God of the Month: Vortumnus (Vertumnus)

Little marrow type pumpkin and flower.

Little marrow type pumpkin and yellow flower.

Called The Changer, Vortumnus can be considered the God of Seasonal Change. He causes the plants to swell into vegetables. He turns the grapes purple and ripen the cherries. His influence becomes obvious in August, when the signs of autumn begin to show. At this time, the vegetables are ready to be picked. In the change from winter to spring, the focus is on Liber and Libera, who fertilize the plants. (Vortumnus does bring the warmth of spring.)

Vortunmus is the Protector of Gardens. His wife, Pomona, is the Goddess of Fruit and Fruit Trees. Together, They watch over the fruits and vegetables that we eat. During the Vortumnalia (August 13), I give thanks to Vortunmus for the produce from my grocery store, especially for the heirloom tomatoes.

Salve Vortumnus!
The Changer
The Turner
Your touch causes
The cucumber to ripen
The cherry to be sweet
You bring the changes of each season.
We feel You in the Autumn
But You are always there
The breath of warmth of Spring
The chill of Winter
Turning, turning the seasons one by one.
Salve Vortumnus!

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Polytheism and Spiritual Pollution

Mention “miasma,” “pollution,” or “purity” in regards to Polytheism, and many Pagans will take umbrage with these terms. One reason is that Christianity has redefined these Polytheistic terms to match its theology. Since many Pagans are converts from Christianity, they will often think of these concepts in those terms. However, “miasma,” “pollution,” and “purity” had different meanings in Polytheism.

Paganism does have its version of “pollution” and “purity.” Pagans discuss “positive” and “negative” energies. People will cleanse themselves and their spaces routinely to clear out negative energy. For example, crystals are often cleansed before using them. Also, before rituals, many Pagans will smudge themselves to purify themselves and to clean out the ritual space.

Miasma and spiritual pollution are different from both negative energy and Christian sin. Negative energy powers destruction, sickness, and other such things. It can be removed by laughter or positive thinking. Sin is removed by baptism and confession. Miasma, which is specific to Greek Polytheism, is a “spiritual pollution that prevails over all, it is not an ‘evil thing.’” Continuing in his essay, Markos Gage says “Miasma is therefore something we incur in life, everyday life.” (Note 1)

In Roman Polytheism, castus (the adjective) means being morally pure, pious, or ritually pure. Piety (pietas) is maintaining the right relations between people, their Gods, their families, and their communities. Castitas (the noun) is the purity of the ritual and the participants. (Note 2) That means everyone must be physically and mentally cleansed before conducting a ritual. Before a ritual, people perform ablutions by washing their hands and asking that the water purify them.

An error conducted in a ritual is a spiritual pollutant. It negates the ritual and risks the anger of the Gods. It is not that a God will smite someone, but is to maintain the Pax Deorum, the Peace of the Gods. Religious negligence leads to divine disharmony and the turning away of the Gods. This leads to the loss of protection for the family, community, and the individual.

The closest thing that Roman Polytheism has to Christian sin is nefas. This can be defined as anything which is contrary to divine law. Nefas is a failure to fulfill a religious duty. Nefas is a willful act of religious violation.

Polytheists regard the world to be neutral, which differs from Christian theology. St. Augustine stated that the world is both corrupt and corrupting. Therefore, humanity lives in a Fallen World. To Polytheists, the world is both clean and dirty. Kenaz Filan explains, “The world is a clean flowing stream, and miasma the sewage dumped into the water. We clean the stream by filtering that sewage or by redirecting it…to where it can be properly contained.” (Note 3)

Why focus on purity and pollution? When a person prays, divine, or perform any other sacred act, they are engaging with the Holy Powers. There is a doctrine in U.S. law called, “Clean Hands” (also called “Dirty Hands”). (Note 4) The plaintiff cannot have the judge participate in an illegal act. One example is a drug dealer cannot sue to have his stolen drugs be returned. Another is suing the hit man you hired to kill someone for failure to do their job. As Judge Judy says on her TV show, “the courts will not help anyone with dirty hands.” I believe that in our relations with the Gods, we can think of purity and pollution in those terms.

Notes:
Note 1. Markos Gage, “Answers About Miasma,” from “With Clean Minds and Clean Hands,” Galina Krasskova, ed. P. 51. Markos Gage is a devotee of Dionysius and an artist.

Note 2. The Romans have a Goddess – Lua – who protects all things purified by rituals and for rituals.

Note 3. Kenez Filan, “Miasma” from “With Clean Minds and Clean Hands,” Galina Krasskova, ed. P. 69. Kenez Filan is the author of several books including “Drawing Down the Spirits (with Raven Kaldera)”. He is an initiated Houngan Si Pwen.

Note 4. Clean hands: “Under the clean hands doctrine, a person who has acted wrongly, either morally or legally – that is, who has ‘unclean hands’ – will not be helped by a court when complaining about the actions of someone else.” From The ‘Lectric Law Library, http://www.lectlaw.com/def/c202.htm

Works Used:
Galina Krasskova, “With Clean Minds and Clean Hands”
L. Vitellius Triarius, “Religio Romana Handbook.”

Divining by Chipmunks

brown squirrel on branch of tree

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I first learned to divine by studying animals and noting what they did. I would comment on what they did, and if it was abnormal. Also, I documented anything that happened afterwards when I saw the animal. I wanted to establish any correspondences between the animal and an event. Included in my journaling were their natural history, folklore and myths.

Although I live in the city, I do see a variety of animals on a regular basis. Some like flies are more common than others like opossums. I see many squirrels but few chipmunks. Since chipmunks prefer living in hilly and rocky areas, they are not regular inhabitants in urban areas. The ones that I see in the city live under bushes by rock walls. I have seen some chipmunks sitting on fences or climbing tree trunks. Therefore for me, seeing a chipmunk is a memorable event. When one pops out of a bush, I note it.

Seeing this striped little mammal is always a surprise for me. Sometimes they will freeze, and then zip off with their tails up like exclamation points. At other times, they chirp loudly, and scurry under parked cars. Rarely, do I see one with their cheeks full or gnawing on seeds. Sometimes, after surprising each other, we would both freeze, and stare blankly at each other.

After taking enough notes, I finally sorted out my chipmunk sightings. Usually one or two meant a package in the mail. A chipmunk with seeds stuffed in their cheeks indicated money coming my way. One gnawing on seeds predicted bills in the mail. This association all stemmed from the chipmunk’s propensity to store seeds.

One sunny fall day, I was swarmed by chipmunks. They popped up on fence posts and under trees. They were everywhere I went. I could not escape the rabid furriness that enveloped me. I counted twenty of these chittering, scampering rodents. Unnerved by this experience, I went home to escape the horror. Then I got a call from my bank telling me that I had overdrawn by a substantial amount. After that, I associated chipmunks with money and finances.

Nanna-Suen, Father Time of Mesopotamia

crescent moon

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One of the most ancient of the Mesopotamian Gods, Nanna-Suen is the God of the Moon. Considered by the Babylonians to be one of the Younger Gods, Nanna-Suen measured time, offering the wisdom of the stars. Since He knows the past as the future, He is the God of Foresight who guides diviners (especially astrologers). One of the Seven Who Decrees the Fates (Note 1.), Nanna-Suen is the God of Wisdom. Since He illuminates the darkness of the night, Nanna-Suen protects people from harm.

I have known Nanna-Suen for years, but not his name. The moon has always been male to me. This God seemed to be content to have me worship Him on a basic level of following the moon’s phases.

For this year from the autumn equinox until the spring equinox, Nanna-Suen has asked me to carry the moon in my pocket. I have a collection of “moon hearts” in lapis and other semi-precious stones to use. As I carry the “moon hearts,” I am to listen to the whisperings of Nanna-Suen. He has asked me to sleep under the moon, so that He may come to me in my dreams.

The Names of Nanna-Suen
The New Moon: Asimbabbar
The Crescent Moon: Suen
The Waxing and Waning Moon: Inbu (the Fruit)
The Full Moon: Nanna

When the moon is dark, Nanna-Suen is thought to be dead. This is the “Day of Laying Down” (Udnua). During this time, He goes into the Netherworld to judge the Dead.

From the various hymns for Nanna-Suen

Father Nanna, Lord, conspicuously crowned,
Prince of the Gods,
Father Nanna, grandly perfect in majesty
Prince of the Gods;
Father Nanna (measuredly) proceeding in noble raiment,
Prince of the Gods
Fierce Young Bull, thick of horns, perfect limbs,
With lapis lazuli beard, full of beauty,
Fruit, created of itself, grown to full size,
Good to look at, with whose beauty one is never sated;
Womb, giving birth to all, who has settle down in a holy abode;
Merciful forgiving Father, who holds in his hand,
The life of the land;
Lord! — (the compass of) your divine providence,
(vast) as the far off heavens, the wide sea,
is awesome (to behold).


When you have measured the days of a month
When you have reached this day,
….
When you have made manifest to the people
Your “day of laying down” of a completed month,
You grandly judge, O Lord, law cases in the Netherworld, make decisions superbly.
…. On the broad firmament of heaven…
You spread light, the darkness You illumine,
….
Upon your splendidly rising new light,
Full of loveliness, a goodly sight,
Waits for You in joy the great Lady of Kiur, Mother Ninlil.

Note 1: The Seven are Anu, Enlil, Enki, Ianna, Ninhursaga, and Utu as well as Nanna-Suen.

Babylonian Month: September/October

ndvolcano

The Babylonian calendar is divided into two halves – the vernal and autumn equinoxes. They usher in the periods of disharmony between the Sun and the Moon. From March to September, Utu, the Sun, is triumphant, and from September to March, Nanna-Suen is more visible. At the spring equinox, the Akiti Se-kintu (the Festival of the Harvest) is held. At the autumn equinox, it is the Akiti-Su-numun (the Festival of the Seeding). In the month of September/October (Note 1.), the focus is on the Autumn Equinox and the coming darkness.

Nanna-Suen
At the Akiti-Su-numun, the emblems of Nanna-Suen are cleaned. Hailed as “Father Nanna, when You sail (across the sky) like a ship on flood waters,” the Moon God loads his Boat with gifts of trees, plants, and animals. He sails from city to city bringing the people fertility. For this reason, The Boat of Nanna-Suen also receives offerings. The Great Offerings to Nanna-Suen are made at the New Moon (the first of the month), the Quarter Moon (seventh), and Full Moon (the fifteen). Modern Sumer Reconstructionists will bake cupcakes for the Great Offerings. (Note 2.)

Kinunu (Brazier Festival)
From the eighth to the eighteenth days of the month, the Kinunu (Brazier Festival) is held. For this festival, people wear their new clothes. Using fresh olive oil, they light their braziers to keep burning throughout the Kinunu. The First Fire of the coming cold and early darkness is honored.

Duku (Festival of the Sacred Mound)
At the end of the month, the Duku (Sacred Mound) festival is held. After feasting with family and friends, homage is made to the Ancestors. Lamentations are read and milk is offered to Endukuga (Lord of the Sacred Mound) and Nindukuga (Lady of the Sacred Mound). They are the Great Ancestors of the Elder Gods, who lived at the Duku. (This was the place of Heaven and Earth before the two parts were separated by Enlil.)

Inanna
At this time, the Descent of Inanna is re-enacted to ensure that the land is fertile. Her Descent into the Underworld is the hinge between the dry and rainy seasons. Inanna dies but is rescued. Since someone has to replace Her in the Underworld, Dumuzi, Her Shephard Consort, goes down for six months. His sister, Geshtinanna, Goddess of Autumn Wines, takes his place the other six months.

The Descent of Inanna

God of the Month: Inanna (Ishtar)

Note 1: In Sumer, this month is called “Duku”, and in Babylon, “Tairitu.”
Note 2: The Great Offering was originally cattle, beer, milk, honey, and grain. Today, cupcakes made with grain, honey, and milk are offered.

Lessons from The Magic Resistance: Rituals and Trauma

time lapse photography of four black metal cooking wares

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One effective method of healing collective trauma is through ritual. People who are demoralized and powerless need to feel dignity and strength. Besides doing that, rituals can empower people, provide an identity and reform a culture. They allow for grieving and loss, and for hope.

In discussing how to shift the generational trauma from the present to the past, Patricia Robertson, in “Connect With Your Ancestors,” recommends holding ceremonies. These ceremonies can become a visceral creation of the new way of being for the community. The best ones do this by connecting the community with the Ancestors, thereby releasing their trauma.

Robertson writes that ritual allows for being present in the body. “Ritual is a wonderful way to create movement in the soul.” (Note 1.) Since people are not independent of their ancestors, the ritual releases the transgenerational trauma. The added dimension for the community is connecting bodies with minds and bonding in healthy ways.

Roberts Masters in “Bringing Your Shadow Out of the Dark,” says that caring for collective grief means de-numbing each person. By turning towards the pain, the individual grief can be walked through. In a group, people can open themselves to the collective heartbreak. Once that happens, the ritual aids them to move beyond it, since there is now a place to hold the communal pain.

The Pagans of the Magic Resistance have conducted public rituals. The most well-known is the “cursing of Donald Trump,” first held on February 24, 2017 (and continuing monthly). Michael Hughes, who wrote the ritual writes, “For the majority, the spell is liberating and energizing, a reclaiming of personal power and an affirmation of their deeply held values…It has become a spiritual balm and a monthly reminder of our commitment.” (Note 2.) He refers it to creating an ecology of souls. (Note 3.)

By using magic, Progressive Pagans have sought to move beyond their rage and grief at Donald Trump. However their rituals have made them more bound to Donald Trump. Instead, they have created a collective of fear and hate for their community. For example, each ritual that my friends do focuses on destroying the “Bloodsucking Ticks Currently Draining the Body Politic Dry (Note 4).”

With that in mind when Polytheists create their ecology of Gods, Spirits, Ancestors and humans, they need to focus on love. Although many religious traditions of Polytheists were erased, they can still create rituals to convey their adoration of the Gods. Many rituals have been lost, but can be recreated by going deep within to the Ancestors. The deeper, the more the Ancestors can inform the living as to how to proceed. With each ritual, Polytheists can create a new culture for their communities.

Notes:
Note 1: “Let Your Tears Flow,” Peaceful Possibilities: Calgary (CAN). 2017. P. 6.
Note 2: “Magic for the Resistance,” Llewellyn: Woodbury (MN). 2018. P. 45.
Note 3: In his various interviews, Hughes says that Pagans and polytheists live in an ecology of souls. In his assessment, that means that everyone should take political action to stop Trump and the others who abet him.
Note 4: Although this description could apply to a multitude of people, my friends only mean Republicans.

Works Used:
Baack, Gita Arian, “The Inheritors: Moving Forward from Generational Trauma.” She Writes Press: Berkley (CA). 2016.
Hughes, Michael, “Magic for the Resistance.” Llewellyn: Woodbury (MN). 2018.
Masters, Robert Augustus, “Bringing Your Shadow Out of the Dark.” Sounds True: Boulder (CO). 2018.
Robertson, Patricia Kathleen, “Connect With Your Ancestors.” Peaceful Possibilities: Calgary (CAN). 2017.
“Let Your Tears Flow,” Peaceful Possibilities: Calgary (CAN). 2017.

Other Postings in This Series:

Lessons from the Magic Resistance: Collective Trauma

American Pagans and the Pursuit of the Millennium

Lessons from the Magic Resistance: Collective Trauma

moby_dick_p510_illustration

After the defeat of Hilary Clinton for U.S. President in 2016, many of my Pagan friends became deeply depressed. In fact, a couple of them contemplated suicide. Rather than killing themselves, they started “The Magical Battle for America,” patterned after the “Magical Battle for Britain” during World War II. More joined the budding “Magic Resistance” which went nationwide, with spells to curse Donald Trump and restore their vision for America. What happened to my friends was that they suffered a deep trauma.

Michael Hughes (Note 1) in his “Magic for the Resistance” writes “Something had emerged from our shattered collective psyche as we comprehended the enormity of the unspooling Trumpian dystopia – a deep and widespread desire to employ our spiritual energy as an act of resistance.” (Note 2) Hughes explains “We are living in a time of great turmoil at the edge of history. A time in which liberal, democratic values and ideas that have withstood wars and despots are under attack by rising tides of authoritarianism, nationalism, xenophobia, and racial supremacy.” (Note 3)

When Trump won, it upset the social and moral order of Progressives Pagans. They took it for granted that Progressivism was the future of the United States. According to American Progressivism, society progresses ever upward and onward creating a world without limits. People would evolve into spiritual beings, who then fashion the ideal paradise. (Observers have referred to this belief system as “The Church of Progress.”) The Progressive Pagans believed that everyone subscribed to this dream of a higher good.

My friends’ culture of a Progressive America was assaulted by Donald Trump becoming President. His election destroyed the integrity of their America. Feeling betrayed by their fellow citizens, they lost faith in American institutions. Progressive Pagans now believe that democracy is fragile. According them, Nazism and fascism has taken its place.

Trump, in his person, represented the disfranchisement of American cherished institutions and values. In fact, one of my friends told me that Trump had bribed the Electoral College to be President. She based this on the fact that Clinton won the popular vote.

Ronald Eyerman, professor of sociology at Yale University, said that the individual trauma that occurred from the 2016 election became a collective experience through social media. This forged a new communal identity of “wounded” Progressive Pagans. This collective became coalesced around “cultural trauma,” according to him. (Note 4) Feeling unsafe physically and psychologically, they sought through magic to regain what was taken from them.

Polytheists have also experienced cultural and collective trauma. Theirs is from the deliberate destruction of the European religions. Although the forced conversion of Europeans happened centuries ago, people still today have the trauma enshrined in their souls. (It has been established that societies who experience cultural trauma give to their descendants, signifiers of this trauma.)

One sign of this for Polytheists is people latching on to various Gods, whether they were worshipped by their ethnic group or not. As people deal with their ancestral trauma, they will stop collecting Gods. Until then, eclectic and “soft” Polytheism will be prevalent.

Notes:
Note 1: I cite Michael Hughes since he is the most vocal and accessible of the “Magic Resistance” group. His views are the same as my friends, who also know him personally.

Note 2: “Magic for the Resistance,” Llewellyn: Woodbury (MN). 2018. P. 42. Emphasis is his.

Note 3: ibid. p. 1.

Note 4: “Culture” can be defined as a “context of symbols and meanings that people create and recreate for themselves through social interactions.” “Collective trauma” is a “loss of confidence of people in themselves, their family, their community, in the structures of government, and the ways of nature.”

Works Used:
Baack, Gita Arian, “The Inheritors: Moving Forward from Generational Trauma.” She Writes Press: Berkley (CA). 2016.
Hughes, Michael, “Magic for the Resistance.” Llewellyn: Woodbury (MN). 2018.

Roman Gods of the Month: September

low angle photography of building

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For Romans, September is the month of sacred games to honor Jupiter Optimus Maximus. Later in the month, the Capitoline Triad, the Gods of State, is honored with a feast. The harvest is finished and now is the time to relax and to focus on matters of government.

JUNO REGINA

On September 1, Juno Regina, the Queen of Heaven is honored. In 392 BCE, following a vow, Marcus Furius Camillus raised a splendid temple to this Goddess. Using the rite of evocatio, Camillus promised Uni of Veii that if She allowed him to conquer her city, he would build a temple to Her in Rome. Agreeing, Uni left the Etruscan city to become Juno Regina of Roman. She rules the State with Jupiter Optimus Maximus and Minerva as the Capitoline Triad.   God of the Month: Juno Regina

JUPITER OPTIMUS MAXIMUS AND THE CAPITOLINE TRIAD

The Ludi Romani are held for Jupiter between September 5 -19. These sacred games (ludi) began in 566 BCE. The Romans held parades, races, and theatrical performances. Contrary to popular belief, there were no gladiatorial combats during the Ludi Romani.

The feast for the Capitoline Triad, known as the epulum Iovis (Feast of Jupiter), is held September 13. Statues of these Gods are dressed, wined, and dined. Traditionally only the Senators and magistrates attended this feast.

For my own practice, I hold a feast inviting the Gods to my table. At the feast, I thank Them for wise government for my community. I pray that the Gods may continue in their counsel. I make offerings that we may experience justice and fairness for the coming year. God of the Month: Jupiter

The Capitoline Triad (Jupiter, Juno, Minerva)

The Shadow: Dragons of Alchemy

gray dragon statue

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In his writings, Dennis Hauck, the alchemist, says that the meaning of dragons in alchemy depends on the context they appear in. In general, dragons represent chaos i.e. the First Matter. Their power lies in the primordial life force.

A dragon in flames is Calcination, the first step in alchemical transformation. (Calcination means “reduced to bone by burning.”) This is the beginning of the Black Phase, which can be represented by the Black Dragon. During Calcination, the self is reduced to ashes through applying its internal fires.

Several dragons fighting is Putrefaction, the final cleansing of impurities, (i.e. “Purgation of the Stone”). The dragons are fighting over whether the ego continues to live or dies off. For the person involved, the dragons are confronting the inner reality of the person’s shadow, the darkness within. Eventually, the essences of the ego and the shadow are reabsorbed unifying the parts of the person.

The two dragons, in combat with each other, are usually a winged and a wingless one. The winged dragon is the spiritual principle, while the wingless one, the material principle. The spiritual is volatile, while the material is fixed. The two dragons are brought together in the Coagulation Process, the final stage of alchemical transformation. During this process, the spirit becomes the body, and the body the spirit. Now, the person becomes transmuted into the Great Work.

This is the Red Phase, which could be represented by the Red Dragon. The two dragons merge into the Red Dragon of the First Matter, who is now balanced. As the new Red Dragon, perfection is achieved as the Ultimate Matter.

The ouroboros, a dragon eating its own tail, is the union of the opposing energies. Once the shadow has been assimilated, there is wholeness. In alchemy, the ouroboros is the flow between Sulphur and Mercury, which dance together for eternity.

In Jungian Alchemy, the dragon is the Shadow, the “dark twin.” Before transformation can begin, the dragon has to be faced. In “Deadly Powers,” Paul Trout explains that the dragon carries the fear and the shame of the self. This is the deadly power that could destroy a person. Therefore, slaying the dragon is to triumph over personal fears.

However for alchemists, the object is to “rest in the arms of the dragon,” i.e. face the dragon and merge with it. As the original chaos, the Black Dragon has to be confronted. Once your fears putrefy, you then absorb the chaos inside you. Now, unleashing the dragon, you allow it to purify you, until dragon disappears. When that happens, the dragon has merged with you, transforming both of you into one perfected being.

Works Used:
Bartlett, Robert Allen, “Real Alchemy: A Primer of Practical Alchemy.” Ibis Press: Lake Worth (FL). 2009.

Debus, Allen, “Prehistoric Monsters: The Real and Imagined Creatures of the Past that We Love to Fear.” McFarlan & Company: Jefferson (NC). 2010.

Hauck, Dennis William, “Sorcerer’s Stone: A Beginner’s Guide to Alchemy.” Crucible Books: Sacramento (CA). 2013.

—, “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Alchemy.” Alpha Books: New York. 2008.

Trout, Paul, “Deadly Powers: Animal Predators and the Mythic Imagination.” Prometheus Books: Amherst (NY). 2011.