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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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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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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Pagan Blog Project – P is for Pagan to Polytheist

I took the rest of July and most of August as a hiatus, partly spiritual and partly mundane. During that time, I held back from making formal offerings, or doing ritual.  I was so paranoid about Doing the Wrong Thing that I ended up doing very little.  Did some writing in my spiritual journal, reconnected with my tarot decks and brushed up on reading for myself and for a friend.

During this time I started reviewing my experiences over the past year, and it surprised the heck out of me:

-I’d planned to study Wicca and witchcraft, starting with the elements

-the number of Deities Whose doors I’d been knocking on were more than I’d thought

-tarot still takes practice, but writing about the Daily Draw helps me deepen my understanding

-beginning of my studies into Canaanite mythology and modern polytheism within this pantheon

-mild freak out on trying to Reconstruct everything

-many more vivid dreams (the Deities trying to speak to me?), working on clarity

-and…finally I’m not a very nature-based pagan. (>.>)

I’m not a Pagan that has “an earth-based, nature-based spirituality”.  I’m Pagan in that I seek out guidance from deities. I seek right action a lot, and I’m very conscientious of my words because things I say/write tend to occur.

I did receive help and encouragement from the Divine Assembly.  Hints that I didn’t need to be completely perfect.  And, when I finally mustered up the courage to approach Them again, the sense I got (from ‘Anatu) was my efforts were baby talk to Them.  For a whole year and that was as far as I’d gotten? To be honest, it was refreshing.  My reaching out must be very simple, but I got the sense of being watched over.


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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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Khats’a, and a Window with a View

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Arles-abadia-3.jpg

Image from Wikipedia Commons.

Today I decided to set my ass down and actually talk to the Deities that I’ve been trying to speak-with-and alternatively-push-away.  (I keep my very, VERY beginner invitations to ‘Ilu and ‘Athiratu, the Father and Mother of the Canaanite pantheon, the Divine Assembly, to ‘Anatu (the Warrior Goddess and Whose Name scared me so many years ago…and then became the first clue that led me to learning about Them), and Choranu…who seems interested in me for His own reasons.

I’m wondering if my avoidance issues are partly hormonal or chemical, because this backing-away crashes a lot of my life. The general impression I received from speaking with Them was that it was ridiculously easy to accrue khats’a, which in Canaanite religion is regarded as ‘sin’.* Not the ‘sin’ of Christianity, where sinning equals disobedience equals spiritual and eternal death (thanks, Christianity…). But sin as in imbalance of the self and/or soul.  As Tess Dawson writes in The Horned Altar (p. 27),

The Canaanite concept of sin implied that the order of the universe had gotten out of alignment: someone tweaked nature or community the wrong way, or a person had committed a baneful act. The Canaanite concept differs in nuance from the modern Christian idea of disobedience to the church. Khats’a–sin, transgression, or misdeed–results from cause and effect: you commit a wrongdoing, and entropy results.  Although punishment can follow from committing a misdeed, any ill effects usually come of natural cycles.  Correcting the wrongdoing or performing certain activities restores balance, exorcises the pollution, and restores “beauty”.

In the Catholic school I went to, we had our First Confession with the priest.  We could sit face-to-face with him, or go sit behind a screen for some anonymity and privacy.  It was rather formulaic: we had to recall our sins (or think really really hard on what qualified as sin!), and as penance, the priest often gave us a certain number of Hail Marys (or the Marian prayer at the end of the Rosary, the Hail Holy Queen) to recite.  All the way to eighth grade, it was some variation of the same theme.  Did it bring peace of mind and soul? It did.  Did it mean I would never ever sin again, and be good with God forever? Hardly…  This “Confess and recite X number of prayers” did its job in introducing the idea of recognition and rectitude of spiritual imbalance to a seven-year-old.

As an adult, I think of it as a window getting cloudy. Did that window get cloudy from the general comings-and-goings of life?  Did it get cloudy from me throwing dirt or other objects at it in anger/frustration/resentment?  Did it get cloudy because I neglected to clean up after myself where I could?  The difference then is that I developed a near-panicked desire to always keep my window clean, and the first new splotch of dust signaled how unworthy and disgusting I was to God.  Nowadays, I look at it as how I would look at cleaning my own body, or brushing my own teeth or something just as mundane.  The ideal would be to always be clean. But having to attend to a dirty dish, or a dirty body by cleaning doesn’t mean that I am forever a horrible, disgusting creature. Just clean up! How and why the window got dirty, to me, equates to the situation at hand. Spraying Windex on a window is different from having the window shatter and replacing it.  In both situations, action is necessary because leaving it as it is means imbalance.  However, taking the action does not demean the God, or the human trying to return to a right relationship with Them. At least, that is my thought so far.

Through actions (good and bad), and daily living, the miasma of khat’sa clings to everyone.  And as for me, it appears I accrue khats’a like a white shirt at a tomato spaghetti luncheon.  I thanked the Deities and asked Them to help me with living in right accordance, to clean my ‘window’ to Them.

Right after giving my offerings to Them, my brother decided to visit and help mow my lawn.  Right after THAT, my father wanted to come to my house and re-landscape the way he wanted it to look–tear down the old fence and make way for a fresh image.  I grumbled and muttered through the serene Saturday being turned into a construction day, but at the end of it, the yard looked better, if a little ragged at the edges. It also made me wonder if this was a result of talking with the Deities today.

If I had known that there was going to be large-scale earth-moving and weed pulling, I would have told the land and house spirits before my family came over.

Which brings me to another dilemma about myself that I’ll cover in a different post: what kind of pagan am I?

*Excerpt from The Horned Altar.