Category Archives: UPG

Unverifiable Personal Gnosis

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!

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Immersion and the Revival…

…Show, Don’t Tell…

Every writer knows this little bit of crucial advice.  It’s how we manage to convey the innermost thoughts and feelings of our characters without using pages and pages of arbitrary scene description.  In this context, we take the reader along with the protagonist, on the journey and into the action as it is happening, not as an afterthought.  It helps the reader to suspend their disbelief if they feel like they are a part of the story, experiencing situations while in their midst.

In a way, this could also be applied to religious activities.  This is why video and audio contributions from Polytheist authors and bloggers become so popular. People want and need to see how things are accomplished, even if they later decide not to practice in the ways observed.  You see, without dedicated land and buildings set aside for the worship of the Gods, we are not readily exposed to the many rich traditions of our pasts.

It is true, we have many academic works that we may infer conclusions from, and even scholarly religious works written by Polytheists, for Polytheists, and however grateful we may be for this tradition of scrutiny applied to the roots of our faiths, following the dictates of any written work is limiting.  At some point, hopefully, we begin to apply our own intuition to what we’ve learned from the many tomes.

This is the point when we being to show ourselves the true commitment we have, or do not have, for our faiths.  If nothing more, practice, offering and simple focus upon the Gods serve to keep us within the fold of our religious traditions, while simultaneously challenging us to make them work, for us.

As opposed to a strict orthopraxy, some may find that building new structure upon the foundation of accepted rites and ritual forms will better suit them in these modern times.  I am one of those individuals.  My Land is alive and my religion is alive, so why should I be fated to, ever-so-slowly, reconstruct the body of past practices for a location that was completely unknown to the ancient Hellenes?

The answer is I shouldn’t, and I won’t.  Instead, I choose to immerse myself in what is now, in the present time.

Some weeks ago, a few of my spiritual Sisters and I were having a chat about names and labels within the various Polytheistic communities, when one of us was finally able to pin down a couple of terms that seem to work for a few of us.  One is Revivalism, which speaks to the natural growth within Polytheistic faiths.

Revivalism (seen here in the Roman variety), in my view, is a growth of the spirit which inspired past practices and lore.  As opposed to keeping the old ways and stories like we might keep a crutch, the old ways inform how we respond to the very real demands of the Land and its spirits, as well as the Gods, and helps us to devise new but accepted protocols with which to deal with these demands.

I know that many of the things my local spirits ask for may not have been conceivable in the ancient past.  Personally, this is why Immersion (the second term to be discussed) plays such an important role in my spiritual practice.  In order to become immersed within one’s own local framework, one must be willing to listen, and to be shown what is acceptable to the spirits one works with.

Immersion is the beginning of the path toward a true Revival, thus Camilla has coined the term Immersion (or, Immersive) Polytheism to refer to this first step, as practiced by those of us who claim the term.

I have talked about this before, though I had no proper name for it then, in my post here.  Immersion is seeing from a different perspective.  It is seeing, acknowledging, and aligning oneself to this world, as it is, while still maintaining deep ties to the subtle worlds surrounding us.  It is allowing those subtle worlds to influence our everyday lives, and the ways we interact with our own world.  If witchcraft were the topic instead of Polytheism, I might say that Immersion were equal to living the craft, in each moment of every day.

In this context, living the craft, or practice rather, could mean any number of things to any number of practitioners.  Our individuality will shine here as our souls become entwined with those of the Land, and the Gods supporting us.  It is important that we accept what is happening.  To deny the subtle changes in our awareness will lead to stifled spiritual practices, and a lot of unhappiness on our parts, and the parts of those we claim to serve.

After we have become immersed in the life of our local community of spirits and Gods, the natural step forward would be to record what works, discard what doesn’t, listen, and to watch for what the spirits show us.  We are all in this together, and we are all participating in varying amounts of show and tell.  This is normal, however, I think that generally we’ve probably done enough telling for the next few hundred years.  The future will be built by those who are able to show others their life’s work, and not only tell about it in writing.  [Yes, I am one of those people who needs to write less and do more.]

There are so many ways to do this.  One could organize rituals for the locals (spirit and/or human), or simply record one’s own rituals for a viewing audience later.  One could participate in radio/internet broadcasts discussing important elements of their tradition and practices.

Showing is of course very easily done via the written word, and there are some wonderful anthologies available that give us glimpses into the world and work of others.  I am not discounting the power of the written word, but why remain shackled by it when there exist alternatives that some, as individuals, might find more appealing and inspirational to their own practice?  Immersion is also embracing modern technology and modern techniques for the advancement of Polytheism.

Once we are in tune with the life all around us, which is participating in this existence along side us, we may begin to find the elusive structure many of us are seeking.  We have to build it, though, and that starts within (with help from our a/Allies), as we commit to showing ourselves, and each other, what we’re able to accomplish in this world, as well as the Others.

Charge of the Goddess for Hellenic Wiccans

This is going to be an odd post for this blog.  I never actually thought I’d be posting this publicly, but my Gods have decided otherwise.  Though I have not been involved with Wicca for several years now, I still find solace in the Charge of the Goddess.  Of course, I reworked sections of the first half of the Charge to suit my needs, but it hasn’t been altered that much.

So, for whatever reason, I’ve been Told to share it with you.  There are so many versions, after all.  I do not claim that mine is special or even unique, but it certainly brings me peace when read, even now.  So, here it is, the Charge of the Goddess, as expressed by a Hard Polytheist Hellenic (then) Wiccan. May She Who Is guide all who come looking for Her to the places where they belong.

And actually, after spending a night thinking about it, it does make sense that I would post this today, with it being Mother’s Day.  What better way to show my appreciation to the Great Mother?  I may not be Wiccan anymore, but Her lessons are real, and they will stay with me for the rest of my days.  So, Happy Mother’s Day to those who celebrate, whether for themselves, a family member, or a Goddess.  May all mothers be honored this day.

~

Listen to the Words of the Great Mother, Who is Eldest and Wisest of All:

At the Holy Altars the youth of Lacedaemon of Sparta and the descendants of Aeneas gave love, and made due sacrifice.  They called the names of My Beloved Daughters: “Rhea! Hekate! Aphrodite! Hestia! Demeter! Hera! Artemis! Athena!” And the many Others, welcoming Them, and My Spirit to their rites.

Whenever ye have need of anything, once in the month, and better it be when the Moon is Full, then shall ye gather in some secret place to adore the Spirit of Me, Who am Queen of All. There shall ye assemble, ye who are fain to learn all Wisdom, yet have not won its deepest Mysteries. To these will I teach things that are as yet unknown.

And ye shall be free from slavery; and as a sign that ye be truly free, ye shall be naked in your rites, or sheathed pleasingly by your true devotion. And ye will dance, sing, feast, make music and love, all in My praise. For Mine is the ecstasy of Spirit, and Mine also is joy on Earth; for My Law is Love unto all beings.

Keep pure your Highest Ideal; strive ever toward it; let naught stop you or turn you aside. For Mine is the Secret Gate which opens upon the Land of Elysium; and Mine is the Vessel of the Wine of Dionysos; and the Flame of Hestia, which are both the sacral and purified essence of immortality.

I am the Gracious Goddess Who gives the gift of joy unto the heart of man. On Earth, I give the knowledge of Spirit Eternal; and beyond death, I give peace, and freedom, and reunion with those who have gone before. Nor do I demand sacrifice, for behold: I am the Mother of All Living, and My Love is poured out upon the Earth.

Hear ye the Words of the Star Goddess. She in the dust of Whose feet are the Hosts of Heaven, Whose Body encircles the Universe.

I, Who am the Beauty of the Green Earth, and the White Moon amongst the Stars, and the Mystery of the Waters, and the Desire of the heart of man– call unto thy soul: Arise! And come unto Me!

For I am the Soul of Nature Who gives Life to the Universe! From Me all things proceed, and unto Me all things must return. And before My Face, beloved of Gods and men, thine innermost Divine Self shall be enfolded in the Rapture of the Infinite.

Let My Worship be within the heart that rejoices, for behold: all acts of love and pleasure are My rituals. Therefore let there be beauty and strength, power and compassion, honor and humility, mirth and reverence within you.

And thou who thinkest to seek for Me, know thy seeking and yearning shall avail thee not, unless thou knowest the Mystery: for if that which thou seekest thou findest not within, thou will never find it without.

For behold, I have been with thee from the beginning; and I am That which is attained at the end of Desire.

Blessed Be.

The Risk-Maiden

columbia

Our Star, shining and multiplying the light as it passes through You.  Queen of Diamonds, forged under the pressure of free will.  Risk-Maiden, stacking the hands of those whose guile is limitless, yet are You also the Bear consuming the meat of Your weak and crippled prey.  You are a fickle Mistress, though the Powers You govern are steady, even in the chaos of the Marketplace.

Hail, Lady of Rushing Bulls, Who tramples over false currency– that which does not feed the soul, or the stomach.  You entreat us to be true, and to welcome the gains which we have earned, and to never sign away our Sovereign right to be secure in our own deeds.

Columbia, You were the Nameless Goddess Who was here before us, waiting to inspire this Nation.  We did not understand the depth of Your lessons, and only now are some awakening to the debt we owe this Land of Your Jurisdiction, and the many Nations which preceded ours– still living, still struggling to be free.

My Lady, always fighting for the cause of Liberty, Your presence was known in small ways during harrowing times, and even when the shackles were slipped again over the wrists of free men and women, You did not fall silent, but raised Your mighty voice, until a chorus was sung in pursuit of the promise of self-governance.

Yet the road remains perilous, nor easily walked by those unwilling to risk their very lives. For to stand beside you in ease, Risk-Maiden, is to stand secure in the knowledge that Freedom can, and often will, be taken to the grave.

Hail Columbia, Risk-Maiden, Fair Goddess of America!

Our Lord, Leading Us

Across the promenade, down the cobbled walkway, in the moonlight striking my skin harshly, like the sting of pea-sized hail, for I am damp still from the sacred river.  There are the sounds of night-birds, always singing, always calling out in warning. And the sound of the sea, below, crashing against the rocks. The cliff is high, and I traverse the hallowed walkway, with the sound of my sandals dragging slightly.

The Moon, Great Selene, always sets my mood eerily, hovering above, witnessing the scenes of love and other base passions played by humans, even acting as agents of the Gods. I smile, nervous, knowing, having rehearsed my role so well in advance. I have waited so long for this night. So very long.

Inhaling the freedom of youth and virgin maidenhood– enjoying it, tasting it again– for the last time perhaps, I catch the sweet scent of rosemary, burning.

My hands are suddenly moist. A hot wind stirs about me, clinging and humid. My stomach twirls… and lower, I burn for what I have not known. Though I will know much in time, of this I am sure.

I slink forward, clasping my own arms. The heat is unbearable, and I must move. The scent of rosemary is so inviting…

I notice my heart has quickened. Could it be because I am running? Ahead, I have seen them, the fair ones for the Fair God. His priestesses. His women. His many fawning conquests. Dancing. Dancing with abandon; hair loose, limbs loose, tongues loose with loving praise for Him, our God, our Lord, leading us in the moonlight.

I am free now. There was no freedom in maidenhood, only the illusion thereof. Within His grasp, I am free. For I am unbound to the world– free to see it as it truly is, free to witness the tides– and the rise and fall of empires. Free to set His course in motion, for I am one spoke in the great wheel with which He steers the fate of this world. Within Him, we are all free.

But first, we had to make the choice.