Category Archives: My Opinion

Just One Thing…

There are a few wonderful posts making the rounds today, written by people whom I greatly respect, about things which I vehemently agree. You should read those posts.  Normally, I would link them here, because really, I couldn’t say it any better than it’s already been said, but I’m not at a computer right now.  So, instead I’ll say what’s been floating in my mind as a result of reading these posts, myself.

First, whatever it is you do with or for your Gods, is between Them and you.  Even and especially the things you’ve found no Lore or histostorical precedent for.  You don’t need an ancient precedent to tell you that a particular way of relating to Them, or that a new kind of offering or practice is acceptable.  Now and always, trust yourself, and trust that your Gods know what’s best between you.  It’s nobody’s business but your own, whether or not you’ve chosen to share your practices with others, publicly.

And even though you don’t need anyone from the past or present to legitimize your practices, don’t but surprised if time reveals that at least some of your revelations were indeed done, thought or acknowledged before.  It has certainly happened to me.

But really, even if that never happens, please know that if it feeds your soul, and feeds your relationship with the Gods in your life, it is true, it is right, and it is legitimate.  Your practice is yours.  Other people might not like it, or agree with it, and they might even tell you so, or attempt to push you out of your religion with absolutist rhetoric, but they do not speak for the Gods.  They only speak for themselves, and/or any groups they represent.  They don’t speak for me, and they don’t speak for you.

It’s okay to learn about how they do things or to incorporate their ideas into your practice, if you truly agree.  But if doing so means that you must reject wholesome experiences that you’ve previously had, or anything else simply because they don’t like it, then it’s time to decide if having their approval is worth sacrificing your religious sovereignty, and your personal integrity.  If it isn’t worth it, walk away, or read something else, as the case may be.

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Veiling in the Face of Fear

I am an Apollon’s woman.  I veil for my God.  Increasingly, as the years have gone by, Apollon has taken my veiling practice under His auspices.  Yes, I still acquire the other spiritual benefits of a consecrated veil, but He has made it known that He considers it His sacred duty to oversee my implementation of the practice itself, and many of its benefits.

It is important to me to do the things that please Him, especially when those things are directly beneficial to my health and well-being.  And it is equally important for me to follow the directives of my own heart and seeking.  Please know that I have veiled publicly and privately for over a decade, well even before my first child was born, and long before Apollon was a major fixture in my life.  This is not a passing fancy. This is not a call for attention.  This is me living my daily life.

Please understand that I have veiled publicly and privately in the State of Texas for much of that time.  Texas isn’t a place that is generally known for it’s tolerance, but you’d be surprised in some places.  I find the further south you go, the more tolerant and accepting the people are.  Perhaps that’s because the cultural majority in this country (the US) is actually the minority, population-wise, in South Texas.  However, you’d also not be surprised by some of the more negative reactions a veiled black woman can receive in any part of the State.

But now I’m in Colorado, and you’d maybe think that such a liberal State, with its progressive stance on certain issues, would be ideal for a Polytheist such as myself, and maybe it is for other Polytheists living here, but because Lord Apollon has taken my veiling practice as a sign of my reverence, love and duty toward Him, I am not currently so privileged as to set it down.  Not even now, when tensions are high and all veiled or covered women have become (or have become more so) a “threat”, or “terrorists” in the eyes of many.

You also have to understand what it’s like simply going to the grocery store sometimes.  The stares.  The whispers.  The outright sneers. Most people who take the time to show you how outraged they are by your presence will do so passive-aggressively, so there’s not much to be done about it.  But there are those rare instances, which are increasing in frequency, of veiled women no matter what their religious affiliation being physically assaulted by people wishing to inflict pain and terror,–even death– upon them.

This is a hard world to live in.  These are the times that we must navigate in all our seeking and heartfelt reverence of the Old Gods. Apollon has not asked me to cease my veiling practice, and He will not. He has marked me and I am set apart from the population.  The veil, in my case, is now not only a concealer but also a revealer of my path as one of His.  When in our society we agree to take up this practice in honor of a God, we agree to at least try to remember courage in face of fear.

Someone asked me yesterday if, in light of the state of affairs today, would I discontinue veiling.  I won’t say is hasn’t crossed my mind.  I am a mother.  I have dependents who need me.  I have a life, and yes, it would be an easier life if I put away my veils.  But what does that teach my children?  What does that teach the world-at-large?  That if enough ignorant people make enough ruckus, women (and men) will bow to their threats and bullying?  I will not.

Ultimately, it is up to each individual whether or not their veiling practice puts them in too much danger to continue.  If you feel threatened and that setting it aside for a time is the correct action for you, take that action.  But also know that our Gods, including Apollon, may have asked us for this devotion because They feel we are strong enough to carry our lives, and Their presence in our lives, openly.  We are the ones the future priests, priestesses and facilitators are looking toward now.  We are the ones they are watching, and so are our detractors within our own communities. In time, let them not say to our children truthfully that we were too afraid to love liberty, and the Gods. Instead, let us win the battles over our own bodies, and what we choose to cover them with.

Manifestations: These Dark Aspects…

or

…I’m feeling thinky today, so I’m going to ponder…

…That perhaps recently too many people have fixated upon Apollon’s “dark” aspects, and now those aspects are feeding upon this fixation, and taking precedence in the thoughts and subsequently the experiences of people who interact with Him. Apollon is more than these aspects– far more– and yet He will come in these ways when we allow fear and dread to influence our expectations of Him. What we fixate upon, in the natures of the Gods, determines the template from which we build our relationships with Them.

As it is today, was it so in the past. Each shrine or temple that was His, was dedicated to sometimes vastly different aspects of Apollon. He would come based upon the expectation of the populace and the tradition (because the people were the tradition– the rites, mysteries and philosophical ponderings were passed down to the young through direct participation), to fulfill the reciprocal contract of Adoration and Favor (Kharis).

Adoration may come in many different forms. We may bestow it upon the Gods through our love and mutually recognized respect/autonomy, or it may be given through our terror and suffering. Favor too, can be given by the Gods gently and with loving purpose, or crudely and with complete disregard. They will be worshiped and experienced in the ways that we worship and experience Them, or They will not be worshiped and experienced. We actually have the final say in how it happens, at least when dealing with Hellenic Gods.

Apollon is a God of Laws, a God of Rules, a God of Reason. He may not overstep the bounds that we place upon Him in relation to ourselves, but if we place no bounds (i.e. we do not fully realize who we are, what we want and don’t want, what we need, and how we may begin to responsibly manifest these things) He will take the lead and will often opt for what He feels is the most efficient approach in teaching you about yourself, so that you can begin to manifest your life as you desire it. Not the nicest approach. Not the most comforting approach. The most efficient approach. That is why He tells us to “Know Thyself”. And if we do not know, we will soon learn.

Note that this does not mean to judge thyself. Knowing, understanding, and working to change things that we find that we dislike or are unsatisfied with is a part of the Apollonian refining process. But it must happen without self-judgement or other negative emotions or reactions in regard to the self. When we work with Apollon, we work to build our best self, the self of our dreams and our ambitions. In order to do that, we first must learn to be honest, with ourselves and also with Him.

It should also be understood that Apollon is a God who inspires terror, naturally. Often one of the first things someone who has just experienced Him can articulate, is how frightening He is, how absolutely glorious, beautiful and terrible He is. Holy Terror translates well into a fear-response, and that fear then colors opinions when seeking outside information, which might be anything from the Lore, to modern perspectives written in blogs like mine, to public forum discussions.

As an Apollonian priestess and bride, my concern is that these speculative “dark” aspects of Apollon are being fed more readily than people are willing to feed their personal relationships with Apollon sans any outside influences.

I have mentioned before that near the beginning of our love-affair, Apollon told me to stay away from the opinions and doxa of others. By then, I had already devoured much of the Lore, so there was that already in the background, but I was able to set it aside, insomuch as I didn’t allow it to frame my interactions with the very real Entity who had come to claim my heart. He deserved, indeed we deserved, to have our relationship built upon a foundation of our own making.

Apollon is more than the stories that are told about Him, ancient and modern, and He is more than the collective experience of His “darker” nature. But it is up to each of us to try to find which aspects of Him resonate the most harmoniously with our own inner light. It is neither safe nor possible for any human to know Him in His totality, therefor we should look to and petition the Names that best suit our life’s purpose, or we may be assigned to work with a Name we would not have chosen for ourselves.

Manifestations: Accountability and Consent

[Although I have been working on a version of this article for a few weeks, my finishing it has entirely to do with Thenea’s very thoughtful post from yesterday.]

~

In recent years there have been a couple of good discussions about differing manifestations of Gods, and how They can manifest to each of Their devotees in varying ways and degrees.  There is some speculation that each of us who works with a Deity gets their very own version of that Deity.  I sort of agree with this, not in the sense that I believe there are, say, ten-thousand different Apollons, each acting and responding under the same name, but rather that for each manifestation of Him, He puts only the parts of Himself in that are of spiritual relevance to the devotee(s) that particular manifestation is working with.

For instance, if we were to think of Apollon as a non-anthropomorphic bubble, filled with the various aspects of His personality, He might looks something like this:

Non-Anthropomorphic Apollon

Imagine each colored circle within being a different part of Him.  Now, imagine that He has three manifestations, each taking a little of what is in the original, into Themselves.  It might look something like this:

Non-Anthropomorphic Apollon x 3

Each is Apollon.  Each is carrying around a different set of aspects, causing variation within the ways that He manifests for the different groups or individuals He works with.  In this diagram, at least one of those aspects is shared among all three manifestations, while all other aspects are unique to the manifestation in which they occur.  These are all Apollon, but They are not the same.  Depending on what aspects work best for groups or individuals, Gods can choose to tailor Their manifestations to suit the end goal of the work.  But it isn’t just the Gods tailoring these experiences. They will often play off of our expectations, coming to us in the ways that are most promoted by our Polytheist culture, and also by the overculture.

In our current very patriarchal (American) society, this causes a lot of grief, as many of the Gods see this and recognize it from antiquity.  They are already used to working within this framework, and so what They may think as a very normal and reasonable approach to gathering devotees, may not actually be the correct approach for this time in human history, although each case should be taken on its individual merits.  For someone like me, a darker manifestation might be needed, at least in the beginning, as a starting point for learning and spiritual growth.

Let us now imagine that this dark manifestation behaves in ways that are familiar to us, from what remains of the Lore.  If Apollon is responding to the prevailing societal view, it shouldn’t be surprising.

This Apollon is haughty and controlling, and He does pretty much whatever He can get away with.  He demands, He threatens, and He punishes without mercy.  But what happens when we outgrow this dark manifestation– when we see our worth as being more than what this darkness is expressing to us?  I believe that is when we ought to look past the darkness and into ourselves.

We can often find aspects of our Gods within us, if we dare to look.  Also, if we take the time to learn about the others aspects and integrate them into our lives through offering and conversation, we can alter the make-up of our personal manifestations of Deity.  As with all relationships, this way works best when we acknowledge that the Deity is more than what has been revealed to us, and when we accept that our interactions with the Deity can, and often will, change.

To put it simply, we are just as responsible for how the Gods manifest to us as They are.  Once we can accept our role, and our agency, we may begin to see vast changes in how our relationships with Them are expressed.  But part of accepting our agency is learning what our boundaries are.  What and where are the lines which should not be crossed?  How do we respond when a Deity approaches that line?  How do we respond when a Deity crosses that line? These are questions that need answers, for us an individuals, as well as for groups of people working with the same Deity.  And if a God does cross that line, how do we reign Them in according to our values?

I’m pretty big on contracts which detail to exacting degrees, just what is acceptable and what is not, behaviorally speaking, both for the God(s) and for mortals.  You have the right, as a free agent in the worlds, to guard and protect yourself from all harm, even and especially that coming from a God or Goddess.  You do not have to be a doormat.  You do not have to say yes. I believe that the Gods are People.  Larger People than we are, but still People, with all the virtues and vices that entails.  But while these vices may exist within Them, like us, They have the agency to choose whether or not They will express them, or if They will instead learn, grow and move past those negative tendencies.

We must hold Gods accountable for Their behavior, and They must hold Themselves accountable, as well.  If a Deity is unwilling to address these issues when and wherever they arise, then that is a fine time to reconsider working with that Deity.  They do not get to treat you however They want. Respect is a reciprocal exchange, not an endless stream poured out from one “lower” individual to a “higher” one.  Humans are not lowly creatures. The Gods know this, and have known it for far longer than we have.  But They are quite limited in the sense that They can not interact with us outside of the scope of our expectations.  Only when we expect to be treated respectfully, at all times, will They begin to acknowledge this cultural shift.

We need to take command of our cultural expectations.  Overall, this will be a difficult task, especially if our main focus continues to be the dismantling of the patriarchal overculture.  Which, by the way, I’m not saying we should stop doing, but, if we can narrow our focus onto our Polytheist culture, whether it exists within a closed group, or on the world wide web, we can begin those first steps toward a culture of informed consent, at least when dealing with each other, and our Gods.

Discussion of Immersive Polytheism, and Other Fun Things

This is my own (and very first!) video response to Camilla Laurentine’s latest!  I may have a transcript up here later this evening, or tomorrow, depending upon my schedule and other time constraints.  I had fun making the video, so there may be more coming from me in the future, though admittedly, most of it will probably be less focused on me and my beliefs, and more on prayer toward Apollon.

[Transcript]

Hello, everyone, this is Columbine, from my blog, Queen of the Waiting Ones. And I’m here now to talk to you a little bit about my perspective on Immersive Polytheism, which is a term that was brought to us by the lovely Camilla Laurentine. So, welcome everyone, and please bear with me because this is the very first time that I’ve ever done anything for video, and I’m very nervous and I have to do this on live Google broadcasting, because I don’t have any other way to do it.

So, now let me just go to my notes. Okay. I thought I would try this because it looks like so much fun, and because I really need another thing on my plate, right?

So, having been inspired by Camilla’s first couple of videos, I thought I would expand upon my own definition and practice of Immersive Polytheism.

As I said in my blog post on this subject, I have been working from this approach for, I don’t know, a while, yet only recently have I become aware of a term that truly fits, and encompasses what I do.

First, let me try to define this term in my own words, because it always helps to have a working understanding of things in my own head. Of course, it makes it easier to explain to others when the time comes.

*Searches for notes*

So, Immersive Polytheism. For me, in my practice and experience, I find the term Immersive to be less exclusionary than Devotional, and thus more compatible with my personal practice. This is because of the underlying connotations of devotional, as a word.

In her latest video, Camilla speaks of the origin of the word devotion, which comes from the Latin devotio, which, during the Roman Polytheistic era, was a specific ritual in which a General would promise himself as a battlefield sacrifice to the Underworld Gods. This was probably seen as the ultimate form of self-sacrifice in that time and place. The word devotion, as typically used in English, then comes to a congruent meaning of sacrifice.

While most whom I know claim the term devotional for themselves are not striving to give their lives in battle, I do see kind of a distressing trend among some to frame the word in a way that highlights the sacrifices they do make on a daily basis.

While I don’t think sacrifice in and of itself is a terrible thing, when the language and history surrounding the word devotion is used to vehemently express, and even push forward the idea that in order to experience the presence of our Gods, one must always be willing to destroy themselves in the process of establishing that connection, I take issue. Firstly, because many of us within Polytheism must also face mundane challenges and situations which are not necessarily the correct times and places for such attitudes.

What I mean by this, is that many of us have responsibilities that transcend our so-called devotional lives. This could mean parenthood, or a career, or in my own case, domestic duties that take my attention away from those sacred spaces which I have set aside for my Gods and spirits.

My typical day begins before sunrise, when I start on my daily chores. Because of my very unique home life, I am barred from expressing what is commonly known as devotion toward my Gods at this time. I can not stand at Apollon’s shrine to lavish adoration upon Him, even if I would really like to. I have other things to do, which do take precedence. Such as breakfast for my family, and preparing my mortal spouse for work, which entails all manner of little time-consuming things. When those things are done, it’s time to move on to the next set of mundane obstacles.

So, while it is not feasible for me to expect the time I would prefer to spend with Apollon and Others, just sitting in Their presence, or conducting ritual, I can allocate a certain amount of my focus to Them while in the midst of mundane responsibilities.

And what kind of parent would I be if I allowed my own selfish desire to give myself totally to the God, to overtake my parental responsibilities? I wouldn’t be of any use to my family if I were to fall into that sustained self-sacrifice. You know, because raising Hellenic children is a part of my Work,, I would be neglecting my duty in favor of a fundamentalist approach to sacrifice. And in my mind, I kind of find that bordering pretty dangerously close to hubris.

I don’t find that the Gods are limited to the small spaces I have set aside for Them, nor should They be. They can come to me whenever They feel the need, or I can come to Them in my thoughts, while my body reenacts some movement of muscle-memory, completely independent of thought. This doesn’t take the place of more formalized ritual, but it’s neither less than formalized ritual. It simply is its own style of respect given to Them.

Now, I think I would like to talk a little bit about words and meanings, and how they may become garbled over time, or meshed together in ways that are very oxymoronic.

I think I’m going to start with UPG, or Unverified Personal Gnosis, which is usually described as the opposing end of the spectrum that begins with a strict Reconstructed practice.

Unverified, means that the beliefs expressed are not corroborated by any ancient or academic source, or even by other modern Polytheists. Personal, means of course that the beliefs expressed are one’s own, and again, are not necessarily shared by any others, however close they may be to the deity or spirit in question. So far, it seems good right? But when we come to the word Gnosis, all previous understanding goes flying out the windo, because Gnosis has a very specific meaning in its original language.

Gnosis, in myunderstanding, is the unified body of knowledge gleaned through the verified and corroborated experiences of many learned Polytheists and Philosophers from the past. Gnosis is not personal. Gnosis is that which is known and experienced widely, and therefore can not be personal, verified or not.

The term is much used in our communities, and I still catch myself using it for the sake of others being able to understand what I’m talking about, but there is what I believe a better term, one which remains true to its meaning, and this term is Doxa, or simply ‘belief’.

We find Doxa within the word Orthodoxy, which is typically translated as ‘correct belief’, or ‘right belief’. I will not be discussing Orthodoxy as such, but I mention it here in order to frame your understanding of the word Doxa.

Doxa is what we believe. This can be very personal, or it can be applied to small groups who share similar beliefs and experiences concerning the Gods. Within my own group, the Treasury of Apollon, we have much Doxa shared between us. This is verified and corroborated by us, and by our interactions with Apollon. We are a small group, and we do not claim to be able to impart any significant Gnosis upon others, even when our Doxa is continually being corroborated by academic sources. It’s simply not widely known, and therefore can not be described as common knowledge, which is what Gnosis is.

All of this is relevant to the discussion of Immersive Polytheism for one simple reason. When we come to acknowledge our Doxa (or UPG for those who still prefer that term, although I have explained why I personally do not like to use it), we can begin the second part of Immersion, which is to apply our Doxa to our religious lives.

It is at this point where strict Reconstructionism is no longer the most desired course. When we accept that the Gods and spirits may inspire us in ways that are very different from what past worshipers would have known as familiar, we must then integrate those revelations into our practices, via the beliefs we hold. When we do this, we begin a process of spiritual Alchemy; that is, we begin to alter the substance and structure of our faiths, to form new perspective, new understandings, and to open our awareness of the Gods as real and independent Entities, each with Their own individual agendas. Agendas which may be vastly different for any given worshiper, because if They are individuals and we are individuals, then Their plans for us will probably be suited for each of us as individuals.

And I know there’s lots more that I’d like to say, but I actually am running out of time. I do have a young child that I have to take care of, and I have lots of things to do, so I have to get back to that. And I’ll be signing off for now, thank you so much for listening, watching, or whatever, paying attention to my probably horrible first video.

Anyway, may the Gods bless us all with tolerance and communication. So, until next time, thank you so much for watching!