Personal Religion and Hearth Culture

A brief account of the efforts of the Dedicant to develop and explore a personal (or Grove-centered) spiritual practice, drawn from a specific culture or combination of cultures. (600 word min)

Inadequate Adequate Excellent
·      Word length under
·      Uninvolved, lack of practical application
·      Lack of spirituality or spiritual growth
·      Word length adequate
·      Research and practice with one or more hearth cultures
·      Observable spiritual growth over the course of the training period
·      Publishable quality reviews
·      Deep/unique insight
·      Development of a working personal spiritual system with a particular hearth culture

When I finally joined ADF and Three Cranes Grove it was after much deliberation.  I’d been attending rites for almost 5 years, but had been putting off joining mostly out of fear that I’d become attached to the people and then have to move.  That is what has happened.  I was only in Columbus for about another year, but my time spent in close vicinity to my Grove allowed me to form bonds that I have maintained even after moving. 

After moving, I realized that I being with Three Cranes built a very strong foundation for me, and that now being away from them I was/am able to branch out.  My solitary practice has blossomed over the past year.  I still connect with my Grove, and my Delos (the Hellenic group I work with), but it is the foundation that they helped to build that has proved most beneficial.  Even now, working within the structure of ADF, most of my full core order of rituals happen on the High Days and Druid Moons with the Grove.  In the beginning, I needed the guidance of my Grove and my Grove mates to feel comfortable in this format. It was helpful to experience ritual with them leading and guiding the rest of us. Slowly I was assigned more and more involved parts, moving from Earth Mother, to the Kindreds, to Outdwellers, and up into Two Powers and Attunement, Re-Creating the Cosmos, and Opening the Gates. For our public rituals I started out writing my parts before hand and reading them from that script in ritual. Now I’ve grown into still writing before hand, but I rarely use it during ritual. It’s just my back up piece in case I freeze up. Our Grove also does monthly Druid Moons, and during these we are rarely assigned parts before we get there. We are able to just get together and perform a ritual in the common framework that ADF gives us. I really like this, though it was nerve wrecking at first, because there is so much less pressure, and you really can just speak from the heart.

I do a kind of modified core order for most of my full on rituals at home, though more often than not I’m doing more devotional type works at home rather than full rituals. When I’m working at home, I almost never acknowledge the Outdwellers except in the sense of calming myself and entering a state in my own mind that is free from things that would distract me during the ritual. I honor the Three Kindreds, as well as specific deities and patrons. Most of my work at home takes the form of devotionals for an individual God or Goddess, or for a pair or set of related Gods or Goddesses.

The hearth culture I work in is Hellenic.  I’ve learned a great deal about the Greek Gods and Hellenic religion by studying and researching ways to fit Hellenic Reconstruction and ADF methodology together.  Working with the Delos I co-founded with Irisa has been instrumental in my understanding of my chosen hearth culture. We’re all working together to learn more about our Deities and the customs and rituals that were traditionally done to honor them. Most of the Delos members are also ADF members, so we all have a general sense of how ADF ritual works, and are learning how Hellenic Reconstructionists perform rituals. A lot of what we’ve done has been a sort of mix between the two. We incorporate some of the parts of ADF ritual that we really connect to, and then leave out other bits that don’t make as much sense for rituals. For instance, when we recreate the cosmos, we will often just place the omphalos as the center of the world and then use our sacred fire for offerings. We also always honor Hestia first and last, whereas in ADF core order, the Earth Mother is honored first and last. We try to get together as least once a month, where we celebrate Noumenia, a festival that honors the agricultural aspect of Zeus. It is a time for fellowship, honoring the gods, and blessing our homes.

Hellenic Kin Quilt Square

I made the quilt square for the Hellenic Kin for the Artisan’s Guild Quilt project. I had the idea for the square, it just took me awhile to actually sketch out what I specifically wanted. Then I had to figure out how to get the sketch onto some fabric (Thank you gel pens!)  The design is a white owl in the center (it’s actually sketched off a barn owl), with acorns and oaks leaves in the corners.  Then there is the Kins name in English (White Owls Kin) and in Greek (Oi Asproi Koukouvayies), which actually translates to The Owl Kin.  The Fabric is cotton duck, and the design is done in puffy paints (brushed on) that are all metallic colors. I hope the Hellenes approve 😀

And some details shots.  First a close up look at the owl:

And then a slightly better look at the finished square:

All hail the Muses!

Summer Solstice

How does it relate to Hellenic traditions? Some beginning research:

Philokhoria

http://neokoroi.org/artemis.html

An interesting interview with Thista Minai: http://www.sequentialtart.com/article.php?id=976

Prometheia is a modern day Greek festival that is basically celebrating summer solstice: http://sites.google.com/site/hellenionstemenos/festivals/prometheia

Other thoughts:

Skira: http://sites.google.com/site/hellenionstemenos/festivals/skira

Arrephoria: http://sites.google.com/site/hellenionstemenos/festivals/arrephoria

Dipolieia & Bouphonia: http://sites.google.com/site/hellenionstemenos/festivals/bouphomia—dipolieia


Autumn Feast

In the neo-pagan high days this feast is often designated as Lughnasadh.  August 1st is said to mark the beginning of the harvest season, the first ripening of fruits ready for the picking.  Traditions of Lughnasadh:

  • make a cornmeal bread or cakes in the shape of Lugh and then symbolically sacrifice and eat them.
  • funeral games for Lugh’s foster mother Tailtiu (games of skill and strength)
  • Tailtiu predicted as long as the games were still happening, Ireland wouldn’t be without song (cite)
  • Games were much like the Olympics

The beginning of the harvest season can be seen as birth, fruition, and renewal.  While researching in an attempt to link the autumn feast to Hellenic traditions, the closest major festival is Panathenaea.  This festival celebrates the birth of Athena Polias, the Guardian of the City.  Traditions of Panathenaea (cite):

  • Panathenaea Games (athletic & bardic arts contests)
  • Peplos sacrifice and renewal (cite)
  • honoring of craftsmanship & protection of the city
  • Great Panathenaea every four years (much like the Olympics)
  • the feast of bounty

I also could see the Autumn Feast relating to Demeter and Kore, as it is the first of the harvest festivals.

Another festival is Kronia: http://sites.google.com/site/hellenionstemenos/festivals/kronia

Perseverance

Perseverance is something that I’ve been struggling with lately.  I’m going through a lot of changes in my life right now, and it’s hard sometimes to keep pushing myself and to keep moving forward, or at least not moving backward.

perseverance: noun:

steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc. especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement. (Dictionary.com)

persevere: verb:

1.  to persist  in anything undertaken; maintain a purpose inspite of difficulty, obstacles, or discouragement; continue steadfastly.

2. to persist in speech, interrogation, argument, etc.; insist.

“The greatest oak was once a little nut who held its ground.”

Perseverance is the flame that continues to burn inside yourself when the storm seems the worst.  Sometimes it burns bright and strong with no trouble, though this is often only when the winds are calm, and the Theoi are easily heard on the breeze.  When times become difficult, and the rain is pounding down, the flame flickers, just barely keeping alight.  The sound of the rumbling thunder seems to drown out the Gods, and the lightning blinds you from seeing them in your life.  It is then that the flame needs to be tended most, and cared for.  And just as it seems as though it may extinguish itself in the whipping wind you remember: The Gods are always present in your life, and will hold you close and keep you tending that small flickering light.  After all, even when the storm seems worst, it is still the mighty Zeus. (150 words)

Greek Alphabet Oracle

I’m starting to learn about the Greek Alphabet Oracle, and as such am trying to learn the meanings associated with each letter of the Greek alphabet.  I got the information on the oracle here.  What I tried to do was take the meaning of each letter and write it in a  phrase that began with that letter or sound.  This is what each of the Greek phrases did, so “translating” it has been slightly more difficult.  I would eventually like to turn this into a song of some sort for a better mnemonic device.  I’m using the dice method right now until I can make my own set of “Greek Runes” and plan to take an omen each day.

Alpha

  • All you do is successful

Beta

  • Because you asked for help

Gamma

  • Gaia gave you the fruits of your labors

Delta

  • Deciding how to act and when strength is necessary

Epsilon

  • Eager to see the results of union

Zeta

  • Zeus causes the storm: flee before his anger

Eta

  • Every word you speak, Helios knows the truth

Theta

  • Throughout your journey, you will have the gods help.

Iota

  • If you lose all else, your hard work remains

Kappa

  • Keep on enduring the inevitable with courage.

Lambda

  • Learn that blessings come from the most unsuspecting places

Mu

  • Much good will come through labor and toil.

Nu

  • Notice when strife has come, for it is a sign.

Xi

  • Expectations should be rational

Omicron

  • Only what you plant will yield a harvest

Pi

  • Perseverance through adversity will win many battles.

Rho

  • Remain a short while and you will proceed more easily.

Sigma

  • Stay and hold your ground

Tau

  • Travelers must eventually part ways.

Upsilon

  • Understand whether you should seek a noble quest, or whether your quest is being hindered.

Phi

  • Fate is yours alone – take responsibility for it and do not blame the Gods.

Khi

  • Completion of your goals is excellent

Psi

  • Suitable judgment has been passed down by the Gods.

Omega

  • Onerous times await you.

The Home Shrine

I redecorated my altar a couple days ago to better match my growing knowledge of Hellenic rituals.  There have been some major additions, and some rearrangement as I made more space on my bookshelves.

Full Altar

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The altar itself resides on the top two shelves in the picture, with the bottom two shelves for ritual items and related texts.  The whole set up in the middle of my bookshelves in my bedroom, but as they are for books, the shelves are very shallow.  Ideally, I’d like to be able to have the altar arranged on a deeper surface so I wouldn’t have to separate out my Fire and Well.a

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Omphalos

One of the big changes/additions I made to my altar was to add an omphalos (or navel stone) for offerings.  The omphalos is the Navel of the World, and so it’s arranged to sit at the base of my Tree.  I’m not entirely sure what kind of stone it is, but it’s a bluish gray, shot through with streaks of white.

My Tree is a copper wire representation.  I especially like how I can send the roots down into the bowl where the omphalos sits.  Most of my offerings over the omphalos have been oil, though I just recently went out an got some nice deep red wine.

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Gods of the Wild

On the left side of my alter I have my representations of the Wild and some of the Gods who protect the Wild.  The unicorn rampant represents Artemis.  There are many myths regarding what type of animal pulls the chariot of Artemis, and one suggests that it is pulled by 8 unicorns.  In the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili there is a plate illustrating what is supposedly the chariot of Artemis (see spread #88).  The black disc at the base of the unicorn sculpture is a deer, one of the sacred animals to Artemis.  So, I use this combination of symbols to represent Artemis on my altar.

The other wild god represented on my altar is Pan.  I would like to update this representation of him to be more goat-like, and less deer-like.  I’ve also go the twigs shaved into a spiral that seems to resonant with Pan right now, so they will sit by him until it seems they no longer should.

I’m still missing a representation that really speaks to me for Dionysos.  The closest thing I have for him right now is the silver leaf sitting below Pan.  It loosely shows Dionysos’s domain of vegetation, including grapes for wine.

The ladybug is a polished red stone (I don’t know what kind) that is painted to look like a ladybug.  This has a place on my altar partly because ladybugs are sometimes said to represent piety, and it also has a place on my altar in part to represent the Ancestors.  The reasoning regarding the Ancestors comes from the following rhyme, which can be interpreted to tell the story of ancient pagan temples and people being burned and persecuted as Christianity took over.  So, in general, it serves as a reminder to follow the ways of the Ancestors.

Well

“Ladybug, ladybug, fly away home.
Your house is on fire and your children are gone.
All but one, and her name is Ann,
And she crept under the pudding pan.’

‘Ladybug, ladybug, fly away home.
Your little house is burning.
Your little mother is crying and
Your father is on the threshold,
Fly away to heaven, away from hell.”

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My Well is in a glass dish surrounded by stones that change as they feel charged and with the seasons.  Just to the right of the well is an incense burner that I mostly use for Artemis.  I plan on getting a separate place for smoky offerings for each deity on the altar, but for now they share.  Behind the incense is a stained glass dragonfly container.  I keep my offerings for the well in this.
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Flames of Importance

The representation of Fire on my altar is completely separate from all the other flames on the altar.

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Hestia's Flame

I have a candle specifically dedicated to Hestia.  It was lit from our Grove’s Flame and from the Hellenic Kin’s Flame.  This way it represents the strength of my own hearth, as well as kinship between myself, my Crane-kin, and other Hellenes.  I made this candle by carving down a votive candle and carving Hestia’s name into it.  After I’d carved her name, it wasn’t really showing up, so I then melted some wax from a blue candle and pushed it into the carvings, let it cool, and then gently shaved down the candle again so the blue wax was only visible in the carvings.  Her name is barely noticeable when then candle isn’t lit, but when it is, the glow of the yellow candle makes her appear to darken, as shown by the picture.

The white candle in the bud vase is our Grove’s flame, lit from the flame of Kildare.  The Grove flames I the one I use to keep the Kinship with Three Cranes alive.  It is also the flame we use when we’re doing house blessings. Sitting below that flame is a small folded paper crane to represent Garanos.  The Crane is a guide for transformative work, and I occasionally call him as a gatekeeper.

Some more recent additions to the new altar are a larger tree that is a tea-light candle holder.  The candles sit at the end of each branch, and there are five of them.  It sits in the middle of the new altar.  Below it is where my Greek Alphabet Oracle usually sits when I’m not using or charging it.  I kept a set of runes there for awhile, but they were in a fox fur bag, and the cats saw that as an open invitation for them to play Godzilla on the altar, so the bag of runes has moved to a drawer where the kitties are less likely to eat them.

There is also a statue of the three aspects of Brigid.  She has a candle lit form the flame of Kildare, as well as a bit of charcoal in front of her.  The charcoal is what I use for her because it the one thing that connects all three of her aspects.  Charcoal in pencils for writing (inspiration), charcoal for heating a forge (crafting), and charcoal for purifying water and cleansing toxins (healing).  She originally claimed a place on the altar for Thom, but I’ve begun working with her as well.

Some Hellenic Gods that have claimed space are Athena (and her many owls), Hera (a bit of peacock feathers here and there that I have to protect from the cats), Helios (a very shiny pillar candle), and Poseidon (a bowl full of sea salt).  I’ve been working with Athena more closely since I began teaching.  She has the pursuit of knowledge and has helped me to deal with the challenges that working with youth and encouraging them to learn bring.  Hera has begun knocking at my door with my upcoming marriage.  I suspect after the wedding my relationship with her will develop more fully and deepen.  Helios I’ve been working with strongly ever since I wrote our Grove’s Yule rite, and I decided to do Heliogenna with him as the Deity of the Occasion.  Poseidon has been calling to me for a couple of months now, and I’m not sure where my relationship with him will go, but I’m trying to keep him happy, and keep the door open.

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