Palms of Our Hands

A Polytheist's Blog


Leave a comment

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.

Advertisements


3 Comments

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.


2 Comments

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.


Leave a comment

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.


Leave a comment

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.


Leave a comment

Christian-ish and pagan-ish.

I’m what some people would call a Christopagan.  I’m Christian in that I was raised in the Roman Catholic faith, from birth.  My parents come from the heavily Roman Catholicized Philippines, so it was no question that I would be raised as a Roman Catholic.  My K-8 and high school education was in private Catholic schools, paid with saved tuition and volunteer hours at the church. In fact, I live nearby my same church now, and drop by when I want to say hello to the Blessed Mother.

But I’m not strictly Catholic anymore.  I look at the natural and elemental world, and I see that there are more powers in the world than what Christianity speaks of.  And contrary to the somewhat benign condescension of the Vatican toward other religions, I believe that other religions in fact have as much faith and power in them as Christianity does.  (When we discussed it in school…and that’s IF we discussed it at all, other religions were simply “not as full of grace” as Roman Catholicism.) If anything, seeing  the world as immanent, full of power, has given me more reason to be a more conscious person/Christian/Christopagan/Pagan, than when creation was passive, and full of sin, in the Christian point of view.

Yet where does a lapsed Catholic go when she is exploring the other faiths? I’m darned lucky that I have been coming of age in the Internet era.  There’s more information available now than even 10 years ago, and I only found as much as I did because I was in college.

I look at my Roman Catholicism as my “spiritual native language”.  I grew up calling God as  Father, and Jesus as the Son of God. With the Holy Spirit being…somewhere in there.  And Mary is the Divine Feminine of Christianity.  The Archangels have also been a constant presence, especially when I had my dark days back in 2008.

So, where am I learning my ‘new language’ now?  Youtube, of course.  I’ve browsed forums on paganism, Wicca, and other witchcraft-friendly forums.  There’s something immediate and real when hearing someone talking about their spiritual practices, the ups and downs, and the lessons they learned from it.

What is so pagan about my spirituality, if my first spiritual learning was in Catholicism?  Giving thanks to the guardians of my home, for instance. Today I offered a shot of beer that I had bought with my dad.  (I am in the broom-closet still, alas.)  I look at it and I see the time I got to spend with my dad shopping, going through the day together on a Saturday afternoon.  I wanted to say thanks–and the offering (with a lit tealight candle) is a tangible way to represent my gratitude.  Would I need to do it, if I was using a strictly Christian framework? Probably not.

My offering:

294

(Well, the beer is in the shot glass behind the candle.  The symbol representing the Archangels is a card that a good friend and fellow Pagan sent to me last Christmas.  The other candle, with the red beads that is bowl-shaped, is dedicated to Anatu, a Canaanite goddess.)

These thoughts may not hew strictly to the Pagan Blog Project, but it gets things off my chest.


Leave a comment

E is for ….Eclectically Elemental and Earthy

Faffing on youtube, I found this dazzling dubstep/violin video that mashed the two types of music beautifully. There are many tracks concerning the Elements, but this is one modern paean I LOVE.   

I am still discovering my practice.  Being in and out of paganism ever since I started studying it in college, while I am aware of the Elements, my practice has not exactly been earth-based.  It’s not like Christianity (or Roman Catholicism in particular) teaches special attention to the earth.  It’s a glaring lack in my spirituality that I do want to remedy.

Despite my not being aware or believing in the Elements, I have over the years recognized my ‘native Element’ if you will: Intution, aka Water in many magickal systems.  My awareness of Water/Intuition came early in childhood. I was easily, emotionally, overwhelmed.  Any kind of argument or shouting match felt oppressive to me, and the only way to release that smothering feeling was crying.  My folks often shook their head and told me not to be “too emotional”.  Trying to divorce myself from emotions is as sensible as telling me not to breathe.  Even up to this day, I feel awkward about reading situations through my feelings.

Later on in my life I’ve gotten lots of comments and questions about how it is that I intuit a lot of emotions and motivations in situations.  And so long as I remember not to be too personal in confrontations, most of my emotions remain bottled up long enough that I can escape somewhere private and then let the dam down.

As I am moving further along in my career as a teacher-in-training, knowing where I am mentally and emotionally will be my starting point.  My instinct this year has been to study the Elements, starting with Earth.  My inner knowledge was pretty adamant about “ONLY ONE at a time”.  I decided, while Winter is still clutching the Northwest, that Earth would be the Element to learn.

Earth: it’s stability, it’s ‘earthy’ in that it doesn’t deny the processes of the body. It’s the home, the physical, the food to eat, the bills to pay.  I’ve only done small, off-the-cuff invocations of Earth.  The most recent time was when I was getting over my cold.  My chest and nose were totally stuffed with snot, and it was hard to breathe.  I did a rosary, and just asked to be able to breathe easily.  In that prayer, it felt like the energy of the earth climbed through the floor and into my body. I could picture the various arteries and veins bringing oxygen to my cells. By going deeper into myself, I was coming aware of the forces already inside me.  It pushed the worst of the cold out of my chest and nose.  Seriously, from that point onward I was gaining back my energy and health. It would have happened on its own…but the fact that something I did made it happen sooner, truly convinced me of Elemental energies.

I’m going to start composting in my yard this year.  Also, I want to be conscious of  planting both vegetables and flowering plants, to feed both myself and the bees around the area.  So as spring approaches, I’m excited to get to know Earth–the planet and the element–better.