Depth of Praise is now published

Depth_of_Praise_Cover_for_KindleIt is done.  With the click of a mouse, my first book is released to the world.  Depth of Praise is now available via CreateSpace, and this Poseidon devotional will be available via in 3-5 business days.  It is not, and never will be, available in any electronic form.

My Kickstarter backers were advised earlier today about this good news; even now, copies of this book are being prepared and rushed to my door so that I may fulfill their many expectations.  These good people waited far, far longer than I expected that they would, and that was my fault.  I did not fully understand the process of working with an illustrator, and believed I had built enough wiggle room into my estimates.  We live and learn.

As I noted above, there are no plans to offer any electronic versions of this work.  I have seen far too many books by Pagan authors available for unauthorized free downloads around the internet, and I do not wish to chase down violators on my lonesome.  However, that surely makes these autographed copies of Depth of Praise all the more valuable.

It pleases me to no end that I have completed this important task for my patron only days before the retreat at which I hope to become his priest.

A hearty “thank you” to the people of Asatru Folk Assembly

Throughout most of my life, racism has been a squirrely, slippery concept for white people like me.  When the hate isn’t being thrown your way, it can be tricky trying to discern what’s racism, what’s rudeness, and what’s paranoia.


No more!

Growing up in a town that had one — maybe two — black kids in the same school, I only ever heard nasty racial epithets in social studies class.  In the suburban Northeast years after the Civil Rights Act was passed, I mostly met kids of other races at summer camps and swim lessons, and never personally thought they were any different than I was.  Lacking lynchings and police-involved shootings in the news, I never saw the kind of racism that I could easily recognize.

Thanks to the new leaders of the AFA, finally I can see that kind of hate is alive and well.  I knew it was intellectually, but it’s been like a blind person trusting that there’s such a thing as color.  I can lie to a blind person, and they will either trust me or try to figure out if something is a given color, or not.  Racism in recent decades has mostly been like this:  it can be explained away because it’s subtle.  Observers are forced to conjecture about motivations, which means that unless you are the target of the racist behavior, which give you a sense of the intent, it’s not any different than ascertaining thoughtcrime.  (I imagine that someone who has been abused raw by racist behavior might be quick to assume it when they see similar behavior, but again, I have not lived this experience.)

But this racism?  It’s easy to spot.  It’s like giving red a C sharp, allowing the blind person to identify it with ease.  This is the kind of racism we can do something about.

What to do, though?  In theory, these are just masculine men and feminine women who just want to care for their beautiful white children.  Is it okay to let them build little white enclaves, or will they be stockpiling guns behind the walls to “solve” the problem they see in the world?  There exists in humans a desire to associate with those who are familiar, and some humans identify that familiarity in very shallow ways, features that can be seen quickly like skin color and “traditional” gender.  Is it okay to let our simpler fellows enjoy the quiet enjoyment of their little white paradise, or are they also prone to violence?

I don’t have the answers to these bigger questions.  All I know is that thanks to this statement from the AFA leaders, it’s a lot simpler to figure out who I don’t wish to have in my life.

What I learned from the hilasmós of Athene

  1. Dionysos hates owls.
  2. Athene ritual doll

    Doll for the drowned dead

    Galina Krasskova takes honoring the dead very, very seriously.

  3. I haven’t the slightest clue how to pronounce “theoi.”
  4. Athene is a protector of the dead.
  5. Markos Gage should have been there.
  6. All the Hellenic gods seem to have a chthonic aspect, which makes ancestor veneration all the more important.
  7. A Litany for the Many Dead is even more profound when someone else reads it aloud.
  8. The complicated-sounding doll design isn’t always as hard as it seems.
  9. The number nine always seems to crop up when there’s a Heathen in the room.

My personal practice: keeping track

As I have added additional layers to my personal practice, one way I have kept it simple is with a system of keeping track. It’s got two components: keeping track of what is to come, and keeping track of offerings already made.

A calendar is critical to remembering what’s to come.  My daily offerings don’t vary much, but there are weekly and monthly obligations that I write down.  I use a lunar calendar, and most of what I do is triggered by the dark of the moon.  Looking up helps, but I also use an app to track the exact moon phase.

It’s the yearly stuff that is trickiest for me; I nearly forgot about the festival of lilies this time around and need to step up my game.  Luckily my observances tend to be stacked upon each other; honoring my ancestors, flowers for the gods, vigil for the bulls.  I only need to remember the first to recall each in succession.  While I’m loathe to depend too much on electronica, it serves better than paper for me.

A couple of years ago I began the habit of writing down the offerings I made, much like my ancestors did.  It was inspired by a combination of Galina Krasskova’s moneyworking class and the work of PT Helms, who himself pondered adopting this old way.  These records were quite particular in antiquity, noting how much oil to the dram and otherwise being precise, but my focus is on the what, not the how much.  Each day after my worship I jot down that “what” in a formerly blank book.  While I wont say that this constitutes an offering in itself, it extends the period in which I remain in a state of worship, particularly receptive to any gifts which they may desire to bequeath upon me.

This act of writing down also serves as a record of what I’ve offered in the past, as a guide of what to offer in the future.  Not all of my offerings are attested to in ancient records, and it’s good to be able to seek inspiration in my own past, and to see patterns as they emerge in my practice.

Book review: Arc of the Goddess

2daca1_0f13271010e44147b896ac66a54cb04fGenre: Paganism

Title: Arc of the Goddess

Author: Rachel Patterson & Tracey Roberts

Overview: This is a book that takes on the challenge of putting the “practical” into a yearly cycle of goddess-focused practice. It’s set up to follow the course of a calendar year, and the reader is invited to focus several different kinds of devotional activities on a different goddess each month. If you jump in with gusto, you’re going to feel and look radiant thanks to a monthly home-made beauty product, and you’re also going to have the opportunity to indulge in a wide variety of cakes thanks to the twelve delicious recipes within.

Based on a course that Patterson and Roberts developed, each chapter includes information on goddesses from many different religions, as well as feast and celebration days from antiquity forward that are celebrated during that month. After studying the material, the student is provided the text of a guided meditation during which the month’s goddess is ascertained. Much of the information about spell work, rituals, altars, and related activities is repeated in each unit (fulfilling a promise that the reader can begin with any month), but with month-specific variations on the activities. Herbs and stones that are aligned with the season are also discussed and then used in mandalas, crystal grids, oils, and the aforementioned beauty product. The cake recipe is tied into the feasting component, making me all the more eager to dive right in.

What’s valuable about this book is 1) the framework for someone to explore relationships with different deities and 2) the extensive information about known goddesses and holy days to guide that exploration. I can see it used as a springboard to develop a much deeper relationship with a particular goddess, or built upon to develop a strong, personal polytraditional practice. Either way, this is definitely not the worst tool for upping one’s game if one isn’t part of a clearly defined tradition.

Also, did I mention cake?

Quibbles: There’s nothing wrong with taking a personal tone while writing a book, but the way it’s done in this book is less intimate than it is confusing. That’s because there are two authors, but the text is dotted with “I” statements that don’t make it clear which of the two is sharing an opinion or experience. It’s possible that they are of one mind, but I could also be projecting.

Quirks: An implicit assumption in this book is the subscription to the idea that all goddesses are, at least to some extent, one goddess. That doesn’t mean that the material can’t be used by someone with a different cosmology, only that the language used may be distracting.

This book is British, which means that some of the ingredients in the recipes may be unfamiliar. It’s nothing a decent search engine can’t resolve, and it adds a cultural flavor that I am glad was not stripped out for American audiences.
Title: Arc of the Goddess
Author: Rachel Patterson & Tracey Roberts
Publisher: Moon Books
ISBN: 978-1-78535-318-5

My personal practice: epithets

When I look back at how terrified I was to get things wrong as I attempted to honor the theoi, particularly around the use of ancient Greek, I’m amazed that I didn’t simply smile and decide that this path wasn’t for me.  I did before, when I was invited to join a group of people who aspired to Druidry and ADF membership.  Yes, I’ve probably got more Irish blood in my veins than anything else but no, I didn’t have any interest in wrestling with Gaelic or whatever language it was that I’d have to master.  I’m good at one language, and I don’t believe for one second that specialization is for insects; in fact, I think it’s one of the great strengths of humanity to be able to specialize.

Beham, (Hans) Sebald (1500-1550): Der Narr und die Närrin.

Long before I ever thought about Hellenic gods, I was a fool, and I still take the job very seriously.  I’ve assumed the office of jester in a coven, inducted people into the mysteries of Bill the Cat, and tales of what transpires when I draw down the Lord of Misrule are recounted years after the fact.  Being a fool is to master the art of applied ignorance, and I always considered Socrates to be my role model in that regard.  (Yes, writing this makes me realize I probably should be paying him hero cult, but I don’t wish to get ahead of myself.  Baby steps.)  One step that I took in my Hellenic education would be considered quite foolish to some of my co-religionists:  I joined Tumblr.

Here’s another thing I’ve learned by being a fool:  you can’t consider the source.  More specifically, there is no value in dismissing a source because they happen to use a lot of profanity, or they were born in this century, or even because they got started in their religion because of some guy’s books.  If I considered the source, I would never have found a particular blog on Tumblr, written by a particularly potty-mouthed someone who clearly reveled in blog-battle.  As it happens, one of that really nasty blogger’s posts laid out the structure of a basic Hellenic ritual in a way that, for some reason, clicked with me.  I was probably at close to two years of formal instruction by this point, but the presentation spoke to me in a new and important way.  I can’t find the post, and frankly I’d rather not link to it anyway because there’s no need to invite trouble, but it got me thinking about epithets.

It was the notion of calling a god by many epithets, “or whichever name you wish to be known by,” that got my gears grinding and enabled me to level up.  This is something I can anchor in time, because I distinctly recall that when I attended the Polytheist Leadership Conference, I was proud that I had memorized seven for Poseidon.  It took a few weeks to commit all of those to memory, and to be honest I’m still not convinced I’m pronouncing most of them correctly.  Still, that was the beginning of a process which has exploded for me.

Poseidon, by Grace Palmer

Poseidon, by Grace Palmer

Honestly, I would have been quite content calling Poseidon by seven epithets important to me, reading a simple hymn of my own creation, offering barley and a libation of coffee.  Longtime readers may recall that I was challenged — from several sources — about whether I was doing enough for him, and that ultimately he assigned me the task of writing hymns for each of those epithets, and a whole lot more besides.  Those hymns are the core of my book Depth of Praise, promised for well over a year but finally in the design phase.  That’s exciting in and of itself, but I expected that my daily practice would calm down after I wasn’t writing something new every day.  The creation time did fall away, but somewhere along the line the number of epithets that are part of my standard practice ballooned to 29 different titles.

That means that over the course of roughly five years, I went from making a fixed number of offerings to one god in return for a favor, to layers upon layer of daily, weekly, monthly, and seasonal practice.  There is no question in my mind that I could not have and would not have started on this path if I was told that this would be expected of me down the road.  He who shakes the earth also knows how to move the ground with an imperceptible slowness, allowing me to feel like it was no change at all.

The task for me, and for anyone with a few years of practice, is to see one’s own practice through the eyes of a neophyte, and understand that this is not where anyone should begin.  Even if they take on a multilayered calendar of offerings with zeal, they are likely to burn out.  Even more common is what I decided about the Druids:  “Thanks, but no thanks.”  Who knows what opportunities I missed?  Who knows how many doors I might close to someone simply by showing them what I do on a regular basis?

By the word of Hermes, I will lie and deceive to avoid scaring a seeker.  I will hide my practice and reveal my knowledge only when it requested, and then in appropriate measure.

By the word of Apollon, I will try to recognize how much truth a seeker is ready to know, so I dole it out at a pace the gods decree, rather than let my passion and excitement trample over the curiosity of another.

By the word of Poseidon, I will root myself in the patience of the tectonic plates themselves, and trust that it is through me, and not from me, that wisdom may flow.

There is more to tell about my personal practice, but it’s mostly frills and shiny things.  Stay tuned.

He approves

As it happens, the Vigil for the Bulls ends just prior to my birthday. I arose this morning after my first night of sleep unbroken by devotion, and awaits me on the family altar were gifts! Okay, not entirely a surprise; that’s how we roll.

The card my wife gave me had a wishing-well theme, so she decided to enhance it with an actual coin from her collection.  She grabbed an old British penny, sporting a profile of King George circa 1920.  Apparently, she never looked at the reverse, but I did.

A seated figure, holding a shield and trident? I’ll take that sign right to the bank.