Myths and the gods

The Shakespeare Theater is doing an adaption of the Oresteia (compressing it to one play of three acts) this season, and reading the notes on it in the season guide got me to musing about the nature of myth, especially in regards to the mythic portrayal of the gods. It’s fashionable these days to comb through (for example) the Greek myths and point out (with an odd combination of salacious humor and prim outrage) the “awful behavior” of Zeus.  And too much of the urban fantasy these days portrays the gods and spirits as just people with powers (if not spoiled superchildren or divine vending machines), and treats them flippantly or disrespectfully.

I think a lot of modern Western humanity’s arch snarking about the subject (and an underlying discomfort that causes it) comes from a number of modern, Western ideas:  1) that the gods and their motivations and plans are entirely knowable by and comprehensible to humanity; 2) that every situation allows us to make the right choice that leads to a good outcome or the wrong choice that leads to a bad outcome; 4) that we are capable of judging the gods and their actions as much as if not more so than vice versa; 5) that humanity is the crown of creation, the apex of evolution, and the master of its own fate…

All of these ideas are false from the polytheistic point of view.  Yes, myths can be re-interpreted (with respect), and the gods change the way they work with us as we change and are changed.  One real change about the modern era- it seems to be possible (though not for everyone) to ignore the gods… but if you choose to interact with them, and also try to hold onto any of those ideas, you’re in for a rude surprise.

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Word sonnet for Simbi Andezo

Galina Krasskovka recently introduced the concept of word sonnets on her blog.  So I decided to do one for Simbi Andezo:

Simbi Andezo

Waters
swirl,
salt
and
sweet.

The
serpent
waits
between.

Sometimes,
His
eyes
meet
mine.

Welcome, Yule!

Every winter solstice, my spouse and I do a simple household ritual involving (amongst other things) beating the bounds of our property (i.e. a tiny suburban lot)… much to the bewilderment of our dogs and likely to our neighbors.

The core of the ritual is right towards the start, when we turn off every light in the house and observe a moment of silence, breathing in the peace and stillness, feeling the turn of the year.  Then we light a candle and recite this poem by Susan Cooper (a perennial part of the Washington Christmas Revels and all other Revels celebrations):

So the shortest day came, and the year died,
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreens;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive.
And when the new years sunshine blazed awake,
They shouted, revelling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing, behind us – listen!
All the long echoes sing the same delight,
This shortest day.
As promise wakens in the sleeping land,
They carol, feast, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends, and hope for peace.
And so do we, here, now – this year and every year.
Welcome, Yule!

Wishing a safe, peaceful and joyous Yule to you and yours…

Poem for Brigid

A little context here: in the second act of the Washington Christmas Revels this year, the “Forest Queen” led the other women in the cast in a piece dedicated to Brigid:  they created two symbolic wells on stage, with a lantern in each.  All the women were veiled and had crowns of lights; they were singing Hildegard von Bingen’s “Ave Maria”.  My spouse later asked me about some detail of what they were doing on stage, and I replied, “I can’t help you… I was having an ecstatic religious experience.”

They lay out two wells in cloth, on stage;
Two lanterns candle them, and suddenly
Her eyes regard me.  I am caught up,
Unstuck, suspended in the tree-trunk,
Lightning-stroke connection of flame and pool,
Of land, sea, and sky; the long lines of
Singers, veiled, light-crowned, pass by me
Down the aisles, and all I can do is ring,
Struck by the voices, the light and shadow;
I peal out in my mind: praise, praise, praise,
And hope I can do my tiny part to pulse
Her peace throughout the world.

 

Oh Google…*sigh*

I just checked this, it’s legit. This is legit- I just checked. Google Translate takes “Esu” (there’s a dot under the ‘s’ which in Yoruba orthography apparently means the ‘sh’ pronunciation) and translates it as “devil”. So, so, wrong… The kindest interpretation is that they are relying on a dictionary written by some 19th century missionary…

Gangleri's Grove

Here is a petition that I am going to ask my readers to please consider signing. Google translate takes the Yoruba word “Esu,” the name for the Deity of the Crossroads, and renders it in english as “devil”. um. no.

Not only is this inaccurate but it’s borderline religious discrimination. Hundreds of thousands of practitioners of the African Traditional Religions around the world pay homage to Him. We need about 298 more signatures (at the time that I’m posting this here). Please consider signing.

The petition is here.

eshu

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Stealing Victory From the Dead

Some amazing words about death and dying.

mainer74

Headstone

Hail,

I had a co-worker today who came to me in the verge of tears because she is losing a friend to dementia, and is having to accept charge of him, and his affairs, as his ability to care for himself slips away, and he slides from the vital life she shared with him, towards a death that promises to strip him of dignity, ability, and even sentience before the merciful embrace of Hel takes him to the mound, and his ancestors.   While he yet owns his mind, at least for periods, he is taking pains to let those he loves know what he has provided for them with his passing.  From failing hands, he offers a last gift to those he loves, before all power to aid those he cares about, or even recognize them, is stripped from him.

Out of love for the man, she strives to refuse…

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Pagan, Polytheist, or Both? Why Labels are Sometimes Important.

I’m both a Pagan and a Polytheist, so the latter part of the article in particular is something I agree with so, so very much.

Strixian Woods

Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending Many Gods West, a conference on Polytheism that took place in Olympia Washington.  It was a small, intimate event. An event that not only featured an astounding variety of speakers and presentations, but also powerful work with the Gods and land spirits, along with days and nights of deep conversations with brilliant people.

I have been to a number of Pagan gatherings, from the lighthearted and celebratory, to the deep and scholarly.  Being at a conference that was specifically Polytheist in scope was a meaningful and important experience, and different from any one that I have had before.

Why is a gathering of people who define themselves specifically as Polytheists important?  Why are these distinctions important to us, and why would the idea of having space for Polytheists to talk about Polytheist practice and theology cause problems among people who aren’t Polytheists?

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