Butting Out (Pagan Blog Project, Week 4)

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First of all I am sorry not to be posting my Friday prompt for the Pagan Blog Project until Monday. My family needed me offline, and while I am enjoying my participation in this project, human beings > my weekly Egypto-Samothracian chat session with the computer.

It was also difficult to come up with something I wanted to talk about for the second in the “B” series. I was considering talking about Bithynia, or the various important women (and a town!) named Berenike, but then I got back to the computer after the family business and read a lot of posts from my colleagues and contemporaries about this blogger or that group or this religious leader saying this or that or the other about each other’s practices. It seems that a few bloggers feel the need to tell everybody else what they believe (or don’t), and naturally, this has raised some eyebrows for some, and some tempers for others.

Perhaps it’s ironic that my response to this blanket statement definition, this strange desire to go forth and tell everybody else what to do is to suggest something that is going to sound very much like I’m telling everyone what to do. Oh well. So be it.

My advice: butt out.

Unless your life (or someone else’s) is literally threatened, unless your deities demand that you intervene, and unless there is a clear and compelling reason that someone else’s personal religious experience or lack thereof is your personal business? Butt out. Nobody appointed anybody the pagan police. For people who wail so loudly about how terrible it is to have to submit to religious authority there sure is a lot of authority being thrown around.

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Bendis (Pagan Blog Project Week 3)

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The Thracian goddess Bendis may or may not be the same as the goddess Kotys or Cotyto, according to some sources. One would presume that the Lady is aware of whether or not She has more than one name or identity, but She keeps Her mysteries well. For the purposes of this entry, since we’re on the letter “B,” we’ll stick to Her Bendis persona, regardless of the answer to that mysterious question.

Bendis was also conflated with Artemis, as another fierce, singular female huntress and lunar/wild deity. She resembles Artemis a little, if you squint hard and forget that She’s using a spear or two instead of a bow, that She’s wearing a Phrygian cap and a distinct set of high-legged boots, or that She wears other different clothing, in everything from Thracian cloaks to a fox-skin hat. )

Other times, Bendis is conflated with Persephone or Selene. These associations also have their similiarities. Bendis’ ceremonies were indeed practiced at night, by Thracians and (after the Oracle of Dodona told them to) by Greeks as well. One such ceremony is mentioned as the setting for Plato’s Republic, and appears in other classical works. It is called the Bendidia.

Bendidia involved torchlight processions on horseback and revels under darkness, like those celebrated by other Thracian and Orphic deities like Sabazios and Dionysos. Bendis is sometimes accompanied, like Dionysos, by satyrs and maenads, or simply by athletes running toward Her temple.

I’d like to understand more about Bendis, but as yet, She has not granted that opportunity. Perhaps one day that will change and I will have more to say.

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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Nothing Personal

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An important reminder of late, from Sekhtet.

Sekhtet

Sometimes spirit tells you to go away. Because you need to be standing somewhere else, doing something else, not gawking at spirit.

Which is personal, but in the sense of tailored and not in the sense of rejection. No hurt feelings necessary, and in fact hurt feelings will simply become a new way to not do the thing you should be doing.

Even when spirit loves us, it knows that we have many things to do.

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