Hearth cult musings: Hel and company

Heathenry and Lokeanism

After ten years of worshiping Odin, a different deity is coming to the fore. Hela has really caught my attention. I tried focusing on both of them for three months: I wrote rites and rosary prayers for each deity, but consistently found I was being drawn closer and closer to Hel and her associations: ancestor veneration, bones, shadow work, her monstrous kin, and Loki.

Odin encouraged me to follow this new direction, so I did. I wrote multiple free verse poems (some of which got published). I wrote and fine-tuned a monthly hearth cult rite for her and the ancestors. I started a Tumblr (again!) to connect to other devotees. I talked about her a lot on Discord servers.

I had some pretty intense experiences with her at the end of March, so I decided to make April an intentional fallow time. I am going to try really hard not to read spiritual texts. I am going to attempt to take breaks from polytheist Discord servers. I am also going to try to rest more, since I will have a brief window between the end of my winter semester and my summer semester.

Odin and Loki are still around, but in different ways. Hel takes up a lot of my time, energy, and bandwidth right now, but I like it that way! It feels nice to focus on a deity, rather than be distracted by multiple.

Hellenic polytheism

Hel’s energy is weighty and dark–or it is so far, anyway, that might change in the spring/summer–so, I thought bringing in some brighter, happier gods might help. I have long found Ancient Greece to be endlessly fascinating, so I am going to borrow my little brother’s copy of Sarah Kate Istra Winter’s Kharis: Hellenic Polytheism Explored and read that… after my fallow period!

As I walked home from my internship/work today, I mused that it would be nice to worship Apollo, Dionysus, Athena, and, possibly, Hephaestus. I’ve known these deities a long time, and often worshiped them at my friend’s monthly cultus to the Theoi.

OTOH, I just spent more than an hour on theoi.com looking up hero cults and obscure deities, so we’ll see who I end up worshiping, haha!

At some point, I’ll have to write about my past studies with Ancient Greece…

Hearth Cult

I think that if I choose three Norse deities, and three Hellenic deities to worship, I think that could work very well. In my explorations of ritualized hearth cult, I found listing out ALL of Hel’s family in my prayers to be rather labourious. If I limit the number of deities, I think that could go more smoothly. I could, for example, only invoke Hel’s family at my yearly Hel’s blot at Samhain. Or I could do that at the autumn Equinox, if I would prefer to focus Samhain on Hel and the ancestors.

I’ll also need to determine what Hellenic holidays to add to the calendar. My yearly calendar has already been hammered out (by Mjolnir, haha!), so I think I would try to pick small or easy holy days to include.

I’d also like to include more intentional stillness and quiet time before holy rites. I will start small, with 15 minutes of meditation, spiritual reading, or rest. Ideally, I’d like to have quiet time for longer and longer periods until I have an hour of calm before the rite. This timing will vary depending on how big the rite is. If it’s a high holy day, I’d prefer a longer period of contemplation. If it’s a smaller moment of cultus, the quiet time can be shorter.

This practice was inspired by a mixture of Christian Ember Days and the Jewish Sabbath.

Eastern mysticism

I’ve been keeping up a regular daily meditation practice since Yule 2021. My little brother brought me into his weekly group meditation sessions and now I have a teacher. I’ve found a free app to use called Insight Timer. There’s tons of guided meditations on there.

So all this to say that my interest in Eastern religions is renewed. My brother bought me the LeGuin translation of the Tao Te Ching for Christmas–an excellent gift because I love the author and can now compare her translation to the David Hinton translation that I have. I recently picked up Benebell Wen’s The Tao of Craft and it is waiting on my night-table.

I’d love to resume investigating local Buddhist temples. I trained for eight months at a Pure Land Buddhist temple here in my city, but eventually left, as my career took me away from that path. I’d like to visit other temples to find a ‘home’. My brother wants to attend with me, so that will be a nice brotherly adventure…

A goodbye to Olympos

A note: I must bid goodbye to philosophy.

 

A tanka for the Hellenic Pantheon:

 

A temple gathers

the dust and old batteries.

The field wither here.

Footsteps lead outwards and on.

The day is so blue and warm.

 

In order to focus on my priest-poet path, I am saying goodbye to Hellenismos.

I am deeply grateful for the lessons learned, the gifts, the blessings, the encouragements, the protections, and the fun I have had. The gods have blessed the road ahead of me. It is silver and straight.

I am glad to go.

 

 

Hard Lessons: A Visitation from Lord Apollo

Lately, when I just sit on the bus or take a walk with no podcast on, I will sometimes get a visit from a deity. So here are some words of wisdom from Lord Apollo:

First off, he remarked that I seem to have a -2 inspiration on reading Plato’s Republic. He cautioned me about basing my faith entirely on books. He suggested watching a video instead.

He also encouraged me to check out some Italian paintings of the Hellenic gods.

Then some advice:

“Come to see Us when you feel joy.”

This is because sometimes I feel obligated to pray, even when I am grouchy. So I have to unlearn this idea and just go visit them when I feel chill and happy. I think I still get stuck on the idea that one should always do ones devotions but honestly, that just doesn’t work for me as a person with illness and disability.

Lord Apollo noted that our mutual or intersecting interest is a friendship with Socrates. I am considering printing a picture of him to put on my altar.

Now, his last remark, which is the whole point of this post:

“Living our values is enough! This is a revelation for you!”

So, over the years, I had deeply misperceived advice on offerings. I gave way way too much to the point where it harmed me very deeply. Like “go to the hospital” deeply. My religious delusions really hurt me because I wasn’t confiding in local pagans or asking for help. I can admit that now. Honestly, I don’t think this was an issue of pride. I was/am mostly just a really shy person!

I talked out my issues with a spiritual therapist and a local pagan friend which really helped my discernment a lot. I’m way healthier now.

So, this year, I was trying to keep up a regular ritual practice every weekend with each of my four faiths. I found this very draining and unworkable. Additionally, I felt I was being taken away from my priesthood when what I really wanted was to feel grounded in heathenry as clergy.

Lord Apollo’s remark that this is a revelation to me is important because this lesson has been and is so so tough for me to learn. This may not be a revelation for others but it is for me. ❤

Regarding his assurance on living Hellenic values, I’m mostly focusing on hospitality for now. A prime example: I bought a friend a gluten-free snack today then realized she wasn’t able to attend our D&D group’s board games night. Ah well, next week.

I’ve also ordered a book “Teach Like Socrates” to learn some new teaching methods (I’m listing the bill as a work expense for my taxes muahahah). I’m rereading Jo Walton’s The Just City to compare what I know now about Plato to what I knew before.

All in all, it was a very kindly visit from Lord Apollo. Seriously, deities are infinitely more chill than my mental illnesses made them out to be. I’m very grateful to know the truth now.

Thanks for the excellent advice and useful revelations! Hail Lord Apollo, Lord of Oracles!

Hospitality

Lord Zeus has asked me to UP my game and think about hospitality–which is a Hellenic Holy Thing–so I thought I’d brainstorm ways in which I am already hospitable. Then, I can encourage myself to go further…

  • buying chocolates and pistachios for my friends for DnD last night
  • making my dad tea this morning once he noticed I made some for Lady Guinevere and myself
  • that one time I bought my students cookies for all their hard work during exams (once the cashier found out who I was buying for, he gave me a cookie for myself for free–perhaps generosity breeds generosity?)
  • sharing a bite or two with Lady Guinevere when I cook my own food
  • devotional offerings
  • sharing my gouache or ink with my art classmates (when I had my art class)
  • buying back pain cream for that impoverished stranger the other day
  • the many times I have bought my students bagels

Given that I live a bit far from my friends–I’m on the western part of the island whereas most of my friends are downtown or in the east–I’m pondering moments in my classroom where I can foster hospitality, or moments where in the city I can create moments of compassion and generosity.

What I especially like about hospitality is that there is a balance with it, right? Like in hosting D&D last night, my friends supplied a place to play our game. They also facilitated the process of communally purchasing food for the evening. In turn, us guests brought food and materials to help play the game. We all came together to make something happen.

On the other hand, sometimes if I am in a rush or have no spare change, I will refuse the opportunity to give to a homeless person. Inspired by a Christian minister I read about*, I have been trying to encourage myself to smile or say hello, but sometimes it is hard. It can be tough to look suffering in the eye like that. I am still learning how. Also, unfortunately, a lot of homeless people near my work drink or smoke. So my students (and some coworkers) often have a negative opinion. I try to think about it, and encourage my students to think about, how one might use alcohol, cigarettes, or weed, to cope with living on the street. Coping mechanisms come in many varieties, both healthy or unhealthy. I point out to my students that where we live, you can’t get a job unless you have a home address–so how can a homeless person find work?

I still feel there are lots of unanswered questions for me about what it means to be homeless. To me, homelessness is a failure of the State and society to provide for all its citizens. But we know that governments fail at the guest/host dynamic already, just look at Trudeau’s failures to honour his promises to indigenous folks here–fuck this pipeline, may it perish–so too is it important to look at where we need to improve our own guest/host habits.

What I’d like to improve on:

  • acknowledging homelessness more
  • being less shy about hosting Norse rituals at home**
  • maybe I should keep more change in my pockets???? or snacks?
  • step outside my comfort zone and volunteer more with the homeless (note: ok I just messaged one of the orgs I like to ask about spring/summer volunteer hours)

The Hellenic pantheon is really encouraging me to ‘think like Socrates’ and ponder what is best for my city and how to contribute as a citizen.

*As a pagan, I still try to consider the framework of Christianity as a boon because the traditions of mysticism, monasticism, and charity can still be an inspiration. I really do appreciate that the church instilled a sense of charity/giving in me at a young age. Of course, I do my best to ponder such things in light of paganism.

**as a priest in Norse paganism, Lord Zeus has helped me see that hosting Hellenic or Hindu rituals would blur the line between priest/devotee in those particular traditions.

Lord Zeus: Comments

I am hoping to periodically share my interactions with deities. I share these words from Lord Zeus in hopes that others will find use in his remarks.

A month or two ago, during yoga class, I was doing the triangle pose.

201506-yjmag-extended-triangle-ashtanga.jpg

Lightning traveled down my upraised hand down my torso and into my lower arm. I had a vision of the lightning traveled down my hand and into the earth. It was the same move that Zuko does in Avatar but at a different angle. What a shock it was!

While Lord Zeus has often struck me with inspiration, this type of lightning has never happened before or since.

His Nature

“I guide the alignment of the planets for you.”

He encouraged me to see that he interacts with me as a godson.

He noted with some amusement that I kept trying to look at him a lot, like the paparazzi. He was bearded with long hair. He, and other deities, have noted that when I look at them, I am basically trying to draw them. Lord Zeus has ever been a kindly god towards me, offering gifts easily. I find him very protective in nature, despite my being allied towards another pantheon in priesthood.

Interaction with the Theoi

The Olympic torch illuminating my heart in the darkness.

“You’re not a slave. We don’t want to force you to worship,” he said as he walked the beach. His toga was firmly affixed with a gold medallion inscribed with a lightning bolt. He wanted me to plant a seed to enjoy worship. (Admittedly, I am still working on this.)

The word worship had become off-kilter. He explained that there is a greater purpose to worship. He encouraged me to compare it to the word honour.  Here I think he wants me to honour the gods rather than to prostrate myself in a sort of falsely humble submissive attitude.

He explained to me that I also need to honour myself (without hubris). I was confused by this last comment so he added: “Don’t worship Pentheus and you’ll be fine.”

Pentheus was a man who refused to honour Lord Dionysos as a new god and was ultimately ripped to shreds for his impiety.

Here, when Lord Zeus speaks of honouring myself, I think he’s nudging me towards thinking about my energy levels or, as I prefer to call them, my spoons. He and the Theoi don’t want grudging worship when I am low spoons. They especially don’t want “red spoons” which are like negative angry spoons. When I feel excessively obligated to worship, rather than honour my energy levels, I end up offering red spoons that, as far as I can tell, seem to negate the offering itself.

If I don’t feel well, I shouldn’t worship. Lord Zeus affirmed this by noting a nearby thoughtform that said, “Pay up!” . He assured me, this is a question We won’t ask you.

In search of a better attitude to cultivate, he noted that I wear a cap that says “FANBOY” on it when I interact with the gods. He approved of this and encouraged me to cultivate this mentality. (He and other deities have also compared this fanboy idea to a puppy, saying that puppylike enthusiasm is perfectly appropriate. The Theoi want me to be as happy as I am to see them as when I see the warm sun.)

9781596436251.IN01
Zeus by George O’Connor

Yet He asked me to be cautious with my worship. He asked me not to host Hellenic rituals at home because this would blur the line between devotee and priest. (I do attend Hellenic rituals though–I was at a rite for Lord Hephaestus yesterday.) He has been emphasizing a devotee attitude for me, because I am a priest elsewhere, and sometimes what things I need to do/think as a devotee vs a priest get confusing for me. So, he tried to help clarify it a bit.

As further food for thought, Lord Zeus told me that for me, the center of my Hellenic universe is a book called “Teach Like Socrates.” I have yet to order this book but it’s certainly something I hope to do. I did finish reading “The Last Days of Socrates” just last week. I felt as though I mourned my hero upon finishing that book.

All in all though, Lord Zeus has really helped me get back on track with the Theoi. As I finish this, I can see a doodle of a yellow sun with a smiling face. Hail Lord Zeus!

These interactions happened over a span of two months. A note: when I do have these mental pilgrimages to the gods, I do make astral offerings of fruits, spices, or other appropriate objects.

A haiku for Lord Zeus

Lightning clarity

A name, a poem, a gift

Kind boons from a god

My thanks, O good lord Zeus, for your godly presence in my life!