Tag: hermes

Further experiments in devotion

Back in January I wrote about connecting deities with astrology and practicing devotion to deities whose influence might be in my natal chart. While I did write some interesting prayers as part of that experiment, I eventually lost interest in it, mainly because it didn’t seem to be doing anything for me. Writing the prayers was illuminating, insofar as it highlighted issues in my own life, my own psyche, but the use of the prayers did not, as far as I can tell, open up any new channels of communication with the deities I was addressing.

I continue to observe festivals, though, and sometime last month, it occurred to me that there is precedent for linking certain deities of the Roman pantheon to the months. Janus and Juno gave their names to January and June; May is named after Maia, the mother of Mercury/Hermes; Venus is associated with April. In the middle of the month, I began a project of cultivating a better relationship with one or two deities per month, starting with Venus.

Opinions differ, I know, on whether the Greek and Roman deities are the same under different names, or wholly different from each other, or some other option. Certainly there are many minor deities exclusive to Greek tradition and others to Roman, but the Romans themselves seemed to think they and the Greeks worshipped the same gods. In the case of Venus, however, I did not feel that I could simply equate her with Aphrodite and approach her on that basis. I get a different vibe from Venus than from Aphrodite, a feeling that is quieter and more contained.

I named Venus in my daily devotions and wrote a number of poems to her, few of which I felt were worth sharing. Much of my attention in April was taken up by a goddess with whom I already had a good relationship, Flora. Everything that blooms in my neighborhood was blooming last month and it was glorious; it wasn’t possible to walk through the park without hailing and praising the Lady of the Flowers. I came out of April with one solid clue to the goddess’ nature and the resolve to seek her favor more thoroughly the next time around.

The clue I received was to identify someone who reminded me of the goddess. It happens to be a fictional character: Sophie Devereaux of Leverage, played by Gina Bellman.

Gina Bellman as Sophie Devereaux

Without going too deeply into the amazing and brilliant television show that is Leverage (and you should all watch it, it’s on Netflix), Sophie is a grifter whose specialty is art theft. Now, I’m not saying that the goddess is a grifter! Sophie is, like all the regular characters of Leverage, extremely good at what she does; she speaks multiple languages, can convincingly fake multiple accents of English, class markers, and ethnic origins, and is highly knowledgeable about art. But her superpower, so to speak, has to do with desire. She is able to become desirable to every man she meets, so desirable he’ll do anything to please her. She is also able to discern what it is that people truly desire; promising it to them is the art of her grift.

It seems to me that desire is of the essence of Venus, not just sexual desire, but all desire. Venus’s power is in the things we want rather than need, which include beauty, pleasure, art, and sex–although getting what one wants is itself a deep human need. It is also important to me that actress Gina Bellman, a beautiful but not pretty woman, was in her forties when she played Sophie Devereaux. I see Venus not as a pretty girl, or even an ageless goddess who looks like a pretty girl, but as a mature woman basking in her own desirability.

For May I turned to Maia and her quicksilver son, Hermes/Mercury. I’m not sure that I feel as much of a gap between the Greek and Latin gods as between Venus and Aphrodite. What I’ve learned so far this month, mentioning the god in my daily devotions, writing poetry for him, and reading Guardian of the Road, an anthology in his honor published by Bibliotheca Alexandrina, is that I already have a relationship with him. It would be impossible for me not to–as a writer, someone who creates with words, as a non-driver who relies on my feet and public transportation to get what I want to go, as someone whose natal Mercury lies close to my natal Sun. Mercury, I think, is one of those gods who is present everywhere, whether or not he is invited, honored, or even acknowledged. That’s what those winged feet are about.

Statuettes of Venus and Mercury from the Walters Art Museum

Mercury’s month is not yet over, but I plan to honor Juno in June and then Apollo and perhaps the Muses also in July. Meanwhile, other deities have brought themselves to my attention. The blooming roses made me realize that if Flora is a goddess, surely Rosa is one of her spirits, a nymph or a lar or something, a flower so important in European religious symbolism. The greening of the vacant lots and wooded areas near my workplace, and the entrance of a snake into our warehouse, have alerted me to the presence of Silvanus, guarding the wilderness that underlies and intrudes on my urban environment. I’m also very much aware of working very near to the Middle Branch of the Patapsco River and thus near a river deity.

(The snake that snuck into our warehouse got its head stuck on a glue trap for mice. We successfully removed the sticky trap and set the snake loose outside.)

I am finding that actually, to paraphrase Hugh Grant at the end of Love Actually, the gods are everywhere, all around us. We don’t so much have to invoke or invite them as be polite, say hello, and offer them a bite to eat.

POEM: To the God of Thieves

The infant Hermes from the D’Aulaires’ book of Greek myths

O mercenary, mercurial, commercial god,
guard of the grifter, guide of the hacker,
inventor of music who grew bored
with your creation and rustled cattle instead,
to you on your birthday I offer these words
and a steak dinner, hoping they may
leverage for me your favor.
Khaire Hermes! Ave Mercurie!

"Poly" means "many"

When I try to explain to people what my religion is, I usually say that Antinous is my primary deity. He is the god to whom I am most devoted; he is the god with whom I have the closest relationship, so far. If I need help, he’s the first god I think of; if I am grateful, he’s the first god I’ll thank.

But he’s not the only god I worship. Polytheism, after all, means “many gods”, and the calendar of the Ekklesia Antinoou includes days in honor of a very large number of Roman gods, many Greek ones, and some Egyptian ones as well.

In my experience, it’s perfectly all right to feel attracted to a deity and approach them with prayers and offerings. I got Antinous’ attention that way (I think–perhaps he was trying to get mine?)

It’s also perfectly all right to make prayers and offerings to a deity just because it’s their feast day. You might not know anything more about them than what’s in a Wikipedia entry, but making a respectful offering can put you into contact with a deity and initiate a relationship with them.

Since observing the Vestalia last year, I have included Vesta in all my formal prayers. I have much affection and respect for her, not only as the power in my stove and the flames of my candles, but as the giver of the electricity that powers my air conditioner, microwave, fridge, and electronic devices. I discovered the beauty and joy of the goddess Flora in her festival; every flower I saw became a sacrament of her presence. In honoring Serapis, the Greco-Egyptian god who was worshipped as husband of Isis in the Hellenistic era, I found a devotion to a father god that I had never had to God the Father.

I kindled a devotion to the goddess Juno when Galina held an agon for the goddess and I decided to submit a poem. I found her to be far more than a caricature of a jealous wife, as Hera often is in classical narratives. Juno is a powerful goddess of the sky, the weather, female power, and feminine sovereignty. As a man has his inner genius, so a woman has her inner juno to inspire, vitalize, and protect.

Lately I am feeling drawn to some deities of Egypt: Thoth and Ma’at. Thoth, like Mercury and Hermes, is associated with language and communication, but also with the moon, mathematics, and magic. Syncretized with Hermes, he appeared as Hermes Trismegistus, founder of the Hermetic tradition. Ma’at is the goddess of truth, right action, ethics, and cosmic order. She is also associated with a magical current in some Thelemic circles.

As I have mentioned elsewhere on this blog, there is a saying in Faery/Feri tradition that all gods are Feri gods. All gods are Antinoan gods in that devotion to Antinous excludes no other deity–not even Jesus, with whom I seem to be building a working relationship outside of Christian structures that is more personal and intimate than any relationship we’ve had before. In polytheism worship of and even devotion to one particular deity need never exclude respect for or intimacy with another–unless you know from the get-go that the deities in question just can’t stand one another. But that’s another post, someday.

On the Mercuralia

A star shining in a cave
visited by a bolt of lightning
gave birth to an infant thief
who invented an instrument of music
that the bright god of music and poetry,
prophecy and healing, took for his own
and the infant god in his loose diaper
sat down on the highest mountain
in the worlds, heaven-piercing mountain
where the gods live, well pleased
with himself, for the gods laughed
and his mother shone
and he did not know yet
all the dark places
in which he would walk
wings on his heels
hat on his head
caduceus in hand.
Hail Hermes! Hail Mercury! Hail Maia!

Hymn VII: To Antinous Hermes

Swiftly you come and swiftly you go, Antinous Neos Hermes,
the new Hermes under Hadrian, messenger, interpreter, emissary.
With winged feet and sacred staff you weave paths
between gods and humans, between god and god,
between soul and soul. You have been entrusted with the caduceus
and its secrets; Thoth, Hermes, and Mercury
have whispered in your ear. Far-wandering Odin
and spear-throwing Lugus, too, are not unknown to you,
and perhaps you have wandered even in eastern lands
with rings on your staff and bowl in your hand, a mendicant.
Come swiftly, Neos Hermes, and whisper in my ear:
Entrust to me, if I am trustworthy, the secrets of language and its magic,
and likewise also the secrets of magic and its language.

A poem for the new month: The wind moon

In comes the wind moon, Nuin, clear and cold,
wind in the ash trees, and the fallen wood
makes an excellent wand. The pen in the hand
keeps records of the mind’s roaming, or
the ten fingers are ten excellent weaver’s beams
weaving on a keyboard, sending words flying
through the ether. It is cold, cold, yet the birds
are waking, calling, flitting, stretching in the sun.
The snake comes out of the hole with the blessing
of Brigid, the groundhog pokes out his furry snoot,
and change is on the move, no matter how hard
the frost giants grip the land they have seized.
In comes the wind moon, blowing away the past,
gathering the speaking gods, wandering gods,
trickster gods, Odin and Gwydion, Hermes
and Loki, Thoth’s ibis rising from the waters
of the Nile, and the god taps you with
his magic wand and you sing, you sing.

Cannot unsee

Once you become a polytheist, you start to notice how monotheism is everywhere. I suppose it’s like buying a yellow car; you don’t think there are a lot of yellow cars on the road until you own one yourself, and then you see them all the time, all those yellow cars that your eyes just glided over before.

(Yellow car!)

As Arthur Shappey says, you’re always playing yellow car. Once you realize that monotheism is a sort of aberration in human thinking that has only existed for a couple of thousand years, give or take a few centuries, you see it in places that you never thought it existed. It’s in magical systems that invoke god-forms but don’t worship gods or even give thank-offerings for their help. It’s in forms of creativity therapy that assume Alcoholics Anonymous principles without questioning their underlay in Christianity. It’s in the head-aching convolutions of Christian theology that you’ve beaten your head against for decades, how three persons are one God and sin is intrinsic yet somehow not God’s fault and the doctrine of the Incarnation somehow leads to asceticism and mortifying the flesh.

It’s in the horrid secular “Christmas” music blaring the day after Thanksgiving, even in a small local restaurant owned by Muslims. (Good pizza, but no pork  products, and you have to BYOB.) It’s in the repeated attempts of mythologists, psychologists, film makers, theologians to reduce all myths, legends, novels, deities to a single story, whether it’s the story of Jesus or the journey of the Hero or the contention of the Sun God and the Horned God for the hand of the White Goddess. It’s in all the things you don’t mention over Thanksgiving dinner, by mutual agreement among the guests that unpleasant topics should be kept out of the holiday experience.

There’s a saying in the Feri (or Faery) tradition, that all gods are Feri gods. This may mean that all gods are accessible to the Feri/Faery witch, or that all deities can be aligned with those specific to that tradition, or that both of those possibilities are true, or neither. What I am discovering is that all gods are Antinoan gods. One of Antinous’ titles is Neos Hermes, the new Hermes, and like Hermes he is a messenger, diplomat, ambassador, psychopomp, portal. Worship him, ask for his help, and there is no god from no region or pantheon to whom he may not introduce you. Deities from Ireland to Japan may show up on his holy days, bringing their stories with them. While it is possible to organize one’s cosmos metaphysically around Antinous, as I am learning slowly to do, it is not possible to fit all those gods, their customs, and their stories, into one box, even a box with cute drawers and pigeonholes. As I more and more think outside the box of monotheism, I stop trying to pigeonhole and start to enjoy the actual messy multiplicity of, well, everything. It’s rather like getting cable, only there’s something worth watching on every channel and no commercials anywhere. Commercials and advertising are things I definitely don’t want in my religion.

Once you see it, you can’t unsee. Unlike some bad fanfic I have read, I don’t want to.