Palms of Our Hands

A Polytheist's Blog


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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 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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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.


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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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Pagan Blog Project – N is for…Not Good Enough Syndrome

(“Frustration”, artwork by Richard Young)

Artwork by Richard Young, http://www.ryoung-art.com/Default.htm

Artwork by Richard Young, http://www.ryoung-art.com/Default.htm

Perhaps this is a condition particular to me, but in anything (and everything), I will reach a point where it seems I have an idea of knowing what I’m doing.  Then almost out of nowhere, I freeze faster than an ice cube in Antarctica.

I will find myself pulling back, thinking “Hmm, there’s something I missed. I better double-check before I go forward with this project/prayer. I don’t have the information? Or the supplies? Best to go look it up on the internet/buy it/search the library…”

Picture that there are two sides. One side–where I am–represents the current me; what I know, my daily schedule, my mundane self, the Self that sees where she wants to go, and is working toward her goals.  On the other side is where those goals are–finishing a novel, connecting with the Deities who are talking with me, getting that job, having a relationship, etc., etc.

Of course, there is this gap in the middle.  As one memorable quote I keep on my Kill Procrastination page goes, “If you want something you’ve never had, you must be willing to do something you’ve never done.”

That ‘something I’ve never done’ is represented by that gap.  It’s that gap where theory and understanding is put to practice–writing that paragraph, doing that dance move, filling out the job application, cooking that recipe.  That gap is where my feet leave the ground.  I want to get to that other side! But…

Is that gap a foot deep? A thousand feet deep? Whatever it is, I don’t want to fall into it.
Without a WORD, because my subconscious/unconscious is sneaky like that, I find myself backing away. I retreat into a “need more X” of everything. I can say I’m gathering up the courage to build a bridge, but wood and nails piling up in a neat corner is NOT a built bridge.  Then my frustration builds because I know there is something I want, and I know, intellectually, the steps in the everyday world that I need to take. (Fill out the application, make dinner, call a friend, write a page, etc., etc.).

I find myself doing that in my practice to honoring the Deities.  Currently on a revivalist/reconstructionist path, I’m paralyzed with the fear that I’m Not Doing It Right.   “The Head Priest/Priestess of X Gods has to do so much in his/her day just to greet the Deities! How am I even supposed to compare to that?  What I know/do is so little, it’s practically worthless.” I’m so paralyzed that instead of going ahead and letting the experience or the Gods teach me what I should do, I simply don’t go. Better to talk about Them than to Them, because the Gods will forbid me from ever speaking to Them again if I…blunder in my myriad ways, thanks to being a squishy, fallible human being.

This is what’s ridiculous.  I reach a point where I will have to start taking ownership (responsibility) for my decisions and actions before Gods and men, and I choke.

So this is my message to my SELF, and anyone who needs the clue-by-four when your life feels stuck in neutral and you haven’t shifted the gears to get yourself going again:

You cannot wait for the Perfect Moment.  You will make mistakes and THAT IS OK.  For as long as you’re alive, you are GOOD ENOUGH.


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Pagan Blog Project – M: Moving On From Christopaganism

The first time in awhile I could come and post–school has eaten me alive, but I finished my program and am gonna start job hunting soon.  Meanwhile, I’ve been slowly building a daily ritual of offerings and prayer towards the Canaanite pantheon.

I’m conscientious about my path at the moment.  I’ve been exploring different spiritualities and religions for years, ever since going to college.  In the last 5 years, I’ve always come back to Catholicism. As cool it would be to worship the deities of the Philippines, where my family comes from, I have a hard time associating the Philippines (and my family) with anything but Catholicism.

So it kind of scares me when I realized that I am going further into studying and honoring the Canaanite pantheon.  For all my bouncing in and out of Catholicism, I have felt a response to my calls to the Gracious Deities: Athiratu, Anatu, Choranu, so far.  I am drawn to Them, the way I used to be drawn to the Virgin Mary.  My connection isn’t that clear with them yet, but the glimpses I get during prayer or simply meditating upon Them have shown me that They are very present.  Anatu is a goddess of action (and Her myth and associations scare the heck out of me); Choranu is quiet and steadfast; Athiratu has helped me with Her wisdom and sheer presence to help me find a stable center.

I’ll probably find out more, as soon as I get over myself and reach out. I am a master of worrying myself out of actually doing anything.

Resources that helped me get started on learning about Canaanite religion:

Tess Dawson – Her works are what introduced me to Anatu and the Canaanite pantheon:
Kina’ani: Impressions of Tess Dawson, Canaanite Polytheist (blog)
Natib Qadish (very informational website!)
Whisper of Stone
The Horned Altar

Lilinah’s website Qadash Kinahnu, a very informative site that brings a second perspective to the books above.