Lately, in the pottery studio, I have been making devotional sets for deities. They generally consist of the following: a libation pot styled after a krater (which, colloquially, my local group calls a ‘bomos’), a kylix, a khernips bowl (which has a slot for an incense stick and a sprig from outside), a tiny pot for salt, and sometimes a mini-kylix for travel.
I made one for Pan first, because it was meant to be a “going away” present for a friend of mine who is his priest. Said priest didn’t wind up moving, so it was a priesthood anniversary present instead.
Then, Hephaistos wanted one. And, I mean, fair enough. He helps me a lot with my art. But I told him that I would have to make one for Hermes first (y’all know how THAT goes).
Yesterday, Hermes asked if he could crash my studio time. Usually, he leaves that time for me to just chill with Hephaistos, and that’s very fruitful, but he wanted to see what I was up to.
When I got in, the first thing I did was to check on a super-big krater-style pot I had made.
“That is very nice,” Hermes commented. “What’s it for?”
“It’s for you!” I said, “It even has your name written on the bottom. I’m going to do a wax resist and paint scenes of you getting up to hi-jinx on it… only I don’t know if I want to do the glazed portions in that awesome black glaze, or do it speckle green to match the other pieces I made for you.”
“You made me other pieces, too?”
“Yeah! I made the kylix that’s on your altar right now. And there’s a khernips cup, and a salt pot, and a teeny-tiny kylix for travel.”
He looked slightly embarrassed. “I didn’t realize you made those for me, in particular.”
“Well, fair. I never explicitly consecrated them to you, I guess… ”
It occurred to me at that moment that I’d been operating under an all-too common assumption: that the gods know what our intentions are, even if we never make an explicit effort to communicate with them. Or even that our creative inspirations come from them, and that they understand what we intend better than we do.
In order for them to understand us without us making an explicit effort to communicate, they’d really need to invade our mental space, leaving us essentially no autonomy or privacy. Hermes hovers. Hermes pokes. Hermes floats and fidgets and bandits away with knitting needles and occasionally a wallet (temporarily). Hermes does not actually invade my head, and I am 100% sure that I prefer it that way. Therefore, if I want him to know what I’m thinking, I have to tell him.
Similarly, I had an encounter with Hekate about the acrostic names of power from her Orphic hymn.
She was delighted, of course, that I had created something for her. Like pottery, magick is an artform. It’s HER artform. But she asked me something very curious,
“How do you want me to respond to these, when they are used?”
“How do you mean?” I asked.
“Well,” she began to explain,”These derive their meaning and power from a hymn. The hymn… it’s meant to get my attention, I suppose. Or to please me, perhaps. Obviously, no specific words are particularly required to get my attention.”
She took a deep breath, “In honesty, once a connection has been forged, all one ever need do is to intend to invoke me, and follow that up with some physical action or other to confirm the intention.
“But, well… these. What are such words of power meant to do? Am I meant to convey some special blessing on initiates who know them? … that’s a classic. Although, you rather destroyed that prospect when you posted them on your blog.
“Or, perhaps they are meant to be inscribed somewhere, as a physical link. Or perchance utilizing them is permission for me to bring vivid dreams to a person. Or maybe they’re only to be used if you veritably wish to recieve a vision of me.
“Do you see? Like all art, magic is meant to communicate something. To me. To another deity. To your unconscious mind. Even perhaps to the universe, if you ever get it into your head that you should be talking to physical reality directly, rather than persistently asking deities to do it for you.
If I had revealed these words, I could tell you what they are for. But it is you who are giving them to me. The gift is incomplete if you don’t tell me how I ought to use them.”
And you know, I didn’t know what to tell her.
The kylix should have been presented to Hermes with a wee card that said, “For Hermes. Thought you might like your own cup to drink out of, when you visit. I made it green in homage to the pastures wherein your sheep and cattle are kept.” — The note could have been a ritual, or a physical card. It is the communication about the object with the deity that’s important when consecrating it. The communication is how you make it theirs.
Likewise, the words of power need a note from me. But at least now that I have talked to her about them, I have a clearer idea of what she wants. She wants them to do something forbidden and miraculous. And if I talk to physical reality, as she suggested, perhaps I can dig something up for her. And when I do, perhaps I will do a consecration ritual for them. Or maybe, I’ll pick up a card from CVS. Or both.
[Header image from: https://parodiesandvariations.wordpress.com/2013/11/24/ancient-greek-motorcycle-pottery/]