Saturday, March 27, 2010

Hekate's Deipnon--Light the Way to Change

I am at a point in my life where the old adage that "the only constant is change" has never seemed more true. As I discussed in my post "Surviving the Eleusian Face-Lift" most of these changes have been extremely positive. Now though, I find myself faced with some new challenges surrounding which there is much uncertainty. There couldn't be a better time to post the following ritual, Hekate's Deipnon or Hekate's Supper, which should be performed on the last day of the lunar month, (today is such a day), is all about asking this Great Goddess to light the way in uncertainty so that you may take the most positive and life-enriching course possible.

The things you will need for this ritual are: Hestia candle or lamp, milk for making libations, a libation bowl, an offering of non-perishable food for your local food bank, a small offering of perishable food for Hekate, and a private spot at a nearby three-way crossroads.

Hekate’s Deipnon

-sweep your home and clear out all garbage--

-wash face and hands; prepare a small libation glass of milk; bring offerings to the altar; light Hestia candle or lamp-

To Hestia
We call upon Hestia this night--you who are the first and the last--and we thank you for your constant care, love, warmth and protection. Ancient hearth mother, Goddess of the spiritual flame. Please 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 heart.

-pour libation to Hestia-

-light incense-

To Demeter and Persephone
We call now to the Holy Mother Demeter--all that is born rises from within her. All that sustains us flows from her. We call upon the holy maiden Kore whose power is joy ever reborn. Teach us, O Goddesses, to tend to our lives with gentle wisdom and to our days with love’s compassion. Teach us to honor your rites and mysteries--to bring justice, peace and fertility. Bless us that we may know the cycle of the living seed as the mystery of the soul revealed. We praise royal Persephone who at our deaths will greet us. We praise the Holy Mother whose love is the light of eternity. May we know our immortal beings, and drink of her cup everlasting.

-pour libation to Demeter and Persephone-

To Hekate
We call upon great Hekate this night--Most ancient Goddess, powerful, swift, unseen. Ever watchful, nothing escapes your understanding. Your domain is unbounded. The secrets of the heavens, the earth, the sea
and the underworld are yours. You hear our dreams, our joys and our lamentations. In reverence we call upon you now that you might dwell among us, hear us, and come to our aid in our lives and in this rite.

-pour libation to Hekate-

To the Ancestors
Our dearest ancestors and our beloved dead who are among us, we call upon you now and offer our thanks for the many blessings your give us. We welcome you openly and without reservation into our home and our hearts. We honor your lives and ask that you use your wisdom to lead and guide us in ours.

-pour libation to Dearest Ancestors and Beloved Dead-

-place your hands over the offering you intend to make to your local food bank-

Beloved Hekate, companion of all who must travel in darkness, we offer you this (enumerate offerings to be made to the needy) that it may bless the lives of those less fortunate than ourselves--that it may feed them, body and soul, and bring your love and blessings into their lives, should they so desire.

We also offer you (enumerate offerings to be made at the crossroads) which we will leave at your sacred crossroads as a token of our devotion. We ask that you come to us in the days and weeks ahead, bearing light in your hands. Be our guide in dark places. Protect us from unseen dangers and richly inspire our dreams.

-take crossroads offerings to the spot you have chosen and leave them there on the ground-

Mother Hekate, this offering is in your honor. Bless us that as the crossroads of our lives unfold before us, we may make the decisions that will lead us to greater enlightenment, a truer understanding of our earth and our fellows, a more honest and open heart, an overflowing abundance, and an unwavering trust in your wise counsel and that of all our precious Theoi.

-informally ask Goddess Hekate for help with certain decisions that you will be making in the coming month-

As we return home, we pledge not to look back at this offering in honor of the ever-growing bond of trust between us. Hail Hekate!

-walk away from the offering site, not looking back. Return to the altar and take libation bowl outside in order to pour its contents on the ground-

Hail most gracious Theoi--this libation is made in your honor. You are most welcome here.

-return to the altar, replace the libation bowl and extinguish the Hestia candle-

Hail Hestia--you are the first and the last!

-bring offering of food for the needy to your local food bank as soon after the rite as is feasible-

May the right course in all your decisions be illuminated to you by Hekate's undying light.

-M. Ashley

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Rape of Allegory

The History Channel series Clash of the Gods has caused many a heated debate in the Hellenic Polytheist community--usually over how much or how little they "got it right" and how offended or vindicated we feel about that. For me, the concern is much less over how much of the myth they got correct--as "correct" isn't really a word properly applied to myths that have as many variations as the people and personalities who told and retold them--but rather my concern is with the way in which the interviewees analyze the myths--an uneasy and seemingly haphazard mix of literalism and allegory.

For example, in the episode on Herakles, they took great pains to equate the great hero's trials with vice, making the entire thing a spirito-instructional allegory for the triumph of virtue. I don't have a problem with this necessarily--I'm a veritable connoisseur of spirito-instructional allegory--but what I find troubling is that in a later episode on Medusa, they drop the allegorical interpretation for a socio-political one instead. Medusa, once a beautiful mortal priestess of Athena, was raped by Poseidon and, because rape made her impure, Athena punished her by turning her into the snaky-haired monster with which most of us are familiar. All of this, say the interviewees, is a sad reflection of how unfair Hellenic Greek society was to women.

Although Hellenic Greek society may have in fact been unfair to women--certainly a society where it seems normal for a story to contain a victim of rape being punished is not one where women are held in great esteem--but why, I wonder, the drastic shift from the pure allegorical to the pure political. Is it because lobbing pot-shots at the ancient Greeks for their attitudes toward women is more compelling for TV than another symbolism-laden discourse on allegory?

Perhaps it's because I'm a giant allegory nerd that this irritates me so much. Or maybe it's because the switch for sensationalism's sake robbed the loyal viewers, like myself, of a titillating discourse on what is a most pointed, poignant and useful spiritual allegory.

Let's take it as a simple equation: Medusa represents humanity--us; Poseidon, God of the sea and earthquakes, represents unexpected and unpredictable change; Athena represents wisdom; stone represents physical and/or emotional death.

Medusa, ravaged by unpredicted and sorrowful change, unable to properly and healthfully apply spiritual wisdom to pull herself out of it, becomes an unfeeling "monster" who is incapable of seeing others as sentient creatures--either feeling or giving love. When she sees a true reflection of herself, of what she has allowed herself to become, her spiritual death is complete--she herself turns to stone.

I probably won't win any feminist prizes for my interpretation, nor generate enough ad sales to support a nerdball cable network, but at least I can say that, unlike the interviewees on Clash of the Gods, I am consistent--an unholy allegory nerd to the bitter end!

-M. Ashley

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Field Guide to Forbidden Fruit: The Pomegranate

I imagine that even if Yaweh hadn’t forbidden Adam and Eve to eat of the fruit--which we are assuming for the purposes of this post was a pomegranate--they would have gotten about three seconds into an attempt at gnawing their way through the leathery rind before ditching the high-maintenance nosh for something sweet and easy like, oh, say, apples. But the myth of the matter is that it was forbidden, special--somehow hyper-symbolic of both the simple knowledge of good and evil and the knowledge that makes gods. 

If you’ve ever gotten into the lengthy and often frustrating process of getting the good stuff out of a pomegranate, you will likely already know that, high symbolism aside, at the very least it takes God-like patience just to endure the process of getting into the thing. I mean, honestly--who ever heard of waiting ten to fifteen minutes for about a half an ounce of snack? But even beyond that, there are a few other things in the preparation reminiscent of godly knowledge

First of all, you’ve gotta lose the crown. If you are ever going to get to the fruit or that higher place, any sign of pomp or pretension must go. No divas here, no royalty. No vestiges of the flower of the life that was. No crowns for comparison with the crowns of others. Simple, title-less, humble and ready--that’s how you start.

Next is sectioning--scoring symmetrical partitions into the rind--making order out of it, breaking it down into graspable pieces--cutting, wounding deep enough that the transformative water can get to the deepest part, but not so deep as to destroy the whole--at least not yet. 

Then submersion. I know, I know--about nine hundred and twenty-three baptismal allegories sprang to my mind too, but let me stick to just this one--water makes the fruit pliable. it makes the sections come away one at a time and loosens the sweet seeds from the bitter flesh. 

Now pulling the sections apart the treasure comes in clumps, clusters, and sometimes single grains. And every now and then you pop one into your mouth using your palate’s delight at the tart, uncommon flavor to drive you forward into finishing the separation--letting it whisper yes, it is worth it.

Finally, you strain the water and last bits of clinging flesh from the seeds, leaving them wet and sumptuous in the bottom of the bowl. You are hungry now, after the work, but the sensual burst of each tiny seed  has you sated quickly. En masse these seeds don’t keep well in the dark, so you save a few for when your hunger rises again and the rest you plant  to  ensure future harvests. 

If, as some suppose, the pomegranate was the forbidden fruit, this  intimate and intensive process of extracting the sweet essence buried deep in the bitter body had to be the “benefits” side of the serpent's infamously irresistible sales pitch. 

This is the knowledge that makes gods--humility, submission, order, cleansing, release, joy, eternity.