Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Invocation to Dionysos

Lord of wine and liberty,
Joy and dance and revel among us
O giver of life's sweet ecstasy.

Free and wild and strange and strong,
Enliven our minds, enrapture our bodies.
O Lord, we pray you hear our song.

-M. Ashley

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

To Zeus, Father of All

The following is a daily prayer that I developed based on the many different versions of The Charge of the God. In my personal devotion, I find it works well for Zeus.

Beloved Father, Begetter of All, Great Lord of this Earth, Keeper of the Mysteries of Life Ever Reborn, yours is the flame of desire--yours the gale of action. Yours is the promise of peace--yours the law of Harmony. Teach us this day to live your law--to keep pure our highest ideals, that nothing or no one may turn us aside from our Divine Inheritance--from communion with you. Grant us an awakening of our bodies, that they may rise to answer both our wild natures and our cultivated arts. Bless us to know ourselves as you know us--in all our perfect mortal imperfections--and to love ourselves and our fellows because our hearts and vision have been so filled. Grant us this day of your courage and hope, your vision and depth, your action and stillness, your wisdom and abundance.  As we seek for you in the wild flesh and forest of the Earth, let us also seek within ourselves, and let us ever remember the greatest of all truths--that as we live, die and live again encircled by you, so you live, die and live again enfolded within us.

So it is, and so it shall be, forever and ever, Blessed by the Mystery.

Monday, January 17, 2011

To the Source of All Living

The following is a daily prayer I developed based on Doreen Valiente's Charge of the Goddess. It could rightly be used for just about any Goddess in the pantheon, but personally I most often use it as devotion to Demeter or Hera.
Beloved Mother, Source of All Living, Light and Life of Worlds Without end, yours is the ecstasy of the Spirit. Yours is joy unto all. Yours is the everlasting law of love. Teach us this day to live your law--to keep pure our highest ideals, that nothing or no one may turn us aside from our Divine Inheritance, from communion with you. Bless us with an awakening of our souls that they may heed your call and arise unto you--that we may know ourselves as you know us, in truth, and love ourselves and our fellows all the more because our hearts and vision have been so filled. Grant us this day of your balance, your beauty and strength, wisdom and abundance, power and compassion, honor and humility, mirth and reverence. As we seek for you, let us also seek within ourselves, and let us ever remember the greatest of all truths; that as our lives flow from within you, so you live and flow within us.
-M. Ashley

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Inquiring Pagans Want to Know

In the fine Hermetical tradition of good artists borrowing and great ones stealing, I lifted this Pagan questionnaire from the fabulous blog written by Peter Helms' who, I believe, nipped it from, where it was originally snagged from Songs from the Wild Wood. Even if all of these questions don't apply to you--such as the ones about vampires having absolutely NOTHING to do with my spirituality--there are several in there that are important for all Pagans to answer so as to clarify their spirituality in their own minds. At least that's what it did for me. 

Do you have a magical/Pagan name?

No. I believe very strongly in the importance of authenticating your spiritual intentions by using the name you’ve used all of your life--the name that has the most “you” in it so that your spiritual practice is truly yours and does not belong to some fairy tale self you’ve concocted out of silver moons and raven’s feathers.
What does it mean? 
My actual name, Michelle, means, “Who is like God?” Whether there should be a question mark or a period at the end of that is much debated. I prefer the question mark as I feel there is so much more depth there.

How did you find Paganism? 
I found Paganism by way of two magnificent books: The Red Book and The Body Sacred. Those led me to Wicca which, in its due course, led me to Hellenism.
How long have you been practicing? 
I have been practicing since December of 2006. Crazy that it has been over four years already.
Solitary or group practitioner? 
Mostly I celebrate my Hellenism alone or with my fiance, but I do often get to celebrate just general Pagan grooviness in small groups.
What is your path? 
I consider myself a modern American Hellene--which is to say that I take all the fabulous information and diversity of culture to which I am privy as an American and mix it together over a base of solid Hellenic revivalism. I am much more a “spirit of the law” person than I could ever be a “letter of the law” type.
Are you out of the broom closet? 
Being as I’m pretty sure I’m not a witch in the neo-traditional Wiccan sense, I see no need to be in a broom closet.
Who is your patron God? 
I am a Hermes girl down to my bones.
Who is your patron Goddess? 
I have a very special and unique relationships with Hestia, Demeter and Hera.
What Gods do you worship? 
I worship the Gods of the Greek pantheon.
Do you fear darkly aspected Gods/Goddess, or rather respect them? 
I believe all Gods/Goddesses have aspects both dark and light. I worship my Divine Family in all their aspects.
Do you worship the Christian God? 
I respect Yeshua as a teacher and great one in spirit, but I do not worship him as a God.
Do you ever worship animals? Or plants?
Do you regularly commune with nature?
I listen to the world around me and love to watch the stars. Not sure though if that counts as communion. 
Ever walked barefoot in the woods? 
No. Too afraid of hookworm and other boogies my eyes are too poor to warn me of.
Taken a camping trip just to talk to nature? 
No. Although Demeter and I have a beautiful relationship, I am not, by nature, a nature girl.
Describe the moment you felt closest to Mother Earth? 
Lying on the floor of my last apartment and trying to stay so still I could feel the earth move.
Do you have a familiar? 
Yes, in a way my oldest dog DannyBoy is like a familiar--but more like a guide and protector as any good dog should be.
Have you ever called upon the powers of an animal in ritual? Or a plant? 
Do you hug trees? Give them gifts? 
I have touched the bark of a tree and offered libation to the dryads that resided there.
What is your favorite flower to work with? 
Can’t say I’ve ever worked with flowers.
What is your favorite tree to work with? 
I haven’t really worked with trees themselves, but again, have offered libations to dryads.
What is your favorite holiday?
Halloween, though I keep it entirely secular. The actual cross-quarter is on November 7, so I do my last harvest rituals then and keep my Halloween for just out and out fun.
What is your least favorite holiday?
I have never really connected with midsummer celebrations.
Have you ever held a ritual on a holiday? 
Ever taken a day off work to celebrate a Pagan holiday? 
Do you celebrate Yule on the 21 rather than the 25? 
I celebrate the Winter Solstice on the 21st and I celebrate a secular Christmas with family and friends on the 25th. That’s right, I’m lousy with holidays!
Have you ever felt the veil thin? 
Often. This feeling is more tied to prayer than any specific holiday.
Ever danced the Maypole?
Know what the Maypole symbolizes?
As with just about everything in Paganism, it’s a phallus of course.
How do you usually celebrate the Pagan holidays? 
With ritual, feast and celebration.
Do you use Tarot? 
Not very often anymore, though at one time I practiced daily.
Do you use runes? 
Do you use a pendulum? 
Do you use dowsing rods? 
Do you use astrology? 
I’m not sure how one “uses” astrology, but I do know a good deal about it and am eager to learn more.
Any other form of divination? 
I have been given the gift of lucid dreaming which often contains oracle for both myself and others.
What was the first spell you did? 
I believe it was a spell for breaking with the past. It didn’t work.
What was the latest? 
I really don’t remember. It’s been three years or so since I did my last spell.
Ever done a love spell? 
No. I don’t really believe in spells as they are commonly understood. I believe any magic we experience comes from our own psychological efforts.
A job spell? 
A healing spell?
No, though I have sent healing energy to friends and loved ones in need.

What was the most powerful spell you’ve ever performed?
I did a money spell once that completely backfired so as to teach a very important lesson about my relationship to that art. 
What deities do you usually call on? 
In anything I do, I ask for the aid of all my Divine Family.
Do you believe in Vampires? Werewolves? Shapeshifters? Elves? Faeries? Dragons? Nymphs? Sprites? Mermaids? Satyrs? 
I believe in Nymphs, Dryads, Naiads and Nereids as representative of the spirit of the natural world.
Ever “seen” any of the above? 
Ever talked to any of the above? 
Yes. I used to talk to the dryads in my tree, but I think of that more as a form of prayer. 
Ever used any of the above in magic? 
I don’t “use” members of my Divine Family.
Do you have one of them as a personal guardian?
Do you see a rabbit, a man or a woman in the moon? 
A woman--the Goddess Selene.
Own a cat? 

When you meditate, what does your happy place look like? 
A beautiful breezy farmhouse filled with family and love.
Do you work with Chakras? 
Do you believe in past lives? 
Yes, but I believe in future lives more--go figure.
If so, describe a few briefly: 
Do you believe in soul mates? 
Absolutely--and I have found mind.
Do you have a spirit guide? 
Hermes has always been my good guide and close companion.
Is it always love and light? 
No--and I am grateful that it is not because, if it were, love and light would be a lot less precious.

Invocation to Hephaistos

Father Hephaistos, 
be here among us.
Mighty and gentle Lord, 
I lay my hands in yours.
Teach me your art.
Enflame my heart.
Father, I am yours to mold.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Gods Diverse and Innumerable

I believe that there is a single source through which all Divine power and physical creation has and continues to flow. I call that power Truth. I also believe there are beings, like ourselves, countless in number, who are at various stages of evolution toward that source. I believe there is a dynamic of ascended master to apprentice between us and those beings we revere as Gods, Guides and/or Angels and that they seek to interact with us in this life as teachers, companions and advocates.

These are the beings through which the various powers of Truth flow into our lives. For me, the power of righteous and empowering anger against those who have hurt the helpless flows through Mother Hera. For someone else, this same power may flow into their lives through Mother Kali, Brigid, or Christ. Although I believe their power all comes from the same source, I am beginning to realize that this does not mean all representations of that power necessarily come through a single being called by many names. Imagine if you will phone operators answering calls and concerns about abuse of the helpless where each call is routed directly to the being who best connects with the caller and most fluently speaks their language. I think the Romans, and I would guess all ancient Pagans had this idea, were absolutely right in their belief that their Gods were not the only Gods that everybody else just put different names on. They believed each nation, each people, each family and even each individual had their own unique Gods that served and protected them. They believed the heavens, the earth and the underworld were all populated with Gods just as diverse and innumerable as the worlds are populated with people.

This is a huge point in the development of my personal cosmology. I always felt it was somehow doing my Divine Family a disservice to even recognize the names of other deities without adding "also known as...". I realize now that mindset was a vestige of my Judeo-Christian upbringing. Somehow I need to get it through my consciousness that my Gods are not jealous and do not teach that salvationfor all comes only through them. (In fact, my Gods hardly ever use the word "salvation" at all.) My Divine Family, mostly of the Greek pantheon, are perfectly happy sharing space with the Gods of others. Just as a temple was erected in Gaul with Mercury grinningly sharing the sacred seat with Rosmerta, so the temple of my comprehension may be devoted to the Deities who know and love me best while being warm and welcoming to any and all other deities who happen to pass by.

Blessed by the Mystery,

Invocation to Hestia

Invocation to Hestia

Hail Hestia,
Ancient heart Mother
Goddess of the Spiritual Flame,
We thank you for your constant love and care.
We ask that you come and dwell here.
Make of our home your home.
Make of our hearth your hearth.
Make of our temple your temple.
Make of our hearts one heart, your heat.
Hail Hestia!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Crafting a Hearth Tradition: Intimate Magic, Everyday Spirit

As I proceed along the path of trying to develop a personal Hellenic Witchcraft tradition radiating out from sacred home and hearth, I am beginning to learn that part of having a "hearth" tradition is using what you have around that hearth to create your rituals and work your magic. In days gone by, the wise women and men of the village didn't go by Ye Olde Occult Shoppe to get their spiritual supplies. They used the cauldron in which they also cooked dinner, the besom they also used to sweep the house, a wand from a felled tree branch, a blade they also used to prepare meals--and on and on. Because these tools were consecrated to magical purposes as well as used in everyday life, I imagine it brought a great deal of depth to the daily chores. Every time they swept the floor it was an act of both physical and spiritual cleansing. Every time they cut into an apple or trimmed the fat from a piece of meat it reminded them of they cycles of life, death and rebirth.  I am a big proponent of things becoming spiritually significant not by being put away and hidden from view and/or use, but by them being handled, used, and thought upon daily--by them witnessing and absorbing the energies of the household's life. How better to imprint your own energy into an item than exposing that item to your energy as much as possible?

This is what I would like to duplicate in our family tradition--using what we have on hand to make our spirituality more intimate and our everyday work more spiritual.


Blessed by the Mystery,
-M. Ashley

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Childhood Makeup of a Mercurial Life

I've been thinking a lot about my Great Aunt Kay lately. She passed away nearly twelve years ago. I miss her and I feel her influence in my life all the time. She and my Great Uncle Chuck provided the safest place I knew as a child. When it would thunder I would crawl into bed with them. Even when it didn’t thunder I would crawl into be with them, scooch in between them and sleep happily. I got to doing it so much they called me “the blond bomber”.

I remember once my friend and I saw a show on TV where they promised people free makeovers and, refusing to let the person look at themselves while they put the makeup on, they made them look like clowns or crazy streetwalkers. We decided it would be a good idea to do the same to Aunt Kay. She had an old makeup box full of groovy sixties makeup--greens, yellows and oranges. She ended up with yellow eyeshadow that extended above her eyebrows and coral shaded cheekbones that went pointedly back to her ears making her look a bit like an elf. When we first gave her the mirror to look at herself, she said, “Oh my!” and you could tell for a moment she wasn’t sure how to react--her first concern not not being her clown face but whether or not reacting to it as a clown face would hurt our feelings.

Had we intended to use lip gloss to highlight her hairline?

My friend and I burst out laughing and she did too--a breathy laughter mixed with relief that no, these children knew better.

What we didn’t know however was how hard it was to get makeup that old off of someone with such fragile skin as hers. Now that I think about it, it was a fitting revenge in a way--after we had all laughed about it, my friend and I went to wipe it off and couldn’t get one bit of it to budge. She let us prod and pull and near panic before she told us that she had some cold cream that would take care of it with no problem.

Now, right at this moment, twenty years later I am realizing that this might have been intentional--a little practical joke gotcha back--letting us develop heart palpitations--letting us suffer just a bit before telling us she could fix it. My Aunt Kay was like that--a slightly shady, impish, extremely intelligent and sharply humored lady--a lovingly Mercurial lady who impressed that presence onto my life from my earliest years. No wonder I delight to hear the laughing leaves dancing in the wind and feel my heart lift to bask in the endless prairie sky. I'm a Hermes girl and have been, apparently, for a very, very long time.

Blessed by the Mystery,

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Autumn Equinox Ritual to Demeter and Dionysos

The following is a ritual I developed to celebrate the Autumn Equinox by honoring Demeter and Dionysos as the Great Mother and Father of our physical and spiritual sustenance.  Enjoy!
Second Harvest Rite to Demeter and Dionysos
Autumn Equinox 2010

You Will Need:
Hestia candle
Icons of Demeter and Dionysos
A candle for each Demeter and Dionysos
Large bowl
Feast dishes (provided by participants)

Priestess of Demeter (lady of the house)
Priest of Dionysos (man of the house)
Priest/ess of Hestia
Priest/ess Panagia
Heirophantid of Demeter (youngest girl)
Heirophant of Dionysos (youngest boy)

-all gather in a semi-circle before the altar holding their dish for the feast, except for Priestess Panagia who holds the bowl of grapes for ritual-

-Priest/ess of Hestia approaches altar-

We begin this rite by calling Hestia who is first and last among all the Gods, who is Goddess of hearth and temple fire, of the spiritual center of our world and of all sacred places.

-lights central flame-

Hestia, beloved goddess of the spiritual flame, come and make all that is here holy and sacred in your name. Bring to us the peace and sureness of home and hearth. Bring your purity and beauty to us as we honor you who are the center of the spiritual flame. So mote it be.

-Priestess Panagia approaches the altar and faces the group-

At this time we will make our offerings to the Lord and Lady. Each in your family group place your dish for the feast on the altar with these words: “For Demeter and Dionysos this sacred offering to honor the Mother and Father of all.”

-Priestess Panagia places the bowl of grapes in the center of the altar in front of the Hestia flame. Each group places their feast dish around the table and recites the offertory words-

-Heirophantid of Demeter approaches altar, rings bell and says-

Now we will call the Mother Goddess who is Queen of the golden harvest. She is known as Demeter and by many other names as well.

-Priestess of Demeter approaches the altar-

Lady of all good harvests, our stores are filled again with your generous bounty. O you who are the blessings of earth, who sustains both body and spirit, hail!

-lights the Goddess candle from Hestia’s flame-

Beloved Demeter, you spin out your magic from the mysteries of the seed, bringing us the miracle of life and growth. The riches of the orchard and cultivated field are all born of your power and so we honor the Great Mother of the land. O mother of life, we were born from the infinite seeds of creation and live through the powers of earth. Our spirits rise with your beauty for you are everywhere, in every broad meadow and mountainside, in every lovely field and flower, and in every living and growing thing Today at the blessed Autumnal Equinox, the ending of the second harvest, we honor you, bringing you offerings and praising your name. We thank you for all that you give
and ask that you come and bless this rite with ease and joy. So mote it be!

-Priestess of Hecate approaches the altar, retrieves the athame from the bowl of grapes and turns to face participants-

By Hecate’s blade, the grain was separated from the earth so that the threshing could begin. It is fitting then that at the ending of the second harvest, when seed shall be separated from chaff, for us to note anything we no longer want in our lives and from which we wish to be separated. We approach the altar and raise the blade, praying aloud or silently for whatever it is that might be beneficial for you to be separated from, that it be done so now.

Begin with the words, “By her blade...” When you are done, breathe upon the blade. End with the words “Hail Hecate!” then place the blade back on the altar and return to the circle.

-Priestess of Hecate begins the ritual of the blade which proceeds until all are done-

-Priest of Dionysos approaches the altar-

Now we shall honor the Father God known as Dionysos and by countless other names who, at the Spring Equinox, the time of sacred planting, loved the Mother Goddess in the thrice-plowed field to ensure the bounty of the land.

-lights God candle-

Sacred one of both forest and field, from your own untamed spirit did you receive and then impart the liberation of the wild that lay the foundation for our deepest joy and pleasures, and, as emissary of the Great Mother, from August Demeter did you receive and then impart the arts of agriculture that lay the foundation for civilization. And so we honor you. So mote it be!
-Heirophant of Dionysos approaches altar-

Wise and Wild One, it is with food stores set aside that we may enjoy the luxury of time
in which to pursue our loves with your ecstatic abandon, in which to glorify the museswith your gifts of music, dance, drama, poetry and art, and in which we may honor the Gods with joyous festivals and celebrations. These are the blessings that you, Dionysos, in concord with Her, have given to all of humanity.

Priest of Dionysos:

Treasured God Dionysos, we thank and honor you as we bless this sacred place in your name. So mote it be.

-Priest of Dionysos uncovers the grapes, faces the group and gestures to them-

Grapes, warmed by solar light and nourished by the bosom of the Earth, have long been a symbol of wisdom and passion combined. It is fitting then that at the time of the second harvest, when we enjoy this sacred fruit in its abundance, that we note the abundance in our own lives and pray for abundance in harvests yet to come.

Now we will each approach the altar praying aloud or silently in thanks for what we have and supplication for what we desire, that it be done so now. Begin with the words “By his vigor...” When you are done, choose a single grape. End with the words, “Hail Dionysos...” then pass the grape over His flame before partaking of it.

-Priest of Dionysos begins the rite and each participant follows until all are finished-

-Heirophant of Dionysos fills a cup for each person and offers a toast-

Raise your glasses! Filled with gifts, the chalice of plenty overflows with good fortune. How blessed are we who love and honor the Goddess and God. May we drink from the royal cup! So mote it be.

-Priestess of Demeter and Priest of Dionysos approach altar and face the group-

Priestess of Demeter:

These are the rites of the second harvest and they are now complete in grace and joy.

Priest of Dionysos:

May her blessings proceed unto all. Now, on to the feast!

-Heirophantid of Demeter rings bell joyfully-

Monday, May 31, 2010

The Hero's Deepest Wound--A Memorial Day Plea to Ares

My father did not turn out to be a good man.

He was a brilliant child--he got fabulous grades, could play the guitar by ear, and, by the time he went to high school, he was a champion runner. But somewhere between his horrific childhood home life and his time serving as a naval corpsman during the Vietnam War, he did not, as I said, turn out to be a good man.

With a false glee, my dad used to tell the story of how, coming home one day after a high school track meet--which he won and which none of his family attended--he found that his family had moved without him. At sixteen, he wandered the desert streets of California’s “Inland Empire” for six days looking for them. When he finally found them--his raging alcoholic father, his promiscuous mother and all eight of his siblings squatting in some rathole by the tracks in Fontana, they laughed at him and told him he must have been very stupid to have taken so long.

My mother tells the story of my dad enlisting in the navy and, in the process of getting all his papers together, found the last name on his birth certificate did not match the last name of the abusive alcoholic he had grown up thinking was his dad. When he confronted his mother about this she acted nonchalant and said, “Oh yeah, your real father’s last name was Wyss--he was a DJ...I think.”

Then, in the navy, my dad served as a corpsman--officially a medic with the navy but traveling on the ground with the marines seeing to the dead and dying. Once, when I was thirteen, he dug his duffel out of the garage and showed me his gas mask, his boots with a bayonet hole in the toe and, most proudly, his white medic’s tunic still stained with the blood of some marine or other whose name, face, and fatal injuries he had long since forgotten.

All of this is to say that my dad had every right in this and any other world to be completely and totally screwed up--and he was. His depression kept him from ever holding a steady job. His anxiety led him to a devastating Valium addiction. His outwardly acted, self-hating, power-needy PTSD led him to violence and the alienation of both his daughters. All of these things together led him to die absolutely alone on March 1, 2009.

My dad was a brilliant, strong, heroic young man who valiantly served his country and the many, many young soldiers who died in his arms. I tell this story not to detract from the honorable things he did--because they are many--but I tell it to make a plea to Ares, Apollon and any of you who may know and/or love a similarly brilliant but tormented young soldier--that you may help them to heal--that the brilliance and honor may not turn into madness and ignominy.

And for those, like my father, who have already passed, send your prayers with them that in the Kingdom of Hades--in the gray Fields of Asphodel--they will be welcomed as the heroes they are and be given the courage they need to fight one more battle in that place--the battle to reclaim themselves from the terror they knew and had become.


Blessed by the Mystery,
-M. Ashley

Friday, May 28, 2010

Hubris? Meet 2x4

Let me get this out of the way right off the bat--I am a Hellene but I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a hardcore reconstructionist. I am a revivalist.

In that vein:

Although I have a deep respect for reconstructionists of any stripe, there is a certain attitude among most Hellenic recons that does not sit well with me and is one of the primary reasons I do not count myself among their ranks. A good many recons I have come in contact with tend to ascribe to the notion that it is necessary to fear and appease Theoi in order to please them. I have no doubt this was a part of the ancient mindset. My fiancee and I were watching an episode of Carnivale last night that featured a horrendous dust-bowl storm. I thought, "If you didn't have the technology to know better, how could you not attribute something like that to angry Gods?" But, the thing is, we do have the technology to know better now--to know that natural disasters are either Gaia doin' her thing to sustain and renew herself or us screwing that process up. So why do some Hellenic recons still approach Theoi as if their worship will abate the storm? Why must we hold on to the ancient belief that we worship the way we worship mainly to keep Theoi from squashing us?

In the eyes of Theoi, I believe it is more offensive to hold onto this attitude when they have inspired us with the means to know better. Perhaps it was OK for the ancients to approach them that way because it gave them some comfort in a world to which they were extremely vulnerable--but what purpose does it serve now to attribute, say, devastating tornadoes to Zeus and allow the fear of same to distance our hearts from him?

But then, I am apparently very liberal about this sort of thing--believing that, in reality, it is almost impossible to offend Theoi unless you allow hubris (your perfectionism, your intellect, your fear), to keep you from a sincere and consistent practice.

Look, Theoi know you--every gritty little earth-bound nook and cranny. Attempting to hide these from them is foolish on the face of it and will severely handicap your relationship with them. Yes, it is good and respectful to wash in the khernips before ritual or prayer, but you must come to that prayer with both of your washed hands open--holding nothing back--not even the unwashed parts, inside and out.

I speak these things passionately because I have been guilty of them and I know firsthand how a raging, arrogant perfectionism can strangle a meaningful relationship with Theoi.  Many are the times I have needed, and received, a solid whack upside the head with a spiritual 2x4 when I have allowed that hubris, or worries over “not getting it right”, to get between me and my Theoi and stop us from talking.

I have discovered that If we humbly open ourselves up and keep calling upon Theoi, it will be given to us what it is they require of us, and usually it isn’t much except to stay in touch and honor the gifts they have bestowed.

Blessed by the Mystery,
(and the spiritual 2x4)
-M. Ashley