I have been asked “What path do you follow?” I answered “Love.” I have been asked “What rituals do you do?” I answered “The ritual of ecstasy and Oneness.” In my life of following rigid teachings and the proper way to conduct rituals, I have come to encounter that all of these forms are devoid of soul. They cannot replace the Love that exists in my heart for the Goddess. To expect an empty ritual or a certain teaching to bring you Gnosis is like expecting an empty plate to fill itself with the food of your desire and satiate you. Put aside the trappings, and fall in love with the Divine. Only then can your heart be filled with forgiveness, healing, and compassion.
Polytheism simply means “Many Gods.” The term encompasses the belief and worship of many Gods and spirits, something which was quite common with our ancestors (and with many contemporary indigenous societies). But this belief implies much more than the simple matter of how we view the Divine, because belief is something that is rooted with our emotional center. It is anchored in the central nervous system, thus dictating how we view and interact with the world around us. Polytheism is plurality: the way we appreciate the diversity of color, race, ethnicity, philosophy, and the Gods. People these days try to say “I see no color,” hoping such rhetoric will make them as non-racist as possible. But by not seeing color, we are robbing people of who they are and trying to create a comfortable umbrella – a facade – of what they are not. we are attempting to pigeonhole all of us into a monochrome vision that overlooks our uniqueness, our worth as an individual, and what we mean to the world around us.
Polytheism is a return to seeing the color and luster of each person, and creating a paradigm whereby they are seen for WHO they are, and WHAT they are. We may have things in common, but we are who we are without allowing those similarities overshadowing that our DNA has worked in making sure that no two humans are completely alike. Even twins have some differences, however subtle.
The Gods, in our approach, are beautiful. They are awesome, and They are terrifying. They are beyond our comprehension, and yet even in Their sphere They are limited. I understand that my Gods are NOT omnipotent, NOT omniscient, NOT omnibenevolent, and NOT omnipresent. I also understand that my Gods are NOT the same, but unique and different. How dare I rob Them of who They are?
Hekate is NOT Diana.
Apollo is NOT Lugh.
Epona is NOT Rhiannon.
Cerridwen is NOT Ishtar.
Aphrodite is NOT Inanna.
Zeus is NOT Thor.
Poseidon is NOT Manannan Mac Lir.
But what They are is for each person to experience themselves. And herein is where my approach to ritual is quite different from other peoples.
Ritual is Love
When I was eclectic, ritual was a pain in the gluteus maximus. I had no idea what I was doing or why. Sure, some books tried to tell me about the intricacies of circle casting, calling the quarters, and invoking Deity. Some more “advanced” books tried telling me about the Occult energies that streamed through and why the circle was cast the way it did. But no one told me WHY we did ritual. What was the purpose? “Walk Between the Worlds?” What the fuck did that mean? I’m sure it has merit for someone somewhere to do ritual mechanically like that, and to make sure the altars have every correspondence that you need so we know what Sabbat we’re celebrating and why. Such is what I all the “Neo-Wiccan” approach to ritual, or even “eclectic Pagan.” Although, to be fair, I think everyone is eclectic in some form.
But as I have personally grown and changed in my faith, I have become a polytheist: a believer in the Gods of my own Temple, and those of others. While I might not necessarily serve cultus to other Gods, I have my own that I have fallen in love with (even if They don’t love me back, which I’ll explain in a later blog post). So my rituals are my love letter to my Gods.
Yes, my love letter. Every symbol in the center of my Temple is meant to convey a reminder of Who THEY are, and what I can offer to Them in return for Their awesomeness. I have no shame in my love letters: the perfume of my incense rising, the burning of the offerings which I have painstakingly taken time to create, the ikon on our shrines being just a flirtatious image of the unparalleled beauty which They behold, but can somehow tease something from me: a point of connection between the two of us.
My Gods are alive, They are real, and They are more than I can ever say. In my desperation to feel a glimpse of Their daimon, I will often starve, deprive myself, cry, bleed, sweat, and cry guttural tones of ekstasis. I want to go back to the Time of my Sacred Ancestors, and dance for Them. I want my joy to overflow like intoxicating wine, and I want Them to be pleased with what I have before me for Their unrivaled Glory. The auguries and oracular possessions are Their mercies poured out so I can but taste Their whispers in my ear.
In my love letters, I ain’t stirring, summoning and calling up shit. I am asking, offering, asking, flattering, offering and worshiping. I worship because They are worthy of worship. I have no issue groveling on the ground before Them, because They are mightier than I. They have rulership over spheres I can scarcely imagine. They are my passion and my yearning.
Eirene kai Hugieia!
(Peace and Health!)
I was eclectic Pagan at one time. Ritual for me was a pain in the gluteus maximus, and I didn’t consider it my responsibility to understand the mechanics because I gave two shits about Circle Casting. Generic Pagan formulas were the way to go, and we tried to keep everyone happy and comfortable.
Except, I think we managed to piss off some Gods and spirits along the way with our ignorance.
In Polytheism, ritual isn’t about the people. It’s not about chanting and raising a cone of energy over a cauldron while you ask your Deities to give you your every wish. Fuck no. Ritual is about responsibility and duty. It’s about becoming part of a cycle of exchange between your Gods, your spirits, and your mortal community. It’s about keeping your obligations fulfilled, and understanding what each God and Goddess wants that is unique to Their tastes and likes. More than that, it’s about hearing Their Voices, and going through the bloody mess that is redoing an entire ritual if They weren’t happy to begin with. If it means chanting for hours or days, depriving yourself of food and enduring extreme blood, sweat and tears to call upon the Gods, then so fucking be it!
My Temple, the Temple of Hekate: Ordo Sacra Strix, is a Temple that blends aspects of the Western Mysteries and Classical Hellenic Polytheism. As a Polytheist Temple in a Pagan-majority area, we are struggling to find cohesion with our Pagan community when it comes to the finer aspects of ritual. There’s a planned Pagan Pride Day approaching in our area, and it seems that most of the folks are comfortable with catering to the assumed stereotypes of the masses as to what constitutes a “Pagan Ritual.” But I have disagreed vehemently. I feel that Pagan Pride is about our Community, and fuck everyone else. I mean, as a good friend of mine brought up, you don’t see Gay Pride events watered down to appease the right-wing hetero masses. Hell nah! You get asses in your face, skimpy underwear, colorful banners, drags, and the entire Dionysian Mardi Gras thrown in yo’ face! That’s right mother fuckers: you get PRIDE!!!!
And that’s exactly my problem. Originally, I wanted to volunteer my Temple to do the main ritual event in our style. My idea was to allow the people hosting the Opening Rite do it their Welsh Wiccan style, and then the main event could be done Strix Hellenic Polytheist style. Why? Because we are NOT the same! My motto is:
Unification in Diversity!
But instead, we are being told it would be “too confusing” for non-Pagans. A “general Pagan format” should be better. Why? WHY THE FUCK WHY?!?! In Polytheism, ritual is NOT ABOUT YOU! It’s about the Gods I love and serve, and I refuse to enter into a space where my Gods and the Spirits of the land are disrespected in the name of conformity. This is the problem, and why Polytheists in the Recon/Revivalist Camps are struggling to find anything similar with their Pagan kin. I understand, and I am just as frustrated as any of them. I want to be proud to be Pagan. I want to be proud to stand with them and educate everyone – Pagans and non-Pagans alike – as to what it means to be one of us. Paganism, like Hinduism, is filled with different solitary devotees, sects, Temples, organizations and cults. And while a generic format may have worked back in the 70s, 80s and 90s, this is the 21st century. We are entering a new world where diversity is who we are. We are different, but we CAN stand TOGETHER to show the world PRIDE!
Yes, we can!
Eirene kai Hugieia!
(Peace and Health!)