The Pagan Blog Project: B is for Beginnings

I’ve had this blog post written for a few weeks but my health has taken a turn more recently so this and the other ‘catch-up’ posts I’ve had in the pipeline have been delayed. Thanks to everyone for bearing with me and I hope to be over the worst soon to keep updating; the writing gives me something to focus on but is a struggle at the moment. Hope everyone enjoys this post.

Today I wanted to talk about beginnings – in particular, my beginnings on the spiritual path I am currently winding my way along.

From my earliest recollection I had a fascination with the natural world and would often loose myself in the ‘magic’ of the forest, parks, streams etc in the local area for hours at a time. I was fortunate enough not to be raised into any religious or spiritual tradition, with my parents both agreeing to allow me to follow my own way once I was old enough to understand – to the point where I wasn’t even christened.

At school I did love to sing hymns (often the more ‘pagany’ ones such as Lord of the Dance) and in Religious Education I enjoyed learning about the world religions – though the slant towards 70% Christianity over 30% all other religions didn’t seem right. It was also during this time that parallel to my interest in religion, my passion for ancient history grew also; ancient Greece, Egypt, Vikings, Aztecs – I was fascinated by rich, vibrant times past, especially in the deities and beliefs of these ‘lost’ civilizations.

Heading into my teens I became more actively aware of a desire to find ‘answers’, to follow an – as of then – uncertain calling. I read more into a wide range of options. I went to church a few times, read about Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism and others but nothing seemed right, nothing ‘clicked’ into place.

As I headed towards my fifteenth birthday, I finally found my footing on the path that’s meandered its way to where I am today. Together with a very close friend we found our way to Wicca where we both progressed together but in slightly different, yet parallel, directions. For me, my foundations as a solitary practitioner paved the way through to about 2003/4.

After Samhain 2003 I started to consider the nature of deity and the prospect of patron/matrons. I had had trouble with the whole ‘all god/desses are one God/dess’ concept, as well as the maiden-mother-crone archetype and so I worked up to a sunny, lazy Sunday afternoon where I went on a guided meditation to explore the prospect of a matron and/or patron deity.

In the meditation, I discovered a small Grecian-style temple on the top of a grassy hill and inside, amidst rich tapestries and flaming torches I found a glorious picture of a magnificent and mature woman in fine ancient robes, chestnut hair and deep green eyes. She revealed Her name to be “Ceres”. I felt a compulsion to find out all I could about her.

The name was completely unfamiliar to me at the time and naturally, I began my search online and within the neo-pagan communities I related to. I found out that Ceres was the name given to Demeter’s Roman counterpart. At the time I tried focusing directly on Ceres, but the information was limited (outside of Barbette Stanley Spaeth’s “The Roman Goddess Ceres” – a marvellous book by the way) and continually brought me back to the more widely available information about Demeter.

But the information I turned up seemed “flat” and inconclusive and on too many occasions did I keep stumbling upon the Wiccan archetype of Maiden, Mother & Crone. I mused for days on end, attempting to incorporate Demeter into my worship, but something didn’t feel “right”. I spent many hours trawling the Internet and pouring over books and while searching for more info and pictures on the Internet I stumbled across a site on Hellenismos and something “clicked”.

Hellenismos, or Hellenic Polytheism, is an attempt to revive and re-create the religion of Ancient Greece with adaptation to fit our modern, everyday lives and still retain meaning in that setting. Beliefs and practices are based on a multitude of rich and vibrant sources from the works of Homer and Hesiod to archaeological evidence and historical theory.

From that moment on it was as if Demeter had suddenly pulled back a curtain behind which stood all the other Gods, as if to say “surprise, we were here the whole time!”

After her “revelation”, Demeter stepped back as if to hand me over to the other Gods and since then, I have immersed myself in finding out all I can in honouring these most ancient and sacred deities. The more I have discovered, the more things have made sense. I have changed my religious practice much over a short time and yet nothing about the changes have felt wrong or forced.

In the relatively short time since immersing myself into the Hellenic Pagan community, I have watched it grow rapidly, bringing in new faces and interested parties the world over. New websites have popped up and devotees to the various Gods and Goddesses are open and free in the sharing of their knowledge and experience.

Whilst I don’t class myself as a staunch recon, I am all for paying due honours to the Gods in my life and learning from the past to advance into the future. Dionysos, Hekate, Aphrodite, Pan and Prometheus are just a few of the wondrous and potent beings that have entered my life – some staying longer than others, a few still near and dear.

It’s fascinating to look back at where I’ve come from. To remember my first steps down an uncertain path, defending my beliefs – though ever evolving – to those who doubted or belittled them; making friends and learning all the time, my first explorations of magic and ritual, such as the time I thought it would be a wonderful idea to cast a circle marked out with tealights (that I didn’t have holders for, so placed the little foils directly on the floor) only to have them melt into the carpet and my first spell which couldn’t have worked any faster or more accurately without divine assistance! And there is just so much more.

The end destination is always in sight, though forever moving ahead and it pays to never forget where we have come from.

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The Pagan Blog Project: A is for Agathos Daimon

Firstly this post is later than planned secondly it’s not what I was originally going to talk about. My initial idea was to discuss Aphrodite and my past/present dealings with Her. However, ‘inspiration’ of sorts struck that I should write about the Agathos Daimon – coincidentally this idea came on the second day of the lunar month, a day traditionally associated with the Daimon.

Agathos Daimon means “good spirit” and is seen as a divine being – sometimes an intermediary between Gods and mortals – less powerful than a God but more so than a mere mortal. This being, associated with the oikos (household) and the protection of it and those within, is often portrayed as a snake or as a young man holding a cornucopia and presides over prosperity, fertility, spiritual evolution..

Not to be confused with the evil ‘demon’ of modern Christian mythology (though a negative counterpart called a kakodaimon did exist) the Agathos Daimon is sometimes linked with being an aspect of Zeus in his role of Ktesios – another deity of household religion – and sometimes with Dionysos and the gift of wine. It is traditional to pour out a small libation of wine in honour of the Agathos Daimon, especially on the second day of the lunar month to ask for aid, guidance, protection or merely just in praise.

Some modern practitioners of Hellenismos see the Agathos Daimon as a type of spiritual companion or guide – similar in some ways to the concept of a guardian angel. This is illustrated by the account of the philosopher Sokrates who spoke of his own daimon as a small voice which spoke to him, warning to refrain from certain actions (Plato, Apology, 31d).

There is a splendid invocation to the Agathos Daimon in the Papyri Graecae Magicae:

Rejoice with me, You who are set over the East Wind and the World, for whom all the Gods serve as Body-Guards at Your Good Hour and on Your Good Day, You who are the Agathos Daimon of the World, the Crown of the Inhabited World, You who arise from the Abyss, You who Each Day rise a Young Man and set an Old Man, HARPENKNOUPHI BRINTANTE’- NO’PHRI BRISSKYLMAS AROURZORBOROBA MESINTRIPHI NIPTOUMI CHMOUMMAO’PHI. I beg You, Lord, do not allow me to be Over-Thrown, to be Plotted Against, to receive Dangerous Drugs, to go into Exile, to fall upon Hard Times. Rather, I ask to obtain and receive from You Life, Health, Reputation, Wealth, Influence, Strength, Success, Charm, Favor with all Men and all Women, Victory over all Men and all Women. Yes, Lord, ABLANATHANALBA AKRAMMACHAMARI PEPHNA PHO’ZA PHNEBENNOUNI NAACHTHIP…OUNORBA, accomplish this Matter which I want, by means of Your Power. (PGM 36.211-30)

In my personal practice, I will admit that I am still trying to connect with my daimon. This post however has allowed me to consider how I can renew and strengthen my relatively weak relationship with Him. My first step will be the setup of a small shrine (will be documented in future follow-up posts) and begin a regular exploration of the daimon, giving offerings, prayers and praise as well as divination and meditation on the matter.

First off, here’s a small piece I’ve written to honour the/my daimon:

Hail most revered of daimons!

Serpentine in form

Whose coils move about my dwelling.

Let no harm befall this place or those who reside herein,

Protect our home against thieves and trespassers.

May all things grow by your acts;

Riches and opulence by your mind

Fertility and growth by your body

Advancement and fulfilment by your spirit!

You who watches over my stores

And keeps good counsel with Zeus Ketesios.

Let your feats and deeds be blessed

Unmixed wine do I sprinkle down upon you in praise!

The Pagan Blog Project: A is for Altar

Well it’s taken me a little longer than anticipated to get the first few posts caught up with but before any more time elapses I thought I should at least get the first one posted and then I’ll attempt to finish off the second A-post this evening, following on with the primary B-post [hopefully] the day after – if not sooner.

So to get the ball rolling I just thought I’d ‘showcase’ some of my altars and shrines past and present and talk about them  a little. In the years since I started on my Path I’ve had a number of different altars, some general and some specific. Mostly these days I have at least two specific deity related and one general (though currently I have four deity related).

Dionysos has been the mainstay throughout recent years. From humble beginnings on a simple wooden shelf, to more elaborate set-ups to help me connect further with His energies and to give me a place to go to for regular worship, offerings and devotion. In the current set-up I have two statues, one of which was sold as a garden ornament that I painted. There’s also a framed printed by the awesomely talented Jeff Cullen, the Fool card from the Mythic Tarot (which depicts the youthful Dionysos-Zagreus). I have a couple of candles, a fake bunch of grapes, a piece of amethyst, my bull’s head pendant (which I wear during worship and ritual) and I’ve wreathed the whole thing with a faux ivy garland which I think really looks the part!

My first small altar/shrine to Dionysos.

Dionysos today!

Next we have Hekate who in the last few years has been a HUGE presence which just seems to keep growing in size and potency. Again from humble beginnings, my altars and shrines to Hekate have grown exponentially. My most recent incarnation features some of my most treasured Hekate-related finds aand purchases most notable of which is my skull effigy which has such presence. Some of the objects change position from month to month but can include my jar candle, my Hekate journal, some of my other statues, my handmade Hekate’s Wheel plaque, my wand, chalice, athame, incense burner and key pendant . This is the largest and most central of my altars and is the one I use most often.

One of the earlier incarnations of my altar to Hekate.

Altar to Hekate to celebrate the Rite of Her Sacred Fires 2011

Most recent set-up featuring my Hekatean skull effigy.

I have a small altar-shrine to Pan which hasn’t really changed all that much in the time that I have had it. A few little tweaks here and there but the overall look and composition hasn’t changed and I like it. Going before it I can find my focus taken in completely and it’s almost like I’m transported to a dense woodland or an isolated mountain pass where I can quiet my mind and tackle my fears in the presence of Lord Pan.  Features are my statues of Pan, a set of panpipes, a large pine cone, a small bunch of faux grapes, a leaf shaped offering dish and a vase to put in cut foliage.

My altar to Pan of the Wild Woods.

Before I moved house mid-last year I used to have an altar to Aphrodite. Since moving this hadn’t got reassembled due to space issues. A few weeks back though I decided it needed a place in the new home and although it is smaller and simpler than in the past, I now have a place to go to give thanks for Aphrodite’s Blessing on my life.  I place a lot of rose quartz on the altar and I anoint the candles in myrtle oil. My central statue is another special find on the internet which I love for its unique portrayal of the Foam-Born Lady.

My humble shrine to Aphrodite.

I also have an altar to the Twelve Gods which features my set of Olympian statuettes on a double shelf (I’m in the process of looking for a single item to place next to each statue; I have a peacock feather next to Hera, a piece of wheat next to Demeter, a miniature boat next to Poseidon – things like that). Beneath the shelf I have a chiminea candle holder to represent Hestia and a vase for flowers and a bowl for libations. I’ve been trying to get into the habit of making the lower portion ‘themed’ for a specific God each month in keeping with the monthly libations I [try] to adhere to.

Altar to the Twelve Gods

The Pagan Blog Project

I’ve not posted since my Adorations went up. I’m really thankful for all the kind words and praise regarding my Adorations to Hekate and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading the other lists that have sprung up on different blogs to other Gods.

I’ve been thinking about my spiritual life in 2012, my relationships with different deities and what the next leg of the journey along my Path will entail, so that’s taken a lot of thinking and musing away from the blog and the outside world. Coming back to the blog this weekend I’ve still not been sure on what to write but catching up on my favourite blogs I spotted info about ‘The Pagan Blog Project 2012’ and although I’ve missed the start of it, I’ve decided I will be taking part (and undoubtedly catch up with my first week ‘A’ posts).

So, just wanted to check-in and let people know I’m still here and working on posts for the near future!

Hail and Praise the Gods!