Location, Climate and Religion

In my location, we are blessed with a growing season that lasts nearly year-round.  The Winters here are typically mild, and we often do not experience a hard freeze for several Winters in a row, which means you can grow all kinds of plants in the Winter months with just a little careful planning.  I’ve also noticed that this interesting climate has impacted my interpretation of some of the old festivals.  I’ll use the example of Apollon’s return/departure from Delphi, since it is coming up later in the year, and because it is one of the most important to me, personally.

I’ve read that Apollon leaves Delphi for from as little to three months, to as much as six.  Around here, Winter lasts about four months, so that pretty much takes celebrating His departure/return on the equinoxes, as is traditional, out of the running all together.  (Besides, for me, the equinoxes are all about Demeter and Persephone, and Their myth cycle makes a lot more sense for celebration on those dates.)  At the end of October, is when I get all the Winter goodbyes from my Lord.

I’ve been welcoming Dionysos into my home every Winter at Samhain for the last several years.  (One day, I’ll think of new names for my personal festivals, but now I think actually celebrating them is more important.)  So, from that point on, which covers all of November, December (at the end of which we have Yule, also known as Midwinter), January and most of February, is four months.  I always get a very strong feeling of anticipation from Apollon a few weeks prior to His return on His birthday in February.  This happens around the time of the Wiccan holiday of Imbolc, but more importantly, it is the time of Solar Spring, when the days first begin to lengthen in the Northern Hemisphere, and when I notice the first flowers beginning to bloom in South Texas.

So, I have a sort of preparation festival in His honor, which mostly consists of purification and decorating the house for His return.  For me, Apollon’s return is more of a weeks long event, culminating with His appearance at the final ritual. It is probably my favorite festival and time of year, hands down, and it is completely personalized, tailored to suit my location and climate.  There are other festivals which I’ve had to tweak for them to fit into my local framework. Such as Thargelia.  I can’t celebrate Thargelia in April, because there isn’t any fruit growing here yet.  However, only a month later, in May, I’ll have many different fruits to offer.

So, while I believe it to be vitally important that we learn about what the ancients did, and how they celebrated, I think it is perfectly acceptable to find ways of celebration that suit us, today.  Our localities should be respected, and our climates considered when we craft our practices.  Even though many of us may be solitary, none of us are islands.  We each share our experiences with the Land upon which we live.

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14 responses to “Location, Climate and Religion

  1. I agree that localized polytheism is extremely important. However, I don’t think it’s always appropriate to shift things due to one’s local climate, depending on the source of the tradition.

    Apollon leaves and returns to Delphi each year, at very specific times (not sure what you’ve read that says otherwise, but I’ve done extensive research on Delphic traditions and there’s no ambiguity there – He leaves for three months of winter and returns on 7 Bysios/Anthesterion, the only time it would be more would be when the intercalary month needs to be inserted). This is a tradition specific to Delphi alone, not to all of the world or even to all of Greece. And, the way I see it, unless you just view it as a metaphor or something, it is indicating an actual occurrence – the movements of a god. None of us can change those movements just because we live somewhere else. They might not mean as much to us given our climate, but it’s not really about us, it’s about Apollon and His relationship with the Hyperboreans. Especially in this case, when it’s not even tied to agriculture or anything like that.

    Yes, it’s important to find ways of celebration that suit us, but I don’t think that extends to declaring something to be happening at a different time than it is – unless you think that Apollon literally changes His annual trip to Hyperborea depending on where the bulk of His worshippers live? Or, perhaps that the trip is just symbolic? Or are you just marking what you personally feel as an absence and return, and intellectually connecting it with the Delphic tradition but not actually thinking it’s due to the same cause (i.e., Apollon’s journey to Hyperborea specifically)? I am just having trouble wrapping my mind around the logic behind shifting this particular celebration.

    (For the record, I do celebrate His departure and return, but only in the context of Delphi, because I have such strong ties to Delphic oracular tradition, and I do so on the exact dates regardless of my local climate. I wouldn’t actually think it was a particularly relevant custom for anyone not integrated in some fashion with the Delphic calendar.)

    I don’t mean to be overly critical or nit-picky here, especially as I really do think the sentiment behind this is wonderful and important. And obviously, if you feel His presence renewed strongly at a certain time of year, you should celebrate that. But on the other hand, I think sometimes we can be too quick to put the focus on ourselves, or what makes sense to us, risking losing touch with what’s going on in the divine world that has nothing to do with us. Or that everything becomes merely symbolic or metaphorical.

    • While I certainly appreciate that things were done a certain way, and are still done that way by most people, when it comes down to it, any changes in my practices will occur gradually as I come to better understand the whys and hows. And, personally, Apollon’s opinion is the only one that matters to me, so all the research in the world isn’t going to influence me more than that. I’ve asked Him about it, in fact I ask Him every year, as I have a tradition of re-evaluating my celebrations, each as they come. I did not just tack the Delphic cycle onto these days to suit myself. I was led, inspired and directly influenced by Apollon, Whom finds my personal practices perfectly acceptable. Thank you very much for your input, though. I do always appreciate your very knowledgeable opinion.

      • I get that, and ultimately that’s always what I base my own practices on, too. But I am still curious, if that means you believe (and Apollon has told you) that His journeys to Hyperborea have changed times, are not literally happening, or are not directly relevant to the absence-return cycle you are celebrating locally. I ask because I have only ever felt His absence-return in the Delphic context, not locally (although that’s perhaps over-ridden by the focus on Delphi in this case), so it would be interesting to compare notes. If many people are experiencing a similar, but localized, cycle regarding Him, and yet it’s not directly tied to Delphi or Hyperborea, that would certainly be significant.

      • Basically, what I’m doing is celebrating two cycles, the Delphic cycle (because Apollon wants me to understand its significance, even if my celebration doesn’t correspond perfectly to the dates celebrated in ancient Hellas), and the localized cycle of my geographic area. He has an interest in this area, one which seems very closely tied to the Delphic cycle. There are things about this place that explicitly call Apollon to my mind. I have never been to Hellas, so I can not say what it is like there, what it might be like to feel the god’s presence there, but here I feel Apollon everywhere, and I feel His absence/return very strongly. It has much significance, but I think that perhaps the Delphic cycle, in my case as opposed to yours, is much like a training aid to help me learn how to focus on the local cycle.

      • Also, to answer the first part of your question, which I just realized I hadn’t addressed, no I do not see or experience Apollon’s absence/return as symbolic in any way. I believe it to be an actual occurence, which takes place every year at set and specific times. My personal alterations to the celebrations don’t really have any effect on how I continue to view the occasions.

      • I think that perhaps the Delphic cycle, in my case as opposed to yours, is much like a training aid to help me learn how to focus on the local cycle.

        That’s an interesting thought. Makes sense.

  2. Reblogged this on Loki's Bruid and commented:
    Reblogging as food for thought, because we just discussed this in my CUUPs group. As a Florida Pagan, the yearly cycles are incredibly different from the ones my ancestors lived by – summer in Florida is the latent “dead” season where nothing grows. And this begat the question: since our ancestors based their practices on their interactions with the Gods and wights, is it not more reconstructionist or appropriate for us to do the same, even if our seasonal cycles are expressed very differently?

    • Thank you, Darkamber! What a nice little thing to find in my inbox! I appreciate your kindness very much, although I don’t think I have it in me to continue with the project. There are just too many inspiring bloggers out there for me to choose a mere seven :)

  3. seastruckbythecrossroads

    Hello… I am here to give you the Inspirig Blog Award:
    http://seastruckbythecrossroads.wordpress.com/2012/08/06/and-so-i-became-an-inspiring-blogger-woah/
    Enjoy it with my thanks for many well-enjoyed blogposts!

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