Category Archives: Worship

To Aphrodite

the_birth_of_venus_botticelli

Aphrodite, when first I saw You
standing upon your scalloped pedestal,
powdered with rich pinks and dusty reds like sandstone,
ever-smiling, serene but not aloof,
borne reverently in the hands of Your priestess,
followed by a procession
of those who came to give You homage,
in that charged moment, that καιρός,
I became a multi-tradition polytheist,
I realized that ancestry is cultural,
and that relationship is everything.
I knew in that instant that Botticelli
saw a true vision,
that the Gods, and You especially,
are deathless indeed, that the Italian Renaissance
deserved its name and had no better σύμβολον
than Your own famous birth from the waves.

You answered my prayer that very evening,
though the possibility You opened my heart to
took years to realize, and was never inevitable
(for the tapestry woven by the Moirai shifts
by choice and chance and
in ways unknowable to mortals).
I knew Your awesome power at once,
I joyfully gave you and Hestia,
the hearth-tender of Your tribe,
the hospitality of my home,
a place within it that is still Yours,
I purified myself with glistening water,
I burned sweet myrrh and λιβανωτός for You,
and poured out sea-dark wine and prayers.
I learned to de-armor, piece by painful piece,
and open myself to Your blessings,
to cultivate right relationship
with You,
with the woman I love,
in all the realms
of the spirit which is part of the body
and the body which is part of the spirit.

This is not the first poem I’ve written for You,
nor the last, Golden One,
You who are accompanied by the Χάριτες,
Splendor and Joy and Abundance.
The offerings we give to the Gods, and to You especially,
from a simple grain of incense to glittering gemstones,
are objects of Beauty and acts of Love.
To sacrifice is to make sacred,
or perhaps more accurately for an animist,
to make the sacred explicit and exalted and paramount.
Beauty and Love are Yours already,
and reciprocal χάρις too,
but in their gifting and re-gifting,
they gain new stories with each transfer,
like a gold and silver wine bowl,
wrought by a divine smith,
father of the Kabeiroi,
handed from Sidonian host to Danaan guest,
and to another guest-friend in turn,
the great-grandson of the Wolf Himself,
the son of crafty Hermes.
In fulfillment of a vow,
wreathed with rose and ivy,
I gave You a dove
offered by the hands of a King,
witnessed by hopping sparrows,
by Your night-wandering star,
and by persimmon-fiery Helios,
blazing as Nyx baptized Him once again
in the sea whence You emerged
from severance and blood,
a tributary of Okeanos far from pacific.

Ally, as You were named
by both Sappho and the Mantineans,
no stranger to war and warriors,
for You I have fought, and will fight again,
in Your blessings I rejoice and give thanks,
to You I dedicate this poem,
these words that You have inspired,
just as You encourage the rose
to unfurl her crimson banners,
and the apple to ripen upon the branch,
and the clam to bring forth a σφαίρα,
iridescence from irritation,
Love from Strife.
You who set foot first on Cyprus,
where wildflowers sprang from the earth
to celebrate Your arrival,
I hail you now from California,
land of the Black pagan queen of Amazons,
who led man-slaughtering griffins in battle.
Grant to me that I may win this agon,
may my praises of You be acclaimed,
for Your immortal glory and honor.

This poem had the honor of winning first place in Lykeia’s Aphrodite Agon. Hail and thanks, Aphrodite!

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Matronae Veteranehae

matronae-veteranehae

Credit: RLMB

This is a fragment of an altar to the Matronae Veteranehae, the Matrons of Veterans. It comes from the area around Embken and Wollersheim, which are neighborhoods of modern-day Nideggen, Germany. Various inscriptions have been found in the area, probably all from the same sanctuary. It dates from 150-200 C.E.

This partial inscription reads:

MAT
VETER
L-SEV
TAC

Which probably is short for: Mat[ronis] / Veter[anehis] / L[ucius] Sev[erinus] / Tac[itus?] –/—-, “To the Matronae Veteranehae, Lucius Severinus Tacitus–/—-”

The end of the inscription may have been a formula such as VSLM (votum solvit libens merito, “fulfilled his vow willingly and deservedly” or DD (donum dedit, “gave this gift”).

In The Cult of the Matronae in the Roman Rhineland, Alex Garman writes:

“Veteranehae” derives from the Latin veterani which means retired soldiers. The name and the location of the site suggest that some of the surrounding farms were owned or managed by retired Roman soldiers. The inscriptions […] do not record any ranks or positions held. (55)


Matres Ollototae and/or Transmarinae

matres-ollototae

The Matres Ollototae are attested to from inscriptions from Roman Britain. The epithet comes from Brythonic ollo-, ‘all’ and teuta, touta, ‘tribe,’ or in other words “Mothers of All the Tribes.” Unlike most of the inscriptions to the Matres in Britian, at least one inscription was found at a non-military site (Heronbridge, Cheshire).

matres-ollotatae-sive-transmarinae

Another inscription, made by one Pomponius Donatus at Roman Fort Binchester in Durham County, links the epithet Ollotate to the epithet Transmarinae with the word sive, meaning “or.”

I(ovi) O(ptimo) M(aximo) et Matribus Ollototis sive Tramarinis Pomponius Donatus, b(ene)f(iciarius) co(n)s(ularis) pro salute sua et suorum v(otum) s(olvit) l(ibens) m(erito), ‘To Iupiter, Best and Greatest, and to the Mother Goddesses of All the Peoples, or Overseas, Pomponius Donatus, beneficiaries of the governor, for the welfare of himself and his household willingly fulfilled his vow’

The epithet Transmarinae is also found at Lowther, Plumpton Wall (Cumbria), Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Tyne and Wear) and Risingham (Northunmberland). Transmarinus/a/um can mean either “beyond the sea” or “coming from beyond the sea.” But if They can hear prayers from across the sea, then They have in fact crossed the sea Themselves, making a combination of both meanings likely in my eyes. Perhaps, like the Chinese goddess Mazu (“Mother Ancestor”), who is a protectress of sailors and fishermen who has not one but two temples in San Francisco Chinatown, They may also have been seen as facilitating safe passage across the sea.

black-mazu

Jin Xiang Ma statue of Mazu, Lugang Mazu Temple, Taiwan.

At York, an inscription was dedicated to the “African, Italian and Gaulish Mothers,” and at Winchester, one was dedicated to the “Italian, German, Gaulish and British Mothers.” These are clearly in the same vein as the inscriptions to the Matres Ollototae and the Matres Transmarinae.


Chinese Spirit Medium Initiation

Chinese Mediumship Tools

Tools for the mortification of the flesh are cleansed in incense smoke. Taiwan.

From David K. Jordan’s “A Medium’s First Trance:”

The initiation was held on a festival day, and many of its activities were combined or interposed with festival activities. Basically it included two vital parts. One was an exorcism of possible demons from Qīngshuǐ’s body —just in case. When the exorcism was over, Qīngshuǐ was still in trance. That was the final evidence that he was possessed by a god, capable of withstanding the exorcism, and not by a demon, who would have been banished by it.

The second important part of the initiation consisted of providing Qīngshuǐ (still in trance) with a sword and a ball of nails. Both of these are used by spirit mediums to mortify their flesh, causing blood to flow. Mortification of the flesh is common among spirit mediums in China, and it is considered to be a sign of divine presence that the mediums do not show any sign of feeling pain when they cut and puncture themselves.

A medium does not mortify his flesh until the community initiates him. When the community accepts him and holds the initiation, he is provided with these tools of his trade. After that, in theory, he can be called upon to go into trance when the gods are needed for advice or to participate in rituals. Guō Qīngshuǐ was destined no longer to be just an ordinary Taiwanese farmer. Once provided with the tools of his godly trade, he was also a spirit medium, and his life was changed forever.

I find the fact that initiation into the role of spirit medium can only be conferred by the community to be particularly interesting and significant. That doesn’t mean that spirit possession doesn’t happen to the uninitiated (it does), but in this tradition, to be considered a “spirit medium” requires recognition by the human community as well.


Chinese Binary Divination

Chinese Binary Divination

Pairs at top and on left are wood, pair on the right is bamboo.

From David K. Jordan’s “Taiwanese Poe Divination:”

In temples and occasionally at home, Taiwanese routinely perform simple divination by means of two half-moon-shaped wooden or bamboo blocks, each of which is flat on one side and rounded on the other. Held with the flat sides together, the pair looks rather like a small banana cut in half lengthwise. They are inevitably painted red, and in Taiwanese Hokkien they are called poe (pronounced “bwey,” to rhyme with English “whey”).

In characters, poe is written differently depending partly upon whether the blocks are thought of as being made of wood or bamboo. In Northern Mandarin they are called jiào or jiǎo, and in Southern Mandarin bēi, all written with a variety of characters (筶, 筊; 盃; 杯).

The poe are used by throwing them on the floor to see whether they land rounded-side-up or flat-side-up. We may envision the process as comparable to throwing a pair of coins. The most usual procedure is for the petitioner to pose a question, and then phrase an answer. He then throws a pair of poe to receive confirmation or disconfirmation of the answer. If the two poe fall identically (both flat-side-up or both rounded-side-up), then the formulation of the answer is disconfirmed and a new answer must be proposed. If they fall differently (one flat-side-up, the other rounded-side-up), this represents a positive response. […]

The formulation normally requires a run of three positive responses in a row. Thus if a petitioner formulates his revelation, throws a pair of poe, and gets a negative response, he reformulates the revelation and tries again. If he gets a positive response, then he throws the poe a second time. If he gets a second positive response, he throws them a third time. The third positive response concludes the divination session on that question, since the formulation now gains the status of a confirmed revelation.


Matronae Epithets: Germanic

From Alex Garman’s The Cult of the Matronae in the Roman Rhineland:

Of the hundreds of Matronae inscriptions, over half of them have Germanic epithets. The following list contains the names and meanings of some of the epithets that are believed to be Germanic and whose translations are generally agreed upon by scholars:

Afliae: Powerful ones
Ahinehiae: River deities
Alagabiae: All giving
Alhiahenae: Elk deities or temple
Alusneihae: goddesses of ecstasy
Amfratninae/Amratninae: personal fortune
Annanept(i)ae: friendly sisters
Audrinehae/Authrinehae/Autriahenae: friendly powers of destiny
Aufaniae: goddesses of swampy place
Austriahenae: goddesses of the sheep [Shaw gives “eastern matrons” or “matrons belonging to an eastern group of people” instead]
Berguiahenae: goddesses of trees
Chuchenehae: goddesses of the hill
Etrahenae: goddesses of a region
Fachinehae/Fahineihae: Gladsome ones
Fernovinehae: goddesses of the stream
Gabiae: Giving ones
Gavadiae: Ones who watch over vows
Gavasiae: goddesses of midwives
Gesahenae: goddesses of a region
Gratichihenae: goddesses of grazing
Haitinae: goddesses of the heat
Hamavehae: goddesses of the Chamavi
Lanehiae: goddesses of the region
Leudinae: goddesses of healing
Mahalinehae: goddesses of the court
Ratheih(i)ae: wheel goddesses
Renahenae: goddesses of the Rhine river
Suebae: Goddesses of the Suebi
Teniavehae: Goddesses of a region
Textumeihae: Bringers of Joy
Treverae: Goddesses of the Treveri
Tummaestiae: helpers of the house
Turstuahenae: the mightiest
Vacallinehae: goddesses of the river Waal
Vanginehae: goddesses of the meadow
Vatvae: goddesses of prophecy

Bibliography:

Alex G. Garman. The Cult of the Matronae in the Roman Rhineland: An Historical Evaluation of the Historical Evidence. Lewiston: The Edwin Mellen Press, 2008. 72-73.

Philip A. Shaw. Pagan Goddesses in the Early Germanic World: Eostre, Hreda and the Cult of Matrons. London: Bristol Classical Press, 2001. 63.


List of Many Gods West Write-ups

If you wrote about your experiences or typed up the text of your presentation at Many Gods West and it is not on the list below, leave a comment and I’ll edit this post to include it.

Texts/audio of offerings/rituals/presentations:

  1. Contributions to Skaði’s Shrine Room Prayer Box
  2. DeoMercurio: Kalends of August ritual handouts, script, etc.
  3. Finnchuill: Becoming Placed – Part I
  4. Heimlich A. Laguz: Dreaming, Death, & Memory: Sketches for a Heathen Cosmology (audio with powerpoint slides)
  5. John Beckett: Preparing the Way of the Gods
  6. L. Phaedras: Engaging with Anonymous Spirits – Part I; Part II
  7. Morpheus Ravenna: Deep Polytheism: On the Agency and Sovereignty of the Gods (keynote address)
  8. P. Sufenas Virius Lupus: Opening and Closing Rituals
  9. Rhyd Wildermuth: What Do They Mean?
  10. Sean Donahue: Restoring Life to Death

Report-backs:

  1. Brennos Agrocunos: Pagan, Polytheist, or Both? Why Labels are Sometimes Important
  2. Danica Swanson: Reflections on the Many Gods West conference
  3. DeoMercurio: Report-back from Olympia! Part I; Part II; Part III
  4. Dver: We were filled with frenzy (Dionysos ritual)
  5. Ember Cooke: Many Gods West – Friday; Saturday day; Saturday night; Sunday afternoon; Closing and Aftermath
  6. Éirinn nighean Brìghde: Many Gods, Many Blessings
  7. Finnchuill: The Many Gods West Report; Pictures
  8. Fjothr Odinsdottir Lokakvan: Many Gods West; Snow in Summer (Skaði shrine)
  9. Gwion Raven: Many Gods West – Many Reasons to Attend
  10. Heathen Chinese: Many Gods West
  11. Jason Mankey: Many Gods, Many Paganisms
  12. John Beckett: Many Gods West
  13. L. Phaedras: Many Gods West – Part I; Part II; Part III
  14. Nicstoirm: The Experience; The People & Panels; The Hopes
  15. Niki Whiting: Many Gods, Many Peoples, Many Experiences
  16. P. Sufenas Virius Lupus: Many Gods West 2015: A Success!; Other Rituals at MGW; Sessions at MGW; Earth Goddesses Uprising
  17. Rhyd Wildermuth: The Land Across The Water (Matronae ritual); Dahut At the Floodgate
  18. Syren Nagakyrie: Many Gods West: Magic and Liberation in the PNW
  19. Tempest: Many Gods, Many Minds, Many Truths