An Activist’s Deipnon for Hekate

I’ve got nothing for a pre-amble. These are trying times. Every day brings a new assault on someone’s rights. I’m pissed, and I’m tired of hearing rationalizations about why certain people are entitled to systematically mistreat, oppress and do violence to our most vulnerable.

If you are feeling me on this, I want you to read this article on self care, stat. If you are in a TL;DR headspace, let me give you the most important thing the author said:

This is really important, because at some point it will become too much to handle. You can cope by shutting it out for a while — binge watching Netflix, playing with your dog, going to yoga. But if you don’t do that, if you try to maintain this fever pitch of anguish and fear and outrage, something far worse than a little down time is going to happen. Your brain, to protect you, will just turn down the volume on the outrage and adapt.

You will stop being shocked by the latest scandal and horrified by the latest attack on civil rights. […] And that is the worst thing that could happen, because THIS IS NOT NORMAL, and democracies fall when their people stop resisting.

 

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No joke, people. Constant emotional distress is really, really not good for you.

This is solid advice. I see you. I hear you. So many of you are exhausted and burned out already. No one can sustain constant emotional anguish, and even if you could, it would help no one.

We need to do more than just be aware and outraged. We need to think and plan. We need to communicate. We need to take action. We need strength for a long, long fight.

Rage and fear cloud our judgment. They destroy our eloquence when we most need to convince others. They paralyze us. Over time, the elevated stress hormones will eat away at our physical well being, too.

So how do we cope?

In the ancient world, people were surrounded by the pervasive reality of grief and horror. Their friends, even their children, often died of what are today preventable diseases. It was unusual to not know someone who died in childbirth.

Wisely, the ancient Greeks had a pressure valve which prevented this pervasive grief from paralyzing them. They set aside certain regular times for feeling the horror, feeling the grief, the fear that surrounded mortality. In so doing, they prevented that anxiety from invading their every day life. That, in my opinion, was one very important function of the Deipnon.

We need time to feel our emotions fully, undisturbed by other concerns. We need a pressure valve.

We also need concrete plans. Feeling helpless and outraged is more than twice as bad as feeling outraged by itself. Even small victories will put wind in our sails, and keep us from sinking, so to speak.

We need to feel validated. Literally, in order to keep going, we need to validate one another. It’s why we bother sharing the news on Facebook. We want to see that we are not alone in our feelings about whatever the thing is. In person, or even just in some forum where you can hear someone’s voice and see their face, I promise, is many times more cathartic than likes and comments on your Facebook feed, or Twitter.

More than that, we need to feel like we have divine backing in our endeavors. Who better than Hekate? In addition to being a goddess of travel, or magic and of change, she is also a goddess of lost souls and discarded things. Way back before it was ok to do, she occupied the position of a goddess who, while unmarried, still consorted with male deities and bore children. Societal rules and roles mean fuck all to her, but empathy and compassion mean a great deal.

So here is what I am going to recommend…

An Activist’s Deipnon.

There are many ways to celebrate the Deipnon, but the Deipnon always centers around the New Moon, Hekate, and the dead.

I. Clean Your House

The ancient custom was to sweep the floor. Do that. Save the floor sweepings (or whatever wound up in your vacuum bag). Find all the news articles that felt like a punch in the gut and print them out, then clear the cache or hide the post. Did you get hate mail? Have a shitty conversation with some bigot online? Get harassed on a social media site? See a meme that made your blood boil? Print that out, too. Then archive it so that you don’t have to look at that nonsense again unless you are using it to take legal action.

Clean your altars. Go through your cupboards. See if there is anything you have been holding onto which should be donated to charity, or which you should, in some other way, let go of.

II. Get Together and Purify Yourselves

You will need khernips with hyssop, incense and a bundle of herbs. Check in advance if anyone is scent sensitive, and adjust accordingly.  

Water and smoke cannot purge a human heart of grief. No energy working can expunge our unexpressed rage. Purifying ourselves starts with catharsis. Talk about it. Talk about all the outrageous things that happened since you last got together. Cry. Scream. Howl. Commiserate. Be outraged together. Have your grief witnessed.

Show each other the news you collected and printed out. Share information. Fact check. Look into possible courses of action which could help those who are most affected. Read what people from the affected demographic are asking you to do, concretely. Concrete, positive action is important, here. What charities can you raise money for in the coming month? How could you go about that? Where can you volunteer to make a difference? What objects can you donate?

Come up with several concrete plans that you could do, individually or collaboratively, over the next month.

When all that has been done, sprinkle everyone with khernips and hyssop, and incense them. Offer for people to wash their hands and faces, too. When you are done, declare the people pure. This not only brings a ceremonial closing to this part of the ritual, but sanctifies and defines whatever state we are in at the close as sacred in its own right.

III. Light a Fire

If you cannot light a fire, simply set some bread to bake in the oven, or put some stew in the crockpot. The important thing is that this is a recognition of the hearth, which is the center of the home, and central to life. 

Say a prayer to Hestia. This is a time to be thankful for what we do have.

If you have an actual fire, throw the printings into it, and let them go. If you don’t, soak them with water until the ink runs, and then throw it out (or, if you are crafty, make it into new paper to write your social justice spells on).

IV. Go to the Crossroads

You will need cream, oil and honey as a libation for the dead. You will also need a wine libation for Hekate. Bring your floor sweepings. 

Any intersection will do, whether of roads or paths or even walkways. Stand at the crossroads, invoke Hekate. Call out to her in her aspects which pertain to caring for the marginalized, the empowerment of women, and caring for the dead and the discarded. Make a wine libation to her.

Place the floor sweepings at the crossroads.

Read the names of those who have lost their lives because of bigotry. Read a list of the freedoms we have lost. Pour out the libation to the dead, and implore Hekate and Persephone to assist them in returning to the world of the living.

And then resolve, with the dead and the goddesses as your witnesses, to choose one of those plans you articulated earlier, and to do that over the next month. Make that choice knowing that it is as much as you, as an individual can do. 

Then walk in procession away from the crossroads and don’t look back. 

That last part is ancient custom, but here, it isn’t about avoiding bad luck. Not looking back is about certainty. It’s about having zero regrets about the path you are now taking. And it is about leaving your rage, your grief, your fear with the goddesses and with the dead until you return the following month.

It is about leaving behind what exhausts you in your activism, and moving forward, without a moment’s hesitation, to do what needs to be done next. It is trust that you will not forget your outrage, because you are coming back for it.

V. Going Home

Before you cross back over the threshold, purify yourself again with the hyssop, khernips, and smoke.

Then go inside, enjoy your fire and/or your meal, and finish with a toast to Hestia, giving thanks, again, for what you have.

 

4 comments

  1. celestinenox

    Thank you. My question is would it be appropriate to attempt to adapt this to use with another pantheon/collection of deities? I know the things here are very much specific to the Hellenic path, but I’ve never worked with or felt drawn to those deities, but could definitely use something like this.

    • Thenea

      In my opinion? Absolutely. In fact, I was already trying to turn around in my head how it might be adapted for other traditions, or what other traditions might have their own ways of creating that pressure valve.

      Judaism also has fast days as a way of letting out grief and frustration, and renewing one’s resolve.

      If you think the gist is useful, try a few different things and see what works for you and/or your community. Blog about it. More tools are always better. Always.

  2. busynurseresearch

    Reblogged this on Busy Nurse Research and commented:
    This post gives some excellent ideas of ways to blend self care and planning for action in the context of a monthly ritual. Even if you’re not a Hellenic Pagan (or any flavor of Pagan), you may find the seeds of ideas for your own approach to both avoiding outrage fatigue and committing to attainable goals of activism on a regular basis.

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