Palms of Our Hands

A Polytheist's Blog


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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.


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Prayer for Kothar-wa-Hasis

Praise to Kothar-wa-Hasis

Kothar-wa-Hasis fashions the Driver, Yagrushu
and Ayamiri, the Expeller for the Rider of Clouds
As the Crafty and Wise creates divine weapons for the Ba’al Hadad,
patiently crafts for gods and mortals.
May such concentration strengthen the mind,
the wavering grip made firm.

Kothar-wa-Hasis sets the foundations of the palace,
sets the Thunderer’s kingship with gems and brick,
flagstones in lapis lazuli, frames of gold,
The Deft and Skillful places silver with sure hands, the fine cedars
of Lebanon, the splendid wood bows to his craft,
May such steadiness be lent to human hands and hopes.

–and fire arises, divine fire
the purpose of the Craftsman,
what was only visions waving in the heat
the palace burns into existence
inflamed by the Divine Spark.


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30 Days of Devotion

I’ve fallen out of devotional practice since last month. Part of it was due to being shocked by some messages. Other exciting things were getting back into the swing of work I am familiar with, and also catching the flu. I’ve been struggling to regain some semblance of relationship with the Iluma (the deities of the Canaanites), which has lapsed entirely because of me. So this 30 Days of Devotion work seems like the perfect place to start again.


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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.