Palms of Our Hands

A Polytheist's Blog


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Waking up to 2015

starting-line by Katy Peters

Hello blogging world! Where have you been? Honestly, I’ve really been under a rock. I feel like I’ve been looking at my shoelaces while a new race is starting. The starting ‘pop’ has gone off, and I’m standing in the dust. ‘Go go go!’ says my brain.

I will! Just not herpy-derpy running, despairing at how far everyone else seems to be.  Last year, I went into panic room mode: talking only to people as necessary, doing my offerings/devotions to the Iluma haphazardly (but daily!).  I lost an entire month’s pay when a new recipe for my meds got tweaked just a little bit, sending my blood pressure and anxiety through the roof.

I had retreated to pencil and paper notes, recording my observations of the deities and my practice to my spiritual journal. By the time I had finished writing, my energy and drive to rewrite it for this blog was gone. So, I plan to simply write my drafts here and post it, kicking the Editor aside.

The founder of the Pagan Blog Project has decided to move on from the project after 2014.  The mantle was taken up to continue this community spirit of pagan blogging with The Pagan Experience. I’m hoping that the new format will shake things up a little bit for me, get me to post more, even just for my own posterity.  And thanks to my friend Habbalah from Pagan Forum, I’m drawn to talk about my spiritual journey out loud, instead of meandering silently like I always do.

There’s one adversary I always have.  It’s not the most powerful, but it is the most cunning, because of all circumstances that happen in my life, when trouble comes knocking, this adversary…is knocking from the inside.  Myself.

And right now that adversary says I’m falling behind, and it’s not worth putting the effort to struggle and make noise. So for right now, my only resolution today is to accept where I am, all of the fears and procrastination and shifty-eyed parts of me.  Because from there, I will know where to start. And gods and Iluma willing, I’ll make a better stand for what I want and how I live.

Peace, and shalamu

M., aka Turningtides

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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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Gratitude for the Purifying One – To Choranu

Kudurru, or stone document that records a contract.

Kudurru, or stone document that records land contracts, and the gods who enforce it.

O Wise One, he who tames the snaketooth poison,
it is Choranu whom the Lady Mare calls for aid.

She pleas for her children, calls for her young ones,
to ease the scorpion’s sting, to save from harm.

The tamarisk is in your hand, the barbed branch in your grip.
The reed clacks loudly, the woody stems crush the oath-breaker’s skull.
The date palm spreads, sweeps, the fronds an outstretched
hand toward life.

Wise as serpents you are,
Choranu, Snake-Mage!
Renew the body, shred the old skin.

He who is the Purifier, the Hallowed Exorcist
no poison can sting you
the air made sweet by Your breath,

Choranu.

Inspired by writings of:

“The Mare and Horon”, translated by Simon B. Parker. Ugaritic Narrative Poetry (1997). Canaanite myth. 

 “The God Choron: Enchanter, Exorcist, Enforcer”, article by Tess Dawson.  Anointed: A Devotional Anthology for the Deities of the Near and Middle East (2011).

–Spoken curse, “May Choron break  your skull!”. Similar to modern English, “Go to hell!”

Image of kudurru (Akkadian for ‘boundary stone’) depicting the snake god Nirah, representative of Ishtaran, deity of Sumerian city Der. Via Wikipedia Commons.


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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.


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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.