Hekate’s Suppers

In honour of Her whom I serve.

It’s amazing what a question, some google time and a bit of logic can do for us.

My curiosity centered around Hekate’s Suppers, something that’s been mentioned repeatedly but casually around me (people, internet, etc.).  So I went looking for specifics and this is what I found.  Please note, this information is not properly cited and so I cannot guarantee the accuracy of any of the details, aside from those things that are simply my own experience and perception.

In case you don’t know, Hekate or Hecate is a Greek goddess of antiquity typically known as a Goddess of magic, crossroads, witches, etc.  She is also a psychopomp.

There are two points I’d like to bring to you regarding these suppers, first on the timing of them, the second on the purpose.

Most references I have found to a ‘date’ for them is on the 29th or 30th of the month.  However, this is not based upon our calendar!  Something that I think most people forget.  Using the old roman calendar (not the Julian calendar and not our modern Gregorian calendar, and boy, that was a fascinating little trip into wikipedia) led to an interesting realization.  I did not look at the ancient greek calendar given that every city-state had their own calendar and most weren’t recorded.  Besides, the early Roman calendar may well have been based upon a Greek lunar calendar.

Right, so the ancient roman calendar was largely based upon the moon cycles.  The month would start on the day of the new moon, when the crescent was first visible.  This would put the 29th or 30th of the month on the dark moon (1-2 days before the crescent would first appear).  Their calendar system is complicated but the idea that the “date” for Hekate’s suppers is actually on the dark moon seems both logical and fitting for the Dark Goddess of the Crossroads.

Second, Hekate’s suppers, classically speaking, were offerings left at crossroads.  It seems that part of the purpose of this may have been a round about way for the rich to feed the poor.  The rich people would leave offerings to Hekate at street corners that the poor would take up.  I don’t know, but it seems plausible, particularly when we remember that most offerings by the temples to the Gods would ultimately result in a feast that would feed the locals.  Often it was the only time that poor people would get meat (this is from a class I took long ago).

CORRECTION:  If you check out the comments, you will see a post from Dver explaining that while many offerings were of a nature to share with people, Hekate’s suppers do not fall in that group.  The comments also give a link to their own post which includes an explanation of where this misconception comes from.  Not that giving to the poor or the foodbank is bad, just that it doesn’t fit with offering to Hekate on the dark moon.  Now back to the original post:

Experience says that it doesn’t make sense to take a whole plate of food to a crossroads.  Instead, I would suggest two potential ways to honour Her through a supper.  One is the offering of an egg at a crossroads (though if the animals don’t get to it, the smell could be most unfortunate), the other would be an offering of food to a homeless person who was at/near a crossroads.  But as always, in the end it is your intention, will and passion that determines the purpose of what you do.  There are, of course, a multitude of ways that She can be honoured through the use of food, offerings, and crossroads.  It’s just a matter of personal choice.

Now taking this one step further, and from personal practice, Hekate’s Supper can also be an opportunity to sit down to a meal with her.  Invite her to your table, or to a setting near a crossroads, and eat your meal knowing she is there with you.  And yes, I don’t see why this couldn’t be done with any deity with a time and location suitable to their nature.

One of the wondrous things of being pagan is being able to bring the spiritual into any aspect of living.  In this case, it’s bringing deity into our meal, rather than simply leaving something for them. Truly, we are blessed.

A Pagan Tempest…Let’s Go Have Tea

Ah, the on-going joys of defining “pagan”.  I haven’t read all the recent commentary, but I have spent some time reading through linked blogs from The Wild Hunt on the topic.

There are those who focus on definitions.  What is paganism?  Who is included?  Can we even reach a definition?

Peter Dybing warns of the dangers of sliding back into the Witch Wars of yesteryear.

Much of the commentary seems to focus on the importance of being inclusive in our community.  Or in other words, for the love of any god, please don’t turn this discussion into another reason to fight amongst ourselves because when we do that, none of us win.

The debate over the meaning of pagan is not a new one and not surprising.  We’re using a single word to try and capture western magical traditions as well as religious and spiritual practices that are largely (though not exclusively) European based (whether inspired or reconstructed, I do not care).  And then, that poor little word, has to take on all “earth-based” religions (though thankfully they’re pretty much already included in my list) PLUS anyone who doesn’t identify with a specific practice in the above but feels comfortable in the pagan grouping.  It only has five letters, that poor little word.

It’s a very flexible word, letting us bend it however we wish, but somedays it and we feel the strain.

So why the big flare up of this old discussion?  Because there’s a group that we would normally assume would be with us under the pagan umbrella who don’t see themselves that way.  Drew Jacob explains there why he and those in his Temple don’t consider themselves pagan.

I wonder if the upsurge in commentary is based upon fear?  Fear that if every group and individual who sees their practice as something separate and distinct from the idea of ‘pagan’ were to leave there would be no pagan community left.  Which is a fair concern given that probably 98% of the pagan community are not ‘practicing pagans’.  Hel, what would a practicing pagan even be?  They usually, in my experience, are the earth worshipping casual practitioners-of-nothing-in-particular.  There’s not many of them, but they are usually nice people.  Most of us define ourselves in a particular faith (Druid, Asatru, Heathen, Wiccan, Thelemite, a unique label that works for us that no one else understands, etc, etc, etc) based on what we do and believe, but accept the pagan label for outside convenience and for inner community.

By agreeing that pagan is a label we can apply to all of us gives us the perfect excuse to spend time, learning and celebration with relatively like-minded individuals.

Take that away and it becomes harder to sit around that communal fire with each other that T Thorn Coyle mentions on the Wild Hunt blog.

For me personally, I will not force Drew Jacob’s group to be part of paganism.  That’s their choice.  However, his arguments for why they are not pagan did not persuade me.  One argument was that their method of practice was not well understood or comfortable for the pagans who took part in it; all you have to do is watch any relatively homogenous pagan group attend an event thrown by a different type of practicing pagan group and you’ll see the same thing.  We all get a little discomfited when we experience something that is new and different.  This does not make the new experience not-pagan, just not-familiar.

He also lists a number of specifics that his group does not do that he sees as typically pagan (though he also says that list is but a sampling).  To which I say, try working around Thelemites and Hermetics and those notions of four elements, 8 sabbats, working in circles get a sound thrashing.  Not in a ‘they are bad’ way, but in a ‘we don’t do that’ way.  ADF druidry doesn’t do circles either and they only reason we stood around in that shape was due to the convenience of speaking and seeing each other.

In other words, pagan is a broad descriptive bucket term.  And just as any material in a bucket is not the bucket itself, we don’t practice ‘paganism’, we all practice different things that can be, conveniently or not, shoved into the very accommodating bucket of pagan.

The more I type, the more I believe that this reaction from the pagan community arises from a subtle feeling of being threatened.  And the urge to bond closer together is a natural and healthy response to that.

In the end, one group wanting to disassociate themselves from the pagan bucket will make no difference to the rest of us.  The attempt to define ‘pagan’ will continue like waves of the tide.  And we will get together when and where we can to celebrate life.

It is our actions that define us and how others see us.  And my next action is to get a cup of tea.  Tense moments always go down better with tea.

The Power of Surprise Gifts (and Hockey)

So, yesterday was a Bad Day.  They happen.  But alas, philisophical equanimity rarely happens during Bad Days.

No, the Bad rules us, tearing us down, making us bitchy and cranky and ready to spew all of our anger into the perfect vessel:  hockey.

For those who missed it, or don’t care and so need the briefest reminder to understand the rest of this post, last night the Canucks (that would be Vancouver’s hockey team) won the Western Conference finals.  What that really means is that we’re now going to be in the Finals for the Stanley Cup.  That’s four wins until it’s ours for the first time.  WOOHOO!!  And last night was an absolutely freakingly marvelous game.

So I worked out some of my aggression last night via hockey.  But still was in a semi-bad mood today that was aggravated by coming down with some kind of bug (yes, I feel physically crappy right now).

I checked my mailbox (the physical one at work) and in it was an envelope.  I opened it and found a note from a co-worker, the one who had the fortune to be at Rogers Arena for the big game last night.  We’d been talking about hockey fandom and my desire for a jersey yesterday.

She hoped I’d enjoy a couple small souvenirs.

In the envelope was a poster/waybill from the event and a souvenir towel that was used at the game (we have this towel power tradition, where we wave white towels over our heads in celebration, usually of goals, see it in action on youtube).  Putting aside the wonderful mojo of that towel (it really was an intense game and a significant one), the power of the gift hit me with a heart-splitting sledgehammer.

It wasn’t expected.  This co-worker and I are friendly to each other, but not close in any sense.  So there was not even a hint of this gift possibility in my worldview.

It was a surprise, freely given, and damn near made me cry from the joy of it.  Her small gift changed my day.  I’m still sick, and still moody over a couple of things, but the balance has shifted and the world has a rosy, if overly hot, headachy, and nauseous glow.

Thank you, lovely lady, for making my day.

The Meaning of Life

Apparently I had me a smarty sounding moment back in 2004.  My boss was having a bad day and I guess he’d been muttering about what was the meaning of life, anyway.  Apparently I decided to answer that in a note I left him at the end of the day.  While sorting out some papers today I found that explanation and can’t resist sharing it:

The question “what is the meaning of life” is inherently misleading.  It asks for a quantifiable and descriptive quality to be applied to something that is by its very nature existing in realms that exist beyond the scope covered by our limited concepts of verbal communication.  It is a question of the same ilk as the mind/body problem or the nature of deity – these are questions that we want to answer the way we have been taught is proper through our western education, with formulae and charts and explanations that can be graded.

Yet life extends into dimensions we have barely started to be aware of and possibly beyond that thereby confounding any such attempt.  We have not yet been able to fully define life and so long as that definition eludes us, so will a definition of its meaning.

However, should we attempt to contemplate the mystery of life, we start to see spiralling and cycling possibilities of interconnectedness that hint at an inherent goodness (i.e. positiveness) that exists within the act of living.  At a most basic level, it can be said that there is meant to be life because life exists, on a par with saying that there is a universe because the universe exists.

But it is likely that the scope of the question being posed is of a far more narrow view:  what is the meaning of life for me living s a human being in this world at this time?  A ‘why do I exist’ style of question rather than why do any of us exist.  This type of question is often interpreted as the seeking of purpose, a questing on the part of our human spirit that needs to feel useful in order to be satisfied in its current situation.  Typically this type of seeker is not satisfied by the type of answer that is a fall out from the previous category of question:  that s/he is alive because the universe is a living, changing organism composed of a multitude of living creatures, being and experiencing, of which s/he is a part, that her/his life is simply (though necessarily) another strand in the wonderfully complex weaving of what is.

So what answer would satisfy?

Would only a quantifiable answer, one that can be described and labelled and fulfilled be acceptable?

Because when a purpose can be fulfilled, there is a meaning in that, something that only that person can do.  To say the purpose is to live, continue life through the creation of offspring and die, often seems hollow, lacking in a fullness of answer that was hoped for.  Truly, any interchangeable answer seems to be lacking for this seeker and that leads to the possible conclusion that s/he is in actuality looking for validation for their own existence, a comforting pat on the shoulder confirming that they are special, unique and that without their existence in the here and now the universe would not exist (either as a statement full stop, in the way it is ‘meant’ to exist, or simply not as it does now).

And for those seekers, my answer is that they are entitled to that pat on the shoulder for if they were not living their unique life as they are now in this moment and in this place, this universe (even though in which of the three aspects I cannot say) would not exist.  🙂

Mind Versus Magic?

This post was inspired by Episode 29 of New World Witchery in one of those random statements leads to random thoughts leads to curious wondering moments.

There is a lingering idea in the world that “a curse won’t work if you don’t believe in it”.  Not all people or even practitioners adhere to it, but I still hear mention of it now and again.  In the above episode, Cory, Laine and their guest discussed the impact of healing magic on animals and young children, young enough that the child wouldn’t understand what was happening.  In both cases it’s obvious that the healing, which was witnessed, could not have been the result of positive thinking.

What then occurred to me was that perhaps the mind could impact the situation in a negative fashion, rather than a positive one.  We know that magic is driven by our will and focus, powered by our passion.  Now let’s assume that the recipient of the healing or curse is adamantly opposed to the magical possibility.  Not just a laissez faire attitude towards magic but a complete and utter repudiation of it.

Or in other words, they put their will, focus and passion into the certainty that there is no magic that could possibly touch them.

If they were strong enough in all these components, could they counter the affect of the magic coming towards them?

It would be a form of counter-magic (making it extra funny given that it would require the same tools as magic does).

If this is the case, it could account for the ‘you have to believe in curses for them to work’ statement.  Except that the phrase has leapt to the wrong conclusion.  It’s not that you have to believe in them, but perhaps if you repudiate the very idea on a deep, strong, passionate and consistent level, it could form a natural shield that might protect the anti-believer.

What do you think?

Random strangers don’t scare as easily anymore

There was a time, many years ago, when I was young, my body unbreakable and there was no such thing as the internet, that it was relatively easy to scare the muggles.

See, even that has changed.  Back in the day we called them mundanes or cowans.  Now popular culture has infected us, not the other way around, and the non-pagans of the world are now muggles.

But I digress.

Back when, it didn’t take much to spook these people.  A little mention of magic here, a little spellcasting mutter there, and suddenly that seat on the bus was all yours.  You could make room in lineups at the movie theatre, get the last bottle of booze on the shelf…okay, that’s probably stretching it, but the idea is still there.  We were unknown, mysterious, creepy.  And there was no point in going into the differences between types of pagans.  Who would understand?

Then came today.

There I was, in the grocery line, buying a used copy of Skeleton Key (ask Cory & Laine at New World Witchery for all the hoodoo details that are in it) and frozen pizza and I end up chatting with the guy in line behind me about the movie.

Now being me, I couldn’t bring myself to refer to the practice in it as Voodoo when I’m pretty darn sure it’s Hoodoo.  Sure, it’s a teeny detail that wouldn’t matter to a muggle, but still, I felt the need to be precise in my statement.  It’s possible he misheard me, but I don’t think so, and he didn’t blink at all over the word usage and he understood what I was talking about.

In fact, he joked about having never tried that [hoodoo].  I suggested everything should be tried at least once in life.  He agreed.  And then we both acknowledged that the conversation had travelled to an odd place.

The mystique, it might be gone, or at least lessened.  The subtle unspoken nervousness that could be generated by a well placed word, gone.  The sideways glance, the shifting away, gone.  I know we’re going for greater understanding and acceptance from society at large, but, but

I think I miss scaring random strangers.

Stoner Report: Dragonfly Over Marsh

Hello!  Yes, I feel very excited about sending out a greeting.  Perhaps I spent too much time on my own these past several days.  Perhaps?  Okay, fine, I obviously did.  Further evidenced by this arguing of my multiple personalities.

Right, back to the blog post.

I’m adding a new semi-regular blog topic:  The Stoner Report

It will highlight certain stones that I’ve picked up over the years, some that are simply pretty, some that I use in more magical ways.  To kick this off I’m starting with a pretty one.  Oh, so pretty…

This is a rutilated smoky quartz, I believe.  The inclusions at the bottom strongly resemble reeds in a marsh and the flaw (or whatever the proper term is for the plane of visible crystal) about a third down from the top can resemble a dragonfly hovering over the reeds.  The piece has been cut and polished from its natural state and is about 4 inches high.

Magically it would be easy to work with this piece for connecting with or working with some aspect of marshes, the quiet, the life-filled land, liminal boundaries, fecundity.  I haven’t worked with it magically as of this time but I have it in my living room window and look at it on a very regular, enjoyable basis.

This Stoner Report has been brought to you in part by the wonderful selecting abilities of Stone Haven Gems, which is where I purchased it.

~Abysmal Witch

Sheer Abandon

Mason, my handsome grey brat of a boy cat, has this way of falling asleep on me that I adore…and feel just a tad envious of.

He doesn’t just stretch out across me.  It’s like he throws himself into the most flaked out, relaxed, expansive position across me that he can.

His limbs are draped over mine, limp as noodles.  His body is flopped between my calves with a leg draped over my ankle and another over my knee.

I don’t think he could be more relaxed if he tried.  But more than that, he has entirely relaxed into his space.  It’s not just that his body is limp, it’s that he’s so utterly at ease within the entire context of his world.  Or in other words, he ain’t passed out from drugs or a knock to the head or a desperate need for sleep, he’s just that completely, utterly comfortable in his skin and where his skin is.

He has put himself into the moment with sheer abandon and no concern for when the moment may end.

Lucky brat.

~Abysmal Witch

p.s. I just had to share this other picture.  He loves this little sleep tent so much that he’ll sleep in it, on it and occasionally he’ll crawl in under it.  Yes, voluntarily.  I certainly wouldn’t try putting him there.  As you can see, even his brother thinks he’s a tad nuts.

Bad days, Sad days

Note:  this post is NOT to elicit sympathy, concern or expressions of support (no, seriously, I appreciate any such thought but really don’t want or need to hear it).  I’m sharing because some days are bad days and there is something to be learned in them.

And yes, today is a bad day.  My stupid freakin back is acting up enough for me to be incapable of ignoring it or pretending its just a blip.  While I have held to a general state of calm and positive thinking, somedays fear surges up and all the horrible possibilities start doing a whirly twirly dance around me.  Bad days are really good for letting the fear in (the fear in this case residing in how long will this injury last, will it outlast the really good medical leave at work, will I ever get back to normal, etc.).

What’s interesting is that sadness also leaks out on days like this.  Is it just anger twisted inwards?  Fear turned sideways?  Or is it true sadness?

I honestly don’t know.  It’s just a sea of heart-break, waves slipping long and deep across my inner sands.  It wells up and subsides in a rhythm only it knows.

I don’t know what’s being released through this.  I can only accept it as part of myself that needs its own acknowledgement, its own space, its own share of my attention.

And what I’ve found in the past is that when deep sadness or pain is lurking just below consciousness, one of the best ways for me to finish drawing it to the surface and release it is to watch an emotionally intense movie.  There are some guarantee to make me cry scenes here and there, but let’s face it, you want a movie to wring you out, why not go with What Dreams May Come?  After all, almost everyone is dead within the first ten minutes and the remainder die by the end anyways 😀

We’ll see what else may come tonight.  Okay, anyone else think that sounded dirty?

~Abysmal Witch