Monthly Archives: October 2017
Faith and Darkness
I woke today with a vicious migraine, from dreams in which the Gods visited and protected me from harm. I praise Them and I am grateful for Their care. Today is a day when I traditionally honor my dead, both my own dead and all the spirits I love, but also a day when I lay out offerings to the lonely and forgotten dead. They’re not forgotten by me. I rose, took migraine medication and Excedrin, and staggered about my day.
I dealt with administrative hassles and the joys (yes, I’m being sarcastic) of being mobility impaired while visibly appearing fine. A few emails later, I realized I was hardly the only one at my school for whom this is an issue. I made offerings to Asklepios and Eir and gave thanks to the Gods Who love and protect me. May Their mercy and kindness move into those barren spaces and the hearts of those who will not to see.
A former student sent me an article about the Catholic Church. They’ve apparently translated their rite of exorcism into English and changed significant portions of it. The article, by a traditional clergyman notes that the changes were made by those with no experience in exorcism. I just shake my head. I pray to those Gods of strength and valor to protect us from evil. Whether we feel it or no, there is nowhere we can possibly go that our Gods cannot follow. The darkness is never empty, no matter how terrible it may be. It is a fruitful place.
I think we find our faith sometimes in the darkest of places. I think we often find our faith in the midst of pain and loss and terror. I think there are moments, precipices upon which all the rest of our spiritual lives depend where our souls must make terrible choices and when we do, we fall into the Gods and They into us in ways that alter forever the course of our being.
We do not have to understand. We do not have to be strong. We do not have to do anything but hold space, but be the doorway through which our Gods may come. We carry Them always with us, most especially into those dark places when we think we don’t.
There’s an old prayer (I was told it was an ancient Egyptian prayer, but I don’t know the truth or untruth of that) that I once learned: may the Gods stand between you and darkness in all the terrible places you must walk. They will. If we but cry out and hold the line of our souls.
That I think is where faith is made. Even for priests and spirit workers, for those who can sense the Gods in various ways, there are times that can be horribly barren. It’s the moments though when we decide to have faith that matter, not the ones where we struggle with doubt. I think those moments – or days, or weeks, or months, or years—where we struggle, make that moment where we leap off that precipice into the arms of our Gods all the sweeter.
Submission to Nehalennia’s Agon
Lady of the islands and low-lying lands,
Mistress of the tides and the flowing waves,
Mother of the Morini and the maritime peoples,
Domina of lapdogs and hounds of every sort,
She Who is the hand upon the rudder,
The line suspending every anchor,
The glint of the guiding star along the shore:
Nehalennia, Great Goddess,
when the inundation comes
and drowns the low places
and the souls are overfull of doubt
and are submerged in sadness
may You lead them out, and across,
and on the secret trackways of the deep;
For Yours are the paths under the waves
and Yours the unknown roads upon tides,
Yours the baying of hounds in searching
and Yours the barks of greeting from dogs
who are Your children, and who welcome Your children
when they come to You at last when life runs dry
and it is Your fresh air You give them in death.
How Do You Say Trick-Or-Treat in Latin and Greek?
If you’ve ever wondered. 🙂
The question of the title occurred to me as I dressed my children in their Halloween Costumes a week early (I have one Queen Amadala and one diminutive Darth Vader in my household. So, I asked twitter and Facebook and here are my favorites. In the spirit of inclusion, I have included the discussion below. I anonymized the names from FB because, while twitter is public, FB is not in the same way.
Send me more languages and more suggestions and I will add them.
Latin — Aut dulcia aut dolum
Modern Greek: φάρσα ή κέρασμα
Ancient Greek: δόλος ἢ μισθός (see below for citation)
I prefer: δόλος ἢ δῶρον (but will take some suggestion for candy or sweet)
But what I really like is δόλος ἢ ξείνιον because I think Odysseus is the original trick(ster)-treater.
‘After I arrive, I will test these men, whoever they are,
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The Ghosts of the Tsunami
A very powerful story about the dead and the living and all the places in between:
“At the heart of ancestor worship is a contract. The food, drink, prayers, and rituals offered by their descendants gratify the dead, who in turn bestow good fortune on the living. Families vary in how seriously they take these ceremonies, but even for the unobservant, the dead play a continuing part in domestic life.”
Read the full piece here: The Ghosts of the Tsunami
Submission to Nehalennia’s Agon
Hail to the Lady of the watery grove,
Whose hand rests upon the tiller of fate,
Who knows the bonds of life and sacrifice
woven between land and water from the elder days,
She who knows that wealth flows like water, channeled for a time before bursting bounds and sweeping all aside before it.
Hail too to the Lady of the faithful hound,
Who knows the bonds between water and the dead,
Who guides the dead to the isles in the West.
Hail Nehalennia, one and the same.
by C. Greene
November for the Military Dead
November is fast approaching and every year I spend this month specifically honoring the military dead. Being the daughter and granddaughter of Veterans, and having many, many soldiers in my line each generation as far back as I can count, I generally begin with my own personal dead and branch out from there. One of the particular groups of dead that I honor regularly is the military dead and in many ways, this is their month.
Why is it so? Partly because we’re going into the dark of winter, the season of Yule, the time when the Wild Hunt rides with Odin – God of war and warriors – at its head and partly because we celebrate Veterans (or if you’re in the UK Armistice or Remembrance) Day on November 11.(1) Originally marking the end of WWI, it very quickly became a day in the US to honor military veterans of every stripe.(2)
WWI, the Great War, the “War to End All Wars” (though now we know it so very much wasn’t) was the war that ended the world. It destroyed whatever naiveté and innocence humanity might have had left, radically and viciously destroyed the overarching structure of the pre-war world (which in turn paved the way for the depredations of communism, Nazism, and the most soulless aspects of modernity), and paved the way for WWII.(3) It destroyed a generation, leveled it, rendered and decimated its ranks of young men. Even those who came back were often broken beyond repair. It was a Ragnarok for the generation that survived it.
Each November, every day of the month, I post something relevant to honoring our military dead. This month, I would like to encourage you to also post (here or on your own blogs) stories of the veterans in your family. Tell me about your military dead, share their memories if you have been entrusted with them (it is a great gift to be so), share pictures and prayers. Each and every one of us here has soldiers and warriors in their line. We have those men and sometimes women who either through choice or through desperation took up arms to defend their traditions, families, communities, and homes. We are here because they made brutally hard decisions. We are here because they did this knowing they might die and that even if they didn’t die, they’d never, ever be quite the same again. We are here because some of our ancestors walked into hell for us. It is worth remembering, worth telling their stories, worth reminding ourselves what valor is and what sacrifice looks like. It’s worth reminding ourselves so we don’t continue throwing way our men and women pointlessly. It’s worth remembering so that we have the opportunity to wake ourselves up out of our apathetic stupor and gather into the halls of heart and memory these men and women who gave so much for those they would never see and never know, who mostly just wanted to get home to their families, and who so often did not do that.
Honoring the military dead, or any of our dead for that matter, is welcoming them again into the community of living memory. It is restoring them to life and restoring us as well. It renews, again and again – every time we pour out an offering, chant a prayer, or call their names with reverence—that vital, visceral connection with those who have preceded us. It restores that ancient contract. It renews the best part of our humanity.
So this November, as I begin this month of remembrance, please share the stories of your military dead too, that more may know them, honor them, and remember.
- To be totally accurate, Memorial Day in May is the day when we in the US honor those who have died in our wars. Veterans Day is traditionally when we honor those living who have made it home. That being said, November is a powerful month for the military dead so I try to balance remembrance of those long past with active work for those living.
- Instituted by Woodrow Wilson in 1919 as a federal holiday, I’m just waiting for social justice agitators to take a run at it, Wilson as with every other historical figure, being problematic in their rather narrow and historically anachronistic world. I’m no fan of Wilson either, truth be told, but this was one good thing that he did. In the UK, I believe the focus is still very much on remembering those who died in WWI and the devastation of that terrible War. (UK friends, please correct me if I’m wrong!).
- So much so, that I’m often tempted to consider WWII a continuation of WWI rather than a separate war.
Reminder: Nehalennia’s Agon
There are only a few more days left in Nehalennia’s Agon. if you’ve been thinking about submitting a prayer, poem, or piece of art, now is the time to do it. The Agon closes Halloween night, 9pm ESt. Entries can be emailed to me at krasskova at gmail.com.
The deadline for submitting pieces to Walking the Worlds is fast approaching. The topic for this issue is “text and tradition.” if you’ve been thinking about submitting something, now’s the chance. Contact me off list as krasskova at gmail.com.
Prioritizing the Gods
On the way to the post this morning I drove by the local Presbyterian Church. They have a sign out front that they change regularly and it usually includes some pithy saying or tagline to draw one in. Today their sign caught my eye because of what it said: ‘Making God’s priorities your priorities.’ I thought, “Yep. That about covers the most difficult part of growing in devotion.” Since I was still thinking about that as I got home, I decided to write a bit about it here.
I’ve always maintained that it’s not enough to just believe in the Gods. In the end, it’s not even enough to venerate Them. As with ancestor practice, polytheism is something that should become the lens through which every part of one’s life, every interaction is filtered. The awareness of the Gods and spirits changes everything, should change everything, most especially how we stand in relationship to Them and to our entire world. It requires re-evaluating our goals, our values, our priorities and considering whether or not these things are in proper alignment with our devotion to our Gods and with what our Gods desire. Often it involves getting ourselves out of the way (more on that in a bit). That, I think, is the place where most people balk.
It’s easy to think that devotion is all about feeling the presence of the Gods. Maybe one is particularly gifted and can hear or even see Them. I won’t deny that the capacity to experience the Gods directly is a tremendous grace but, those things are in the end unimportant and focusing on them too much can be a powerful distraction to actual devotion, especially when they are sought or embraced without even a hint of discernment. If our devotion is predicated on seeing, hearing, or feeling the Gods what happens when we can’t do that? What happens when we’re in a dark place, a dark night of the soul, or going through some type of emotional upset that has impacted our discernment? What happens when feeling or seeing or hearing is not forthcoming? Does our devotion go away? Moreover, demanding that we have that feedback every single time we make an offering or prayer is putting the Gods on our timetable, holding Them hostage, subordinating Them to our whims and our needs. It is a violation of the hierarchy of being of which the Gods are part. They are Gods after all, not our invisible friends (for all that They may care for us, nurture us, and engage in a friendly, loving manner with us at times). It prioritizes our desires over what is good and right and proper: maintaining right relationship with the Powers. It reduces the Gods to playthings and elevates us in Their place.
This is where getting ourselves out of the way comes in. I strongly believe that we are deeply loved by our Gods. I think that They want the best for us in all possible worlds. I also think that our own world is poisoned and out of balance and our wants and desires, our egos and hungers have been shaped by that lack of balance. We’ve been taught to value things that are detrimental to our spiritual life. We’ve been raised by virtue of the culture in which we live to prioritize things that are not in alignment with the goals the Gods have for us and that are certainly not in alignment with any developed and authentic spiritual expression. When the time comes to raise ourselves up, to curb the corruption or atrophy of our very souls, when the time comes to change, to move beyond the immediate reinforcement of seeing or feeling, we balk. Sometimes we run like hell. Sometimes we throw tantrums and immerse ourselves even more in those things that are spiritually detrimental.
I’m prepping a paper right now on pop culture and religion for an academic conference and anyone who reads this blog knows that I’m not a fan of combining the two. In fact, I think that absorbing pop culture uncritically can have devastating consequences on our spiritual sense. The problem isn’t, believe it or not, pop culture itself. Pop culture has existed as long as we have possessed the ability to craft and convey stories. In the ancient world, Homer might have been considered ‘pop culture.’ Certainly, later philosophers challenged the Homeric corpus (at least the Iliad and Odyssey) on the grounds that they presented the Gods and heroes impiously. The problem is less the stories we tell than the context in which they’re told. In other words, the problem is our over-culture. In the ancient world, you had a culture steeped in polytheism. Not having yet had the dubious benefit of modernity and the ‘Enlightenment,’ devotion and piety were not yet positioned culturally as primitive, foolish, or potential mental illness. The culture itself was steeped in religion in a way that allowed for the inter-generational transmission of piety and these things countered any potential harm from the pop culture of the time. Even those who may have had a paucity of actual faith were encouraged by the philosophers of their time, by their culture, by their traditions to attend to the proper rituals and otherwise behave themselves. We don’t have that.
What we have instead is a culture that encourages us to prioritize the shallowest aspects of our lives, that encourages us to treat the Gods as errant children, that encourages us to behave, in effect, with gross (though usually ignorant) impiety. We have a culture that encourages anything but deep devotion, and that certainly doesn’t respect any intergenerational transmission of tradition. This complicates the process of opening ourselves up to the Gods. It complicates our growing in faith and spiritual awareness and it complicates us growing into fully developed human beings, human beings in right relationship with our Gods and dead.
Does all of this mean we should never expose ourselves to popular culture? Maybe. If your idea of a good night’s television is the Kardashians please try to develop your tastes a little. But maybe it means that we approach the popular culture that we imbibe critically, with eyes open, aware that it carries with it seeds that could blossom into gross impiety and ugliness in our souls. It’s an opportunity to have conversations, to challenge ourselves and the culture in which we were raised to reconsider and to do better. There are times where I will leave a movie or turn off a particular television show, even if I’m enjoying it, because I don’t want to give that level of pollution space in my head. I don’t want it to take up real estate that would otherwise become fertile ground for devotion. I want the seeds of that devotion to grow in rich, clean soil. Then there are times where I’ll watch anyway, but make offerings and cleanse afterwards, and maybe discuss with whomever else was present why it was problematic, even though it might have been enjoyable as hell. It depends. I think we’re called to do this not just with pop culture but with our culture assumptions, our values, the foundation of our morality, our goals, priorities, and everything in our world. We are called to consider everything.
It is a challenge to allow ourselves to be reshaped from the inside out by our piety rather than to attempt reshaping our piety to suit our undeveloped souls. We may not know all the time what our Gods want, but we can do those things that make us receptive to finding out. We can immerse ourselves in those practices that help us develop deeper piety, deeper devotion. We can accept that this process of doing devotion well is going to have its ups and downs, its fallow periods and its periods of deep insight and communion, and that it will, if done rightly, change everything about how we view our world, how we position ourselves in it, and ultimately how we will set ourselves to changing it.
So yes, I think devotion ultimately does come down to cultivating love of the Gods, cultivating a hunger to approach Them in our hearts, to making offerings and doing rituals but above all else, to allowing ourselves to be changed by the process of devotion, to allow ourselves to be transformed, and to a willingness to critically examine every single premise with which we’ve been raised, and every single thing our world tells us most especially in relation to our Gods, but not just there. And if the idea of aligning our own priorities with those of the Gods evokes resentment or anger, then maybe the place to start is in considering why.