Poseidea Rite

Underflow

Honoring: Poseidon
Date: Likely held during the month of Poseidion, most likely on the 8th ; on the modern calendar this is around December 19
Season: Probably held when the seas began to grow rough with the winter
Region: Athens

Items needed:
Bowl of water and stick (incense, punk, or natural) to light and douse
Candle, matches or lighter to light the stick.
Bowl of barley
Offerings
Libation bowl
Cup

In the ritual script, italicized text refers to directions and actions and isn’t meant to be spoken.


Procession

Assemble and prepare to process to the altar.

We go to the holy place with reverence and love, to honor the gods.

Proceed to enter the sacred space.

Purification of participants

Light a stick and extinguish in the bowl of water, creating lustral water.

May all be made pure who wash in this water.

Pour water over the hands of each person…

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A bit of a rant on the “War on Christians”

The idea of the “War on Christianity” is something I find quite funny. When I hear it, I automatically think less of the person. A lot less. In fact, to Christians in America that think they are “persecuted,” I only have this to say:

On what Sunday in America did someone show up with guns to the steps of your churches and badger the congregation? On what Monday in Illinois were you fired because of your Methodism? On what Tuesday in Topeka were you refused service for wearing a cross necklace? On what Wednesday in Macon did your child’s teacher call you because another student has beat up your child because they believe in Jesus–the same student that has been bullying the child all year long, and despite many conversations with the school because being a Southern Baptist makes your child a fair target? On what Thursday in Phoenix did you leave work to find that someone has spray painted your car with slurs for married to a being a Jesus-lover? On what Friday in Missouri did you find out that your Lutheran friend lost custody of their child for taking them to church? On what Saturday in South Bend was a Catholic berated and publicly humiliated by a perfect stranger simply for carrying a Bible?

When you all can tell me that someone, on a daily basis, somewhere is actively harassing you, barring you from worship, holding Bible-burning bonfires in front of your house, beating you or your children up, refusing you service, or taking your children away simply because you are a Christian, maybe I’ll take this so-called “persecution” seriously.

…Because all of these things have and do happen to non-Christians on a regular basis, while your puerile whining over red Starbucks cups and sharing nativity scenes with menorahs and the kid with gay parents in your kid’s class highlights the log in your eye.

The fact that people are refusing to kowtow to your so-called Christianity any longer isn’t persecution…but I’m sure it feels that way to someone whose faith is so shaky that it can’t stand the diversity of the human experience. I feel sorry for you. But I feel worse for the people that are actually seeking to live a life with Christ, to love their neighbor (their Jewish neighbor, their gay neighbor, their homeless neighbor, their atheist neighbor, their Muslim neighbor, their poor neighbor, their PoC neighbor) because you sure make them look bad.

Explaining that Pagan thing…

A couple years ago (5 or 6 to be precise), I wrote a blog post* about how to explain Paganism in the course of a conversation where it might need to come up…I don’t think I’m the person John Halstead was thinking of here, but he reminded me of my post!

Several years ago, I heard what I think was best advice ever about improving the image of Paganism. Unfortunately I can’t remember who said it, but the gist of it was this:) Rather than coming out as Pagans and then trying to convince people we deserve to be on the school board or city council or whatever, we should join the school board or city council, show them we are good citizens and good people, and then come out as Pagans. It’s not about hiding our Paganism, so much as taking our focus off of ourselves and refocus it on doing something positive in the world (other than making the world more comfortable for Pagans). Changing the image people have of Pagans will then happen naturally, without us trying.

~~John Halstead @ The Allergic Pagan, “Why Contemporary Paganism Deserves to Die”

YES!

I’ve been saying this for well over a decade (even before I started my little blog).

Honestly, the best PR Pagans can have as a group is to be seen as a person first–a person that lives our beliefs with pride and with respect, like any other person. We are never going to have a more equal footing if we can’t stop being defensive about our beliefs and go on the offense–-and we can do that without being pushy or proselytizing. Whether I was in the military or mom out with the kids or as government scientist (applied, not research) or at the grocery store or the doctors office, I identify as a person who happens to be Pagan (and a veteran and a mom and a scientist, etc.) People don’t look at me and think of a Pagan…if anything, I look like a overworked, under-slept slightly bohemian but outdoorsy soccer mom with a substantial collection of sarcastic t-shirts.

I do wear a lot of black, but that’s because its slenderizing and can get dirty without looking dirty (very important where I work).

My husband and I have been mostly openly Pagan for years, without any major incidents, living mostly in the South (with 2 years in the Midwest Bible Belt), and the past year and a half in the rural South. And there’s one thing that hasn’t changed: If you are at all publicly Pagan, there will be some point in time where you will be called upon to explain what Paganism is in general and perhaps even what you believe specifically.

It might be from someone that is honestly curious or it might be from someone that is already convinced that you are the devil incarnate. It might be from a well-meaning co-worker at a new job in a new state asking you if you need help finding a local church and inviting you to theirs. It might be from your child’s teacher, wanting clarification, to make sure that the class’s holiday party plans wouldn’t be offensive. It might be from someone that knows vaguely what Paganism is from some so-called pentacle-the-side-of-a-hubcap “seventh level dragon master faerie priest of Tantric energy manipulation” (I kid you not) and can’t believe someone so normal looking can be part of what think is a religion for people that should never be taken seriously. Either way (and everything in between) you have somehow been nominated (by default) as the Pagan Ambassador to this person and are responsible for disseminating good information in a way that is conversationally appropriate.

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In this moment that you have become a spokesperson for Paganism–-and you never know, you might be the *only* person this person has ever known to be Pagan, and now their entire opinion of Pagans will be based upon their interaction with you and the information you provide them. Or worse, you are the lone Pagan that can reverse their opinion of Pagans as a bunch of Charmed fangirls/fanboys.

A bit daunting, yeah?

How the heck are you gonna manage that?!?

I advocate co-opting the elevator speech (sometimes called the 30 second commercial), a term generally mentioned in the context of job hunting, where it is designed to act as a way for you to sell yourself to prospective employers. The main difference between the personal 30-second commercial and the conversational 30-second Pagan infomercial (other than the fact that you aren’t trying to get a job) is that we aren’t selling Paganism (that would be proselytization), we are ‘selling’ the idea that we are just everyday people with a different religious opinion.

Because that’s all we are. Everyday people with a different flavor of religion.

Why, you might ask, would you care about that? Mostly because many of us live rather conventional lives (or unconventional lives within a conventional system)–-some of us are in the military, or are police officers, nurses, bankers, teachers, lawyers, stay-at-home moms. We might have kids or be on the PTA or coach the swim team or baseball.

Being seen as a person first (and not just some out-there wacky religion or worse) makes it easier for one of us to get custody of our kids in a divorce, for a sailor on duty to trade watch in order to go to ritual, or for our kids to make friends on the playground. Being seen as a person first means that people take you more seriously than if they only see you as a stereotype.**

So when it comes to constructing your own 30-second Pagan infomercial, there are a few things to keep in mind:

Consider your audience–Do you know their frame of reference in terms of religion? Are they a conservative Christian that has attended the same church their entire life or are they someone that has done a fair amount of seeking?* Are you comfortable speaking to this person in the first place?
Consider your purpose–What are you hoping to accomplish? Does this person seem hostile or are they just curious? Do you have the feeling that this may escalate into something unpleasant?

Consider your environment–There are places where you may feel that religion is not an appropriate topic, don’t be afraid to say something like “I don’t talk about religion at work” or “Hey, remind me about this while we are at lunch if you are still curious, right now I need to change a diaper.” And yes, if you were wondering, I have actually said both of these things.

No jargon–Believe it or not, but not everyone knows what polytheism is (and some of them don’t know what monotheism is either), keep information and terminology simple unless specifically asked.

Memorable, not outrageous–Keep it simple. Most people don’t care about the differences between Recon or eclectic, nor do they care that half the time the Pagan community can’t get their act together enough to agree to disagree in order to act together, or that Wiccans disagree over the the necessity for initiation. All most people want to know is that you aren’t in a cult and which winter holiday you celebrate so they can send you the right kind of card. But if they do use as an excuse to proselytize, you can have a response ready for that too.

Practice–Practice what you would say, in your head and in person. Find someone to test it out on. Do it in front of the mirror. When you end up giving your infomercial in real life, reflect on how it went afterwards…how could it be better? Remember, when time comes to use it, it shouldn’t be some memorized sales-pitch, it does need to fit the conversation. But practicing it will make your delivery smoother, which will make you sound more confident, which most people will take more seriously.

Don’t be afraid to let the moment go without acting–Don’t *not* speak up because you are afraid, but don’t think you have to say something at every single opportunity. Don’t say more than you feel comfortable talking about.

What you actually decide to say is completely up to you. I would recommend keeping it general and emphasizing a few key points. In keeping with the idea of “no jargon”, I try to gauge my audience–if i know or suspect that they have limited exposure to religions outside of Christianity, I use the Christian equivalent term if I feel it can be used appropriately(tradition sometimes become denomination, ritual might become worship service, etc).

The concepts that I feel are essential to highlight include:
1. Paganism is group of religious traditions and spiritual paths, rather than one unified religious tradition.
2. Pagans often believe in multiple gods and/or view the earth or universe as divine.
3. Many Pagans get their inspirational from ancient religions such as those practiced by the Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Norse, etc. Some Pagans try to recreate those religions as they were practiced.
4. Pagans may practice alone or in a group, and may belong to a specific tradition such as Wicca, Druidry, etc.
5. Pagan practices include worship services, holiday celebrations, prayer and ceremonies for weddings, birth, death, etc.

In a conversation, when called upon to bust out the “30-second infomercial” these points might come out something like this:

Bill: Well, if you don’t celebrate Christmas, what do you celebrate?
Sally: We celebrate Yule.
Bill: What’s that?
Sally: Its one of the holidays of Paganism.
Bill: What’s that?
Sally: It’s just another family of religions sort of like Christianity with all its denominations. Pagans are a pretty diverse group, some worship more than one god, or others, like me, see god as part of the whole universe. Some of us get inspiration from ancient religions, like those myths we had to read in lit class, but others belong to more modern groups like Wicca. I don’t belong to any specific “denomination” but I do participate in public celebrations for our holidays.
Bill: Hey cool, I didn’t realize that it was a “real” religion*.
*this conversation might be fake, but the comments are both things that have been said to me directly in the context of similar conversations

Or like this conversation that I had over the phone years ago about a preK-3rd program at a church school:

Me: Do you have non-Christian families attending there?
School Rep: Yes, we do have a few. Most of our families are members of our church, but we have a lot of diversity from the neighborhood and because our school program is well knows for its awards.
Me: So…does your school incorporate a specific religious education into their pre-k program?
School Rep: What do you mean?
Me: Like, how religious is it really? Our family isn’t Christian.
School Rep: Well, its not like bible school, but we do include Bible stories with story time at least once a week and particularly around the holidays. Sometimes crafts and things that go along with them. If you don’t mind my asking, what religion is your family and maybe I can better address your concerns?
Me: Well, we are Pagan.
School Rep: Oh, is that like Wicca? Because we had a Wiccan family a few years ago bring their kids here, but they’ve all graduated from here…
Me: Well, Wiccans are a type of Pagan…sort of like your denomination is a type of Christian. Paganism is a lot more diverse in beliefs though. Our family basically believes in a universal Divine and that individual gods are all equal parts of that Divine, but that’s just one point of view among many. We celebrate some of the same holidays as you do, just for different reasons.
School Rep: Like Yule, right? And Halloween, and some holiday a bit like Easter?
Me: Yup, those are some of them.
School Rep: Ah, gotcha. Well, here is how we can handle that sort of thing to work with you…
(that school went on the short list…I was very impressed, but ultimately it was too far out of the way and too expensive)

Notice that the conversations are framed in the context of the ongoing conversation, rather than something that is memorized–you are talking to a person, not giving a lecture. They are short, sweet, as general as possible but still giving useful information, and they are positive–what we DO and what we ARE. Pagans need to stop defining ourselves by what we are not and what we don’t do because it just reinforces negative stereotypes.

In the 20+ years that I have been a Pagan of one form or another, I have had to give some variation of this explanation (of what I believe and how it relates to a bigger picture) probably hundreds of times. It sort of makes me cringe, because I only got “good” at it after the first decade 7 or 8. I have had to explain Paganism (or more specifically, how Paganism fits into the military) to some pretty conservative crowds, and I will tell you now, that even when someone needs to know, they don’t always want to hear it. Particularly when it messes with their preconceived ideas.

With that in mind, the thing to remember is that not every conversation will go well. Your goal should not be to prove a point, or to be “right” or to have the last word (which is where my list of etiquette guidelines for interfaith discussions come in). Know when to back off, and how to do it gracefully (if possible) if things *do* go badly. But, at the same time, don’t be afraid to share your beliefs–-you deserve the same respect for having them that the next person does for having theirs, whether they are mainstream or not. If you can’t consider the conversation at work or school or at home, at least speak up when the opportunity presents itself…even if its just with trusted friends (or family that are also friends)or the blessedly anonymous internet.

*this post is essentially that same post from 5 years ago, heavily revised in places

**Here, I originally had some comments about the PR genius of the Mormons, which really only worked in the context of being able to see the commercials in question, but it isn’t available any longer. Also, while I still think the commercials were excellent from a PR standpoint, there’s some manipulation there, when it comes to proselytization, that isn’t really necessary here.

WWDY: March for Science Edition

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Sunday Musings: Science & Politics & Anger Edition

 

“The work of a scientist is often unglamorous. Behind every headline-making, cork-popping, blockbuster discovery, there are many lifetimes of work. And that work is often mundane. We’re talking drips-of-solution-into-a-Petri-dish mundane, maintaining-a-database mundane. Usually, nothing happens.

Scientific discovery costs money—quite a lot of it over time—and requires dogged commitment from the people devoted to advancing their fields. Now, the funding uncertainty that has chipped away at the nation’s scientific efforts for more than a decade is poised to get worse.

…we most certainly lose diversity in science—ranging from diversity of topics researched to diversity of people doing the research,” she told me. “Since we don’t know where real future progress will come from, and since history tells us that it can and almost certainly will come from anywhere—both scientifically and geographically—public funding that precisely diversifies our nation’s portfolio is crucial.”

“It would take a decade for us to recover and move the world’s center of science to the U.S. from China, Germany, and Singapore, where investments are now robust.”

–from “Scientists Brace for a Lost Generation in American Research” by Adrienne LaFrance in The Atlantic on March 16, 2017

I’ve been thankful… for the distraction of graduate school from the reality of the dismal political situation that the 18.96% have forced the rest of us into.  Really the dismal life situation that the 18.96% have forced the rest of us into.  I had hoped, really hoped, that it wasn’t going to come to this, but we are a country with a short memory and we rarely learn our lesson the first, fifth, or forty-fifth time.  I’m sorry for those of you that are so selfishly idealistic and deluded that you sold your fellow Americans out to the reality of Donald Trump because you thought you were “sticking it to the man” or letting “the establishment” feel the force of your ire, or you honestly thought that third party presidential voting is how you change the two-party system.

And yeah, I’m angry at your lack of foresight and common sense.  Yes, the system is deeply flawed and broken as it stands now (but its not yet irreparable), but the reality of the American political system is that third parties are not viable yet and acting as if they are only makes the problem worse.  At this rate, they may never be viable because those of you that support third parties (every four years) aren’t doing it right.  If third parties really wanted to do it right (instead of making money off those that don’t like the two viable candidates every four years), it would go something like this: Run candidates for school boards and city aldermen, the county tax assessor and the mayor.  Get a footing in the local community, then turn to state houses and senates, and eventually a couple of governors.  With a reasonable base of power at the state level, run some Congressional races.  And then, having done the leg work, with the support of a decent share of government (I’d guess something like 10-15% nationally, and 20-30% on the state level) there might be a realistic chance for the big white house on Washington Ave.

But that’s work.  And it takes longer than the 15 minute attention span of the average screen-addicted American choking on their own affluenza-infected cynicism and self-importance.  Rome wasn’t built in a day…and it didn’t fall in a day either.  It died the death of a thousand cuts–lead poisoning on a massive scale, intense economic stratification, a system of taxation that let the most wealthy avoid taxes in comparison to the percentage paid by lower classes, reliance on slave labor, overextending itself militarily on foreign wars (leading to massive defeats), a division into two entities with two governments, a decline of civil infrastructure and technological advancement, the oppression and inhumane treatment of non-Romans within their borders leading to resentment and rebellion…  Each one stacking upon the other until it couldn’t hold anymore.

Except that right now, we are the civilization accumulating its thousands of cuts.

And one of the biggest bleeders in need of attention is science.  The current administration, brought to you by the letters R and A, and the number 7: Russian propaganda, American stupidity, and roughly 7 million Americans that threw their votes away on President Nader Part Deux + 90 million Americans that just didn’t bother to vote.  Now, we have been left with an administration that can’t face basic facts about any issue facing the country or the world, from basic toxicology with regard to pesticide use and public health and access to affordable health care to the staggering loss of species due to habitat loss and degradation and the likely effects of continued release of greenhouse gasses.  This puts our future, and the future of our children in incredible peril.  Our failure to learn from scientific discovery as a society and our failure to invest in science, and in the solutions and technologies that have the potential to save us from the worst excesses of our hubris and our indulgence is quite simply, short-sighted and stupid on a level that has been unparalleled since the Inquisition.

What we need now, more than ever, is to invest our capitalour human capital, our environmental capital, and our economic capital into building sustainable societies with ecologically-based values.  And if we fail in this, we will fail on the global stage, the last nation holding the bag on phonographs, telegrams, and tin-type photography, falling into a new dark age, a newly fallen Rome.

One of my favorite shows (thank the gods for Netflix) right now is West Wing, simply because its a sane reminder that politics can be elevated to something beyond the election of a liar, a fraud, a cheat, a misogynist, a bigot, a jingoist, xenophobe, and apparently a puppet of a foreign government with a history of hiring illegal immigrants in the US while sending his own manufacturing to China, who has been too busy calling in favors for his companies as he makes as much as he can off the tax payer dime under the guise of “security” while putting white nationalists, terrorists, foreign collaborators, corrupt businessmen, and his whole damn family (with 0 experience doing anything useful) into positions where they can more easily erode the bedrock of democracy.  Thank the gods for a fictional President from a show whose last season was 10 years ago, that allows me to continue to have some hope for America (because the statistics of our redemption as a nation and a species are not looking good right now).  And it just happens to have one of the most eloquent statements on the importance of the public investment in science that exists on television:

Science cannot exist in a vacuum. By nature it’s an open enterprise, strengthened by public scrutiny. Openness is the basis of a free society.

But when science is attacked on ideological grounds, its integrity and usefulness are threatened.

Independent peer-reviewed research is the cornerstone of science in America. It shouldn’t be about the left or the right, but what works to keep people safe and healthy.

I believe all Americans and all people everywhere, no matter who they are or how they live, deserve research to improve their lives. Thomas Jefferson said, “We must not be afraid to follow the truth wherever it may lead.”

Scientific truth ennobles us. It tells us who we are, where we’ve been, and where we’re going. I believe the truth will only be found when all scientists are free to pursue it.

(Ellie Bartlet, The West Wing, Season 5: Episode 16)