My Comfort Zone at the End of the Vine

•07/14/2017 • 6 Comments

Recently, I started a class put on by an initiatory Dionysian group. I was curious because there were people whose writing I deeply respect involved in the group. I was curious about this class, so I requested a reading from a diviner. Her reading indicated that the god (Dionysus) has something to teach me.

 

So far, it’s intriguing but I’ll openly admit that I am struggling with a connection to Dionysus.

 

As a queer person interested in fermentation who was a theatre major in college, one would think a connection with Dionysus would be a no-brainer. But there are roadblocks for me.

 

While I do drink alcohol, I drink only a small amount. It’s rare that I’ll have anything more than two drinks (generally beer). Never more than three… even this is only a couple of times in a month at best. After having received a kidney transplant, I drink only in moderation.

 

However…to get personal, I am very uncomfortable being around drunk people. Drunk people often lose respect for boundaries. As someone who has been raped and molested, I count on those boundaries for a feeling of safety when interacting with people.

 

When the Quaker intentional community that I moved into 5 years ago had a very intentional alcohol policy that provided protocols for those that were not comfortable around alcohol, I was happy.

 

When I got hired at my unique non-profit private hotel, I was thrilled to learn that alcohol and drunkenness were expressly not allowed on the premises. (Our establishment was founded in the mid-1800s by a temperance-promoting preacher who established it as a safe house for sailors to live and stay away from the temptations of drink.)

 

After having worked in the industry since 2001, I’ve dealt with my share of drunk hotel guests. I loved this.

 

I’ve been finding comfort in being in spaces that were either conscientious about the effects of alcohol or strictly forbade it.

 

Dionysus, though, is not about safety. He is NOT about comfort. Maybe this need for safety around drunk people has been a crutch? I don’t know. Maybe that’s what He has to teach me.

 

As Neale Donald Walsch once wrote “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone”.

 

I need to set up a shrine but I have not done so yet because I’m still struggling with forming a personal connection with Him. I have strong feelings about drunk people. Negative feelings. Fear. Anger. Not to mention the negativity I have towards male beings.

I hope this connection with Him helps me to process that. Maybe this is just what I needed.

Aphrodite Shrine update

•07/10/2017 • 2 Comments

Spent some time (and money) working on my Aphrodite shrine as a devotion.

Previously, I’d had only red altar cloths (left over from Ganesha). This sat wrong with me. I mean, the cloths were not consecrated to Ganesha, so it wasn’t the re-using of cloths. I think the color bothered me.

Though reds and pinks are associated with love in our culture, 
I looked up traditional attributions and saw that blues and greens were more strongly associated with Aphrodite in ancient Greece.

So I ordered a cheap but sturdy end table for $15 on Amazon, ordered aqua-colored altar cloths and an iridescent organza.

Right now, the organza is acting as a sort of veil which I lift when I come to visit or with offerings. I already had a bunch of seashells that I lay strewn at Her feet.

I think I might get some small lights as well to hang. Perhaps a large scallop shell as well to place behind Her image. Once I get it to where I think She wants it, I’ll post some photos (if She allows).

Additionally, I’d like some stars there as well to hang at the top to represent the celestial Aphrodite, Aphrodite Urania.

If I can find a way to represent sea, land, and sky, it’d be an honor to Aphrodite Limenia.

Restoring Mayberry?

•06/29/2017 • Leave a Comment

I find that this blog post touches something within me.
I’ve talked about an interest in traditional societies and whatnot. I have this deep sensation of our society being rootless and replacing what is real and deep and meaningful with celebrities, with money, with Facebook. (Guilty!)

However, the author mentions 1950s America. Which as the Baby Boomers become our elders gets easily idealized as the golden time of their youth. When they had no responsibility and kids could play on their own in small towns or big cities without fear, for the most part.

I don’t see that time as a particularly good time for the majority of people but white straight Christian men. In fact, even now is not a great time for people outside of this group (though some progress has been made).

I still feel like our society is deeply unmoored from something meaningful, but I think our growing movement towards egalitarianism is one of the things that we, as a society, are doing right.

This author isn’t doing it explicitly but these sentiments can easily be twisted into a sentiment of “things were great until we let women out of the kitchen”. Or “until the government forced us to integrate with the coloreds”. Or “until all those Jews came here”. Or foreigners. Or homosexuals. Or whatever out group that people have fought to have society include.

(The author lives in Ireland now, but surely Irish Catholic immigrants were seen by some in 1950s America as a threat. See the John Birch Society, the KKK, all of the hubbub about JFK becoming President a short time later, etc.)

I love that there’s a discussion about the dying of traditions, our lack of meaning in our society, our idolization of money and things, our society’s eroding of morality. (Not necessarily in a Judeo-Christian sense, but in the sense of being good people.)

But if it shifts the blame on a former out-group being included, I’m not on board. If it longs to return to a time when women were treated as less than men, then I have no interest in it.

We can look at the past to find out what we’re missing, study the traditions we’ve lost, figure out where to place our anchors, but let’s not idealize the racism, sexism, bigotry that people fought hard to move past.

That said, I still really enjoyed this piece.

Five Years Ago

•06/28/2017 • Leave a Comment

This has little to do with polytheism and is more of a personal post, so if you’re only interested in polytheistic religion-related posts, feel free to pass this one by.

 

In a couple of days, it’ll be a year since I moved out of the Friends House and 5 years since I moved to Boston. It’s been on my mind, so I’m processing that by writing about it.

 

When I moved to Boston five years ago, I was recovering from surgery that literally saved my life.

 

My kidneys failed in 2010. I was on dialysis for two years.Then in 2012, I had a transplant. It gave me new life.

 

After my kidney failure, I tried to convert back to the religion I was raised in, Catholicism. It’s not that I specifically believed in it or knew it to be true. Rather, I was in love with the culture of devotion. I was in love with monasticism and wanted to be a monk. I had fallen in love with the traditions that had been kept alive in monasteries. Life would be easier. Catholicism has traditions that are 1000 years old. I could find a place there, certainly. Hell, there’s a shortage of monastics. Today’s monks are older, less active. Many monasteries are closing down.

 

I applied to monasteries and to friaries. Even interviewed at one. It wasn’t the right place for me.

 

After some soul-searching. I couldn’t do it. I knew in my heart that I was not a Catholic. I couldn’t say the Apostles Creed and mean it. Once again, I became a Pagan but I still had a very vague sense of what that meant to me. Also, despite not being a monk, I still wanted to live in a community. I searched online for various intentional communities around the country.

 

Eventually, I found a community whose values I agreed with. Beacon Hill Friends House. It’s a Quaker-run intentional community in the heart of Boston. I interviewed and got accepted. For four years, I lived with 20 other people of various backgrounds in a mansion from around 1803-4.

 

While it wasn’t very much like a monastery, it ended up being exactly what I needed at the time. Though it was expected that one adheres to Quaker values (Silence, Peace, Integrity, Community, Equality, etc.), one did not have to be a Quaker to live there. In fact, I think that as a Pagan, I brought a religious diversity that had not been there previously.

 

I still craved devotion in my life, but I had no real sense of direction. I knew I wasn’t Wiccan. I knew I wasn’t a druid or a recon. I’ve had an on-again, off-again relationship with Sri Ganapati for years but I knew I didn’t identify fully as a Hindu.

 

About half a year after I moved into the Friends House, I met and fell in love with my amazing partner. She’s not a Pagan but has her own non-Christian religious practice.

 

Through the Internet, I explored more and found out about this new “polytheism” movement that was burgeoning. My interest in this led to me eventually going to California for my first PantheaCon. I got to see old friends there, meet people I’d known only online for years and years. I also got to visit the Temple of the Morrigan which was set up in the hospitality suite of a group called Coru Cathubodua. They were very new then but I felt something. Her presence. I have not been called to worship the Morrigan but it led me to believe that I was on the right trail. That people were engaging on a deeper and more devotional level with their deities. People were taking their religion seriously.


This is what I’d been waiting for.

 

However, the Friends House was not ideal for doing that. Though my religion was accepted there, I had to navigate sharing a room with another person, which made setting up worship space challenging. I was also navigating being in a relationship after having been single for years. I was also starting work again since becoming sick.

 

As much as I loved living there, the Friends House was full of complications. For a cheap room and dinner cooked five nights a week, we had to participate in House meetings twice a month, do chores once a week, serve on dishcrew for House dinner, be on committees. It was a lot but eventually I made all of these things work out.

 

I made some amazing friendships with people I probably would not have met otherwise. It really helped restore my faith in humanity. Unfortunately, the Friends House has a term limit of four years. So I had to move out. Last year, I moved into a place with my partner and it’s been largely amazing.

 

Prior to my illness, I’d been working seven nights a week on the overnight shift. My skin was practically translucent. My entire social contact was online. I was unhealthy and thoroughly depressed.

 

Five years later, I’m much healthier and happier. I’m engaging in religious community through this blog, through Facebook, and in other places online. I have an amazing partner whom I adore. I’m developing relationships with deities, with spirits, and with ancestors. I have many friends.

 

It’s easy to get disheartened when I look at the news and see the country teetering on the edge of an abyss. But there is so much to love about my life and when I think back on how my life was five years ago…or even six, when I was sick and on dialysis three times a week, it’s so easy to be grateful.

Pagan/Polytheist Social Club

•06/21/2017 • 5 Comments

In years past, there have been many discussions regarding the idea of creating permanent space for Pagans. Often, the idea comes up that we should have our own temples like our ancient polytheistic predecessors. I know it’s something I’ve even mentioned that I wanted to see. 

 

For various reasons, I don’t see this working out currently. Many Pagans and polytheists have their shrine and practice their religion in the privacy of their own home. There’s not really a need for many folks to have permanent ritual space elsewhere.

 

Additionally, we’re just far too diverse of a community. The religion of a Heathen differs massively from the religion of a Celtic reconstructionist. Both differ massively from Wiccans.

How does one decide what a permanent ritual space should look like or function like?

 

What I think is a better model is the idea of a social club for Pagans or polytheists.

 

Social clubs seem a bit outdated now but they were immensely popular in my grandparents’ and parents’ generation. They’re clubs that are open to members only. Sometimes (as in the case of the Freemasons) they have their own rituals and culture.

 

Others are oriented towards ethnicities (the Ancient Order of the Hibernians) or religions (Knights of Columbus, Jaycees) or community service (Elks, Eagles, Moose, etc.) Some are for veterans (the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars). They often include a lot of charity work but also function as a place to meet and socialize with people of similar values.

 

So my idea is a social or service club for Pagans and polytheists of all varieties, regardless of political affiliation. Perhaps best started in major cities, these can function as meeting places around the country for people like us.

 

No need for rituals or passwords or secret handshakes or robes to be a member.  You pay a yearly membership fee and you’re a member, giving you rights to use the space and access the bar. Additionally, it gives you the right to visit all branches of the organization in various cities.

 

Each will have a hall which is available for rental by members for public rituals or parties. Or perhaps the hall can be rented by Pagan authors or musicians for touring. There can be space for classes for Pagan 101 type classes.

 

There can be a “Witches Ball” type celebration yearly around Samhain for the Wiccan types.

 

There can be programs for kids. There can and should be family-friendly events.

 

A library of books and resources for people.

 

If people want to run events celebrating a holiday either closed to the members or open to the public, they can do so.

 

If you’re a Heathen and you want to run Heathen rituals, you can do. Maybe some can even have some land out back for outdoor rituals.

 

If you’re a Hellenic polytheist (or any other type of polytheist) and you want to educate other Pagans or polytheists about Hellenic polytheism, you can do so. If you have enough people interested, you can do rituals for the various holidays.

 

The club can do various charity work in the area based on what members decide is important. Though I do think there should be an effort to be politically neutral. These clubs cannot be allowed to be whites-only or straights-only. Or even feminists only.

 

I think there should also be attempts to keep it from becoming Wiccan-centric as many Pagan communities are.

 

Each club should have a pub-type area where people can socialize. (Where legal, people can share their home-brewed mead. Maybe we can even have brewing classes.)


There can be monthly potlucks as well for people to eat together.

 

Due to our differences in religion, a temple itself seems like an unrealistic idea. But a social club can bring us together and allow us to have some sort of space where we can be ourselves and network with people like ourselves in a community.

 

Granted, this idea isn’t going to be for everyone. Some people really have no desire to interact with others. That’s OK. But as our religion grows and gets older and more mature, I think we need to focus on building some sort of community despite our differences.

 

So what’s wrong with this idea? Money, first of all. Convincing Pagans to spend money on any sort of infrastructure is difficult. Many Pagans do not have money to spare and those that do perhaps are not interested in such an idea.

 

Then, there’s the possibility of drama and gossip. This isn’t something specific to Pagans, of course, but it definitely occurs once Pagans get together in large groups. If a club becomes too Wiccan-centric, which is liable to happen due to Wiccans being the largest Pagan religion, then it’s likely that non-Wiccans won’t have much of an interest in joining. Particularly polytheists. If it becomes too much of any one thing (say, Heathen), it’s likely to not attract people outside of that in-group.

 

Having Pagans and polytheists get together without politics getting in the way is going to be a challenge, especially in today’s politically-charged climate. While the club will be open to both conservative Heathens and feminist Goddess-worshippers, what happens if the conservative Heathen is folkish and does not believe in allowing non-whites into their rituals? Or a TERF (trans-exclusive radical feminist) that does not believe in allowing trans women into female-only full-moon Dianic rituals?

How will it work to have individuals that believe in strict traditional gender roles (such as males being ‘manly’ mix with Feri types that believe strongly in flouting traditional gender and are often openly queer?

 

These are issues that will have to be dealt with.

 

Right now, it’s just an idea borne out of my frustration of not having a Pagan/polytheist community outside of the Internet. Perhaps it’s something others are interested in as well.

Aphrodite Ritual

•06/16/2017 • 1 Comment

I haven’t been writing a lot about my worship lately. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been doing it.

I’ve been worshipping Aphrodite every Friday.

 

After I shower in the morning, I make khernips (lustral water) to rid myself of miasma. I wash my hands in it and sprinkle the khernips water on my face and body. I light candles (including a beeswax candle) and an olive oil lamp. I dab some holy anointing oil that smells of rose made by local Franciscan friars on my wrists and head.

 

I offer Her cold fresh water, mead, the lamp/candles and myrrh resin incense over charcoal. Sometimes I’ll play tracks from Layne Redmond’s album “Invoking Aphrodite”. Especially the title track (or the dance track version) and/or “The Call” (which is a repeated litany of Her names).

 

I’ll read the Orphic Hymns devoted to Her.

 

Then I talk plainly, thanking Her for Her presence, making requests, if any.

 

I sit and listen for a bit to see if I hear anything. Sometimes, I think I do.

 

I’m also looking to erect an altar to Dionysus and an ancestor altar. I’m currently reading Galina Krasskova’s book on ancestor worship for opening steps in that direction.

 

I know what to offer family members that I was especially close with but not older ones that I never knew well or only knew as a child.

Munchies: The Cider That Came From Beyond the Grave

•06/14/2017 • Leave a Comment

I really enjoyed this article on Munchies about cider.  It’s got nothing directly to do with polytheism.

But as a fermenter, it resonated with me.