Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Days of Hekate I: Her Sacred Fires



Every year, during the days close to the Full Moon of May (usually the three days before and after it), an international event takes place in many shapes and forms. I’m talking about the Rite of Her Sacred Fires, a rite in honour of Hekate, and a really good example of devotional ceremony for this particular Goddess. I owe a great deal regarding my own relationship with Hekate to the anthology and Rite of Her Sacred Fires since they acted as the necessary catalyst for me to explore my patron Goddess further. She taught and continues to teach me many things through the experiences and wisdom of fellow devotees.

I have been performing the Rite for 5 years now, the past four as a solitary. This year, however, I was blessed with being invited by good friends – devotees and priestesses of Hekate themselves – to celebrate together. We were seven people participating in the rite in total, and we gathered at night. The energy was vibrant and everything just felt right. The ritual itself was potent. The leading priestess added some parts to the rite as instructed by Hekate Herself. Here’s a rough summary of what we did:

We began with the ritual opening used by Labrys, the community we are all familiar with (some of the people present at the Rite are long-standing members). Then, two women invoked the elements in the four directions and created a magical space for us to work in. Following that, the leading priestess, the women that performed the elemental invocations and another woman – who is dedicated to Artemis – invoked Hekate in a manner revealed by the Goddess Herself: the priestess stood in the middle of a triangle of sorts, with each of the other women standing on what would be its points. The three women drew the energies of Hekate Ourania, Chthonia, and Einalia, while the priestess invoked Her with the Orphic hymn. Afterwards, the priestess – with help from one of the women – led us in meditation to commune with Hekate. While we were in the meditation, she would bring each person individually in front of the altar and guide them through the actual Rite of Her Sacred Fires, which takes the form of a ceremonial pledge of devotion to the Goddess and Her mysteries. After that, one of the participants recited a prayer requesting protection and aid from Hekate for the refugees in Greece. We did the Labrys ritual closing, although the women decided to not bid farewell to the elements and to leave the ritual “open” for further work in the following days. The priestess passed the sacred flame to all of us one last time, we vibrated Hekate’s name three times and the ritual ended. We had a small feast/meal afterwards, made with foods sacred to Hekate.

There were a number of interesting experiences during all that. First, I perceived – with my eyes closed and while still in meditation – every person around me as possessing an inner flame that burned white, almost translucent in its lack of colour. Every individual that completed the actual Rite of Her Sacred Fires had their flame dyed a colour unique to them (I saw purple, red, light blue, and greenish blue before the demands of the ritual and the meditation made me lose focus of this vision). Second, I had the curious experience of perceiving the ritual in the physical realm and at the same time Hekate and the meditational space in the spiritual realm. While this didn’t have physical visual effects, I was simultaneously experiencing the Rite of Her Sacred Fires physically and Hekate’s private work with me spiritually/mentally. It was a bit disorienting but exceptionally powerful. I was also whispering all sorts of “mini” invocations and prayers throughout the whole ritual. Third, the pet dog of the leading priestess and her wife became agitated and active at select portions of the ritual, such as when the priestess described Hekate’s animal retinue during the meditation (especially when she mentioned the dogs) and when we vibrated Hekate’s name all together at the end of the ritual.

This ritual was important to me for a number of reasons. First of all, it was an additional confirmation that my getting involved with these wonderful people is right and guided by Hekate. Furthermore, it helped me open spiritual channels and prepare myself for the very intense and demanding work that awaited me the following day. Finally, it allowed me to experience the Goddess in a mystical way together with fellow devotees and celebrate Her wondrous gifts and presence.

I am deeply thankful to my friends for granting me all this and even more thankful to Hekate for bringing us all together. Here’s to more and greater work in the future!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

A Communal Celebration



The other day, I had the pleasure to participate and experience a Noumenia ritual with Labrys, an Athens-based Hellenic polytheist group. We gathered on Filopappou Hill, at midday, around the stone altar Labrys has erected near the Heroon of Mousaios. The ritual, following Labrys’ format, was powerful and beautiful. The khernips passed around for pre-ritual purification had rosewater mixed in it, granting it a divine fragrance that instantly placed you in ritual mood. During the hymn to Hestia, the small fire one of the members leading the ritual had lit grew haunting and intense. The many libations poured upon the altar seemed to be thirstily absorbed by the stones warmed by the Sun and by the dry earth. The many different kinds of incense burnt heartily released blessed smoke, which swirled in spirals and columns and naturally fumigated the large circle of participants. The Orphic hymn to Mousaios was especially potent; many participants commented on the power of the hymn and its beauty afterwards. I felt that the numerous deities invoked with that hymn made their presence known to varying degrees, something that was especially moving and impressive, given the sheer volume of Gods and spirits called. At one point during the libations, a rogue bee approached the altar, sat on a libation oinokhoe (wine jug) for a bit, and then took flight again, circled the altar and disappeared. I took that to be an auspicious sign from the Gods that the ritual was well-received, something that improved my already great mood further.


After the ritual was completed, we had a small feast all together, partaking of wine and various foods, in honour of the Deathless Ones that graced us with their presence and blessings. That was one of my favourite parts of the ritual, and something I much like about Labrys in general: they really do make you experience the feeling of a community, even if you don’t fit 100% with everyone present. Before, during, and after ritual, we’re all part of the same community, co-religionists worshipping the same Gods, and that’s the most important thing in my eyes. This is also one of the biggest reasons why I always recommend Labrys, even if I don’t (yet, perhaps?) feel I can become a full member or fit in completely. They provide an indispensable service to all local Hellenic polytheists, that of a tangible and true expression of the polis religion, as it should be in modern times.


Following the celebration, I was invited by some friends in Labrys to watch their rehearsal for the Attika Dionysia, a modern celebration in honour of Dionysos, organized and performed by the group. The – long! – rehearsal at Tritsis park in an open theatre was beautiful and inspiring. I will definitely try my best to attend the Attika Dionysia and I am certain I will see quite the spectacle if the rehearsal was any indication! I got back home, nearly 12 hours later (I was out from 10 am to 9 pm!), sun-burnt, hungry, thirsty, and exhausted but excited, satisfied, content, and filled with hope, spiritual “buzz”, and a desire for more.


It was a wonderful experience and one I plan on repeating many times in the future. The people at Labrys are exceedingly hospitable and kind, going out of their way to accommodate and help anyone and you’re immediately made to feel welcome. I don’t know if my involvement with Labrys will be beyond that of a “religious acquaintance” or if it will develop into something deeper and more complex but, either way, it will definitely benefit me greatly.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Getting Organised & The Goals Ahead



Eleven years of study, research, and practice in the Pagan “field” can result in quite a mess of documents, books, writings, information, and resources. Add to that the academic pursuit of religious study (in the same “field”) and the various changes and evolutions of one’s personal path and you’ve got a chaotic hoard of information that needs to be organized, filtered and evaluated.


Part of that is finally designing a proper “grimoire” where I can include all sorts of things regarding the Triskelion. Since doing so physically (i.e. in an actual book) tends to be unviable since you can’t really guess how much space you will need for each section and binders get too messy for me, I decided to make it digital. Therefore, I’m compiling all Triskelion-related information in an OneNote notebook. At the same time, I’ll still use my current physical notebooks; I’ll simply use the digital “grimoire” as a “master textbook” of sorts. I will also keep recording relevant information in the Hekataion, as I am obliged to do in my devotional duties.


Here’s the outline I’m using:

Book of the Triskelion


Eisagogikon («Εσαγωγικόν» - “Introductory”)
Liturgy I: Hieratikon («Ἱερατικόν» - “Book of the sacred/of the priest”)
Liturgy II: Hymnologion («Ὑμνολόγιον» - “Hymnal”)
Liturgy III: Theologikon («Θεολογικόν» - “Theological”)
Hemerologion («Ἡμερολόγιον» - “Diary/journal/calendar”)


The Eisagogikon is comprised of the title page (which includes the declaration of intent for the book and a dedication prayer), a contents page, and an additional page with a summary of the Triskelion as well as a short bio of mine.


The Liturgy part is divided into three sections, because of how extensive it is. The first section is called Hieratikon and includes all practical material, such as rituals, spells, correspondences and so on. The second section is called Hymnologion and is a collection of hymns, chants, and incantations. The third section is called Theologikon and it includes information and writings on the Gods and Spirits of the Triskelion as well as Triskelion theology essays and articles.


The last part of the book is called Hemerologion and it’s a kind of “free” space: it has notes, a to-do list, a journal for recording my experiences, thoughts, and observations, as well as my religious calendar. I chose to include the calendar in the Hemerologion as opposed to the Hieratikon because of the need for revisions, design, and notes on its development.


In addition to making the Book of the Triskelion, I’m in the – long and arduous – process of checking, clearing, and organizing my resources (books, articles, writings etc). There’s a veritable nest of folders filled to the brim with material I have accumulated over the years. Moreover, I’ve got a huge number of saved bookmarks and most of them are uncategorized!


This kind of “Spring cleaning” is necessary because the clutter I’m dealing with all this time only serves to hinder me, especially when it comes to doing research (hunting for references and citations is hell when you don’t know where or even if you have what you’re looking for). My plan is to categorise my material and resources based on their general subject, such as “Research/Religious Studies”, “Triskelion”, “Paganism”, “Witchcraft” and so forth.


Beyond organization, I have a number of goals for the near future and many of them are relevant to this blog. For starters, I have two devotional projects underway, which will be published on this blog in time. They’re the Hymn Project and the Art Project. 


The Hymn Project is, as the name suggests, about writing hymns for a number of deities and spirits of considerable significance for the Triskelion. These hymns will be published here, in addition to exegetical exploration of the why and how behind them (e.g. meanings and reasons for the epithets used, intent and uses of the hymns etc).


The Art Project revolves around making paintings/drawings of various Gods and Spirits of the Triskelion, with the intent of honouring them as well as creating my own “sacred images” for the worship of those Gods. I will probably write interpretations and explanations for those art pieces as well.


Furthermore, I want to post on this blog at least twice per week and, more importantly, I want to stick to doing that, even when I’m not terribly motivated or inspired. I also have two more projects I’m working on, which will probably follow the Hymn and Art ones. These are a 101-type collection of articles and a series of religious research papers. As I’ve mentioned before, I might expand those and turn them into e-books. We’ll see.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Tools of the Hekatean Craft



In this post, I will explore the main tools of the Hekatean Craft – and, by extension, the main tools of the Triskelion itself – as well as give brief explanations of their roles, uses, and symbolism.

The Triad of Hekate’s Seal


One of the central symbols in the Hekatean Craft is called Hekate’s Seal. This is actually a set of distinct symbols weaved together to form a coherent whole, a symbolic rendition of the Craft itself.


As you can see in the picture (a quick sketch just to demonstrate it here), Hekate’s Seal is comprised of an eye within a circle, surrounded by nine rays, and around that circle, in the points that would correspond to a superimposed triquetra, are three Hekatean symbols: the dagger, the key, and the rope. Flanking those are two lit torches, one white, one black. Below the symbolic pattern, there is Hekate’s name written in Greek capital letters.




In this post, we will only focus on the three main symbols (dagger, key, rope): these are also important tools in the Hekatean Craft, the ones collectively called “The Triad of Hekate’s Seal”.


The Dagger: the symbol of the Witch’s power and Will. This tool is an emblem of the Witch’s position, power, and authority under the auspices of Hekate within this practice and I wield it as a sign of my identity and status within all formal rituals of the Triskelion (and, especially in the Hekatean Craft). Moreover, the Dagger is a weapon, physically as well as spiritually, and a tool with the properties of authority, control, summoning, and protection. It is also a guide and conduit of my Will, mainly in manifesting it for ritual purposes (example: drawing the magic circle). Within the Triskelion praxis, it has no specific elemental affinity, instead containing all elements equally and in balance. It can be somewhat of a forceful tool, even when used solely as a “badge” or “ID” of sorts.


The Crossroads Key: The Key is an old, plain key imbued with the power and magic of a crossroads through an appropriate rite. It stands as one of the greatest symbols of Hekate and Her liminal powers. The Key is used to lock and unlock the three Gates, to provide a link to the crossroads, to serve as a focal point for the worship of Hekate as well as to empower any rite and working. Like the Dagger, it has no specific elemental affinity.


The Hanged Man’s Rope: The Hanged Man’s Rope is a piece of rope, consecrated with the power of the Underworld, and symbolises the bonds of both the ancestors and the Restless Dead – the deceased with whom Hekate is more closely associated – with our world. The Rope is used as a conduit or focus for interaction with the dead. Also, it can be used both to guide the Restless Dead to the underworld as well as to sever the bonds that hold them in this world. The first is combined with another tool, the Hermetic Rod, while the latter makes use of the Dagger to symbolically cut the lingering bonds by placing the Dagger’s blade on the Rope as part of specific rites. Again, like the Dagger and the Key, the Rope has no specific elemental affinity.


The Witch’s Tools

 

Beyond the Triad, there are additional and equally important tools: these are called “The Witch’s Tools” and are the following: the Hekataion, the Hermetic Rod, and the Three Sacred Waters.


Hekataion: The Hekataion is the “Book of Shadows” of the Hekatean praxis. A Hekataion is any place or object dedicated to Hekate or portraying Her. In ancient Greece, a Hekataion was often a column or other similar construct (like a statue or altar) portraying Hekate, usually accompanied by the Charites and placed on crossroads. Symbolically, the book is a Hekataion since it is dedicated to Hekate and the Hekatean Craft. It contains information and lore regarding Hekate and this Craft.


Hermetic Rod: The Rod is made from a plane tree’s fallen branch, from the trees of our previous residence. The Rod is the Dagger’s “sibling” in many ways. They have great, in some cases opposing, differences. Because of that, they complement each other and should often be used in conjunction. The Rod is the symbol of the messenger. Its properties are that of calm interaction, of communication, and exchange. The Rod is a tool of communication and soothing, a parallel of Hermes’ staff, the caduceus (Greek: Kerykeion – Herald’s Staff) which is both a symbol of his status as a messenger and a tool for putting people to sleep. The Rod is used for inviting entities (usually deities or respected daemons) as well as for invocation (alongside the Dagger). Unlike the previous tools, the Rod has a specific and highly important elemental affinity: it is of the element of Air (further empowering its properties and roles). Finally, the Rod is used to open and close (which follow and precede respectively, the unlocking and locking of) the Gates.


The Three Sacred Waters: There are three different and unique blessed waters I can make in the Hekatean Craft and overall Triskelion praxis. These are: the Meter Protogenos ("Primordial Mother" or "First-born Mother"), the Stygian Water, and the Eternal Water.


  • The Meter Protogenos is the most useful and often utilised blessed water. It is used for purification, cleansing*, blessing, protection, and as a bearer of lunar properties and attributes. It is a mixture of salt and water, blessed and created with an appropriate rite. 
  • The Stygian Water is used for lesser anointments (unctions), enhancement and blessing, lesser consecrations, and as a bearer of chthonic attributes and properties. It is created by the submersion of a wooden branch on fire (such as a lit match) in water and blessed in the appropriate rite.
  • Finally, the Eternal Water is a special kind of blessed water reserved for very significant rituals. It is created by combining the Meter Protogenos and the Stygian Water in the appropriate rite. It possesses all qualities and attributes of the other two blessed waters and in a greater degree. It can be used for purification, cleansing, major blessings, major consecrations, major anointments (unctions), protection, enhancement, and as a bearer of Hekate’s own energy.

_______________________________________________

*Cleansing and purification: I differentiate between the two, somewhat. Cleansings are purifications but of a lesser potency while the term "purification" (Greek: καθαρμός, katharmos) is used in my writings to refer to more powerful techniques.
_______________________________________________


Elemental Pillars


In the Hekatean Craft, there are four tools that correspond to and represent the elements in ritual. Unlike other systems those four tools called Pillars, are stones. Every stone represents and corresponds to an element (fire, water, air, and earth). The making of these stones into the Elemental Pillars is a long and arduous process, in order to ensure that they have been properly and permanently imbued with the appropriate elemental energies only.


The Pillars are the magical foundations of many rituals (as well as most elabourate workings), especially magical ones or those that utilise the magic circle, in the Hekatean Craft. Their use can prove essential since nothing can be constructed (magically/energetically) without proper foundations. Each Pillar has its own meanings and properties and based on those, they can be positioned differently depending on the ritual/working.


Pillar of Earth: It represents the element of Earth. Its properties are: stability, calmness, power physical/bodily/life force, growth, fertility, support, death, precaution, restriction/confinement. It can be used as the foremost Pillar for workings and rites related/focused on these things.

Pillar of Fire: It represents the element of Fire. Its properties are: passion, power energetic, cleansing, banishment, catharsis, destruction, soul, sun, Will, protection, enlightenment. It can be used as the foremost Pillar for workings and rites related/focused on these things.

Pillar of Water: It represents the element of Water. Its properties are: memory, birth, cleansing, flow, moon, spirit, healing, clarity, feeling, goal, prediction/foresight, depth, time. It can be used as the foremost Pillar for workings and rites related/focused on these things.

Pillar of Air: It represents the element of Air. Its properties are: knowledge, message/news, cleansing, banishment, increase, empowerment, communication, in/evocation, mind. It can be used as the foremost Pillar for workings and rites related/focused on these things.

The Gates of the Otherworld


In the Hekatean Craft as well as the overall Triskelion praxis, an important tenet and practice is that of opening Gates to connect to realms and worlds entwined with the one we reside in as a means to either draw directly from where a rite or working’s goal is “originating” or to communicate and interact with the entities residing in those realms. The Gates are three: the Gate of Fire, connecting us with the realm(s) of deities and higher spiritual planes/spheres, the Gate of Water, connecting us with the realm(s) of daemons, the fae, other such spirits and the parallel (to us) planes and spheres and the Gate of Earth, connecting us with the realm(s) of the dead and lower planes/spheres. Each Gate has its own properties and roles. Air has no gate since it is the means, the road if you wish, connecting all of them.


Gate of Fire: The Gate of Fire connects to the higher realms. It aids interaction and communication with deities. Its element is Fire and its properties are passion and power. Its nature is solar. It brings forth energy and is related to the Anima Mundi, the World Soul. It symbolizes Will and the Higher Self (soul).
 
Gate of Water: The Gate of Water connects to the parallel realms. It aids interaction and communication with the fae, daemons and other such spirits. Its element is Water and its properties are feeling and healing. Its nature is lunar. It brings forth flow and is related to the Sensus/Spiritus Mundi, the World Mind/Spirit. It symbolizes the goal/intent and the Self (spirit).

Gate of Earth: The Gate of Earth connects to the lower realms. It aids interaction and communication with the dead. Its element is Earth and its properties are instinct, stability and fertility-death. Its nature is physical/earthly. It brings forth growth and is related to the Corpus Mundi, the World Body. It symbolizes the action and the Lower Self (life force/body).


Each Gate is represented by an appropriate elemental item. Specifically, the Gate of Fire is a source of fire, such as a candle, the Gate of Water is an amount of water, such as a bowl of water and the Gate of Earth is something of the earth, such as a bowl of rock salt or soil.


Different Gates are opened depending on the rite. In most cases, only one Gate is opened. The Gates are used for empowerment of workings and as an aid for communication and interaction with the appropriate entities for religious rites. In order to use them, a specific procedure must be followed. I can give the summary of the procedure here, but I cannot reveal the incantations and details involved.


First, I place the Pillars around the object to be turned into a Gate, with the Pillar of the corresponding element in front of the Gate, facing the practitioner. The Pillar of the opposing element is placed behind the Gate, while the other two can be placed in either side (left or right). Following that is the Unlocking of the Gates, a small rite unto itself, using the Crossroads Key to unlock and activate the Gate. Finally, using the Hermetic Rod I open fully the activated and unlocked Gate, just like one would turn the handle of an unlocked door to fully open it.


The Rod is very important in the rites of the Gates. It is used to ensure successful communication with the entities approached via the Gates as well as to maintain, through a calming authority, the exchange and working at hand. Should additional control and more forceful authority be required, the Dagger could also be used.


After the rite or working is complete, the Gate must be closed with the Rod and then locked with the Key, to fully deactivate it and make certain that nothing (energy, entities etc) will “leak” through. The objects used as the Gates are then cleaned (e.g. the water or dirt be disposed of, respectfully), cleansed and stored away. These objects are only used for the Gates, to ensure the purity of the energies involved.

The Minor Anima Mundi


The last main tool of the Hekatean Craft – but in no way the least important – is the Minor Anima Mundi (Lesser World Soul). It is a large candle, which underwent potent consecration rituals performed in trance-induced communion with Hekate. This candle serves as a vessel for Hekate’s power and presence, a living part of the Goddess to manifest in ritual. As such, it is an especially sacred object that must be treated with the utmost respect and kept solely for ritual use (I store it away safely whenever I’m not using it in ritual).


The Minor Anima Mundi acts similarly to a cult image, although a more abstract one rather than an anthropomorphic xoanon or statue. Due to it being imbued profusely with Hekate’s power, it exhibits and imparts many of the powers and blessings of the Goddess. As a – literal and metaphorical – Torch of Hekate (another name for it), it is particularly suited for mystery work, deep devotional practice, and theurgic magic.