May the Gods Always Smile Upon Your House

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… and may you share good food and drink with them, always.

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You Are What You Eat (And Pray For)

In celebration of many good things that have come our way lately (and “many more to come still”, as our prayers always go), our House was happy to host a prasad of desserts and produce to our beloved spirits three Sundays ago. You are what you eat, they say, and boy, did we eat auspicious things!

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To the right stands Hermês (aptly appearing through an iPad) and a bunch of auspiciously named sweets.
To the left are Asklêpios, Athêna, and Apollôn with a ‘healthier’ menu of fruit and greens.

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It all started out with Murmur‘s idea of offering auspiciously-named candy for Hermês to pray for continued good fortune in his job of 5 years. Although not present at the time, he asked that we pray on his behalf that he be “Lucky“, that he have “Splendor“, find “Treasures“, and become [even more] “Big Time” this year.

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Also, in celebration of my new job after a long winter of contemplative unemployment, the people of our House decided to pray for work-related success, as well. May we hear a lot of “Bravos” in our jobs.

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Bingo“, may we always say whenever it’s “PayDay“. May our work create a “Big Bang” of blessings in our lives, and may we always be “Happy” and “Bueno“.

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May our jobs be like four-leaf “Shamrocks” to us, may work be “Magic“-al, may it be “Loaded” with goodness, and may we become “Mr Goodbars” at everything that we do.

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Hermês looked pretty happy with our pun-filled offerings.

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The offerings weren’t all “junk”, of course. As it was also Asklêpia that day–and because it’s generally a good idea to eat a balanced diet–we made sure to offer a healthier entrée to Apollôn, Asklêpios, and Athêna for continued good health.

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A bit of each gift on a plate to be burnt for the Gods.

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.

Ritual Cramming on New Year’s Eve

It's the seventh day of the Twelve Nights and here's my seventh swan.

It’s the seventh day of the Twelve Nights and here’s my seventh swan.

Gads, it’s New Year’s Eve tonight and I’m still here, sitting on my arse. It also happens to be the eve of the new month of Gamêlion-Peritios and the Egyptian month of Mechier.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s beyond wonderful that all three kalends are happening on the same day. If only I weren’t such a crammer. Well, writing about it usually solves the problem for me, so I hope this works.

Tonight: Last Evening of the Old Year.

  • [15:00] Make a new evergreen wreath for Janus and Juno Limentina.
  • Buy flowers, have twelve kinds of fruit, and assorted desserts for the Midnight Feast. Done! Thanks, Ma!
  • Clean the place, change sheets, change drapes, and wash the old year’s dirty laundry!
  • Upload all unuploaded photos and finish all draft articles. Nope, not going to happen.
  • [20:00] Begin fasting after supper (last supper of the old year). Make serpentine-bread and write unwanted things on clay pot à la Wep Ronpet.
  • [21:00] Ask Hekatê’s blessing, turn over old year, and burn old offerings (especially the old wreath) outside. Burn the serpent and break the pot! Fumigate house with incense, afterwards. Clean house shrine and altar.
  • [22:00] Bake Aldrin’s special New Year Bread. Cross your fingers.
  • [23:00] Clean hearth-stove after all the cooking is done. (At this time, all fires should have been put out.) Re-kindle the main altar fire with a match (or three matches together). Use this fire to bless the hearth-stove and light all fires in the home.
  • [23:45] Right before midnight, bring out the Janus cult-icon and present the new wreath to him as well as the Midnight Feast. Recite adorations to Janus to bless the new year. Keep the house shrine open.
  • [00:00] Chase the old year away and welcome the new with merry-making and sacred noise!
  • [00:05] Pray for auspicious tidings and feast with the family, breaking the fast.
  • [01:00] Sleep.

Tomorrow morning: First Day of the New Year.

  • [06:00] Wake up and get everything ready. Bathe. Prepare first offerings to be presented to the household spirits and the All-Gods.
  • [07:00] Welcome the Gods and ask their blessing for the New Year. (Ritual outline to follow!)
  • [08:00] Have first breakfast with the Gods and family.

I’m an awfully anal man, and an even more awfully anal cultist from a very ritual-anal culture. May I have the right skill to get everything ready in time and may I have the wisdom to forgive myself if I don’t. Wish me luck and wit!

Hail Hermês Polytropos! Hail Artemis Kourotrophos!

Despite all the work that needed to be done this week, I still managed to perform two very important ritual commissions: a petition of protection from Hermês as Guide of Travellers and a coming-of-age ritual under the auspices of Artemis as Nurse of the Young (Kourotrophos).

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Although my friend always makes sure to leave a gift for Hermês before any trip, he needed a little extra help this time because Mr I-plan-in-advance decided to book a flight to Vietnam on the spot. I offered sweets (which he gleefully bought himself) on his behalf a day before his flight. I’ve been told that he had a couple of communication and travel problems on his way (which could have been the Trickster playing around), but judging from his photos, he seems to be have had a lot of fun. Io Hermês!

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My other friend–who is 27, by the way–was advised by Dionysos via our beloved Oracle of Eugene to perform an offering of her cut hair to Artemis Kourotrophos. Having recognised this akin to an ancient rite of passage for Greek maidens, we decided to have it as a full blown coming-of-age ritual. I had to do a little gender-bending there as men aren’t supposed to be at a woman’s coming of age.
Dionysos and Hermês were special guests because, well, they’re amazing.

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Like any sacrifice, there had to be a banquet. My friend was kind enough to shoulder all the expenses, but I made sure I was there to help out in the cooking (I adore cooking, anyway). It was a purely vegetarian dinner as we thought Artemis would appreciate it (though hunted meat would’ve been nice).

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Of course, there can’t be a sacrifice (or a meal, for that matter) without the splendid Daughter of Kronos. Hail Hestia, first born and last!

PS: My adventurous friend blogs at the Pagan Murmur. You should check him out!

Dancing for the Dead, Living, and Lost

Our ancestors knew well that dancing was a potent form of communion between worlds and the beings that lived in each of them. They danced within their tribes and city-states, danced with people of other countries, danced like wild beasts, danced to mark the passing of seasons, and danced to commune with the various spirits of nature and civilisation. Not much has changed since the first human being danced as the art continues to be a huge, meaningful part of human expression, no matter what belief or way of life. For almost every emotion known to Mankind, there has been a dance trying to express it. Is a dance religious or secular? Who knows and who cares…

It’s 17:00 GMT+8 and in the next hour I’ll be preparing for a dance cum ritual for the Dead, Living, and Lost at our household shrine. My babaylan-friend in Bacolod tells me that they’re going to do something similar at exactly 18:00 today, so I thought I’d have mine at the same time, too. It will be a dance of grief, of joy, of hope, and many other things.

If you appreciate this gesture, please consider sending aid to our brothers and sisters in the affected areas or let others know how:

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Again my prayer continues to be, “May the Dead find their peace, the Living their joy, and the Lost their way back home”. Now, let’s get our arses working.

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 Hermês (“Nothing without Hermês!”). I find the hymns of Homer, 24th and 29th, to be perfect for this.

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

  1. New Moon (also called Noumênia or Kalends): The first of every lunar month–or when the first sliver of the crescent is visible–belongs to the Moon and Apollon Noumênios (Apollôn of the new month), and also Hêra and Hermês-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 Ktêsios (Zeus of the pantry), the Agathos Daimôn (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: Athêna as Protector of cities and Goddess of many skills, and Hêphaistos the Divine Craftsman.
  4. The fourth day is to Hermês-Ganapathi, Aphroditê Pandemos, and Erôs (and sometimes, also Hermaphroditos as child of Hermês and Aphroditê).
  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 Lêto’s daughter, Artemis.
  7. The seventh belongs to Lêto’s son, Apollôn and his son, Asklêpios, first of physicians (who would otherwise be celebrated by Athenians on the next day).
  8. The eighth sings of Poseidôn, Lord of waters, and the Dioskouroi.
  9. The ninth (nones or énatos) 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 daimôn (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 (Dikhomênia 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 Arês and Hêraklês; 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 Apollôn in much of Hellas–is given to Horus in my calendar.
  22. The waning ninth is given to Anath and Astartê, protector-goddesses of Lebanon (which is my paternal ancestral homeland along with Greece).
  23. The waning eighth belongs to the mother-daughter duo, Dêmêtêr and Korê-Persephonê (sometimes, also Plouto as Lord of the underground).
  24. The waning seventh reflects the waxing seventh, but focuses on Apollôn as Apotrópaios (Warder of evil).
  25. The waning sixth also mirrors the waxing sixth and is given to Artemis Potnia Thêrôn (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 Hermês Propýlaios as Guardian of the gates, standing between worlds (can also be for Hekatê Propýlaia or as Hermêkatê).
  28. The waning third is given to the Heroes.
  29. The waning second is given to the Ancestors and Hermanubis (Anoubis + Hermês Psykhopompós).
  30. The last day of the month or the Dark Moon (Hena kai Nea or “the Old and the New”) belongs to Hekatê, 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.