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/]
Thank you for sharing this, I had never considered the gods having to be told I made them something as well.
We live in a culture that assumes divine omniscience. Many of us are told we’ll go to hell for thought crimes. Even Polytheist communities go on and on about wrong beliefs, as though the gods are watching us in our minds.
So, ir’s no surprise. We need to decolonize.
Y’know, this reminds me of a recent incident. I skipped a few pages in a journal I’m using to write down the results of divination with Apollon. I couldn’t go back and fill them without messing up the chronological order, so what I decided to do was cut them out and make them into a small booklet, so as not to waste them. The following conversation ensued:
“Finley! What are you doing?!”
Me, starting to put a cutting mat under the pages: “Oh, I felt bad about those pages I skipped by accident in Your div journal, so I was going to cut them out and make a booklet out of them for You.”
“Oh, okay, that’s a good idea. Just TELL ME THESE THINGS.”
I’m in the same boat – I always just figured that the deities knew when I was making/buying something for them. If I put a Loki poppet on the altar to represent him, I never thought to say ‘this is what I’m using to represent you – hope you like it!’ If I put a feather on the altar to represent Hermes, ditto. Just assumed that, being gods, they would KNOW. Looks like I have to go back and do things properly this time and next time as well.
Indeed, this is one of those things that we too often forget, because of what the religious cultures we’ve (mostly) been involved with previously suggest divine omniscience at all times and in all cases. It’s one of the things that I always try to tell people in my intro to polytheism presentations/discussions, etc., which often gets raised eyebrows. The implication from the overculture religions is always “But what use are these beings if they don’t know everything and aren’t all-powerful?” My answer to that is always “Why do you have friends if they can’t fix all of your problems and know what they are without being told?” They still often don’t get it, but anyway…
Sadly, it’s something I will often forget as well. My main devotional relationship is slightly different, because due to the nature of it, I kind of have (for lack of a better term) a “listening device” implanted in me from the Deity-in-question, so that He has a good idea of what is going on with me and in me even if I don’t tell him directly, which isn’t quite the same as knowing what I’m thinking…but, it is more of an anchor in me than I have with other Deities. I find it really important to go before my Shrines now and tell a very specific itinerary of where I am going and when every time I leave for longer than a day, along with prayers for protection of me and those responsible for my travel conveyances as well as for the protection of the Shrine and my apartment…and, anytime I can give Them a better idea of what is going on with me specifically also seems really good and important. (Shinto does this too–there are ceremonies for notifying the Kami that one is moving one’s primary residence, has a new job, etc….divine omniscience is really an anomaly in theological thought, comparatively speaking!)
“divine omniscience is really an anomaly in theological thought, comparatively speaking!” — Even in Judaism, to a point. Silent prayer is absolutely not a thing in that trad. If you don’t say it loud enough that you, yourself, can hear it, you didn’t do it right.
This sort of makes sense. Thoughts which you speak aloud occur in a different part of the brain than thoughts which don’t.
I get what you are saying about the itinerary, and sharing that with deities at their shrines. I had not articulated it in that way, but intuitively, I felt that I was able to get a better and more stable connection if I brought a mini-shrine with me when I travelled. And I definitely had that sense of needing to be, like, “Here I am!” after landing in a new place.
In retrospect, this makes complete sense.
I also have a mini-Shrine of sorts that I bring with me, and lots of amulets and talismans related to different Deities and Hero/ines, etc., but since those don’t have the same numinous presence as the main Shrine itself–or, to speak in quasi-Platonic terms, the daimones which allow those to function aren’t as developed as the ones in/on the main Shrine–they have a way of functioning that allows me to connect anywhere I take them, but it’s still a courtesy and a stronger connection when I can tell the Deities through the main Shrine where I’m going and what I’m doing. But, whatever works for oneself and one’s Deities is great, and if you have a good practice going, then there’s no reason to rethink it! 😉
Different tangent but similar result: I get nervous making stuff for the gods because I’m always worried about messing up. I keep asking the gods if whatever I’m making is GOOD, and they’re like “lol honey, everyone starts somewhere.” I’m constantly wrestling with the colonized/Catholic view that “offerings for God(s) must be perfect and flawless. If you give them inferior things, You Will Be Smote.”
Sure, the Bible itself didn’t say that–the story of “a poor woman gave two coins to the temple, and Jesus told the disciples that she’d given more than all of the rich people with their chests full of treasure” implies that the right mindset of “offering” something to Deity is much more important than what you’re actually giving. But people are another thing entirely, lol.
So I crocheted a now-table-runner for Dionysus; it was supposed to be a shawl/scarf, but it ended up INSANELY long after I blocked it, and once my mom suggested the “table-runner for the holidays” idea, he immediately told me to stop trying to fix it. He loves it because the borders are a really maroon “wine” shade of red, and he still loves it even though I’m disappointed it ended up not-quite-right. It was my first actual project, for one thing–and I was also planning to, you know, WEAR it before Wool Weirdness happened.
Then I write stories and poetry because the gods tell me stories, or maybe we have a really kickass meditation one day, and it legit inspires me to write them all down–I have to get them out of my head and onto my laptop. Right now my Facebook is full of angry/despairing decolonization poetry for the Filipino/Tagalog gods. The collection is titled “Elegies for the Anito,” and apparently it makes people feel a lot of things. Often sad, because of the Spanish conquest and the near-death of our precolonial culture and all, but the poems are also pretty damn fantastical, so they have a lot of vivid imagery in them.
I keep asking the gods if they want some poetry that’s less sad/angry, but they’re like “Why would we make you write happy stuff when you’re not happy??? You’re gonna ruin a nice poem!!!” That shit blew my mind. It SHOULDN’T have, but it did because I was raised in two cultures (American and Filipino) where you’re supposed to do things if a higher-up tells you, often regardless of your own feelings.
Then I keep asking the gods if my poetry is too weird and fantastical, or if I’m taking too many liberties with my prose/scripts, and they just laugh and go “honey, you’re not an anthropologist. Writing is weird and magic is REALLY weird–you don’t learn either of them by just copying stuff down. Learn from other anthropologists, sure, but we’re not gonna make YOU get an anthropology degree.” Again, blew-my-mind-but-it’s-not-supposed-to.