Devotional Polytheism (Pagan Blog Project, Week 8)

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Galina Krasskova posted an excellent set of blog prompts around devotional polytheism on her blog yesterday. I intend to use them to direct some of my posting here, whether part of the Pagan Blog Project or not. I love the idea, and thank her for sharing it!

For this week, I’ll handle #1:
What wealth have the divinities brought into your life?

That’s a huge question. Can I attribute anything specific to my deities, in terms of wealth? How do I define wealth in the first place? Is it necessary, or even desirable, for deities to bring me wealth? Do They do it all, or am I also responsible for some of it? I could blog for a long time….

For my purposes here, I’ll define wealth as ‘an abundance of a thing,’ and leave it open-ended; and I will not get into the question of whether or not deities are obligated to bring me wealth, if I have responsibility for it or not, etc. Let’s just talk about the basic concept.

Yes. I do believe my Egypto-Thracian deities have brought me wealth. They have done so in a number of different ways, too, starting even when I was a child and continuing to today.

They brought me spiritual wealth in the sense of opening my mind and my horizons to the beautiful, diverse world of Spirit. In recent years, I realized that I was experiencing Egypto-Thracian deities long before I was practicing a strictly Kemetic religion, and that They were the ones Who introduced me to  other gods and spirits that I needed to get to know along the way. (Thank You.)

They also brought me ancestral wealth – both my father’s bloodlines and my mother’s go back to lands that are defined as Thrace (northern Thrace on my father’s side, and Macedon on my mother’s). Through getting to know these divinities, and allowing Them to be present in my life, They have connected me back to my ancestors – and vice versa. It is humbling, and something incredible, to know that my ancestors and my gods are both part of a big circle or cycle that keeps us together.

In terms of monetary or material wealth, I’m not sure They’ve done much there – but then again, I don’t think I ever put that on Them. I have never expected my deities to function as giant gumball machines in the sky that hand out goodies when I ask. (That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t accept some material assistance from the Powers, of course…)

I’ve also received a wealth of work (in getting to know Them), a wealth in friendship and family (from the people whom They have connected me with over the years), and a wealth in lots of positive things for my own life, from confidence and protection to joy and delight in Their service.

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Catching up (Pagan Blog Project Week 6)

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Things have been rough for me offline, with a family death followed on instantaneously by starting a new program at my new grad school, and now preparations for a weekend of lecturing and conference/work. I am sorry to have been behind, and hope to get caught up with all of you soon.

Since my brain has no space left for a new topic, I’ll catch up by sharing links to some interesting things I’ve been reading lately, that you might want to read too. I’ll be back next week with something far better for topics beginning in “D.”

1. People are starting to meet each other in person (gasp!) with this Pagan Tea Time thing. Back in the day I was one of the progenitors of a “Pagan Tea House” on the AOL network. Loving both that people are using a similar name for the idea, AND that they’re getting to know each other as human beings and not just words on screens. Keep it up.

2. In this post, Oracle talks about ritual as a “love letter to the Gods.” I could not like this post enough.

3. The difference between purity and perfection, beautifully stated, by a Kemetic Orthodox priest.

4. Even if you don’t like rain or children, this will give you life. Or it should.

5. On conversion and appropriation, or what happens when the religion you once appropriated starts appropriating you….

6. Respect the divine weapons, even when they are aimed at you. (I love me some Hanuman!)

7. On compassion and unification (or, more blessing and less smiting)

8. Have a good week and we’ll talk soon!

I’m not the only one who thinks this way

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In relation to my recent posts concerning polytheism, monotheism, and the influence of the latter on the former lurking like a black hole around the periphery of contemporary polytheism and Paganism (here and also here), this came up in my reading for a class this evening, and I decided to share.

“It may be stressed that neither the number of deities worshiped, nor the absence or presence of definite (and carefully worded) answers to the eternal and unanswerable questions of man separate decisively a polytheistic from a monotheistic religion. Rather, it seems to be the criterion of a plurality of intellectual and spiritual dimensions that sets off most of the higher polytheistic religions from the narrowness, the one-dimensional pressure of revealed religions. Instead of the symbol of the path and the gate, which may be taken to be the ‘kenning’ of monotheism, a primeval, inevitable, and unchanging design or order (dharma, rta, shimtu) organizes the multifaceted structures of polytheistic religions. They are characterized by the absence of any centrality and by a deep-seated tolerance to shifting stresses, making possible the adaptability that such religions need to achieve their millennial lifespan. It is open to serious doubt whether we will ever be able to cross the gap caused by the difference in ‘dimensions.’ … Western man seems to be both unable and, ultimately, unwilling to understand such religions except from the distorting angle of antiquarian interest and apologetic pretenses. For nearly a century he has tried to fathom these alien dimensions with the yardsticks of animistic theories, nature worship, stellar mythologies, vegetation cycles, pre-logical thought, and kindred panaceas, to conjure them by means of the abracadabra of mana, taboo, and orenda. And the results have been, at best, lifeless and bookish syntheses and smoothly written systematizations decked out in a mass of all-too-ingenious comparisons and parallels obtained by zigzagging all over the globe and through the known history of man.”

From Ancient Mesopotamia: Portrait of a Dead Civilization, by A. Leo Oppenheim (pages 182-3).

Apotropaic Magic

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This’ll be the second post in the Pagan Blog Project series I somehow convinced myself I wanted to take part in. Hopefully, it will be of some use.

Following the agreed-upon alphabetic format, this is my second post with a topic beginning with the letter A. [If you want to see the first A post, the one I wrote about ancestors, it’s right here.] For my second A post, I want to talk about apotropaic magic. What the Hades does that mean? And how do you even say that?

Apotropaic (ah-POE-troe-pay-ick) is the English rendering of the Greek word apotrepein. This translates “to turn away” or “to push away,” so apotropaic magic would be magic designed to turn away or push away something.

Traditionally, apotropaic magic is used to deflect other magic, or for protection against evil that is “sent” toward or against something or someone else. It’s a specific kind of defensive magic, one with a long history in our world.

Ancient Egyptians used apotropaic magic to protect against everything from evil spirits to a spouse’s wandering eye. Official state rituals turned any potential evil away from the kingdom as part of every new year’s celebration. Private rituals could invoke fierce gods like Bes and Taweret to protect children from danger; like Sekhmet to scare off plagues; or Neith to dissolve nightmares. Apotropaic heka (as ancient Egyptians called the entire magical corpus of tools, words, and rituals used for magic) included amulets; “magic wands” made of ivory; statues; images carved into household objects like beds, headrests, and chairsincantations; or curses spoken to ancestors or dangerous spirits.

Apotropaic magic wasn’t limited to Egypt, nor did it start there. We know of many apotropaic practices and rituals from the rest of the Ancient Near East, and also the rest of the world. Nor is it something that was only done in antiquity. Everything from throwing salt over your shoulder because your Irish grandmother told you to do so, to the blue glass eyes hanging in a Turkish coffee shop (or on your cell phone screen?), reminds us that apotropaic magic is alive, well, and functioning all over the world, right now.

Apotropaic magic: It’s what we use to kick ass, or warn someone or something that we’re all out of bubblegum, when necessary.

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There’s always evil to be smashed, so why not engage in some of your own apotropaea? What sorts of apotropaic magic do you practice?

Ancestors

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Today (well, yesterday now, thanks to me taking too long to post – good going, Ag) is supposed to be the first day that the Pagan Blog Project goes down. I registered as a PBP blogger (#35 in this list), and I spent most of the last several days trying to figure out what I wanted to post about that started with A. Be grateful I didn’t subject you to an exposition on why my name is Agriakosos! (Agi will do fine, thank you very much.)

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that there wasn’t any other “A word” I could start with besides one:

ancestors

Everything we are, everything we do, involves ancestors. Even if we don’t want to acknowledge them (maybe they were cruel to us in life? maybe we’re adopted and we don’t even know who they are?), they are out there, and we wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for them. For good or for ill we all have ancestors, and thus they are the one constant in human life. We don’t even have to choose to have children – but we can’t opt out of parents. Voila. Ancestors. Congratulations. You have some.

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Fine, you have ancestors. Now what do you do with them?

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