Giving Offerings to Apollon

Inspired by a friend’s comment today, and the fact that at sundown tonight we celebrate the Noumenia and so honor Apollon Noumenios, I wanted to take a moment to talk about giving offerings to Apollon. I rarely have given much consideration to touching on this topic because I figured that this was something so rudimentary that most of my readers would not be interested in it. However, it turns out that may not be the case and there may very well be *someone* out there who will find it helpful who are feeling a bit lost in the establishment of their relationship with Apollon through offerings in worship.

Unlike most of us who may have grown up going to church in which services comprises solely of singing and listening to a pastor (more or less) with the occasional communion type of service perhaps thrown in which confirms the Christian believer’s faith in their god and is their manner of giving worship, the presenting of offerings to the gods is perhaps the most core part of worship in polytheism. Music is of course not excluded from worship, nor is dance and other forms of devotion, but usually speaking there is some kind of substance offered in which you are “feeding” the gods. This is an important basic part of establishing and developing and confirming your relationship with the god or goddess in question. This offering is often encased in traditional methodology of procedures, gestures and symbols that tends to differ from culture to culture. For instance, Roman worship tends to be a lot more complicated in its formulaic manner than Greek worship. During my brief time with Nova Roma I did memorize each of the individual gestures performed for approaching the altar, addressing the god, praying, and presenting the offering. In contrast the Greek rituals have two primary gestures dealing with communing with the god: one in which the hands are raised palm up (although some say that to chthonic gods one should have the palms down), and another where the hand is raised above the head in a kind of crowning gesture. Unlike the previously described Roman gestures, these gestures are not sequential but are alternative…either one works.

Of course the ritual for individual gods is within the same traditional cultural context that is used for other gods. That is to say, there is little variance in how one would give offerings to Apollon than how one would do for say Aphrodite, Athena, Zeus etc. The ritual construction can be seen as the common road of spiritual travel in which the gods have a history of recognizing. There of course may be personal variations, but general the whole of the ritual in its skeletal form looks pretty similar. The only thing that I tend to leave out as a solitary worshiper unless I am worshipping in with a body of people (which has happened a total of one time) is the procession. Likewise if you are doing rituals in your home which has a permanent home/altar for the gods there is less necessity for purifying the area as our altars and shrines tend to be purified with our household in monthly rites at the Deipnon.

With Apollon the matter of giving offerings and worship gets a bit more complicated because it depends on where you are giving the offerings. Many people who are devoted to him will likely keep an individual shrine or altar for Apollon in addition to his usual place in the household before the doorway where he is represented as upright stone (traditionally a black stone…I am still looking for the perfect black stone myself and so using a white quartz stone instead at the moment). At the doorway the manner of giving offerings to Apollon tends to be rather simple, usually involved garlanding his stone in some manner, usually with laurel, and pouring libations directly over the stone. This more simple method is largely due to being a daily activity as people are entering and leaving the household to protect the integrity of the household as well as the person who is leaving/arriving. There is no flame lit, Apollon is a constant presence residing there in that stone by his own representation as being the very form of the stone itself. This is a trait he shares with Hermes as well as a couple of other gods who have similar forms. As the god is installed at the property and is functioning at the property, feeding him there at the stone reaffirms his establishment there and his protections there. It is done on behalf of the household in general, and really is not part of building one’s own relationship with him in a very significant way.

In the case of a shrine or altar in which you are inviting the presence of a god in your ritual is where you come down to the regular interaction and relationship building with the god. It is here where you are presenting gifts to the god to establish Kharis with him. For most worshippers this may be irregularly, at certain important feasts and holidays (such as in celebration of his birthday), for those who are devoted to him or are interested in developing their relationship more with the god this may be weekly, monthly or daily. Although the stone for Apollon Agyieus is still normally adorned and receives libations, the actual ceremonial offerings for Apollon Noumenios occurs within the household. I would consider this a kind of banquet of Apollon in which Apollon may be a primary deity being honored…a guest of honor, but in which all the other gods of the household are also provided for.

At this point I should divert off course for a moment and talk about offerings. In many cases when giving offerings for multiple gods it is best to give offerings which are satisfactory to gods present, unless you have the ability to give a separate offering to each god. Usually for Hellenic gods this comprises of fatty meats and bones, wine and breads/cakes, in addition to some kind of fumigation of incense (typically frankincense tends to be the usual). Of course in times where I am giving individual offerings to Apollon I may include other incenses he seems to favor (such as cinnamon, sandalwood and rose for starters) and can give libations of things such as rum, honeyed-wine and mead. Raw honey and milk are also great offerings for him. Now some like these brought to the altar with all pomp in special decorated vessels, which is a lovely idea and special vessels can affirm who the offering is for in a very visual symbolic manner (and a reason why there are historical cases in which special cups and vessels were reserved for the worship of specific gods..more commonly in Roman worship but not rare in Greek worship). At best I have special offering bowls that are permanently on my altars. If you are not doing some community procession to the altar I tend to recommend you already have the vessels of the offerings on the altar or on a table near the altar (I use my coffee table as my altars are all accessible from my living room at this point where I am living).

As I said before, if you are giving worship in your house purification of the area, unless there is some specific reason why you feel that the sacred space may have been violated or polluted, is not necessary as it has been taken care of with the vigorous cleansings and purifications that occur monthly. However, if you are in a new space or outdoors, sprinkling the area with khernips, lustral water, is a good idea. Also performed is the scattering of barley. Indoors this tends to be messy and problematic, so I have adapted this custom to a jar of barley on my altar which, before the ritual begins, I remove the lid and take out a handful of barley, offerings prayers to the gods as I let it fall from my hands back down into the vessel on the altar…symbolically dropping barley grains down on the altar. This purpose of the ritual act is the same if carried out a bit differently. Afterwards the flame of Hestia is lit, she who carries by her flames all offerings to the gods. Again, in household worship this tends to be symbolic as most are not in position to burn food offerings in the course of ritual, but does work in offerings of incense as a manner of releasing the perfume into the air for consumption by the gods. And before you start thinking that as Apollon is a fiery deity himself and therefore offerings to Hestia is unnecessary, I will be quick to point out that Apollon himself adores Hestia (as demonstrated in the myth in which he and Poseidon competed to marry her) and she had a prominent place of honor at a large hearth within his temple. Hestia’s presence is absolutely necessary regardless.

When it ritual there is a part of calling the attention of the god, and a secondary part of presenting the offerings. The former part tends to be stressed the most in literary works. Ancient plays often have lovely invocations of the gods in which the worshiper calls on the attention of the god in question.  People often feel inspired to use these traditional prayers, whether particular invocative lines from a play, or, more often, from actual poems and hymns penned for the gods by ancient poets. The Homeric hymns commonly get used, as do the Orphic Hymns. And there are folks out there who are writing modern “hymns” for the gods that can be seen all over the internet, myself included! If you want to do it off the cuff, or compose something yourself, these usually include a greeting to the god, an adoration of the god (recognize the power of the god), recognition of a time that the god has helped you (if applicable), and other praise and invitation (the last part is especially noticeable in the Orphic hymns. This part never gets old, and becomes part of the most meaningful part of your worship. I go back and forth myself between off the cuff and ancient prayers as I feel inspired to do…and often I will do both! You are not only entreating the god to be present but also welcoming him, and celebrating his presence.

Manners of presenting offerings tends to vary from worshiper to worshiper. It seems as long as you are calling attention to the deity that you are offering this item on behalf of yourself (presumably your household too) and anyone else you wish to include, that this works well enough. I tend to go off the cuff with various poetic things that come to mind when I am giving offerings, but people who are just starting may be more comfortably having  written formula that will make the offering meaningful and less nerve-wracking. Generally speaking it doesn’t have to be anything more than this:

” O lord Apollon, (fill in any meaningful epithets you want to address), please accept this offering of wine/incense/cake/etc that you may feast upon it and it may please you. Accept this offering I present to you on behalf of myself, my household (fill in anyone else you want to include) in thanks (you can include specific things you are thanking him for) and that you continue to bestow your blessings upon me/us (can also include anything in particular you need his help with more immediately).”

The offering is either traditional, or can be anything that you find is particularly pleasing to the deity. For instance it is usual to have some kind of pork offering for Apollon Noumenios, which may or may not have also something to do with the sacrifice of pigs to Apollon in the Eleusinia. As your ritual is about your relationship with the god, the only mandatory thing with offerings is that it is something the god enjoys, and if said god has any taboos on certain types of offerings that these are observed. And no, there is no taboo against alchohol with Apollon, as I have said before in my blog (and will readdress here) this is an assumption usually based on a particular rule regarding the Pythian games mixed with Neitzche dichotomy ideas where anything of Dionysos would be offensive given to Apollon. There is nothing, however, to support this and I have found this is definitely not the case…especially not for a god that the Orphic hymns call Bacchic.

After the offering you can include any kind of devotional activity to honor the god while he is present at your ritual, this often includes singing (or some form of music), dancing (my preference), or any further gifts you want to give or anointing of the statue, or any dedications you wish to make. This is the celebratory/festive part of the ritual if it is being done for a festival or any kind of special occasion (or if you just really want to just because). This is often a good time to focus on what form of the god you are honoring and for what purpose (in which most events ongoing would have been tied to this concept).

I do want to note that if you are including other gods in the ritual, which is common, that in my experience it is best to include them before Apollon (or whatever god is the primary god being worshiped), in that manner while you have invited and given offerings to “guest” gods and goddesses, the rest of the event stays on target of the main deity in question. The occasion remains about him while the other gods get to partake. For myself, I include the gods of the Orphic month that I am worshiping in and Zeus and Hera usually.

Finally the ritual concludes with a final offering to Hestia in thanks to her.

Well that is about it in a nutshell. If I have forgotten to write anything down I do apologize, but mostly I hope that someone has found this helpful!

Apollon and the New Year

Apollon is Hyperborea, dwelling among the blessed in his never dying, eternal, garden. To imagine this is to see the god in his eternal, changeless, ageless face. Like a flower that never yellows or wilts, ever in its vibrancy of youth and beauty. In some way this seems to be a strange vision for a god who is a god who presides over the passage of time, particularly the flow of the seasons for he, himself, is without season of life. He is not typical of other gods of fruition and harvest which are often characterized by themselves undergoing cycles of dying and birth. But the distinction that should be made here is that he is not the god that is traveling through the passage of the seasons giving his own vitality to the growth. He it outside of it, he is the steward of the passage of life and death for which he is adequately named the Destroyer. He is not a slain god, nor does he bare the mysteries poignant of a slain/sacrificed god. His journey to the other world is independent and on his own power and means rather than transported by an outside agent (ie slayers, guides, abduction etc), in fact he has more than once served the purpose of being the action upon the slain vegetation god. In some mythic variations he is responsible for the death of Adonis, and he can be viewed as a slayer of Dionysos in his position as reaper of the vine as the vineyard harvest begins with Karneia.

He directs the passage of time as we understand from the Orphic hymn in which he conducts the movement of the seasons, even as he himself expresses the season of growth and fruition (or rather that his particular power holds particular sway at this time of the year as opposed to the power of fertilization and sowing of seed that is particular to the season of Pan. As such he provides the necessities for the sustainment of life (through light, harmony, healing, purifications, provision of plenty etc), as well as the passage from life for which he is, as we see for example in the Iliad, the embalmer kindly wrapping the body in linen in respect of the life that once was contained within, the perfumer who anoints the flesh of the deceased to ease the passage of the soul in preparation of its journey, and the guardian of the cemetery where he guards the place of rest, the physical connection of the deceased to the living world. Here too then we see he provides for the soul of the living.

This certainly makes him an appropriate god at the Noumenia every month as the month renews again and a new cycle begins, and for the introduction of the New Year (regardless of what time of the year one celebrates). The Celebration of the New Year commonly on the Noumenia following a particular stellar or solar occasion (ie the Athenian New Year being the Noumenia after the Summer Solstice) would have been naturally presided over by Apollon regardless of whether he was among us or in his Hyperborean garden. This fulfillment of beginning and ends at once and the keeping of the passage of time in his vigilance and under his caretaking for the furthering of life and abundance, including the guardian of such (but as averter of evil and as protector of the tomb) is reasonable that aside from his domestic worship as Apollon Noumenios he is also the god before the road/door. We can understand something almost Janus-like in his nature (although lacking  an aged face), and with the new year we can see his presence as one that is purifying and bestowing blessings for a prosperous new year.

Lord of the doorway, lord of keys, turner of time, lord of life (both protector and destroyer), hail to Apollon in the new year’s dawning.

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.

Impermanense (or material attachment in spirituality)

Jo’s recent blog post, found here, makes some excellent observations regarding material attachment in spirituality that can distract our focus away from our gods. By this I mean icons and little material things that we can invest significant amount of energy and excitement for which can easily distract us from the god that we are adoring in the first place. Not to say that is what was happening in her situation, nor that the painting that was damaged in shipping was directly associated with any kind of material attachment, but her observations strongly resonate to me.

The reason I find this subject so important is two fold, and actually seeming somewhat contradictory. I mean, I am an artist who makes icons, I should be all “yay material attachment, buy my stuff!” But it is more complicated than that. The fact that it was one of my own paintings that was damaged on route does not in fact sit well with me as it has been the first time that has happened out of all the paintings I have mailed out over the years (but I guess it was to happen sooner or later at some point *sigh*). Aside from offering a refund, which I did, there was little more that I could do other than file a claims, which I also did. So the issue at hand is not about how it affects my bottom line as an artist, but rather about the product itself, for even I tend to be a little attached to the things I create.  It would seem that by my own attachment, and also providing goods of spiritual icons that potentially can be likewise attached to that I would be cutting off my nose to spite my face. So why would I feel a need to even discuss material attachment in spirituality?

It is because it is an acknowledgement, as an artist, that the icons, while they are pretty and nice to have, and do have symbolic importance (for which yay buy my stuff! lol) they are still just objects and should never ever become of such high value that they potentially distract us from the relationship we have with our gods. As an artist I have to recognize this. I have to recognize when I am pouring every bit of love and devotion into every statue I create that in the end it is still just a statue (or painting/drawing in those cases). And yes this even happens with gods that I do not have personal relationships with or gods that are outside of my pantheon that I am not even really familiar with as I tap into that idea that there is love and devotion out there for this god or goddess and riding that emotion as I create. As an artist I am creating through spiritual material attachment in many ways. And yet when I am creating I find no fault with that. It is part of what allows me to create something that others see as having very expressive features. Therefore spiritual material attachment is part of what I do. But on the flip side it is very hard for me to let go of stuff after they are created. So as a crafter this is a particular double edged sword. And one that cuts deep when something I have created is damaged. A significant damage can be devastating. This is my weakness.

That said as a worshipper I have found that I have to keep some kind of objectivity, or rather that I have to keep some level of detachment, especially when it comes to icons that I have made gracing the shrines and altars of my gods. I have to separate myself from being the creator of the image and be only the worshipper. I cannot be conflicted by attachment. Unfortunately it is something that I struggle with daily, if only because of the knowledge that I know that I would not be able to be completely detached should one of the icons I made for my gods were to break past repair. But it is something I regularly remind myself. These are cherished symbols of my gods, but they are not my gods and should not be grieved for. Nor should such importance be put on them, such value that it would lead to them being grieved for in the event of their destruction.

This is especially the case as a priestess of a god such as Apollon who highly discourages such  attachment. Something for which he has reminded me countless times. I cannot count how many times cherished icons of his have broken or otherwise been ruined in one freak accident or another. I have said more than once that the Destroyer has often destroyed  just about every image I have had of him eventually. There is that kernel of knowledge in me that  one day I will come to find the images of his shrine broken, and he will be there bidding me to start again. Create again. Sweep away the rubble and give myself in my love and devotion in the creation of his image again. Because it is about my love and devotion to him, it is never to be about how much I love possessing his likeness. And he does not hesitate to remind me of that again and again.

Icons  are beautiful, but they are vessels. They ought to be treasured as one would treasure a cup (albeit a sacred cup), there purpose is only for that which  you put in it for it carry. They have no more value than that.  It is not bad to have icons, it is a positive thing, but perspective is a good thing to have.

P.S None of this is to say that I don’t work my ass of trying to mend broken icons, because I do!

Where am I?

It was asked in a group I belong to about what devotional volumes are out there in which we can see the working relationship with the gods. I mentioned my published work and ongoing booklet projects, but then it occured to me, in none if my writing, even here on my personal blog do I really talk about anything personal in my relationship with any of my gods much less Apollon.

It is not that I am secretive nor that my relationship with him lacks any depth. It is more that when I talk of him it is for furthering his worship among others. I have a hard time imagining someone trying to develop and establish worship would be intetested in the relationship I have developed with him over the years. It is also due to the influence of graduating from the university as a history major that I have become used to writing through an academic lens rather than a personal one. I am not present, only words glirifying him.

It is rather startling to think on your writing and have the bewildered question come to mind: “where am I? Who am I in all of this?”

I am the keeper of his shrine, his priestess, his. There should be something of me amid all of this, for every scrap of information I come across, every bit of new inspiration, all of it impacts my relationship… and just maybe that too is worth sharing.

So my challenge to myself: at least once a week I have to write something here where you also see me. This means getting back to doing more regular blog posts, even if is irritating to do from my phone!

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.

Giving Thanks

Today I had encountered a question that caught my attention. Someone wanted to know how to give offerings of gratitude to a goddess who had recently assisted them. While I had no specific recommendations for the deity in question, it did make me pause to consider what I normally do when I want to show specific gratitude for the overcoming of some particular difficulty…and there have been many instances of this too, or even a sudden blessing that appears in my life?

The simple solution which many folks seemed to jump on the quickest was to make a gift of something sacred to the deity, some image, icon, feather or other sacred associations. I think that this foremost comes to mind because it is the easiest to conceptualize. I want to thank the god or goddess and I want it to be something tangible that will stay there on the shrine for ever and ever and ever. And I do think that this is appropriate every now and then too. I do agree for really big things I would love to get some new icon, as it was often the custom among Hellenes to thank the gods for favor shown to them by dedicating images of the gods. The problem with this of course is that in the modern context we have limited space, whereas anciently this was done at temples, and often at great cost (therefore typically dedicated from the wealthy members). And while statuary is easier to come by now I think, we still run into the problems of just running out of room. When it comes to matters of practicality there is only so long that we can amass stuff that is permanently lasting before we are overwhelmed by it. If you think of it even temples had this problem! At the temple of Leto at Xanthus there was a votive pit near the temple where icons and offerings were buried to make room in the storage so to speak. Therefore unless it something *huge* that we are thanking for, more often than not permanent offerings are not the way to go, unless you have a very sparse set up for the deity in question. For instance I would probably be reluctant to get more statues to put on my shrine to Apollon for thanksgiving, but there are numerous gods that I either need images for or that could use another image in my mind for whatever reason, especially if it is one of the important gods in my household.

This is not to say that there aren’t long lasting gifts that don’t roughly fit into this category that could be appropriate. Replacing an offering plate with something new and special could be nice, or any other tool of worship such as a small pitcher for libations especially dedicated for that god or goddess in question. A small box to keep sacred items in, or a small box for keeping incense used only for that deity in. Vases, incense burners etc can all potentially fit in that category and are ultimately can be either permanent or replaceable as situations come down the road.

In any case, when it comes to practicality, we have to consider what we can give the gods that will be pleasing, that is not something we give them every day. For instance if you offer frankincense regularly to said god or goddess, while an extra portion would probably be a plus I would probably not limit it to this if I was feeling particularly very thankful for blessings and aid given. However that doesn’t mean that incense can’t be a lovely gift, especially if it is something that one goes through the extra cost to procure especially for that deity and kept set aside as a gift only for that deity. For instance, I have a vial of rose oil that I only use for anointing my statue of Aphrodite as it was a gift for her. Her statue gets weekly anointed and fumigated with incense (which I have a nice little selection for). Such items are regularly in use and do have to be replenished at which time of replenishing you can offer it once again in thanks for said momentous blessings that were given in the past.

Perhaps one of the simplest gifts though, and one which I think is highly appreciated by the gods, is a bouquet of flowers. These are nature’s own natural perfume, and often flowers have been used ceremonially for special offerings. Apollon was offered crocus flowers in the winter, and his altar during the Hyakinthia was laden with different blossoms. In the play Hippolytus we also find the young hero returning home from his hunt with flowers gathered for Artemis from a virgin field. In some ways I think that flowers are even a more special offering just because the length of time they last is outweighed by the effort. If you have the ability to gather wildflowers this cost would be considerable less, or if you have blossoming plants in your house or garden, but there will be times that these are not available. Here in Alaska with how short our growing season is the only way to really procure fresh flowers is at a local florist or market 8 months of the year. Therefore, spending around 20 dollars or more on a bouquet of flowers that will only last for about a week becomes symbolic of great affection and devotion, that the pleasure of the gift received becomes well worth it, even knowing that it can only be enjoyed a short time. Perhaps that makes it even the sweeter.

This does not negate how worth while offerings of special food items are. Honeyed cakes, sweets, etc require the cost and effort of making, and have a very short life, but can be of great source of pleasure to the gods. Cakes were often used as a bloodless offering appreciated by the gods. Therefore the importance of offering a small tray of cakes and sweet pastries to be shared with the deity in question can be very rewarding both as an offering and in one’s relationship with the deity, as sharing food with the gods tends to be. Especially if one takes the time in crafting said sweets with keeping in mind those things which the particular god or goddess enjoys (for instance making cakes shaped like deer or goats for Artemis and Apollon, or making candied rose petals for Aphrodite).

There are of course non-tangible offerings such as the playing of a music instrument for the god, the composition (or having someone else compose) a poem for said god/dess that acknowledges the favor given, singing, dancing, and other mediums that can bring a brief instant enjoyment to the god/dess you are honoring is all acceptable gifts for them and are very workable. In the end what is appropriate is what speaks to you and what you feel is a good way to give thanks. These are but some ideas.

Gods protect the children

Parenthood I think begins a whole other level of interaction with the gods, and sometimes with gods that you would have rarely thought of before. For instance when you desire to have children you may find yourself praying to gods such as Aphrodite, Leto, Hera and Zeus, Pan and so on to deities concerning fertility and generation. When you are expecting you will find that your prayers may drift to gods concerned with childbirth such as Hera, Artemis and Eilythia. And then after the child is born you prayers will be often directed to gods who are concerned with the welfare of the child and his or her development.

This later phase of prayerful address seems to be one that lasts the longest until said child makes way into adulthood. Typically I think it could be agreed that the deities perhaps the best to pray to for the welfare of the children is that of Leto (the mother), Artemis and Apollon. Artemis and Apollon are particularly connected to the welfare of the young and their successful survival of not only the seven days following their birth but into the succeeding years into adulthood and the stages that they pass through therein. This triad seems to be the most important in the successful rearing of children, or at least is a fundamental core deities which I think most could agree about.

This is not say that other deities would not be of value and interest in protecting your child. I think those gods which are predominantly worshiped in your household would take an interest in the welfare of your child and would be beneficial to pray to as the continuation of your oikos. For the case of my soon to be born baby daughter, Amber Artemisia Rose, this means that I particularly would be inclined to pray to Apollon, Artemis, Leto, Zeus, Hera and Aphrodite as the principle core deities of my oikos. That is not say that the other Olympians and other gods are not honored and that there are not other important gods, but these are the core gods that I feel interact the most in the welfare of my oikos, and who have shrines established for that reason.

That aside, there is also the personal gods of the child’s day of birth that are in my opinion take vested interest in children born during their sacred months. This is according to the Orphic calendar which assigns the zodiac months to the gods in sequence, therefore in a given zodiac month there is the god/dess and his/her Orphic pair. I take this a bit further to include not only the sun sign but also the rising sign which is rising directly opposite of the sun. For myself, as Scorpio, this means I was born under the zodiac month of Ares, with Aphrodite as his Orphic pair (Aphrodite of whom has shown a great deal of interest in my life over the years), with my rising sign (being Gemini) being ruled by Apollon with Artemis as his Orphic pair. For my eldest daughter I have often prayed to Athena who rules the sign Ares, and her Orphic pair Hermes. For Amber Artemisia I will be directly prayers particularly to Poseidon for the month of Pisces and his Orphic pair Demeter.

I think that this is especially valuable during birthdays when the gods who have protected the child over the year be honored by the parents with offerings for the next year of the child’s life. It goes without saying that a parent could of course go further by placing images of the gods near the beds of their child, or even give them charms to wear that represent the gods. My eldest daughter for years had a minishrine to Artemis in her bedroom when she was very small for instance.

Giving Worship to Leto


As this is something that has come into practice more and more in my life, established more so during the last few months when I did not have access to a working computer, I thought it was about time that I should give a brief summary of my worship practices for Leto. I confess that some of what may have triggered, or perhaps encourages is a better word, to further explore into my worship of her, was becoming pregnant again after so long after the birth of my first child 13 years ago. Leto seems to be an important goddess to particularly revere by mothers, just as important as Hera who provides legitimate heirs, Eilytheia who midwives the new birth, and Artemis and Apollon who succor and protect the new babes. Leto is a goddess, great among mothers, the most blessed of mothers for bringing forth twin births (something her son Apollon also seemed to have encouraged in his time as a mortal shepherd, perhaps an influence from being the son of Leto who herself brought forth twins as he himself is numbered one among those twins).

Leto herself is a complicated goddess. Even as her son was associated with tombs in many places, in Asia Minor she seemed to have associations with the underworld herself, and her portrayals lend to her a certain mystique as a heavily veiled goddess, the “lady”, one who may have been as dark as a void, as a starless night, even as her sister Asteria was a bright starry one. Leto sometimes seems as the dark womb that births forth light which may have been a recognized part of her nature anciently and gave rise to her associations with the underworld, and her mythic association with frogs who descend into the gloomy depths of ponds and into the underworld. As such I took much consideration into crafting her image.

For home worship images of Leto are not particularly forth coming on the market, and so I satisfied myself with making a bust of the goddess which I draped with a lavender veil which, aside from indigo blue, I have associated with the twilight sky. The heavens giving birth to light of the morning. I have painted her before wearing a gray veil before too. Any color that seems to spark the imagination as a color of darkness bringing forth light seems to me to be quite appropriate for Leto. For those who are not inclined to make their own image of Leto, a statue or bust of a woman wrapped in a veil would be an adequate substitute…conveying the mystique and obscurity of Leto’s nature. Included on or near the image can be symbols associated with the goddess.

When I made my bust I chose tigers eye stones for her eyes to convey her protective nature, just as I chose garnets for her crown. The royal jade is set within her crown and upon her shoulders in imitation of clasps. Her crown I have adorned with frogs which I consider perhaps one of her foremost important symbols from myth. Other appropriate symbols would be wolves foremost, as those who guided her, as to a slightly lesser extant storks and other birds and beasts associated with the arrival of offspring. One bird, however, that is very much connected to her which would be ideal to adorn her image or altar with feathers from or imagery of, is the quail. This would be highly appropriate and ideal to include for her shrine (something of which I still need to add to my own!) Two in fact, as she is called the mother of the quails, and in this manner her twin offspring are also likened to quails for which it would be appropriate and ideal to include such representations.

When it comes to offerings, for libation I find cool clean water to be ideal. Best if you can get it from a natural fountain or stream, but as long as it is cool and clean it would probably be good. To keep the water cool during the ritual consider containing it in a dark ceramic pitcher if you have one available. This preference in my own worship is based from the myth of the Lycian frogs in which Leto, desiring access to the cool waters from which to partake, was driven away by the villagers. In my mind such an offering symbolically demonstrates that we are giving of such to her, that the sacred waters always overflow into her cup. For incense it is good to stick with common frankincense, but I have found blends of Night Queen to be quite pleasing, as well as any sweet clean scents like sandalwood, jasmine or lavender, or even the more pungent scents of pine and cedar. With these things I proceed with ritual in the typical Hellenic manner.

My worship of Leto seems to take form in terms of offerings and address to the goddess in a manner which is modest and simple, which seems appropriate for the character of the goddess herself who never seems to have asked for much from her worshipers. She has few temples in the ancient world in fact which were specifically built for her. One in Delos that I know of, and the great Letoon in Asia Minor near the river Xanthus. Otherwise her worship seems to have been instituted in the local cults of her children and her imagery adjoining theirs. As there are also no known surviving festivals or feast days attributed to the goddess, it is therefore it is logical that most common practice be to honor her with her children in one’s household worship (as I have her shrine in place with those of Artemis and Apollon and give to her offerings when I address offerings to them daily). In fact for those who may not have noticed, with the exception of lavender and Night Queen, most of the incenses I give her are ones I commonly give her children already, as they seem equally pleasing to her as to them. One can of course begin new festivals, and I have been considering seriously what date to set the my modern spring festival Feast of Frogs to honor her as a mother goddess and goddess of children and the portal of life and death through which all things cyclically pass even as frogs pass to and fro from the cold dark depths.


An update type of thing

Recently, unbeknownst to many (really by accident and not design as I had no way to let folks know) I went into a forced absence from the internet. My laptop had decided to randomly stop working. As I had just gotten a new job and the barest glimpse of hope of slow recovery from summer financial woes could be seen on the horizon, the sudden malfunction of my laptop was not anticipated and was greeted with a great deal of irritation. On one hand I have missed working on my writing (both on my blog, in communications with dear friends as well as writing on my booklets), on the other I was so miserably ill from morning sickness that it was perhaps a good thing not having such a distraction, and it gave me some peace and quiet time with my thoughts and my worship. In this time I completed a bust of Leto (complete with frog adorned crown) and reorganized my central household worship area, as well as my worship area for Apollon and Artemis by the doorway. Thankfully my daughter decided to mess with the non-working laptops stacked in my room and out of the blue my laptop started functioning again. So it is a blessing added to those I have gained in not only being caught up on my back rent, and the successful thriving of my mortal relationship (aside from disagreements about incense preference lol), and the health of my daughter, Amber Artemisia, growing in my womb (and as sound and strong as ought to be expected for a child named to the goddess), but now also having this asset accessible again. Therefore I am utterly thankful to the gods for all my recent blessings!

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