Looking For Death-Related Prayers and Poems. Help?

I’m currently putting together a guidebook for my work as a death midwife, and eventually I would like to be able to offer the non-copyrighted work to others wishing to get into death work in the Polytheist and Pagan community.

I would really, really love to have a collection of prayers, meditations, and beautifully written words to span various traditions and religions.  I would love to have both historical pieces and modern.

Eventually, I’m considering putting together an anthology of modern work on the subject, but if I take on one more project right now I’ll probably drop everything I’m carefully balancing.  However, if you submit something to me now, I would like to know if when I get to the point of putting something together for the community if you’d like to be included.

And in this vein, I’m also looking for soothing pieces.  Pieces to help people transition to their next journey.  Gentle things.

But also prayers for the deceased once they have ceased to be fully in our world.

So can you help me?  Even just links to your favorite hymns?  And would you kindly pass this message on to those who may be able to help?

Thank you!

Asklepieion: My Big Dream

I mentioned in a video that I had been given the charge to build a temple for Apollon, but I realized that I’ve been kind of nervous about talking about what it is that I feel called to accomplish with my life… Partially because I really don’t want to hear the naysayers’ opinions. Partially because I’ve spent so much of my life avoiding the calling towards what I realize I’m meant to be doing in this world… It’s hard to say I have a calling and a vision for my future, that I feel I was placed in this point and time in history because I have Work that I am supposed to do, and not feel like hubris is creeping in.

I talked to my therapist about this the other day. I went back to therapy, because I’m working on social anxiety issues and pain management via cognitive behavioral therapy. But really? CBT is pretty awesome. It aligns with Stoicism and mindfulness. Finding Personal Center and conquering the doubts, fears, and shadows in my own psyche while on relatively equal footing instead of in the middle of mental health emergency is proving to be a really empowering and enjoyable process thus far.

It’s that whole “Know Yourself, y’all” deal that Apollon has driven home to me.

But as I was saying, I talked to my therapist about it the other day. This was a huge deal for me, because I’ve only talked about the Big Dream in bits and pieces to anyone. Never mind that this fantastic woman, truly a modern day healer, who I’m paying to help me untangle the knots holding me back, isn’t Polytheist or Pagan. I have no idea what her beliefs are, other than she wasn’t too keen on the local inter-faith community locally and she’s got friends with children who are Pagan or Polytheist. And yet, we were able to talk Jung, CBT, and the intersection of mental illness and spiritual experience on a neutral place… She got it. She understood where I was coming from, even if I struggle with an elevator speech on what I believe and can talk more easily about what I’m not instead.

She looked at me. She smiled. And she told me, “Your road is lonely.”

She got it.

Each time I’ve talked to someone, even in bits and pieces, I’ve felt a little more brave about putting it all down in one place. So, despite the fact that I have questions I’ve promised to answer, I wanted to take the time to put The Big Dream down in words to share. The Big Dream I’m eventually going to have to have people helping with, because it’s too big to do on my own.  Even if for now it is lonely.

As I’ve said, Apollon has made it clear that He wants me to build Him a temple. It’s not simply a temple where religious services will be held but a place of healing. And not just any healing but spiritual and mental healing specifically.

I think my own life and watching other friends, both in and out of the Pagan and Polytheist communities, struggle with spiritual emergence, spiritual emergencies, and mental illness has led me to understand that this sort of place is needed. We have very few allies we can go to when we find ourselves having experiences we cannot explain. Mystical experiences can be quite close to psychosis, and typically there is no one there to help navigate the person experiencing them that has a firm understanding of how the spiritual, mental, and even physical integrate to make the larger whole.

You may find yourself seeing a therapist or psychiatrist who can help you get leveled and back in control of the situation, but you may find yourself scared to talk to them about the religious part of your experiences due to being branded one of the mental ill, widely stigmatized in our society.

You may find yourself falling into a community where psychiatry is demonized. Even though it may, in the right hands, be a key to help you obtain some relief without removing the underlying spiritual work. And you may find in that situation that your life falls away from you in a way that causes you to lose more than you are willing to give up.

Or, worst of all, you may find yourself unhelped at all and end up dead.

My dream is to build a place, with a trained and professional staff, that brings about equilibrium for those in this situation. Professionals with degrees in social work, psychology, chaplaincy, and so on, to help serve a person transition from mundane existence to a more spiritually-led life. A psychiatrist who is friendly and open to the needs of this type of situation.

The logistics is that, eventually, a live-in religious community of Polytheists and Pagans would develop on the land that the temple would be on. Small individual houses for those who work both the land or with people along with communal space for (optional) shared meals and celebrations. More small quarters for those who are coming to be helped. All surrounding the space that’s dedicated for Apollon’s temple.

Around that would be a sustainable farm using permaculture, including a bee sanctuary and shrines set up in various places throughout the zones. We would offer a training programs for veterans, teaching them both to farm and helping them work through any mental health problems they might have problems with. We would offer internships and a residency program to hopefully help train other professionals to go out into the world and offer services that align with our values.

This serves 2-fold: One, it provides Pagan and Polytheist training. Two, for those who can’t afford the services monetarily, there can be a sliding scale and payment via work that must be done to keep the community thriving.

If I can get enough land, I would like to offer space for natural and green funerals. At the very least, I know that with my current training in being a death worker will be used to serve those who need help dying, though eventually I would like to explore the thought of offering hospice space for those in need.

I’ve had this idea in my head for about a decade now, but it’s only now that I’m starting to think that it’s quite possible I may be able to actually have this happen. It’s only now that I’m brave enough to start talking about it with others

So… There is my Big Dream. When you hear me talk about building at temple for Apollon, this is what I actually mean. When you hear me say that I’m struggling to figure out what I’m going to do education-wise for myself, this is why. This is what I want to make happen. This is what I’m called to do.

 

On Compassion, Offerings, and Honoring Our Gods

Recently many of my spiritual Sisters and I have been discussing the nature of the Gods and the relationship we humans have with them. Many people in the Pagan and Polytheist communities feel that offerings and sacrifices must take place in order for the Gods to love us or that we must give them something in order for them to love us.

I was involved with a discussion where someone well known in a certain Recon circle replied with ROFL to a fellow Polytheist who considers herself Hellenic and Roman saying that her gods love her no matter what and despite not giving offerings.

Beyond the place that leaves me feeling that the Roman Virtues were far from upheld in that moment with those four capitalized letters, it got me thinking on my own personal home practice. While I could light incense, fires, and give offerings upon rising and laying down at night, it doesn’t happen and likely won’t. I’m a mother of a toddler. In my small home, I have little room to build multiple shrines. My lararium is downstairs; our only bathroom is upstairs. Typically by the time I go to the bathroom in the morning, my daughter is up and moving. Morning prayers rarely get said.

Do my household gods, dii Penates and Lares, love me any less for this fact? Would they love me more if I were to give myself a bladder infection and ignore my duties as a mother for them? They would not.

Saying otherwise would be, in my opinion, teetering dangerously close to superstition – That we must appease our gods through grand gestures and offerings. Was it not Varro who said The Gods do not want sacrifice, their statues even less?

Did he not also say The religious man reveres the Gods as he would his parents, for they are good, more apt to spare than to punish?

If, then, the Gods are like parents, then they are capable of unconditional love – For that is the true nature of being a parent. And while I understand all too well that our mortal parents may not have been there for us due to abuse, death, illness, or any number of unfortunate situations, I do not believe the Gods fall to such human conditions.

I believe the Gods love us unconditionally. Perhaps sometimes they dislike a person for their own reasons, but I believe there is still an underlying love there to be held if the person is still out walking around in the world.

My mortal parents love me no matter what I’ve done or do. I do not feed them. I do not make offerings to them that are beyond my means. A few times a year I give gifts, though typically I get a very sincere “You didn’t have to do that” response when I do.  They understand that financially I’m unable to do these things quite often. This, too, is my relationship with the Gods. Even being on a devotional path with Apollon, he prefers other forms of offerings than food and libations; he prefers I don’t make a ritual out of my honoring him.

I feel that the greatest offering we can give the Gods is attempting to consciously model the virtues and ethics of our religions. As a person who practices mainly as a Roman polytheist these days, the Roman Virtues have been a framework with which to conduct my character for years. As an Apollonian, I attempt to live by the Delphic Maxims. I am by no means perfect, but when the time comes to reign myself in for whatever reason to align with these guidelines I remind myself that I am doing this to bring honor to my Gods…

Because I feel that honoring the Gods, and not simply worshiping them, is not so simple as burning incense or offering prayers praising and asking for something in return. While the Roman framework of ritual will help a person come into contact with the Gods more quickly, I find that my life is directly touched by the Gods with or without formalized offerings.

Instead my offerings come in the form of my daily life. I have been urging others to live a fully dedicated religious daily life for years now, and I will continue to do so. While I garden, I talk to the spirits and gods of the plants, the soil, the land around me. I offer a few strands of hair if feeling very moved to; otherwise I make watering the plants and composting into the soil and offering. While I clean, I bring myself into a mindful state and talk with the household gods; I offer them my time and the essential oils I use in my homemade cleaning supplies. While I cook, Vesta and I speak freely, and I find that she is quite pleased with the tiny space I’ve carved for her on the back of my oven where I spontaneously give her tiny pinches of herbs and sea salt as the mood hits me.

I feed the birds. I compost for Silvanus, who requested this of me recently. I dedicate my creative endeavors and running to Apollon, who in my own life is much more interested in creation and striving towards excellence than rituals of habit.

When you are truly involved with your religion and your Gods, when you allow yourself to push beyond the boundary of the boss/employee relationship so many of us cling to, you may find that you enjoy a much fuller relationship. For the Gods take on many roles in our lives. For they love us and, for the most part, wish to see us at our best. The Gods willingness to be our parents and help us grow as humans is one of the great offerings the Gods give us. Healing our own human understanding of what a parent should be like and the wounds that have been left by human parents’ shortcomings is liberating.

And this is not to say that my way is the only way. I am sure there are plenty of reasons why a person may chose to honor their Gods in a boss/employee relationship, including but no limited to the God in question wishing it to be this way. It’s simply that I see a trend of many Polytheists feeling that their way of practicing is the only way of doing things, and they treat those of us wishing to take a more personal approach to our faiths as “not doing it right.”  Or worse we are delusional or “as bad as monotheists.”

To that I say that the Gods love us with or without food offerings and libations. In fact, the Gods love us without offerings at all. I encourage everyone to actually have a conversation with those they honor and see what they answer you; perhaps they will ask you to keep on the way you are.  Perhaps they will tell you the same thing I am.  But I feel it’s important for everyone to understand that they way you practice your religion is not the end-all-be-all of your religion as a whole.  Most importantly, I feel it is our responsibility to our fellow community members to treat each and every person with respect and a valid voice in the tapestry of Polytheism and Paganism, to keep an open heart and mind in the event that our Gods are truly sending us a message that speaks to us down to the very core of our being – For that, I believe, is one of the greatest offerings we can give in honor of our Gods…  That of compassion to all of those who love our Gods.

In Which Meganne Realizes She’s Not an Island

I have a lot to say.  Life is large and full of things to talk about, but writing doesn’t much happen as well or often as it should….  Or, in my case lately, there’s a lot of anger leaking out around the edges that I’d prefer to start letting go of before opening my mouth on with certain subjects.

Instead I want to talk about joy.  I want to talk about something I’ve been mulling over in my head for a few weeks now.

I’ve been pretty open about being a solitary Pagan.  I didn’t mesh well with the locals in Iowa, which isn’t to say anything bad about the community there, but I just never felt particularly welcome there for some reason.  I think it was an extension of generally not feeling welcome in Iowa as a whole despite growing up there.  I’m not above thinking I wasn’t coming at it at a completely open mind myself, but I feel like there was a definite lack of either side meeting in the middle.

But honestly?  I was at it as a Pagan for over a decade in Iowa, and despite having a friend or two who were of various Pagan faiths, I never really felt particularly compelled to be part of the community.  Maybe coming from it now at a different stage in my life would give me a new perspective, but I’m no longer there to test out this theory.  I’m somewhere different now: mentally, spiritually, and physically.

For the first few years of living in Missouri, I’ve been working through my faith.  I’ve been met with illness and motherhood.  I’ve spent a lot of time reading and evaluating what I believe.  I deepened my relationship with Apollon and renewed my vows to him (Both of which I’ve been very quiet about up until this point, but I will return to shortly in another post).

I am Pagan.  I am Polytheist.  I am Roman.  I am American…  I am everything and nothing.  It’s wonderful and glorious.

And lonely.

One thing I’ve realized lately is that I am not an island.  With a call to ministry, it’s probably more than a little amusing that up until this point I have been so solitary, except I think maybe this time has been spent evaluating myself as deeply as one can.  I’ve lived the Maxim of Know Thyself, and while I will continue to live it, it was time for me to reach out.

On Facebook, I mentioned that I was wishing I had a local community.  And much to my shock, some of my local friends started mentioning they had Earth-centered leanings…

Suddenly I was curious…  What did the local Pagans look like?  What were they into?  Did I already know them?

So I did what any rational socially anxious Matrona would do…  I packed up my mother and daughter, and I went to Pagan Pride.

Mid-Missouri Pagan Pride, by the way, is a nice little gathering.  I didn’t get a chance to go to any workshops like I wanted to do, but it looked like a nice mix of subjects and faiths represented.  The local artisans are quite skilled and make beautiful pieces of art.  The local stores have a nice collection of books for those not up to their elbows in an ancient civilization.  My daughter enjoyed the music, and had she been just a bit older would have loved the activity table and face painting.

I’m not sure if my mind was more open that day; maybe I’ve been working on not rejecting others before they can reject me…  Maybe, but I like to imagine that the Pagans of Central Missouri are a better fit for me.  This area of the state is where my roots hail from; the land is undoubtedly in my blood.  The Missouri River calls to me.  This is my home.

I was getting the push to go to Pagan Pride.  I felt a great sense that I was supposed to be meeting at least one person there.  It didn’t happen.  I volunteered to work the divination tent next year anyway.

I guess my swing further into the Cultus Deorum Romanium (or at least the study of it) has alienated me in a way, because I felt this weird mix of not having anything in common with anyone and excitement that I’d found my people.  I hadn’t been in the company of another of the Roman persuasion since 2001, and back then I was decidedly not a cultor myself.

But I knew I was selling myself short, because I am still really socially anxious.  I didn’t talk to too many people.  I understood that I didn’t make any connections because that part of my brain said, “Relax, Meganne, I’ve got this” and then proceeded to flip the eff out and dump copious amounts of adrenaline into my body. (Note to self: Make the socially anxious part of the brain sit in the back seat next time.)

Anyway, I decided to reach out again.  This time I asked on Facebook in the local alliance group if there was anyone even remotely close to what I practice.  I didn’t expect anything.

The gods are laughing at me.  Seriously.  I almost immediately got a response from another person who is a Gallo-Roman polytheist, which is where my gut tells me I’m going to end up myself eventually.  We’ve been out for tea.  It was awesome!  I’m doing my best to not wax on for 5 paragraphs about how awesome it was, because I’m afraid of being creepy.  Seriously.  I have not been this excited since…  Well, I don’t even know when.

While we’re at it, you should read his blog.

So allow to me encourage my fellow hermit-types out there to reach out.  If it doesn’t work the first time reach out again.  And again.  And maybe again.  Eventually you’re going to find someone you have things in common with out there.

We cannot build the community we want for ourselves without being involved in the community.  That is something the last year has taught me.  If I dream of temples built on the ground called the United States (and I do, I so very, very much do), I have to gather the community about me that will support such an undertaking.  Even if that wasn’t the case, the human experience calls out to be shared and nurtured in a family of chosen kindred spirits.

The gods are patient, kind, and good.  They are amazing.

They have to be to put up with me.

And as a side note, Mid-Missouri Pagans who may or may not be reading this…  I genuinely and with all of my heart look forward to meeting more of you as soon as I can.  Even if I struggle making eye contact.