Monthly Archives: March 2015
by Amanda M.
Of glorious Minerva, guardian of the polis, I begin to sing.
Minerva, you were my first true love. You are tall, beautiful, proud, stoic, and wise. You don’t take shit from anyone. As a child who is bullied by both parents and peers, I appreciate your gumption. Even when the whole world tells me “no”, you show me that women have a place in the government, in the military, as masters of their own destiny.
I write a short story about you for a classroom assignment in history class. You are clever, strong, and intelligent. You’re everything I want to be.
2008 to Present
While I am visiting family in New Mexico I find a little soapstone owl, carved by Mexican artists. It reminds me of your Athene noctua. I pack it up in my skirts, hoping it won’t break on the flight back to North Carolina.
I’m about to start graduate school. I seek allies, and I am told that you are there, waiting for me. I’m surprised, but no one else is. You have always been there, waiting for me. I know this now.
I have a little porcelain owl with a cute face. I don’t know where it came from. I bring the owl to my internship, tucked away in my bag, safe between books on racism and labor rights. I find a place of honor for your owl in my little office. Sometimes during the day I take time out from my work and study to talk to it. Sometimes I kiss the little owl.
In social work school I learn about social justice. I learn about the ills that plague a fair and just society – racism, sexism, classism, homophobia. I learn about advocacy for clients. Soon I realize that if social workers have a patron goddess, surely it is you, Minerva. I’m honored that my career is within your domain, and that when I fight for my clients I am also fighting for you. I strive to serve my community, and like Athena of the Polis, I realize that all communities are your communities, too.
I blend oil for you in a little amber bottle labeled with glitter. The highest quality herbs and fragrant essential oils. Every few days I give it a good shake so it won’t settle. Sometimes I close my eyes and I smell it, inhale deeply. There’s just a touch of crushed dragon’s blood resin mixed with ground cinnamon powder, with large drops of lavender. It’s not particularly aromatic, not light or feminine. But this brew is powerful and it smells like you. Like olive oil and patchouli leaf, added in at the last minute.
You are the first goddess I write about on my new blog. A classmate reads my words, much to my surprise. He remarks “wow, I didn’t know any of that about Minerva.”
We swap jewelry as part of a ritual devoted to you. These gems and baubles are to be our symbolic shields. I craft a beaded necklace, wanting to keep it for myself but knowing it needs to go to another. During the ritual, I am given a leather bracelet. It’s heavy, etched with the sun, shaped like the moon. The woman who passes it on explains to me that to her it was a symbol of power, of her own coming into being as a self-aware woman. I like that.
Finally I make my own earrings – chunks of turquoise and little amber beads. I soak these for weeks in your patchouli and olive oil, until the stones start to change color. I wear them like you would wear your aegis. Sometimes I hang the earrings on my owls, because they like to be pretty and powerful, too.
June 2013 – Fortunalia
In between semesters, and I’m anxious about what comes next. I pour your bittersweet oil over the flames, and my comrades remark “wow, that smells good!” I offer my prayers and offerings to you, asking for your guidance. You have walked with me so far, and I hope you’ll remain with me still.
I attend my first Moral Monday march. I’m nervous, but I feel justified. I wear your bracelet with the sun and the moons. I wear your earrings, turquoise and amber. I march and march and march. I chant I chant I chant. I sign I sing I sing. You are with me the whole time. Throughout the summer I return to the weekly marches as often as I am able, and you are with me every time. You are with us always.
A veteran tells me that you were her “first Goddess.” As Pallas Athena, you offered your visage to the Women’s Army Corps insignia. A whole new generation of valor, honor, excellence, and wisdom.
I go to an interview for an internship at a state psychiatric hospital. Before I leave, I offer you prayers and incense. I wear your scent, anoint your owls with oil. I wear your bracelet and your earrings. They don’t match my carefully chosen outfit, but I don’t care. I’m calling on your strength because I need it so badly. This hospital is a new battlefield.
The interview doesn’t go well, but I get the internship anyway. A year later, my supervisor tells me that after 30 years of interns, I’m one of the best he’s ever had.
I’m excellent only because you help me to shine, Radiant Goddess.
Another summer of Moral Monday marches. Another summer with you.
June 2014 – Fortunalia
More prayers, more oil poured upon the flame for you. I’ve finally completed graduate school, and now I’m looking for a job. I’m unemployed and I’m depressed. “You’ve been with me so far,” I pray. “Please do not abandon me now.” My comrades who have struggled and suffered through unemployment understand my pleading. They pray with me. We pray together. We pray to you, Minerva.
After a summer of images of teargas and blood, I’m scared, but I make myself go to the march, anyway. I anoint myself and my comrades with your oil. I wear your jewelry like I’d wear armor. In terror, I watch a friend get arrested. I’m surrounded by hundreds of police officers in riot gear. As the lady of the polis, I realize that you walk on both sides, with both the protestors and the police. You guide us all with your wisdom, leading us on with a sense of justice.
I anoint your owls and images with bittersweet oils. I recite your prayers with a strong voice and steady song. I meditate upon your beautiful visage with love and reverence. What can I say that hasn’t already been said by others far more worthy? What can I sing that has not already been sung throughout the ages? What can I give you that is not already yours?
And so hail to you, daughter of Jove who holds the aegis! Hail, Minerva, and give us good fortune and happiness! Now I will remember you and another song as well.
Gifts from Apollo by Sparrow
It is easy to sing your praises, sweet-voiced Apollo
The gifts you have bestowed on humanity are great!
Music to lift our spirits and to make us dance,
Healing to mend our broken bodies,
Philosophy to deepen our knowledge of the world and of ourselves,
Prophesy to know the will of the Gods.
What gifts shall we give back to You, Lord of Light?
Sweet wine we shall pour forth to You,
Offerings of fragrant incense and delicious food shall grace Your alters,
Words of praise for You shall come from our lips.
Most of all, we will give You our hearts,
It is the least we can give to the One who has given us so much.
Io Apollo! May You always be praised!
One more day for the Agon, folks. Entries can be made until 9pm EST tomorrow. I’ll announce the winners tomorrow night quite late, or early Wednesday.
We will have a first and second place prize for Minerva, and a first and second place prize for Apollon.
1st Prize: . a small, handmade statue of Minerva by Lykeia; five prayer cards of Minerva.
2nd prize: a photo of the Pantheon by Hudson Valley photographer M.A. Glass
It was damned hard deciding which of these should be first prize and which second! Let me tell you. I decided at the last moment to make the prizes equivalent, but there was a lot of back and forth for me on this.
1st Prize: a small handmade statue of Apollon by Lykeia and five prayer cards.
2nd Prize: a copy of “Names of Apollon” by Lykeia
Plus, everyone who entered gets a choice of one prayer card: Minerva, Apollo, or Apollon Karneios. (Please email me with your mailing address and let me know which you prefer).
that is all for now. I’ll announce the winners soon.
J. Lawrence was kind enough to write prayers for the Lady of Willendorf and Lady of Laussel cards (thank you, Jennifer!!). In addition to the prayers on the cards, she also sent me this prayer, which I find particularly lovely. She gave me permission to share it here. The image is by Erin Lale.
Hymn for the Lady of Willendorf
By J. Lawrence
Your curves are the waves of the sea —
we dress You in red, the red of blood,
the blood that flows through the veins of all who live,
the blood that swims with the salt of the ocean,
the ocean where we were born.
Your hips, your thighs, your breasts, your belly —
marked with the signs of the ocean,
the tiny spiraling shells, those smallest of living things
that make their home in the vast expanse of ancient blue water,
the ocean where we were born.
frozen in stone, the stone of your form —
those tiny spiraling shells, caught forever in time,
hard and unyielding, as time is unyielding,
eternally going forward, never back, a wave as vast and mighty as
the ocean where we were born.
we come from the waters of birth —
born of You, great Queen, wise Lady, giving Goddess,
the Lady of salt blood, salt water, and salted time,
each thing in its way finding its core, its home, its rest, in
the ocean where we were born.
You are the all in all, bright Lady —
Lady who made us, Lady of stone, Lady of time,
the shells signifying our birth in time, our birth from blood,
our birth from the sea’s salty womb–
the ocean where we were born.
A reminder to all my readers: I’m offering the three Manannan cards for free through May 1, 2015. I will ship overseas. All three cards are by artist Grace Palmer and are designed to work as a triptych.
If you’re interested, please don’t hesitate to contact me at krasskova at gmail.com.
I am so incredibly delighted that Erin Lale was kind enough to allow me the use of these images, her own artwork inspired by Paleolithic carvings, for prayer cards. I’ve had a fascination with Stone Age Goddess figures for a long time now (to be fair, not all scholars agree that there is enough evidence for these images being Goddess figurines, but I think the majority opinion is that they were in fact Deity images. Certainly they have become so to us).
Goddess of Laussel
Hymn to Apollo
By J. Lawrence
Hail Apollo, Son of Zeus, son of Leto!
Today let me sing of Your glories,
You whose brightness fills the world,
you who slew the monstrous Python and
made his cave of hidden knowledge
Your holy place of wisdom and foresight.
You whose golden arrows soar from far-off Delos,
striking down the impious, the blasphemous,
the wicked and the greedy, the inhospitable,
and those consumed with arrogance.
Leader of those gifted and beauteous Muses,
You who all arts praise and celebrate,
we greet You with gladness and reverence,
with awe stealing the breath from our throats,
and with gratitude for all You have given us.
You, whose merest touch heals our injuries,
You whose kindness binds our wounds,
and chases the pestilent sicknesses from our frames,
stems the flow of blood when we are hurt,
and in whose name temples of healing were raised.
Let us bring wine and barley to celebrate Your name,
let us garland the doorways and burn frankincense,
crown Your statues with laurel boughs,
let us sing to You so long as there
is breath in our lungs, blood in our veins,
and let every gladsome and joyous thought we know
come back around to You at last.
O Apollo: Phoebus, Musagetes, Aegletes,
Lyceus, Helius, Cynthius, Acesius, Iatrus,
Apotropaeus and Genetor, Manticus, Hecaërgus:
For each name, a story, a song, and praise,
And all of them I offer to You.
Hymn to Minerva
by J. Lawrence
Hail Minerva, dignified, regal,
Enthroned in stately splendor among Your kin;
to You this day we offer all honor and praise,
and sing our adorations of Your many gifts to us.
Goddess of wisdom, we revere You;
we bow and adore You, ever-thankful,
Raising our voices in grateful hymn.
In Your name were books written, lectures given,
libraries raised to hold the words of
thousands of men and women You inspired.
Goddess of a thousand arts, we revere You;
You who rule over all the arts,
Guiding all craftsmen, all painters,
all who spin, weave with wool,
And those who raise their voices
In poetry, story, and song.
Goddess of strategy and of arms, You inspire
those warriors who take up arms against our foes.
Lady of a million battles, You have shown us
that winning a war consists not merely of
more men and weapons than our enemies,
but the tactics to use them with sense, as well.
Daughter of Metis, we revere You;
All-wise, all-brilliant, all-giving, all-strong;
You are Your mother’s daughter,
and never shall we cease to sing your glories.
WildHunt has an interesting article about discrimination in the workplace here. It’s worth a read. I’ve always chosen to be out as a polytheist. I don’t ever want to be in the position where I can be blackmailed about it, nor do I see it as something to hide. There’s also a didactic function inherent in being out, even if only very quietly so. Still, I’ve been discriminated against on the basis of my religion at work many times: I’ve had bibles left piled up all over my office, I’ve had my office vandalized. Both times I knew it was a fundy christian working at the same department. They were not disciplined by management at all and I was told to forget about it. I’ve been isolated and alienated from social functions at work. I’ve had verbal harassment. I’m pretty sure it cost me a job. I know it impacted my salary and let’s just say I never made ‘friends’ at work.
When I worked in ballet, it was a non-issue. It only became a problem when I moved into retail (Barnes and Noble, where the two acts of office vandalism and what I would now term a massively hostile work environment occurred, was the worst including having a manager call me aside and wanting, quite aggressively, to know how many Pagans were in the department. I refused to answer as there were four or five of us) and then corporate. Ironically now in academia I’ve had no problems at all (so far). The worst I can say is certain journals refuse to publish my religious studies articles on the grounds I couldn’t possibly be unbiased being polytheist –regardless of how well researched these articles are, or sometimes on the grounds that I’m more a theologian than an anthropologist. I’ve never had a problem in my fairly conservative department and I don’t hide my identity as a polytheist at all. hell, all anyone would have to do is a simple Google search. It may become an issue when I attain my PhD and have to find a job, especially if I intend to teach high school, which is a relevant option for Classicists. That remains to be seen.
For those outside the US reading this, and possibly wondering why religion would even come up in the workplace, allow me to clarify. American workplaces are infested with the same obsession with religion, specifically Christianity, that you see in the media and our political arena. While I find talking about one’s personal life at all at work obnoxious, many Americans find nothing wrong with assuming one to be Christian and/or asking about it in a workplace setting. We have laws against this when it’s coming from management, but not so much when it’s another co-worker. It’s like being married or having children: office mates will pry and if you don’t openly disclose sooner or later they’ll try actively to sniff it out. This is one of the things i loathed about corporate: what i term the office bell jar effect.
When I was working in Human Resources for a major American bank, we had a case where two brokers were fighting. One was a practitioner of Vodou and the other kept accusing this person of putting hexes on her, and complained to management about it, every time something went wrong in her life. HR wanted to laugh it off until I pointed out the immensely hostile workplace this was creating for the Voudoussaint, and the potential for a pending lawsuit. It got resolved pretty quickly but the fact that it even escalated to the point of coming to HR is significant. There’s little respect in this country given to non-Abrahamic religions. Last year, though the ruling was quickly overturned, a judge even ordered a Wiccan mother to put her child in Christian education. We have a very long way to go before we break the back of the Christian right in this country, and an even longer way to go before our religion becomes a non-inssue in the world of social commerce.
So I’ve been talking to my brother lately about the land we both grew up on. He lives in my childhood home, which our parents bought in 1972. We both engage with the dead in certain ways: for me, straight up ancestor work and veneration, and for him, in-depth genealogical research. He’s fascinated by it and thanks to him, I have lots of pictures of our dad from Korea and WWII, his dog tags, and other military mementos all of which are very important to me. I’m also finding out a great deal of interesting things about the land on which we both lived for so long.
A month or so ago, my sister-in-law had contacted me asking if it was true that there were three children buried on their land. I felt bad for her because yes, it was absolutely true. My great grandmother Lucinda Heffner Shoff had 17 children, including a couple of sets of twins and triplets. One set of triplets was stillborn and, as was not uncommon in those days, those children were named (Faith, Hope, and Death—i kid you not, Death) and buried on what was then family property. I always knew this growing up, because my mom had pointed out where they were supposedly buried (and I’ve found it referenced in other genealogical material since). It came up when I was small because the town wanted to widen the road, and a neighbor informed them that they couldn’t, there were graves there. So they didn’t, but I remember the story being discussed at home. What I didn’t know is that this is apparently not the only grave.
Yesterday, my brother Mike calls me and we chat for awhile. He had sent me a picture of the remains of the house my parents owned before they bought our childhood home (my great grandparents sold off quite a bit of land during the depression). He’d found the deed to his current house (which our parents bought when I was less than a year old and which was built in 1963) and the names of the former owners. I told him what I knew, that the 16 year old son of the former owners had killed himself in the basement (possibly why they chose to move). I’d had problems when I was small with sensing the dead, particularly that boy, and particularly in the basement. I went back as an adult and cleared the situation away, helped him move on, but as a child it was quite frightening. My parents didn’t understand and weren’t able to support that, instead taking me to a priest. (He wasn’t stupid, but also wasn’t able to help. He did however tell them to leave me alone, which was a good thing). I think that freaked my brother a little bit until I assured him I’d cleaned the house during a visit as an adult. What he told me next though, floored me: my sister in law was at work and had a conversation with an ‘old-timer’, who apparently married into my great grandfather’s family. He told her there were over 25 people buried on that land. I’m still stunned and I hadn’t heard any of this at all. Mike is going to find out more information about it and get back to me, but for now I’m left with the knowledge that if this is true, we both grew up in a graveyard, and as a consequence in a state of constant miasma.
I’m not sure what that means, or what the potential repercussions of that might be. I’ve always been very sensitive to emotions and spirits and other things from the time I was small and while it was problematic, it was also a lifeline and helped me to navigate otherwise incomprehensible adults. The only issues I’m ever conscious of having were with the boy who died in the basement. I’m also terribly curious as to where these bodies might be. Though it’s since been filled in, my father had an in-ground pool put in behind the house and there were no bodies found during excavation. It was a sizable parcel of land though and there is plenty of room to house the unnamed dead. i’m also really curious: would this then have been a family graveyard? Or was it, as one sometimes sees in the South, a sort of potters field for victims of some sickness or epidemic? Part of me wonders at my great grandfather’s choice of burying place for his stillborn triplets…was this a sort of communal Tophet?(1) I’m dying —if you’ll all pardon the pun—for my brother to find out more. Fortunately, I shouldn’t have to wait long: he’s as eager as I am to sort this out.
It has gotten me thinking about the consequences of prolonged miasma though. I have no answers there either but as with the rest of this story, you can be certain that I shall return to this question again. (2).
1. In Punic religion, there were sacred sites referred to as Tophets. Scholars used to think that child sacrifice happened here but more recent research has shown that it is quite often the remains of stillborn children or miscarriages. Apparently, as far as can be shown, at least in many cases, these places were memorial sites for dead children. There’s still a lot of disagreement, confusion, and discussion on what these sites might have been. The way that I’m employing it here is as the most benign: a site where one buries stillborn children.
2. The photo used here is of the back of my childhood home. It was taken sometime in the seventies.