Palms of Our Hands

A Polytheist's Blog


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Devotional Practice: 7 Night Sleep Prayer/Divination, inspired by Dan’el in “Aqhat”

Tonight, and hopefully for the next six or seven nights, I will be making offerings to the Canaanite deities before bed.  I’m super excited about going to Many Gods West next weekend, but also nervous. My intuition says I should be prepared in attending…the ‘how’ of that preparation seems to have been left up to me.  Also, as I’m still in the middle of Sorting Things Out in my living space, a lot of my stuff still needs placing or giving away. So what I do have left are source books and my imagination.

The tale of Aqhat is a story translated from the stone tablets found in Ugarit (present-day Ras Shamra).  It is a mythic tale of a man, Dan’el (in Hebrew, Daniel)*, who longs for a wife and son/children to continue the family line, to comfort him in his old age, and to remember him and the ancestors when he passes away.  So, not unlike the goals many of us have about family. The story makes particular note of the duties a well-rounded descendant should do. Dan’el laments and makes prayers to the deities for seven nights until Ba’lu Haddu (Ba’al Hadad), the text states “draws near in compassion”.  Ba’lu Haddu addresses ‘Ilu (El) to answer Dan’el’s prayers, which he does. When I was devotional reading (well, trying to be devout) my copy of Ugaritic Narrative Poetry, this particular passage leapt out at me:

(from the translated tablets of “Aqhat”)

“Now Daniel, man of Rapiu,
The hero, man of the Harnemite,

Girded, gives food to the gods,
Girded, gives drink to the deities,

Throws down his garment and lies,
Throws down his cloak for the night.

One day passed, and a second–

Girded, Daniel gives food,
Girded, gives food to the gods,
Girded gives drink to the deities,

A third day passes, a fourth–

Girded, Daniel gives food,
Girded, gives food to the gods,
girded, gives drink to the deities,

A fifth day passes, a sixth–

Girded, Daniel gives food
Girded, gives food to the gods,
Girded, gives drink to the deities,

Daniel throws down his garment,
Throws down his garment and lies,
Throws down his cloak for the night.

Then on the seventh day
Ba’al draws near in compassion:

“The longing of Daniel, man of Rapiu,
The moan of the hero, man of the Harnemite!

Who has no son like his siblings,
No offspring like that of his fellows,

Who, girded, gives food to the gods,
Girded, gives drink to the deities?

Bless him, Bull, El my father,
Prosper him, Creator of Creatures.

Let him have a son in his house,
Offspring within his palace,

      To set up his Ancestor’s stelae
The sign of Sib in the sanctuary;

      To rescue his smoke from the Underworld,
To protect his steps from the Dust;

      To stop his abusers’ spite,
To drive his troublers away,

      To grasp his arm when he’s drunk,
To support him when sated with wine;

      To eat his portion in Ba’al’s house,
His share in the house of El;

      To daub his roof when there’s mud,
To wash his stuff when there’s dirt.”

El responds in the next verse by holding up a cup in blessing, and helping Dan’el achieve these things. I’ll type the ending verses at the end of the seven nights. By coincidence…it will be seven nights up to the day before Many Gods West. So whatever I need to know, I hope it will be revealed about that time!

Winging the inspiration, as it usually does for me, I will be offering food and drink to the ‘Iluma (plural for ‘deities’, particularly the Canaanite ones) before bed. Intuition says it should be both food and drinkto echo Daniel’s ritual petition, and then go straight to sleep.  Tonight I had a little bottle of wine on hand for the drink. I used a half-slice of bread and cheese slices for the food. (I ate the other half of the bread and cheese, especially since cheese is supposed to help people get sleepy. Secondly, I love cheese, and offering that which is quite enjoyable instead of consuming it all by myself is part of offering, right?)

Today, I made my intentions to the ‘Iluma after reading that portion of the tale of Aqhat. The text mentions Ba’lu Haddu and ‘Ilu. It is ‘Ilu who, by granting his blessing, answers the prayer and brings it about. I made the prayer be to the both of Them, as well as any of the other deities who wished to “draw close in compassion” in responding. (Leaves the door open to others with good intent.) It’s always richer, to me, when I can incorporate the verse itself with my own petition.

In my case, I’m petitioning for guidance and wisdom, since I feel like I’m spinning my wheels in figuring out what to do next with my life in the near future. Hopefully, whatever guidance They wish to give will be clear for me to know.

*Dan’el/Daniel, Ba’lu/Ba’al etc.: Depending on the translation, the names either reflect the given consonants (Dan’el) or are anglicized to more recognizable forms (Daniel).

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Don’t look under the flower pot, please.

This is exactly what I feel like right now.

This is exactly what I feel like right now.

(It’s been awhile since I’ve posted here. If I could find my notebook I’d be writing it there instead. But all my things have been moved and this is literally the last place I can write it in peace. So this post will ramble. Better for me to put it down than let it eat away my self-esteem faster than my meds can keep up.)

I didn’t get to sleep till 4 am yesterday, so I was already low on both energy and will power. And just before the sun went down today, I got a mental shakedown that left me both exposed and maybe this time, poised to make changes in myself.

In hindsight, there HAD been a sign of the impending shakedown. My parents had come over to help me clean up some space for the electric company inspectors to do their electric jobs. And while we were making smoothies to cool off, the glass bowl we were using to break smaller chunks of ice shattered. The bowl ended up looking like a jagged, terrifying glass doughnut. No way could we salvage the ice to make any more smoothies–glass shards in clear ice? That would have probably cut someone while swallowing.

The crazy thing was, I thought absolutely nothing of it. Me, who gets tied up in knots over other countries’ superstitions when I have never followed their spirituality or poked into their patheons. Who overthinks whether to get an iced mocha on a day that I actually scheduled myself to buy one. Glass broke, a consistent sign that something’s about to go down? Oh well, couldn’t mean anything…

Just before they were about to leave, my father saw the state of my room. He did the fatherly thing and Got Shit Done. We all started cleaning under his direction, whether I wanted him to or not. (Seriously, I didn’t.)  Part of me, the side that sees the long game, says it was absolutely the right thing to do. I’ve been stagnating in my own junk for most of the year! That practical side knew I wasn’t going to do it, despite my inner promises, so here’s some movers and shakers to bypass the bullshit on script and get things moving again.

The other side of me, the one who likes routines and being comfy and safe, felt incredibly violated.  Just like those little potato bugs scurrying for dear life when their flower pot gets moved, the stuff I’d accumulated, used, lost, or forgot came to cringing light. I was simultaneously six again, getting scolded for being so sloppy and yet now old enough to know I had no answer to rhetorical questions like “Just like before, you couldn’t keep things clean. Every time…” Thirty-something years of life has not yet cured me of being a clutter bug.

They were also getting too close for comfort to my paganism/polytheism materials. Pieces of me, of my interests and joys, overturned and clinically examined and tossed into a bag for the garbage bin. It was junk, but it was MY junk. I cleaned in a distant daze, and my parents were kind enough not to go for my jugular and didn’t start with “You’re always so…(quality that is disappointing)” At least not out loud.

In the solitude, I ask myself why I didn’t want them in my room. Words continue throwing themselves at me: failure, scolding, you are bad, they are always right, they don’t care what you think, weakling, emotions are weak, stop being all this emotional tear ball, disappointment, huh, it’s …you.

pill-bug-rollie-pollie-doodle-bug

I see now why they tell the clutterer to not be present during the actual clean-up. The things that comforted me, that gave me a positive feeling for a time, even since I don’t use them anymore, are picked up. They’re examined (What the hell is so special about X?). They’re tossed somewhere, to keep or not keep made by their whim, no longer quite mine. The stuff tells a story about me as a person, to have collected all this stuff. They are the ultimate disinterested readers, out to find what’s exactly wrong with me in order to build some structure.

It showed me one of my fundamental faults, stagnation. It replayed one of the scripts I’d built into my head so early in life that I followed the directions long after the words were spoken. Now it’s played loud enough for my mind to hear the negative, self-criticism. I’ve been alive long enough to finally have the mental space to say, “I’m not…just this.”

To cap that emotional shanking, the coincidental timeliness of posts on the gifts of Loki and Disciplina tell me that this is something to gain from this all. I should be happy about this. If I say I’m happy about this, can we move on and I never make a mistake again? 😦


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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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Where am I?

I wonder if it’s just the nature of April and May, for these months have always been the busiest for me.  Perhaps that makes sense, since I work for a school district.  For almost two  months I was waking up at 5 a.m. to be at work by 6:30 am, which only proved to me that I am not a morning person!  I was also getting paid a lot more money that I normally earn as a para-educator, so I made those 6:30 mornings.

Now, I’m asleep by 11pm and find waking up at 7 a.m. to be “late”…even if I have nowhere to go. 😀

In the midst of that work, my blogging/writing and devotions fell hard by the wayside.  The Pagan Blog Project is on the letter L. The letter I last worked on was C for cleromancy,  yikes.  The guilt of not praying and putting offerings to the ‘Iluma kept chewing on me.  I finally went to my notebook, and wrote out that these offerings have to be relatively easy for me to do; they must not draw undue attention (because my family is Catholic, and would pack me off to the next church meeting they could find); must be easy to dispose off; and be a resource I can get consistently.

This winnowed down my choices to two: incense and olive oil!  I’ve been doing this new schedule for about 2 weeks, and so far it seems to have been accepted by the ‘Iluma. I think this is so because the very first morning I gave an offering of olive oil, the teacher I worked with for that day actually stopped to tell me, “You should get back into teaching.”  Seriously! Perhaps the teacher always thought this, or meant to tell me some time in the future, when the class wasn’t so hectic.  But, there it was, a signpost that may possibly(?) be pointing toward a career, not just a job.  Actually getting on that track is another story…

So I’ve been getting my ‘pagan fix’ by doing lots of small things.   From reading on Sannion and Lupus‘s blogs, the Polytheistic Leadership Conference sounds amazing, and it’s happening on my birthday no less <3.  Making small, daily offerings to the Canaanite deities.  I’ve also got projects in mind:

-creating prayer beads for the gods to use as a devotional object

-making a small symbol (the kappu) to bless my car (much like Catholics  hang rosaries on their rear-view mirror)

-and possibly one to wear discreetly all year

-make anointing oil to cleanse myself of khat’sa

-write new prayers/UPG (Unverified Personal Gnosis) for the ‘Iluma

-meditation with the Phoenician alphabet runes I made a few months ago; if I don’t connect with them, I’ll have to put them aside and try a different system.  Then again, I don’t know if divination is my strength, compared to writing and making stuff with beads.

May the Gods bless you on your path! Shalamu.

 


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Meeting the Ekklesia Antinoou!

The stars and schedules happened to align last weekend: I took a big step to be proactive and meet up with fellow pagans offline!  I almost didn’t go; I’m pretty shy when going anywhere, and I get lost very easily.  Yet I’m glad I did.  What comes next is simply my thoughts on meeting up with fellow pagans, and writing to sort them out.

When I found out that P.S.V. Lupus was going to be in the neighborhood, so to speak, I felt I shouldn’t pass this chance up!  Lupus was giving a presentation and simple ritual of the Ekklesia Antinoou, hosted by Sacred Well Ministries in Redmond. I’ve been following Lupus’ blog, Aedicula Antinoi from last year, when I was beginning to explore my spirituality more deeply instead of standing in the “Cafeteria Catholic” line. I’ve enjoyed following Lupus’ blog posts on es* own and Patheos.  Also, the god Antinous is one whom I’ve not run across often in my pagan research. I felt like I was learning much about him straight from a devotee’s direct experience.

So in the middle of a Saturday night downpour in the Puget Sound (because the rain doesn’t stay in Seattle, ha!), I drove down the 405.  The trip was a little nerve-wracking–the lanes were clogged with construction, and the rain made me feel I was trying to drive through a bathtub! Not to mention fellow drivers, argh.

Nevertheless, I was able to reach the venue just in time.  There were a few other people present from other pagan groups, and Lupus gave me a very kind welcome. 😀  Lupus then gave a condensed, yet clear history of the Ekklesia Antinou’s founding, its gods and sanctified beings (there was a word for this…), its celebrations, and a little of es own journey as a devotee to Antinous.

Then…a ritual for the Trophimoi!

Color me awkward, I’d completely forgotten there was going to be one. Lupus had explained that the Ekklesia has its roots in Greek, Roman and Kemetic/Egyptian syncreticisms; I have no background whatsoever in these traditions.  I felt a bit like a tourist, not from being made unwelcome by anyone, but from realizing I had come unprepared and unfamiliar with nearly everything.  Luckily, the next thought in my head, was therefore, I was there to learn. That thought was extremely specific in hindsight. Also, I learned that the Ekklesia Antinoou  know how to have fun in ritual. I will never forget that rendition of Hadriane!

I would have been happy just watching Lupus lead the ritual, for being able to learn other ways of creating sacred space.  (Which was awesome all on its own, especially how to give offerings to multiple gods. I would try it that way in the future.)  There was certainly a lot of energy; Lupus and other Mystai?/Myste?? felt that the gods had certainly arrived and therefore didn’t have to build “the Obelisk”.  I believed them, there was already a ‘fullness’ in the air.  The Prayer Against Transphobia was very powerful; it’s different to read it to oneself, versus hearing it out loud in the presence of the gods.

Yet there was one point where there was a ‘breakthrough’ and for a moment, I wasn’t a stranger.

Lupus read aloud one of many poems e composed, and I thought, “I know that poem. From the blog!” I was really happy I could recall some of it.  And maybe that happiness wasn’t just my own, because I felt something like very heavy air(??) settling on my head.  It wasn’t uncomfortable, but it was very hard to ignore.  If I closed my eyes it would get *intense* and I worried I’d fall over.  What helped alleviate the pressure was imagining my heels rooted to the ground, as I had learned in tai chi class.  (Later I found out that this was grounding). During that time, though, I felt very open, happy. Even though I didn’t understand what was going on, it was very okay for me to be there, as I was, at that very moment.

It makes me think. That connection can be made, whether it’s your ‘home’ tradition or not. It depends on the gods, and then it depends on you, whether to reach out.  Even if I were letting a door of hospitality/familiarity open a crack, that space is enough to make a connection. I believe this because it also turns out that it was a different poem I’d read last month than what Lupus had been reading. My knowledge was mistaken, yet it was enough to let me open up and reach out.

Sadly, the evening was cut short due to the venue’s scheduling mishaps. I also had to head back home, and I wasn’t sure how long it would take with the rain and possible accidents…

I’m glad I made it out to meet Lupus and other pagans, and will hopefully meet them again in the future. Even though I didn’t know what to expect, it had been worth it to find out.  Perhaps Antinous was glad too?  On the way back, I asked myself if that time had been enough, short as it was.  A car in front of me changed lanes as I asked.  It had this license plate: ANT****.

Hmm. Yes. I took that as a yes.

*Not a typo. Lupus refers to emself in Old Spivak Pronouns, which is gender-neutral language.