Is there is anything more universal to the Gnostic Polytheist, Mystic Pagan or Spirit Worker than having an intense experience of the divine and wondering, “how much of this is in my head?”
Many things shape the way we perceive deities. These include our personal beliefs about the divine, the tradition we are practicing, the way deities are spoken about in a community, who we are, and, as we learn from the apotheosis of Semele, who we are meant to become.
The early stages of developing our connection to a deity involve purifying our connection to them and figuring out who we are on a mythic level, so that we can tell ourselves from our deities. It also helps to be aware of community dialogue and how this forms our expectations.
There are reasons other than personal filter, however, that we do not see a deity exactly as they see one another, and much of this has to do with our state of spiritual development, as well as our psychic strength. Deities apply filters, too. They do this specifically so that they don’t damage us, and what type of filter it is is often a response to the spiritual needs of the human in question. A mythological example of this is how Semele experienced the Bacchic Zeus, who was a reflection of the deity she was meant to become.
These filters are not bad. However, gently coaxing the filters to more closely resemble the deity’s transcendent self is a way of gradually and safely increasing the amount of divine influx we are receiving. Could deities do this for us? Maybe. But the person with the best sense of what is hurting you is you, and deities often deal in broad brush strokes. If we want to pursue healthy spirituality, we need to be active participants in our relationships with deities, tell them what we need, and let them know what hurts.
Ritual is an easy way to communicate both with your deity and also with your unconscious mind. In this ritual, which uses a basic incense-offering ceremony as a framework, you will be nudging your personal version of the deity into alignment with the transcendent deity. Over time, this practice is meant to increase your exposure to the deity’s existence above the mythic level of reality.
Preparation: Reflecting On Your Personal Version of The Deity
This part, I admit, is kind of difficult. I know that Hermes doesn’t appear to me as he appears to other deities, and I know that he is also non-identical to the Hermes presented in the ancient myths. As I try to separate out what is the Hermes I studied, and what is the Hermes I experience, I perceive a lot of overlap.
“But that totally makes sense in light of…!”
It’s way easier to do this exercise with a deity I’m not as intimate with. Doing it for Apollon would be like falling off a log. I mystically interact with him just enough to have my own personal take, but not nearly enough that I’m deeply invested in it. The “deeply invested” is often the issue.
As I pointed out in this article, all mythic and most personal aspects of deity flow from who the deity actually is on a higher level. My perception of Hermes as a deity of RPGs, Fandoms and Fictions is definitely a personal aspect. Are these things holy to him? Yes, in the sense that they have the power to bring otherwise isolated people together to socialize (friendship/communication), and that the people engaging in these activities do experience joy. Dice are certainly sacred to him, both because of his association with certain knuckle-bone oracles, and also because gods of luck are often called as gods of gambling, but even if these aspects are not personal, they are certainly mythic, rather than transcendent.
So, what I’m going to do is to make a list of epithets and titles that describe my Hermes. I’m going to suss out which of his transcendent aspects they resonate to, and then I’m going to use this particular ritual technique to link the personal aspects to the transcendent ones.
These are a few examples of aspects which I know to be personal, matched up with my best guess at what the deity’s transcendent aspects actually are. If nothing else, the epithets chosen for transcendent aspects are more traditional. Linking back up to the interpersonal level of the deity, or things agreed upon by other followers, is still a higher level than the personal aspects, and might open me up to seeing more.
I’ll start with the ones I feel most certain of: Thiasotes and Kharidotes.
Optional Preparation: Derive Sigils
Epithets are relatively easy to reduce to sigils. All you need to do is to make sure that the forms of the letters are represented in your final sigil.
Sigils are often a more elegant solution than writing the name out in full. This is, however, completely optional. Some people really find it easier to trace words in the air.
You don’t need to do it in an alphabet other than the one you usually use. In my private workings, I find the English alphabet super annoying for spelling Greek words, because it fails to represent the actual sounds. Given a choice, I always use the Greek alphabet for such things, even when taking notes.
And yes, I did just totally give you all a sigil representing Fandom as a divine force. You are welcome.
The sigil I derived for Kharidotes is the most Hermes-looking thing that ever Hermes’d. For real.
But again, I’m not sure that drawing this is any simpler than just writing out the word in the air.
I believe that putting more time and effort into things, especially when the things in question are for building a connection to a deity or other spiritual entity, is always superior that taking the easy way out. By the same token, though, don’t do something that doesn’t resonate with you. If you think sigils are dumb, don’t use them.
This rite uses incense as the main offering. For some people, libations are easier. That will work just fine also.
Wand or Dagger (optional)
Incense for Hestia
Incense for The Deity (Hermes, in this example)
Set your altar as you generally would for devotional work. If you have an established altar, don’t modify it.
Wash your hands and sprinkle the altar with khernips.
Light the candles with an incense stick, and say: “Hestia, thine is always first and last. For the gift of the hearth, I give incense”
Drawing the Crowns
The figure is drawn in black with the intention to draw down the transcendent aspects of the deity into the aspect we commonly deal with.
Tracing the Names
Trace the names of the sigils into the bottom and then the top of the figure:
Project into the bottom pentagram and sing or say the name. Then project into the top half and do likewise. You can do this with both hands, or with a wand or dagger.
Drawing the Crowns
Affirm the unity of the aspects by drawing the figure again, as shown:
Speak an invocation to the deity.
“Hermes, draw near, and to my pray’r incline, angel of Jove [Zeus], and Maia’s son divine;
Studious of contests, ruler of mankind, with heart almighty, and a prudent mind.
Celestial messenger, of various skill, whose pow’rful arts could watchful Argus kill:
With winged feet, ’tis thine thro’ air to course, O friend of man, and prophet of discourse:
Great life-supporter, to rejoice is thine, in arts gymnastic, and in fraud divine:
With pow’r endu’d all language to explain, of care the loos’ner, and the source of gain.
Whose hand contains of blameless peace the rod, Corucian, blessed, profitable God;
Of various speech, whose aid in works we find, and in necessities to mortals kind:
Dire weapon of the tongue, which men revere, be present, Hermes, and thy suppliant hear; Assist my works, conclude my life with peace, give graceful speech, and me memory’s increase.” — Orphic Hymn to Hermes
Light incense for the deity, saying, “Like this incense, may my understanding of you rise up, and be accepted.”
Spend some time quietly meditating on the aspects.
Un-Drawing the Crowns
Take a moment to gather up the natural light. There may be starlight, or sunlight. Breathe it in, and then use it to trace the double pentagram over the altar as shown:
In so doing, meditate on drawing the aspect you work with up into alignment with the transcendent deity.
Tracing the Names and Projection
Trace the names again, and project into them as before.
Un-Drawing the Crowns
Because we initially drew the figure twice in establishing it, it must be un-drawn twice to de-establish it.
Blow out the candle, saying, “Io Hestia.” She is recognized in the simple act of blowing out the flame, but you may also, optionally, light additional incense for her at this point.