Tag Archives: gods

The Land of Two Rivers, and Beyond

Blood and rain.  Fish and rivers, and the sea.  Bobcats and javelinas.   Nereids and hamadryads.  Mesquite wood and fire ants.  Feral cats and grackles.  Sunshine and sea winds.  Peaches and figs, and cicadas. Dead soldiers and Spanish missions.  Sand dollars and jellyfish.  Live oaks and palm trees.  Foxes and road runners, and rattlesnakes.

These are the jewels of my path, local to South Texas.  This is my home, and these are my allies.

My path is a local one, where I concentrate on the needs of the lives lived around me.  When I offer to the sea, it is on behalf of the humans here who know not the price for the bounty they take.  It is to give thanks, and to celebrate the creatures and spirits who dwell here, those who make it possible for us to make a living here.

When I raise my arms to the Theoi it is in acknowledgment of the great tapestry They have woven around me; to celebrate Them and to honor Them, and to remind myself of all They hold dear.  This place is alive.  I am alive.  And we are paired to live our lives together.

When I pour wine and blood onto the Earth, it is so the grain and corn will thrive.  When I go to pick cotton out of its rugged husk, it is to feel what my ancestors felt, and to leave bits of myself in the field so they are not alone, and not forgotten.  When I pick flowers for offerings, it is to remind myself of the beautiful things which were plucked, in their ripeness and in their prime, all for the sake of a world gone by.

Those times that I stood upon the widow’s walk of the white mansion, it was to tell the spirits of my people, “I see you.  I remember you.  The masters are gone, and I am here.”

And when I give milk, now even the milk of my own body, it is to assure the Land that I will nourish it, as it nourishes me and mine.  Because I am the Land.  I am the Rivers.  I am the Sea and the Wind.

When I leave seed for the grackles, I know they are my brothers.  When I leave meat for the night creatures, I know they are my sisters.  When I fill the hummingbird feeders, and see the shrimp plants bloom, I know that my family is welcomed.  We are the spirits of the Land, and we rely on one another.

When I wade in the salt water, I know that I am purified.  And when I call to the Gods, I know that They are listening.  Poseidon.  Amphitrite.  Apollon.  Ares.  Zeus.  And Others still.  They hear me.  They know me.  They favor me and mine.

And when I take my children to greet Them upon the sparkling sea water, I feel Their many blessings, and Their encouragement, as surely as I feel the wind blow.  As long as we do our part to honor the Gods, the spirits, the Land, the Rivers, the Sea and the Wind, They will do Their part to keep us safe and fed.  Together, we are the reciprocal bond.  We are kharis.  We are life.  We are this world.

We are the Land of Two Rivers, and beyond.

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.

Manifestations: Blended Powers

What is syncretism and how does it factor in the beliefs and practices of one who considers themselves a “Hard Polytheist”?

For myself, syncretism is both the blending of traditions, such as Hellenism and Heathenry (which in this case involves blending the practices of both religions into a person path, and/or the blending of the lore of the religions into a personal understanding), as well as the Blending of the Powers Themselves, as revealed by Them, to facilitate understanding of certain principles or aspects of Themselves in relation to a specific devotee.

Syncretism is a very personal affair, for both the devotees and Powers involved. In my own practice, there are very few instances of syncretism, but they are certainly there.  For instance, I hold the belief of Apollon’s relation to Odin via His Mother, Leto, which would be an example of a personal understanding of Hellenic lore.  I also often (but not always) see and honor Rhea-Cybele as a single Goddess, whose worship is attested to in ancient times.  This ancient connection doesn’t make my understanding of Her any more valid, but it does illustrate that this phenomenon has been happening for a very long time and is nothing new to the Powers, or to us.

But, if I indulge in any form of syncretism, doesn’t that mean that my beliefs would more properly be described as “Soft Polytheist”?  Well, no, actually.  This is due to the fact that I really do believe the Gods are Individuals. The Powers I know, honor and work with have presented Themselves strongly as Individuals.  And yet, Their presentation leaves room for the understanding of how They may present Themselves differently to others.  As it has been shown and explained to me, syncretism is a matter of choice and desire.

The Gods may choose to unite in certain specific ways, and Their reasons for doing so are often varied.  I will not pretend to know all of those reasons, but here are a few that have been revealed to me, over time, and in no particular order:

1.)  The Deities in question have certain traits in common, and decide to further explore Their commonalities by uniting, within the understanding of one or more devotees.

2.)  The Deities have a common goal, for which union is the most logical step in the facilitation of said goal.

3.)  The Deities are curious about One Another, or about the nature of the Other’s worship.

4.)  The Deities desire to consolidate Their power in one way or another, or among at least one intersection of Their worshipers.

5.)  The Deities wish to reveal Mysteries which are better understood in concert with the powers/domain of other Deities.

6.)  The Deities choose to share responsibility for certain events, or expressions of power, among Their devotees.

By these examples, and as I understand it, syncretic union happens because the Gods choose it, for Their own reasons.  It is often an outgrowth of Their desire to better understand One Another, or to challenge stagnant belief structures while facilitating new understanding within Their worshipers.

I offer this explanation to you, dear readers, not as the only one, or the best one, but as my personal explanation that has come over years of practice, observation, and direct contact with Gods who were willing to offer Their insight, so that I might grow in my understanding of Them and Their ways.  I’m sure many of you, if not all, will have your own explanations of this phenomenon, which I, and perhaps others, would love to hear.  So please, feel free to offer them in the comments, if you wish to share.  I get the feeling that learning new perspectives from one another was the main reason I was prompted to write this. And yes, Odin did the prompting.  ;)

Manifestations: Interdimensional Deities

Today, I want to talk about the vastness of Deities, Their great Wholeness, and the multitudes of smaller versions of Themselves that we interact with in our spiritual and religious lives.

Is it possible for us, as human beings, with our limitations and our finite ability to comprehend Their True Natures, to know and experience Them on the levels in which They might be considered Whole?  I don’t believe it is.  I believe that the Gods show Themselves in the ways that we can understand Them.  I believe that those ways are different for each individual human whom They interact with, though aspects of that interaction may be similar in a number of Their relationships.  But they are never identical, perhaps because we each process information and stimuli according to our own physiology and mental make-up.

I also believe that the Other Worlds are populated with these overlapping versions of the Gods, in an infinite array of aspects woven together to form the living tapestry of the Kosmos.  Who is to say that my Apollon and someone else’s Apollon are not the “real” Apollon?  Why can They not both be the “real” Apollon?  Do we not accept the possibility (or reality, as the case may be) of many Worlds outside our own?  And if we do accept this possibility, does it stand to reason that some of those Worlds might be parallel dimensions, in which much is familiar, but much also has occurred, or is expressed, quite differently than what we know (or think we know)?  And in one of those parallel dimensions, might there be an Apollon whom expresses His personality in ways that are foreign or little-known to most of His devotees in this world?

I sometimes like to imagine Deities functioning in the way of nesting dolls, the largest doll being one version (in one dimension), and each subsequently smaller doll being other versions (in other dimensions) of the God in question.  However, only when the dolls are all nested together is there found the Whole expression of a Deity.  And we may not truly comprehend this Whole expression because, when the dolls are nested together, all we are able to see is the largest one.  The others remain hidden to us.

It may also be possible that there are other dolls which we know nothing about, because they are not nested within the version of a Deity that we understand. Perhaps there are larger, or smaller dolls, which we as individuals have never interacted with.  Perhaps Judy from down the street knows the intricacies of a version of Apollon of which Harold is unaware.  Perhaps Judy’s Apollon has revealed a path to her that Harold’s Apollon has also revealed to him.  Or perhaps their revealed paths are so drastically different as to effectively cancel out each other’s understanding of the God.  Does that invalidate one or both of their paths?  Do strangers (or friends, for that matter) need to corroborate their spiritual experiences in order to know they are valid?

No.  They do not.  Because no matter what anyone knows about the version of a Deity they’ve been interacting with, they simply can not apply that knowledge to all other versions of the Deity, across the board.  Because they do not know all versions of the Deity.  And honestly, anyone who makes sweeping statements about the personalities or interests of the Gods in regard to other people who are not themselves, is likely a tad narcissistic.

Is it their belief that a Deity would treat all of Their relationships in the exact same manner?  Do even humans not compartmentalize aspects of themselves in relation to the people in their lives?  Do I talk to my best friend the same way I talk to my child?  Absolutely not.  And why would I?  Why would anyone expect Apollon, or any other God, to behave in less complex of a way than we behave with one another?  And aside from how we are treated in out relationships with Them, what makes someone think two or more separate humans can not serve the same purpose to a Deity?  And if we are all dealing with different versions of the Gods (perhaps even from different dimensions), how much sense would it make for a single human individual to be considered “the one anything” to any God?  The answer is, it doesn’t.

The Kosmos is simply too large, and the Gods too vast, for any of us to lay sole claim to any part of Their machinations.  We don’t all have to understand every part of every plan, action or occasion in our dealings with the Gods.  If we did, maybe we’d be Gods.  But we’re human, and no matter what we might think we know, we all have some things yet to learn.  Thankfully, our Deities never run out of lessons to teach us, especially about Themselves.

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.]

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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.