Announcing: Agon for the Muses

Who may enter?  Absolutely anyone may enter this agon.  I will eat the shipping charges to wherever you live if you win.  Good luck!

What can you enter?  You can enter any piece of artwork (written, visual, or performed) that is dedicated to an individual muse or the muses as a collective whole.  Performed work must be original and submitted as a link to a youtube video of your performance.  The piece that you submit should not have been previously submitted elsewhere – if it was not initially created for this agon, it should be finished or revised for this agon.  This is an honor system – you are the judge of whether an old piece has been revised enough to have become a new piece.  You will retain the rights to the piece only giving me permission to publish it here.

What can you win?  First prize will be a custom blended oil for the deity of your choice and a perfume bloom (not necessarily the one linked here).  Second prize will be a $25US gift certificate* to Snow Moon Spinnery.  Third prize will be a $20US gift certificate* to Snow Moon Spinnery.

When?  Submissions are open beginning now, May 2, 2017 and will remain open until midnight EST on June 1, 2017.

Where can you talk about this?  Feel free to spread the word to any groups that you are a part of.  Tell them about the devotional, too!

Why?  I made a promise two Noumenias ago.

How can one enter?  Simply e-mail me (pythioumelissa at gmail dot com) your written work with the text preferably in the body of the e-mail or send me a photo of your artwork.  If you have written music and you’d like people to hear it in addition to seeing the lyrics or sheet music, please send me a link to a video of you performing it.  If you choreograph a dance or write and perform a play (or part of one) or anything else, take some video, upload it to youtube, and send me the link.

How will the winners be chosen?  I will post each submission as a separate post.  The submission with the most likes wins.  In the event of a tie, I will do divination to determine the winner.

*Due to the nature of Etsy’s coupon codes, which is the only way I can offer a gift certificate, there is a required purchase amount that is 10% higher than the amount of the gift certificate (ie. if you win a $25 gift certificate, the total in your cart must be $27.50 or more in order to apply the coupon code).  If they ever change this to allow us to offer real gift certificates, I will exchange the coupon codes for real gift certificates.  They are transferrable (you can give your prize to someone else), but they can only be used once.

Hailing Hera

I’ve been actively worshipping Hera consistently since this past summer.  I began when She indicated that she wanted to be included as one of the gods that I call on when I do divination.  I initially had a few challenges incorporating Her worship into my routine, so I wanted to share some of what I’ve learned in case others find it helpful.

I keep a monthly offering calendar for the the gods.  For the most part, it’s been pretty easy to find days of the month when the gods I worship were traditionally honored or where enough modern devotees have come to the same conclusion (PCPG: peer-corroborated personal gnosis) that I could adopt those days into my calendar easily.  For Hera, this wasn’t possible.  I had some divination done (I try not to do much divination for myself), and I learned that Hera wanted me to reserve two days for Her on the calendar: the 2nd and the 11th.  The 2nd is shared with the agathos daimon, but the 11th is Hers alone.

There are several festivals from throughout the ancient Greek world dedicated to Hera, but the only one I’ve celebrated is the Theogamia, which is the wedding anniversary of Hera and Zeus.  It’s celebrated on the 26th of the Athenian month of Gamelion (the seventh month if you begin the calendar with the first new moon after the summer solstice).  In addition, there is the greater and lesser Daedala (of Boetian origin).  The greater Daedala is celebrated every 60 years and the lesser Daedala is celebrated every four.  The Daedala is a celebration of reconciliation and renewing of vows between Hera and Zeus.  It’s celebrated with procession and holocaust (wholly burnt) offerings.  I keep a monthly calendar and do celebrate some annual festivals, but festivals that require a large community (such as this one) and are celebrated at multiple year intervals (like this one) are not celebrations that I’ve yet tackled.  I’m also not sure what time of year this festival was celebrated.  The Heraian Games were also dedicated to Hera, but as we currently have women’s  events in the Olympics, those events replace the Heraian Games in my eyes.  Simply acknowledging the changes that have come between then and now and making an offering to Hera before you watch (if you watch) is a good compromise, I think.

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my shrine for Hera, December 2016

Offerings are somewhat personal.  There are things that the gods want from some of us but don’t want from others.  I find it to be a good practice to get divination to find out what particular gods want from you specifically if you’re unable to figure it out on your own.  This divination should be repeated at regular intervals as what the gods want from us can change over time.  Below, I offer you a list of things that Hera has been known to want from Her devotees as a starting point.

Food Offerings

  • cooked meat dishes (lamb, goat, beef, poultry, and rabbit)
  • figs & honey figs
  • baklava
  • pomegranates
  • apples (especially yellow ones)

Flowers

  • lillies
  • poppies (particularly opium poppies, but I think substitutions of other varieties would be accepted)

Libations

  • olive oil
  • wine (both reds and whites)
  • whole milk

Votive Offerings

  • peacock feathers

Incense

  • myrrh

As for prayers, it is nearly always ideal if you speak ex tempore or prepare (write) your own prayers, but I understand the desire to have a collection that you can refer to in times of stress and limited time.  Below, I offer you the resources that I refer to for my favorite prayers and hymns for Hera.

Underflow – Hearthstone writes beautiful prayers, and you can search her blog for prayers specifically to Hera.  She’s also written two books that I suggest you look at as well.

Queen of Olympos – devotional for Hera and Juno published by Bibliotheca Alexandrina

The Homeric Hymns – this is my preferred translation

Orphic Hymns – I have other works by this translator and feel comfortable recommending him.

 

 

Announcing: Agon for Apollon

Who may enter?  Any writer or artist (of any caliber and any medium) may enter this agon.  I will eat the shipping charges to wherever you live if you win.  Good luck!

What can you enter?  You can enter any prayer, poem, piece of artwork, academic or personal essay, or photograph that follows the guidelines of the CfS for the devotional – the piece must be dedicated to one of Apollo’s epithets and has to have been created specifically for this agon.  Call upon the muses and create something new or significantly revise an old piece.  This is an honor system – you are the judge of whether an old piece has been revised enough to have become a new piece.  All submissions to the agon will also be considered for the devotional.  You will retain the rights to the piece only giving me permission to publish it here and potentially publish it in the devotional.

What can you win?  First prize will be a custom blended oil for the deity of your choice and a perfume bloom (not necessarily the one linked here).  Second prize will be a $10US gift certificate* to Snow Moon Spinnery.  Third prize will be a $5US gift certificate* to Snow Moon Spinnery.

When?  Submissions are open beginning now, March 31, 2017 and will remain open until midnight EST on April 30, 2017.

Where can you talk about this?  Feel free to spread the word to any groups that you are a part of.  Tell them about the devotional, too!

Why?  I love that Galina Krasskova and Lykeia have been hosting agons for a multitude of gods for awhile now.  I will host another one after this completes.  It will be for the Muses themselves.  I made that promise this past Noumenia.  As with most things I do, though, the first time I do it, it must be for Apollon.  In addition, I thought the added incentive might be just what some of you need to get working on your submissions for the devotional.

How can one enter?  Simply e-mail me (pythioumelissa at gmail dot com) your written work with the text preferably in the body of the e-mail or send me a photo of your artwork.  If you have written music and you’d like people to hear it in addition to seeing the lyrics or sheet music, please send me a link to a video of you performing it.  I cannot host the video, so you must upload it yourself and provide me with a link.  You can use youtube or any other service you prefer.

How will the winners be chosen?  I will post each submission as a separate post.  The submission with the most likes wins.  In the event of a tie, I will do divination to determine the winner.

*Due to the nature of Etsy’s coupon codes, which is the only way I can offer a gift certificate, there is a required purchase amount that is 10% higher than the amount of the gift certificate.  If they ever change this to allow us to offer real gift certificates, I will exchange the coupon codes for real gift certificates.

Shared Epithet – Aphrodite & Apollon

While I hope that the devotional will be filled with writing and art by devotees of Apollon, I also hope that devotees of other gods will explore the epithets that are shared by Apollon and the gods that they know and love best.  Aphrodite, the foam-born goddess of love, beauty, and so much more, also shares at least one epithet with Apollon.  I’ve extended the deadline for the devotional, so please, get to work!  I can’t wait to see what you create.

Aphrodite Hekaerge & Apollon Hekaergos (Απόλλων Εκάεργος), the Far-Shooting; Working of His/Her Own Free Will (Εχάεργος?); Working from Afar; Keeping Far Away; the One Who Works from Afar

Lykeia is currently running a poetry agon (contest) for poetry about or for Aphrodite.  So, go ahead, write a poem for Aphrodite.  Let Her poetry inspire you to learn about how She might be connected to Apollon Hekaergos.  Write, draw, paint – do whatever it is that you do.

Interested in Reminders?

Would you like to receive a text or e-mail reminder of upcoming holy days and festivals?

If you click here, you can sign up to receive a text message or an e-mail through which you will receive all of the reminders that I add.  I’m not keeping track of every extant festival from every area of the Hellenic world, but I will send out reminders for the monthly holidays that I observe – days set aside for each of the gods I worship as well as Deipnon, Noumenia, and Agathos Daimon Day.

I’ve already scheduled reminders for the next month, and if people are interested and sign up to receive the reminders, I’ll continue to update it.

Honoring Artemis

A friend of mine contacted me yesterday to ask about appropriate ways to honor Artemis.  Rather than respond to her privately, I decided to share my thoughts in case anyone else finds them useful.  Do be aware that while I venerate Artemis regularly, I am not one of Her devotees.  This is the older blog of a devotee/priest(ess) of Artemis that I know and trust, and this is the newer one.  You should also try reading this book and this one, and visit this online shrine for Artemis.

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my shrine for Artemis, December 2016

When I want to get to know any god, the first thing that I do is set up a shrine space (even if it is temporary), make an offering, and pray.  If you have outdoor space, I would consider setting up an outdoor shrine for Artemis.  If not, an indoor shrine is ok, too.  I live in a third floor apartment, so my shrine for Artemis lives on top of a tall bookshelf.  I use a step ladder to climb up to it to make offerings.  An old roommate nicknamed this the “sacred stepladder” as we used it to climb to many of the shrines that I have here.

The shrine can be a very simple affair, and in fact, I suggest that it start out that way.  Shrines have a tendency to grow, so if you start out by purchasing a lot of things, you might get overwhelmed rather easily.  First, clean the surface of the area where you will build the shrine.  If you’re outdoors, it may be as simple as clearing away dirt and leaves from a tree stump or large rock.  If you’re indoors, clean it until it sparkles, or at least whoever is the cleanest person you know would be proud.  Then sprinkle khernips or barley onto the area.  A cloth is not required, though many of us use them.  For Artemis, I tend to choose colors that remind me of the forest, which is usually green or brown.  This book suggests green, and it is a good resource for beginners.  If you own a statue of Artemis, clean and place the statue.  If you don’t, don’t worry.  The right one will appear in your life at some point.  Mine was a gift from a friend who was updating her collection.  In lieu of a statue, you can use a prayer card, a painting, or even a print of a painting.  If you are artistically inclined, consider painting Her yourself.  If your budget is an issue, choose a photograph of a statue or a picture from the public domain and print out a copy.  Frame it so that it stands up, or affix it to the wall behind the surface where you are building the shrine.  Add a candle.  I use tea lights because I like to let them burn out completely, but you can use any candle.  Since I don’t light incense and scent is a big part of offerings to the gods, I tend to use scented candles.  Set out a bowl or a wine glass (or both) to receive the offerings.  If you are outside, you can pour the offering directly onto the shrine or altar.

Next, choose an offering.  This is a gift from you to Artemis, and it should be personal.  What feels right to you?  I’m going to give you a list of things that Artemis has been known to appreciate, but if none of them feel right or if you think She wants something specific from you, please make arrangements to consult a diviner.

Incense/Scented Candles/Essential Oils/Perfume  (You can burn a scent-based offering like a candle or an incense cone or stick, use a diffuser for a perfume or essential oil, or place the oil or perfume in a bowl or on a perfume bloom intended for this purpose.)

Suggested scents are cedar, frankincense, jasmine, and myrtle.

Food

If you are outdoors or have a fireplace, food offerings are ideally burned.  If you cannot burn the offering, place it in the prepared bowl or on another plate and leave it on the shrine for at least a day.

Suggestions are cookies shaped like animals, cupcakes, venison, goat, honey, or rabbit.

Flowers

A bouquet is a lovely gift.  If it is the right time of year where you live, consider collecting wildflowers for Her.  If not, buy white or yellow flowers.  You can burn them, place them in a vase on the shrine, or lay the flowers on the shrine to eventually dry out.

Votive Offerings (Votive offerings are durable and generally miniature icons representing other offerings – they can be made of a precious metal like silver or gold, they can be crafted from wood, or they can be sewn or knit.  These items can be burned immediately or saved on the shrine until you are able to burn them.)

Suggestions include hunting tools like a bow and arrows, a javelin or spear, a trap, a net, any animal sacred to Her, like deer, goats, dogs, or rabbits, or even artificial flowers or miniatures of appropriate food items.  I was recently given a tiny gold pin/brooch shaped like a boomerang.  As a boomerang was originally a hunting tool, I gave this to Artemis.  Also, while decorative, the artificial autumn leaves that you can see in the photo above can also be considered a votive offering.  While not technically a votive, actual hunting tools can be given in offering as well.

Libations (A libation is a beverage offering that is not drunk once it’s been poured out in offering.  If you wish to share some of the beverage, simply do not pour it out in its entirety.  You can pour the libation into the bowl or wine glass that you placed on the shrine earlier.)

Suggestions for libations for Artemis are red fruit juice, red wine, or spring water.

If you have created a space for Artemis (the shrine) and made an offering, the only thing left that is really required is the prayer or hymn.  They differ only slightly in structure, and you can use whichever you prefer.  It is preferable that you write this yourself or speak ex tempore.  There is a basic formula for a Hellenic prayer that you might choose to follow.  With your arms spread out in front of you with your palms up, invoke the god using Their name and any epithets* that you find relevant to the reason why you are calling on this god.  Next, remind the god of anything that you have done for Him or Her in the past – any offerings or sacrifices you’ve made or actions you’ve taken on Their behalf.  Third, if you have a request, this is the time to make it.  If you just want the opportunity to know this god better, ask for that.  This step can be skipped if you don’t need to ask for anything.  Most of the time, you shouldn’t be asking for anything.  Finally, thank the god and sit or stand still for a few moments.  The following is a short and simple example that I am writing right now without editing or forethought to illustrate how simple a prayer can be.

Khaire Artemis, Daughter of Leto
Sister of Apollon, whom I hold most dear,
Remember me, who makes offerings to you three times each month.
I praise your name, your skill, and your independence.
I wish to know you, to whatever degree You deem appropriate.
Please grace me with your presence.
Thank you, Goddess, for your light.

If you do not feel comfortable composing your own hymn or prayer, there are both modern and ancient prayers and hymns that you can use for inspiration, adapt to your purposes, or read aloud in their entirety.  My favorite modern writer of Hellenic prayers is Hearthstone.  You can search for prayers to Artemis by using the search bar on the top right of her blog.  For a more ancient source, you can try Homer.

You can perform this small ritual daily, weekly, monthly, or on your own schedule.  If you decide to do this weekly, I suggest Friday evenings or during the day on Saturdays.  Personally, I make offerings to Artemis at least three times a month, unless I am sick or unfit for some other reason.  I do this on Noumenia, the sixth of the lunar month, and the sixteenth of the lunar month.  Keep in mind that all Hellenic holidays (holy days) begin the evening before the date, so if you want to do this in the evening, do it the evening before the date listed rather than the evening of.  The next Noumenia is February 28th with the sixth falling on March 5th and the sixteenth falling on March 15th.

There are also festivals dedicated to Artemis that you might wish to celebrate.  Festivals are always a better experience if you can find people to share them with, but if you can’t, it is ok to celebrate by yourself.  The next festival dedicated to Artemis is Elaphebolia.  This holiday celebrates Artemis as the goddess of the hunt.  It will be celebrated on March 5 (in 2017 – due to the nature of a lunar calendar, the date changes every year).  If you are a hunter, this is a good time to dedicate that activity to Artemis and perhaps sacrifice a good portion of your prey to Her.  If you do not hunt but are interested in learning about it, taking lessons or some sort of classes (I really know nothing about hunting) would be a good idea.  If you do not hunt and do not wish to, that’s ok.  Not everyone needs to hunt anymore.  You can make cakes or cookies shaped like prey (deer, especially) and offer those to Artemis.

*Epithets – you knew we’d come back to that, didn’t you?  Artemis shares a lot of epithets with Her brother, Apollon.  I’d love it if someone (or many someones) would explore those epithets for the devotional.  Below is a short list of some of the epithets shared by Artemis and Apollon.  Apollon and Artemis have a very special connection, and I’d love it if someone(s) explored some of these epithets in how they relate to both deities.

Apollon Agraíos (Απολλων Ἀγραῖος) and Artemis Agroterê (Αρτεμις Αγροτερη), Hunter, Slayer

Apollon Daphnaios and Artemis Daphnaie, He/She To Whom the Laurel Is Sacred; laurel; of the laurel tree

Apollon Lykeios (Απολλών Λύκειος) and Artemis Lykeie (Αρτεμις Λυκειη), of the Wolf (Wolf-Slayer?); of the Wolves; of the Light (Light Bringer?); Destroyer; Protector from Wolves; Giver of Light; Wolf God; Deliverer from Wolves; Born of Light; Born in Lycia

Apóllon Phósphoros (Απόλλων Φώσφορος) and Artemis Phosphoros (Αρτεμις Φώσφορος), Light-Bearer; Light-Bringer

Apollon Soter (Απόλλων Σώτηρ) and Artemis Soteira (Αρτεμις Σωτειρα), the Savior

Apollon Aristaios and Artemis Ariste, Best

Apollon Patroios (Απόλλων Πατρώος) and Artemis Patroia (Αρτεμις Πατρωια), He/She of the Ancestors; Father; Protector of Families; Protector of the Ionians; of the Fathers; Ancestral

Apollon Latoios and Artemis Letois, Son/Daughter of Leto

Apollon Hekatebolos (Απόλλων Εκατηβόλος) and Artemis Hekatebolos (Αρτεμις Ἑκατηβολος), Who Strikes from  Afar; the Far Shooting; the Shooter from Afar

Apollon Hekaergos (Απόλλων Εκάεργος) and Artemis Hekaerge (Αρτεμις Ἑκαεργε), the Far-Shooting; student of Hekaergus; Working of His Own Free Will (Εχάεργος?); Working from Afar; Keeping Far Away; the One Who Works from Afar

Apollon Prostaterios and Artemis Prostateria, He/She Who Stands Before the Entrance; He/She Who Presides Over and Protects Houses; He/She Who Stands Before the House; Protector; Standing Before; Guardian

Artemis in Sicily

I visited Sicily during the summer of 2015, and it was an incredible experience.  I went alone, and I visited the village where my paternal grandfather’s family is from as well as many temples and sacred places.  I felt at home on this island in a way that I do in very few places.  I cannot wait to return.

In general, the eastern half of the island is more Greek (and also more lush and green), and the western half of the island is more Punic (and has a desert climate).  My family is from the northwest, so that is where I started my trip.  Greek ruins are far more prolific and protected than others on the island, and there are remnants of temples in the west as well as in the east.

Sicily is often called Persephone’s Island, but it is also sacred to Athena and Artemis.  When I visited Ortygia (an island connected to Syracusa by bridges), I found this to be truer than I had imagined.  The cathedral there is built not only on top of but also incorporating parts of a temple of Athena.  The walls of the cathedral were built into the columns of the temple.

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Duomo di Siracusa (dedicated to St. Lucy) – photo by me, August 2015

 

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inside walls of Duomo di Siracusa showing columns from the original Temple of Athena, photo by me, August 2015

Sicily is said to be sacred to these three goddesses because it is where They spent Their youths.  The three goddesses picked flowers to weave into a robe of spring for Zeus, and because of the time the goddesses spent together there, the island became sacred to them.  Each goddess was given a portion of the island as Her own.  The area of Himera (east of Palermo and west of Cefalu) is sacred to Athena, but I will have to make sure to visit this place on my next trip.  I ran out of time and missed the area of the coast between Catania and Palermo (the whole northeastern cape).

Syracusa, including Ortygia, is the area of the island sacred to Artemis, and when you visit, it is still obvious.  There is a beautiful fountain dedicated to Artemis on Ortygia.

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Artemis Fountain, Ortygia, photo by me, August 2015

In addition to this somewhat modern fountain, there is also the fountain of Arethusa that is sacred to Artemis.  The fish in this fountain are sacred to Artemis and not to be touched.  The story behind this fountain is that the nymph Arethusa went underground to escape an unwanted suitor (Alpheios) and traveled under the ground and under the sea until she came up on Ortygia.  She prayed to Artemis for help and was turned, by the goddess, into this fresh water spring.  Alpheios, however, was undeterred, and he went to her and mixed His salt water with her fresh water.

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Fonte Aretusa, Ortygia, taken by me, August 2015

I went swimming off the coast of Ortygia, and when I got back onto the boat, the driver of the boat asked me how the water was.  When I told him that it was cold but that every so often there would be a warm spot, he told me that the warm spots are Arethusa’s fresh water traveling to the fountain.

The final location that I want to show you from Artemis’s region is not actually on Ortygia but on the outskirts of Syracusa.  It is the Fiume Ciane, or the Cyane River.  After watching Persphone be abducted by Hades, the naiad Kyane was so distraught that she dissolved away and merged with her river.  This river is now a nature preserve because on its banks grow the only wild papyrus outside of Egypt.

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Fiume Ciane, Syracusa, taken by me, August 2015

I hope you enjoyed today’s trip to Syracusa.  I spent three days there, which was a long time for me to stay in one place on my trip.  There is so much more to see there and on the rest of the island of Sicily as well.  The gods are clearly remembered even if the population is predominantly Catholic.  Walking there is like living history and living in the footsteps of the gods.  The only other place I’ve ever been with a similar feeling is Iceland, but those are different gods for a different day.  Good night!