Not All War Gods Are the Same

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Modern Pagans tend to regard the Gods as an aspect of a singular entity. For example, the Goddess religions treat the Goddesses of various pantheons as traits of the Great Goddess. Meanwhile, Nigel Pennick in “Pagan Book of Days” writes “The month of March is sacred to the Roman God Mars, whose equivalents are the Greek Ares and the old sky God of central and northern Europe, Tiu or Tiwaz. In northern and western Europe, this deity is known as the Celtic God Teutates and as the Norse God Tyr.” Pennick considers these disparate Gods to be the same “God of War.”

Lumping different Gods together is a long ingrained habit of modern thought. Living in today’s monotheistic culture indoctrinates people into thinking that only one God has ever existed.

Also, people have separated from the natural world through first Christianity and then by science. They now live in their minds, which is a monoculture in itself.

By divorcing people from their Ancestors (and later the natural world), Christianity forced Pagans to give up everything in order to be dependent on the church. It was a concerted effort by the early Church Fathers to flip the perception of how the natural order of life should be. They established arbitrary structures of how humans and the universe should be.

Eventually, the forced perception of nature being dependent on humans created cracks within Christianity. With the Protestant Reformation came the rigid dependence on the written “Word of God.” This was first formulated by Martin Luther as the sola scriptura (by scripture alone). Religious authority should come only from the Bible, which is God’s Word. Now among many Pagans, the written word is now the final arbitrator of truth.

Since the only thing that mattered became the written word, oral traditions were neglected,. This further extracted people from their world, with the Dead becoming figments of the imagination. This resulted in absolute reliance on the “lore” being evident among today’s Pagans. However, religion grows and changes through interaction with the natural world.

Meanwhile, Gnostic Christianity introduced the idea that humans with their own divine spark are trapped in physical bodies. Once gnosis (personal knowledge) is awakened, the divine spark will go free. Gnostics uphold that the material world is suspect and polluted. This theology evolved into the modern belief of the New Age religions: “We are spiritual beings in human bodies.” This detaches the person from the material world completely.

However, the idea that all “War Gods are the same” runs counter to nature. Consider English, which is used as a world-wide language. There are differences in dialects among native English speakers. For example, in the United States, “soda” and “pop” can mean the same thing – i.e. a “soft drink.” But “soda” can also mean “tonic water.” Asking for a “soda” could either get one a “soft” or a “hard” drink, depending on the region.

In my experience, the less people know or want to know, the more they tend to lump things together. Take snakes for example. There are nineteen families of these reptiles. However, most people think that all snakes are the same i.e. “a snake is a snake is a snake.” Not knowing the differences between snakes can kill you. The king and coral snakes resemble each other with yellow, black, and red stripes. The bands of the two species are in a different order. One is a venomous snake, while the other is a constrictor. Expounding on that further, it is critical to be able to identify the species of venomous snakes. The anti-venom serum (venom antiserum) used to treat snake bites is unique to each species. A cobra’s venom differs from a coral snake’s venom. Since time is critical in stopping the spread of the venom, a prompt identification is crucial.

Returning to the notion that “War Gods are the same,” it now makes little sense to think that. Even within a particular pantheon, the War Gods are all different. For example, the Babylonians have Inanna, the Goddess of Love, riding into battle leading the armies. Ningirsu (Ninurta), Lord Plough, is a God of War and also a God of Farmers. Nergal, whose symbol is the fly, brings death, pestilence and war.

The modern world has rendered humans from nature. Once people expected to encounter dragons and fairies when they went out their front door. Now divorced from nature, humans have forgotten their place in the web of life. The ecosystem of the cosmos includes humans as well as Ancestors, Gods, and Others. To reenter the ecosystem is to see the Gods as disparate Beings.

Further Reading:
Claude Lecouteux, “The Return of the Dead”
Nigel Pennick, “The Pagan Book of Days”
Lynn Picknett & Clive Prince, “When God Had a Wife”

Carving in Stone: Washington National Cathedral (U.S.)

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Darth Vader Gargole

Living in Washington D.C., much of what happens is already recorded in history. However, there are parts of the City that still hold their mysteries close. One of those places is the Washington National Cathedral (Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul.)

Dedicated in 1907 by President Theodore Roosevelt, this Gothic Cathedral has been continually worked on by various stone carvers and masons, ever since. Officially finished in 1990, the Cathedral is still being labored on, since there are grotesques and gargoyles still be carved. Also, after the 2011 Washington Earthquake, they have endeavored to repair the damaged done to the Cathedral.

Throughout the many years, the stone carvers developed a deep sense of intimacy and connection to the Cathedral itself. As Master Carver Vincent Palumbo noted, “The sculptor creates it (the work), but we give it life. When we carve it in stone, that is the resurrection.” Many of the carvings around the building reflect this closeness. One gargoyle depicts Master Carver Roger Morigi as the devil with his stone working tools, while another one is of a mushroom cloud coming out of his head. Both are in reference to his bad temper. (People who do not know this, often think that the mushroom cloud is a commentary of the modern age.)

Other signs of the intimacy between the Cathedral and the stone carvers are the numerous carvings of their exploits. One grotesque shows Palumbo in a truck with a flagpole. This memorialized the time when he hit the Cathedral’s flag pole with his pick-up truck. At the north side of the nave, there is a flying buttress that remains uncarved. This is to commemorate in stone the death of Stone Carver Joseph Petti, who died there, when a scaffolding gave way.

The stone carvers share the story of a fellow carver who worked there in the 1950s. He commuted daily from Baltimore, Maryland to Washington D.C., and therefore few people had met his family. When his wife died, he wanted her to be buried in the Cathedral. (Other people who had been interred there were President Woodrow Wilson and Helen Keller.) He asked the Dean of the Cathedral Francis Sayre if his wife could be also. After being told no by the Bishop, Dean Sayre offered his apologies to the stone carver. Dean Sayre said that the man told him that it was already taken care of. According to the Dean, the masons had mixed the ashes of the wife of the stone carver into the mortar. She holds several stones together atop the south transept. Rumor has it that after the earthquake, she and the stones are still intact.

Although Dean Sayre verified authenticity of the story, several elements make it a legend. The names of the stone carver and his wife are unknown. When the Dean was asked about the story, it was forty years after the fact. Furthermore Dean Sayre only stated what he surmised. Palumbo, who was interviewed about his long tenure at the Cathedral, told many stories, to the reporter, about specific people. The ashes of the stone carver’s wife was not one of them. Also, the legend of mixing of the ashes of the dead into the stone mortar is a story often told about other cathedrals as well. Whether it is true or not, it remains a testament to the closeness and love of the stone carvers for their Cathedral.

Works Used.
Meyer, Graham, “Mysteries of the Washington National Cathedral.” The Washingtonian. September 2007. Web. http://www.washingtonian.com/articles/arts-events/mysteries-of-the-washington-national-cathedral/.
Ringle, Ken, “Carving Out a Niche at the Cathedral.” The Washington Post. 18, November, 1999. Web. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/WPcap/1999-11/18/101r-111899-idx.html.
Washington National Cathedral Official Web Site. Web. http://www.nationalcathedral.org/.

Picture from the Cathedral’s web site.

Why Neptune’s Dolphins: Dealing with Generational Trauma

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Odin, the Norse All-Father, recruited me into Polytheism. Since outside of Odin, no other Norse God seemed interested in me, I questioned my baffling experiences. Later I found out that there is a Group of Gods (Sekhmet, The Morrigan, Odin, Hekate, and Dionysus.) who recruit people into Polytheism. (Recruiting Gods will often leave the person once they become a Polytheist.) However at the time, I was frustrated and disappointed at having no rapport with anyone.

During my struggles, I attended different rituals held by other Polytheists. When I went to a Roman one, I met Neptune. During this rite, I felt a 1,000 volts of electricity coursing through me. My head was on fire and my hair stood on end. Neptunus Pater (Father Neptune) made Himself known to me. I was welcomed into the Roman Pantheon of Gods. I felt as if I had come home. Later, I realized that the Roman Gods wait before introducing Themselves to practicing Polytheists.

It turns out that my family had a long relationship with Neptune. For generations, they thrived in union with the sea. Mariners, boat builders, and fisher folk received their livelihood from the ocean. However, like all reciprocal relationships, both sides require sacrifices.

The rupture with Neptune came when my grandfather’s father lost his entire family in a horrific storm. They were fishing on Georges Bank in the Atlantic at the time. Following the news, his sorrowful mother made him (her youngest) promise never to go to the sea again. She cursed it for destroying her life. Afterwards, she would chide laughing or happy people with, “Remember you were born to die.”

After that, his father took to farming and was miserable. He passed that misery onto his family and to future generations. Since we are not independent of our ancestors, this transgenerational trauma becomes a part of us. The sickness in my family came out as abuse and addiction.

Since ever I could remember, I disliked dolphins. I could not abide people gushing over these ill-tempered bullies. Dolphins symbolized the deep trauma of my family losing an entire generation. Instead of saving the drowning men, the dolphins acted as psychopomps guiding them across the water to the Afterlife. Neptune had wanted his offerings from my family.

After years of living inland, my father settled us next to the sea. Then the healing could begin. In middle age, my father discovered joy in puttering about in his small sailboat, a blue J. Sailing in the Long Island Sound between New York and Connecticut, he had fun. Sailing with him was an exercise in not caring if we were lousy sailors or not. We had finally made peace with the sea.

Repairing my family’s relationship with Neptunus Pater has been healing for me. The trauma that my family carried is now dissipating. My relationship with Him now is one of sacra gentilicta – keeping rites for the God of my family. It is my sacred duty to make offerings on behalf of my family including the Ancestors lost at sea. I have weekly devotions to Neptunus Pater, and an annual rite during the Neptunalia in July.

Ritual is an ideal way of healing transgenerational trauma. It offers a container to hold the grief. By reconnecting with Neptunus Pater, He allowed me to move the trauma from the present to the past. Stoicism had allowed my family to survive this tragedy. We never mentioned their names again. I released the trauma through radical inclusion by acknowledging those lost at sea.

Meanwhile, I have also made peace with the Dolphins, His Messengers. I forgave Them for not saving my family, and understood that guiding my family to the Afterlife was equally as important. The name of the blog is our reaffirmed relationship with each other.

“Sea Fever” by John Masefield (1878 – 1967, English)

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.

Works Used

Patricia Kathleen Robertson, “Connect With Your Ancestors.” 2017. Peaceful Possibilities Press: Calgary (CAN).
“Let Your Tears Flow.” 2017.
“Step Into the Light.” 2019

The Multiple Souls of Polytheism

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Polytheism differs from Christianity in that instead of one soul, a person has multiple souls. The Romans have the genius, renamed by Christians as the Guardian Angel. Meanwhile, the animus, which is the dynamic force of personality, can exist outside of the body. One soul dies with the body, while another one survives to form its own body. When a person dies, one soul will merge with the ancestral soul, and another soul will go to the underworld. The physical (body) soul that lives on after death is called a revenant.

This is a difficult concept for many people to grasp. Western culture sees a person’s soul as a singularity. Moreover, the revenant is no longer believed to be real. Since the Dead have been relegated to being phantoms. Modern science has reinforced the idea that ghosts are figments of a confused mind.

The Christian Church deliberately redefined the concept of “soul,” thereby merging all the souls into one entity. Now, when the body dies, the soul merges with God. The Church dismissed the existence of revenants. Tertullian, St. Augustine, and Gregory the Great developed and promoted the concept of the soul being a singularity. Their aim was to eliminate the Pagan veneration of the Dead.

Tertullian claimed that Plato had asserted that the soul remains in the body after death. However Plato said that after death, a soul does continue to exist. Moreover, he divided the soul into three parts – logos (mind), thymos (emotion) and eros (desire).

In Polytheist theology, it is important to note multiple souls are the norm. For example, the Egyptians believed that everyone had nine souls. They are: kha: the body, ka: the living life force, ba: the personality, sekhem: the transfigured life force, khaibit: the shadow, akh: the transfigured soul, sahu: the spiritual body, ib: the heart and ren: the true name of the person.

In Norse Polytheism, the litr is the body’s vital force. The hame, the “astral body,” works with the lich, the physical body. The flygja is similar to the Roman genius. The kinfylgja is the ancestral soul.

It is important to note that the texts written by the ancients are often interpreted by people who are steeped in the monotheistic culture. Therefore, references to multiple souls may be thought of as aspects of a single soul. However, the idea of multiple souls still manifests itself in modern thought. I consider Freud’s theory of the ego, id, and super-ego to be one example.

TREE MAGIC: ENDING ANCESTOR WORK

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To officially end my Ancestor work, I held a ritual to release the Ancestors back to the Underworld. To do this, I asked the white poplar assist me in this. Since Hercules wore the white poplar when he went to the Underworld, I believed that this tree would be willing to help. (I have a family connection with Hercules.)

On a piece of intention paper, I drew a circle with the Ogham few for the white poplar inside. I regarded this as a shield that would separate me from the Ancestors. Traditionally, the white poplar allows people float above their problems.

I held the ritual during the time the Mundus (Gateway to the Underworld) was opened. During this ritual, I burned the intention paper. As it burned, I asked the white poplar to release the Ancestors from my magic. Then, I asked the Dead to leave and return to the Underworld. Finally, I asked Hercules to guide the Ancestors back to the Underworld. Afterwards I thanked Hercules and the white poplar for their generosity.

Before doing this ritual, I was plagued with strained calves, and was in a great deal of pain. When I released the Ancestors to the care of the Gods, the pain subsided. Apparently, I had been carrying them in my body. So I was able to “float” instead of being held down.

The following is the chant I used:
I ask the White Poplar who crowned the brow of Hercules
I ask in the name of Hercules
I ask the Manes, Lemurs, and Larvae to leave me

I ask for protection
I ask for successful healing
I ask for help in rebirthing

Dear Ancestors
I love You
May you find peace and rest.

I release my Ancestors from my body
I release my sisters from my body
My sisters who died as children

May They be nourished in the Underworld
May They be protected in the Underworld
May They be welcomed in the Underworld

I thank the White Poplar for her help
I thank the White Poplar for her protection

I thank Hercules for his help
I thank Hercules for his protection

I thank that Manes, Lemurs, and Larvae for leaving
I thank that Manes, Lemurs, and Larvae for troubling me not.

I am grateful to the White Poplar
I am grateful to Hercules

May my body be free to hold me
May my body be free to love me
May my body be me

I welcome my body to hold me.
I welcome my body to love me.
I nourish my body for me.