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.”

Living in Season: My Climate

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Constitution Gardens during Canada geese overwintering

Pondering Washington D.C.’s climate, I constructed my own Wheel of the Year for living in season. Spring begins “Tulip Tree Blooms” in March and continues with “Cherry Tree Blooms” at the end of March to the beginning of April (the time of the official Cherry Tree Festival). April and May are “Humid Blooms.” June is “Wet Summer,” and July through September, “Tropical Summer. Autumn is be split into October, “Hot When Leaves Turn Color,” and November -December, “Cool When the Leaves Fall.” Mid-January is “Thaw” and End-February is “Pussy Willows.” This is how I live in sync with my climate.

Why would I want to do this? How does “living in season” help a person? We have seasonal cycles – times when we are active, and times when we become sick. Some people have winter blues, while others have spring fever. In subtle and not-so-subtle ways, the seasons shape people’s lives. Living in artificial time means that people neglect or are unaware of their own cycles. No one can be a machine that goes at a constant steady state. People have down times and flat times. Living within the natural rhythm of “slow time” enhances both the physical and mental health of a person.

Living in season can be a time when we look forward to cherry blossoms or falling leaves playing in the wind. The month of May for me is a time of review where I am in my life. Summer is a time of going to the pool and reading. I am the most active in the fall. Around the winter solstice, I am at my lowest and must focus intently on self-care. Having little rituals for each cycle helps to remind me of the joy and satisfaction that nature brings.

Living in Season: The Eight-Fold Year

ndIshtar-star-symbol-encircled.svgI was introduced to the “School of the Seasons,” when I encountered the Eightfold Year of the Neo-Pagans (Wheel of the Year). Before that, I, like many other people, automatically adhered to the U.S. civil calendar. Summer started Memorial Day (around May 27), high summer – the Fourth of July, and the end of summer – Labor Day (around September 4). Fall lasted until Thanksgiving in November, when the holiday season began and continued to New Year’s Day. Winter was the next day and continued until Easter, when spring arrived. This was unsatisfactory to me since the delineation of the seasons seemed arbitrary. Since it did not fit the climate that I lived in, I felt out of sync with the natural world and living out of natural time.

Dividing the year into eight equal parts seemed to me a better way to follow the cycles of nature. The Eightfold Year starts with Yule at the winter solstice. The longest night and the returning of the light is commemorated. Imbolic (cross quarter – February 2), a time of restrained joy, celebrates the first signs of spring. Ostara, at the spring equinox, honors spring. Beltane (cross quarter – May 1) focuses on fertility in all its forms. Midsummer, at the summer solstice, commemorates the longest day and the coming dark. Lammas (cross quarter – August 1) is the first harvest. This festival celebrates the waxing and waning of the plant world. Mabon, the autumn equinox, focuses on the descent of Queen Persephone into the Underworld and the coming winter. Samhain (cross quarter – October 31) is the time of the Ancestors.

The Eightfold Year seemed to be more in sync with the actual seasons of my climate. However, I had several problems with it. First, it is man-made, and therefore arbitrary in deciding natural cycles. Gerald Gardner, the founder of modern Wicca, and Ross Nichols of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids (OBOD) based this Wheel of the Year on their romantic ideas of ancient Pagan festivals in Britain.

The second problem with this Wheel that it follows the climate of Britain. I live in Washington D.C., which is in the humid subtropical climate zone. Our seasons consist of mild winters from December/January, a windy dry March, the hot and humid springs of April-May, and tropical summers that extend from June into October. Fall usually runs from mid-October to end-December.

However, the Eightfold Year is an elegant way of discovering the actual cycle in the natural world. Dividing the year into segments of six weeks gives shadings to each of the seasons. This is an excellent start to reconsider how to live in each season. It can be adapted to the climate that one lives in. As Roman Polytheist, I do not celebrate the Neo-Pagan festivals. However, I do appreciate the approach to constructing a Wheel of the Year.

Monotheistic Filter: Redefining God(s)

Monotheism has embedded in people’s minds that God is always good and always rational. He cares about individuals and humankind. Under the watchful eye of God, everything happens for a reason. This ratifies the person’s importance in the mundane world.

Sociologists Christian Smith and Melinda Denton coined “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism” (Note 1) in 2005 to describe the beliefs of American teenagers. They define this term as:

1. A God exists who created, ordered the world, and watches over human life on earth.
2. The God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in “The Bible” and by most world religions.
3. The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.
4. The God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life, except when this God is needed to resolve a problem.
5. Good people go to heaven when they die.

This is reflected in Polytheism, in the following ways. Everyone must have a special relationship with one God. Because of this, other people bemoan the lack of having a Patron. Moreover, a number of Polytheists only develop a relationship with one or two Gods, ignoring the rest. In each case, the God in question watches out for them, without expecting reciprocity.

The most striking example in Polytheism are the Moralistic Therapeutic Deities Who were the Norse Gods, Loki and Odin. In Tumblr postings, their God-Spouses (usually female) focus on how these Gods will meet their needs. They write about their importance to Odin or Loki (or Both), and how much He cares for them. These God-Spouses have no other relations with any of the Norse Gods.

Other examples are the blog sites of “Naturalistic Paganism” and “Humanist Paganism” which are directed towards Pagans who do not believe in the Gods. The bloggers, at those sites, regard Polytheism and Monotheism as the same religion, with One God in many forms. Written for Marxists, “Gods and Radicals” have bloggers who regard their Gods as devoted to the Marxist cause, while all other Polytheists (and their Gods) are the Capitalist enemy.

Meanwhile, “The Valkyrie Squad” of Tumblr reviews blogs, and lists only those they deem safe for Pagans and Heathens. They write that “racism, sexism, misogyny, ableism, homophobia and trans-phobia will not be tolerated.” My opinion is that The Valkyrie Squad functions similar to the Roman Catholic Church who had the Index Librorum Prohibitorum (the List of Prohibited Books). This group of self-appointed and unknown people with only screen names have decided that the Polytheist Gods should be comprised only of their particular ideas.

Note 1. R. Albert Mohler Jr., “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism – the New American Religion.”

Molher, R. Albert, Jr., “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism – the New American Religion,” The Christian Post. 18, April, 2005. Web: http://www.christianpost.com/news/moralistic-therapeutic-deism-the-new-american-religion-6266/

The Monotheistic Filter

The Monotheistic Filter

What is The Monotheistic Filter?

In her blog, “Gangleri’s Grove,” (Note 1) Galina Krasskova explains that people are shaped and informed by nearly 2000 years of Monotheism. She calls this shaping, the Monotheistic Filter. In her opinion, The Filter is a sentient being that feeds off humanity. According to Krasskova, The Filter works tirelessly against the Gods, to retain Its hold on people.

Easy to describe, The Filter is hard to define. I have experienced It as an aspect of the Monotheistic Gods (God). (Note 2) In trying keep his power, He uses the Filter to disable and dissuade people from challenging Him. He needs people to continue to believe in redemption and salvation, which makes them dependent on Him.

Religion can be divided into “revealed” and “natural.” In revealed religions, God transmits his knowledge and expectations through prophets. Holy texts such as “The Bible” are the official record of these revelations. Meanwhile, God is transcendent and beyond all physical laws. To interact with Him, a person has to give up the world and seek salvation. Religious doctrine and dogma are interpretations of this God’s requirements and desires.

In contrast, natural religions like Polytheism arise from people’s interactions with the world. The Gods and other Spirits are immanent and live in this world. They are accessible to people through divination and offerings. The relationship between humans and the Holy Powers is one of reciprocity and mutual respect.

Before modern people can develop a Polytheistic mindset, they need to know the workings of The Filter. It spreads through groupthink (Note 3), which colors what people think and believe to be true. The prism that truth is determined by is filtered through others and the culture they live in. The group teaches people to how to cherry pick for “truth.” By collecting certain stories and discarding others, people form their belief systems in accordance to groupthink. This is how The Filter burrows into people’s thought processes.

Notes:
Note 1. Galina Krasskova, “Radical Polytheists or Happy Fucking New Year to You Too.”“Radical Polytheists or Happy Fucking New Year to You Too.”

Gangelri’s Grove. 5 January 2015. Web: https//krasskova.wordpress.com/2015/01/05/radical-polytheists-or-happy-fucking-new-year-to-you-too/

Note 2. Monotheism has multiple Gods, all male, and all specific to each Monotheistic religion (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam).  The Filter is an aspect of all these Gods united.

My experience with the Filter has been one of pain. I was thrown out of bed when I started this essay. As I continued, I suffered from strained calves. The Filter is nasty to those who defy It.

Note 3. Groupthink occurs when a group reaches a consensus by minimizing conflict. Outside or alternative viewpoints are not allowed for the sake of group harmony.

Nature Mysticism, Atheists, and the Numinous

Little marrow type pumpkin and flower.

Little marrow type pumpkin and yellow flower.

Before I became a Polytheist, I was a Nature Mystic. I felt a oneness with the world, since I enjoyed all things in nature. From my experiences, I knew that the earth is sacred. Since I had close encounters of the numinous kind, I gradually moved from Atheism to Theism.

By their nature, mystical experiences are altered states of consciousness. They are the neurochemical responses of the brain to outside stimuli. What makes the neurochemical response a transcendent one is when someone gives it meaning. A person may place import on a “supersensory” response by seeing the earth as “the Holy Body that we are all a part of.”

The Atheists who are Pagans often confer meaning to the world by science. However, by calling themselves, Nature Mystics, they have elected to enter the metaphysical realm. Nature Mysticism is a non-theistic religion with a belief in the numinous. It is the spiritual underpinning of the deep ecology movement.

Therefore, I ponder how some Atheists who are Pagans reconcile their beliefs of only science can determine the Truth with that of Nature is holy. I wonder how someone who discounts the supernatural can have the transcendent experiences that they often write about. The human places meaning on to what is sacred and holy. Science cannot do that. How does a person reconcile the two?

As a Polytheist, I am outside the norm of Western society, which is a secular one that has humans at the center of things. This society places a high value on science and cultural progress. A belief in many Gods is considered a throwback to a primitive past. Perhaps, that is my answer – in the society that we both live in, Atheists who are Pagans as the norm. They can believe in both without worrying about being congruent.

Embracing the Supernatural

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I confess that I believe in UFOs of the space alien kind. At one time, it was an irrational fear of mine since I firmly thought that a UFO would abduct me. Although I live in the city, I still clung to this absurd fear. It inhibited my movements, keeping me awake at night. I decided to end my torment and get help.

While in therapy, I was presented with several choices. I could believe that UFOs were real but the odds of being abducted by one was nearly nonexistent. I could set up ways to prevent being abducted such as carrying a flashlight. I could decide that UFOs did not exist. I could interpret UFOs as a metaphor for hidden traumas. I could think that my mental illness manifested itself as a fear of UFOs.

I decided to make peace with the UFOs and move on. I did resolve several traumas arising from childhood that I had submerged. I admitted that my fear was silly and debilitating. At the end, I still believed in UFOs but viewed them differently. Now, they add a bit of mystery to the world.

Because of my experiences in resolving my thoughts about UFOs, I understand mental illness more clearly. Therefore I have problems with any Atheist who is a Pagan asserting that the Truth lies only in the reality of science. They usually add that believing in the supernatural is mentally unhealthy. A belief in “literal gods” is a cause for concern since that is rooted in the synapses of the brain. In other words, the supernatural is only the figment of one’s imagination. Because none of it exists, the only path to Truth is through science.

This philosophy is known as “Scientism. It states that science alone can determine the truth about the world. I find this to be very limiting, since, for me, the world is beyond human understanding. Moreover, this philosophy is self-annihilating because it posits that only scientific claims are meaningful. That is self-contradicting since science cannot confer meaning on anything or any idea.

Along with a belief in Scientism, many Atheists who are Pagans also espouse Humanistic Naturalism. According to this philosophy, humans understand and control the world through the scientific method. What occurs to me is that this centers all things on humans to determine how the world should be. That is an awful burden to bear especially if other Pagans do not agree with the assessment that the world is needs to be saved. Since many Pagans have other priorities, it becomes a cause of anger and frustration for these particular Atheists who are Pagans.

As for me, a belief in the supernatural means mental health. I do understand how a belief in the supernatural can be held in suspect. I grappled with my fears of UFOs as being malevolent. My imagination fed into my fears and prohibited me from living a full life. However, for many people, imagination and play lead to a more rounded life. A world without UFOs is a sad, empty one.

Gods of the Month: February

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In February, Romans prepare for the coming of spring by purifying themselves, their homes, and their regions. “February” comes from februum (purgation), and the februa (expiatory rituals). Ceremonies for the Dead abound, since a part of purification is fulfilling the obligations to the Dead. For example, the Lupercalia and Quirinalia have specific purifications rites as a part of their rituals. In addition, the Terminalia and Fornacalia are a part of the worship of the Di Parentes (Parents). Meanwhile, the Feralia focused on all the Dead and the Parentalia on the Lar Familiaris (family spirit).

For Roman Polytheists, the focus on the Dead puts them outside the norm of Pagans, who usually follow the Wheel of the Year. For these Pagans, Samhain, held in October, is when the Dead walk the earth. Meanwhile, Imbolc, which is held in February, is the fire festival of Brighid. This time of restrained joy focuses on the returning of new life. In contrast, for Romans, February is the time that the Dead walk freely amongst the living.

Fornax and Quirinus

The Fornacalia is held between February 5 and 17. At this time, in ancient Rome, people brought grain to the communal ovens to be parched in the ancient manner of their fathers. Fornax, the Goddess of Bakers and Ovens, was invoked to keep the wheat from burning. The last day of the Fornacalia is the Quirinalia, also known as “The Feast of Fools.” This is the time that people who delayed bringing their grain came to fulfill their civic duty. Modern observances involved making bread from scratch, and making offerings to Juno Curitis (Juno of the Curia (Wards)).

Quirinus is thought to be the deified Romulus, and represents the Romans in their civic sense. “Quirites” is what officials addressed Roman citizens as. In their military capacity, Romans were called “Romani.” Gods of the Month: Fornax and Quirinus

Di Parentes and Di Manes (The Dead)

The Parentalia starts February 13 and runs through February 21. The Caristia on February 22 officially ends this period of venerating the Dead. During this time, the Lupercalia and Feralia are held. Each ritual focuses on a different aspect of purification, families, and the Dead. The Parentalia is a private ceremony that the family does to honor their dead. The Feralia entails visiting the graves and making offerings. The Caristia is a family feast, where all quarrels between family members are settled. Family unity is then cemented with the household Lars. God of the Month: Di Parentes and Di Manes

Faunus and Inuus

On February 15, the Lupercalia is held. Traditionally, sacrifices were made at the Lupercal Cave in Rome, where the She-Wolf nursed Romulus and Remus. This was followed by the Lupercii (young men) running through the streets striking women with the februa (goatskin whips). This was to insure fertility in the women. Traditional Gods of Fertility, Faunus and Inuus preside over the Lupercalia. Modern observances entail prayers for purification and fertility, the cleaning of the house and self, and offerings left in secluded areas. Gods of the month: Faunus, Inuus, and the She-Wolf of Rome

Terminus

The Terminalia, held on February 23, honors the God of Boundaries. It is a time of purifying the land and redefining the boundaries between homes. The “beating of the bounds” which entails walking around the perimeter reestablishes the boundaries for another year. Cakes and wine are offered to Terminus during this activity. God of the Month: Terminus