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The Way We Speak

I’ve been sitting on this for a while. Around the autumnal equinox, I started to see gross postings in various places (tumblr, facebook, twitter, etc.) mostly about Persephone and Hades, putting in crude terms Her cyclical return to the Underworld. I don’t have cultus to either of those Deities but nonetheless, reading the trashy memes and comments really disturbed me. I think it says something about the paucity of our culture that we so blithely speak not just of sacred things, but of Holy Powers and Their mysteries with such casual disrespect (and I don’t think this is just a polytheistic problem either). Nor am I condemning all memes -– I’ve seen some that are lovely and some that are humorous without crossing the line into disrespect. I think that’s fine. I think that’s healthy and it’s really wonderful to see art and cartoons and prayers and imaginative renderings of our Gods. This is the way we develop iconography and build religious cultus and culture. It’s a good thing. It can be done without disrespect though. In fact, it can and should come from a place of love, adoration, and deep, deep devotion to the Holy Powers. That devotion is the core of every healthy tradition. 

Of course, there are some (usually Hellenics but occasionally Heathens will chime in too) who will argue that Homer wrote stories that presented the Gods in less than salutatory manner. Yeah, whoever (and it may be more than one author—but we’ll stick with “Homer” for convenience here) actually put together the Iliad and the Odyssey and other Homeric works did, but A) this corpus was criticized for that very potentially impious presentation by later philosophers; and B) there are also beautiful and deeply pious prayers and hymns within the Homeric corpus. I rarely see that latter coming from the same people who post garbage about the Gods. Often, I want to shake these individuals, and just flat out ask, “if you feel so deeply disgusted with our traditions, traditions you too claim to practice, if you want to erase all mystery and actual cultus, if you hate our Gods so very much why are you here?” I’d be very interested in the answer. When your entire blog or online world is devoted to tearing down and spitting on our traditions and the Holy Powers from which we received those traditions, why are you here? 

To put it bluntly, we should speak of our Gods with respect. That shouldn’t be a difficult or contentious thing. These are GODS. These are our Holy Powers. These are the Bestowers of mystery, the Givers of blessings, the Immortal Ones Whose will, and kindness crafted the worlds. These are the Powers from which our souls proceed and to which we will one day return. These are the Good and Gracious Gods from which all our blessings flow. When we speak of Them or render Them into art, we can do so with love and respect. If we have no respect for sacred things and for our Holy Powers and Their Mysteries, I ask again: WHY are we here?  

(I completely agree with the comment to this video that says, “This dude should mobilize and bring his healing slaps to the general public.” LOL. Please come to contemporary polytheisms. Please. We need those healing slaps. A lot of them. Repeatedly and with alacrity. Slap the hubris out of us. A-fucking-men). 

Beautiful Things for Our Gods and Dead

My housemate Tatyana is working on a beautiful project for both her ancestors and her Gods, particularly the Goddess Freya. She’s Ukrainian and if you look at traditional Ukrainian garb, you may notice beautiful, multi-tiered necklaces, often with pendants attached (1). Traditionally, these beaded strands were given to girls at key moments in their lives, a strand being added for each significant point of transition.  They are then passed down the generations. She told me that while most of the necklaces were made of red beads, white necklaces could be given at marriage and then passed down from mother to daughter (2). Tatyana is a spirit worker and a gyðja (priest) in training and almost two years ago, via divination, Freya directed her to make two necklaces, one white and one red. She‘s almost finished with the white one, and it is stunning. When I saw it today, I asked her permission to write about it here, which she graciously gave. 

Tatyana’s necklace, not quite, but nearly done.

The beads are Siberian reindeer bone. Each pendant represents a particular Deity, ancestor, or group thereof, to whom she pays homage. A great deal of divination went into determining which Deities should be included, and what type of pendant Each of Them wanted, and whether each particular God or spirit should be on the white necklace or the red (this latter is not pictured here). There was divination throughout every single step and then some—I know, becuase I was the diviner for some of it! Each pendant has been carefully chosen and most of them have been handmade just for Tatyana, often from amber, sometimes from gold. It‘s been an expensive project and she has made a lot of personal sacrifices in order to be able to afford it, stretching it out over months and months for the same reason, and it has taken a very long time to get it just right. All of this is in love and devotion to Freyja. All of this is a pouring out of her love for her Gods into this piece that will be a useful tool in her work for the rest of her life. 

In our particular tradition, one of the first serious tools that spiritworkers receive are necklaces marking their committment to their sacred Work, and delineating that work. For me, that happened when I was midway through my ordeal cycle years and years ago. I received three, one marking my job as a diviner, one marking my ordeal cycle and my work as a vitki, and one for my work – which I didn‘t know i‘d be doing at the time—as an ancestor worker. Like Tatyana, I made them myself. 

In my father‘s Lithuanian culture, instead of necklaces, it‘s woven sashes (3). I don‘t know how to weave them, but I‘ve contacted several artists in Lithuania who make them and I have several that I use in my own spiritual work. They were traditionally made by young women and given as gifts at moments of transition. For instance, when Tatyana joined our religious House, I gave her one to welcome her and to mark the occasion. 

Lithuanian woven sash — this one is actually the one I gifted to Tatyana upon her moving into the House.

It doesn’t matter where you come from. Anyone may honor the Gods. Anyone, provided they are willing to be respectful and pious, may venerate our Gods. Likewise, we all have ancestors and it doesn’t matter from where those ancestors come. The important thing is to honor them because they are our foundation and strength. One thing I’ve learned through my own work, through seeing Tatyana’s work is that the practices that come from our ancestral cultures might just weave their way into our spiritual work, bridging the space between living and dead, past and present, ancestors, Gods, and us too.  I see it as a microcosm of Brisingamen, enfolding us in Their protection, and of Bifrost connecting us now and always throughout the Worlds. 

Notes: 

  1. Called дукачь – dukach’, which I think is etymologically related to the 14th century French word for particular type of coin: ducat.
  2. She told me that often you’ll see a young woman wearing one white strand and then the rest of the necklace is red. I wonder if it was a case of a mother having more than one daughter and parceling out the gift of her own wedding necklace, one strand to each daughter. 
  3. I’m a mutt. My dad is 99% Lithuanian with a bit of Russian in there. My maternal side is Swiss, German, Scots-Irish (Hannay Clan! ^_^), Huguenot, and English – mostly Swiss and German. My adopted mom was Swiss and Venezuelan, with a bit of Spanish. My sister is half-Korean. My husband is Italian with a smidge of Welsh and fully half Blackfoot Native. I include all of these lines on my ancestor shrine because they too are my family. It’s a beautiful mix and I love it all. Because I grew up around my maternal family, that has had the largest influence on me, but the past couple of years I’ve been drawn more closely to my Lithuanian line. I write more about my genealogy at my other blog, though be warned, I don’t update it often. 

Polish artist creates awe-inspiring Monstrances

Not polytheistic, but what a beautiful, beautiful devotion. Mary healed him and he dedicates his (stunning) art to Her service. As an artist and a devout person, I found this video inspiring.

Upon Seeing “The Green Knight”

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Warning: THERE WILL BE SPOILERS BELOW

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As a medievalist, my focus is theology. I have never had any particular interest in Arthurian literature, so I will admit to having not read the original story since Middle School. My comments here are about the movie – the dvd isn’t available for pre order yet (not that I can find) or I would link to it here. I definitely want to add it to my collection! My husband and I saw it tonight and I just got back so you’re getting my stream of consciousness thoughts on this first viewing. 

The use of color in the movie made me cry. It’s absolutely beautiful. There’s also a conversation happening with the shifting tones of Gawain’s cloak, which starts out as a rich, yellow ochre and at times, as he picks up a fox traveling companion, shifts to a subtle saffron now and again, the exact shade of the fox’s fur.  I think this happens whenever Gawain has followed the fox into somewhere particularly eldritch and magical and is no longer moving in the mundane world alone. Likewise, the landscape is so stark and empty, yet magical and frightening. There’s a conversation there, especially when this is contrasted with the vibrant color always encircling Gawain. 

The walking giants show a world passing away and that’s what is so potent about this story the way it was originally written and the way it’s visualized here: it captures that sense of one world passing into memory, and another being built atop its echoes: Polytheisms, indigenous Paganisms were passing away, blending, shifting, syncretizing  – sometimes forcibly so –and a new religion was taking root but had not yet fully done so. That is a potent underlying theme in this vision. 

Fathers are important. One of the first things that I picked up on is that in this iteration, Gawain has no father present, nor any male role model. He’s not unkind. In fact, he’s a confused but largely kindhearted young man. He’s not unloved. He has a mother who loves him dearly and an erstwhile partner. But there’s no father figure present (something the King actually laments at one point: that he was not there as Gawain, his nephew was growing up) and it shows in the uncertainty that plagues Gawain throughout the film. He doesn’t know himself but moreover doesn’t trust himself. He doesn’t think he is worth anything (again, this comes out when Arthur invites him to take a seat at the royal table). He had the beauty and benefit of a mother’s love but there was no comparable male figure to show him how to be a man. (His mother is awesome, by the way: a seeress and sorcerous who, with her magic, sets all this in motion to give her son a chance to find himself. In the end he does, but it takes male figures: Arthur, the Lord of the Castle of distractions, the Green Knight himself to show him how to do this). 

The fox was my favorite part. It reminded me in personality of my cat Elena. 

Gawain went on a quest. The purpose of a quest is the honing of a man. The purpose of a quest is facing challenges and finding one’s honor and courage. Gawain wanted to become a knight. He’s challenged on this in the Castle of distractions. The Lord of the castle asked him, “is it just one and done? You’re knighted and then you’re a new person and that’s it?” and Gawain (a little slow on the uptake) says, “yes.” But that’s not it, as he finds out. Honor, the making of character, the making of a man (or a woman) is not ever defined by one instance. It’s making the right choices again and again and again, sometimes under horrible circumstances. It’s a never-ending process. 

Gawain is challenged at every turn: to look beyond pleasure and carnal enjoyment, to do the right thing without expectation of reward, to act with integrity even in the face of fear and death, to focus, to be courageous, to keep his word, and most of all to make the hardest choices of all. 

SERIOUS SPOILER FOLLOWS

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When he is kneeling before Green Knight, he flinches several times when the knight goes to strike. We see him running out of the cave, saying he’s sorry but he can’t do it. Then we see him being knighted, becoming Arthur’s heir, discarding his low born lover after taking their child from her (the worst scene in the movie in my opinion), marrying a princess, waging war, losing his son in war and seeing what kind of hard, pitiless man he will become if he goes home on the wings of stolen valor, instead of earning it rightly (even though earning it means pain, scars, and maybe even death). There’s an earlier flash when he is bound, having been overtaken by brigands and we see a skeletal body garbed just like him. The meaning is clear: you have a choice to give up or fight and use your mind and persevere. He meets that challenge. We find out at the end, that the horrible, brutal, merciless, cold, stone hearted man he has become at the end was a vision given to him by the Green Knight, conjured up by his mother a year earlier: this is what you will become if you don’t make the right choices. Choose. It’s up to you and every one of them counts; and in the end, Gawain faces the Green Knight realizing it is better to die a good, honorable man than live without manhood. 

Dev Patel is absolutely amazing in this role (the entire cast is amazing). He plays a Gawain who is insecure, who wants to be a good man but has no idea how and often feels hopeless and worthless. There’s a confused vulnerability there (which makes the contrast with the king he becomes in the alternate future vision all the more compelling), as though he can almost grasp the lesson but then is wrong again and again, screwing up again and again, until finally he learns to trust himself and makes his final choice, a good choice, and in doing so becomes the man he has always wished to be. 

As an aside, there were two other couples in the theater. I had almost as much enjoyment watching their confusion at the end, as I did watching the movie. They had zero idea what was happening at the end. It’s a type of story-telling we don’t see very often anymore (and the pacing was at once fast and very slow) because no one is reading the Classics of ancient and medieval literature anymore. There are a thousand layers to this story, and a thousand tips for moving in a world that is as much spirit as corporeal force. 

Best lines: 

When Arthur asks Gawain to tell him a story of Gawain’s accomplishments in the beginning, the young man says, “I have nothing to tell.” And the Queen interjects, “Yet.” 

Yes, exactly: yet. That tells you there, the type of journey this will be. (Also, as an aside, the Queen is arrayed like a votive image of the Madonna – one at Koln Cathedral in particular comes to mind – with her entire dress covered in Milagros). 

Finally, during one of his challenges, Gawain says to St. Winifred (who has asked him to help her find her head, which was tossed in a spring): are you real or a spirit?

St. W.: Is there a difference? I need my head. 

I gave a little cheer. 

Iconoclasm, Iconophile, Icono-clash?

Dver has a thoughtful post about deity images versus an-iconic veneration. You can read that here (and I really suggest you do. She brings up a lot of things that we should be considering in our worship). I wanted to share her post here along with my own thoughts, quickly brought together on the matter, which I likewise posted in response there.

I think though that there is equal danger in conceptualizing our Deities as abstractions: God is love. Sib is hospitality, frith, etc. It erodes Their Being-ness into something that demands very little active, personal engagement.

I detest, absolutely detest the Marvel Loki influence on Lokean iconography, all the more because I think that most of the young Lokeans indulging in this are NOT conceptually clear about precisely Whom or what they’re venerating. I don’t think there are many times where I would accept icons of the Gods based on actual people (I’ve seen some gorgeous Orisha art the past year where men and women were dressed as the various Orisha and while I recognize the devotion behind it, and find the art itself beautiful qua art, I would never use these images devotionally. I’d consider it very impious because of the potential to direct that veneration toward the handsome man or beautiful woman in the image). It’s easy for that cognition to slip into what is more easily grasped or recognized (the benefit that aniconic worship has, I suspect is that this potential is far, far less).

So that being said, I still come down on the use of images, but carefully. I judge traditions by their aesthetics because Beauty leads one to the Gods. It’s important. it speaks to the senses and the spiritual senses. Abstractions about the Gods have their benefit (Because really, the Holy Powers are not limited to anything we can conceive) but look at modern Protestant traditions or even modern Catholicism with their God is love BS. Where are the mystics? You lose something when you reduce the Gods to abstractions just as you lose something when you become to invested in the image.

I learned a new term today (having just taught a Byzantine Christianity course about the iconoclasm conflict): Icono-clash. Maybe that’s what we have here and maybe it’s good. Let’s have both and argue and discuss and find more ways for the Gods to come through. But you know what we shouldn’t have: fucking images of actors with the misapprehension that this somehow represents our Gods.

So that was the end of my posted comment. Thinking further, I think it’s crucial that we not invest the image with the attention given to the Gods. It’s a placeholder. It’s a doorway. It’s a telephone. It’s a means by which for devotion. The devotion, the worship, the veneration, the adoration goes to that which the image represents (even for those images that have been enlivened into homes for the Gods and spirits). It’s a crucial distinction. These things are means by which the Gods may touch us. They are not Gods themselves. No thing wrought by man as the Christians would argue is a God. But Beauty, Truth, Goodness, Art, these things elevate our souls to the divine and in this way, through sacred images we participate more fully in that devotional economy. We are, after all, creatures of the senses. Odin, Hoenir, and Loður gave us our breath, our cognition, and our sensorium (respectively) for a reason and having that means by which to connect to the Gods is a good thing. Being able to do so without — to understand to our core that the statue imbued with divine energy because it has been blessed by the Gods, because it is a focal point of venerative worship, because it is holy as all that has come into contact with the Powers is holy, is a doorway and tool, NOT the Power itself–is also good for the soul, cleansing. So long as we don’t go into full iconoclasm.

This is the main issue I really have with Pop culture imagery seeping into iconography of certain of our Gods. Without proper respect for elders and the tradition, without good spiritual direction, often without any religious upbringing, with less sense and more emotion and attraction toward the actors in question, I’m really not sure that those using images of Marvel Loki for the real Loki are, in the depths of their souls certain about Whom they’re venerating and that, spiritually is a problem. It’s not that the Gods cannot work through such images, it’s that we’re generally as a species idiots. I feel about this the same way I feel when New Agers (and some who should know better) go on about ‘Oh Spirit…’ ok, which one? Evil spirits are spirits. What exactly are you calling? To Whom is the veneration given? It matters.

The main thing here, and I think this comes out in Dver’s beautiful piece, is that it’s important to be mindful with our Gods and in our devotions. It’s important to remember that the image is beautiful, holy but the Gods are so very much more. The image is for our convenience, not Theirs.

The World Between Empires : Met Exhibition from 2019 online (it’s really cool)

My friend KV sent me this today, as we were discussing Byzantium, Arabs, and the Rise of Islam, and how all these cultures intermingled etc. It was a fascinating discussion and this exhibit is equally so (my friend mentioned how you can’t necessarily trust museum attributions: an item can be equally positioned as byzantine, Italian, Frankish, or Muslim depending on where it was created, through whose hands it passed, where it was used, etc. there’s a certain level of arbitrariness about it all). It does a really, really good job of showing the global reality of Rome, the Middle East, Parthia, and Byzantium. There is some really gorgeous art here. Check it out. Be sure to scroll all the way down for the podcasts and videos.

2019 Metropolitan Museum exhibit, currently online in digital form.

One More Way to Remember Our Dead

Royal School of Needlework has an ongoing project that allows individuals to “sponsor” a stitch for their “stitchbank.” It’s a fantastic resource for historians and of course, for those who are learning to embroider. RSN correctly points out that embroiderers throughout history have rarely signed their work. We have many, many examples of this beautiful art from antiquity all the way up to the present, but rarely, very, very rarely do we know the names of the (mostly) women who created them (1). This stitchbank is preserving these stitches with the names of either those who sponsored them or those for whom a stitch has been sponsored. I think that is pretty cool. 

There are lots of things that we can do to honor our ancestors. I think it’s important to remember though that until the 20th century, a huge portion of our female ancestors’ time would have been taken up with textile production: spinning, in some cases weaving, sewing, knitting or crochet, and for those who had the time, embroidery – adornment.  Depending on the period of history about which we’re speaking, one couldn’t just go to the store and purchase thread. Thread started with sheep. You had sheep, you cut off the wool, carded and spun that into thread and then that thread could be dyed, woven, etc. etc. One could trade for these goods, I suppose, but in the end, anything one wore began with an animal or a plant and a terrifying amount of work. Whenever I embroidery, mend, or select clothing, I think of my female dead and the valence such things must, of necessity had for them (2). 

So, and my point to all of this, is that I decided to sponsor a stitch for my maternal grandmother Linnie Shoff Hanna (1909-1987). She got assigned the cloud stitch (not posted yet that I saw) and I am delighted. She was the one who first taught me to embroider. I remember how hard it was to learn French knots. She took a piece of nice linen, drew a rabbit holding a carrot and had me make his eye out of a French knot. That was my reward for learning how to do it and when I’d outlined the whole thing and satin stitched the carrot, she made it into a pin cushion for me. Whenever I embroider now, I am inevitably beginning and ending the process with prayers to my maternal dead. It is a way to feel closer to them, to keep them in living memory, as I go about my daily work. May the names of our dead always be remembered. 

Notes: 

  1. The exception, I think, are samplers. Young girls would sometimes sign their samplers. Also, in colonial America, very little boys were sometimes given samplers to do as punishment (the annoying thing is that some of these samplers are better than anything I can do today lol). 
  2. This is one of the reasons that I try to wear clothes made only of natural fibers (wool, cotton, linen, silk, etc.) and, when I can afford it, handmade. I don’t sew well enough to make my own clothes, but I’ve been outsourcing a few things to a terrifyingly gifted seamstress and it is so much better, better made, and longer lasting than clothing purchased off the rack. It’s expensive and I acknowledge that this isn’t something everyone can do (and I can’t afford it for everything) but if you can sew, give making your own clothes a shot. If you can afford it, try getting a bespoke suit once in your life. It changes one’s relationship to one’s clothing, to production, craft, and it really, really makes one aware of the attitude of disposability and planned obsolescence that so define our modern purchasing experience. 

A Fantastic Find and I’m Going to Brag

I don’t usually share things like this, but I am so excited about a recent acquisition that I cannot help myself. Y’all know that I venerate the castrati as a family of ancestral spirits (yes, I know, but it doesn’t matter that they’re not technically my blood ancestors; I love them and they are spiritual ancestors for me). Well, being the tactile person that I am, when I am learning how to honor and engage with a new family of spirits, it often helps to have physical objects. If I am learning proper veneration to a new Deity, I’ll set up a shrine for the same purpose(1). If I’m engaging with an animal spirit as a spirit worker, I want a tooth, claw, or bit of fur, and likewise with my ancestors whenever possible, I like to have a photo or some item that belonged to them. Is this a bit reductionist? Yes. Is it absolutely necessary? Not at all, and in fact, I’ve been honoring the castrati both as a group and as individuals for close to a decade now without having anything approximating a physical object, unless one counts the music they once sang. 

Well, today I can happily say that I now own a scrap of music handwritten and signed by one of the last of the great vocal castrati: Girolamo Crescentini (1762-1846) (2). He was equally regarded as a singer, teacher, and composer and what I acquired today was a bit of music written by him for a correspondent or friend (It is unclear from the provenance for whom he originally wrote the piece). Crescentini was a favorite of Napoleon, (who otherwise despised castrati) who knighted him in 1809. 

What is pictured here is an autographed six bar musical quotation of an arietta, in Crescentini’s own hand. Since he signed it ‘cav. (cavalier) Crescentini,’ we know it must have been written after 1809. There is a little note: Due note sol da mi fibra mi! Assai di piu assai di pire tene do no (You wish to receive just two notes from me, I give you more and more of them). Signed: carattere, e compisizione del Cav. Crescentini (Character and composition of Cavalier Crescentini). 

 I never expected to find something like this and in fact, last year I had an antique dealer who specialized in autographs and musical scores tell me it was nearly impossible to find anything written or signed by the castrati (a Meissen teapot owned by Senesino (1686-1758) came up for auction last year, I believe, but it was way, way, WAY out of my price league omg). I do have a couple medieval manuscript leaves. I pick up inexpensive ones here and there, usually at the medieval conference at Kalamazoo – their book room is heaven and the MSS dealers always have at least a bit priced low for grad students–because they are helpful when I teach. I find students become really engaged when they can actually touch a piece of history and hold it in their hands. It brings it alive like nothing else. None of leaves approach this 5.24×6 inch scrap of music. This is a personal connection to a family of spirits, to one particular spirit that I never, ever, ever expected to find and I am grateful to the Gods and ancestors that I happened to stumble across it (and that it was both relatively inexpensive – it’s small—and within my budget). 

Look. Look at the pretty thing. ^___^. (I’ve very inexpertly blurred my address bc I liked the photo and didn’t want to pull everything out to take it a second time when I realized my home addy showed).

musical notation, inscription, and signature of G. Crescentini. Personal collection of G. Krasskova

  1. At least, that is part of the purpose. The other part, of course, is that this is a space for veneration and a visual sign of welcome for that Deity into one’s home and life. 
  2. The very last of the great operatic castrati was Giovanni Velluti (1780-1861), a younger contemporary of Crescentini. 

Word of the Year

I got this idea from a genealogy list that I follow (and highly recommend. Check it out here). Instead of making resolutions for the New Year, this genealogist suggests that one choose a word to be a focal point throughout the year. It represents your goals, what you wish to achieve, what you want to be the hub around which everything else revolves for the coming year. I really like this idea. I like having a single touchstone to guide one, a single point to which one can return again and again when chaos and stress threaten to derail one’s endeavors. I also like words. This is a win-win for me and maybe for some of you too.

So, I am choosing two, and may they work together like a pair of interlocking hands, each one supporting and strengthening the other: focus and devotion

I think one thing we upon which we can all agree is that 2020 was a really terrible year for so many people. 2021 has already begun, chaotic and terrifying. I write a lot about how it can be difficult to motivate oneself to begin consistent devotional practices, how we can all grow forgetful or obstinate in our devotions, how sometimes it’s just hard to organize oneself to stay the course. All of that is true (Gods know I’ve been through it all myself). What I don’t talk about as much as I should is that external pressures can be equally problematic, and sometimes more so. It can be very, very easy to fall away from one’s devotional practices, especially when anxieties are running high, especially when we’re busy, especially when we need those devotional practices the most. I also really think that devotion, religion, simple piety are all under attack in our world and that can create a terrible degree of resistance as we struggle to find and maintain our footing in our religious and devotional worlds. The key to countering this is to control the parts that are within our power to control.

Let me offer an example: If I’m having trouble getting up to pray in the morning and I really, really want to do this (or more importantly, I feel that my Deity wants me to do this), well, I can choose to go to bed earlier. (This is, admittedly, a very simple example, but use your imaginations and expand the metaphor). That involves something within my power to change and control. That’s not the case with a lot of external stressors so it can be helpful, I think, to have a by-word or touchstone to guide one along the way. It also gives one a lens through which to focus one’s meditation, which is also helpful. 

My devotion to the Holy Powers is the single most important thing in my life. I want to stay clean there, engaged – fiercely engaged, and focused. I don’t want to allow myself to get carried away on a tide of emotion, of frenetic work, of anxiety, stress, and most of all, I don’t want to fall prey to acedia. I have in the past and it is a terrible thing, a deep, dank pit from which the climb back to the light is hard and painful.  

That’s why my second word is ‘focus.’ I don’t want anything to get in the way of my focus, not only devotionally, but across all avenues of my work. Stress can wear a person out and Gods know the past year has been so, and let’s be honest, when it comes to stress, this year isn’t looking great either. I don’t want any of that to impinge upon my focus. I want these two words: focus and devotion to be emblazoned on my brain as something to strive to, to return to again and again, to cultivate, and hone. It gives me a reminder, something to guide my way back when I wander off my self-chosen path, and I’m curious to see the results. 

Excellence in anything, after all, must be (as Aristotle opined) conciously cultivated. It doesn’t just happen. We have a lot of power and potential to cultivate ourselves, especially in the intangible world of devotion. There are so many ways we can go to our Gods and venerate Them. There are always going to be external stressors that we can’t control. I think it’s important to focus on what we CAN. So, (leaving aside those words, you know which ones I mean lol) what are your words, my readers, for the coming year? 

A Zentangle drawing by Lynn Vaughn Allen — I love word art. I think this is just charming. I don’t know Ms. Allen. Don’t go harassing her now. I just found this image on Pinterest.

May Hermes Be Hailed Now and Always!

What a beautiful thing! Someone did a bit of guerilla art: this person put up a shrine to Hermes in the Brooklyn subway. My friend M. sent me the link yesterday and you can check it out here. I think this is just wonderful (and I particularly like that it looks like some offerings have been made). We need more of this! May Hermes and all our Gods ever and always be loved.

Here are some pictures from the link above of the shrine. May Hermes smile upon whoever did this. Bravo/a.