Hekatombaion

one hundred bulls for
sacrifice; not Pamplona:
Panathenaia

festive, celebratory!
meat for the city-wide feast

solemn in temple
speaking gifts for the Goddess
seeking Her blessings

today we have no temple
our voices ring awkwardly

breaking the silence
no sacrificial cattle—
do we bring enough?

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“Seasons in the Mind”, by Kabir tr. Daniel Ladinsky

There are seasons in the mind,
great currents and winds move there,

the true yogi ties a rein to them; a power plant
he becomes.

Winter, spring, summer, fall: these are pages
in a book the advanced can turn to,
and impart.

Order is a great benefit to the seeker,
otherwise living in one’s own house can become as
walking through a marketplace

where all the merchants keep shouting,
“You owe me.”

That does not sound like
much fun,

and who could accomplish anything
in all that
noise.

I wonder, was Kabir autistic?

This poem, from Love Poems From God: Twelve Sacred Voices from the East and West, certainly speaks to my experience. My large altar to the Gods: the flowers are fresh, brightly pink, but the table is dusty. My small altar to the Trans Dead: the candle has not been lit in a long time. The things destined for the recycle toters heap up in the dining nook and the clean unfolded laundry heaps up by the sofa. The laundry pile cries “You owe me”, the recycle pile cries “You owe me”, the altars cry “You owe me”.

And yet here I sit, rocking lightly side to side, instead of declaring, for instance, that it is time to remove the recycle pile, one boxful or basketful at a time. Instead of declaring that it is time to tend the Gods’ altar. Instead of declaring that it is time to stand before the altar to the Trans Dead and light the candle and pour some water and speak some verses of the Litany. Certainly instead of doing any of those things.

“You owe me.”

And who can think in all this noise?

a prayer that the memory of Charleena Lyles may be a blessing, and a plea to all white people

Hestia of the home,
Hestia of the home city,
Hestia of the homeland,
Athena Who defends the defenseless,
Athena Who girds with armor,
Athena who sounds the war trumpet,
Zeus of liberty,
Zeus of justice,
Zeus of all the people,
and any other Gods Who care
that Charleena Lyles was murdered
for being a black disabled woman
and that her unborn child died with her
and that her other children watched her die,
in the same week
that the man who murdered Philando Castile
before the very eyes
of his girlfriend and her child
was deemed not guilty in the matter of
the death of Philando Castile,
I call all of You
by whatever names You choose to be known.

Charleena was not safe in her own home.
Charleena was not safe in her home city.
Charleena was not safe in her homeland.

Charleena needed defense against those she called to defend her.
Charleena needed armor against the bullets of her saviors.
Charleena needed a war trumpet calling armies to her cause.

Charleena cries out for liberty.
Charleena cries out for justice.
Charleena cries out for all her people.

There is a fable told by Aesop.
An Athenian on a sinking ship
prayed to You, Athena, for safety.
A sailor swimming by called out,
“Pray to Athena all you like,
but move your arms!”
You tell us thus, O Gods,
that You will refuse to aid us
in gaining things that we ourselves
do not work to gain.

Charleena’s people,
Philando’s people,
Michael’s, Eric’s, and Trayvon’s,
Rekia Boyd’s and Sandra Bland’s,
have worked and worked and worked and worked
to gain for all the people
the liberty and justice
we the people of the United States
have been promised.
My white people
have attained these.
Charleena’s people
have been denied.

I have little to offer You, O Gods,
only incense, only wine—
only one white voice
who might perhaps be listened to
when black voices go unheard.
As Andreas Hale once said,
“We march, y’all mad.
“We sit down, y’all mad.
“We speak up, y’all mad.
“We die, y’all silent.”

So I pray this prayer in public
and I hope my voice is heard:

I ask You, O Gods,
to defend Charleena’s people,
to gird with armor Charleena’s people,
to sound the trumpet calling armies to Charleena’s people’s cause,
that Charleena’s people may be safe
in their own homes,
in their home cities,
in their homeland,

so that when we read the famous phrases
in the United States Declaration
“all are created equal”,
“life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness”—
so that when we read in the Preamble
to the United States Constitution
“common defence” and “general welfare”,
“justice” and “blessings of liberty”—
so that when we proclaim
in the United States Pledge of Allegiance
“one nation”, “indivisible”,
“liberty and justice for all”—

we do not by our actions
and by our inaction,
by our speech and by our silence,
make these famed words
into lies.

For this, O Gods, I pray.

———

Dear white people:

When will it end?

When will we stop?

When will we have taken enough respect from them?

When will we have taken enough wealth from them?

When will we have taken enough blood from them?

When will we have taken enough lives from them?

When will we have taken enough from them?

When will we be satisfied?

When will we stop?

When will we make it end?

Hellenic Polytheist Practice While Disabled 4: Distraction and Importance

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Alex:

Okay, so I have had the phrase “moving meditation” stuck in my head for the past couple of days, since you sent me that last section, Rebecca. Only it’s being sung like SJ Tucker sings the title of her track “Moving Meditation”. And, okay, sometimes—okay, often—my head is all “In the corner of my mind stands a jukebox, playing all my favorite memories” (that’s from “Jukebox In My Mind” by Alabama, only sometimes “least favorite” is more appropriate). It might not mean anything. But I have noticed on more than one occasion that the particular bits of the particular songs that get stuck in my head sometimes have particular relevance. The question then becomes, is this song important, or is this phrase important?

Says someone who’s slowly making their way back (they hope) to baseline from the mother of all autoimmune flares, and is also home sick from work on this meltingly warm midsummer’s day (it’s mid-May in the mid-Atlantic), and who consequently doesn’t want to move much at all!

I believe what I shall do right this moment is put on “Moving Meditation” and its two remixes on repeat and go dance. Where by ‘dance’ I mean ‘stand looking out my patio doors and sway side to side’.

…I made it about once through one track. (These three tracks are each just shy of six minutes long.) Outside has trees and bees and breeze, you see, and I’m easily distracted.

I want to talk about that from two angles. First, ADHD. (No, I haven’t taken an Adderall in the past six hours—but nor should I have, I think. I did take one this morning.) The internet, being what it is, has endless ways to keep my most easily distracted mind occupied—though a lot of the time I find myself just refreshing the same few sites in hopes of new content—and sitting here netsurfing and chatting just does not get things done. Not spiritual things and not mundane things—or not for the most part, anyway. All the other Hellenic polytheists I know are people I only know online, and talking things over with co-religionists is in itself a good thing to do. And most of the other writers I know, certainly all the ones I’m friendly with, are people I only know online, and there’s nowhere better than an IRC channel full of writers to go with a question such as “…what word am I thinking of? It means something like ‘momentary’ but sounds something like ‘effervescent’…” (It’s ‘evanescent’.)

But talking talking talking isn’t writing writing writing, or doing doing doing. I can endlessly tell my co-writers what’s going to happen in my novel, or I can stop talking for an hour and put actual words on the actual screen. I can endlessly contemplate to my co-religionists the prospect of going to say hi to the nymph of this here lake, or I can, you know, stop chatting, put on shoes, grab a bottle of drink-offering, and take an actual walk down to the actual lake.

Which comes to the second thing about my distractibility. Silence Maestas hit on it in their March essay “Devotional Practice Shouldn’t Make You Feel Like A Failure”:

I’ve occasionally caught myself (not recently but it still kinda happens) using my apparent failure at devotional regularity as a club to hit myself with, emotionally speaking. “Oh, I’m so bad; I can’t even remember to say my prayers every day/week/whatever. I let a day/week/whatever go by without lighting the incense. Oh I’ve failed to speak with the Powers, I really suck, why do They spend any time with me?” Although I have made much progress, I still frequently feel like I’m kind of a devotional failure, like my Beloveds would be better served by someone else, that what I’m giving isn’t as good as They deserve, that I should be all around a better, brighter, smarter, sexier person before I even bother with Them.

These thoughts are entirely natural BUT they are not a very healthy or helpful way to think about my role in the sacred relationships I’m part of. Do I imagine that the Gods haven’t ever been forgotten for a day? Do I imagine that They have never lived with someone busy from morning to night with the cussed DOING of life?

[…]

I can’t use devotional practice as a source of evidence proving that I’m a shitty person.

And my anxiety brain and my depression brain are bound and determined to convince me I’m a shitty person. Sometimes this works better than other times. If I were better at remembering evening devotions to the Ancestors and Heroes, and better at doing more complex and mindful devotions to the Gods, and better at organizing rituals, and better at regularly reading classical texts and scholarly texts to acquaint myself better with the particulars of my religion as it was practiced millennia ago, and…

(Notice how none of those are ‘or’. Always ‘and’, and there are many mundane ‘and’s omitted here for brevity. I must be perfect at everything, in more realms than anyone, or else I am an utter failure.)

But even for a fully abled, neurotypical person, that standard is unattainable. For someone like me…

I think, in fact, I will now go put on shoes and grab a bottle of wine for a drink-offering and walk down to the lake for a few minutes. Only a few, because it is in the nineties Fahrenheit this evening and I will melt, and also I’m not sure I could be standing up for very much longer today at all—but I’ll do it. And earlier this afternoon I did, in fact, light a candle and pray to Metis and Athena and pour them offerings of clear water. And tonight I will, in fact, pour out clear water to the Dead—the Beloved and Blessed, the Kindly and Restless, the Ancient and Forgotten, the Healing and Holy, and the Many Dead—or anyway to the Holy Dead, because I haven’t memorized this list quite yet. (Three guesses where the list came from…) And if I remember it when I get back from the lake, I’ll print out the Hex.Ink prayers to the Heroines of the Purple Thread and tape those to my bathroom mirror, for easier recollection.

Perhaps it’s not much. Certainly it’s no sacrificial hundred head of cattle!

But what I am capable of doing, however limited I may be by my multiple disabilities, is not unimportant. And it’s not nothing.

I have sent for a warrior
From on my knees
Make me a Hercules
I was meant to be a warrior
Please
Make me a Hercules

(Sara Bareilles, “Hercules”)

This concludes this series—if, perhaps, only for now.

This series is being posted simultaneously at Bacchic Underground, Never Unmindful, and Delmarva Nikephoros.

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Hellenic Polytheist Practice While Disabled 3: Meditation and Self-Care

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Alex:

Freshly brewed tea is a favorite offering of mine. I brew the tea (loose-leaf in a tea ball, because I might be a touch of a snob), stir in honey and milk, and pour spoonfuls into the sink, usually to Hestia, Athena, the Olympian Muses, and the Titan Muses, in that order. Honestly I probably should offer libations more often and incense less often, because there is never any telling when my asthma will react to the incense smoke—but I enjoy the scents of incense, and…well, between my paycheck job and the endless quiet reminders that I am not working hard enough (evidence, I don’t have enough money), there really isn’t a lot that I can take a moment to enjoy. I don’t think the Gods begrudge my enjoyment of what I am offering Them; They ask for first-fruits, not the whole harvest, and the first portion of sacrifices at feasts, not the whole hog.

Continue reading “Hellenic Polytheist Practice While Disabled 3: Meditation and Self-Care”

Hellenic Polytheist Practice While Disabled 2: Prayers and Offerings

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Alex:

Rebecca, you mention morning and evening offerings. Are you willing to describe those practices as you perform them, and in what ways you designed those practices to be accessible to you?

I have been attempting to establish a somewhat more elaborate routine of daily prayer for some time. I have almost given up, to be honest. There’s just some sort of road block in my mind, especially if I want to do the prayers on a cycle rotating by the day of the week or of the month. And then I yell at myself for forgetting, and all the little voices that proclaim my incompetence and unworthiness start up. It’s more in line with self-care to just…not obligate myself to perform daily prayer.

Continue reading “Hellenic Polytheist Practice While Disabled 2: Prayers and Offerings”