Saturday, May 14, 2011

Hestia's Oath--a short ritual play

Scene opens with Zeus sitting upon the high seat at Olympus. He holds the aegis across his lap.
Hestia, Goddess of Fire enters and walks toward Zeus.

Hestia: Greetings, Brother Zeus, Lord of all Olympians!
Zeus stands to greet her.

Zeus: Greetings, dear Hestia, First and last born among us. To what do I owe the pleasure of your visit this day?

Hestia: Long have I tended the Flame of the Olympians.

Zeus: (nods head) Aye, you have done wonderful work for us.

Hestia: Thank you. As I am sure you know, Poseidon and Apollon have both asked my hand in marriage.

Zeus: So I hear! (Places his hands on her shoulders) You must be so happy. Either of them is lucky to have you, should you bless them with your love.

Hestia: And therein lies my trouble. You see, my heart already belongs to another.

Zeus: Ha! (Claps hands) Well, tell me then, dear sister, who has won your love?

Hestia: Brother, I wish not to wed Mighty Poseidon nor Wise Apollon, because my heart belongs among the men and women of Earth.

Zeus: Is it a mortal whose love you seek?

Hestia: (Shakes head) No, Brother. I wish never to marry and to remain a maiden all my days.

Zeus: You know what you ask me...

Hestia: Yes, Zeus. I know, and I am prepared.

Zeus: So be it. (Zeus holds out the aegis and Hestia places her hand over the head.)

Hestia: So by the River Styx do I swear:
Henceforth shall I remain maiden-fair,
Untouched and pure as the Fire I embody,
Unscathed by the torment of love,
Unhindered by lust and desire.
My love shall be the Fire.
My life shall be the Fire.
My soul shall be the Fire.

Zeus: Esto. (They embrace. He keeps one hand upon her shoulder as he speaks definitively.) Hestia, you have served well among us, freely and with love. If you will not allow a God to love you, then I shall make it so that all beings will love you, Fire Maiden of Olympus. Your domain shall be the hearth fires of all temples, all sacred shrines and all fires among mankind. All first offerings shall go to you, and you shall be Chief of the Goddesses in the hearts of mortals. No offering shall come to us that does not pass through your Flame or travel upon the smoke of your Fire, for all fires shall be your fires. The richest portions shall go to you, and the essence shall be sent to the Us. Do you accept this charge?

Hestia: (Smiles broadly) ‘Tis a gift, not a charge. May I serve well the houses of Gods and Men. Thank you, Zeus, Mightiest of the Olympians.

Zeus: So be it!


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Polytheism and Faith Questionnaire, Part 3

Have you had experiences that confirmed for you that the Gods and Goddesses are real- that they exist and want us to know Them?

I’ve actually had many and continue to have them all the time. I have always known there were beings other than us out there. I have been “filled with the Holy Spirit,” “drawn down the moon” and “channeled” my fair share of them. The striking thing about asking the Gods and Goddesses to show you they are real is that they all will do this if you ask them. The problem is not that they don’t want to know us or won’t reveal themselves to us. All too often, the problem is we are not able to hear them when they call.

Since you probably want something anecdotal, I will tell you a bit about my first encounter with Persephone. It was not long after I had decided to create a home shrine of sorts for doing habitual work. I had been calling out to the Gods in general and asking if there was any among them who were interested in a more personal relationship, a patron relationship. I got out my tarot cards, because I have always been a bad listener, and waited. I sang for a few moments, and then I felt that familiar heaviness that always comes just before a Deity enters. As the room grew thick and still, my candle flames even shrinking in the weight, I reached out as if in slow motion and pulled three cards, the Two of Swords, the blank card, and the Hermit. The imagery of this particular deck portrays Persephone in her Underworld guise, cut off from the Upperworld. I immediately was drawn to tears, and I knew her to be with me and wanting to relate with me. I realize that not everyone will find this to be proof that Persephone exists, nor that she wants to have a relationship with the likes of me, but this is about what I hold to be true, where my beliefs lie and in what I put my faith. I have faith that Persephone is my patron and that she cares about me, helps me and guides me as I walk the mortal realm.

How would you describe your relationship(s) with your Goddesses/Gods?

Most of them are very similar to the relationships other folks have with their Deities. I meet them in prayer with reverence and respect, and they meet me in like fashion at my hearth or wherever I happen to be when I call to them. Our relationships are defined by *ghosti, a reconstructed Proto-Indo-European word that embodies the guest-host relationship. The spirit of *ghosti, the word from which the English words “guest” and “host” have both evolved, is one of reciprocity. We give offerings, whether tangible ones such as incense, poured libations or oils, or non-material, such as honor and praise, song, poetry, etc., fully expecting those gifts to be returned to us in the form of blessings in our lives. I fully believe this to be true and approach the Kindred with the expectation that I will be met with the same love and devotion that I give to them manifest as wisdom and blessings in my life. So far, I have yet to be disappointed!

Are there any questions about polytheism that you personally grapple with?

We all have our own doubts that plague us along our paths. Mine revolve around whether or not I am heard. Why would a God or Goddess want to interact with me? What makes me significant enough to obtain their attention? What could I possibly offer in return? My best answer is fragility. Just as a tiny baby or a precious artifact is delicate and fragile and must be handled with care, so, too, do humans appear to the Gods. We are fragile and because of this, we are more precious. The fact that we are vulnerable to the world in which we live and yet survive so brilliantly is potentially an impressive feat to one who may have grown to take the longevity of their existence for granted. But, I digress. I may not know the why’s, but I do not that for whatever reason, it is real and it works.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Polytheism and Faith Questionnaire, Part 2

How did you first come to know the Goddesses/Gods as separate and distinct deities?

It was a long time coming for me. I grew up in a relatively Christian household. My father was more agnostic than Christian and held the Native American spirituality in high esteem, though this was not something he discussed with me until I was an adult. My mother did what she was taught to do, had us baptized, let us explore and answered our questions to the best of her abilities, but religion/spirituality was never very important to them. It was, however, important to me, and I began the quest for my religious affiliation at fourteen.

I started with the various Christian churches in my hometown, and eventually, I ended up converting to Catholicism at sixteen by personal choice and much to the chagrin of my father. It was infective, and I brought half of my family, including my mother, my grandmother, my aunt and all three of my cousins with me. I was a part of a highly charismatic church group, known for speaking in tongues, ecstatic trance and long worship sessions with a full worship band. The music was the main focus of my time with this group. I would stand up and sing for hours while worshippers literally prostrated themselves, wept, danced, sang and otherwise channeled the power of the Holy Spirit. This was when I knew the Gods to be real as well as when the Gods began becoming distinctly separate entities.

Over time, I began to forge a strong relationship with Mary, Mary Magdalene, Hagia Sophia (as the Greeks called the Holy Spirit, “Holy Wisdom”) and a myriad of Saints. None of this was questioned until I began separating the Father and the Son into separate entities, for that was how I experienced them. I had several lengthy discussions with the Priests, who had even called in other Priests to try to dissuade me from this line of thinking. “There is only one God!” they would cry.

I would counter, “But I know them and they are not. And what of Mary? And Mary the Magdelene? Are they not Divine?”

“No, they are Blessed. Only God is Divine,” they would answer.

“But what of the Holy Spirit,” I would ask. “Surely she is Divine in her own right?”

“The Holy Spirit is the breath of God,” they would say. “And the Holy Spirit is not a ‘she,’ though you may think of this as the feminine aspect of our one true God.”

“But what of this line in the bible that says, ‘Thou shalt not have any other Gods before me.’ Doesn’t that prove that there is more than one God?” I would ask, usually to be met with shaking heads and even an exasperated “hands in the air” gesture as though all was lost. I did many, many “Hail Mary’s” and “Our Father’s” to atone for my line of thinking, but the more they made me pray, the more contact I had with each separate Deity, the more I knew them as separate, distinct beings.

Finally, I decided one day while doing yet another set of “Hail Mary’s” to just ask her. I mean, she of all people would know. So, I did just that, “Holy Mary, Mother of God, I come to your feet to seek knowledge that you, in your wisdom, may hold. Will you tell me, are the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit as one?” I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit surrounding me, for I had come to recognize her presence quite readily. I felt the distinct presence of Jesus beside me as I had come to know him, beginning and ending all things in His name, calling to Him as a messenger Deity, and agent between me and the Father. And when I felt the Father above me, I knew. There was no need for words. I was surrounded by three distinct beings, and I knew there would never be a way to convince me otherwise.

Once I had my confirmation, my proof, I stopped arguing with the Priests. I knew they believed they were right, and perhaps that is how they know their God, as one distinct Being. Over time, as I learned all that I could from the Catholic Pantheon, for that was what it became for me, I slowly began to walk away, to find a place where others were who saw the same things that I did in the world around us. It was with a heavy heart that I left the Catholic Church, because I had loved the Gods so much; however, one doesn’t spend years in the arms of the Holy Spirit without learning how to hope.

How did you first come to polytheism as a religious path?

After I left the Catholic Church, I floated for a while, not sure what to do with myself. I still had a strong spiritual life, and I had proof that there was a World full of Gods out there; however, I didn’t know how to go about meeting them. I mean, one doesn’t walk into a bar and say, “So, I left the Catholic Church and am looking for some new Gods to worship. Know any you could introduce me to?”

My roommate in college was a non-Christian, much to my Catholic dismay. I went to school at a small, all-women’s Catholic school and was very surprised to find that my roommate was not Christian, let alone not Catholic! Needless to say, she and I butted heads quite a bit! She used to read tarot cards while I read the bible. I secretly think she did it to irritate me, but she’ll never admit it. Over time, I even let her read the cards for me. She was the one who planted the seeds of “organized polytheism” in my head, because a few years later when I left the Church, I kept thinking of her.

It wasn’t until I met a woman who passed through Columbus just long enough to change my entire life that I fully accepted polytheism as a definitive path for me. She was very Wiccan, Dianic, to be exact, in that she believed there to be a Goddess with a male consort God, emphasis on the Goddess as superior. I attended an Imbolc rite with her in honor of Brighid, the Celtic Goddess of the Hearth, Healing, and the Arts, and I can use no other words to describe than life-altering. Not only was I introduced to a format for interacting with the Gods I knew to exist, I was also introduced to a number of other people, real live people with jobs and families, who were serious about their spiritual life and had a world view similar to mine. It was almost like permission to experiment, and the rest is history. That was in February of 2002.