Category Archives: Roman Things
I’ve been getting quite a few commissions for prayers. The latest was one to the God Hypnos. (If you’re interested in commissioning a piece, please check this page for information).
Prayer to Hypnos
By G. Krasskova
(Written for S.)
most benevolent and gracious God,
please hear my prayer.
Grant me the sweetness of sleep
when I seek my rest.
Help me to still my mind,
my racing thoughts,
to put the tensions
and stress of my body aside.
May Your children:
the Oneiroi, and
bless my slumber.
May my dreams be fruitful.
May I wake refreshed,
even on those occasions
when Your Son Phobetor visits.
Oh God of poppies,
of pleasure and relaxation,
please grant me Your healing touch.
Smile upon me,
place Your gentle hand upon my brow,
and grant me release from my cares
through the grace of sleep,
which only You may bring.
Hail to You, Hypnos,
Husband of Pasiphae,
Daughter of Dionysos,
Who Himself relieves care,
Hail to You, Beautiful God.
(Hypnos by Grace Palmer. The prayer card is available here.)
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I want to give folks an update on how the Mother’s Prayer Card project is going. (I could just title this: Grace Palmer is awesome. She’s been whipping these cards out and they’re gorgeous).
So far, we have cards completed for
Leto, Mother of Apollo and Artemis
Semele, Mother of Dionysos
Maia, Mother of Hermes (I think this one is my favorite 🙂 There’s just something about little. baby. Hermes).
Metis, Mother of Athena
Thetis, Mother of Achilles
The next card currently in progress is Leda, Mother of Helen and the Dioskouroi. If anyone would like to donate to this card, please contact me at krasskova at gmail.com (usual perks apply).
Once the cards are all finished, I’ll offer them A) as a complete set; B) as a complete set with a signed copy of the novena book; and C) individually.
Cards still to be done include Alcmene, Danae, Penelopeia, and Pasiphae.
A few days ago, someone asked me about the New Year’s Eve ritual that I typically do for the House. I promised I’d post it here, so here it is. I alter this a little every year, but the barebones scaffolding remains intact:
New Year’s Eve Ritual
I don’t usually share House rituals, but I’m moved to share our New Year’s Eve ritual. This is one that many of us will be doing in our own homes as the year turns. I share it with you here, for those who may be wishing for some idea of what type of ritual to do, but who might be coming up short. This New Year’s, my cultus deorum practice took the lead with defining the ritual.
(Do this so that you begin on the 31st and end on the 1st. 🙂 Adapt it as you need and wish. Five Deities are invoked: Cardea, the Goddess of the door hinge, Limentius, the God of the threshold, Forculus, God of the doorway, Janus, God of beginnings, doorways, passages, etc. –January is named after Him, and Hermes.) (The image above is Cardea by L. Perkins)
Take a ritual bath to prepare yourself and dress in clean clothing.
I. Begin by cleaning all your shrines, both to the Gods and the ancestors.
II. Make an offering to your ancestors, thanking them for all their help and protection in the previous year and asking for their continued blessings.
III. Make an equal offering to the house spirits.
IV. If you have a mask, don it now and take up a noise-maker (drum, rattle, even a can filled with some coins) and open a couple of windows. Go through every room in the house making as much noise as you can, cleansing it via sound of any stagnant or unhelpful or malignant energy. Sweep your house, every room if possible and sweet out the door. Then vacuum. (I’m practical. My mother was Swiss lol).
Take off the mask and put away the noisemaker.
V. Light four candles and ask the blessing of fire on your home.
VI. Go to the front door. wipe it, the threshold , and the lintels down with an infusion of juniper or verbena, or some other sweet and cleansing herb (I think Florida water is a good substitute). Hang colored streamers from your door (colored wool would have been traditional), anoint the hinges with a dab of olive oil. Asperse the door three times with verbena water, florida water, rose water or some other sweet smelling infusion.
Offer the following prayers After each prayer, set or pour out an offering glass of wine:
Prayer to Hermes
I sing of Hermes, the favorite of Bakcheios,
the wily one with mischief and wisdom in his heart.
He stands at the cross-roads, a pillar connecting the worlds,
whose foundation is in the underworld
and whose eyes survey all that transpires in heaven.
He is the lord of magic, the inventor of words and religious rites, the trustworthy one who knows the secrets of the gods
and interprets their will for mankind. (The image here is Forculus and LImentius by G. Palmer).
Praise for Hermes:
In gratitude let my lips pour forth praise
for Hermes, the wily one, the master of many guises
clever in his plotting, who wanders over wide ways
with feet so light they never leave a track
for the huntsman to follow. Ghost-like, shifting,
who flits through our thoughts and knows how
to carry off our deepest, most well-guarded secrets,
King of the land of Sleep who guides the
dreams like sheep through one of the two gates
to find their way to us while our bodies rest,
and with the same staff he uses to check
their step he can conjure illusions and
shape reality to his will, he can cause poisonous
roots to spring up from the earth and brew
strange philters to protect against the witch’s charms,
for Hermes is great in magic and the inventor of
powerful words. Those words he knows how to use,
to bend the rules of society and trick the canny
businessman out of his money. Hermes wants for
nothing for through hard work, cleverness, the
weaving of fine tales and simple treachery or theft
he can get whatever it is he wants and even
managed to sneak his way into the bed of the lovely
Aphrodite whose soft, warm flesh delighted him so.
Hail Hermes, is there anything you cannot
accomplish? If so I am ignorant of it.
(prayers by sannion)
(Hermes by G. Palmer)
Prayer to Cardea
I call to You,
Guardian of all passageways.
Without your leave no blessings may flow.
You are guardian and keeper of the earth:
You open that which has been closed,
and close that which has been opened.
Bless us this night and in the year to come
with an abundance of all good things.
To You, gracious Goddess
(prayer by Galina)
(Cardea by G. Palmer)
Prayer to Forculus
I hail You, Forculus,
Gracious Guardian of the door.
I ask Your blessings and protection
on my home and in my life
in the year to come;
and I thank you for
for watching over me
in the year now past.
doorkeeper of the earth,
(prayer by Galina)
Prayer to Limentius
I pray to You, LImentius,
God of the threshold.
I thank You for the grace
of Your protection and care
in the year now past.
I ask that You watch over
and protect me
in the year to come.
To You, keeper of the threshold,
(prayer by Galina)
Prayer to Janus
Sing I Ianus,
lord with two faces,
who opens the door,
and causes unexpected things to occur.
To those who have your favor,
no obstacle blocks their path.
You create the way where none appeared before,
and bring helpful spirits through to aid us in our work.
No great task is begun without first invoking you,
gatekeeper of Olympos who holds the keys
to all the temples of the gods.
O Ianus, unlock the door of my mind
to let powerful verse spill forth,
like the Nile in flood season.
O Ianus, unblock the gates of the underworld,
so that Demeter’s rich bounty can fill the land.
O Ianus, make smooth the way so that men’s prayers may travel up
and reach the ears of the Blessed Immortals.
Ianus I sing!
(prayer by sannion)
(Janus by G. Palmer)
Make the following offerings:
*refried beans (seriously, a traditional dish for Cardea lol. She likes the ancient Roman equivalent of re-fried beans)
*a bowl of milk and honey
*bread and butter
*anything else you feel moved to give.
light a little incense
Hang a wreath on the door and ask for the Gods’ protection (if you have hawthorn, this is particularly associated with Cardea and is very protective. Laurel would have also been traditional for these wreaths but don’t sweat it).
Say: “joy to this house” three times.
VII. Go back inside and give an offering of grain and salt or salt and bread to the fire.
VIII. eat something sweet, symbolic of welcoming sweetness in the new year.
It’s also nice if, at this point, you can share a meal – however simple–with those you love
IX. if you have the skill, sit and do divination for the rest of the year. (This is a good time as head of your house to do household divination. You can always follow up with a professional diviner if anything comes up that’s troubling or you feel needs to be further addressed.)
X. When you are next out, give food to the poor/homeless/hungry.
(the prayer cards above, unless otherwise noted, are by Grace Palmer. All may be found here.)
Over the past few years I’ve been moving more and more toward a more Germanic-Roman polytheism in my personal practice. I practice Heathenry and that will always be my primary tradition, but I also venerate many of the Greco-Roman Gods (especially Hermes, Apollo, and Dionysos). This all started when I began studying Classics academically in 2010 and Odin indicated I should honor the Greek God of language. Well, apparently, give Them an inch…and the rest is history.
I’ve never worried overmuch about working in two traditions. I’ve never been one of those Heathens who gets the vapors if one mentions the words ‘dual trad.’ largely because looking at ancient polytheisms, the traditions we’re trying to restore, such a thing simply didn’t exist. The concept wouldn’t have computed to a pre-Christian polytheist. This cracks me up too. I’ve spent the better part of 15 years studying ancient religion at one level or another (both academically and theologically) and there was a flexibility, fluidity, and polyvalency to ancient polytheisms that I think we, tasked as we are with restoration, can only envy.
If I was living in say, the first century, navigating between Rome and Germany as I do, this is largely how it would have worked: I’d have honored the Germanic Gods of my ancestors, paying special cultus to the Deity or Deities — in my case Odin– to Whom I am specially devoted. I might also honor various Roman Gods, depending on where I lived, what I did, and how strongly the Roman Gods had permeated into my region or I into Roman culture (romanitas). Perhaps there was a mystery cultus or two that caught my attention. If I were a soldier, I might initiate to the mysteries of Mithras, for instance. Then of course, if I were part of the Roman Empire, I’d pay cultus to the deified emperors (even if I were not Roman, per se. The spread of this cultus was one of the means of creating unity through disparate provinces) and on top of this there was ancestor cultus, honoring the vaettir, etc. etc. It was naturally very fluid. We’re not today, and I think that one of the reasons, perhaps the biggest reason that we’re not is that we’re restoring something that has been broken and we want to do it cleanly.
What amuses me the most is that if we want to look solely at written sources, in some cases there’s more written evidence for the veneration of Dionysos in Germania than there is for Odin and company. It cracks me up. So when the Gods started pushing me toward cultus deorum in addition to my Heathen practice I thought it a bit strange, but well within bounds. Of course I don’t mix worship: I honor each Family as They wish to be honored, but it does mean I’m juggling two festival calendars, two offering schedules, two very different requirements for ritual purity and such, which can get a bit overwhelming at times. That’s a small price to pay though for doing right by the Gods.
Polytheism can be messy. Gods don’t always stay in Their neat little boxes and that’s ok. Our ancestors were travellers, explorers, (mercenaries * cough *, I don’t judge :P) and they brought their Gods and their practices with them wherever they went. Likewise, they occasionally picked up Gods and practices. The Roman Empire went everywhere and just as they brought the Roman Gods with them, setting up temples, engaging in veneration, making offerings, and so forth, so they too honored local Gods. We owe our knowledge of certain Germanic Goddesses (like Tamfana) to Roman votive inscriptions, for instance, so we know that they sometimes honored Germanic Deities. It was a non-issue because it sorted itself out in practice.
I think part of restoring our traditions is going to include making room for these blended strands too, because they existed in the time of our ancestors. They are part of our polytheistic inheritance. For me, doing rightly by all of the Gods means rooting myself in my ancestral tradition first and foremost. I’m Heathen and I move out from there. This may mean that in some ways I’m always on the outskirts of the mysteries of Dionysos or Hermes or Apollo, et Al and that’s ok. I do what I need to do in order to honor Them all cleanly. It’s an interesting sensation moving from “Germanic space” into “Greco-Roman space.” It affects everything even down to the way I carry myself (what anthropologist Pierre Bourdeau would have termed my ‘habitus’). That’s something I may need to watch more closely because I think it offers interesting clues as to what the Gods may want, and the type of interaction They expect. We shall see. It’s certainly been an interesting ride.
Here is the latest prayer card, Eirene by Grace Palmer. It should be available for purchase in a week or so. If anyone is interesting in helping to sponsor this card, please contact me at krasskova at gmail.com (all the usual perks apply), and if anyone has a prayer that you’d be willing to donate, likewise please contact me. I don’t have a devotional relationship with this Goddess so while I can (and will if necessary) write one, I’d first like to defer to someone who actually venerate Her.
So within NT shamanism we have a specific divination system to determine what type of purification will work best, in the event that we or our clients require purification. (Of course this isn’t the only thing we use but if all other types of div and discernment have failed, there is a specific system for this). That is more or less lineaged material but I happened to show it to my husband. His eyes gleamed and he got all excited and asked if he could use it as the basis for one of his own systems. Since while it technically is part of the lineaged material, it’s part that can be shared with non-initiates, I explained the extremely simple system to him. He nodded and disappeared into his office and emailed me the following about a half hour later.
It is an awesome system based on the Greek theory of the four humours. He gave me permission to share it here. This in turn has inspired a friend and colleague to do yet another riff on the system and I love the interconnectedness and mutually inspiring nature of this work. A Heathen makes up a system and it’s down, dirty, and simple. A Bacchic, southern Italian, Hellenic inspired Orpheotelest tries it and he gets all fancy. ^_^.
Here it is.
This is the method of prescribing cleansings.
You will need four stones, a die, and a pouch to keep them in.
The four stones represent the rizomata panton, the “roots of all things” or primordial elements which Empedokles described as follows:
Now hear the fourfold roots of everything:
shining Zeus, enlivening Hera, Aidoneus,
and Nestis, moistening mortal springs with her tears.
The stones should either have their Greek name inscribed on them or be of an appropriate color, as derived from the Galenic humours.
Fire = (πῦρ pur) = hot and dry = yellow
Air = (ἀήρ aer) = hot and wet = red
Earth = (γῆ ge) = cold and dry = black
Water = (ὕδωρ hudor) = cold and wet = white
Draw the stone out to determine where the root cause of the problem lies and then roll the die to determine the nature of the cleansing that needs to be prescribed.
1. Pass fire over the body.
2. Walk on coals.
3. Write your afflictions down on scraps of paper and then give them to the fire.
4. Burn an effigy of your enemy.
5. Keep a flame burning for a month.
6. Wear red clothing for a week and work on cultivating the fire within.
1. Fumigate with bay or other purifying herbs.
2. Cleanse using music.
3. Cleanse through prayer, singing or intoning words of power.
4. Burn incense every day for a month.
5. Devote yourself to intellectual study and practice mindfulness and meditation.
6. Cover your head, especially when you’re outside the home.
1. Apply sacred ash.
2. Cover with mud and sit upon the bare earth for three hours.
3. Make offerings to the ancestors.
4. Make offerings to the land-spirits.
5. Ground and center.
6. Thoroughly clean and put your home in order.
2. Cleanse with chernips.
3. Take a cleansing bath, with milk and appropriate herbs.
4. Bathe in a river.
5. Cleanse through tears.
6. Wear all white for a week.
I was sharing this story with a friend tonight who suggested I share it with my readers so here goes.
The winter before last I was doing a lot of work with Hermes. I tend to honor Him regularly (Hermes is awesome) but for some reason throughout that winter He was getting a lot of offerings, more than usual. It may have been around the time that I had expanded His shrine, I don’t recall. What I do remember is that I had promised Him an offering of steak.
The day that I was supposed to give Him the steak came and so did a nasty snowstorm. I am a careful driver in the best of times but I really didn’t feel comfortable going out in those weather conditions. Being from the south, I’m a bit skittish about driving in snow and ice. I went to the shrine, lit candles, offered a prayer and explained the situation to Hermes promising that I would go as soon as I could the next day after the roads were properly ploughed. About five minutes later my doorbell rang.
Wondering who the hell out would be out in a bad snowstorm, I answered it to find a young man selling…steaks.
This guy had a truck full of steak that he was selling door to door and before heading home he hoped to make one more sale. I got the point – Hermes wanted His steak— bought a couple of boxes, thanked the man profusely and made the offering I had promised the God.
Sometimes you go to the offering, sometimes apparently it comes to you.
I want to share a little bit about my current project. In addition to the Freya devotional (which will eventually get done. I’m using a slightly different format from the other three novena booklets and it’s a bit more labor intensive), I’m also working on a novena book to the “Mothers.” This idea actually came to me in a dream and I woke up thinking “oh shit, I need to do this.” So it’s my current obsession right now.
I”m doing a novena book that offers ten novenas (each one has a description of the Goddess, a reading, and a prayer that can be pondered and offered for nine days) for the Mothers within the Greek tradition (and Roman). I’m very specific about Whom I’m including and most of them are nymphs or humans loved by Gods who later became elevated. There are a few exceptions though there are a few that I was pushed to include and I specifically excluded some (like Rhea and Ariadne) because I felt that Their primary position is dependent on other things, They are known for other things, and are *bigger* in a way.
So here are the holy Powers included in this novena book (in no particular order here):
- Semele (Mother of Dionysos)
- Maia (Mother of Hermes, foster mother of Arcus)
- Leto (Mother of Apollon and Artemis)
- Leda (Mother of Helen and the Dioskurai)
- Metis (Mother of Athena)
- Thetis (Mother of Achilles)
- Penelopeia (Mother of Pan)
- Danae (Mother of Perseus)
- Pasiphae (Mother of the Minotaur)
- Alcmene (Mother of Herakles)
The section on Semele is completely finished, the section on Maia lacks a prayer, and most of the others have readings selected. I suspect to have this finished by at least November’s end. I’m sort of alternating between this one and Freya’s.
If anyone would like to contribute a prayer to any of these goddesses (other than Semele — that section is finished, though I wouldn’t be averse to including another prayer so if that’s Who you were thinking of writing for, go for it. ), I would be most delighted to include it and would give the contributor a copy of the finished devotional in return. I always like to first reach out to people who have pre-existing devotional relationships with Deities about Whom I’m writing. It seems only polite and a thing that best serves the Deity. Contact me at krasskova at gmail.com if you are interested in contributing.
As an aside, I think Maia is awesomely cool and I think I’m going to do a prayer card for Her. 🙂
EDIT: Deadline for all submissions is Nov. 15.
There has been quite a bit of discussion about miasma of late. I’ve seen discussion threads and articles and posts cropping up all over the place. Unfortunately it seems that many of the people writing on the topic lack the faintest idea of what miasma actually is.
The idea of miasma and spiritual pollution is absolutely crucial to our practices. It’s important therefore not to stretch the meaning to fit some political agenda, not to misidentify and mis-equate one thing with another, and not to transfer monotheistic ideas of sin and shame onto these pre-Christian religious terms. It’s important to understand precisely what we’re talking about, why it’s so important, and how best to put it into practice. So let’s start with what miasma actually is.
Miasma is spiritual pollution. I’ve written on it before here, and here and here. Likewise I wrote about the Roman idea of ‘nefas,’ which is somewhat analogous to ‘miasma’ here. (I think that the biggest difference between the two is that nefas has a definite and very negative charge, whereas miasma is neutral. Even positive things can carry miasma as we shall see). I think that while these pieces have been a good starting point to the discussion for me personally, my understanding of the topic has deepened and become far more nuanced over the years.
The seminal work on miasma is a book titled “Miasma: Pollution and Purification in Early Greek Religion” by Robert Parker. In that book, he discusses miasma thusly, looking first at the root of the Greek word:
“The basic sense of the ‘mia—‘ words is that of defilement, the impairment of a thing’s form or integrity.” (Parker, p.3).
This is crucial information right here: miasma is about integrity. It is a twisting of things out of true. If we think of it as some impairment to the integrity of a person, place, or thing, then that can help us move away from thinking about miasma as ‘sin.’ One does not have to do anything wrong to fall into a state of deep pollution. It is the natural side effect of certain experiences. For instance, if I spend an extended amount of time in the company of people who are themselves in some way polluted spiritually, then I may also end up miasmic. Why? Because miasma is a spiritual contagion; just like dirt or germs, it is easily passed from one person to another. If I am in lengthy company of someone miasmic, I may find myself influenced by their words, ideas, and actions. I may start behaving, thinking, or approaching the Gods similarly. Without ever meaning to, my spiritual integrity may be corrupted. Drama is not a necessary component to this at all. What is necessary is attention to what we absorb, to whom we pattern ourselves after, and to the influences in our immediate social world.
I recently fell into an intense state of miasma after reading a book. A colleague had recommended this book detailing the incredibly abusive upbringing of the author. It was extremely well written but the subject matter was searing. I read through it in one sitting and found myself upset – furious on behalf of the child—jagged, and so out of balance within myself that there was no way I could even think about approaching one of my shrines to pray. I didn’t realize what was wrong, only that I felt this terrible ugly energy, as though I had been coated in grossness. I was talking to my husband about what I’d read and how horrible I felt (it had a tremendous impact on me) and he told me to go do some cleansings. I did and felt immediately a thousand times better and I realized that one can end up in a state of miasma from things experienced second and third hand – they still have the ability to shift one in head and heart and spirit out of integral balance. Anything that closes us off to the Gods, that clogs us up like dirt in a drain is problematic. Anything that shifts us out of true, “impairs” our inner “integrity” can put is in a state of miasma. (1)
I’ve had the same thing happen with watching certain movies. I felt spiritually polluted afterwards. It was the same when I witnessed an act of verbal blasphemy during a ritual. I, everyone there, and the space itself were polluted simply by having been present when such a thing occurred.
Miasma doesn’t have to be from things so obviously – dare I say it? –dramatic though. In his book, Parker goes on to note:
“Things that in English we term ‘dirty’ are a common source of such defilement, but there are defilements deriving from things that are not dirty in themselves, or not deriving from matter at all. Miaino can be used for the pollution of a reputation through unworthy deeds, or of truth through dishonesty, justice, law, and piety are in danger of defilement. (p. 3)”
This clearly points to how one positions oneself in their world. How do you carry yourself, behave on a day to day. How are you situated with respect to your neighbors? All of these things combined to create what we might term ‘character.’ Part of good character to our polytheistic forebears involved piety.
Of course, as my friend L. pointed out, the roiling energies of community drama can create situations that may lead to miasma but so can a wedding. Seriously, amongst the list of things that put one in a state of spiritual pollution are weddings. These are happy things, the union of two families, a building block for one’s community and its longevity but (like birth and death) they create imbalance. They create pollution. There’s nothing bad at all about them, but they still put those present in a state of miasma. Some situations just do that. We may feel perfectly fine. We may even feel happy (for instance at one’s own wedding) or celebratory but we are no longer in a state of spiritual attunement.
Miasma is considered an extremely dangerous condition (Parker, p. 4). For this reason it’s important not to misinterpret it as being reliant on our emotions, how we feel in a given moment. Can one often feel the pollution? Yes, but not always. This is why it’s so important to have and maintain proper spiritual protocols with respect to cleansing and purification. Have your traditional protocols intact and try not to deviate from them and then this takes care of itself. Of course it also helps to take equal care in keeping your environment clean and surrounding yourself with people who are themselves not polluted.(2)
Why is miasma so crucial? Its effects are long term. It’s not like the Gods are going to smack one down for being in a miasmic state after all, but it corrodes and compromises one in one’s relationship with Them. It impairs signal clarity and a lot of times the consequences of it aren’t immediately noticed, in fact, may not be felt at all until suddenly the spiritual relationships that were once so vital and present and true are blurry, distant, and hard to reach.
It impairs luck and health. It twists all that is spiritually balanced and good, beneficial and ordered into something plebeian, mundane, and gross. It lowers us in the eyes of the Gods and part of the reason that people may not recognize when they are in this state, or approaching it, is that our world is so out of balance. Our world is riddled with spiritual pollution on every level. In a society where people are blowing up mountain tops from sheer greed, poisoning our food supplies, where children are picking through mountains of garbage for food, and the Kardashians are considered role models it’s difficult for people to recognize such spiritual disease. When once piety and purification were the expected adult norm, now it’s the exact opposite and people look askance, even in our communities, when one seeks to take proper precautions around one’s spiritual health by insisting on healthy boundaries.
Not only do we need more conversations about this, we need to take more action, especially when we’re doing group rituals and gatherings.
- For those wondering, would I still have read the book knowing all of this beforehand? Yes, absolutely but I would have gone in with my eyes open and would have prepared myself better and immediately cleansed afterwards.
- Two further comments on this that I’d like to offer: 1. This is where divination can be extremely helpful, if one is uncertain of whether a particular person, place, or thing might be polluted and 2. What to exclude, whom to avoid are not decisions that can be made for an individual by anyone else. What is miasmic to me, may not be to my husband and vice versa for instance. We serve different gods, have different levels of purification expected of us. What to allow into one’s world and whom to associate with are decisions that each person must make for themselves after careful consideration and perhaps prayer and divination.