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.
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.
I had to think very carefully about how to title this post. One does not manifest these deities. These deities do not need your energy, your belief, your ritual technology, your imagination, your thought forms, your mystic incantations or anything else from your wizardly self in order to walk into the physical world. They have quite enough power to do it on their own. But they won’t, except for under certain circumstances.
If you want to see the gods, there’s work to be done, and mainly on yourself.
Here’s the long and short of what to do:
- Set an altar by your bed, or set a place to sleep in your temple space.
- Remove the icon from your altar. Cover it and set it aside for a while.
- Each night, make an offering. The offering should be something which represents the deity. Wine for Dionysos, stones and coins for Hermes, blades and depictions of warriors for Ares. Sleep where the offering is made.
- Each morning, clean the altar. If the offering is perishable, dispose of it in a respectful way. If it is non-perishable, see that it is free of dust.
- Say daily prayers indicating your desire to see the deity. This can be done at any time of day. This is important.
That’s it, ritually speaking. Do absolutely no more than that. No extra ritualizing, no extra tech, no circle casting, no energy raising, nothing. Nada. It’s fine to practice other magic during this process, and even in the same space, but do not try to do magical rituals where you put your will into manifesting a deity. Do not do visualizations, or use chalk diagrams, or use crystals, or consecrate extra objects. It will not help. At all.
Think of it like this: I can’t take a crap for you. I can’t show up to your workplace and do your job. Not only do you not need my help to do these things, not only is it fundamentally insulting for me to suggest that you need my help with them, but also, I really can’t. It’s impossible and illegal, respectively. I shouldn’t try.
There are, however, certain conditions you ought to be mindful of, and certain things you need to work through.
Consent and Respect
I want to open this section with an anecdote about Dionysos, during a time when I was engaged in this work with him. I was sitting on the computer, and was vaguely aware of chatting with him while surfing the web. He was, I was aware, sitting on the bed behind me. My roommate walked in and then called my name in a panicked voice.
I heard Dionysos say something like, “SHIT SHIT SHIT FUCK SORRY”
Then my roommate asked, “Who was that sitting on the bed?”
Apparently, the god was, not uncharacteristically, a tad slow on the uptake, and processed, a bit too slowly, the entrance of a mortal whose viewpoint was not accepting of the idea of pagan deities and/or the physical manifestation thereof. Said roommate was in an ordinary frame of mind, in the process of bringing me an electrical bill, with a fixed purpose of discussing my payment thereof. They were not psychically sensitive, and obviously had no connection to the god.
Greek deities choose to not manifest for certain people. Out of respect for human self-determination, out of respect for the right of a human being to choose whatever belief system helps them get through the trials and adversities of life, and with sensitivity to the fact that cognitive dissonance can really do damage to a human mind, they choose to remain hidden. So if you are reading this and looking to disprove the phenomenon, you can relax. You will never, ever see a manifest Greek deity no matter what you do or where you go. You are free to continue your religious practice as though such things do not exist, and no Greek deity will ever contradict you on the matter.
Even if all else is optimal, the presence of a person who does not wish to see the deity, whose belief system would be disturbed by it, who would be disquieted and discomforted by it, will favorably persuade a deity to not manifest. At least not in a way that is obviously supernatural.
So, for this, and many other reasons, be 100% certain that you and anyone who undertakes this work with you is actually comfortable with the nature of the work, and honestly desires for it to be successful.
The physical manifestations all occur in the area where the work is being done.
For some deities, if you work in that one room, they will only manifest in that one room.
Other deities play a bit more fast and loose with the process. Working with Hermes, you may only see what looks like a bodily manifestation in the building (as opposed to the room), but teleporting random objects in front of you TOTALLY DOES NOT COUNT. Also, taking your roomy’s wallet is totally not the same as physically manifesting. I mean, they obviously just misplaced it. And he’s gonna give it back any minute now. Really! And no one can prove that the homeless person you just ran into was actually Hermes. You can’t prove a damn thing!
There’s no metaphysical law at work here. It’s entirely in line with the deity’s personal interpretation of what I can only assume is a resolution they passed on the matter.
Fear and the Ape
Fear will cause manifestation to end abruptly.
Love is the soul of devotion. Love keeps people by your side when the going gets tough. Fear turns to hatred at the drop of a hat. Fear is the opposite of love, and is even antagonistic with true respect. It is phobia that fuels discrimination and bigotry of all types.
Fear of the gods was what turned to rage when their people converted to Christianity, and fueled the desecration of temples and the physical torture of clergy. Fear destroyed nearly everything these gods built. Fear cost them their home and people they dearly loved.
These gods do not want you to be afraid of them in the same way that you do not want to hand a book full of blank checks to an itinerant gambler.
But you have instincts you are ignoring. Ugly, deep-seated things. Animal urgings that cause you to fear “other,” cause you to fear what you don’t understand, and send you into fight or flight mode when you are surprised. You’ve probably worked very hard to ignore them, so that you can be fair to other people, and avoid behaving in an openly bigoted fashion. You are now going to have to face your inner ape, confront and acknowledge those emotions, and actually get your animal nature to trust you.
Oh, yeah. BTW, your animal nature probably doesn’t trust you. You? You’re running that poor creature ragged, aren’t you? Filling it up with various stimulants and sedatives, feeding it trashy food and not giving it enough sleep or letting it out to run? Ignoring it’s plaintiff sighs of exhaustion, hunger, thirst, over-fullness, boredom, anxiety, horniness, loneliness? Continuing to eat foods that you know give you stomach aches? If you want your animal soul to trust you when you say that there is nothing to fear, you are going to have to build a good rapport with it.
Part of that is developing empathy for yourself when you have needs that cannot be fulfilled. Take a moment to apologize to yourself when your tummy grumbles and you do nothing about it. Say you are sorry to your body when you are sick and have to go to work anyway. Develop a sense of stewardship.
Another important part of that is meditation. Don’t shut off your thoughts, just count breaths. It will help.
In addition to building rapport with you, and learning to trust you, your animal soul also needs to build trust with the deity. Sleeping by the altar gives the ape and the deity some quality time, without you chattering away about Candy Crush Saga or whatever movie you most recently saw.
Sleep is a vulnerable time. If the deity doesn’t hurt you while you are asleep, your animal soul reasons, they certainly won’t hurt you while you are awake.
Be aware the physical manifestation can take many forms. You may feel a hand on your shoulder, or hear a voice, or smell an out of place smell. This is them testing the waters. If you have a melt-down or freak out, it will be a while before they try again. But that’s inevitable, and gives you your first taste of what your animal soul is processing.
You shouldn’t expect this to happen right away. It would be reasonable to expect that you’ll get at least a tentative first manifestation after three months. It depends on where you are at with the process, theologically, emotionally and instinctually.
You might smell an out of place smell, or hear a disembodied voice, or feel a hand on your shoulder. How you respond to that first contact will set the pace for the work going forward. You and your deity will get a good idea of how much work needs to be done by the strength and character of your response.
How often you have the experience thereafter will depend on how useful the experience is to your relationship with the deity. It is entirely possible that, in the worlds of Apuleius, “familiarity breeds contempt” and you may have to dismiss your experiences to repair the relationship. And believe me, under such circumstances, your mind will find a way to do that, no matter how obvious and over-the-top the manifestation was.
That’s all on the manifestation of deities. All other posts on the physical manifestation topic will focus on manifesting things, rather than beings.
Ok, bear with me. What I’m going to write is going to seem really very out of place for this blog. As stated in the past, the primary focus of this blog, as it’s very title would seem to imply, is magical practice. This includes mysticism, theurgy, and thaumaturgy.
One of my tabs is about Physical Manifestation, and this is an entry pertaining to that work. I want to open the topic at hand with an excerpt from a Welsh text about a Christian Saint, Collen. In case you are unfamiliar, this was the “hero” responsible for severing the physical ties between the Otherworld and a particular sacred hillock (according to some sources, it is Glastonbury Tor, the possible site of Avalon itself).
In this narrative, Collen hears someone saying that Gwyn Ap Nudd is the King of Annwn. He declares that the Fae are devils, and that everyone who disagrees should shut up forever. The good King of Annwn sends a messenger, who demands that Collen come to Annwn. This goes on for three days.
And the third day behold the same messenger came, ordering Collen to go and speak with the king on the top of the hill at noon. “And if thou dost not go, Collen, thou wilt be the worst for it.”
Then Collen, being afraid, arose, and prepared some holy water, and put it in a flask at his side, and went to the top of the hill. And when he came there, he saw the fairest castle he had ever beheld, and around it the best appointed troops, and numbers of minstrels, and every kind of music of voice and string, and steeds with youths upon them the comeliest in the world, and maidens of elegant aspect, sprightly, light of foot, of graceful apparel, and in the bloom of youth and every magnificence becoming the court of a puissant sovereign. And he beheld a courteous man on the top of the castle, who bade him enter, saying that the king was waiting for him to come to meat.
And Collen went into the castle, and when he came there, the king was sitting in a golden chair. And he welcomed Collen honourably and desired him to eat, assuring him that, besides what he saw, he should have the most luxurious of every dainty and delicacy that the mind could desire, and should be supplied with every drink and liquor that his heart could wish; and that there should be in readiness for him every luxury of courtesy and service, of banquet and of honourable entertainment, of rank and of presents: and every respect and welcome due to a man of his wisdom.
“I will not eat the leaves of the trees,” said Collen.
“Didst thou ever see men of better equipment than those in red and blue?” asked the king.
“Their equipment is good enough,” said Collen, “for such equipment as it is.”
“What kind of equipment is that?” said the king.
Then said Collen, “The red on the one part signifies burning, and the blue on the other signifies coldness.”
And with that Collen drew out his flask, and threw the holy water on their heads, whereupon they vanished from his sight, so that there was neither castle, nor troops, nor men, nor maidens, nor music, nor song, nor steeds, nor youths, nor banquet, nor the appearance of any thing whatever, but the green hillocks.”
(From “Buchedd Collen” Source)
So, TL;DR: confronted with exceptional hospitality and the magic of the Otherworld, tangible to the senses, he was not persuaded that the beings he saw were something other than devils. Rather, he consecrated the hill and dispelled the magic that he saw as falsehood and blasphemy.
If Gwyn Ap Nudd had yelled, or threatened, or tried to make Collen physically suffer, or given him a disease, or even struck him with a spell of grievous misfortune, Collen’s faith in Christianity wouldn’t have been in danger. He would have simply said to himself, as he was dying, “Yes, the old gods are terrible and they hurt people. That is why we need Jesus. Soon, our armies will purge their presence from the Earth. And now, I go to my reward.”
Instead, Gwyn extended his hospitality, showing Collen the beauty and majesty of the old ways. And kindness is ever so much more dangerous, in these types of conflicts, isn’t it? If the gods are truly waging war at all, it is a war for the human heart. You don’t make someone fall in love with you by hurting them. You don’t befriend someone by punching them in the face.
It is a story which speaks to the power which humans have to consecrate the ground, and thereby to change its very metaphysical essence, inviting certain powers in, banishing others. The consecration, in this story, changed the rules, sending a god and his Otherwordly courtiers packing.
Now, maybe it’s not a literally true story. Maybe its just a legend that new Christians experiencing anxiety about abandoning the religion of the ancestors needed to hear — that their new faith could protect them from the wrath of the old gods. Nonetheless, it speaks volumes about the Christian understanding of the power and purpose of their holy water, and what consecration with holy water had the power to do to the old Pagan religious sites.
Do we live on hollowed ground? Is that a problem?
Particularly, I think of where I live. Here, in California, there was a great deal of effort put into Christianizing Native Americans. A network of 21 missions were set up by Catholic priests, each a day’s ride on horseback from one another. From these outposts, Christians waged spiritual warfare on the local faith through baptism, slavery, and “education.”
Given the Christian habit of trying to dispel competing spiritual energies by sprinkling holy water, it would surprise me not at all to discover that parts of our land have been consecrated under the auspices of this particularly toxic flavor of Christianity. Perhaps, on some subtle level, this place is still at war. Perhaps there are reservoirs of magical energy which are being capped, like a volcano, by wards put in place by those priests.
Consecration sets the rules for a space. The Christian rules aren’t going to work for us, in a number of ways. Firstly, they are hostile to our gods. It’s not even that they don’t believe our gods exist. To them, our gods do exist, and they are evil. They are conflated with demonic influences which bring harm of various types, like illness and bad luck. More worryingly, they are hostile to our dead. After all, we know where people who don’t accept Jesus go when they die.
Protestant sects, by and large, aren’t bothering us any. They see the eucharist as symbolic, and often fill their baptismal font with ordinary tap water, if they have a baptismal font at all, and don’t opt for a natural body of water instead. For them, faith, not ritual tech, is the business end of their religion. In short, they are leaving the work of creating that bridge between Heaven and Earth, and the working of miracles to God. If you aren’t buying into their shtick, it can’t hurt you any.
Catholics and Episcopalians, on the other hand, if they know what they are doing, are magically potent. Unfortunately, many of them also believe that our magic and our gods are dangerous and evil influences.
Certainly, if you talk to spirit workers that live in the area, there are a lot of restless dead that can’t seem to find their way back home. Christian consecration means Christian rules, and we all know what those rules say about the dead who have not received Christ. Given that only 25% of people in Silicon Valley are Christian, and fewer than that number are actively engaged in their faith, the problem is going to get worse.
This issue might also connect to something which I have observed about California as compared to Massachusetts. It is harder to call down deities here, and when they arrive, they are far less palpable. The problem is less in places that I show up and khernips weekly, and it is even less in my home, where I have several different kind of consecrations I trade out on a regular. But I have definitely been to devotionals where I couldn’t feel the gods at all.
And of course, when I mentioned it, I was told that I had too many shields — a canned answer which a lot of people around here get, apparently. But if I can get a psychometric read off of the people, the furniture, the land and the walls, why would I be too shielded to feel something big and obvious like a deity? And why would this stubborn shielding which I am unaware of putting up and can’t take down, which selectively eliminates only deities (who I went to a devotional to see, on purpose, and who I am actively trying to scan the room for), only be present in certain places in California? And I mean, my blog. The whole thing. Do I seem like someone who has trouble perceiving deities?
It’s not just me. And furthermore, it’s not the devotionals, either. Why would the exact same ritual techniques that work in Boston not work in San Fransisco?
I suspect the difference is that Massachusetts was settled by Puritan lay-folk and California was settled by Catholics led by priests, and that those priests were hell bent on destroying the traditional faith of the people they were colonizing. There are probably consecrations in place here that make the prospect of drawing the gods near more difficult than it needs to be, as a result of that effort.
What to do, then?
Khernips helps a lot, but it’s still not completely zeroing out the space. I’ve tried souping up my khernips with special extra blessings of the water and salt, and that helps even more, but it doesn’t quite cut deep enough. It’s like a room where something pungent has gotten into the carpet fibers. Vacuuming is not enough. The land needs a deeper cleaning before it can truly be hallowed again.
The reason it occurs TO ME is that the local spiritual energies seem to be giving me a lot of pushback on certain goals of mine. If I’m trying to bring about change in conformity with will, and the energies I am wielding are non-Christian, then I’m probably dealing with resistance which could be removed.
I want to do the exact reverse of what Saint Collen did. I want to bring back THAT kind of magic. But in order to do that, I’m going to have to understand the mechanics of how it was done.
I’m going to go make a careful study of some Catholic ritual, and come back to this problem with some Psychic Ka-Boom.
Where I throw my pottery, there is a student I envy. She’s been throwing for about two thirds of the time I have, and she is already very close to being a Master Potter. She simply has a soaring talent with clay that no amount of practice can ever make up for.
Today, I saw her staring at a gorgeous bowl she had made, biting her lip. It was a fine thing, tall and wide and with a dainty wall, the sort that sings a little when you tap it. It was leather hard, ready to trim, and apparently giving her some pause.
“What’s wrong?” I asked her.
“It’s not right. It’s just all uneven.” She waved her hand in a rounded quibble, to indicate the the wall had a slight wave to it, all around the circumference. “Maybe I should just throw it out.”
I peered over. “Lemme see the inside.”
She carefully slid the bowl over to the edge of the wheel, and even more carefully flipped it over.
“The inside has a nice, continuous curve,” I said. “Get a continuous curve on the outside, and I think you’re golden. And if the unevenness is going to bother you, just put a chatter on it.” (A chatter is a textured pattern made from a vibrating metal tool held to the piece during trimming while it spins).
She was literally going to throw it away. It was, I later heard from the teacher, a masterwork quality piece. She was just going to crumple it up and recycle the clay.
Hera was angry and spoke thus among the assembled gods :
‘. . . See now, apart from me he [Zeus] has given birth to bright-eyed Athene who is foremost among all the blessed gods. But my son Hephaistos whom I bare was weakly among all the blessed gods and shrivelled of foot, a shame and a disgrace to me in heaven, whom I myself took in my hands and cast out so that he fell in the great sea.
But silver-shod Thetis the daughter of Nereus took and cared for him with her sisters: would that she had done other service to the blessed gods!’
— Homeric Hymn 3 to Pythian Apollo 310 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C7th to 4th B.C.) :
Hephaistos, too, came out a bit uneven. In many versions of his birth, Hera conceives him alone, a virgin birth, if you will. He is more than her son — he is her creation. The god of technology, the god the fire, of mechanical ingenuity, of art and craftsmanship. She wanted to throw him out because he was a little uneven.
And then here comes Thetis and says, “Why would someone throw out a perfectly good god-baby?”
Hephaistos is, in a sense, both the artist and the artist’s handiwork. Inevitably, people will see far more beauty in one another’s creations than in their own. Why?
When my virtuoso potter friend was examining her bowl, she wasn’t evaluating it aesthetically. She was comparing what was in front of her to what she tried to make. She was seeing her own short-comings as a potter. She was seeing the piece she had created in the shadow of the imaginary, ideal piece that she had intended.
Here is a secret about pottery: the piece you get in the end is NEVER the piece you conceive of. My friend, though she is perhaps more skilled than I will ever be, hasn’t been throwing long enough to know and accept this fact. It isn’t until you’ve dropped a hundred pieces and dented a hundred pieces, and seen a hundred pieces collapse on the wheel, and seen the kiln lay waste to your best handiwork through sheer chance, and glaze turn the most beautiful thing you have made to date into a wasteland of sharp glass edges, and then turned around and gifted something you thought was sub-par to someone who loved it to pieces BECAUSE of its flaws that you start to develop a certain empathy for yourself in your imperfections as a potter.
With our bodies, too, we sometimes fail to see with our eyes. We don’t see the body in the mirror for what it is. Rather, we hold it up to an imaginary and impossible ideal, and only see the negative space between what should be and what is.
Even in our relationships, when they fall short of our expectations, we can see, cast in painful relief, our inability to have the relationships we want, or our inability to solve the interpersonal problems we have. We see our interactions with other people in the shadow of what should be, and the negative space hurts. It makes us feel disappointment and anger. But in truth, not one of us achieves the ideal.
Hera was deceived. Athena’s birth was no single-handed endeavor. Hera simply didn’t know about Metis (quite by design, I’m sure). The shadow of Zeus’s perfect daughter, born apart from any goddess, is a fiction. So too with our art, our bodies and our lives. We’re sold a lie that we can have perfection, and all that we are and all that we have stands in the shadow of that lie.
For me, there is something spiritual, now, in redeeming pots. For sure, I still throw pieces away. Some are dented beyond repair, or shattered, or covered in sharp glass edges which make them unsafe. But for the irregularities, I will often create my designs around the flaws. Whether through chatter, or carving, or adding hand-built pieces, or glazing a certain way to draw out what’s unusual and unique in a piece, I try to embrace and celebrate the differences.
Imperfection is substance. It is what separates fantasy from fiction, the theoretical from the actual, the design from the execution. As both artistic creation, and artist seeing the reflection of self in their art, it is only right that Hephaistos should be uneven. It’s a part of his character.
Recently, I was poking around the inter-tube for inspiration regarding consecration. I had in mind the consecration of inanimate objects, like magical tools, or doorways, but in my wanderings, I came across a Catholic prayer to the Virgin Mary which got some gears turning inside my head.
My Queen and my Mother, I give myself entirely to you; and to show my devotion to you, I consecrate to you this day my eyes, my ears, my mouth, my heart, my whole being without reserve. Wherefore, good Mother, as I am your own, keep me, guard me, as your property and possession. Amen. (Source)
Now, of course, if you read my blog at all, you know my personal feelings about being termed property. It does not work for me because I don’t feel like the land, the sea, the rivers, trees, animals or humans can ever really be owned. But there WAS something about this particular prayer that struck me. It was the idea of a daily statement of purpose in one’s relationship with a deity. The individual saying the prayer addresses the deity and states what they are offering, what benefit they hope to get, and what the purpose of that work is.
It reminded me of a conversation I’d had with Hermes some months ago.
Thenea: So about the offerings, actually.
Thenea: What’s their metaphysical purpose?
Hermes: Nope. The purpose is not metaphysical.
Hermes: Closer. Try again.
Thenea: It’s… for facilitating a relationship. It’s a gift, I get that. But why do gods want them? Like, when you give a human a gift the gift is usable in some sense. You give them chocolate. They eat it. You give them wine. They drink it. You give them a weird ass modern art sculpture, it decorates your home. So I give you an offering and you…?
Hermes: Know that you are still in.
Thenea: Still in…?
Hermes: Still on board.
Think of it like this: You are making love to a woman. At the start, she says yes. Does it end there? No. If you are not a gigantic douche-canoe, you periodically check in with her. You look for signs that she’s still into it. Maybe that’s happy noises, or an appreciative smile, or maybe you ask if she is into what you are doing, and she says yes.
But no feedback means stop. It means back off. It means give her space. Take your hands off of her tits and pull out — you are done.
Same thing with mortals and mysticism. Offerings are like that smile, that nod, that sign of continued interest. That’s what offerings do.
Maybe you don’t want me meddling in your life. Maybe you did yesterday, but now you don’t. Maybe you did this morning, but you changed your mind. Maybe you wanted help with your last job search, but not this one.
We look for signs that you want us. It can be an offering, a prayer, wearing a certain piece of jewelry. But if you want us to be present you need to be continually communicating that. Any ritual will do, as long as that ritual means yes.
I do not think that I would personally consecrate myself to a deity. However, there are certain endeavors wherein it would make sense to consecrate the work at hand to a deity, as a way of communicating that yes. For example, I might say such a prayer to Hephaistos before throwing on the wheel, or one to Ares before martial arts training, or one to Aphrodite before going on a date. It’s a way of recognizing the sacredness of the task and its importance to them, and it stands as an invitation to them to do it with me.
If the day is to be devoted to writing, I’d like to have a prayer like this on hand for Hermes.
Moreover, on psychological level, having such prayers is a way of framing the time being set aside, and putting it into sharper focus. Once the prayer is said, the endeavor becomes sacred. Once I am no longer just doing it for myself, I suspect that it will become harder to procrastinate, and easier to stay on task. Setting intention is important for more than just magic.
I have a message for your gods. They know who they are. I want to talk about War.
Warriors fight hardest when they are fighting on their home soil. Mercenaries fight for incentives but flee when the going gets tough. Slaves fight with a divided heart, half hoping for a chance to defect and gain their freedom.
Most foolish is the ruler who puts a person of divided heart in the position of general. Forcing someone to lead is like putting a target on your pants and hanging your ass out of a window.
If an army marches on its belly, it fights with its heart. If what you admire is power, ferocity, and strength, what you need are soldiers who are healthy, well fed, and absolutely fanatically devoted to the cause.
Trying to force a mortal to be your clergy is like dragging a mule around. I’ve watched deities try. I’ve watched the mortals kick and bray until they were exhausted, and then finally give in. But a mortal is not a mule. They do not need to kick and bray. They need only to do one, devastatingly effective thing: tell the truth. And those looking on will silently decide in their hearts that those gods are not to be trusted, thus ensuring that if the deity wants a second follower, or a third, or a fourth, they’ll need to break more.
Let’s pretend that we are at war.
Here is my army: They love me. They are well fed, and believe that I am in the right. They are willing to die for what they believe is theirs. That is, their faith. And they are willing to shed blood for who they are.
Here is your army: They are consigned to being with you. They merely cope with you, rather than believing in anything you stand for. They keep their children away from you, for fear of what you might do. They would secretly be pleased if you ceased to exist. The only way they can be themselves is if you are dead.
WHO DO YOU THINK WILL WIN?
Don’t give me some bullshit about numbers. War is not math. It is a game of heart and skill. If I have six and you have six hundred, still, you will fall. Even now, watch them wander away from you. Squirm, even, out of your direct control. You say they are yours, but do they do your will? No. They sabotage you at every turn, poisoning your messages, confounding your handiwork.
Do you think you could survive a siege if I called but four of my beloved warriors to my side and directed them against you? No. You would fall. And your own soldiers would delight in your agonized screams.
Now, let Hermes reassure you that I do not mean to wage such a war, as he is wont to do, but not even you would be fool enough to claim that you wouldn’t deserve it, if I did.
I thought I would take some time to discuss what I have found to be successful when trancing Olympians (the twelve Greeks deities who live in the Sky, under the rule of Zeus and Hera), as a Hellene. I work differently when working with non-Olympians, and especially have a different protocol for working with underworld deities.
Obviously, this is a gnosis-related practice. A good portion of what I am going to write will be based upon my personal mystical experiences, or reports I collected from my students.
This methodology assumes that you have other people working with you. If I said that I always used “best practice” for trance, or that I always worked with a warder, I’d be lying. I simply try to do as many of the “right things” which I have noticed make things either better or easier as I can, and most importantly, try to make my divine guest as comfortable as possible.
I recommend having trance primarily occur in the context of a devotional. I find that the process is much fairer, kinder and more civilized when I do.
This methodology does not address the problem of filter. I have a separate ritual which I use to identify what my filter looks like, and another one for encountering the energy of a deity in isolation. In tandem, those two rituals gradually help a person to work through filter by showing them who they are, what their own energy signature looks and feels like, and by helping them to feel a deity’s presence as distinct from elemental energies or whatever else might be floating through. Filter, in my opinion, is a long-term problem which has no short-term fix.
Some starting assumptions — or, my paradigm
Olympians are not impure. You do not need to be purified after working with Olympians. Their energy will not leave toxic residue all over you. Impurity, in a Greek context, generally results from things which open the way to the Underworld, such as birth and death. Yeah, you’d want to purify after calling Hades, or Eileithuia, but not after calling, for example, Zeus. The same extends to trance mediumship.
Olympians desire worship and care about their reputation. The implications of this are pretty straightforward: if you have something which the other party desires, then you are not a meaningless entity in this equation, even if you don’t believe that the gods love and care for their communities (I believe that they do, of course). Thus, if you outline for an Olympian what you value, what you think is fair, what you need, and what your community standards are, they’ll probably try to accommodate you. That said, communication is important. If you don’t tell them, before trancing them, that you are a vegetarian, don’t expect them to know that they shouldn’t eat meat in your body. Clear communication about purpose and expectations is key. Trust that if you show them love and respect, they will return the favor.
Hospitality is important to Olympians. The laws of hospitality in Hellenic culture dictated that the guest (the deity, in this case) should neither be too demanding of their host, nor should they do damage to the host’s abode (your space, your body). “JUST TAKE ME OVER!” might work with a deity from another pantheon, but I have seen people attempt this with Greek deities — even with Dionysos — and either struggle, or wind up with some strange results.
A deity jamming themselves forcefully into a human’s body runs a risk of doing damage. Damaging the abode of your host is not acceptable according to their culture. Therefore, the process will tend to be slow and careful, unless they are very well familiar with your body and what it can handle. You will need to be exceedingly patient as they poke and prod and figure out what is going to work, and not rush them, or let anyone else rush them, to speak. Just as a guest in the ancient world would have prided themselves on needing very little and eating very modestly at the dinner table, Olympians will tend to be gentler and quieter than seems necessary, at least when working in a purely Hellenic context. Do they have enough power to short you out? Sure. But they’re totally capable of restraining themselves, as indicated by the myth of Semele, who had to trick Zeus into an oath before she was able to touch a part of him that would harm her.
Olympians are Radiant. Even if the energy isn’t being jacked through your system, you should be able to feel a presence in the room, if you’ve called an Olympian. They all seem to have a brightness about them, in my experience. Apollon is bright like the sun. Hermes is bright like sunlight glinting off of polished silver. Artemis is bright like the full moon. Zeus is bright like lightning. Poseidon is bright like the crests of waves. Dionysos is bright and hot like there is a theater-style spotlight on him. Their presence adds, rather than subtracts, energy from the room.
Trance mediumship is about building a relationship. You can expect your first session with an Olympian to be mostly about them figuring out how your body works, and what you can handle. Don’t expect them to be there to deliver some extremely profound message the first time. They’re in no rush. They’re immortal, and they don’t have some eschaton breathing down their neck. If you don’t create an environment that makes it awkward to do so, they are inclined to be quite genial, and fun loving (for a certain value of fun, depending on the deity).
The general purpose isn’t to get marching orders. You might ask advice, if advice is needed, but you shouldn’t wait until you need something to do this. The purpose is to build a relationship between the deity and a human or humans.
Olympians are beings with will, agency and emotions. I shouldn’t need to say it, but I will say it anyway. These aren’t archetypes or energies. They’re people. Treat them with the same sort of consideration that you’d extend to any other sentient being with free will.
Preparing the Space
I. Purify the space. I use khernips for this.
II. Propitiate Hekate and Hermes, ask them to clear the space. There are a lot of dead people hanging around, waiting for something to do, or someone to pay attention to them. They absolutely will, if they think they can get away with it, pretend to be whatever deity you are calling so that they can eat the cakes and drink the wine, and feel the warmth of being alive again.
The Hellenic attitude about the dead is that there is a time and a place for them, but largely the time is at the Deipnon (or at the certain festivals), and the place is in the Underworld.
Rather than waiting for an unpleasant altercation between a grouchy deity and a sheepish spirit, I nip the problem in the bud by calling Hermes and Hekate to minister to them and help them get to where they need to be in advance of the working.
Libate to the two of them, and ask them to care for the dead, and to keep you safe from them.
“I call to Hekate, bright-coiffed daughter of Perses and Asteria, three-bodied Hekate of the crossroads, mother of Medea, Queen of the Dead. What dead are here, and what dead may later enter herein — gather them up, give them solace and comfort, and lay them to rest in their proper place. To Hekate, sponde!” (Here, pour her a drink offering)
“I call to Hermes, son of Zeus and Maia, messenger of the deathless and the dead, god of the Herm, god of boundaries, psychopomp. What dead are here, guide them, show them the way home. Whatever dead may enter while we work, guide them, too. To Hermes, sponde!” (Here, pour her a drink offering)
II. Because you have just opened up the way to the Underworld, purify the space again. No further purification of the space should be necessary.
Setting the Table
The paradigm here is very much one of having a guest over. Set a table. Have food and drink that you can share with the deity once they arrive in addition to whatever offerings you might be pouring.
Include the following:
- A lovely table cloth
- Pretty plates
- A candle or two
- An incense or something else that smells nice, like potpourri, or even a fresh orange with some cloves stuck into it.
- Something to fidget with, like a vase full of feathers, a small silk pillow, cymbals, a doll with a silk dress, or an unsharpened dagger. Tailor whatever it is to the interests of the deity.
You should also have a station near said table where people can wash their hands before sitting down. Try to make the space look homey, inviting, comfortable and attractive.
Part 1: Begin a Devotional Ritual
I. Libate to Hestia. It is my contention that it is proper to propitiate Hestia at the opening and close of a devotional to one of the Olympians. This is not a universal opinion among Hellenic Pagans. Some believe that the “first and last” referred to the first and last fruits of the harvest. Others contend that this has something to do with the lighting of the fires in the bomos, and smothering them. My personal contention is that Hestia made a personal sacrifice for the harmony of the Olympians, and thus should be honored. More importantly, Hestia is a goddess of hearth and home. In my article about the Mithras Liturgy, I noted that the mystic begins the journey by nailing down the way home. Hestia’s presence is extremely useful for mediums in terms of assuring a successful re-connection to mundane reality.
II. Request the presence of the deity with whom you would like to work. The initial invocation (if, indeed, you do any further invocation) should be specific. I like to include the parents and the known associates of the deity. An example:
Hear me, Hephaistos. Virgin-born son of Hera, Father of Thalia, Eucleia, Eupheme, Philophrosyne, Cabeiri and Euthenia, set upon an ass by Dionysos, great god of invention, hail! Come and be present here.
Be aware that, depending on circumstances, the deity may not want to join you right now, or may not be interested in doing a mediumship session. There could be a hundred reasons why not. Maybe there is someone present who isn’t ready to be in the presence of the deity. Maybe the deity has nothing to say right now. Maybe politics are happening. The reasons why might not have anything to do with you, or even mortal affairs, and might not be any of your business.
Don’t force it, and don’t fake it. Furthermore, don’t promise on behalf of a deity that they will come through. Just as it isn’t ok for a deity to force a trance session on a human, it is not ok for a human to force one on a deity. Just like any kind of intimacy, things might start out ok, but the deity may suddenly no longer wish to participate. They might plan to be channeled, but then, at the last moment, decide that it’s not going to work.
It is definitely not ok to speak on behalf of a deity if they aren’t feeling it, or to pretend to be them if they aren’t there. You wouldn’t like that if someone did that to you, so don’t do it to your gods.
Have another activity available, if the devotional isn’t going to go in a trance direction. Do a Myth Embodiment exercise, lead people in drumming and chants about the deity, or do some other kind of exercise that kicks off spiritual power of a palpable sort. Having nothing planned and begging and pleading with a deity to do something they’re not really into isn’t fair to them. They are your guests, and you need to see to their comfort.
Likewise, you might decide at the last minute that you’re not feeling up to carrying a deity. That’s ok, too. Having a plan B is a good idea for all of these reasons.
Part 2: Agreements.
So the deity has shown up, they’re down for the general idea of being tranced, and you are down with the idea of trancing. Great! You should take some time to hash out agreements for the session. You can do this before the ritual, or once they show up. I honestly do recommend planning these things out in advance, but that isn’t always feasible.
The temporary contract should cover the following:
How long the deity will be there. “As long as you want” or “Until I’m tired” are fine answers, but I often like to have a time window.
Any concerns you may have. Trance states are the same as hypnotic states, neurologically. What you expect a trance state to be like and what you expect it to do to or for you will shape that trance state profoundly. If you are afraid of something, it’s not because you expect it not to happen. Get those concerns out of the way before you start trancing. Items like, “don’t eat peanuts” might go in this section.
Objectives. State what you are hoping the trance session will do for the community. In my experience, deities find this sort of information very helpful.
I will often let a deity look through my eyes, and read over the contract, then use automatic writing to sign it (which has been exciting when the deity was unfamiliar with the Latin alphabet), but the important part is the thinking through these facets of the interaction, and communicating them to your divine partner.
Again, after looking at your terms, the deity might decide that the situation won’t work for them.
Part 3: Hospitality Protocol and Calibration
You can explain/see this part of the process either as metaphysical tech, or as hospitality protocol. My explanation will be something of a hybrid.
BEFORE SPEAKING. There is a certain order that things are done, in Hellenic culture, when we receive a guest. They should be offered a bath and new clothes, fed and given drink. Only when these were accomplished was it considered proper to engage one’s guest in conversation.
A hot bath. In the best hospitality situations, a host will offer their guest a bath. The journey, it is presumed, has been tiring and messy. They’re sore and covered in a bit of road dirt. Unless the deity decides to manifest physically, I replace the literal bath with a metaphysical one. I “pour” the bath by drawing currents of energy from the natural world, and help the deity into the bath by consecrating those currents of energies to the deity.
Here are some instructions, to be said aloud to a group of people you are working with.
Feel the energy of the sky. What is its mood? It is calm and clear, or is it turbulent and stormy? Is it lit with sunlight, or with the light of the stars. The sky is radiant. Draw the light of the sky downward, in a column, into your space, bright and cold.
Draw it down to the ground, then extend your awareness into the Earth. Note that it is full of life. Beneath the concrete and asphalt, perhaps there are tree roots. Certainly, the soil is alive with bacteria. Beneath the bedrock, the planet is alive with volcanic activity. Draw up that power and pressure, dark and hot, and mingle it with the energies from above.
The heat of the Earth warms the air. The light of the sky returns that energy. Focus on the exchange, and build that column into a current.
Lay hands on that column, and let us consecrate it to the Goddess Athena, that she may bathe in the energies of our world. Repeat after me:
Ah – Athena
Eh – Athena
Ay – Athena
Eee – Athena
Aw – Athena
Ooh – Athena
Oh – Athena
From a more metaphysical perspective, what we are doing is creating a path for the deity to ease their journey into deeper manifestation. They can do this for themselves, but it’s nice and appreciated if we help.
Moreover, once bathed in the energies of the material, the medium will be better able to perceive the deity in the room. Don’t rush the medium, but instead, assure that they do, in fact, perceive the energy and present location of the deity.
Fresh Clothes. After a hot bath, a wealthy host would offer their their guest new clothing. In the context of a trance devotional, what you are actually offering them during this phase is the temporary borrowing of the host’s body. This is written assuming that this is the medium’s first time trancing the deity in question. Such extensive calibration might not be needed if the deity and mortal have a lot of experience with one another.
These are instructions I might speak to a first time medium while facilitating:
Invite the deity to sit where you are sitting, and invite them to observe as you move your body.
Invite them to notice what you see, hear, and feel.
Tap each of your fingers in turn, then tap your hands, then lift each of you forearms.
Wiggle your toes, tap your feet, swing your lower legs a little. Twist the trunk of your body left. Twist right.
Lean your head left, right, back and forward. Open and close your mouth. Hum.
Now, do the same thing, but let the deity try it after you. Be patient with this part. If you are distressed, expect them to wait until you are calm. If they are uncertain about whether you are ok with proceeding, they might not. Be sure to clarify, each time, that you are ok with them doing it.
Ask them to slowly increase the amount of their energy present in your body, until it just starts to become uncomfortable, and then decrease it to a comfortable level.
Let them, if they will, explore what is on the table, and then, when both of you are comfortable, you should stop doing things, and just let them do.
In general, I don’t push the medium to “let go” or “release control” because it gives them the idea that step one of trance is being gone and out of the way. It isn’t. That idea intimidates and frightens some people, and often causes them to paradoxically become hyper-vigilent about “am I here? Am I not here? Am I in a deep enough trance?” This actively interferes with the process.
Once the medium stops actively doing things, and sees that the deity isn’t there to burn the house down, they will naturally relax and slowly fade to the back. Or not. Because whether or not the medium is “gone” isn’t what’s important. What’s important is that the deity is able to use the form as they need to, and that they are able to enjoy the hospitality which is being offered.
Drink. Pour out drinks for all present, and raise a toast to the deity.
Food. Have a snack or a meal together. The deity may or may nor speak, but don’t pressure them.
Conversation. Let the assembled people greet the deity. Let the deity talk about their journey and say whatever they would like to say.
Entertainment. Optionally, you might have some activity or entertainment planned. You might take the deity for a walk, invite them to listen as someone sings, tell them a story or some jokes, or watch something on a television or laptop. This, too, is a normal part of Greek hospitality, though traditionally, it would be a bard singing a story from mythology.
Part 4: Closing.
The deity will, at some point, depart. They’ll usually tell you before they go, and say goodbye, but not always.
This is the time to offer a more extensive prayer or hymn, in the spirit of farewell, and to formally thank the deity for their companionship and guest friendship.
Offer a final libation to the deity, and then close with an offering to Hestia.