Pure Things

Pure things for the pure. How then
Shall we purify ourselves?
By becoming like
Unto the all-pure Gods,
Do we approach Them, reflect
Them back unto Themselves.

Strip away all
That is alien to Them, all
That binds the soul to the depths
Of mighty matter. Instead,
Let the eye of the soul gaze
Upward, homeward, back
To her eternal source.

Then, only then, do we become
Pure. All
Else falls away, impurities refined,
‘Til what remains
Is an offering, pure,
Returned to the Pure.

Give Water to the Gods

Awkward confession time.

For years, I’ve heard other polytheists encouraging people to offer simple libations of water to the Gods. For whatever reasons—and even after searching my memory, I’m not entirely sure what those reasons were—I always ignored that advice, and even looked down on this practice. Whether it’s because those water offerings were sometimes framed as second-best (“if you can’t give anything else, at least give water”), or because of some other hang-ups on my part, I just didn’t do it. For years, I’ve burned candles at their shrines daily, offered incense regularly, and poured occasional libations of wine or other beverages. But until recently, never water.

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May I Hymn You Always

Bright and holy Gods,
whose care extends throughout the world,
even to the farthest depths and the smallest things,
who are always and ever all good,
the very source of goodness, for whom all beings long,
whose blessings fountain forth abundantly,
providing all that we need,
who are always and everywhere present,
whenever we turn toward you,

Help me always, in everything, to honor you,
to become ever more fully aware
of your presence, your gifts
which uphold me at every moment.
Help me always, with everything, to turn toward you.

May my every word be a hymn.
May my every deed be a hymn.
May my every thought be a hymn.
May my every breath be a hymn.

May all that I say and think and do, all that I am,
be in keeping with your goodness, your providence, your love.

May I hymn you without ending, every moment of my life.

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Lysios

In a dark forest grove
Lit by starlight, flick’ring flame,
Decked with ivy, fragrant flowers,
Your worshippers come, laden down
With their sorrows, their worries.
With the weight of the world.

You, O Lord, lift their burdens.

You show first a glimpse,
Then so much more – rushing,
Swirling, another vision, souls enraptured,
As you draw forth from our lips
Wave upon roaring wave
Of brilliant, rolling laughter.

So hail to you, O Lysios!
Praise, O Lord of Laughter!

Mostly Dionysos

A votive inscription that just utterly delights me. It’s cited by H.S. Versnel in his book, Coping with the Gods (pp. 504-5):

We pray to all the Gods, but mostly to Dionysos.
πρὸς πάντας τοὺς θεοὺς μάλιστα δὲ πρὸς τὸν Διόνυσον.

What is Tradition For?

Consider an antique telescope. There are two different ways of “looking,” with respect to this scientific instrument. I could look at the telescope: making the telescope the object of my study, inquiring into how telescopes were made in the 19th century, the materials used, the curvature of the lens, the mechanisms (or lack thereof) for making fine adjustments, etc. This might even become part of a detailed history of telescopes, or of the institution of astronomy over the centuries.

Or I could pick the telescope up, take it outside on a clear night, and look through the telescope, using the telescope as it was intended by its makers, to study the planets and stars. This latter project will, from time to time, require me to attend to the instrument itself: adjusting the focus, cleaning the lens, setting it up correctly in its stand so that it’s stable and ready to work. But none of these things are in the end, the goal, the telos toward which they are directed and from which they acquire their meaning. They are all in the service of allowing me to observe the heavenly bodies as they course through the night sky.

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Holy Fear

Not every religious encounter is an experience of unbridled joy, tenderness, and a warm embrace. Some are—and they can be wonderful!—but that’s far from the only type. Quite often, accounts of religious experiences involve some kind of terror or holy fear at the presence of a God, and I’ve had my own share of such experiences.

This post is an attempt to make some degree of sense of my own experiences in devotion over the years, by distinguishing three different types of holy fear that can occur in devotional or theophanic encounters. It’s not meant to be exhaustive: neither in describing these three categories in their entirety, nor in (necessarily) getting at all the possible categories that might be out there.

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