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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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.