Surrounded By Blessings

•07/28/2016 • Leave a Comment

One of the recurring themes of my life is that I am intensely focused on whatever it is that I’m intrigued with at the moment, whether it’s religious or food related. Or perhaps something else entirely.

I will obsessively read whatever I can upon the subject.

Then, a distraction comes. A shiny new take on an old interest, or something completely new. And then that consumes me.

I often feel like I’m a bad polytheist because of this.

For a while, I was obsessed with Aphrodite and Hellenic polytheism. I’d made a promise to someone I’d never met at PantheaCon (kinda unwillingly) that I was going to work to rebuild Hellenic worship in Boston. (It wasn’t a vow. It was more of a sacred charge the priestess at the Hellenic shrine in one of the suites put before me.)

I checked with diviners to determine my course of action. I gave offerings regularly to Aphrodite for two months. (I gave either  I thought of it as a trial period. I made no vows to Her or any of the gods that I would continue. But my fervor dimmed. Then, I moved and it took a while to set up my altars. In that pause, I don’t want to say I lost interest. But it feels more like an obligation rather than love. I set up my altar to Aphrodite and still give offerings but I don’t feel as into it as I was.

On the other hand, we have Sri Ganesha. Now I’ve been off-and-on in my devotion to Ganesha over the years. Some months, my altar has done nothing but collect dust. Especially the years around my transplant, when I felt like I’d been abandoned by Him (for various reasons).

But I always keep coming back and, as the years go by, I feel the connection growing deeper and deeper. After 16 or so years, I feel a confidence to my Ganesh-worship. I worship in the morning, worship in the evening. I give what I can give, both in time and physical offering.

I see His influence in my life. Are all of my obstacles removed? No. Definitely not. But I have been blessed with a wonderful new apartment, a kind, beautiful, and amazing partner who loves me despite my craziness and eccentricities, a job which can be annoying but is still the best job I’ve ever had. I have the means to support myself and enough time to focus on things like blogging or worship or my cooking experiments. (I recently made my own homemade tofu! I should start a food blog.)

In a way, I see Aphrodite’s influence in my life as well. I am, and have been for all of my life, surrounded by love. Sometimes I’m too caught in my own shit to recognize it, but it’s there. I have been very blessed. I had a brother who gave up his kidney for me. I had parents who spent night after sleepless night taking care of me. (I was a very sick infant.) I have a wonderful girlfriend who has to remind me of things on a regular basis because my head is constantly in the clouds. I have a community of friends (Big F and little f) in the Quaker house I recently moved out of.

If that’s not Aphrodite’s favor, I don’t know what is. And I am deeply thankful for it. That’s what gets me going back to Her altar.

 

There’s a prayer that I made up for Sri Ganesha.

The image on my altar has a fairly common depiction of Him with four arms. He holds a noose in His upper left hand, a goad (like a dull axe, used to direct movement in elephants) in His upper right hand, His lower right hand is in the abhaya position (which means “fear not”) and the lower left hand carries sweets.

My prayer is “O Lord Ganesha, with your noose, pull me closer to You and what You want for me. With Your goad, keep me away from that which is harmful to me or that which separates me from You. May I always remember that I have taken refuge in You and not fear or worry. May I always be mindful of the many blessings You have surrounded me with, and not take them for granted.”

There’s a tendency to focus on the obstacles in life (and there will always be obstacles). But by focusing on the blessings, and affirming this on a daily basis..or even a weekly one, it helps me to overcome that attitude…which is, in itself…an obstacle.

 

Devotion Is Simple-PSVL

•07/21/2016 • Leave a Comment

I’m reblogging a blog entry from PSVL of Aedicula Antinoi on devotion because it’s excellently written and it’s something that really resonated with me. It’s a very long and in-depth piece but if you’re interested in polytheistic devotional work, it’s really worth your time.

 

 

New Home for Sri Ganapati!

•07/15/2016 • Leave a Comment

One of the advantages of worshipping a deity associated with an already established ancient religion is that if I want to obtain something for or associated with that deity, it’s not that difficult. Especially with the advent of the Internet. Often, it’s only an Amazon order away.

As mentioned previously, I lived at the Friends House. They have a four year limit on residency. I reached my four year mark at the end of June. At the beginning of June, I did not know where I was going to be moving to and was slightly panicked.

“Relax”, said the Ganesh in my head. “You’ve taken refuge in me. I’ll handle it.”

I asked Sri Ganapati for an apartment my partner and I could afford that would give me the privacy for my worship that I required. It seemed like a big ask. I’d wanted a 2 bedroom but nothing in Boston was within our price range.

I promised Him that I would do something special for Him if I was able to get what I needed.

Lo and behold, a beautiful first floor apartment in a 100 year old house was available for rent in a price we could afford. It was right by public transit and had its own washer/dryer. There was even a dishwasher and a garbage disposal! We looked at the place and loved it. I was doubtful we’d get it. All of the wonderful apartments seemed to get snatched up quickly by people who were not us.

But, thanks to the Lord, we got this wonderful place. It seemed miraculous! What a blessing!

Of course, now I had to make good on my promise!

I found a wonderful ‘house’ for my Sri Ganesha shrine made for Hindu worship. It was beautiful and perfect. A home for a home! JAI SRI GANAPATAYE NAMAHA!

Shinto

•07/11/2016 • Leave a Comment

I’m not exactly a Japanophile but there’s a lot that I respect about Japanese culture. In particular, two things: the way that traditional food still lives on in part of the culture and that their traditional religion (Shinto) lives on.

I’m not going to get into the details of Shinto (there are far better resources than I) but it is both polytheistic and animistic. It celebrates the beauty of Nature as well as the seasons. Traditional Japanese cuisine as well. In particular, kaiseki cuisine…the cuisine of the ryokan (the country inn).

It celebrates freshness and seasonality of vegetables and other food. It is traditional. Everything is made by hand and often plated on traditional hand-made plates.

Now, just to be upfront, I’ve never been to Japan. So I’m looking at this through idealistic lenses based solely upon things I’ve read and documentaries I’ve watched.

One of my interests outside of religion is food. Specifically, traditional (and healthy) foods and, even more specifically, fermented foods. Japan has a lot of esoteric forms of fermentation and that caught my interest.

Naturally, as a result of researching traditional Japanese culture, one comes across Shinto.

I’ve already seen attempts by Westerners to bring Shinto to the West and while I find it intriguing, Shinto is about the most ethnic religion you can find. Very folkish. It’s baffling to modern Japanese why a non-Japanese would want to be Shinto.

Additionally, while it’s one thing to want to revive lost ancient polytheistic religions, Shinto is still a living tradition. It seems to me to be a form of cultural imperialism for a Westerner to become Shinto (unless, maybe if one were in Japan or married into a Japanese family).

I have similar misgivings with some Westerners practicing Hinduism as if it’s a fashion statement, but then I also have a relationship with Sri Ganesha  As long as it’s done with a respectful attitude towards the existing culture and there is an attempt to worship traditionally, I don’t mind. But then, I’m not the arbiter of what is or is not acceptable..other than for myself. In the end, it is all about what the gods want.

I bring all of this up because I think that in recreating Western polytheism, it’s good to look to how surviving polytheistic cultures integrate their ancient religious practices into the modern day.

Perhaps one should be cautious, though, because if you go too modern, you risk contamination by the overculture.

Our Western polytheisms are still young. We are in a place where we, as individuals can shape it.

I believe that a Shinto-like aesthetic where Nature and seasonality are still revered is an important aspect. Sure, one can argue that Paganism already offers that, right? I mean, there are the Sabbats…and the Sabbats celebrate the four seasons.

But that’s part of my issue with the Sabbat-based format. It takes the four seasons (which are based on the British Isles) and imposes it artificially upon all of Paganism. I lived in Florida for 14 years. Florida seasons are not the seasons of the British Isles. Neither, I imagine, are those in California.

Yes, the gods are the essential aspect of polytheism but we must not forget about our connection with Nature and the place we live in.

Shinto takes great care to respect the beauty of Nature. I believe the future of Paganism must do the same.

•06/24/2016 • Leave a Comment

It’s becoming evident to me that I am not specifically a Hellenic Pagan. Or any particular ancient tradition.

Due to illness, I have been giving regular prayer and offerings to Brigid. I enjoy the Book of Hours that Clann Bhride put out. It feels almost devotional Christian, which I find oddly pleasing. It’s Pagan but also recognizes that there is a Christian element to Her worship…and it shouldn’t be discarded.

So there are a few deities that are my focus. Each of different traditions. Brigid (Gaelic), Aphrodite (Greek), and Sri Ganesha (Hindu). Every once in a while, I will also give worship to Sri Ganapati’s parents, Shiva and Devi, as well.

 

I am sometimes self-conscious about being one of those “pick-and-choose” type Pagans but I try to respect the original culture and worship of these individual deities. I burn olive oil lamps to Aphrodite, ghee for Ganesha. I give different offerings to each. And, if possible, approach each in the original language.

(Since I’ve worshipped Ganesha for about 16 years, I’ve picked up a bunch of Sanskrit titles and mantras. I don’t know any Greek other than some epithets for Aphrodite, which I try to use during Her worship. There are Gaelic songs for Brigid in the Clann Bhride book that I’ll try to sing).

I find it hard relating to any specific pantheon. If you look at the ancient Greeks and Romans, they were open to many different deities from many different places. (Though there was an unfortunate tendency, especially in Rome, to take another culture’s god and label them as a version of a particular Roman deity.)

I feel as though trying to strictly recreate a particular culture specifically is almost like play-acting. Nova Roma is a Roman reconstructionist group that has its own Roman senate, coins, and everything. But this world that we live in is decidedly a post-Rome world.

We are modern-day Pagans. We cannot ignore the 1600 or so years of history in between the rise of Christianity and revival of Paganism. While I think it’s important to look to the past for inspiration, the world has changed. And not all of that change has been bad. Slavery and misogyny were rampant in ancient cultures. I do not wish to go back to those times.

In a sense, we are living in our own golden age. How can we approach Paganism in a way that makes this world an even better place to live?

Of course, it’s not about us. It’s about the gods. But surely they’ve come back to us now for a reason. Do we recreate the mistakes of the past? How can we avoid this?

I believe the answer lies in prayer and devotion to the gods.

 

Just don’t call me a druid…

•06/21/2016 • Leave a Comment

I’ve been exploring Ar nDraiocht Fein (ADF) lately. I signed up as a member to see if it’s a good fit.

First off, my background with them is limited. I became a Pagan in 1993. In 1994, I moved to Tallahassee, Florida along with my two good friends to go to college and live with my brother. While there, I met up with a guy who had his own local Druid group. He was affiliated with ADF and did ADF-style rituals. We became good friends and in the year or so that I was in Tallahassee, I spent quite a bit of time hanging out with him.

When he got married shortly after I moved away from Tallahassee, the wedding was performed by Isaac Bonewits and one of our group’s priestesses. At the reception, I tried to talk to Isaac about Druidry, his life and experience, etc…but he was a little intoxicated and had no interest in talking to a geeky awkward 21 year old dude. He was trying to score with a priestess. I awkwardly bowed out of the conversation once I realized that I was cockblocking the Archdruid of ADF and coiner of the word “Neopagan”.

Over the years, I’d been curious to explore further…and even attended some local ADF rituals when I lived in the Jersey Shore during my illness.

Here’s what I like so far and what I don’t like:

-I really like the emphasis on scholarship. It was one of the first NeoPagan groups to really do this. It was sorely lacking in Paganism at the time.

-That said, despite the emphasis on scholarship, they still require their groves to publicly perform rituals for the Wiccan 8 sabbat “wheel of the year”, which is decidedly a modern innovation. (I’m more of the opinion that Wiccanisms should be phased out of modern Paganism unless one is Wiccan.). I do like that they emphasize public rituals, though, rather than secretive cult initiatory meetings as with Wicca and OTO. (No doubt inspired by the Freemasonic influence within both.)

-I find the emphasis on Indo-European religion intriguing. Though it seems odd to me that a group specifically focused on Druidry and which also seems to emphasize Gaelic deities/phrases/whiskey to be a little incongruous with the larger focus on I-E religion.

(I’m not as big of an I-E religion fan. I tend to be more intrigued by the matriarchal religions that the I-E religion supplanted and mingled with. For example, I have little interest in Vedic religion but Sakta Tantrik Hinduism is fascinating to me. The same goes with some of the Hellenic cults.)

-I like the emphasis on creating a shrine and developing a shrine culture. The eventual goal of ADF is to establish temples, which I think should be lauded. I would love to see that as well. Though I do think it’s odd that this doesn’t seem to have happened yet. They’re one of the older, more established Pagan organizations.

-I really don’t relate to the term “druid”. In the past, when I was a baby Pagan, I did. But as a Pagan of twenty-something years, “druid” tends to connote dressing up and playing pretend to me. I associate it more with New Age than Paganism. Often times, people that call themselves druids also believe in Merlin and are really into crystals. Which is great for them, but I’m not sure there’s much of a place for that within Paganism.

-I admire a group that has a well-thought out training curriculum. ADF has the Dedicant Path, which is somewhat impressive, so far.

Joining was a bit of a brash move but I wanted to go through their literature. There’s no local group here in Boston. The nearest local grove is up in New Hampshire, I believe, which is an Amtrak train ride away (i.e, expensive). So I’ll be exploring it as a solitary.

Just don’t call me a druid…

Orlando

•06/16/2016 • Leave a Comment

My heart grieves for the tragedy in Orlando.

This isn’t a time for your politics. There can be a time for that.

But mourning the dead should take priority. There are fifty dead people. Their families and loved ones are grieving.

The finger-pointing and politicizing I’ve been seeing over this atrocity (from both sides) is ghastly.

The Saturday before the tragedy, we celebrated Pride here in Boston. I spent the day visiting the booths in City Hall Plaza. There were several different religions represented: Hare Krishnas, a LGBT Catholic group, a Japanese Buddhist group, Metropolitan Community Church, some Episcopal groups, the UUs, of course…even the local chapter of The Satanic Temple.

I wondered then why there wasn’t any sort of Pagan presence. We’re one of the most LGBT-friendly religions on the planet!

Then after the tragedy that night, I had wished that there was a place where we could gather together as a community to grieve, to remember, to pay tribute before our gods.

Yes, there are our individual home shrines. Yes, the gods are there. But sometimes I need community. Sometimes I don’t want to have to grieve or suffer alone.

 
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