V is for Vigilance (and its God, HermĂȘs)

Hermes likes to play. And if you’re not paying attention, he will play with you. One of his games goes like this:

It will start with a small object, something insignificant. A pencil, a pen, a piece of paper, a trinket or doohickey. You might carelessly misplace it or have it suddenly vanish from your bag. You’ll think, “Oh, that’s okay, I’ll get another”. The next object will be something slightly more valuable, a semi-important document, some money or laptop wiring. And you’ll think, “Geez, I’m so silly for forgetting these”. If you still haven’t taken these warnings seriously, be prepared to lose something valuable. And you’ll think, “NO! What have I done! I should have done this and that”! And you’ll be more attentive. But your attention will fade over time, and the cycle starts again.

Pay attention, or suffer. Take notice when your attention is slipping. Do not let attention slowly slip or you will face the consequences. But don’t worry, Hermes is fair: he gives warnings. 😉

A Mad Light, January 2012

Art by A-gnosis (a-gnosis.deviantart.com)

Art by A-gnosis (a-gnosis.deviantart.com)

P is for Prayer Routines

Through the years serving as some sort of “proxy-priest” for my family, I’ve experimented on several prayer routines, and despite being a devotional pagan for almost half of my life now, I’ve only been performing daily rituals for about 3 years. Before that, I would only hold rituals on special occasions or on days that I “felt” like it. In short, I wasn’t as “religiously religious” as I had hoped.

Things changed immensely after my father made his final journey West as I took the household rites a little more seriously with daily devotions offered to the ancestors and our gods, and regular sacrifices and libations, too. To me, it felt like I needed to take on bigger responsibilities as the paterfamilias [of ritual matters].

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Our annual kathiskos jar and representations of our Lares, Penates, and Ancestors

I started out by establishing a steady routine with bi-daily prayers on behalf of the family to our Lares and Penates. Soon after, I began involving our tutelary gods as a whole, then each of them (sometimes in pairs or triads) on different days of the month.

My current prayer calendar repeats on a monthly basis, based largely on traditional Athenian customs, but also on certain Roman and other traditions, as well. (You might also want to check out Jonathan’s and Elani’s, too, for a more strictly Hellenic approach.)

Needless to say, every prayer starts with an invocation to Hestia–first born and last–and HermĂȘs (“Nothing without HermĂȘs!”). I find the hymns of Homer, 24th and 29th, to be perfect for this.

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Mother HĂȘra and Father Zeus with Auntie Hestia in the middle, flanked by Brother HermĂȘs as the Holy Child of Atocha and the elephant-headed Ganesh

  1. New Moon (also called NoumĂȘnia or Kalends): The first of every lunar month–or when the first sliver of the crescent is visible–belongs to the Moon and Apollon NoumĂȘnios (ApollĂŽn of the new month), and also HĂȘra and HermĂȘs-Thoth (following the Roman tradition of the first day of the month being sacred to Iuno Regina and Ianus); first offerings of fruit, grain, and/or drink are presented to the pantheon and are stored in the kathiskos jar by the lararium.
  2. Traditionally reckoned as dies atri or a “dark day” for Romans, the day after the new moon is regarded as auspicious by the Hellenes, and is dedicated to Zeus KtĂȘsios (Zeus of the pantry), the Agathos DaimĂŽn (good spirit or Lar familiaris) of our house, and fair-hearted Harmonia.
  3. The third day is dedicated to the gods who look after human civilisation: AthĂȘna as Protector of cities and Goddess of many skills, and HĂȘphaistos the Divine Craftsman.
  4. The fourth day is to HermĂȘs-Ganapathi, AphroditĂȘ Pandemos, and ErĂŽs (and sometimes, also Hermaphroditos as child of HermĂȘs and AphroditĂȘ).
  5. Fifths are dies atri in my calendar as per Hesiod: “Avoid fifth days: they are unkindly and terrible. On a fifth day, they say, the Erinyes assisted at the birth of Horkos whom Eris bare to trouble the forsworn”.
  6. The sixth celebrates LĂȘto’s daughter, Artemis.
  7. The seventh belongs to LĂȘto’s son, ApollĂŽn and his son, AsklĂȘpios, first of physicians (who would otherwise be celebrated by Athenians on the next day).
  8. The eighth sings of PoseidĂŽn, Lord of waters, and the Dioskouroi.
  9. The ninth (nones or Ă©natos) is for the Mother of the Gods (often Rhea-Cybele, but also sometimes Athirat or Durga)
  10. The day after nones is dies atri.
  11. The eleventh is given to the family guardians and the individual daimĂŽn (genus/juno) of all living members of the family, but especially of the head of the household.
  12. The twelfth celebrates our universal parents, Heaven and Earth, as well as Ptah the Maker of worlds.
  13. The thirteenth (AKA ‘Phallus Day’ and ‘Imported God Day’) is for the thirteenth Olympian, Dionysos, and Ingwaz.
  14. The fourteenth–if not already the full moon–is given to the Sun.
  15. The day of the full moon (DikhomĂȘnia or Ides) belongs to the King of the Gods (Zeus-Ammon) as per Ovid: “The worship of Juno claims our Italy’s Kalends, while a larger white ewe-lamb falls to Jupiter on the Ides…”
  16. The day after the full moon is dies atri.
  17. The seventeenth sings of Hathor and Sekhmet.
  18. The eighteenth is dedicated to purification and apotropaic rites; Sobek and Seth are given honours.
  19. The nineteenth is given to ArĂȘs and HĂȘraklĂȘs; purification and apotropaic rites continue.
  20. The twentieth belongs to Isis of Ten Thousand Names.
  21. The twenty-first or the waning tenth–which belongs to ApollĂŽn in much of Hellas–is given to Horus in my calendar.
  22. The waning ninth is given to Anath and AstartĂȘ, protector-goddesses of Lebanon (which is my paternal ancestral homeland along with Greece).
  23. The waning eighth belongs to the mother-daughter duo, DĂȘmĂȘtĂȘr and KorĂȘ-PersephonĂȘ (sometimes, also Plouto as Lord of the underground).
  24. The waning seventh reflects the waxing seventh, but focuses on ApollĂŽn as ApotrĂłpaios (Warder of evil).
  25. The waning sixth also mirrors the waxing sixth and is given to Artemis Potnia ThĂȘrĂŽn (Mistress of animals) and Bast.
  26. The waning fifth reflects the waxing fifth when most of the gods are not named in prayer and major sacrifices are withheld.
  27. The waning fourth, considered an “impure” day (along with the next three days), is given to HermĂȘs PropĂœlaios as Guardian of the gates, standing between worlds (can also be for HekatĂȘ PropĂœlaia or as HermĂȘkatĂȘ).
  28. The waning third is given to the Heroes.
  29. The waning second is given to the Ancestors and Hermanubis (Anoubis + HermĂȘs PsykhopompĂłs).
  30. The last day of the month or the Dark Moon (Hena kai Nea or “the Old and the New”) belongs to HekatĂȘ, so she may bridge the old and the new months; to cut the old and worn from the new and budding. The contents of the kathiskos jar are emptied and cleaned for her.

If that sounds like a mouthful, take note that these prayers only take around 15-30 minutes a day in total. Aside from the days of the new, full, and dark moon, all other days are really very simple: you wake up, wash up, and open the day; in the evening, you wash up, close the evening, and sleep. I don’t like very lavish or complicated rituals unless it’s actually a very special occasion or a feast-day that only repeats once a year.

I’m still getting used to all of it, though, and I’m, by no means, done experimenting. I especially need getting used to the waning days as I’m a little paranoid over too much exposure to the “darker” (but undoubtedly necessary) sides of certain gods. You can never be too careful when proxy-praying for an entire household.

I’ve written something about my yearly rituals, too, but I’ll save that for another time. Does anybody else have an established prayer schedule that repeats every month? or every week, perhaps? Do share if you do.

Jumping off the Bandwagon

I’m going to mess around with PBP a little because we’re only two months away from 2014 and I still haven’t gone past G. RuadhĂĄn talked about how not everybody is cut out for this kind of blogging, and I think he’s sort of right.

Apparently, I’m not very good with following established memes. Often, I feel constrained to think up of something to write about, and that usually means–for me–not being to write anything, at all. Despite being a detail-obsessive neat-freak with mild OCD, I don’t consider myself a very orderly writer. I’m really just here to share what I can, and I should be fine with that.  I’m going back to freestyle.

Anyway, I’m going to scramble the letters of the English alphabet with P immediately following G, only because I don’t want to back out of the project entirely. In spite of all that’s been said, I still like finishing what I’ve started (like how oaths need to be followed ’til their end). I may even consider modifying my EDP series into something more ‘fluid’. (Everyday Piety sounds like a more suitable tag! I might just do that.)

What’s going to come after P? Well, you’ll have to stick around to find out. (Or not. It’s entirely up to you.)

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G is for Ganesha

This entire week has been all about Ganesha (Ganapathi), the “HermĂȘs of Hindustan” (a personal moniker Ă  la interpretatio graeca I’ve reserved for the jolly god of beginnings and good fortune), as Hindus and Indophiles around the world celebrate Ganesha Chaturthi:

Ganesha Chaturthi is the Hindu festival celebrated on the birthday (rebirth) of the god Ganesha, the son of Shiva and Parvati.

The festival, also known as Vinayaka Chaturthi (“festival of Ganesha”) is observed in the Hindu calendar month of Bhaadrapada, starting on the shukla chaturthi (fourth day of the waxing moon period). The date usually falls between 19 August and 20 September. The festival lasts for 10 days, ending on Anant Chaturdashi (fourteenth day of the waxing moon period).

Despite being completely overwhelmed by devotion for the elephant-headed lord, not to mention the intoxicating smell of butter and sandalwood, I managed to take a few pictures of this Monday’s opening ritual:

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Opening of Ganesha Chaturthi 2013 at the Manila Hindu Temple

Although the festival lasts for 10 days, the community is going to hold the Visarjan (immersion ritual) for Ganesha tomorrow, the ninth. Naturally, I’ll be there. Anything for the elephant-headed HermĂȘs!

May the old gods of these islands, once ruled by great rajahs of the Majapahit Empire, rejoice at the coming and going of Ganapathi, their lord! Jai Ganesha! Jai Ganapathi! Morya!

F is for Fiesta

Bah! I totally forgot I was participating in PBP! Well, F is for fiesta, and what better time to write about fiestas than today, the 28th of May, as my hometown celebrates its 115th anniversary. It commemorates the Battle of Alapan, an historical battle that took place just a few days before the first Philippine Declaration of Independence.

In a more folk religious setting, though, our fiesta mainly celebrates the return of the Magdalena. She is the superstar of our fiesta. I mean, it’s good to remember what our valiant predecessors did for the country two or three generations ago, but people need something to hold on to that’s more “everyday”. This is where everyday folk figures such as Santa MarĂ­a Magdalena play an important role in the celebratory religion that is “Folk Catholicism” (the more inclusive, more fun-loving, participatory twin of “Church Catholicism”).

As with many other Christian saints, our Magdalena is not quite identical to her biblical counterpart as, here, her graces are strangely tied to agricultural fertility. Every year, the people of Alapan carry the Magdalena on their backs in a 7-hour processional dance called karakĂłl, dancing all the way from her shrine in Kawit to the rice paddies of Alapan, in order for the Magdalena to usher in the rainy season and bless the fields. For a farming community, it’s no wonder why we love her so much.

Sayaw

She is quite heavy, so it takes heavy built men to carry her.

Halimuyak

It is customary for the ladies to spray her dress with perfume as she did with Jesus in the Gospels.

Buhat

Pretty deity, walking down the street…
Pretty deity, the kind I’d like to meet…

Palayan

Soon, little rice babies shall spring here.

Kanluran

Kanluran (Tagalog for “west”) is where most of our farms are and is the place where the Magdalena dances last.

Takipsilim

The sun will not set until the Magdalena comes to dance.

Senyora

Tonight she rests for tomorrow is another 7-hour dance to her hometown.

Tomorrow, I shall upload a video of her dance. Wait and see!

E is for Everyday Rites

I start my days pretty much like any other dutiful Hellene or Roman: I take my bath, I get dressed, then I proceed to the shrine to pray before a day’s work. I light a flame, recite the prayers, and break bread or pour wine (or both) for the Ones who bless. And incense, of course. You can’t miss the sweet-smelling smoke!

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I try not to make it too elaborate, unless it’s a special day. As long as there’s a flame burning, a member of the family praying, and decent food to share — it’s proper and pious enough to bless my family and our deeds for a whole day.

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My prayers can be spontaneous or recited from memory, but they usually follow a pattern, much like this prayer I wrote a month ago:

Every day, I sing of you,
O Gods and Goddesses of high Olympos,
who watch over the kindreds of Men
and the ordering of our world.

Every day, I sing of you
and your deeds.

Every day, I sing of you
and your blessings on me,
my kindred, and our daily affairs.

Every day, I sing of the kindly DaimĂŽn of our dwelling-place —
O Lar familiaris —
and the Penates of my family.

Every day, I sing of the children of HyperiĂŽn;
bright HĂȘlios in the morning,
white-armed SelĂȘnĂȘ in the evening,
and rose-fingered Êîs when the twain meet.

Every day, I sing of well-founded Earth,
mother of all,
eldest of beings who feeds all creatures
in land, sea, or sky.

Every day, I sing of you,
mighty and noble company of my Ancestors,
from my father to his fathers,
to the line of our people back to the beginning.

Every day, I sing of you,
unseen neighbours who share this soil,
this air,
and these waters with us.

Every day, I sing of you,
my genius —
eautou daimĂŽn —
and the guiding daimĂŽnai of my family members.

Every day, I sing of you all,
tirelessly,
endlessly,
joyously asking and thanking you
for your unending blessings,
gifts,
and friendship.

Every day, I will rise to meet you all,
as you rise to greet me
and my family.

Accept now these words
and these libations
And bless and watch over us now.

Of course, as it only “lasts” a day, I do this daily around sunrise with hardly any exceptions.

In the rare occasion that I can’t (I could be out of town or sleeping over at a friend’s house), I make sure I recite 1the appropriate prayers wherever I am around the same time. I also make sure to double the offerings and inform the household deities of my absence before I leave.

Here’s a prayer I wrote last year whilst I was on holiday in Siem Reap:

Guardians of our family,
Keepers of our dwelling and land:
hear my prayer from afar;
sweet and clear, may my words reach you.
Look after my family and our home today;
my friends and theirs, too.
Avert all evil and danger from them,
and keep them safe and happy and healthy.
With these words to you,
may all be well in our house and land,
and with our people.

Spirits of this place and Gods of this land:
we make the same prayer for us here;
as travellers and foreigners,
I give you your dues.
Be kind to us, Gracious Ones,
as good hosts do to their guests.

Hail the All-seeing and the Traveller!
To you, we pray for your sleepless watch on home and way.
And to the Gods of this land,
we pray for your affection,
that we may remember our journey here
with only joy and nothing less.

May it be so.

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What about you, how do you greet your deities each day?

C is for Christ

(This was actually intended to be posted on Easter, so you can start imagining.)

Yes, Jesus Christ is risen. Jesus, Son of Mary, Son of Iao Sabaoth — Man-God, the Anointed One, the Risen One, the Way, the Truth, the Life, the Logos in flesh.

Yes, him. I may have recanted my ties with the Vatican and Constantinople, but I haven’t quite abandoned the worship of Christ or his mother (and sometimes, a couple of saintly spirits, too). Also, admit it, that song is ace, how can you leave it behind?

I wanted to take this time to talk about him a little — and his role in my religious life — because I will probably not have too many chances to talk about him in the next 360 days or so, being preoccupied with other spirits closer to me.

Unlike many pagan reverts who grew up in boring Protestant homes or were nominally Catholic for most of their lives, my elders were quite devout Catholics. I don’t remember anyone being all preachy about salvation or hell-fire, but people were generally devoted to the Baby Jesus, the Blessed Virgin, and other divine spirits. (I say, spirits, because that’s how I remember seeing them as — as a multitude of divine and semi-divine beings partial to decent men and women, aiding them in their daily lives. Sounds rather pagan, doesn’t it?)

Ah, I see the bishops disapproving. I suppose, I never really was brought up in a very “christian” household, if we followed their definitions of the word. I’d say, two thirds folkish and a third orthodox? After all, it’s not very uncommon for many predominantly Catholic countries to mix indigenous practices with Vatican-sanctioned Christianity. I’d go as far to say that the parts that do agree with papist doctrine are mostly coincidental, not something people do to make the Pope happy. Fiestas are fun first of all, never mind if they have any salvific component.

Sure, the Pope stinks and the Vatican is a scandal-ridden, corrupt institution run by life-denying chauvinists. Sure, I don’t regard the Gospels or the Torah as particularly sacred scripture. Sure, I don’t believe in most of orthodox Christianity’s tenets. Sure, I identify as a proud Hellene, as one who took the same path as Julian the Apostate, but what has all that got to do with Jesus or Mary?

Nothing, because Jesus is not Christianity or the Catholic Church or the Pope. Not very different from how our poets or our philosophers are not the deathless gods of high Olympos. When we sacrifice to the Gods, it is with them to whom we owe the bonds of hospitality; of xenia, of eusebeia or pietas.

I don’t care for an historical Jesus, if there even was one (or more). So, what if a hippie, feminist, 1st century Galilean rabbi-carpenter never really rose from the grave to save humanity? Does that mean people can’t walk his path of radical love, anymore? Of course, we can!

That’s because Christ is a myth, more than anything else, and — as we all very well know here in Paganistan — myth can sometimes be much more powerful and moving than history.

Is Christ a very important part of my cultus? Not by much, but he is there; a part of my household’s pantheon, and no one can tell me that he can’t. That’s the beauty of polytheism, I suppose.

I took pictures of our Paschal celebration and wrote some poetry, too, but those will have to follow.

Meanwhile, here are some rather charming thoughts on the subject: