Giving offerings and sacrifice are vital to Kemeticism and religions like it. It is telling that the first prohibition placed on the ancient religions was to outlaw sacrificing and offering to the gods. Kemeticism isn't a religion where you can say you agree to a set of beliefs in your head, and then do nothing. If you're not actually at least offering, if not observing feast days, you're missing out. It's through actions, not thoughts or beliefs alone, that we bring ourselves closer to the gods.
While debate rages on in other corners of the web about what kinds of Gods we do or don’t believe in, I have been thinking about the way that we worship whatever/whomever we hold dear, sacred, and holy. I decided a series of posts that tackle this question from a deeply personal point of view would be useful to me, and perhaps to a few readers as well. I have also been thinking about shadows, storytelling, and ceremonies-so it seemed natural that I would start there.
You may have heard, as it was not without its own bit of controversy, that the Temple of Witchcraft has bought property in Salem, NH, and is doing a fund drive for our parking lot. Why start with a parking lot? Simple: no parking lot, no temple. To gain the town's approval, a religious organization in a residential zone requires a paved lot with adequate space, lighting, and drainage.
Beyond the parking lot itself, some have asked why do Pagans, Wiccans and Witches need a temple at all? Aren't we meant to practice solitary, or in small groups in people's homes, or outside? And if I'm not in the Salem, NH, area, why should this even matter to me? All important questions and here are some thoughts in response to many of the discussions I've had with people over the last few months:
Land Based Traditions – Most Pagan and Witchcraft traditions have a spiritual link to the land, and believe in the presence of not only globalized entities, but local land spirits. Divinity is expressed through the land itself yet, as a whole, we have little in the way of land based resources and places of worship and education. We think of ourselves as stewards of the Earth, but yet how much land do we care for directly? I've been publicly serving the Pagan community for the last twenty years, locally and internationally, and the vast majority of our gatherings are in Unitarian Churches, Masonic Halls, and metaphysical book shops. All wonderful opportunities, but none are ideal for a community to develop a relationship with one place, and the land it is on. There is not often a chance to hold ceremonies outside. Our gatherings change places often. A permanent site allows us to build cohesion and community in a different way....
This post is the first of a new series, a series on places where worship took place in ancient Hellas. In future installments, I will talk about the household, about temples, about caves, springs, and other special places. A little while ago, I spoke about nature religions, and how I feel Hellenismos is not a nature religion in the Neo-Pagan sense. Because I like to make life difficult for myself, I will now write a post which basically says that the ancient Hellenes practiced much of their worship in nature, partly in sacred groves. Before reading this post, it might be good to read the post about Hellenismos and nature religions first.
For me, the most famous of groves is one written about by Sophocles, in Oedipus at Colonus, amongst others, the grove of the Erinyes, which is entered by a spiritually polluted Oedipus, for a rest, and to relieve his suffering. It is here that his daughters tend to him and perform sacrifice to the Erinyes in his name:
Being a devotee of *cough* "lesser-known" Deities does occasionally suck. In my case, while I honor well-known Deities such as Hermes and The Muses and Artemis and Hekate, I am also very devoted to The Charites.
The usual response to that statement is "who?"
If I said "The Graces" instead, would that help?...
It's been a while, but I'm back again, lovely readers! I'm currently hard at work on my second book (amongst other projects, as you'll see below), but I will certainly continue to post here as and when I can. Comments and topic requests always welcome.
At this time of year, it's easy to understand why our ancestors (both actual and spiritual), those wise women and cunning men, were considered remote, unusual, untouchable, even fearsome.
As Autumn moves into Winter here in the UK, we feel our natural, animal pull to dig in, hibernate, take time within the darkness to assess the previous year and anticipate the time to come - but I doubt any busy society has ever really allowed that to happen, except when they have no choice. Stoke up the fire, head to the pub or communal house, light and laughter against the outside world.
(Photo - 'Autumn in the New Forest', from Glastonbury Goddess Temple)
Every month, the members of Neos Alexandria study three different Deities for our Gods of the Month Club. Originally, the Deities were limited to the official Hellenistic-oriented pantheon of Neos Alexandria itself. This year, though, members agreed that we could start looking into Deities outside ancient Alexandria, allowing for some very lively discussions (is Brigid three Goddesses or a trinity?) and comparisons (who knew Athena and Kali had so much in common?).
Early on in the GMC program -- though I can't remember exactly when -- I made a capital-P Promise that I would write at least one poem in honor of each Deity for that month. So far, I have managed to keep that promise. And, I have to admit, I have been very surprised to discover that it is not my matron and patron Deities that I am most excited to write for (though I will take any chance to pen a poem for Hermes or The Charites), but rather those Deities with whom I have only a passing familiarity or no familiarity at all.
I remember the month when Neith was selected. My initial response was "Um ... she's like the Egyptian version of Athena, right?" Well, not exactly. The two Goddesses do indeed have some areas of interest (like warcraft and weaving), but they are distinct Deities with their own personalities and histories. I learned a lot about Neith that month, came to appreciate Her as a Goddess in Her own right, and was inspired to write two very different cosmogonic poems in Her honor....
A cross-post this week, if I may - between here at my first blog 'home', and the wonderfully eclectic 'Witches & Pagans' site (because if you can't 'moonlight' as a Pagan, then who can?).
I am very aware that I haven't written anything at either location for a couple of weeks. I could give excuses - ultimately, the days have flown past and life has been more important. I'm sure we all know how that goes. Instead, take a wander with me, if you will.
Regular readers know that one of my favourite places for inspiration is as I walk the dog across the hilltop where I live. This evening I wandered the streets, looking out at the fierce clouds parting after an intense rain and thunder-storm just a few hours ago, the remnants of a rainbow, and the slightly 'stunned' feeling of a normal, modern, country village after a violent and unavoidable incident of Nature. The grass is rich and green, the snails appear to have made a small bypass across the path outside one particular row of houses, and the occasional early bat is swooping overhead.