The Names of the Gods Aren’t Their Real Names

There is a phenomena that happens in the mystic sector of our communities that regularly drives a knife into the heart of the mystic – That of suddenly realizing that the Gods you are so close to are not who you expected them to be, which is the very foundation of mysticism. At first it is rending. Then it is uncomfortable. You begin the journey, diving into what we define as syncretism, and you’re met with mixed emotions. You mourn the loss of equilibrium. You fear uncertainty. You mourn what you’ve lost. You doubt your path or your sanity, sometimes both. Sometimes there’s the loss of community or co-religionist friends. It hurts. It’s excruciating.

Meanwhile there’s tickling excitement as you find spots where you discover the familiar in new faces and learn new things. You gain new tools for approaching your beloved Gods. You expand your community of like-minded, same-hearted companions.

This is the very basis of the mystic experience. You grow. Your relationship with the Gods grows. You learn and accept (Eventually? Hopefully?) that, like most relationships, you don’t have full control of the situation. Learning to let go of the reigns, trusting that the beings carrying you on your journey know the way even when you may not, is one of the hardest things that will ever happen in your life.

In the last month or two I’ve been musing over this quite a lot. As believers of Many and not just One, we don’t have as many sources of people historically going through this. Many of us identify with the Abrahamic mystics, who have the luxury of there only being One in their core beliefs. We also learn in school that Gods fit into neat boxes of what they’re in power over, and that construct is not something that simply goes away because we will it. Suddenly the God of your heart does not fit into that box. They tell you that they no longer wish to be called by the name you’ve always known them as. They want to be called something else.

Now I’ve rambled here, trying to get the foundation of what I’m actually wanting to say… And that is this: Those who walk with the Powers with root in the Indo-European traditions are grounded in the very nature of the Gods does not allow for boxes. The names of our Gods were rendered in the languages spoken and carried through time. Words, after all, have power, but power shifts like everything else. Our Gods are many-named, otherwise there would have been no need for titles, epithets, and facets. No need for syncretism and interpretation. Everyone in history would agree. But that is not the case.

Many of our traditions hold that the Gods’ true names are rarely known. These true names hold power. Only the initiated learn them, and they are held as some of the greatest secrets lost in history.

These names cannot be found in primary sources and secondary sources are mere speculation. The only way to find these names now are directly experiencing the Powers. These names were regularly part of Mysteries.

We can find this in the Rig Veda:

As God, the secret names of Gods he utters, to be declared on sacred grass more widely.

– RV 9.95.4

We can find this in regard to Rome:

…and, last and greater than all, Rome herself, whose other name the hallowed mysteries of the sacred rites forbid us to mention without being guilty of the greatest impiety. After it had been long kept buried in secrecy with the strictest fidelity and in respectful and salutary silence, Valerius Soranus dared to divulge it, but soon did he pay the penalty of his rashness.

– Pliny, Natural History, Book 3, Chapter 9

We can find this, dear to my own heart, in Hellenic sources for Apollon:

O fair-beamed Sun, how you have destroyed me

and him here. You are rightly called Apollon among mortals,

whoever knows the divine powers’ unspoken names.

–from M.L. West’s Indo-European Poetry and Myth quoting Euripidies’ Phaethon (225 f. = fr. 781. 12 f.)

If you read chapter 3 of M.L. West’s Indo-European Poetry and Myth, you will find other examples of this reality. Which is exactly what it is: Reality.

Years ago, I came across a database of all the recorded names found for Celtic gods, and I was struck by how many gods had once been worshiped in Europe that were entirely lost save for a single inscription. As far as I can tell, despite lots of searching, the database seems to be gone now, which just painfully reminds me of the ephemeral nature of language and names. Some of the names in the database were simply possible reconstructions of meaning, because the language wasn’t so much lost as it evolved naturally over time. The art of describing the world around us changes, words become taboo, and the sounds that roll across our tongues are ever evolving.

Sometimes at night, when the house is silent and I enjoy a few moments of peace to sit with the Gods, I think of all the Gods that we’ve lost over time. But the reality is that the Gods are immortal. They are deathless. They are waiting for us to find our way back to Them as we reforge what is left of our traditions. Rebuild? No. We will never be able to rebuild the structures that were destroyed, but we can take what has been recorded, discovered, and experienced. And with those pieces, we can listen to the Gods whispering how to melt them and forge them into traditions that build into a strong tool used to come back to the Gods of our Ancestors.

That is Revivalism. That is the job of mystics. When a God tells you that they are not who you thought they were, you’re allowed to feel the wide range of emotions that flood over you. You’re allowed to rage. You’re allowed to cry. To scream. To fight with them. To feel the height of joy as a clue falls into your lap. You are allowed to experience all the frustration that comes with this most holy of Work.

Let it take days. Months. Years… Let it take a decade or more. However long it takes you is just the right amount of time, because you’re on the path to the Gods. Not just greatest who are remembered or even simply recorded, but all the Gods. All of Them.

Let Them give you the names They now wish to be called. Let Them be nameless until They are ready to reveal a name to you as an initiate into Their mysteries. Try to be uncomfortable with Their namelessness with hope that one day you will be far along enough in your path to be given that name, which you will hold dear to your heart from that day on.

There will be new names given. New titles. New ways of engaging with the Powers. Dive into scholarly work. Dive into pop culture. Dive into whatever gets you to that place of understanding and love. Deep, deep love. The indescribable love that itself defies names and leaves you wordless when you are cradled in the love of the Gods.

It is entirely human to demand a labeled box with which to place the mysteries of existence. That’s where language comes from. It’s easy and comfortable to shove the Gods into the boxes that were kept from the destruction of our Ancestors’ traditions. But it’s entirely impious to think that these are the only Gods there are. It is clear that those of us reviving and creating traditions have the same understanding of our Ancestors – That only the initiated know the true names of the Gods, and those names are sacred.

Sacred means of the Gods’ and not of humans. You may be faced with the reality that the names of your Undying Ones are no longer known, though They are waiting to be remembered by a new name that means more to Them now, as it will rebirth them into the present.

Our lives are not static, and neither are our traditions.

Keep walking your path even if your Gods are suddenly nameless. You’re walking the paths of our Ancestors, even if it may not feel like it.

Our traditions depend upon it.

Advertisements

Omens: The Gods Make Themselves Heard

A black locust tree lays fallen in the author's backyard

I regularly hear people say that they’d need to be hit over the head to notice messages from the Gods, but allow me to stress that if the Gods want to be heard, you will get a clear and obvious message. Those in the Roman community (and likely others that I don’t frequent) regularly discuss ways to read omens, as it’s historically a part of the tradition from birds to entrails. This week I’ve fully cemented a new and obvious way to read omens.

And yes, this was very, VERY serious, but my main defense against life is humor. I’m putting this story out there as a reminder that even with having a place as a teacher, part of the ever-going process of learning means that lessons never stop coming. The Gods make it very clear if they’ve been offended…

Very clear.

Wednesday I went to a labyrinth ceremony with a group of women I’ve spent some time with lately. They are not of my religion. They are not under the same spiritual obligations as I am. It would easy to go on a rant about how New Age is excessively eclectic, but at the same time what works for others and how they approach and the engage the Powers is honestly okay and absolutely none of my business. Our paths are our own.

I spend time in the New Age community, since quite often my interests actually overlap. I take these moments as a lesson in the reciprocal nature of hospitality. I do my best to approach everything I encounter as the best guest I can be, which means that if I choose to interact that I try my hardest not to hold people to my own religious expectations while involving myself in a level that is comfortable to me. If I find tools to be useful, I incorporate them into my practices.

However, the ceremony that took place was far from what I knew to be acceptable in my covenant I enter with my Gods. Trepidation kicked in, but I ignored it figuring it was just me being judgmental. I rolled with the flow of things while trying to see to it that I worked within the perimeters I was greatly aware I couldn’t set aside.

While walking the labyrinth and meditating inside of it, I had a perfectly pleasant chat with my God. The wind picked up. A blue jay called in the distance. He was there, and I was very aware of it. We talked about what the next leg of the walk I’m taking involves in regard to tasks I’m set to do. It wasn’t a deep religious or spiritual experience, but I did see the practical uses of the labyrinth.

During this point, I was told if I kept my eye out, I’d get the message if my offerings were accepted. A crow flew over and called while sitting there afterwards. I didn’t think it was the message, but it tickled in a way that said it was some sort of sign. One of the women noted the way she’d looked to see a larger tree swaying in the wind, but was aware its large roots held it firmly in place. That resonated, but again not the omen.

Afterwards my friend and I went out to lunch. We talked about it and had a nice time. As we drove back to my place, I noticed that in my part of town the winds had picked up. Dust was flying through the air. I thought to myself, “I’ve not seen that happen here before.” But again, I knew it wasn’t the omen I was waiting for.

When I got home, I went out back to ground and was wandering around. The wind had knocked over some of my orchid pots. I was standing and looking up at the branches thinking, “Hello. That’s some pretty violent wind up there,” when suddenly about a foot away I heard the tell tale sound of cracking wood.

In that split second looked over to see which way the tree next to me was falling, and I realized it was safer for my to just stand there instead of running. I watched as the trunk broke off and the tree went down in front of me. My mind quickly went to the promise of an omen on if the offering was accepted, and the words that fell out of my mouth were, “I fucking guess not.”

Okay, they were yelled. I may have peed my pants a little, not gonna lie.

(Meanwhile in Missouri, a tree was falling in the backyard I’d gotten married in. The third and final tree in that yard to fall in the last 4 years.)

I came inside and texted my friend who had been with me that day telling her what was going on. I said that I was going to be burning liver sooner than later to make things right, and needless to say I would not be partaking in any more ceremonies. I was very, very aware suddenly that it was absolutely out of the question for me to engage in spiritual or religious practices where the Gods do not take first precedence. It’s funny how clear these things are when you’ve nearly been taken out by a black locust falling.

Not too much later she texted me. She’d been playing Boggle on her phone and had gotten a few words that seemed eerily out of place and like a message: witch, liver, pyre, Luna, spear, Titans.

Beyond my typical question of if I’m actually a fictional character in a novel, I knew what almost all of these words meant:

Witch: This is how I tend to identify these days when it comes to labels.

Liver and Pyre: Well, as stated I’d just invited my friend over if she wanted to get in on the offering of liver to the Celestials, so I feel like that was explained quickly.

Luna: This one I’m not sure about, but will likely have pop up sooner than later.

Titans: So lately I’ve been pondering the stories of the Gods before the Gods that tend to rest within the Indo-European family. Lately I’ve been wondering if perhaps the clear stories of the Gods putting the order to chaos, sometimes allowing the older Gods to stay around, and generally what those older Gods represent is a narrative that is starting to reflect in my own religious practice. I look for the older Gods in the stories of those we tend to worship. More divination will have to be done to figure out exactly what this message meant, but the word alone confirmed that this was a message.

Spear: Divination needed as to why this was put into the mix, but spears are a regular order of business in messages sent through other people for me. Considering the nature of falling trees, I decided to play it safe and assume that He wanted me to get Him one. When flowers aren’t enough of an I’m sorry, always fall back on the gift of weapons.

So there is my story for the week. I pissed off the Gods enough that they took out a tree in my backyard while I was standing next to it. Divination did reveal that I’m to make a few things out of some of the tree for myself as a reminder of what the Gods want of me along with a few gifts for others. I also have a hand-forged reproduction of a La Tène Era spearhead coming from Great Britain for a new cult piece.

However, the take away from this and the lesson that I will impart is that we do not always have the same covenants with our Gods that the ancients had. But the Heavenly Ones won’t hold back in letting you know what They want from you. May you not have a tree dropped on you while figuring out what those rules are, my friends.

 

 

 

Makers Wanted!

During my blogging silence, I’m working on getting together a spiritual supply business. Are you a Pagan or Polytheist maker?  I’m interested in your work and products.  I’m putting together both subscription services and a regular shop, and I’d love to see what you have available.  I want what I’m doing to have direct benefits to my fellow makers and craftspeople in the community.

Right now I’m looking for small items that can be sold to me with bulk (not quite wholesale) pricing (think incense, candles, apothecary, etc), and if feedback is good it will have wholesale opportunities. I will allow you to include promotional material on where people can buy your supplies directly from you if your items are selected for inclusion in the subscription.  Items should be under $5 each retail.

However, those with larger items that could possibly be sold in a consignment-type situation, I’d love to see what you have for future consideration.

Link me to your wares in the comments, or email me privately at notawiccan (at) gmail (dot) com with information. A sample would be greatly appreciated, but I will accept great feedback on an online marketplace as a sign that what you make is awesome.

Please note that if it is jewelry that you sell, unless it is vastly different than what I can make and high quality, I probably will not be interested in it for this.  That likely means you’re asking prices outside of my interested range currently.  However, link below anyway, since self-promotion is a hard thing to do and I want to support you too!

 

Print Pre-Orders

I have a few prints that I’m preparing to take in to get professionally scanned, and then prints will be available.  I’ve decided to take pre-orders for these to help me cover the cost of scanning.  Pre-orders prices are 15% off with shipping added in after the discount.  These will be available for international shipping for an additional $5.  I will give you directions on ordering at the bottom of this post.

Pre-sale orders must be received and paid in full by January 31st.  I hope to have these in the mail by the end of February if not much sooner.

Please forgive the quality of the images here.  They are small and low quality, and I promise you that your prints will meet your expectations of what a fine art print should be.

apollon

Apollon (mixed media) – Original is sold

  • 11×14 inches on matte archival paper – $31
  • 6×7 inches on matte archival paper – $18

 

diana

Diana – Original is sold

  • 12×12 Matte archival paper (non-foiled) – $16
  • VERY LIMITED EDITION – 12×12 Matte archival paper with silver leaf – $50

This will be available in smaller sizes, but there is no cost difference with pre-sale.

nyx

Nyx

Original watercolor on 300 lb 100% cotton paper – $300

  • 12×16 Matte archival paper – $36
  • 12×16 cotton watercolor paper – $48
  • 6×8 Matte archival paper – $21
  • 6×8 cotton watercolor paper – $24

wolf

Untitled – Please inquire on price of original

  • 12×16 Matte archival paper – $36
  • 12×16 cotton watercolor paper – $48
  • 6×8 Matte archival paper – $21
  • 6×8 cotton watercolor paper – $24

To order: Please email me at notawiccan(at)gmail(dot)com with what you would like to order, and I will send you a PayPal invoice.

My Polytheism

(My addition to the current conversation that’s growing at My Polytheism.  If you’ve not looked into the project, I highly recommend it.)

My polytheism began when I was a little girl and my father expressed that the trees and everything around us had a spirit. We were wandering around a pond the land we owned, and I remember the truth in this settling into the very marrow of my bones. There was a give and take I placed there even then.

If we take, we must give back. If we give, we will receive, though it will always be more of what we need than necessarily what we want.

My polytheism grew with me. Even now as I grow and get comfortable in the space of adulthood and motherhood, it grows as I do. I am a microcosm of the nature of the universe around me. My bones are the stone under the soil of my skin. My breath is the spark of life and the wind in my hair. My actions ripple out into the macrocosm of it all.

This is why the wind in the trees and the summer cicadas’ singing feels like home, like family, like peace. Like Gods.

This is why I struggle with saying we must put the Gods first, because the thread that ties everything together is a God. If everything is tied together, if that current is a God, then we all are the vessels of sacredness, like a lamp holding oil. We are all bits of Divine. We are capable of burning bright and wild or gently and dim. There is really no wrong way to be a flame for the Gods. There is only sustainable and unsustainable.

The Gods are within us as we go about our daily lives. I recognize that the Gods are individuals just as we are. I understand that serving the people, building our communities, and honoring the needs of others is, in fact, putting the Gods first.

We cannot build a temple without a foundation. In a history that has been constructed on the backs of suffering, it is our duty to see to it that our builders are healthy, happy, and strong. That we don’t exploit those who depend on us in whatever capacity it is we fill in the community. That we take care of each other. That we honor our differences, and we keep in mind that it’s both healthy and expected for there to be variations.

Rome, as they say, was not built in a day and neither are sustainable traditions for the Gods. And the piety of European ancestors included caring for the members of our families and our later communities and civilizations. This is the evolution of piety in the hands of humans, for we approach the Gods not as equals but filling a needed role all the same.

My polytheism falls into the constant ebb and flow of the life in my home. On the days I am tired and not sure I’m interested in keeping the hearth shrine, I’m joined by a young child requesting we offer to the Gods. On the days I’m not sure I’m thankful, she is there like a gift to remind me that I am. We continue to feel out the world of the Gods around us on the constantly shifting clay soil as we encourage the roots to sink in deeper. Our work is that of a horticulturalist carefully tending the starts brought over the ocean from our Ancestor’s lands of the World Tree, assuring that the growth is strong and the roots have taken hold.

My polytheism celebrates the simple joys. We offer our favorite foods of both the New and Old Worlds – Tomatoes, peaches, and cornmeal. Soy beans for an Ancestor, who dedicated his life to the plant. Catfish to the one who was said to know the Missouri River better than any other fisherman, a legend in his neck of the woods. We celebrate the birthdays of those who came before us, because they never fully go away. We mark the anniversary of their deaths, bittersweet that they have left us but overjoyed they have gone to the Ancestors that allow us to still have a relationship with them.

My polytheism is pulling over to the side of the road when meeting a funeral procession. It is flowers on the graves of my Beloved Dead on Memorial Day. It is hours upon hours of combing through French documents year after year in hopes of finding a clue to where my family tree originated from.

It is not very interested in worrying too heavily with breaking away from cultural thought that is steeped in a history of monotheism simply because it was from a monotheistic history. It’s more interested in finding the truth and reason behind those cultural moorings, deciding if they matter and pertain to my life now, and tossing away what holds no use to me in the present. At the end of the day I recognize that plants grow stronger and better when put in soil with some manure in it for lack of a more graceful metaphor. My Ancestor’s beliefs, those of some of the first ministers and religious revolutionaries, were beliefs that their lives revolved completely around. My approach is firmly rooted in approaching those Ancestors in a way that allows us to compromise. To simply throw them completely away isn’t necessary as long as I am aware of the hows, whys, and where of their origin. Throwing everything away feels like impiety to the branches that connect me back to the source of mankind.

My polytheism is unapologetically animistic. I have laid my ear to the exposed rocks of the river bluffs to hear their whispers. I have experienced the purifying and healing gifts of the great rivers flowing through the Midwest. I have found peace while having tea with the plants I tend. As an artist, I have breathed the life of spirits into the pieces I create, and the spirits come wishing to have their stories told in paint, in metal, in clay.

It understands that nature isn’t here for me. And sometimes it’s beautiful. And sometimes it’s brutal.

My polytheism informs every part of my life. From the broom sweeping across the floors of my home to the way I go about making dinner for my family to the prayer of “Drive safely” each time one of mine go out on an errand or away for the day. My family of blood, my family of choice, each relationship within it is sacred and important, and without them I would fail to thrive or have full purpose. Of that I am not ashamed. For that I am thankful.

But the most important part of my polytheism is that it’s open to new ideas and experiences. Rituals change. Observance of a set religious calendar waxes and wanes, starts anew, some things lingering some things losing meaning in the environment I am in. My own understanding of the way things are is humbly changing as new evidence is brought to me, molded by the hands of my Gods and co-religionists in their bravery of talking about their own experiences openly, willing to speak vulnerably and honestly.

Willing to put their necks out.

Willing to brave the fickle waters of our community.

Sometimes we’re on the same boat. Sometimes we wave at each other in passing. Sometimes we break against rocks or get pulled under by an undercurrent.  Sometimes we try to sink each other. But we’re still on the same water, and ignoring that weakens the strength that many spirits can build in order to keep us all afloat.

Memphis Bound

The Foxglove Household is currently packing our home up, house hunting, and prepping to head to Memphis, Tennessee, sometime at the end of this month to beginning of next month.  It’s a relief to know that we’ll be there for at least 3 years, but we’re really just planning on everything going right and hopefully putting down permanent roots there at this point.  I’m personally sick of interstate moving already, and we don’t have this one finished yet.

I have 2 jewelry pieces to get made today, and then the jewelry bench is going to be packed up and my Etsy shop up into vacation-mode until most likely September or October.  I’m not sure if I’m going to have a lot of room for a jewelry bench at our new place, but hopefully so.

So if you don’t hear from me for a bit, don’t worry!  I’ll be back to talk about how magical our new city is.