Palms of Our Hands

A Polytheist's Blog


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Pagan Blog Project: A is for A Sense of Place

Today I read a Seattle Times article bragging “If you weren’t born here, you’ll never be one of us.” I read one just like it a couple years ago, and another one a couple years from THAT. It makes me sigh because if the author was really exercising the nature-loving, homebody Pacific Northwest traits, the article would have started and ended at, “I was born here.” Good, now keep that to yourself.”

The comments following the article became a who-was-born-here-first tennis match. Everyone agreed the native Northwest tribes like the Duwamish were here first…and then they get back to arguing.

Still, the article got me to thinking about my own little slice of earth here in Washington.  I live in one of those old rambler homes that sacrificed house size for lot size, so my backyard is part lawn, part jungle, and very green.

Backyard 2

There’s an enormous evergreen tree straddling the line between my yard and the neighbor’s yard, which is a sudden 8 feet lower than my lot. It’s held up by stubborn tree will and prayers, since if it crashes down me and/or my neighbor are screwed.  I consider this tree the representative of the land. This may sound odd, but I feel more wariness toward the smaller spirits of the lot than this massive one. At least this one I always know where it is, right?

Backyard 1

This place is my home base. Despite how long I’ve lived here, I am still learning about the spirits of place here.  Some things I have learned about the relationship between me and the land:

-I’m attracted to the concept of growing my own food. Not because I’m a hedgewitch (I have no strong inclination toward it), but for basic survival.  The ground is wonderfully fertile here.  I managed to grow four tiny onions last year. More like onion bombs; I had to flee the room after cutting one of them and rinse my eyes out.

-My closest animal allies appear to be insects and some birds.  When I have addressed the spirits of the land, I found a few more bees around me afterwards, including one quite large that I hadn’t seen before or since. Birds like chickadees and robins hang around my lot more often too.  I’m pretty chill with honey bees, and will plant more bee-favorite flowers/crops this spring.  I even had a wasp neighbor that used my yard as a watering hole. Really!

-Though I live on this land and get to reap the fruits (literally) of its abundance, the relationship between me and the other spirits is one of caution and wariness.  Blackberry bushes have owned much of the yard before it was cleared out, day by day, by me and my brother. They’re still around, and sometimes I really do feel Their eyes on me, especially if I’m in the yard as it’s getting dark. They spread their runners everywhere, their stems grow at near 90 degree angles for maximum entanglement. Their thorns will snatch at you when you cut them down.  I fight fair; when I do clear them out, it’s with a blade and not chemicals.

-I’m still juggling the sense of land spirits with the Canaanite gods.  The land spirits were here first, so it seems that when I have given thanks to Ba’lu Hadad for his rains, or Athtar for helping maintain the cultivated side of the land, there’s an affronted ‘what about Us?’ Well, I think I could thank Them more properly as well if I didn’t feel so scattered and ignored addressing Them!

-Since I started disposing of my olive oil offerings in the yard, I’ve included the land in gratitude. Standing on the hill edge, smelling the wet leaves, I get the sense of timelessness, of standing on ground on borrowed time. Other things crawling just beneath my feet, me scurrying from work to home on the skin of the Earth.  I think that the land is getting more familiar with me, not just as an intruder in spring and summer. I still have to cut those blackberry bushes again…

So, that author might have been onto something with the Pacific Northwest character.  The land spirits ARE there, but keeping to themselves. Well, even if I’m not always welcome (especially when I bring my shears out), I can be a little more neighborly.


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Pagan Blog Project – L: Lean on Them

Distrust

(Personal rambling ahead; sense is not guaranteed.)

Always the best foot forward in a relationship, isn’t it?  Sending out the first calls, getting used to the way Their names are foreign, shaped with a mouth used to speaking English, learning a few words of Their language.  Searching out for some things They’re known to like, and the first time you are able to present it to Them.  Learning how to make offerings, and the shy delight I felt that They seemed to accept it.

The first time I really asked for something, and I received Their blessing.

Then the smaller, but frequent calls.  Like checking in, saying hello, including Them in my daily life.

It sounds so human, doesn’t it?  Talking to the Gods like They’re best friends?  Well, NOT quite like that, but the nuts and bolts of a relationship have some of the same components.  My relationship experience is somewhat short, but the daily effort to show your care, your sincerity, that you WANT to know them meant more than the occasional gift and offering keeps a friendship alive.

I also learned that eventually, They’re going to see the unsavory parts of me.  Of course They can, They’re Gods.  Not the sins, not the general khat’sa of being a mere human. They’ll see that too.

It was the first time I showed I didn’t trust Them.

The first time, I thought I was going to die.  I was afraid of dying in my sleep, the way my heart wouldn’t stop racing.  Didn’t have the meds yet to control my blood pressure, and I’d already taken a ride to the ER.  I was scared.  I would die alone and scared in my bed, in the dark, and not knowing which Gods to call out to.  For though I had stepped away from Christianity, knowing the prayers, knowing what to say was a safety net.  Looking for that safety net in the old prayers, and not in the Gods I professed to seek and care for…well, it made my hypocrisy clear to me. I wasn’t ready to trust Them.

The crisis passed, and I spoke to the Gods again, who for me are the Canaanite deities.  The only thing I could offer was honesty, and apology.  While I did not sense coldness from Them, the truth of my own cowardice was enough to remind me.

Here I’d like to say “And I learned my lesson, and we’re totally Best Buds now.”

Actually, I even did it again.  Showing Them my…losing side.  I have anxiety issues, and they can be made worse by coffee, junk food, or even just that time of the month.  When this perfect storm strikes, I get afraid. Of everything.  I’m afraid to go to work.  I’m afraid of the criticism that hadn’t even happened yet.  For two hours in the morning, I was ready to call in sick and stay home “to rest”.

The side that gives in, that gives up, who retreats behind weaknesses and all the bad, disparaging, discouraging things people have ever said about me.  It had nothing to do with thinking They weren’t going to come through for me.  I wast ashamed of showing Them my personal weaknesses.  The positive things I have found from acknowledging my weaknesses are; realizing that switching from one spirituality to another does nothing (nothing!) to fundamentally change what I did/was before.  And two; all last change must be done through my own hands and heart.  I think it’s a misconception that the Gods are going to transform you without your consent.  Yeah, something is going to change–but the you-ness remains: the accomplishments, the wounds, the questions and the dreams.

It can be hard to swallow that I didn’t give the Gods my best.  It’s a bitter pill, but one that gives me strength to say, “I apologize.  Let’s try again.”


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Pagan Blog Project C and D: Cleromancy! and Developing Divination

I’ve noticed that a lot of pagans have some form of divination.  My friend has read Tarot and Angel oracle cards.  I’ve also gotten some suggestions that divination is good to help understand the needs of the Gods and spirits.

One of those things was getting dice for divination.  Reading Tess Dawson’s blog post on not using Tarot to do divination with the Canaanite deities left me with a dilemma.  I had just started using Tarot cards, so my associations with them were still nascent. Should I give them up completely because she recommended a more Canaanite method?  Was using a different one going to interfere with connecting with Them?  (Also, my reading skills were pretty abysmal. I gave a reading to a fellow pagan friend, with every single card I pulled being reversed!) For the time being, I’ve put them aside.

So, I tried learning how to cast lots (dice), known as cleromancy.

My divination dice, and the 'board' made from a shoe box lid.

My divination dice, and the ‘board’ made from a shoe box lid.

I’d put out a thought to the Universe at large that I needed dice. These three were ‘the Right Ones’ the moment I saw them in a gaming store, from their grab-bag orphaned dice.

I’ve been doing dice divination for about a month, give or take a week.  To start off, I ask which dice will be the one to do divination with.  Whichever die comes up with the odd number is chosen, with a second round if 2 out of the 3 ended up odd.  My questions are simple, related to offerings: “Do you want an offering of olive oil? Of incense? Of food?…”  (For me, odds mean yes, and evens mean no.) These questions are good for practicing my connection to the Deities.  Yet, sometimes it gets in the way of me making an offering at all, because I would need to purify myself to even ask a question. Then I worry that I’m not pure enough to give an offering, then thinking I shouldn’t give one at all!  I’m still working on hitting the brakes on that downward spiral…

I feel limited by the yes/no nature of dice.  While there have been a variety of interpretations across the three main books on Canaanite spirituality, none of them have been able to strike a solid chord with me.  I can’t ask deeper questions the way I would for tarot cards, which is a definite drawback. 

So, my newest creation is runes based on the Phoenician alphabet!

My Phoenician 'runes'.

My Phoenician ‘runes’.

This was the case for making my ‘runes’.  I have an inkling I could get some good divination out of these. It’s going to take awhile before I get all the interpretations for each letter memorized and interpreted for myself. And before using, I will try blessing them and dedicating them to the ‘Iluma.  Kothar-wa-Hasis seems to be the god I most associate with making things.

Dots to show the reading orientation.

Dots to show the reading orientation.

A blank rune.  The sun and moon, with hands up in prayer.

The sun and moon, with hands up in prayer. And a blank and/or spare tile.

The Ugaritic cuneiform pieces, on the other hand.

Ugaritic 'runes'? (Tiles?)  The pronunciations of the cuneiform are capitalized to indicate the given sound of the symbol. The vowels are lower case because they can vary a lot.

Ugaritic ‘runes’? (Tiles?) The pronunciations of the cuneiform are capitalized to indicate the given sound of the symbol. The vowels are lower case because they can vary a lot.

Originally, I was practicing writing on wood and getting the designed balanced.  At first I tried writing the names of the Iluma.  Yet having to erase their names over and over to get it right felt somewhat blasphemous.  Instead I decided to write the virtues in creating connection with the deities, as written in The Horned Altar: Shalamu (Peace), Chalmu (Dreams), Umatu (Community), Char(a)shu (Creativity, Magic), Chukmu (Wisdom), Dadu (Love) and Pi’du (Compassion).

I also wrote down, for myself: Nap’shu (Spirit, Soul), and Kappu (the Hand).  Poor Kappu looks kind of crappy compared to the other ones because it was the prototype Ugaritic tile!

Kenaz Filan and Raven Kaldera, authors of Talking to the Spirits: Personal Gnosis in Pagan Religion, recommended being proficient in at least two forms of divination, which makes good sense to me.  Should these types of divination not work for me, I’ll go back to Tarot.  I’m also thinking about learning Sannion’s Oracle of the Doors, to have a somewhat objective divination.

Omniglot entry on Phoenician: http://www.omniglot.com/writing/phoenician.htm
David Myriad’s Phoenician alphabet rune readings: http://davidmyriad.tripod.com/phoenician.alphabet.index.html
Another version of the alphabet:http://www.forumancientcoins.com/numiswiki/view.asp?key=Phoenician%20Alphabet


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Pagan Blog Project 2014 – A is for Anointing

 

The first time I showed my mom my skinned and bloodied knee, she took this, Mercurochrome, out of the bathroom cupboard.  Its bright orange color, added to my already bright red blood, the color code of “DANGER”, sent me into a crying panic. Yet Mom blew her breath on it and I watched as it stung my scratch and turned into a weird taut skin stain.  “See? It doesn’t hurt,” said Mom.  It would stain the open scratch and the channels of skin around it, like a highlighter for the body.   After that experience, I no longer feared the Mercurochrome, and would administer it myself when I had another bloody skinning scratch.

So…what does this have to do with the more sacred task of anointing?

Olive oil

Anointing–with oil, water, or other substance–is the physical act of rubbing chosen substance, often blessed, on a surface or person.  Merriam’s definition says it better: “to point oil on (someone) as part of a religious ceremony”.  The Catholic context for it is in the Sacraments of Baptism, Anointing of the Sick (“Extreme Unction”) and Confirmation/Rite of Christian Initation for Adults (RCIA).  Today, I use olive oil to anoint myself when speaking formally to the ‘Iluma, the Canaanite Deities.

This brought to mind, where did I really learn about anointing? A skinned knee, Mercurochrome, and a bandaid.

[A second example (and probably even more ‘pagan’) is having Vicks Vapor Rub on my throat when I had a cold. It stunk to high heaven and put me off of anything peppermint until high school.]

I’m of the opinion that the gestures and meanings I find for devotional activities has its roots in  everyday experience.  Touching the wounded part of our bodies is quite natural–even when it’s someone else’s pain, a comforting touch near the source of the pain is offered.

In my own practice, anointing arose from wanting a physical marker to teach myself that here was sacred space, here is where I formally address the Gods.  In Whisper of Stone, there is a short prayer that I’ve adopted (with some changes) to settle myself and be open to the ‘Iluma.

Ancient Deities of the Canaanites,
Divine Assembly of Mout Lalu,
Sons and Daughters of ‘Ilu and ‘Athiratu,
Open my mind that I may sense you,
Open my eyes that I may see you,
Open my ears that I may hear you,
Open my nose that I may smell you,
Open my throat that I may…*
Open my senses that I may feel you
Open my heart (or liver) so I may know you.
I give honor. Shalam.

The first time I read this prayer aloud, it felt clunky and a little fake. It was the equivalent of using a phrasebook in a language I didn’t know yet to a native speaker.  And that clumsiness came with self-consciousness…being opened up for ridicule, snubbing, or a smiting (still a holdover from Christianity, and probably some cartoons).  I was reaching out of my shell, and while I didn’t get smited like I’d feared, I didn’t get the choirs of inspiration either that said I’d made A Connection with Them. The prayer stayed with me though. “My mind…eyes…ears…nose…heart…” These were things I could connect to, that centered me while being open to Them.

Over the next couple weeks, as I got used to the  words and its rhythms, I felt the urge to make the prayer concrete. I’d read about anointing oneself in various publications, but didn’t make the connection until I went to Mass with my family one weekend.  There is a small bowl of water next to the doors to cross oneself with it.  After I did that, it hit me that this touch was making the prayer more physical, more real for me.

Since then I’ve started using olive oil as a part of my devotions. I ask a blessing from Choranu, God of Purification and Exorcism, to let the oil cleanse me of khat’sa (misdeed). When I read the prayer above, I use the oil on my forehead, the corners of my eyes, ears, tongue, my heart.  In doing so, I am telling myself that I am speaking with, keeping company with the Gods.  *I added “Open my throat…” because that where the spirit of the person, the napshu, resides. From my own experience, doing any prayer or concentrating on family/friends/outcome seemed more solid when I prayed with Mary, Uriel, ‘Athiratu, ‘Ilu, and the ‘Iluma, praying with Someone. My throat and both my wrists are my ‘senses’. It’s not as clear as the physical senses, and that can be good. The senses of the sequence set the stage, and the open verse allows for inspiration, mine or Theirs.

By the time I finish the prayer and anointing, I have quieted down, to be able to hear Them.  The ritual action of anointing helps me to be ready for Them. I use extra virgin olive oil from Trader Joes ($5.99 last time I bought a bottle), and less than a tablespoon in using it.  Like the Mercurochrome and the oil, a small action changes the perspective.  In that change, in that practice, it makes a world of difference.


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Pagan Blog Project – R is for Restart

This morning I woke up to distant, rolling thunder and pounding rain.  Most days I think, “Oh, it’s rain.” Today was also the first time I looked outside, I heard the rain and thought,

“Ahh…it is Ba’al Haddu coming through.”

It’s the morning after I sat before the Canaanite deities and made offerings to Them once more.  I focused on what I wanted to offer Them, instead of the nebulous anxiety that I tend to let sway me.  I took comfort in doing prostrations in front of my little shrine to the Gracious deities.  Even when remembering that I’d forgotten to formally cleanse myself (and did so asap), the little mistakes just reminded me that so long as I was conscientious and sincere, it would be okay.

Looking at the rain, and consciously connecting it to Ba’al, suddenly made me realize how much I take the rain for granted.  I live just outside of Seattle, in the western half of the state, and Seattle stakes part of its reputation on being the “Rainy City”.  Rain is so ordinary, normal, and an irritation when you’re driving on the road.  Seriously, I’ve seen people driving in a panic as if the concept of slippery ground had never ever happened until the hour after a downpour.  (No really, cars can slide…)

Yet to the Canaanites, living in a mostly arid desert climate, rain’s presence or lack thereof was the sign of the divine’s favor.  I have watched the differences in my plants when it rains.  My garden’s growth was slow, steady, when I water it. (Sometimes I say a small thankful prayer to Athtaru, the Canaanite god of irrigation, for having fresh water to use so close by.) The day after a brief shower, however, the yard just seems to explode with greenery. Bigger leaves, bigger stems, bigger flowers, new shoots!  Rainfall does that extra ‘something’ that irrigation just doesn’t seem to have.

Traveling has also taught me how much I take for granted fresh water. When I hear about how other states are draining their water tables, or splitting up the state rivers four ways, I become doubly glad that rain comes down pretty reliably in Washington (at least, my part of it).  Giving thanks to Ba’al Hadad and all other gods that bring rain is the least I should be doing!

Today is considered the beginning of the Canaanite New Year, ‘Ashuru Mothabati, or the Festival of Dwellings. I had planned to do a proper ritual and celebration, but have obviously blanked on it due to life things happening. It’s also difficult to do a large ritual when my family is nearby.  I don’t live with my parents, but they help me out a lot with finances, which means that they get to barge into my house whenever they want. They ARE family. And very Catholic, so having a daughter on a Canaanite path, giving offerings to Ba’al, is not something to spring on anyone unexpectedly.

So today was a very modest offering (grapes) to Ba’al Haddu. I read aloud part of the Ba’al Cycle where Ba’al Haddu is victorious. “Sixty-six towns he takes, seventy-seven towns he seizes.” Lightning goes where it wants, and I imagined that Yagrushu, the Driver, and Ayamiri, the Expeller, have a huge reach in Ba’al’s hands.  The thunder reminded me of Ba’al finally agreeing with Kothar-wa-Hasis to build a window, where his mighty rains and voice come through, so I read that part as well.

Other gods I formally invited by name were Choranu, to ask for purification to be open to the Divine Assembly. And Kothar-wa-Hasis…because He insisted on being formally present. (???) I offered incense to Them in thanks.

Well, I have restarted a schedule to give offerings for at least seven days, mostly of small things like grapes, wine, and dates.  I am also exploring using dice for divination, and making practice rolls with them.  Something about clacking dice in my hand puts me in a meditative state.  I have 3d6 (or for non-gamers, three six-sided dice), and a shoebox lid is the divination ‘board’ until I find a better one that can handle dice rolls without breaking them.


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O is for — Overthinking things into the ground

I find hard to write blog posts, even for the Pagan Blog Project.  This week I’ve been troubled with how to approach the Deities. It turned out that I was trying to tackle so many things at once, and cursing myself for not being superhuman.

But, I realized I was over thinking things.  And this clip from Coming to America (ignore the ad at the end of the scene), captured my situation perfectly:

How badly was I overthinking things? I was feeling guilty because a meditation on raising energy was outside the (Canaanite) Way of Doing Things. I wanted to make and practice a divinatory rune set, but was going to ‘Canaanize’ it so that it would be pleasing to the Deities.  And I felt badly for still having a good relationship with Uriel and the other Archangels.

And because I wanted things to be Done Right, I was avoiding talking to the Gracious Gods I was working so hard to change for.

This reminds me of born-again Christians swearing off everything they were before, in order to become clean, good Christians for Jesus.

Or maybe that Significant Other than, in the honeymoon phase, does everything together and do whatever the SO wants. I’ll eat only what the Deities’ peoples ate. I’ll listen only to the kind of music the Deities would be familiar with.  I’ll do magick and prayer only the way it was done in the Late Bronze Age…

No wonder I was so wrecked. I wasn’t just trying to change a whole life in a week, I was trying to erase anything about me that wasn’t reconstructionist for the pantheon. All the while desperately hoping that They would be pleased, that a mistake wouldn’t draw disfavor…All the while, They are not getting to know me because I’m not talking to Them, but about Them…

No, no no NO NO.

I started getting the message when I would pick up the books or visit random websites (pagan and otherwise) and open to the sections that encouraged a sincere, if clumsy, heart-felt devotion more than by-the-book ritual.  Also, I did get help from the Deities, not because I had the ritual well, but because I asked for help, and They answered.

(I am not singling out the Canaanite gods or Natib Qadish.  It just happens to be mentioned here because it is the reconstruction path I have started on. )

I don’t need to change my friends (other Guardians/Deities). I don’t need to suppress the interests and things that are outside the reconstructed path.  I don’t have to do things in the Reconstructed Way.

For now, I’ll keep things simple–a candle, maybe some incense, and time to sit and talk with Them.


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Pagan Blog Project – M: Moving On From Christopaganism

The first time in awhile I could come and post–school has eaten me alive, but I finished my program and am gonna start job hunting soon.  Meanwhile, I’ve been slowly building a daily ritual of offerings and prayer towards the Canaanite pantheon.

I’m conscientious about my path at the moment.  I’ve been exploring different spiritualities and religions for years, ever since going to college.  In the last 5 years, I’ve always come back to Catholicism. As cool it would be to worship the deities of the Philippines, where my family comes from, I have a hard time associating the Philippines (and my family) with anything but Catholicism.

So it kind of scares me when I realized that I am going further into studying and honoring the Canaanite pantheon.  For all my bouncing in and out of Catholicism, I have felt a response to my calls to the Gracious Deities: Athiratu, Anatu, Choranu, so far.  I am drawn to Them, the way I used to be drawn to the Virgin Mary.  My connection isn’t that clear with them yet, but the glimpses I get during prayer or simply meditating upon Them have shown me that They are very present.  Anatu is a goddess of action (and Her myth and associations scare the heck out of me); Choranu is quiet and steadfast; Athiratu has helped me with Her wisdom and sheer presence to help me find a stable center.

I’ll probably find out more, as soon as I get over myself and reach out. I am a master of worrying myself out of actually doing anything.

Resources that helped me get started on learning about Canaanite religion:

Tess Dawson – Her works are what introduced me to Anatu and the Canaanite pantheon:
Kina’ani: Impressions of Tess Dawson, Canaanite Polytheist (blog)
Natib Qadish (very informational website!)
Whisper of Stone
The Horned Altar

Lilinah’s website Qadash Kinahnu, a very informative site that brings a second perspective to the books above.