Harmonia and Hephaistos

I. Harmonia

Who fucked you?
It wasn’t me.
Why then, this cursed jewel?

Who wronged you?
Was it my mother?
Your brother?

No.

It was he who sold you a lie
That Passion would wear chains
That Heart could be kept indoors

She was drawn, my mother, from the sea
But she is a raging conflagration
Place her in your prison
And she will burn it to the ground
As surely things fall when dropped

The one who told you that Love
Could be bought and sold
It was he, he who wronged you
We both know who I am talking about
Why then, this robe, dipped in crime?

I am Peace.
Do you wish to War with me?
I am Harmonia.
Would you send me away from the gods?
I am Concord
Between fellows
Between gods and men
Between you and your own broken heart

Know this, uncle of mine:
I never stay where I am not wanted

II. Hephaistos

I know what Zeus was thinking
As he watched me work the forge
If such a fire could be contained
So could She

Yes, she did
She burned my house down
And my heart
My dignity, too

But Zeus didn’t wrong me
He couldn’t have known better
What does he know of fire?
His lightning was a gift
A purchased bauble
But I knew.

I burned myself.
Against my better judgement.
I knew what I was looking at.
But in that moment
I chose to be a moth.

That jewel’s not cursed
That robe’s not dipped in crime
It’s just imbued with your divinity

Gentle Harmonia, your Godhead
– Thrashes –
They who use power to oppress
Until there is nothing left
But tears and bleeding
Smoking ash and rubble
Rent garments and cautionary tales

And your descendants
Were royal.

Re: Imposters

This morning, while brushing my teeth, I heard the following dialogue.

Spirit: (at me) “God, I really hate you.”

Hermes: ?! “Who the hell are you?”

Spirit: “I’m Hebe.”

Hermes: “Uh, no. I’m pretty sure that you aren’t.”

Spirit: “Isn’t it a matter of opinion? To some people, I’m Hebe.”

Hermes: “I’m Hermes. I know Hebe. And you, little one, are not Hebe.”

Spirit: “How do I know that you are Hermes? What evidence do you have?”

Hermes: “If you were Hebe, you’d know for certain whether I was or not.”

Spirit: “I think not.”

Hermes: “Welp. You know what they say. Shoot ’em all and let Persephone sort ’em out. Down we go!”

Spirit: (Begins screeching)

Hermes: “Yeah, that? That never works. Come along.”

He extends his chlamys, raising the golden wand, and they both vanish

The following struck me about this brief interchange:

“God, I hate you.” — Hate, as I like to say, generally boils down to fear. Even when it boils down to envy, envy is a manifestation of insecurity. Insecurity, in turn, is fear that a person isn’t good enough. Spirits who are consumed by hate are generally bottom feeders. 

“Isn’t it a matter of opinion?” — Well, isn’t it? We certainly treat it like it is. We have no community standards for manifestation that we can agree upon, really. If they drain you and you suffer as a result, some will call that Shaman Sickness, so having their own energy isn’t a universal criteria. If they are cruel, some will say that mythology supports an interpretation of cruel gods, so they don’t really need to be spiritually evolved, and they don’t need to have dealt with their own shit. If they fail to give us blessings, some will say that the gods aren’t obligated to help us, so they don’t really need to be able to wield the forces they claim to rule over. If they create spiritual problems, or set us back spiritually, some will say that “the gods aren’t safe.” So they don’t really need to possess any particular wisdom, or know anything about building relationships with humans.

She’s right. It’s a matter of opinion. Any spirit whatsoever can pass themselves off as a deity in our current environment. It will be valid to someone. And just one or two someones is all a spirit needs, really.

“Uh, no.” — Hellenic gods, on the other hand, never have and never will accept pretenders in their presence. I cannot speak for other pantheons, but I would assume that we could expect something similar, regardless of where we went.

I believe anyway, prayers are always heard by the deities to whom they are addressed. I hardly ever pray to “you.” Excessive use of the deity’s names assures that whatever the working, the deity is at least aware of it. And if there is an interloper, they’ll be dealt with.

“Shoot ’em all and let Persephone sort ’em out” — If you question a manifestation, it’s useful to have a good relationship with some several psychopomps. That way, whatever spirits might be hanging around can be escorted to where they belong.

This really sort of cements my conviction that I don’t want to be doing any mystical work without Hermes and Hekate nearby.

“Yeah, that? That never works.” — Spirits put up a fuss when you try to move them along to the afterlife. Probably, if I am calling Hermes and/or Hekate for this work in particular, I really ought to give them something nicer than if I’m calling them for help with magic or money or something else which doesn’t involve screaming, tantrum-having dead people.

 

Your Sense of Self Matters

No matter what you do, you are stuck with yourself. You can pack it down, put a mask on it, cast a glamour over it, or lie your face off about it. But at the end of the day, when you climb into your bed, there you are. The farther away from yourself you are, the more wholly miserable your life will be, no matter what else you have. The more you ignore yourself, the less you will understand about yourself. The less you understand about yourself, the less possible it will be for you to understand your motives, control your actions, or to grow as a person.

Despite this, too many spiritual paths teach that destruction or nullification of our sense of self is a good thing. Somehow, being self-effacing and not having our own goals, aims and desires is praiseworthy. Not having opinions, not taking sides, not making any kind of judgements about anything is somehow a more evolved state than the alternative. And I will tell you why.

A Person With No Sense of Self Is Easily Controlled

A person with no sense of self, no opinions, no alignments, no convictions is a person who its easy to control. They have a self, I assure you, buried five layers deep. They have lost touch with their internal compass. They have no plans. All they do is react. They are reluctant to speak out against injustice, because their non-judgment dogma has warped them into thinking that the oppressor’s viewpoint is just as valid as that of the oppressed.

Losing touch with your sense of self means losing touch with empathy. It means losing touch with moral indignation. It means losing touch with everything inside of you with power to plan, to resist, to fight, to succeed.

Without A Sense of Self, Self Becomes A Stranger

When, at last, your long-neglected soul emerges from obscurity, you will not like what you see. To paraphrase Engewook from the Neverending Story: kind people discover that they are really cruel. Brave ones discover that they are really cowards. Confronted with their true selves, most people run away screaming at their image.

At the end of the day, you are the only person capable of growing and developing you. If you can’t see you, you can’t assess what you need in order to grow. No one can do your inner work for you.

A deity can’t change you into something or someone else. You might want them to, because you don’t want to be who you are. They can’t. It doesn’t work that way. There are hundreds of people who tried to “pray the gay away.” No dice. The fact that it doesn’t work has been clinically proven. The damage it does is statistically measurable.

Initiation can’t change you into someone else. No, not even alchemical initiation. That’s not how it works. You don’t do Plant Alchemy to turn bay leaves into a zebra. The Alchemical Process makes bay leaf into the purest distillation of the essence of Bay Leaf.

Apotheosis doesn’t change who you are, either. It just makes you more of what you are already.

Without A Sense of Self, You Cannot Know Your Purpose

The essence of you is not incorrect, or wrong, or in need or erasure, regardless of what the various clergy people, or your family, or your teachers in school led you to believe. Your life’s journey isn’t to become someone else. It’s to become the best version of the person you already are.

You are here for something. You are here to do something that, I believe anyway, you chose. The self that you have is right for that purpose. The hard part is actually just figuring out what the purpose is. You’ll know it when you find it, because your heart will sing, you will feel complete, and no source in Heaven or Earth or Hell could ever separate you from it.

You took with you into this life only what you needed. Who you are and what you can do is tailored to that specific purpose. If you try to ignore your sense of self, you cannot possibly know what you came here for.

Your purpose is not a deity, though sometimes a deity can represent your purpose to you (if their purpose and yours are similar). It is not another person. It is not some particular religion. It is not a job or a career. These are things we tell ourselves because they are easy to latch onto. I’m not saying that they are unimportant. They’re plenty important. They can each, in their own way, be an expression of your purpose. But if your deity up and leaves you forever, or you get divorced, or your children grow up and leave the house, or you lose your job, your life isn’t actually ruined. It’s not time to give up and die.

It’s better to absorb this truth early. If you don’t, you will almost certainly lose each of these things in turn along your spiritual path. And people do. And they call it “resistance” or “karmic acceleration” or “ordeal work.” They falsely believe that it is the suffering that’s important, and teaches the lesson. Au Contraire. What is important is re-connecting with the self, and sometimes, the only thing that our powers can do for us is to take things away until we have nothing left but self, in the hopes that with fewer things to confuse us, we’ll finally take a look in the mirror.

Sometimes, you need to find yourself to find your purpose. Sometimes in finding your purpose, you find yourself. The whole Big Fucking Deal about Knowledge and Conversation with your Holy Guardian Angel is just that. It’s about finding your purpose and yourself.

Without A Sense of Self, We Are Shitty Mediums

 

I promise you this: you will never achieve true knowledge of what is other until you know what is self. In order to discern what is a deity or spirit talking, you need to be intimately acquainted with your own inner voices, so that when you hear them, you will know that it is not deity, no matter how closely that aspect of yourself may resemble a particular deity.

No, you cannot just erase yourself. Not even temporarily. Certainly not permanently. No, your soul never goes to sleep. No matter how deeply you are in trance, you can never silence your true spiritual essence. You can only perceive what is self, and what is other, and emphasize the expression of self, or other, as needs dictate.

Recall the days of your youth. When you were coming to terms with potty training, you fixed and joked about all things excretia. In adolescence, the changing of your body and sexuality, these things were the “big thing” that you focused on, talked about and processed. Self-absorption is completely inevitable until we fully self-actualize, and come to terms with having a unique and independent self.

Until the understanding of self is achieved, we cannot do anything other than create gods in our own image, since the struggle to self actualize occludes any ability to understand other. The true face of divinity can only be perceived after finding the true face of the self.

And if you hate yourself, if you are trying to get rid off yourself, you have already lost that struggle.

So make peace with yourself. Resolve to accept that you love what you love, care about what you care about, value what you value. Be delighted by what delights you unapologetically. Cling to your ideals with the full force of your being. Pursue those virtues you honestly hold in high esteem with all the zeal and vigor you can muster. Love the heart, mind, and body you have.  Don’t let anyone ever tell you that you are deficient because you aren’t someone else. You do not owe it to anyone to be someone you are not.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Inviting Olympians to Physically Manifest

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.

Overview

Here’s the long and short of what to do:

  1. Set an altar by your bed, or set a place to sleep in your temple space.
  2. Remove the icon from your altar. Cover it and set it aside for a while.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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 Area

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.

Time Spent

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.

St Collen, Annwn, and The Spanish Missions of California

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.

What I Know About His Clubbed Foot

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.