-migratory beasts and predators. In such a case I would honor Apollon as god of preserve itself, acting in co-influence with his twin even as I would honor Artemis as goddess of wildlife management. Apollon as god of the wood acting with Artemis as goddess dwelling within the wood, even as we find in the myth of the Calydonian Boar that the mountain the boar sprung from named for the son of Apollon, and was a site associated with Apollon’s worship, even as Artemis acted from it.

This is would not be the first time we see similar alignment as Apollon being hailed as god of the wood in partnership with another god. He acts as this with Dionysos who dwells within the tree, perhaps showing as a third angle in this idea as Apollon protector and guardian of the space (and appropriately attributed to Apollon who acts as such in various cultic duties, especially in the domestic one), Artemis who acts on the space (ie the huntress/nurse) and Dionysos who dwells within the living things of the space, who is a part of that which receives the protection and action for its good. We certainly find similar relationships between Apollon and Dionysos, and Dionysos and Artemis in the ancient world in which they are closely tied. Certainly Dionysos is often just as associated with wild spaces and cultic spaces, and often having divine functions that overlap, shared with his siblings. This, therefore, seems to be an ideal triad of purpose. Thus do I see them operating together.  All three equal and working in perfect concert with each other to perform their necessary parts in the unity of civilization and nature that is necessary and the wealth of spiritual symbolism imbedded within.

Let us sing hail in revelry to Dionysos whose band strikes madly through the woods, Dionysos fertilizing, resurrecting, rising up, the infant nestled in the mountains, the boy upon the mountainside, and buried again in rest within the recesses. Let us sing hail to Artemis who nurtures the young within the wood, who hunts that which is ready to be hunted and slain, sing in praise of her noisy band of hunters as she pursues the acorn fed deer. And let us sing of Apollon, the guardian of the space, the all-seeing one, who turns his gaze all about from his high seat upon the mountain, within the woods, the lord of the boundaries who receives the slain ones from his twin, who buried Zagreus upon the holy mountain and issues welcome to Dionysos. We sing for Dionysos clad in fawn skin, we sing for Artemis who slays the stag and doe, and we sing for Apollon who holds the horned deer within his hand, who stands with doe and fawn. For the wild space and creatures which we preserve are important echoes and parts of the soul of the world, and our own spiritual journeys. Without the wild spaces and beasts, without them we are lost and alone.

Chief Seattle once spoke in a rather famous quote “”If all the beasts were gone, man would die from loneliness of spirit, for whatever happens to the beast, happens to the man.” I would include with this from a Hellenic spiritual that if all the beasts were gone, not only would we suffer the loneliness of spirit, but we ourselves would be lost in the unknown, unable to spiritually grow, stagnant in our own void. The necessity of preserves therefore is not something that should be lost upon us. Seeing the wild deer within the wood should be such an experience that humanity ever has to remind us of the sacred things pertaining to the gods.