Eventful Octobers

It seems like Octobers are almost always eventful, and usually involving the Mothers.

The beginning of the month was especially blessed with the welcoming of a new member to our household pantheon, Nossa Senhora de Fátima:

A gift from a friend from far away makes Herself comfy in Her new home.

I’m not quite sure yet which godly power is behind the Lady of Fatima, but something tells me that she’s older than the biblical Mary. This stunning statue of the Lady comes from Galina who was kind enough to send it over as a gift. Here She is, bathing in bukhoor incense, a traditional gesture of hospitality in the Arab world.

Shortly after, our town fiesta happened, which is always a blessing of joy to our people, Catholic or otherwise:

Nana Pilar

It is always an honour for any man or woman to carry Her, our loving town patron of many years. She was exceedingly beautiful this year, our dearest Mother of wild dances.

[I will be posting a couple of videos later in the week.]

The Queen is finally home after an entire afternoon and evening on the streets. Truly, a Dancing Queen.

Here She is again, home after an entire afternoon and evening on the streets. Truly, a Dancing Queen.

Another festival honouring a divine mother followed right after as we celebrated the Maha Navratri in our home:

God is a woman, a fearsome mother. Jai Mata Di! Shubh #Durga #Navratri!

As the new moon of Ashvin rose, we welcomed Durga into our homes once again. Jai Maa!

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Of course, no Navratri is complete without a visit to the local mandir. She was especially beautiful this year in bright crimson.

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The other gods were just as beautiful in their new clothes.

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We are a relatively small temple, but the place is full of stout hearts. It’s always nice to be in a sea of devotees.

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Shiva’s coat was especially fab. (No living tigers were harmed in the making of the coat.)

Come late October, I revamped the house shrine:

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Our Agathos Daimon now sits comfortably between the Holy Child of Atocha (dubbed ‘Baby Hermes’) and Ganesha, the ‘Hermes of Hindustan’.

And, of course, never a month without the customary thanksgiving dinner:

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Of all the things we owe the Gods, this is but a small feast. This feast was dedicated not only for a month full of events, but also for our dear friend, Sannion.

Another eventful October, indeed, and by the looks of it, next year will be just as busy with the twin Great Mother festivals coming right after the other. Hail, the Spirits of October! Hail, the Two Mothers! Hail and hail again!

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Aba Ginoong Magdalena

It’s our town fiesta today, which means, for a predominantly Catholic barangay (the Filipino version of pueblo), some saint or Marian avatar will be paraded through the streets.

Fortunately, this is an enjoyable event, even if you’re not Catholic. The evangelicals hate it, of course, for reasons discussed here, but if you’re one of us heathens, you’re sure to enjoy it: our version of a Catholic procession is a 7-hour long street dance called karakol. You’re not a local if you’ve never been to one.

Now, my hometown’s patron is actually St Augustine of Canterbury, but the real star is St Mary Magdalene: the reason being she is believed to end the dry season by calling down the rain. If you’re not from here, it won’t make any sense — nowhere in the Gospels can one find a former prostitute turned intercessor for meteorological phenomena. But, it seems to make perfect sense to our mostly agricultural community. One wonders if our Magdalene was originally a precolonial cloud nymph or a monsoon goddess. If you look really close, she even seems to be wearing a bindi. (You can read more about it here.)

Anyway, to celebrate this day, I wanted to share with y’all this old proem (prayer-poem) I wrote many years ago to our not-so-canonical Magdalene a.k.a. She Who Brings the Rain. It’s in Tagalog, so be warned, but I do intend to create an English version someday.

Mayo a bente otso nanamán.
Simulâ na ng pagbuhos ng ulán.
Dalá ng lakambining nanganluran.
Magdalena ang kanyáng pangalan.

Abá at Junio na.
Nagbalík na ang Magdalena.

Maryá Magdalenang dalá ng dayuhan
Salamín ng diwatang nakálimútan.
Ngayó’y sa amin nang nanahan
Naibsán ang pagtangis sa nakaraán.

Sakáy ng alon saami’y nakaabót.
Kamí’y isukob sa Iyóng salakót.

Kulóg at kidlát ang kanyáng dalá
Ulán para sa mágsasaká.
Pagkaing tubò mulâ sa lupà
Siyáng biyayà ng Magdalena.

Halina at kamí’y basaín.
Dingín itóng aming dalangin.

Papuri’t galák sa lakambining Maryá
Sayáw Mo sa amin ay ligaya
Ulán Mong buhay sa amin ay pumaritó
At sa susong-lupang inalayan Mo.

Abá, abá! Papurihan si Maryá
Mapagpalang Santo at Diwatà!

And finally, the video I promised to upload 2 years ago:

Some pictures from yesterday’s karakol, too:

Seven hours of karakol dancing seems like a short, effortless task when you think about the beauty that is our Lady Who Brings the Rain.

Seven hours of karakol dancing seems like a short, effortless task when you think about the beauty that is our Lady Who Brings the Rain.

We used to just stop and kiss her robe. Now, we take saint-selfies, too. Sainties?

We used to just stop and kiss her robe. Now, we take saint-selfies, too. Sainties?

The amount of devotion that goes into carrying her is always a touching sight.

The amount of devotion that goes into carrying her is always a touching sight.

This is where she parties the hardest. Soon, the rains will return.

This is where she parties the hardest. Soon, the rains will return.

An ad from a government. Happy 117th!

An ad from our government celebrating the battle between my colonist ancestors and my colonised ancestors (which eventually led to the declaration of the first free Philippine Republic). Happy 117th!

I Went to Church and I Liked It

As you may have noticed in the past, I’ve never had any qualms visiting churches or attending Christian festivities. I know, these churches haven’t been exactly welcoming to pagans (or other versions of the unsaved “Other”) in the past two millennia, but they’ve also been responsible–albeit unknowingly–for preserving some of our ancestral traditions.

Many of these Christian festivities are a lot of fun, too! I visited our local Catholic church over Easter and I truly enjoyed the experience. I didn’t stay long to hear the priest’s sermon–why would I want to, anyway–but I stayed long enough to witness flocks of people, early in the morning, singing to the Risen Christ and his joyful mother. We call this tradition, Salúbong, literally meaning “the meeting”, and it is beautiful to witness.

The people come to meet their risen lord. Χριστὸς ἀνέστη! Ἀληθῶς ἀνέστη!

The people come to meet their risen lord. Χριστὸς ἀνέστη! Ἀληθῶς ἀνέστη!

Dawn breaks and the Queen of Heaven comes to meet her son, back from the dead. Her mourning veil is lifted.

Dawn breaks and the Queen of Heaven, with her mourning veil lifted, comes to meet her son, back from Hades.

Taken from outside our 400-year old cathedral. The only time churches are full is when there are celebrations like this.

Taken from outside our 400-year old cathedral at daybreak on Easter Sunday. The only time churches are full is when there are celebrations like this.

Now, I may not be Christian (anymore), nor have I ever been a big fan of the Church’s hateful doctrines and policies, but I do care for some of their traditions. A lot of people, mostly Protestants, talk about stripping away traditional Christianity of its “pagan” rituals and ceremonies, and establishing a simple church based on radical love and compassion.

Whilst I do consider it a noble cause (especially around the love and compassion part), it isn’t very realistic. One, because most churches have never been crazy over that idea, rituals or no rituals; and two, because rituals are the reason people still come to church.

I’ve never really cared about what the bishops and pastors thought about god or morals, even as a young Christian. I don’t need a church to tell me what’s right from wrong or how to live my life. We’ve tried that for hundreds of years, and it hasn’t worked. All we’ve gotten from it are a bunch of repressed, self-righteous, holier-than-thou nutters who try to run our lives for us.

You know what we need? Rituals. Beautiful ceremonies rich in relevant symbolisms that speak to the soul of a society. That’s why I still come to church, even as a pagan. Maybe even more so as a pagan.

When a pagan meets the gods of his childhood (or his neighbour’s god, or a foreigner’s whole tribe of gods), he doesn’t shun them or turn them away. He welcomes them with open arms as one would do with an honoured guest or an old friend. And then, they have tea together. There’s a reason we call it polytheism, after all‬: it’s ‪‎inclusive.

But perhaps the Protestants are right: Orthodoxy and especially Catholicism, with all their saints, idols, and rituals, could very well be ‪‎pagan. Is that a bad thing? Of course, it isn’t.

Okay, fine, it’s bad if you’re a bible-thumping, evangelical literalist, but if you’re just a regular layperson who’s mainly concerned about your life as it is, those pagan hold-overs and heathen hand-me-downs are exactly what’s keeping your pre-Protestant Christianity from being a stale, boring old relic.

Of course, we shouldn’t stop calling out the Church’s on her outdated values, but I’m all for relishing the common people’s jubilant fiestas, gritty traditions, and awe-inspiring acts of devotion.

Fiesta

Well, that is, when Christians are in their more jovial, inclusive mood.

Fuck them when they’re being self-important, oppressive bastards.

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PS: Happy Ishtar-is-not-Easter Week!

Of Farewells and Beginnings

Even if it isn’t exactly the start of your religious year, I’m sure–one way or another–the secularised Gregorian calendar has remained (or become?) an important part of our lives, if only just for bills or taxes. So, Happy New Year, folks! I hope you had a wonderful and auspicious Kalends of January!

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In other news, as if the winter holidays weren’t busy enough (as they always are), I took the liminality of the season as a good time to bid farewell to the country of my birth and its spirits. Yes, I’m taking a giant leap to go on a journey that’s going to change my life as I know it. I’m not exactly sure when, but I’m hoping to make it happen within this year. In the words of Dionysos through the Oracle of Eugene:

“It is time to go. Make offerings to the spirit of this place so they will let you go peaceably. 

“Light lanterns and release a dozen paper swans into the water and make a feast.”

“Invite all the spirits and the ancestors. Say your goodbyes, speak your intentions to them.”

“They will understand and bless you with the luck and success you will need in the year to come.”

And that I did.

A thanksgiving party for our landwights in the name of Hermês and Dionysos on the full moon.

On the last full moon of 2013, my friend (the Indophile) and I started with a thanksgiving party for our landwights in the name of Hermês and Dionysos. I can’t remember the first time we started acknowledging their presence, but it’s only been a most magical relationship through the years.

On December 16th, I said my farewells to our town patron. I may no longer be Catholic, but the spirits that dwell there have only been good to me and my family. They will always have my praises. [Photo credits: warrenski manuel, EddieMarRico, AspireCavite]

The next day, we said our goodbyes to our beloved town patron at her shrine. She is a beautiful holdover from my Catholic upbringing, and whether she’s the same Mary as other Marian incarnations around the world or an ancient tutelary diwatà of my hometown, she will always have a place in my heart.
[Photo credits: warrenski manuel, EddieMarRico, AspireCavite]

On Christmas Eve, at the stroke of midnight, the family gathered and said their prayers of thanksgiving over Noche Buena. Portions of our midnight meal were then gathered and offered them to the Ancestors in general but to the foremothers in particular. After all, according to old custom, this was the Night of Mothers.

On Christmas Eve, at the stroke of midnight, the family gathered and said prayers of thanksgiving over Noche Buena. Portions of our midnight meal were then offered to the Ancestors, but to our foremothers in particular. After all, according to old custom, this was the Night of Mothers.

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On Christmas Day, we gathered pine branches, and had a small party at the Indophile’s house, and feasted and toasted to our common deities. (It was a small feast, but we sung hymns and praises for a full hour, I think!)

Our last visit to the local Hindu temple for 2013.

Just before New Year’s Eve, we paid our last visit for the year to the neighbouring Hindu temple. Everyone was so beautiful, as usual!

To the Gods of good beginnings.

And then, on New Year’s Day, the All-Gods were honoured. Ianus was given his new wreath and offering-bundles for 2014, hung on the front door, and candles burnt for the Sun King at his seasonal space at the house shrine.

To the Gods of the household.

On January 2nd, the Agathos Daimôn “finger-painting” on our kitchen wall was re-painted, and a new garland crowned our lararium.

On January 3rd, had sweets and a toast for the Professor's 121st birthday. Because men like him get to live for ever.

On January 3rd, had sweets and a toast for the Professor‘s 121st birthday, because men like him get to live for ever. (Also, because he’s an amazing myth-maker, a fellow linguist, and my idol.)

Twelve Nights of Dies Natalis Solis Invicti.

Hêlios-Solis Invictus here on the Eleventh Night.

The dark-maned sea

Finally, on the Twelfth Night, we headed to the beach.

A feast is prepared.

A feast was prepared by the shore, and the swans were made ready.

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Each paper swan was crafted on each of the Twelve Days. Now, they’ve finally come together for their team swim.

The swans are made ready.

Some of the food came to us as timely gifts from the holidays: the Spanish wine and Tunisian dates, in particular. Thank goodness for gracious friends and family!

Lanterns.

I couldn’t find any lanterns in the market, so we made one (well, two) from paper cups and candles. Still quite lucky!

Whispering prayers of good fortune.

Whispering prayers of good fortune before letting the swans go.

A most epiphanous feeling.

A most epiphanic feeling (on Epiphany, no less) to stand there, where earth, sky, and sea meet. The world is just amazing.

Praying westwards this time.

Saying goodbye has a bittersweet feeling, but there’s also that promise of adventure, a new life or a chance to come back better and happier.

I’m thankful for 2013, I really am, even if it was a little rough on me at first. Things are clearer now, and I know I’ll be thanking my people, my gods, and my spirit-friends again for this year in 2015. May all be well, may all be fortunate.

Thank You for Not Spamming My Feed with Zeitgeist

[Originally intended to be a pre-Christmas post under the title, “Brace Yourselves, Zeigeist Quotes Are Coming“.]

Said in a Yorkshire accent.

Said in a Yorkshire accent.

Fortunately, I didn’t see a single Zeitgeist meme in my Facebook feed all throughout Christmas. Have people actually been reading real books? I can only hope so.

Nevertheless, I wanted to put these two horrible pieces of information (and thus, splendid works of misinformation!) up on my Wall of Shame:

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Pretty much, comparative myth for morons. For shame!

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Good intentions. Bad mythstory.

Srsly, people. There are better ways to wage war on a dominionist Christmas than spreading misinformation, bad myth, and bad history. Almost feels like miasma, really.

Related reading:

On Religious Roundabouts

Before I recap what’s happened over the weekend, I wanted to share Teo Bishop’s most recent write-up on The Wild Hunt:

This year at Samhain I’m coming to terms with the realization that Paganism, itself, does not serve me in the way that I thought it did. Stranger even, I’m feeling pulled back to the Episcopal Church, to the God of Christianity, and to Jesus.

I admit, it was bit of a shocker at first. I mean, it’s not everyday that you hear a well-known [and gorgeous] Pagan return to the religion of our oppressors. But, is a return to Jesus and Christianity necessarily a return to oppression? Not for Teo, I would think.

Finding God in Jesus through pagan practice is not entirely unthinkable or uncommon. We live in a world full of gods–as we polytheists believe–and I’d like to think none of them are jealous. Sometimes, one god will point you to another. After all, finding solace and purpose in Jesus the Saviour doesn’t mean you’ll become a biblical literalist or a mean-spirited bigot bent on pushing your beliefs on others. Those are stereotypes–fierce stereotypes that are all so unfortunately true for a lot of Christians–but they’re not all there is to Christianity or Jesus.

So no, it’s not impossible to have Jesus in your life and be Pagan–or for that matter, be Christian and be open to the diversity of divinity (because, truth is, there are so many ways to define what it means to be Christian). Jesus and paganism aren’t opposites, first of all. We know that many of the ancients didn’t think so, so it’s not unprecedented. (The Church disagreed, of course, and that got them into trouble, but still.) If anything, my being Pagan has only deepened my understanding and appreciation of the biblical Jesus, same as Teo. If that connection brings one further into walking the path of Christ, so be it.

I’ve never really understood the sentiment behind excluding Jesus (or his Dad) from paganism. Opening your world to many gods includes the god-man Jesus, too. Unlike the oaths we took at our confirmation rites (if you were raised Catholic like I was), paganism doesn’t demand that you recant any god or way of worship, really. It merely asks that you live your life according to your own terms, the terms of the tribe you choose, the gods you hold dear, etc.

Honestly, I don’t think the Gods care about “religions” as we understand them. The Gods can’t be bothered about what we think about their nature, either. These are our concerns, not theirs. They care only about the beauty you create. They love that, and that’s why they come to us.

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To the Great Mother of Wild Dances

Sorry for the delay, it’s been a very busy October so far. (Well, actually, it hasn’t been un-busy for me since Wep Ronpet!) But, yes, we did dance to two great mother goddesses the past week (well, technically, one goddess and one saint, but you get what I mean).

Whether you see these two ladies as different forms of one ‘Goddess of ten thousand names’ or two distinct personalities (one divine and the other human, or both divine!) isn’t important. The non-Catholics who couldn’t help but dance to the Señora’s brass band didn’t seem to mind their religion’s prohibitions against deifying the mother of Christ nor did the Sikhs at the Hindu temple hesitate to join their polytheistic brethren in celebration despite their staunch monotheism. I suppose all is fair in fiestas and pujas. After all, who can resist the rattle and the drum, and swaying hips in praise of the ‘Great Mother’, Durga or Mary be her name?

¡Viva Señora del Pilar! Jai Durga Mata!

PS: As these things are better seen than read, I uploaded a few clips over at my YouTube channel. Although watching them doesn’t compare to actually being there, I hope you can still enjoy what I could afford to capture!

¡Viva! Jai!