The Sea

My last trip to the sea was over a year ago. I learned to scuba dive in the Philippines (and then saw the sea from Busan in South Korea on my way home). It was an incredible experience that allowed me to feel the grace and power of Poseidon, Amphitrite, and so many others. I wish I could go diving now, but alas, pandemic. I am stuck in a landlocked city.

Apollon also has connections to the sea and some of the various sea gods. I will attempt a short exploration of that side of him today. If any of these epithets sound interesting or inspirational to you, I do hope that you’ll consider exploring them for the devotional. There is no current deadline in the CfS because submissions trickle in too slowly. When I do have enough material, I will publish the volume. I realize that this devotional is quite different and has different requirements than others out there, so please do follow the directions. If your submission is off-topic, I won’t be able to include it no matter how good it is.

So, Apollon and the Sea.

‘Ακτιοσ – As Apollon Aktios, he is a god of the foreshore, seashore, or coast (whichever translation you like). He shares this epithet with Pan. In Actium, once upon a time, Apollon Aktios “cast aside his lyre, took his stand above the ship of Augustus, and flashed an unexpected light into the face of the enemy, while he grasped his bow and exhausted his quiver in defense of Rome and Augustus.” This anecdote was relayed by Propertius, and you can read more about it in the Transactions of the American Philological Association. There was a temple to him built there in Actium and another on the Palatine Hill in Rome, where he was called Phoebus of the Sea (Navali Phoebo).

‘Αποβατήριος – As Apollon Apobaterios, he is a god who protects travelers as they disembark from a ship. He shares this epithet with this twin sister, Artemis and his father, Zeus. There was an inscription to Apollon Apobaterios found at a temple in Cyrene. Dio (63.19.2) relayed the story of how Emperor Nero, after surviving a shipwreck, made an offering to Apollon Apobaterios as the God of Safe Landing.

Δελφίνιος – As Apollon Delphinios, he is a god of dolphins and of sailors, among other things.

Εμβασιόσ – As Apollon Embassios, he is a god of embarkation. He is who is prayed and offered to when people embark on journeys ask that he keep them safe. If you would like to see this epithet in use by characters praying and making offerings to Apollon in ancient literature, try The Argonautica.

Έπιβατήριος – As Apollon Epibaterios, he is a god who conducts people aboard a ship, as well as being a god of seafaring in general. In Troezene, there was a temple dedicated to Apollon Epibaterios founded by Diomedes in thanks for escaping a storm which befell the Greeks on their way home from Troy.

Έύρυαλος – As Apollon Euryalos, he is the a god of the wide sea.

Μυρτώω – As Apollon Myrtoos, he may be a god of myrtle trees or of a particular grove of myrtle trees, but the stretch of sea between the Peloponnese and the Cyclades is also connected to this name. In Cyrene, Emperor Nero also made an offering to Apollon under this epithet, and it could have been just an offering to him under a local epithet, but it could also have been an indication of where Nero’s shipwreck took place. You can read more about this Two Notes Concerning Nero by Keith R. Bradley.

Σαληγενα – As Apollon Saligena, he is rising from the sea. This epithet refers to his birth on the island of Delos.

I wrote a bit about connections between Apollon and Poseidon here. There are also a number of sea gods that share similar functions with Apollon under the epithets explained above, but that will have to be another post for another day.

The Wonder of Dionysos

Dionysos never ceases to amaze me at how present he is and how he so often makes his presence undoubtable.

Lately, I’ve been offering from a bottle of wine that I received from my company as a gift about a month ago.  Quality-wise, it’s ok.  Personally, I don’t love it.  It’s a bit too acidic for my tastes.  Today, is the 13th of the month, and I’ve been offering from this bottle since Noumenia.  Most days, I drink the sip or so that is left in the pitcher after I’ve finished making offerings.  Each day, I make a similar face and say another prayer to the effect of “I hope you enjoy this more than I do.”  Last night, I made an offering to both Hestia and Dionysos.  When I took my sip afterwards, I thought to myself, “wow, that’s much mellower than before.”  A moment later it hit me.  Thank you, Dionysos!  He is one of the most ever-present gods I have had the privilege to know, and he is one of the most generous with his signs and gifts.  It is no coincidence that today is when the wine tastes good!  

Praise Dionysos! 

Design Your Own Statuary

Today, I was introduced to a very cool website. It’s Hero Forge, where you can design your own statuary. It’s actually meant to be for folks to design figures for tabletop gaming, but I think it’s an amazing new resource for the polytheist communities.

When you go to their website, I suggest that you create an account first so that you’ll easily be able to save your designs. I have not yet been able to have my first design printed because I live in China, and importing things is…. not fun. I didn’t even check to see if they would ship here. If anyone does end up buying a design, please post a picture in the comments. I’d love to see what you come up with!

Anyway, you do have to choose from two basic gender (or sex) models at first, but all clothing options and attributes seem to be available regardless of what you choose. This choice seems to only affect basic body design. Then you get to choose all of your body parts, and you can make them bigger and smaller and whatnot. They have lots of attributes that your figure can hold, wear on their side, wear on their back, and there are even some that can sit on the figure’s base. Oh, did I mention? It’s not humans only, and there are even some animal heads for our Kemetic friends.

I suspect that if this company had any idea that the polytheist communities would want in on this as much as the tabletop folks, they would add more attributes for us. So, email them if you want something that you don’t see!

They use 3D printing to create the figures, and they have several quality levels of plastic, bronze, and steel. The option that I think is most exciting is the colored plastic, which starts at $45US, which is not bad at all. They have a hand painted option that starts at $150US, but it’s only for their Kickstarter backers at this time. All of their other options are ones that you could paint yourself, though, if you have the miniature painting skills. The cheapest plastic option that you can paint yourself is only $20US, so it’s definitely worth giving it a shot if you design a figure that you really like.

It took me about two hours today to design a figure of Apollon that I am absolutely in love with. Pictures below.

Patron Deities

The idea of patron gods is one that is simultaneously very simple and one that is shrouded in misinformation and controversy. At its simplest, a patron god is a god whose domain encompasses that which you are – in your stage and station in life, your profession, your passions, and your endeavors. A person can have one, many, or no patron gods. A patron god can be both constant and temporary. A mystic or devotee can often operate with two concurrent definitions, yet this can be confusing for newcomers and laypeople.

From a mystic’s point of view, I could consider Apollon to be my patron because he is a hugely important part of my life and my devotion to him goes beyond that for any other god. However, I don’t generally use that term myself to describe him. As a professional and when I was still a student, Athena was/is a patron. I consider her to be the patron god of education and educators. I prayed to her very consistently while a student and sometimes now when I encounter something that I am having difficulty teaching in a way that my students are able to understand and retain. However, during the gap between my own education and when I became a teacher, Athena was not my patron. The patron relationship is not always, and in fact usually isn’t, personal. Personally, I travel quite a bit, I live in a foreign country, and I speak another language (one I did not grow up speaking) daily. Because of these things, Hermes could also be considered a patron. I do have a very close relationship with Hermes, and some of that may be because of these areas of my life, but I think some is just personal connection. Prior to my paradigm shift to Hellenismos, I had similarly close (though different) relationships with a few gods from other pantheons. That those relationships were strong and close did not mean that those gods were my patron gods, either.

What a patron is not is a god or pair of gods that you worship to the exclusion of all others. While some people do only worship one or a few gods, it is not because that god is their patron. Patron is also not a gendered term. There is no such thing as a “matron deity.” Goddesses are also patrons of people working in the domains that they rule.

If you have ever wondered who you should try to build a relationship with and ask for help in a specific area, what you are looking for is a patron. That god may only be with you for a short time, if they choose to respond and help you with your request. You might begin looking for a patron to render assistance and build a relationship so strong that it does not fade when your need fades. At that point, this god is no longer your patron, though some may consider them so from the perspective of that second definition that we talked about earlier.

The gods don’t generally appear to people and demand or request their worship out of the blue. If you are waiting for something like this to happen before you begin worshipping anyone, you are likely going to wait for a very long time. I made offerings to Apollon, not regularly but occasionally, many times before he ever took an interest in me. I even met him “in person” while he was riding a human horse during a large ritual where I felt like he saw right through me years before he ever took an interest in me. The gods don’t run on the same timelines that we do. I don’t know why he finally took an interest in me, but when he did, I was either about to turn or had just turned 31 years old. I had already been some flavor of pagan for 16 years and a polytheist for more than a decade.

I am profoundly lucky and blessed to have the relationship that I do with Apollon. I am not the only person with this type of blessing, but it is not the norm. Most people never experience something like this. It can be difficult to meet other polytheists and feel like everyone has this type of relationship but you. It only feels like this because our communities are so small, and it is generally the mystics, the priests, and the other specialists who share their experiences the most, who are the most vocal. The people who fervently love a god (or several) and hear nothing are usually quite private about their practices and lack of experiences. They may feel that they have nothing to share or simply that they don’t measure up.

Beginning around the age of 22, I became involved with a community of pagans and polytheists that had quite a large group of shamans and spirit workers. I wasn’t one. I always felt like they knew things that I didn’t know and did things that I couldn’t do. Some of that is true – they did have experiences that I hadn’t had, and many of them have skills that I didn’t and still don’t possess. That didn’t make them better than me, though, and I am not better than you. When I made an offering, the gods thought no less of my offering than theirs. In fact, a lot more was required of them than of me because they had the ability to do more, and they had made commitments to do more.

So, in conclusion, there is no invitation required, and you shouldn’t wait around for one. Do you love playing music, or are you a professional musician? Start praying and making offerings to Apollon, to one or all of the muses, to Pan, or to any of the several other gods with connections to music. These gods are the patron gods of musicians. Are you a gardner or farmer, choose to begin a devotional relationship with Gaia, Demeter, Persephone, or any of the other gods whose domains encompass what it is that you do. If you are at a loss, leave a comment. Other readers and I will be happy to give you suggestions of gods who rule over what it is that you do. You are the key. You can make the first move.

I wanted to end with the last paragraph, but there is one final bit of advice that I feel I need to share. You can worship a god for any reason at all. You do not need a patron god, and it’s ok if you never have one. The most important thing is to find a god (or quite a few!) that inspires you to love them.

A Vocabulary Lesson

It has been brought to my attention that there are certain terms that are often used without definition in the Hellenic blogosphere and even in publication. Here, then, for you, I will create a little glossary. If I am missing a term you would like to have defined, please leave it in the comments.

agora: an open public space used for assemblies and markets (ἀγορά)

archon: one of the nine chief magistrates in ancient Athens; this word has also been used to refer to any kind of group leader. In modern Greek, this word refers to someone who holds some form of status or power. In the Coptic church, an archon is a leading member of the laity, so that term might have crossed over into some Hellenic communities. Since it could mean the leader of the group, the leader of the laity, or some other person with status in the group, you’ll always need to ask a new group how they’re using the word. (ἄρχων)

cultus: a system or type of religious worship; pay cultus is often used synonymously with worship

devotee: someone who is worships a particular god is a devotee of that god – generally, this worship is more than what they give to other gods. people are unlikely to list off more than a few gods that they are a devotee of even if they actively worship dozens

discernment: distinguishing between what is real and what is your imagination

evocation: the calling forth of a god – this may be found embedded in a prayer, and a god’s response or lack thereof is up to them

hubris: excessive pride towards or defiance of the gods

hymn: a song in praise of a god

libation: a drink poured out in offering to a god, usually wine, water, or milk, though other drinks can also be offered

matron: a married woman, especially one who is mature and staid or dignified and has an established social position, a woman who has charge of the domestic affairs of a hospital, prison, or other institution, or a woman serving as a guard, warden, or attendant for women or girls, as in a prison – this is not the feminine version of patron

miasma: spiritual pollution – see article

offering: anything that you give to a god

patron: a god who rules over your area of work, the one you would pray to if you were having a problem or needed help (some use this term for their whole life rather than just their work)

PCPG: Peer Corroborated Personal Gnosis – see the definition for UPG for a definition of personal gnosis, but this is basically that which a number of people have found to be true independently of each other (so, it’s not when one blogger writes about it and then a lot of other people believe them) either through intuition or revelation.

polis: a city-state in ancient Greece

prayer: anything that you say to a god – you do not need to pray for something, per se

shrine: this is a place that you build as a “home” or “resting place” for a particular god or group of gods – it is a place where you leave offerings for them and may keep things that you have given to that god that are more permanent in nature. It is often decorated and contains an image or statue of the god.

storax: a type of incense resin also known as styrax that comes from the Turkish Sweetgum tree (liquidambar orientalis), not what is commonly sold as storax (also called benzoin) that comes from a different plant entirely

UPG: Unverified Personal Gnosis – this is something that someone believes to be true about the gods, cosmology, theology, or natural law that they do not have evidence for, neither practical nor historical. It can be from intuition or divine revelation.

working with: People who use the term “work with” usually mean one of two things. The first is that they’re involved in some kind of magical practice and they think a particular god helps them in that endeavor. They may or may not be correct in that line of thinking. The second thing that folks can mean is that a god has some goal in the world, and they need people to do particular things to help them achieve that goal. They will then generally call into service folks with the skill sets they need who also have enough signal clarity to understand what they are to do and who wants them to do it. Occasionally, a person has only one of those features, so a god will set about making the other feature available to them through that person.

worship: to pray and make offerings to

Apollon’s Garden

It’s spring! For those of you with private spaces to plant things (community gardening is not a good idea right now; please stay home!), a garden in honor of Apollon is a beautiful possibility. Which plants you can plant does depend on where you are, but you could also make a container garden on your deck or patio, the steps leading up to your apartment, or even inside your room.

Bay Laurel, Melia Phosphorou

The bay laurel is the most obvious plant to plant in honor of Apollon. It is his most sacred plant. I used to have one in a pot in my bedroom when I lived in America, and while in Greece, I saw it flourish everywhere. If you live in a climate where you can plant this outside, it can grow really quite tall and can even serve as a hedge. Apollon has several epithets related to this plant. The first is Δαφνειος (Daphneios), which is translated sometimes as to whom the laurel is sacred and of the purifying laurel as well as just as laurel and of the laurel. There is also Δαφνηφόρος (Daphnephoros), which is translated as carrier of the bay branches, he who carries the laurel, he who carries the branches of laurel, and bearing a wreath of laurel – all quite similar in meaning just worded a bit differently by different writers and translators.

Larkspur is another idea for your garden. It is sacred to Apollon because it grew where his lover, Hyakinthos, died. You can read more about that here.

As Apollon Myricaeus, he is bearer of heath. Why is he the bearer of heath? I have no idea. If you’d like to plant some heath (also known as broom and gorse) in your garden for inspiration and then do some research into the matter, I would love it if you would then record your findings and submit them to the devotional.

Another flower with a possible connection to Apollon is lupine. Some scholars believe that his epithet Θέρμιος (Thermios) means he of the lupine flowers or of lupines. This is somewhat controversial, and I’m not sure why he is connected to lupines, but you could plant some and hope to find out. If you do find out, be sure to share what you find in the comments below, or better yet by submitting to the devotional.

Budding Cornel Tree by Manfred Richter

Apollon’s epithet Κάρνειος (Karneios) has several disputed translations, but one of them relevant to our garden is he of the cornel tree. Now, I have not been able to find out why Apollon has or would have a particular connection the cornel tree in particular, but perhaps one of you know or would be interested in undertaking that research? If you would like to write about Apollon’s connection to any of the plants I’ve discussed here today or any of his other epithets, please do submit to the devotional. It is still very much a work in progress.

Ash Tree, by Alicja

Another tree for which Apollon has an epithet is the ash. He is known as Apollon Μελιαιος (Meliaios). The connection here may be a confusion or syncretism between the Meliai, the ash tree nymphs, and a particular Melia who was an okeanid nymph of the Ismenian spring in Thebes. She was beloved of Apollon and bore him two sons – Ismenos and Teneros.

Autumn Lake Plane Trees by Evgeni T.

Apollon really does have quite a few epithets related to trees that I haven’t had the opportunity to fully research yet. As Πλατάνιστιος (Platanistios), he is he of the plane tree. Do you know why? I don’t know why. I would like to know why. Comments are welcome, but submissions to the devotional are better!

Pistachio Tree

I love pistachios, always have, but I honestly had no idea that they were sacred to Apollon or connected to him in any way until I started researching his epithets. As Apollon Τερμινθέως (Termintheus), he is of the pistachio grove. It is possible that these as yet unexplained tree epithets just come from the type of trees that a particular group chose to plant as a sacred grove for Apollon, which does imply that should you want to plant a grove for him, you can choose any tree you like and give him an epithet accordingly.

Apollon has another epithet, Ώρομεδον (Horomedon), which while not connected to an individual type of plant, it does connect to his relationship with growing things. It has been taken by some to mean ruler of seasons or ruler of time and refers to his connection to the horae because in Peloponnesian cults, the horae and Apollon were both called on to promote the growth of plants. As Ζωόγόνος (Zoogonos), he is generative or producing life – surely an epithet under which he would be honored by your garden. You could choose any plant that you especially like and dedicate it to Apollon Horomedon or to Apollon Zoogonos..

As Υλάτης (Hylates) , Apollon is the god of the grove, and as Ναπέυς (Napeus), he is worshipped in groves. If you have a wooded area or would just like to plant several trees in your yard, creating a small grove for Apollon Hylates would be a wonderful devotional act that is also helpful for the environment.

If a vegetable garden is more your speed, don’t forget some corn. As Apollon Sitalkes, he is the protector of the corn. Not to mention that dried husks can be used to make dolls, which can also make adorable (and biodegradable) icons and offerings.

As Apollon Όριος (Horios) he is the god of boundaries. If you use any of these plants (or any other) to form a boundary between your property and your neighbor’s, you can surely dedicate those plants to Apollon ask that he guard your property and keep boundaries clear.

I hope you have a beautiful and healthy spring full of flowers and growing things! Hail Apollon!

Worshipping Hestia

I have been worshipping Hestia for so long now that I don’t remember when I started. Her worship is an integral part of Hellenismos as we make offerings to her first and last, so ideally, she should be receiving an offering every time we make an offering to any other god.

Once upon a time, I built a shrine for her above the set of cabinets that was above my stove. As she is the goddess of the hearthfire and I had a gas stove (with a pilot light), this was an ideal location in my home. Now, she shares a shrine with the other deathless ones above my desk. Many people build shrines for her in the most central parts of their homes or on the mantels of their fireplaces.

One of my most regular offerings to Hestia alone was the first portion of anything that I cooked from scratch. I didn’t cook from scratch often, so it was kind of a big deal. I cook from scratch multiple times a day now, so I don’t make this offering so much anymore. It doesn’t feel special to me anymore, at least right now.

Hestia is a goddess with whom I have built a relationship that doesn’t feel very personal. I don’t go to her especially to ask for anything or if I have a problem. I pray to her out of thankfulness and praise, not out of need. To me, she is modest and calm, deeply capable and slow to react. Even if it weren’t traditional practice to pray to her first and last, I would still pray to her and give her offerings just for the love Apollon bears her. He (along with Poseidon) once courted her to be his wife. She refused and became an eternal virgin who rules over all sacrifices, but while not his wife, she still tends the house of Apollon.

Prayers to Hestia
The Homeric Hymn to Hestia – there are two
Underflow: Prayers to the Gods of Olympus – Hearthstone has written quite a few – use the search bar on her blog.
Devotion: Prayers to the Gods of the Greeks – This book also contains quite a few lovely prayers.
Orphic Hymn No. 83
First and Last: A Devotional to Hestia – This book contains the Homeric Hymn to Hestia (trans. Shelmerdine) set to Bogorditse Devo by Rachmaninov by yours truly as well as a number of great pieces by others in our community

A Hymn to Epione for Relief of Pain

I was blessed by the muses tonight. I’ve wanted to write a song, a plea, to Epione for several months now, but I didn’t have the right music in my head. I normally wouldn’t ever post a song online that I’d just written – you never know what it will sound like in the light of day tomorrow, next week, or next month, but I am feeling moved to share this one. This is very much a rough draft, so please do give me your feedback.

Epione, Epione, Epione
Fair and gentle you are
in face and form and charm
Io Epione, Epione, Epione
Pain, I feel pain, pain beyond what I can stand
Epione, Epione, Epione
I pray for your grace, for your gentle outstretched hand
I pray, for your grace, please come and find me.
Io Epione, Epione, Epione
Epione, Epione, Epione,
Praise Epione, Epione, Epione

You can listen to it here.

Blessings Big and Small

I just returned home last night after spending two weeks learning to scuba dive in the Philippines. Poseidon blessed me with getting to see sea turtles (green turtles and hawksbill turtles) on nearly every dive, and on the one dive where I did not see any turtles, I was mere meters from a passing whale shark.

My trip home was full of stress and anxiety with countries canceling all flights to China (both the Philippines and Korea doing this affected me) and airlines changing their flights with very little notice (which also affected me). I ended up getting to spend four days in Korea with a friend I rarely get to see (instead of a two hour layover) and then a cheap flight to Taipei where I was able to get a flight back to China. The airline caused me a lot of stress in changing the flight from Shanghai back to where I live and making the connection absolutely impossible, but as I was running around the airport trying to get the airline to change my flight, I thought, well, maybe this is Hermes helping me to not be on a flight with someone who has coronavirus. I found another flight on another airline that I could afford (even if unhappily) and that got me back to my city in time to make it through all of the health checkpoints and into my apartment complex before I wouldn’t be allowed in until tomorrow (which my original flight would not have done). I am now under quarantine with my temperature being reported twice a day, but here’s to hoping that Apollon and Hermes have kept me safe.

I was making offerings to Artemis this morning, and today I used a prayer called Prayer to Artemis for the Protection of the Beasts by Hearthstone where as I was praying, I started thinking about how coronavirus jumped to humans, and I prayed to her to keep those civet cats and monkeys and other animals who can pass diseases like this to humans out of human hands, keeping both them and us safer.

The friend I was with in Korea is both very active in his religion and very respectful of the fact that we do not share the same one. He was telling me why he loves being Christian so much, and honestly, everything he was talking about is what Apollon has given me – the knowledge that I am never walking alone in this world.

As I was in various airports over the past few days, I passed many shops selling bags and luggage (I really do love bags), many of which are anti-theft. My last anti-theft bag died two years ago, so I’ve not been using one at all this year (didn’t travel much last year). Still, Hermes has kept me safe from thieves. A huge blessing.

I made it home. Thanks be to Hestia, to Apollon of the Roads, to Hermes, patron of travelers, to all the gods who helped get me here.

My sister and mother have been sending me more pictures and videos of my new baby nieces, both of which I haven’t met yet. Thanks to Leto and Artemis for protecting them.

While I was in the Philippines and Korea, I had much more access to news than I usually do. I was able to read a lot about the coronavirus and be more strategic in my decisions and actions. Thanks be to Athena for keeping me informed and helping my decision making process.

I believe that Hebe is the goddess who teaches us to serve others, to put the welfare of others above our own. Thanks to her, I have returned home to teach my students instead of bailing on them and fleeing to the United States. I was also able to be patient with a friend who can at times be selfish and self-serving, but I don’t think he sees himself that way. He has also always been helpful, but usually there’s something in it for him. I am able to let things go and get along with him, and if you knew me personally, you might understand more about this blessing.

Due to the emergence and spread of the coronavirus, I have had someone who I wasn’t sure ever thought about me anymore contact me to make sure that I am ok and to offer her advice (her way of caring). Thanks to Hera and Aphrodite for keeping this connection alive.

In the Philippines, there is this Filipino rum that locals mix with lime juice and drink with lots of ice. It’s actually really tasty. I was staying at a family-run diving resort, and the uncles there were really into sharing this rum. At times, I needed to claim headache and put my hand over my cup because my cups became impossible to empty, but their hospitality and inclusion was genuine and appreciated, and the rum was the sort of alcohol that makes everyone just a bit happier. Blessed by Dionysos.

In the Philippines, I saw more stars than I’ve seen in years. Blessed by Maia.

The Chinese government is really cracking down and trying to isolate the coronavirus. I might not agree with all of their actions, but they are most certainly imposing order, and may be finally teaching folks around here the finer points of personal hygiene. In addition, all of my flights landed safely. Blessed by Zeus.

My facebook account is essentially inaccessible forever now because they won’t let me in without a code sent to a cell phone number that I haven’t had in three years. Other people have been surfacing to share memories. Blessed by Mnemosyne.

When people ask why the gods won’t do x in order to prove that they exist, remember the lessons of Semele.

I had great weather during my trip – the sun shone every single day. Blessed by Helios.

The moon was beautiful over the sea, and it peeked at me from between buildings once I reached cities. It was full the last two days I was traveling. Blessed by Selene.

I have been sleeping well. Waking up early without being exhausted. Blessed by Morpheus.

Consider your blessings both big and small. Which other gods can you find blessing you every day? Give an offering of thanks.