Tag Archives: Manifestations

Manifestations: Sacred Embodiment and Possession

In the continuation of my Manifestations series, today I will talk about Sacred Embodiment and Possession.  What are they?  When do they occur?  What are the differences between them?

As always, my explanations are taken directly from my own experience.

Let us begin with Sacred Embodiment.  This is a term I have seen used (and use myself) to describe the phenomenon of devotees taking on various aspects of their most closely honored Deities.  These Divine aspects are integrated into the everyday activities, or personalities of the devotees, over time, after a rapport is formed between t/Them.  This rapport, in many cases, especially with Hellenic Deities, involves reciprocity, or kharis.

An example of this could be a devotee of Apollon who was not previously interested or involved in sport, taking up a physical practice of some sort, such as archery, or running.  Or perhaps a devotee of Aphrodite becoming intrigued by the beautiful scents in oils and perfumes.  These are very simple expressions of Sacred Embodiment, and can happen even when one does not have a very intense relationship with the Deity, or when they are just starting out with Them. When Sacred Embodiment deepens, however, the traits taken on can become even more pronounced within the personality.

Using myself as an example, I have become even more of a perfectionist than I already was, prior to being claimed by Apollon.  It is true that some of His preferences had always been a part of me, but after becoming truly dedicated to Him, I began to change even more to reflect His personality.

For instance, whereas before I could easily begin a new project, like sculpting, without knowing if I would actually, not only finish, but perfect my technique within the first attempt, (and without giving myself a panic attack over it) now I have to push past those extreme tendencies so that I might not be hindered by my desire to create perfectly.  I am human.  I will and do make mistakes, especially when creating art.  Apollon is not human, and He does not make mistakes when creating, from what I have witnessed.  Having these traits of His so entwined within me now, is a major factor in my struggle with anxiety today.

When we become close to our Gods, neither we nor They may be able to fully anticipate the ways in which our personalities may change.  In some ways, we get what we get, and have to learn to live with it.  And it may not always be the most grand and coveted traits that we receive.

When Sacred Embodiment goes deeper still, one may experience a sense of the reality of a God living inside you, taking up residence within your physical body as They might take residence within a cult image.  This is when the Deity wears your skin and sees through your eyes; when They hear through your ears, and prompt you to give Their responses to the world with your own voice.  This is not the same as a full Possession, but is only a few steps away from one.

In this way, the Deity will only superficially receive input concerning the world and your interactions with the world, through your senses.  You may carry on prolonged conversations with the Deity within your mind.  They may express a desire for you to consume certain food or drink, to satisfy a craving They may have.  You could certainly lay out this offering on Their shrine or altar, however, partaking in the offering together, utilizing your body as the means of transference, will often enhance your interconnectedness, as well as boost the reciprocal nature of your relationship.

Another term for this particular depth of Sacred Embodiment, which I have referenced in the past, is Shadowing.  Shadowing can be useful in a number of circumstances, but I find it particularly useful while engaged in divination, especially divination for others, wherein they have requested the advice of a Deity.  No matter which Deity is sought after during the divination, if one is Shadowed by one’s own close Deity, receiving the sought after information will generally be made easier.  Your Deity can be a bridge between you and the Other.

Even while doing spiritual work in this manner, Sacred Embodiment does not usually carry with it the same consequences as those associated with full Possession.  The devotee maintains control of the mind and body, while the Deity is carried in a way that is less intense, though no less profound.

Sacred Embodiment happens within the day to day life and activities of a devotee, in contrast to the ritualistic and occasional nature of Possession.  These two modalities of Divine presence share many attributes, yet one is inherently more taxing– physically, mentally and emotionally, than the other.

During a true Possession, it is not uncommon for the Deity to assume full control over a devotee’s body, utilizing the physical form to perform tasks that a non-Possessed human might find impossible.  To speak in languages unknown to the Possessed individual, or to consume dangerous substances (in some traditions). The voice and speech patterns may also change, as well as the physical mannerisms expressed. A Possessed individual will and should speak and behave as the Deity, for in essence, they have become the Deity, manifest on Earth.

Possession should safely occur within a designated time frame.  If a Possession runs over long, it can have lasting negative effects on the Possessed individual. It is also a good idea to have at least one other person available to maintain order around the Possessed person, and to keep the Deity from engaging in activities that could be disastrous to the body They inhabit (and also to provide adequate aftercare to the recovering host, after the Possession has ended).  A Deity should not consume substances that Their host is allergic to, for instance.  Nor should They engage in sexual activities, unless the Possessed individual has expressly and enthusiastically consented to those specific activities prior to the Possession.

Possession is a potentially dangerous spiritual activity, and is best done with Deities you have a longstanding and amiable relationship with.  Although it is possible to be a host to a Deity you do not know well, I would not recommend it.

I have personally hosted Dionysos, Apollon, Columbia, Aphrodite, and the Goddess of the Wicca (drawing down the moon).  And while I give the advice of having another person present, that has not usually been the case for myself.  I have been fortunate, in that these Deities have been gentle with me– with the exception of Apollon, who is so immense that hosting Him always leaves me in a delicate and agitated state.  I do not host Him, or Anyone else for that matter, often, and when I do, it is at Their request, or due to a spiritual obligation.

Reasons for Possession may include, but not be limited to, the dispensing of Oracles, rituals of xenia (hospitality) to welcome a Deity among a group of followers, celebration of a Deity’s festivals, or a magical working.  All of these reasons are valid, but a Possession should always be approached with caution, taking into account the physical/emotional health and mental state of the potential host, as well as the expectations of both the Deity and the participants. Realistic goals should be set for the ritual, and n/Nobody should be pushed beyond their willingness or ability to perform.

In closing, Sacred Embodiment and Possession are both very useful spiritual processes, to be utilized in the furtherance of specific goals, or as goals in and of themselves.  They both involve an aspect of merger with a Divine Power, and both involve the dispensation of knowledge from Deity to human.  How they differ is within scope, and extreme.

Care should be taken to prepare oneself, or group, for Possession, yet engaging in Sacred Embodiment might only involve a period of prayer or meditation beforehand.  Or not.  In the end, it is up to the devotee to use their best judgement in these matters.

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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: 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.