Where Shall Wisdom Be Found? (An Eclectic Hellenist’s List to Remind Himself What Matters)

I haven’t posted anything personal in awhile, so perhaps this will fit the bill. This is not a poem. This is a list. I tend to make a lot of lists. It’s something I do. The past few months of my life have not been easy, and a number of events have made me extremely disheartened, a bit more disillusioned and disappointed in the quotidian world than usual. Some of these events would be obvious to the regular readers of this blog (like the death of my grandmother, which I’m still struggling with); others are so subtle I’m not sure if I could really explain them to anyone. One subject in particular has been bothering me: I find it downright staggering how many useless distractions pervade our lives. Almost everything out there in the mainstream culture seems so meaningless, so shallow, so completely devoid of wisdom and beauty and inspiration. Utterly fed up with it all, I decided to make this list for myself, to remind me what matters. It’s really long and I don’t actually expect anyone else to read it. But here it is anyway. If nothing else, it should at least provide a window into some of my tastes in literature, art, music, etc. For those who are interested, it includes a series of snapshots about my spirituality in general, some scattered insights into my beliefs and practices, some of my primary gods and spirits and heroes and ancestors, and examples of the many cultural and philosophical traditions I draw from. I list quite a few writers and books, so I suppose this could also be seen as my stab at generating an “Eclectic Curriculum” or “Eclectic Canon” or “Eclectic Great Books Program,” from the perspective of a multicultural queer feminist, epic poet and ardent bibliophile who happens to be an eclectic Hellenist and devotional polytheist (say that ten times fast). I had to limit myself to the number of items I included on each list-within-a-list, as this whole thing could easily have been 100 times longer than it is now. It is therefore necessarily incomplete (as all such lists always are).

The title and the refrain (yes, this list has a refrain – I see no reason why a list can’t have a refrain) were inspired by the title of a book by Harold Bloom. I’ve read almost all of Harold Bloom’s major books, even though I vehemently disagree with his rather Eurocentric/Western slant (which, to be fair, is also his area of expertise). He’s a self-proclaimed Gnostic (and his books are filled with Orphic and Hermetic themes), but I’ve also noted a distinct bias for the Abrahamic traditions, often to the detriment of the Greco-Roman Classics (one of his blind spots). All that being said, Harold Bloom is a brilliant gem in the otherwise rather dross world of literary criticism, and he remains one of the few contemporary literary critics who I constantly return to for inspiration. I’ve discovered countless authors – books that changed my life – from his insightful commentaries and introductions. And I have always admired his uncompromising commitment to literary excellence, regardless of mainstream trends. As Bloom explains in his introduction to Where Shall Wisdom Be Found?: “I have only three criteria for what I go on reading and teaching: aesthetic splendor, intellectual power, wisdom. Societal pressures and journalistic fashions may obscure these standards for a time, but mere Period Pieces never endure. The mind always returns to its needs for beauty, truth, and insight. Mortality hovers, and all of us learn the triumph of time. ‘We have an interval, and then our place knows us no more.’”

Which pretty much says it all, as far as I’m concerned. The following list was directly inspired by the above quote, by the mind’s eternal hunger for beauty and wisdom and inspiration. In an era where meaningless distractions pervade everything, I wrote this list to remind me what matters.

Where Shall Wisdom Be Found?
(An Eclectic Hellenist’s List to Remind Himself What Matters)

Where shall wisdom be found?

I find wisdom, inspiration and beauty in the poets:
in Homer and Shakespeare and Walt Whitman,
in Hesiod and Sappho and Ovid,
in Enheduanna and Li Po and Rumi,
in Matsuo Bashō and John Keats and P.B. Shelley,
in Friedrich Hölderlin and Gérard de Nerval and Charles Baudelaire,
in Emily Dickinson and C. P. Cavafy and W.B. Yeats,
in Rainer Maria Rilke and Fernando Pessoa and Yannis Ritsos,
in Mina Loy and Ezra Pound and H.D. (Hilda Doolittle),
in Antonin Artaud and Langston Hughes and Robert Duncan . . .

Where shall wisdom be found?

I find wisdom, inspiration and beauty in the sages:
in Socrates and Plato and Diogenes,
in Lao Tzu and Confucius and Siddhārtha Gautama Buddha,
in Marcus Aurelius and Plotinus and Proclus,
in Montaigne and Emerson and Thoreau,
in Thomas Taylor and Nietzsche and Black Elk,
in Edward Carpenter and Emma Goldman and Carl Jung,
in Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. and Thích Nhất Hạnh,
in Jiddu Krishnamurti and Eknath Easwaran and Harry Hay,
in Iris Murdoch and James Hillman and Gloria Anzaldúa . . .

Where shall wisdom be found?

I find wisdom, inspiration and beauty in the novelists:
in Petronius and Apuleius and Lady Murasaki,
in Cervantes and Victor Hugo and Charles Dickens,
in Herman Melville and George Eliot and The Brontë Sisters,
in Leo Tolstoy and Marcel Proust and Franz Kafka,
in Thomas Mann and James Joyce and Nikos Kazantzakis,
in Gertrude Stein and Virginia Woolf and Zora Neale Hurston,
in Marguerite Yourcenar and Jean Genet and Yukio Mishima,
in William S. Burroughs and James Baldwin and Gore Vidal,
in Mary Renault and Toni Morrison and John Rechy . . .

Where shall wisdom be found?

I find wisdom, inspiration and beauty in the storytellers:
in Chaucer and Boccaccio and Scheherazade,
in Aesop and The Brothers Grimm and Andrew Lang,
in Edgar Allan Poe and Lewis Caroll and Arthur Conan Doyle,
in Anton Chekhov and Katherine Mansfield and Jorge Luis Borges,
in J.M. Barrie and Kenneth Grahame and Antoine de Saint-Exupéry,
in Lloyd Alexander and Rosemary Sutcliff and The Golden Treasury Readers,
in J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis and Philip Pullman,
in Guy Davenport and Leslie Marmon Silko and Roberto Calasso,
in John Crowley and Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore . . .

Where shall wisdom be found?

I find wisdom, inspiration and beauty in the epics:
in The Iliad and The Odyssey and The Aeneid,
in The Metamorphoses and The Argonautica and The Dionysiaca,
in The Epic of Gilgamesh and The Enûma Eliš and The Shahnameh,
in The Mahabharata and The Ramayana and The Heike Monogatari,
in The Táin Bó Cúailnge and The Mabinogion and The Poems of Ossian,
in The Eddas and The Nibelungenlied and The Kalevala,
in Beowulf and Parzival and Le Morte d’Arthur,
in The Sundiata and The Popol Vuh and The Diné Bahane’,
in The Epic of King Gesar and The Lusiads and The Faerie Queene . . .

Where shall wisdom be found?

I find wisdom, inspiration and beauty in the classics:
in The Seven Sages and The Nine Lyric Poets and The Greek Anthology,
in Aeschylus and Sophocles and Euripides,
in Aristophanes and Herodotus and Plutarch,
in Dante and Milton and Goethe,
in Rabelais and Voltaire and Oscar Wilde,
in The Harvard Classics, The Great Books Foundation and The Lifetime Reading Plan,
in The Western Canon and The Pāli Canon and The Global Literary Canon,
in The Norton Anthologies and The Longman Anthologies and The Heath Anthologies,
in the many shelves of anthologies and literary collections that line my home library . . .

Where shall wisdom be found?

I find wisdom, inspiration and beauty in the margins of literature:
in Anyte of Tegea and Claudia Trophime and Christine de Pizan,
in Nezahualcoyotl and Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz and Phillis Wheatley,
in Wu Tsao and Mark Akenside and Richard Henry Horne,
in Sarah Morgan Bryan Piatt and Skaay and Uvavnuk,
in Zitkala-Ša and Radclyffe Hall and María Sabina,
in Witter Bynner and Mary Butts and Adelaide Crapsey,
in Melvin B. Tolson and Aquah Laluah and Marguerite Young,
in Harold Norse and Kate Bornstein and Will Alexander,
in Leslie Feinberg and Werewere Liking and Theresa Hak Kyung Cha . . .

Where shall wisdom be found?

I find wisdom, inspiration and beauty in the sacred texts:
in The Upanishads and The Bhagavad-Gita and The Dhammapada,
in The Lotus Sutra and The Pure Land Sutras and The Questions of Milinda,
in The Tao Te Ching and The I Ching and The Analects of Confucius,
in The Homeric Hymns and The Orphic Hymns and The Rig Veda,
in The Hermetica and The Chaldaean Oracles and Plato’s Timaeus,
in The Egyptian Book of the Dead and The Bardo Thodol and The Orphic Fragments,
in The Navajo Night Chant and The Odú Ifá and The Kumulipo,
in The Emerald Tablet and The Stanzas of Dzyan and Leland’s Aradia,
in Crowley’s Liber AL vel Legis, Yeats’s A Vision, and Jung’s Red Book . . .

Where shall wisdom be found?

I find wisdom, inspiration and beauty in the mythographers:
in (Pseudo) Apollodorus and Hyginus and Pausanias,
in Jane Ellen Harrison and Walter F. Otto and Karl Kerényi,
in James G. Frazer and Robert Graves and Giorgio de Santillana,
in Franz Cumont and E. A. Wallis Budge and Leo Frobenius,
in Hilda R. Ellis Davidson and Heinrich Zimmer and Joseph Campbell,
in Franz Boas and Thelma Adamson and Robert Bringhurst,
in Georges Dumézil and Jaan Puhvel and Alex Fantalov,
in Mircea Eliade and Michael Witzel and Wim van Binsbergen,
in the myths and legends and folklore from every land and every era . . .

Where shall wisdom be found?

I find wisdom, inspiration and beauty in the visual arts:
in Praxiteles and Michelangelo and Caravaggio,
in Antoine-Louis Barye and Katsushika Hokusai and William Blake,
in William Morris and Harriet Powers and Hosteen Klah,
in Gustave Moreau and Odilon Redon and Erté,
in Evelyn de Morgan and Vincent Van Gogh and Séraphine de Senlis,
in Sonia Delaunay and Marsden Hartley and Frida Kahlo,
in Man Ray and Salvador Dalí and Joseph Cornell,
in Romare Bearden and Jess Collins and Herbert List,
in Ana Mendieta and Judy Chicago and Jean-Michel Basquiat . . .

Where shall wisdom be found?

I find wisdom, inspiration and beauty in music:
in Hildegard von Bingen and Henry Purcell and Hector Berlioz,
in Frédéric Chopin and Fanny Mendelssohn and Richard Wagner,
in Gustav Holst and George Gershwin and Miles Davis,
in Édith Piaf and Sarah Vaughan and Nina Simone,
in Miriam Makeba and Cesária Évora and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan,
in John Lennon and Jim Morrison and Patti Smith,
in Brian Eno and Ryuichi Sakamoto and The Master Musicians of Jajouka,
in Sandy Denny and Kate Bush and Sainkho Namtchylak,
in The Cocteau Twins and Rozz Williams and Dead Can Dance . . .

Where shall wisdom be found?

I find wisdom, inspiration and beauty in film:
in Fritz Lang and G.W. Pabst and F.W. Murnau,
in Carl Dreyer and Charlie Chaplin and Jean Cocteau,
in Alfred Hitchcock and Orson Welles and Jean Renoir,
in Federico Fellini and Ingmar Bergman and Akira Kurosawa,
in Satyajit Ray and Michael Cacoyannis and Ousmane Sembène,
in Pier Paolo Pasolini and Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Derek Jarman,
in Kenneth Anger and Stan Brakhage and Stanley Kubrick,
in David Lynch and Peter Greenaway and Jane Campion,
in Pedro Almodóvar and Julie Taymor and Darren Aronofsky . . .

Where shall wisdom be found?

I find wisdom, inspiration and beauty in my fellow pagans and polytheists:
in H. Jeremiah Lewis and Sarah Kate Istra Winter and P. Sufenas Virius Lupus,
in Edward P. Butler and Kallimakhos and Lykeia,
in Isaac Bonewits and Ian Corrigan and Skip Ellison,
in Raven Kaldera and Galina Krasskova and Kveldulf Gundarsson,
in T. Thorn Coyle and Starhawk and Scott Cunningham,
in John Michael Greer and Poke Runyon and John Opsopaus,
in Alexei Kondratiev and Erynn Rowan Laurie and Ceisiwr Serith,
in Valiel Elentári and Brian A. Kenny and M.A. Rivera,
in all the bloggers and podcasters and columnists who inspire me daily . . .

Where shall wisdom be found?

I find wisdom, inspiration and beauty in the loved ones of my Grove:
in the poetry, music, art, cuisine, and impeccable taste of my beloved Star-Prince,
in the quilts and cloth sculptures and textile creations of my wonderful Mother,
in the writings and photography of my best friend and ally Pandora,
in the handmade jewelry and the amazing green thumb of Clover,
in the constant creativity and ingenuity and aesthetic sensibility of Scarlett,
in the quests and adventures and inventions devised by Will,
in the magnificent garden and the poems and countless talents of Pam,
in the homespun crafts and the illuminating astral charts of Capella,
in all the eccentric denizens of The Island of Misfit Toys . . .

Where shall wisdom be found?

I find wisdom, inspiration and beauty in the Hellenic Gods:
in Hestia and Hera and Demeter,
in Zeus and Poseidon and Hades,
in Hermes and Apollon and Dionysos,
in Artemis and Persephone and Athena,
in Hephaestus and Aphrodite and Ares,
in Hekate and Pan and Gaia,
in Asklepios and Herakles and the Dioskouroi,
in the Muses and the Heroes and the Nymphs,
in the Olympians and the Titans and the Protogenoi and the entire Hellenic pantheon . . .

Where shall wisdom be found?

I find wisdom, inspiration and beauty in all Deities:
in Thoth and Isis and Horus – and all the Gods of Egypt,
in Freyr and Heimdall and Loki – and all the Northern Gods,
in Brighid and Lugh and Sequana – and all the Gods of the Celts,
in Ganesha and Mitra-Varuna and Krishna – and all the Gods of India,
in She-Who-Watches and Raven and The Changer – and all the Gods of Cascadia,
in Perkūnas and Veles and Mari – and all the Gods of Old Europe,
in Antinoüs and Oya and The Rainbow Serpent – and all the Gods of the World,
in the Unnamed Gods and the Unknown Gods and the Gods of our Ancestors,
in All Members of All Pantheons, All Goddesses and All Gods . . .

Where shall wisdom be found?

I find wisdom, inspiration and beauty in the Heroes and Heroines:
in Narkissos and Achilles and Patroclus,
in Orpheus and Abaris and Pythagoras,
in Harmodius and Aristogeiton and Diotima,
in Polydeukion and The Emperor Julian and Hypatia,
in the Sages and Teachers and Leaders,
in the Mystics and Prophets and Visionaries,
in the Poets and Artists and Scribes,
in the Musicians and Performers and Sacred Fools,
in The Men Who Loved Men, The Women Who Loved Women, and The Gender Nonconformists of all eras . . .

Where shall wisdom be found?

I find wisdom, inspiration and beauty in my Ancestors:
in my maternal Grandmother – my second mother, who gave me the myths,
in my paternal Grandmother – my third mother, the storyteller and palm-reader,
in my two Grandfathers – my fathers, the gardener and the cowboy,
in my Aunt Vi and my Uncle Ray, whose spirits have guarded me since childhood,
in my Greek Great-Grandfather, born in Arcadia and buried beside his best friend,
in my Norwegian Great-Grandmother, the seer who was raised by a witch,
in my Irish ancestors, descendants of The Liberator, so many of whom died in the mines,
in my English ancestors, The Plantagenets, descendants of Queens and Kings,
in my Bohemian ancestors, my French ancestors, my African ancestors, and all my Blood-Kindred . . .

Where shall wisdom be found?

I find wisdom, inspiration and beauty in the Spirits:
in my Agathos Daimon and The Torch-Bearers and our Household Lares,
in my childhood guardians – The Cat, The Owl and The Eagle,
in The Dandelion Faerie, The Pine White Butterfly and The Oreads of the Island,
in The Old Man of the Mountain, The Basket Ogress and The Rain-Makers,
in The Wounded Sentinel and The Nooksack River and The Salish Sea,
in The Thunderbird and The Sisiutl and the Stl’eluqum,
in the Elves and the Elementals and the Faerie Folk,
in the Spirit Guides and Animal Totems and Greenwights,
in all the Nymphs and Spirits and Daimones and Sidhe . . .

Where shall wisdom be found?

I find wisdom, inspiration and beauty in the animal kingdom:
in the Barn Owl and the Red-tailed Hawk and the Bald Eagle,
in the Raven and the Bluejay and the Hummingbird,
in the Seagull and the Cormorant and the Chickadee,
in the Mountain Lion and the Coyote and the Raccoon,
in the Black-tailed Deer and the Squirrel and the Rabbit,
in the House Cat and the Box Turtle and the Tree Frog,
in the Orca and the Salmon and the Jellyfish,
in the Butterfly and the Dragonfly and the Honey Bee,
in the Cricket and the Spider and the Ladybug . . .

Where shall wisdom be found?

I find wisdom, inspiration and beauty in the green world:
in the Douglas Fir and the Red Cedar and the Western Hemlock,
in the Grand Fir and the Bigleaf Maple and the Pacific Madrone,
in the Shore Pine and the Sitka Spruce and the Pacific Yew,
in the Quaking Aspen and the Paper Birch and the Willow,
in the Rhododendron and the Wild Hyacinth and the Blackberry Vine,
in the Stinging Nettle and the Sword Fern and the Bull-Head Kelp,
in the countless Mushrooms and Mosses and Lichens,
in the Fairy Slipper and the Pathfinder and the Forget-Me-Not,
in the Slender Hawkweed and the Hairy Cat’s-Ear and the Dandelion Puff . . .

Where shall wisdom be found?

I find wisdom, inspiration and beauty in the stars:
in the Sun and the Moon and the Milky Way,
in the Morning Star and the Evening Star and the Pole-Star,
in the Red Planet and the Jovian Planet and the Senex,
in the Messenger and the Magician and the Mystic,
in The Virgin and The Bull and The Twins,
in The Lion and The Eagle and The Dragon,
in The Bears and The Swan and The Lyre,
in The Hunter and The Dog-Star and The Seven Sisters,
in all the planets and constellations and celestial objects . . .

Where shall wisdom be found?

I find wisdom, inspiration and beauty in the symbolic teachings:
in The Fire, The Well and The Tree,
in Yin and Yang, The Two Substances and The Two Powers,
in The Three Realms, The Three Worlds and The Three Kindreds,
in the Four Noble Truths, the Five Elements and the Six Cardinal Directions,
in the Seven Chakras, the Seven Principles and the Twelve Natural Laws,
in the Neoplatonist Triads and Hebdomads and Dodecads,
in Gematria, the Zodiac, and the Planetary Spheres,
in the Runes and the Ogham and the Tarot,
in all the systems of esoteric correspondences created to comprehend the Ineffable . . .

Where shall wisdom be found?

I find wisdom, inspiration and beauty in many spiritual traditions:
in Paganism and Polytheism and Animism,
in Hellenism and Heathenry and Kemeticism,
in Druidry and Witchcraft and Shamanism,
in Hermeticism and Neoplatonism and the Orphic Tradition,
in Buddhism and Taoism and Shinto,
in Vedanta and Theosophy and Transcendentalism,
in Devotional Polytheism and Local-Focus Polytheism and Eclectic Reconstructionism,
in Hard Polytheism and Polycentric Syncretism and Religious Pluralism,
in Classical Humanism and Romantic Modernism and Visionary Mysticism . . .

Where shall wisdom be found?

I find wisdom, inspiration and beauty in ritual:
in my thrice-daily devotionals – morning and evening and night,
in the recitation and composition of hymns to the gods,
in burning incense and pouring libations at our household shrines,
in creating sacred space and raising magickal energy,
in trance journeys and astral dreaming and pathworking,
in meditation and mantram and prayer,
in the mask and the bonfire and the drum,
in offering a sacrifice, walking the labyrinth and dancing round a maypole,
in celebrating the lunar cycle, the festival calendar and The Wheel of the Year . . .

Where shall wisdom be found?

I find wisdom, inspiration and beauty in the simple things in life:
in a fresh-baked loaf of bread and a good bottle of wine,
in the sound of crashing waves and the patchwork colors of sunset,
in a pocket full of beach stones and the feel of rain on my face,
in a hike through the forest and the notes of birdsong,
in a potluck feast followed by a game of cards,
in the laughter of friends and the smile of a beautiful soul,
in a shelf of well-loved books and a notebook full of scribblings,
in a home-cooked meal and a table set with candles,
in curling up under a blanket and the kiss of my Beloved . . .

Where shall wisdom be found?

I find wisdom, inspiration and beauty all around me:
in the North and in the South,
in the East and in the West,
above me and below me,
before me and behind me,
and deep in the center within me.
I walk in wisdom.
I walk in inspiration.
I walk in beauty.
I walk in beauty . . .

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What I Did for Lughnasadh

Five members of our Grove gathered together last week to celebrate Lughnasadh.  We chose to assemble at the lake on top of the mountain, which is probably the highest accessible meeting place here on the island.  We were surrounded on all sides by the forest, with mountains in the distance, the beautiful lake, and the large reservoir (symbolically – the Well) which provides drinking water to half of us.

We found a circular clearing of trees, with two logs for benches.  I preceded the ritual by reading a lovely guided meditation and visualization exercise, written by Glyn Williams and available to read here (© 2000-2005 Glyn Williams). The meditation gives some background to the Lughnasadh festival, including the story of John Barleycorn. I could feel that our assembled group was connecting with the exercise, and the energy raised was quite powerful, almost tangible.

After that was finished, I led a scaled-back version of an ADF-style Celtic Lughnassadh Rite (available here), written by Ian Corrigan (the wonderful writer, blogger, and Archdruid Emeritus of the ADF).  The rite is dedicated to Lugh and Morrigan.  We made offerings of ale and water, bread and wine.  During the invocation of Morrigan a strong wind suddenly arose, and I definitely felt the powerful presence of The Great Queen.

Following the rite, we shared a lovely potluck meal, which included many fresh items from our respective gardens.  Surrounded by trees and mountains and water, nourished by good food and good fellowship, we watched the sun slowly set.  We discussed the harvest, both the literal harvest (in the case of our gardens), as well as the metaphorical harvest, which includes the next phase of a number of new projects we are either finishing or embarking upon, some of which I hope to be announcing and discussing very soon!

And that’s what I did for Lughnasadh.

Sweeping the Temple [What I Am Doing for Kallynteria & Plynteria]

Yesterday began with our hands in the dirt, pulling weeds and planting seeds, and ended with our eyes on the stars, gazing upon the beautiful Arcturus and Vega through the telescope.  As above, so below. [Quick aside, this reminds me of a podcast I’ve been thoroughly enjoying of late: Between the Earth and Stars (formerly Media Astra Ac Terra) hosted by Oraia Helene, who delivers an entertaining and educational blend of science and spirituality, geology and astronomy, along with the metaphysical properties of stones and the myths behind the constellations. Check it out!]

But today and tomorrow we are celebrating the Kallynteria and Plynteria with a thorough house-cleaning and temple sweeping, including our household shrines. Today is the Kallynteria, the festival of “Sweeping Out” the temple of Athena in Athens.  We are dusting and cleaning the entire house as the music of Donna Summer (R.I.P.) blasts in the background.

Tomorrow we are celebrating the Plynteria with a more formal ritual to Athena the Guardian, in which we will be taking the caryatid statue (dedicated to Athena) from the household shrine down to the beach and washing it in the sea.

Now, back to work . . .

***

“Here,
I have other work,
I bind the sacred wreaths;
I sweep the holy gate,
and with my laurel-branch,
the steps before the house;
I lave the marble pavement . . .
. . .
let me praise
this spirit,
this home;
let me revere
altar, pillar, rare
tasks I have done;
work can not tire
priests, servants;
immortal joy awaits
immortal devotes . . .”

[from Euripides’ Ion, translated by H.D. (Hilda Doolittle)]

What I Did For Walpurgis Night/Beltane

This post inaugurates the “What I Do Series.” The premise of this series of posts is to describe the specific ways I honor the gods, be it a festival celebration with friends and family, or the practicalities of my solitary daily devotions.

Last weekend my group of pagan friends and family gathered to celebrate Walpurgis Night and Beltane.  Our little group of eight has recently begun gathering regularly to celebrate the Pagan Wheel of the Year.  Since our Spring Equinox celebration was very contemplative, and a bit formal as far as rituals go, we decided that Walpurgis Night should be more low-key and joyous. The flowers are in full bloom, the Sun has returned (even to the Northwest) . . . the beginning of May should be a time of revelry!  And for us that means good food, good wine, and good company.

Scarlett and Will were our hosts, and their beautiful backyard was the perfect setting.


Clover rescued a little scarab friend, who joined us to roll out the sun.

Mom brought crepe paper streamers, and we all helped Wildstar transform the backyard tetherball pole into a proper maypole, topped with a bouquet of fresh flowers from Scarlett and Will’s yard.

I honestly haven’t danced around a maypole since I was little kid, and we were all laughing and getting tangled up with each other. I then read a short blessing, thanking the gods for the feast.

And what a feast it was. There was probably enough food for about twenty people. Everyone brought a dish. Will built us a nice bonfire and grilled our main course directly over the open flame. Scarlett made some delightful side dishes, and Pam brought a fresh salad made entirely from her amazing garden and garnished with edible flowers. Pandora and Clover brought for S’mores for dessert. I made Bread and Wine, a simple recipe from The New Cookbook for Poor Poets and Others by Ann Rogers, a book Scarlett gave me years ago. If you’re ever looking for a unique alternative to garlic bread that also happens to make a great ritual offering, I highly recommend Bread and Wine. It’s really easy to make:

Recipe for Bread and Wine
• 1 baguette or other long loaf of French bread
• 1/3 cup soft butter
• ¼ cup red wine
• a dash of salt and cayenne
Cut the baguette in half length-wise in the same way you would make garlic bread. Beat the wine, salt, and cayenne and into the butter until you have a nice, creamy purple mixture, and then spread over the bread. Pour any excess wine over the bread. Bake for 10 minutes at 400 degrees. Cut or tear the baguette halves into pieces and serve. That’s it! One baguette was enough for all eight of us to have a piece or two of bread for ourselves and another to toss in the bonfire as an offering to the gods.


After the meal, Wildstar led a contemplative ritual around the bonfire. We passed out pens and paper, and Wildstar asked us to write down the things we wanted to let go as the new season approached. We wrote them down and cast them into the bonfire, letting them burn away and releasing their power over us. It was a very moving and empowering experience.

The rest of the evening was filled with great conversations and stories and jokes and games and lots of laughter. No, this wasn’t a formal ritual of Ceremonial Magick or an elaborate reconstruction of an ancient rite. No circles were cast, nor did we strictly follow the Proto-Indo-European tripartite structure of earth, sea, and sky. I very much enjoy all of those things, but this was something different. This was simply a group of family and friends gathering together to mark the beginning of summer and honor the gods, all while enjoying each other’s company with good food, good wine, and good fellowship. I haven’t laughed so hard in ages. And that’s what I did for Beltane.

Thank you Scarlett and Pandora for the photos!

Welcome to My New Blog!

My name is Ryan, and after years of reading and enjoying other pagan/polytheist blogs, I decided it was finally time to start my own.

Since I’ve never really blogged before, please bear with me in these opening days as I learn more about the technical side of things and what I can do with this thing.

I’ve come up with four main topics I want to write about:

1.  The “I Am” Series.

If you’d like to learn a little bit more about me, please check out my About Me page.  The page features a number of quotes I’ve found particularly meaningful over the years, but it begins with the phrase “I am a . . .” followed by a fairly long list of concepts that I’ve used to help define who I am.  These range from “Hellenic Pagan” and “Pacific Northwest Polytheist” to various philosophical notions (Ontological Anarchist, Participatory Epistemologist), a wide array of spiritual traditions that have impacted my own practice (Neoplatonist Mystic, Neopagan Druid, Green Witch), and personal details (Happily Married Gay Man, Amateur Baker, Voracious Bibliophile).  Some of these terms are seemingly contradictory (my favorite being “Eclectic Reconstructionist”), but that was intentional, because I thought I could make an interesting series of blog posts explaining each of these topics and what they mean to me.  I have a strong reason for including each of those terms, as they are topics I’ve been wanting to write about for a long time.  And there are enough topics on that list to keep me blogging for quite awhile . . .

I should also add that I am only speaking about myself, my own beliefs and practices.  I do not represent any other individual or group, even though many individuals and groups have influenced my own ideas.  I am not trying to convert anyone or tell anyone else what to believe.

2. The “My Personal Pantheon” Series.

I added a page called My Personal Pantheon.  This includes a series of lists (anyone reading this blog will quickly learn I’m very fond of lists and catalogues) of deities who I honor/revere as part of my personal practice.  Some of these goddesses and gods (and heroes/heroines and other categories of divine beings) are part of my daily practice, others appear in different ways.  I am primarily a Hellenic Pagan/Polytheist, which is the primary pantheon that guides my spiritual work, but as a true polytheist I find ways to honor and acknowledge the divine beings from many pantheons, traditions, places and cultures.  As Thales said:  “Everything is full of gods.”  As Proclus said:  “Everything is overflowing with gods.”  Since there are so many gods, and because I have a lot to say about each of them, I decided to start a series of posts called “My Personal Pantheon,” in which I write about my own relationship to these deities.  I’m going to start with the 18 Hellenic Gods who have been the focus of my last 15 years of daily practice as a self-proclaimed pagan, but who have actually been major forces in my life since the age of two or three, when I sat on the lap of my Greek grandmother as she read me the myths and told me stories about the old country.  Those gods are Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Demeter, Hades, Hestia, Hephaestus, Athena, Hermes, Aphrodite, Ares, Artemis, Apollon, Dionysos, Persephone, Hekate, Pan, and Gaia.  I will start with Hestia (since she is honored first and last in all things), and probably follow with Hermes, who I have long considered to be my patron.

As above, I feel the need to say that I am writing from my own personal experience.  I have been studying Greek mythology, literature, religion, history, and culture in one form or another for most of my life (I am 33 years old), and I am happy to cite sources when necessary.  However, I will also be writing about my own personal experiences with the gods (is the acronym UPG – Unverified Personal Gnosis – still a term in wide use?).  These posts will be about how I see the gods.

3. The “Poet-Heroes” Series.

I am attempting to revive the ancient Greek cult of the Poet-Hero.  My favorite book on the subject (okay, make that the *only* book I know on the subject) is Archilochos Heros: The Cult of Poets in the Greek Polis by Diskin Clay.  It’s a fascinating study of the many poets/philosophers/writers honored with hero-cults by the ancient Greeks.  I have many beloved Poet-Heroes, from antiquity to the present day, who I feel are worthy of honor and a proper hero cultus after they have passed into the next world.  Some of the most important of these Poet-Heroes are listed on My Personal Pantheon page.  Many, many, many more are listed on The Global Literary Canon page (I told you I love lists!), though that page also includes many great writers who are thankfully still alive and still writing. The Global Literary Canon page is a bit of a side-project, which I will probably elaborate upon at some future date.  And in case you were wondering, my definition of “poet” is particularly broad and encompassing of many writers or thinkers or scholars in general (including the oral tradition), who I believe have demonstrated the use of “language charged with meaning to the highest possible degree” (Ezra Pound’s definition of literature).

Therefore, the “Poet-Heroes” series will highlight the contributions of these writers and thinkers, often by honoring the day of their birth.

4. The “What I Do” Series.

Finally, I intend to write a series of posts discussing the specifics of my spiritual practice and devotional work.  Theory can be wonderful and useful, but some of my favorite spiritual/pagan blogs and writers are the ones who tell us and/or show us what they are actually doing to honor the gods.  This series of posts might describe how I and/or my small group of like-minded friends and family celebrated a specific festival (I will shortly have a post up on what we did for Walpurgis Night/Beltaine/May Day/Floralia et al), or it could include details of my personal/solitary practice, the types of things I do every single day on behalf of the gods I love, the gods who guide me, the gods to whom I am thankful for all the blessings I’ve received in this lifetime, the gods to whom I’ve dedicated my life, my work, my art, my writing, my being.

I think I will have plenty to write about.

So once again . . . Welcome!  I look forward to getting some actual posts up and reading your comments!

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