Friday, March 18, 2022

Moving to The Greek Witch!

 It's time to move to a new "home"! This blog won't be updating anymore and from now on, you will be able to keep up to date with my writings over at The Greek Witch! This blog will not be deleted and will serve as an archive of my journey and writing thus far but anything new will be going to The Greek Witch. Thank you for reading and following me and I hope you'll continue to do so on the new site!



Tuesday, March 1, 2022

The Main Gods in the Mysteries of Hekate-Despoina

This is a collection of posts from my Patreon’s “Spirit Saturday”series, where I explore various Gods and spirits. This series of posts dealt with the main Gods in the Mysteries of Hekate-Despoina, most of which (with the exception of Asteria) appeared in the ancient cult of Despoina in Lykosoura. I have also added prayers as a bonus to some of the posts that didn’t originally have any when they were first posted on Patreon.

Anytos


The Titan or Kouretes Anytos is one of the Gods worshiped at the sanctuary of Despoina at Lykosoura. He appears in the magnificent group of statues depicting the main deities of the mystery cult, that was found at Lykosoura, alongside Demeter, Despoina, and Artemis. Pausanias notes that Anytos was believed to have raised Despoina although, sadly, he doesn’t go into detail regarding the myth. Unfortunately, besides the scant references in Pausanias, we know nothing else about Anytos. He doesn’t appear in other mythic cycles as far as we know, which lends credence to the opinion that he was a local Arcadian deity. Pausanias calls him a Titan, according to what the locals told him, but his statue depiction (man in full armor) and the appearance of the Kouretes on the Veil of Despoina (an incredible piece of the statue complex), aligns him more with the Kouretes than the Titans. It’s possible that both associations were a way for later antiquity traditions to “explain” his presence in the sanctuary, his obscurity, and potentially the loss of older myths or traditions that might have clarified his status further.


Since we don’t have any other historical information about him but he remains a major deity of the Arcadian Mysteries of Despoina (therefore equally important in the new Mysteries of Hekate-Despoina), we must develop new theories and a place in theology for him. Experiencing Anytos and becoming familiar with him through the Mysteries will surely help with that endeavor, by observing his revealed role in the tradition as well what he teaches us directly.


What I’ve personally learned and developed is still limited but it is my hope and belief that when more people practice these Mysteries and experience them, more light will be shed on Anytos too. In my experience, especially regarding his role in the First Stage of the Mysteries, Anytos is a gatekeeper and guardian God of the Mysteries. It is his action that begins the Mystery process by opening the gate to Despoina’s Cave and awakening the earth and the rejuvenating Waters. I am excited to revisit the First Stage as well as approach Anytos in other rituals and see how he responds.

Here’s a prayer to Anytos I created for the ritual preparation before the First Stage:


Prayer to Anytos

Great Anytos, Titan and Kouretes,

guardian and chosen parent of Despoina,

you who reared the great Goddess in the stead of kind Demeter,

you who opens the gate of the Mysteries,

and who awakens the earth and waters,

powerful one, attend this rite!

Look kindly upon me,

and stand guard beside me,

so none may sway me from my path,

and so I can gaze upon the Mysteries safe and protected.


______________________________________________________________________


Artemis


One of the most popular and well-known deities, Artemis is among the Gods that immediately come to mind when thinking about Hellenic polytheism. A highly multifaceted Goddess, Artemis was worshiped throughout the ancient world, and was syncretized and associated with many deities including but not limited to Diana, Hekate, Selene, Kybele, Bendis, Aphaia, and others. Her most common aspects deal with wilderness, animals and the hunt, girls and young women, childbirth, and the moon. Artemis also appears as a secondary deity in the mystery cults of Eleusis and Lykosoura.


Artemis is the twin sister of Apollon, usually depicted as the eldest of the two. She is almost always considered a daughter of Zeus and Leto, with an alternative parentage existing in the mythic cycles of the mystery cults, where she is said to be the daughter of Poseidon and Demeter. This also led to her association and syncretism with Despoina.


Artemis’ role in mystery cults might seem strange given her popular aspects but it is in her other attributes that we find the link to those associations: the aspects that allowed her syncretisms with goddesses such as Hekate and Kybele. Artemis fits the archetype of the Great (Mother) Goddess despite her virginal nature in myth, and her aspects as fierce protector and light-bringing (phosphoros) goddess are well-aligned with mystery, especially when it comes to safeguarding and leading up to it.

The details of her role in the Arcadian mysteries of Despoina are sadly largely unknown to us. Artemis features prominently in the cultic sculptural group of Despoina’s sanctuary at Lykosoura, alongside Anytos, Demeter, and Despoina herself. She also had a temple in the sanctuary’s vicinity dedicated to her as Artemis Hegemone (“queen”) which was the first thing you saw entering the sanctuary, according to Pausanias’ description. This mirrors the situation at Eleusis, where a temple to Artemis Propylaia (“before the gates”) and Poseidon Pater (“father”) is found before the main gate of the sanctuary. The inclusion of Artemis but not Poseidon in the sculptural group of Lykosoura (though there was an altar to Poseidon Hippios on the sanctuary’s grounds) and the position of her temple give us a potential hint for her role in the mysteries: that of guardian and guide of the initiates and initiates-to-be. She holds that role in the Mysteries of Hekate-Despoina as well, mainly in the First Stage.

Overall, Artemis is an incredible, complex goddess, and I cannot do her justice in a short post like this. Everyone interested in or drawn by her ought to focus on the aspects that call to them the most. The mystery associations and common ground with Hekate are where I feel drawn when it comes to Artemis. Others, especially women and girls, will have insights and connections to aspects of Artemis that are beyond me.


Prayer to Artemis

Great Goddess, twin sister of Apollon, blessed daughter of Leto,

before you stands a seeker of the Mysteries,

one who asks for your guidance and protection,

upon this twisting path of fate-exploring pursuits.

O Torchbearer, friend of Hekate, Light-bringer,

Huntress, Highest One, whose worship spanned the world,

you who is intimate with the mysteries and always stands guard to the seekers,

protect and guide me in this endeavor, this journey towards the Gods’ truth.

May the paths you tread and upon which we follow, always lead us to piety.


___________________________________________________________________


Asteria


Asteria is the Titan Goddess of the starry sky and specifically falling stars. She is famously known as the mother of Hekate and for turning herself into (or creating) the sacred island of Delos, where her sister, Leto, gave birth to Artemis and Apollon. In some versions of the myths, Delos is also where Asteria married Perses. Quails are sacred to Asteria throughout her mythic versions, whether because she turned herself into one to avoid the amorous advances of Zeus and/or Poseidon or because her sometimes son, Heracles, was resuscitated by a quail since it was sacred to his mother (the Phoenicians supposedly sacrificed quails to Heracles in remembrance of this occasion). Ortygia (“quail-island”) was also considered to be the ancient name of Delos.

There is little else known about her. Most of Asteria’s mythic appearances are either small mentions for cosmological genealogy (e.g. Hesiod) or centered on her role in the myth of Leto and her children. We also know nothing about her actual cultic presence though some try to connect her to dream oracles and astrology due to her associations with other Gods and her domain of the stars, respectively. In regards to dream oracles, there is an obscure Goddess named Brizo who was worshiped on Delos as a Goddess of dream oracles and patron of mariners and fishermen. Theoi.com mentions a potential but unproven connection with Asteria. The poet Callimachus in his “Hymn to Delos”, calls the island Asteria and names her “laden with incense”, “of many altars”, and “of many prayers” in addition to exalting it as the holiest of lands.

Faced with a dearth of practical information, the best we can do is innovate and extrapolate from what we have, such as “reverse-engineering” potential extensions of Asteria’s domains and ways to worship her based on Hekate’s own. Personally, in my own cultic practice, I revere Asteria as a Goddess of dream oracles but not of astrology, since I consider that the domain of Astraios (Titan God and father of the stars, planets, and winds). I also associate her with the Perseids meteor shower whose end coincides with the second stage of my Mysteries of Hekate-Despoina, being a type of anabasis (ascent) prepared, in no small part, by Asteria.


Prayer to Asteria

Resplendent Goddess, mother of Hekate,

Goddess of the Starry Night,

you who brings favorable dream oracles,

and blesses us with starlight,

light the way for us who climb ever towards the star-filled heavens,

and who seek mystery and truth, piety and honor, magic and connection.

Great Goddess, Titan, you who prepares the way and the initiate,

bringer of empowering force, holder of starlit secrets,

O Asteria, whose voice is the beckoning call of the heavens,

and whose gaze is the soul-mending light of the stars,

help us in our ascent and effort,

to become again kin of the Earth and Starry Heaven.


_____________________________________________________________________


Demeter


Demeter is one of the Twelve Olympians and a major Goddess that was worshiped throughout ancient Greece. She is most known for the mystery cults, especially those of Eleusis, centered on her mythic cycles and her mystical relationship with humanity. Demeter is primarily the Goddess of agriculture though like all Gods she is quite multifaceted. Among her aspects are those of the giver of customs, patron and benefactor of humanity, chthonic underworld deity, wrathful Goddess, bringer of fertility and plenty, and great initiator.

Her cults at Eleusis and elsewhere, including many towns and locations in ancient Arcadia, were often some type of mystery tradition, involved her agrarian and afterlife aspects, and could potentially be traced to Mycenaean or pre-Greek times in their origin. Both of Demeter’s daughters were intimately connected to her, both in myth and religious practice, to the point where the Mycenaean Greek evidence for Demeter is found, according to academia, in mentions of the “Two Goddesses/Mistresses”, a duo of female divinities. Demeter is also associated, either due to syncretism or cultic relation, with Artemis, Kybele, Hekate, and Isis.

As with the other Gods explored in these posts recently, Demeter features prominently in the Arcadian Mysteries as well as the New Mysteries of Hekate-Despoina. As the mother of Despoina and de facto Goddess of Mysteries in both myth and cult, Demeter’s role and significance cannot be understated. The great Goddess is the one who teaches us the sacred practices and secret rites, initiating us into the Gods’ mysteries. Her role in the Mysteries of Hekate-Despoina is a bit more indirect but ever-present: she’s akin to the earth, the immovable, living support that carries the initiate forward on their mystical journey and who first marks them as a worthy seeker of the mysteries.

There are many ways to approach and worship Demeter. My own way understandably relates mostly to her mystery facets but also her aspect as giver of customs: she who teaches civilized and religious life. To that end, I have a simple rite I perform twice per year, around the Spring and Autumnal Equinoxes to honor these aspects of Demeter. Here’s a slightly amended version you can freely adapt for yourselves:


Venerating the Thesmophoros”

Ritual


Materials Needed:

Two candles (tealights will do)

Bowl for libations

Bowl with grain (barley, wheat, rye, or corn)

A representation of Demeter

First Spring flowers or fruits of the harvest, depending on the time period

A representation of a snake

Frankincense or styrax for incense


Purify yourself and your space in your preferred manner. Arrange the altar in the following way: the representation of Demeter is placed further away from you, with the candles on either side of it. The two bowls are placed in front of the candles and the incense in front of Demeter. The flowers/fruits are neatly placed throughout the altar’s surface. The snake representation is placed closest to you, in front of the incense.

Light the candles and recite the Orphic hymn to Demeter Eleusinia. Light the incense and pour a bit of water as libation while saying:

Blessed is Potnia Sito, the Lady of Grain, most graceful of all the Gods!”

Take a moment to center yourself, breathe deeply and recite the Prayer to Thesmophoros.


Prayer to Thesmophoros

Great Demeter, Daughter of Kronos and Rhea,

sister of the shining Olympians, you who is earth herself!

I call to you, Thesmophoros, Giver of Customs,

you who taught us secret rites and the ways of the polis,

kindhearted Goddess, beloved mother of Kore,

look upon us with favorable eyes and plentiful hands!

Send your blessing, your abundance, your endless fecundity,

and keep us, Goddess, ever upon the path of mystery.

Pour the rest of the water as a libation. Say whatever words or heartfelt prayers come to you. Finally, give thanks to Demeter and end the rite by saying:

Blessed is Potnia Sito, the Lady of Grain, and the fruits of her power and womb!”


_____________________________________________________________________


Poseidon


Poseidon, one of the most popular and well-known of the Greek Gods, is also an important deity of the modern Mysteries of Hekate-Despoina. His aspects and functions in the Mysteries are a little different from the popular image most of us have of Poseidon, and more in line with his Arcadian and older Greek cults.

Specifically, Poseidon is worshipped in the Mysteries under his epithets Hippios (“of the horses”), Epoptēs (“overseer”), Phytalmios (“plant nurturer”), and Krēnoukhos (“ruler of springs”) as well as the somewhat innovative Pēgaios (“of springs”). All of these epithets correspond to Poseidon’s connections to the ancient Arcadian cults of Despoina, which inform the modern Mysteries. The aspects of horse-God, overseer of the mysteries, God of nurturing and nourishing forces are all central to the ritual cycles of the Mysteries. Obviously, Poseidon has numerous other aspects and epithets, especially relating to the sea and earthquakes as is well-known, but the Mysteries specifically focus on some of his more obscure powers, especially given their connections to the ancient traditions of Arcadia. His function and importance is most felt in the First Stage of the Mysteries though he is present throughout the entire process of the Mysteries. Beyond those aspects, Poseidon is considered the father of Despoina through Demeter but also of Artemis, both in Arcadian cults as well as in the Eleusinian mysteries.

My personal experience with Poseidon has not been the most complex or pronounced. He is one of those Gods whose presence, while immense and felt everywhere as one would expect, especially in a country like Greece, had largely been a background thing for me, as opposed to a direct and extended experience. It is through the development of the Mysteries that I have come to know Poseidon better and to move beyond the false limitations placed upon him by popular belief. He is much more than just a sea god or deity of earthquakes. As a God whose cults reach back to Mycenaean times and who has a multitude of roles and aspects, Poseidon is rightfully a King of Gods, much like Zeus and Hades are in their own ways. The mythic division of the world between the three brothers has theological merit, if only as symbolizing the vast, sovereign power and stature of all three. I can only say, based on my recent but growing experiences with Poseidon, that it is a good idea to approach Gods whom you might have ignored in the past or whom you might not quite grasp or understand. You will be surprised by the results.


Prayer to Poseidon

I call upon the Earth-Shaker, Poseidon, son of Kronos,

the primordial Anax, King of Earth and Sea,

I call upon he who brings forth the rejuvenating waters,

creator of horses, God of the seafarers,

mighty brother of Zeus and Ploutodotēs,

hear my prayer and praise, you who is great among the deathless Gods.

In this journey towards the mysteries of your fierce daughter,

born as she was of wrathful Demeter,

grant us, O Poseidon, your boon and favor,

and allow us to partake of your life-giving waters.


____________________________________________________________________________

 

Pan


One of the few animalistic Gods in Hellenic religion, Pan is a God of wilderness, panic, shepherds, rustic customs and traditions, and prophecy. He is usually depicted as a companion of other Gods and his mythic and cultic origins, entangled deeply with his sometimes father Hermes, are lost deep in history. His representations as a man with goat traits of varying degrees are infamous and captured the minds and imagination of people and are believed to be one of the inspirations for the cultural depictions of the Christian and folkloric Devil. A mischievous God with aspects of liberation from mores, cognate with those of Dionysos, Pan was also strongly associated with hosts of daimons and spirits such as Panes (plural of Pan), Satyroi, Seilenoi, and the Nymphs.

Pan was worshipped throughout Greece and other places of the Mediterranean, mainly in grottoes, caves, and groves; human-built sanctuaries and temples existed, though they were uncommon. He was especially honored in Arcadia, where his cult was most widespread and believed to be his mythic homeland. Pan’s sanctuary within the wider sanctuary of Despoina in Lykosoura is of special significance for us, given the connection to the Mysteries of Hekate-Despoina. In that sanctuary, one of the few specifically built for Pan, there was a sacred flame that was never extinguished. According to Pausanias, the local legend was that in very ancient times, Pan gave oracles in that sanctuary via nymphs and worshippers.

Pan’s connections to mysteries, the belief in Arcadia that he had equal power to the greatest of Gods and could answer any plea, and his syncretism with mystical deities such as Phanes-Protogonos and Dionysos all point to a powerful deity, obscured by the unknown element of the wilderness and his distance from civilized society. This God of the pastures, wild forests and ecstatic oracles who shows up in the most unexpected places also plays a role in the Mysteries of Hekate-Despoina, albeit a minor one. Specifically, though without going into much detail, he features in the preliminary rituals before the First Stage rites of the Mysteries. Despite the small role, his presence as the unfettered power of the Earth and of mystery is nonetheless crucial.

My personal experience of Pan is not one that can be easily put into words. It has dealt mainly with experiencing the outdoors, the forests and mountains of this land, and the many spirits that inhabit it. Here is a prayer I sometimes use when I invoke him, though I often forgo structured prayers and simply speak from the heart.


Prayer to Pan

I call to you, Pan, primeval one,

noble beast God of the wilds,

Nomios, Lyterios, Skoleitas,

breaker of chains, lover of nymphs,

companion of the Meter Theon and of the Liberator,

come Wild One, come Terrible One, come Great Pan,

heed this call, this hushed prayer,

whispered as a prey breathes lightly before a hunter,

mighty Pan, God of this earth, giver of plenty,

you who brings panic, you who brings inspiration,

friend of madness and guardian of shepherds,

commune with me!


___________________________________________________________________________


Despoina


The exploration of the Gods of the ancient Arcadian mysteries and the modern Mysteries of Hekate-Despoina wouldn’t be complete without discussing Despoina herself. An obscure and effectively nameless Goddess, Despoina was worshipped almost exclusively in Peloponnesos, and especially Arkadia where she was worshipped “above any of the Gods” according to Pausanias. We know next to nothing about Despoina herself besides her parentage: she is a daughter of Demeter and Poseidon, and sister to the mythic horse Arion – in some regional versions of the myth, Despoina herself might have been horse-headed. We also know that Despoina’s cults were focused on mysteries and even her true name was not divulged to non-initiates; “Despoina” simply means “Mistress”. She was also almost always worshipped alongside Demeter, to the point where there are ancient mentions to them as Despoinai: the Mistresses.

Her name functions as an epithet for a number of Goddesses, including Demeter herself, Hekate, Persephone, Aphrodite, and Artemis. Due to the obscurity of Despoina in ancient religion, it is next to impossible to reconstruct much of use in terms of cultic practice or lore. Indeed, we cannot even attempt the simplest of descriptions like “Goddess of…”, beyond perhaps “Goddess of Mysteries”. Therefore, we can only extrapolate based on the little information available and, more importantly for contemporary polytheism, rely on lived experience and interaction with her.

As is already known to all of you, Despoina is one side of the central Goddess of the Mysteries I am developing, the other one being Hekate. Hekate-Despoina, the syncretic form of Hekate and Despoina as one deity, is how the Goddesses came to me in regards to these Mysteries and the way Despoina has shed some of her obscurity: through Hekate, Despoina reveals herself. This requires considerable development of a working theology, both for the Mysteries as well as the Goddess herself. Who is she? Why is she so significant to mysteries? My own belief and theological theory, based on my research and experience so far, is that both daughters of Demeter (Persephone and Despoina) rule over different aspects of the mysteries of life, death, and the land. Persephone reveals the mysteries of the harvest, the changing of the seasons, and the journey of the soul after the death of the body while Despoina reveals the mysteries of the land’s rejuvenation and cyclic nature and the journey of the initiated soul while still embodied.

As Hekate-Despoina, Her influence and roles expand to infinity through Hekate’s fundamental liminality, and – in quite Hesiodic terms – Despoina joins in Hekate’s share of all divine domains. Hekate-Despoina is a composite Goddess, a phenomenon theologically analogous to Hermekate, Hekate-Selene-Artemis, the Egyptian Amun-Re and the Graeco-Egyptian Serapis and Zeus-Ammon. This syncretic approach is influenced heavily by Hellenized forms of Egyptian conceptions of divinity. Hekate-Despoina is a distinct Goddess in Her own right, but can also be interpreted as “Despoina-in/through-Hekate” or “Hekate-in/through-Despoina”; the “original” two Goddesses also retain their selfhood and distinct existence and are not lost with the emergence of the composite Goddess.

In conclusion, Despoina is an elusive Goddess of whom little is known but who commands the imagination and spirit much like Arcadia as an abstract fantasy commanded the imaginations of poets and writers. It is my hope that through the Mysteries, more people will be able to experience Despoina and she may yet reveal more of her hidden self. Finally, here is a prayer I use in my regular practices to honor her.


Basic Prayer to Despoina

Oh veiled Daughter, theriomorphic Goddess,

horse-headed, star-eyed, of ineffable names,

sister to and yet selfsame Persephone,

knowing shadow of countless Goddesses,

beloved Despoina, Mistress of Arcadia,

born of wrathful Demeter and chthonic Poseidon,

Mother of Mysteries, Scepter-holding Anassa,

you who spins the iynx wheel and spindle,

and moves all souls through cycles of initiation,

hear this prayer and plea, this praise to your honor,

cast, oh Despoina, a gentle eye upon your devotee,

and ever illuminate the path ahead with your obscured light.


You can also download this entire post collection through this Google Drive link.

 

 

 

Saturday, January 22, 2022

Beyond the Mysteries: The Way Forward

Disclaimer: This post deals heavily with spirit-guided gnosis, mystical experience, and conjecture.


It might seem weird talking about “beyond” the Mysteries of Hekate-Despoina, when the book isn’t even completed. Yet, having finished the rites of the Three Stages, I do have to ponder: what’s the next step? The easiest answer to that is the Remembrance Cycle. The Remembrance Cycle is the name and form the Mysteries of Hekate-Despoina take after the mystēs has gone through the entire three-stage procedure once and fully. Every year after that, on the anniversary dates of the original three rites, the practitioner must perform simple rituals that commemorate the journey and spiritual transformation experienced during the exploration of the Mysteries. The name “Remembrance Cycle” pays tribute to Mnemosyne, the Goddess of Memory, whose blessing upon initiates allows them to fully absorb and retain all gnosis received and experienced during mystical processes. Memory and remembering play a major role in the Mysteries, echoing the mystēs’ affirmations that they are fully cognizant of their ineffable experiences and the divine origin of their souls.


But is that all? For many, yes. The Mysteries of Hekate-Despoina, including the Remembrance Cycle, are a self-contained, entire system of mystery practice. One can be entirely content and fulfilled in terms of spiritual and mystical experience with the tradition as-is. However, from early on I was given glimpses of further, potential paths to follow after the Mysteries procedures were completed, including a “fork in the road” which is still largely unknown to me. Part of that potential ahead was clarified somewhat during the Second Stage of the Mysteries, the Sidereal Journey. Coupled with admitting that the presence of magic (theurgic, hieratic magic) is something I can neither deny nor avoid when it comes to this mystery tradition, I realized that a path branching off from these Mysteries will be heavily magic-oriented; much more than the Mysteries rites are.


Unlike the clear instructions and gnosis received after each Stage was completed, which illuminated the next Stage, I’m only getting what can be described as flashes and very fragmented information. My assumption is that I need to coax these fleeting specters of gnosis through my tried-and-tested rituals for such matters, in order to clear up the path ahead. The only certainty, based on the crucial sign I received by Hekate on the culmination of the Third Stage, is that the path ahead branches off thrice, not unlike the rune Algiz in shape (I am only referencing the rune because of its design, not because of its meanings or any other reason). The magic-focused branch is one of the three but that’s the extent of what I can figure out right now.


Since the book is still a work in progress, I don’t plan to focus too much on that future path and its branches. I have the first iteration of the Remembrance Cycle ahead of me in the meantime, and finishing the book is the foremost priority. I do want to explore a little bit though, if only to shed a bit of light and figure out some of these nebulous pieces of gnosis.


Another thing that has been preoccupying me, related to the future and entirety of the Mysteries, is the tradition’s name. “Mysteries of Hekate-Despoina” is fine, albeit a roundabout way to refer to it, but it is also strongly tied to the book and the practices till now. The parts of the path ahead give me a strong sensation of being different, even if they are directly related and a continuation of the journey started with the Mysteries. I am thoroughly unsure what to call the tradition as a whole. If any of you have a flash of inspiration, do let me know. The Gods inspire all of us and messages that answer our questions often come from other people.

Friday, December 10, 2021

Hekate's Epithets Part One

 As promised elsewhere, here is a PDF file with the seven Hekate epithet posts I wrote for my Patreon, each with its own prayer. I hope this will be useful to everyone, beginner and devotee alike!


You can view and download the file here.

 

 

 

Thursday, December 9, 2021

A statement on the Indica controversy

 

As you know, last May I was awarded a fellowship grant for the development of my project “The New Mysteries of Hekate-Despoina” from Indic Academy’s Center for Global Polytheist and Indigenous Traditions led by Dr. Edward Butler. As part of my contractual obligations relating to that grant, I also participated in the online Conference for Polytheism Today and Tomorrow: Dialogues on Pluralism and Polytheist Art, alongside many others.


It recently came to everyone’s attention that Indica is associated with and has publicly shown support for the Hindutva nationalist movement (blog post linked for a very detailed run-down of thesituation – I make no claims of endorsement for the rest of the blog as I don’t know the author, but this particular piece checks out). I freely admit I had no knowledge of what Hindutva was (or that it even existed) prior to the recent controversy bringing these associations to light, seeing as I’m not Hindu or even interested in anything related to Hinduism or India. My association with Indica starts and ends with my contractual obligations to a grant facilitated for and by polytheists under Dr. Butler’s directorial work.


I am in a difficult position right now, because I am firmly opposed to any form of nationalism or right-wing conservatism while at the same time being contractually associated with an organization that, months after the beginning of my involvement, publicly endorsed such movements. In the intent of full disclosure and honesty, I want to make clear why I cannot simply end my professional association with Dr. Butler and the CGPIT/Indica before June 2022.


The grant I received has a project deadline of June 2022. The size of the grant was also equivalent to roughly half a year of rent for me personally, and my use of that money was solely for living expenses, as I explicitly outlined in my agreement with Indica. Indica has absolutely no intellectual rights or control over my project, which also has nothing to do with anything relating to Indica or Hindu matters. The fellowship contest was international and for any kind of polytheist, which is why I participated. My contractual obligations are simply to give two annual reports (one of them being in the form of my talk at the Conference recently) and to complete the project I undertook thanks to the grant’s support within the deadline (aka until June 2022 – evidently this obligation is to show that you didn’t just take grant money for other purposes but did indeed complete the project the grant for which you applied was intended to fund). Other than that, I am under no obligation to work with, support, endorse, or follow Indica’s line on any matter whatsoever. They also make no money off of me as far as I am aware nor have I given a single cent to anything Indica related.


I’ll be perfectly honest. I cannot return the grant money. It was spent on living expenses, exactly as intended (and it’s been more than half a year since I received it), and my financial situation does not allow for me to give such a big chunk of money back; it is simply not something I can afford. Knowing that, I will continue to fulfill my contractual obligations (and thankfully they are minimal as already explained) until the end of my deadline and completion of my project.


I am saddened by Dr. Butler’s stance on the Indica matter, although I can also understand it to an extent, as he is employed by them (while I am not and I still have some obligations, as explained). For what’s worth, Dr. Butler was nothing but helpful and supportive of me and my work, and made it clear everyone is free to have and enforce their own stance and approach on this matter. I am still grateful for all the help and the grant itself, without which my project could not have happened, and which I will strive to complete on time. Still, I cannot and will not associate with Indica past the end of my project and contractual obligations.


I hope I have made my precarious position on this matter clear and I hope everyone knows I will never willingly support any sort of nationalism.

Friday, December 3, 2021

The Mysteries of Hekate-Despoina: An Overview of Praxis

 

The practical aspect of the Mysteries of Hekate-Despoina is a three-stage process, taking place within a year, from March to December. More accurately the three stages take place on the Full Moons closest to the Spring Equinox, the Perseids meteor shower, and the Winter Solstice. Each stage must be completed before the next one can be performed. Otherwise, the subtle transformative process of the Mysteries will be disturbed and the practitioner performing the rituals will not properly experience the intended journey and transmutation of the spirit. That isn’t necessarily catastrophic since the prospective initiate can try again next year (barring any divination explicitly advising the opposite) by starting the process anew.


Each stage builds onto the next. Very much like the seasons, there is no true beginning and the entire process must be viewed in a cyclical or spiral manner. The designated “First” Stage is essentially an arbitrary choice for practical and pragmatic reasons, just like the beginning of the secular year on January is artificial; the seasons never “begin” from our perspective but cycle through one another perpetually. Still, we need a means to enter this perpetual dance, and the designated First Stage is, in my opinion and examination, the most inviting and helpful for the beginning of this transformative journey. The title of the practitioner also changes along the journey, to reflect the changes within. During the First Stage, the practitioner is the Iketēs, the Supplicant. During the Second Stage, the practitioner is the Odoiporos, the Wayfarer. And lastly, during and beyond the Third Stage, they are the Mystēs, the Initiate (literally “the initiated”).


The three stage process is, somewhat paradoxically, technically a four-stage process since the Third Stage is actually a two-part procedure. Let’s start at our chosen starting point though, shall we?


The First Stage, properly called “The Light Obscured in the Waters”, is observed on the Full Moon of the Spring Equinox and it requires the practitioner to symbolically participate in a ritual drama: The Iketēs awakens the earth and the Titan Anytos opens the gate of the cave of Despoina, where the Obscured Light can be found. The Iketēs must draw the Waters of Rejuvenation from the Spring of Poseidon and venture into the cave via the performance of the Snake Dance. There, the Light is found and revealed. By conjoining the Light Unveiled with the Waters of Rejuvenation, the Luminous Waters are created, of which both the earth and the Iketēs must partake. The Iketēs becomes spiritually quickened and their transformative journey begins. The first glimpse of the Mysteries is attained and the Iketēs learns and utters the Secret Name of Hekate-Despoina. With the First Stage completed, the path to the Second Stage is open and the practitioner is now the Odoiporos.


In the Second Stage, properly called “The Sidereal Journey” and observed on the Full Moon of the Perseids, the Odoiporos, having been spiritually rejuvenated and their soul transformation initiated, undergoes the anabasis process that will allow them to gain the blessings and empowerment of celestial Gods and to glimpse the magnitude of Hekate-Despoina. This process is facilitated by Hekate’s mother, the divine Asteria, and the empowerment – necessary to face the challenges of the Third Stage – is conveyed by the group of deities dubbed “the Star Gods” (Astraios, Astraia, the Astra Planeta, and the Titans of Light, i.e. Helios, Selene, and Eos). Unlike the First Stage, the Sidereal Journey is less sacred drama and more theurgic ritual, clearly possessing of a more magical (albeit still hieratic) character due to the alchemical nature of its processes. The Odoiporos is prepared through preliminary rituals involving Asteria and the Star Gods, and becomes spiritually empowered and reforged in the main rite of the Second Stage. This allows the Odoiporos to undertake the Third Stage as the Mystēs at the appointed time fully prepared and equipped to experience it without adverse effects.


The Third Stage, properly called “The Glory of Hekate”, is observed on the Full Moon of the Winter Solstice, and it leads the Mystēs through an ecstatic experience of the Goddess in Her full glory, engineered through a katabasis and followed by an anabasis. This allows the Mystēs to glimpse the domains of Hekate-Despoina, Her greatness, and to gain profound insight and understanding of Her Secret Name and Her multitudinous, ineffable nature and power. The two-part process is akin to a visionary journey in ritual form. The first part involves the descent to the Underworld where Hekate as Unconquerable Queen of Those Below (Amaimaketos Anassa Eneron) is approached and propitiated, and where the Mystēs undergoes their most dramatic spiritual transformation, being remade by the Goddess or rejected and sent back if their life’s path lies elsewhere. This “failure” can be hard to stomach but the Mysteries of Hekate-Despoina are only for anyone, not everyone. Some people’s fate leads to other destinations and that is neither sin nor folly. If sent back, the Mystēs becomes the Eusebēs, the Pious, and completes the process in a different manner, enjoying the blessings granted thus far and forging their own path towards other horizons.


If accepted and remade by the Goddess in Her terrible visage, the Mystēs must climb back to this realm through a ritual process similar to a baptism or birth. Through earth and water, the Mystēs returns from the Underworld, reborn in spirit, and looking ever towards the shining stars ahead.


After the entire three-stage process has been completed, the Mystēs ought to commemorate the three stages every year, with celebratory rituals; a different process from the one they underwent but one that keeps the memory of the Mystery alive. These simple ritual celebrations and commemorations are governed by Mnemosyne and undertaken in devotion to Hekate-Despoina.



Sunday, October 31, 2021

"Polytheism Today and Tomorrow" Conference Paper

 Hello everyone! This is the paper upon which I based my presentation/talk for the Conference on Polytheism Today and Tomorrow organized by the CGPIT and Indic Academy. It has a few differences, mostly details, from the actual talk but this is the original paper the talk was based on. You can watch my presentation and the rest of the conference HERE.. My part starts around 2:01:25 and there's a group discussion I am part of, starting around 3:16:00. The recordings should remain on YouTube for a month.


My name is Stefanos Chelydoreus, I am from Athens, Greece and I am a polytheist, theologian, mystic, and practitioner of magic. My project, “The New Mysteries of Hekate-Despoina”, which is the topic of this paper, won one of the three fellowship awards from the Center for Global Polytheist and Indigenous Traditions this year (2021). Specifically, it was in the category of Reviving Polytheisms and its goal is the design and formation of a modern mystery cult. A small note before we delve into the project itself: I use the term “cult” in the academic and polytheistic sense of the word as “religious practice or tradition”.


The project I am developing is on the formation of a modern mystery cult. The goal is to complete a book that deals with this endeavor from both a theoretical as well as a practical perspective. It has three parts: historical examination, theological theory, and ritual practice. I will explain this in more detail but before that, I would like to talk a little bit about what inspired and moved me to work on this project and why I think it is a valuable contribution to contemporary reviving polytheisms, especially Hellenic polytheism.


Interestingly, this all started as a personal devotional experiment of mine. I have been devoted to Hekate for 11 years now (12 if you count the preparatory year). In fact, the anniversary of my dedication is this Sunday (October 31st)! In the interest of expanding further my devotional practice and relationship with Hekate, I asked Her, while in ecstatic ritual, to reveal to me the Arcadian Mysteries of Despoina and Her ancient Carian cults. Surprisingly, Hekate did just that, although it took a while to decipher the very cryptic messages. The information I was granted outlined a ritual process to be performed on the Full Moon of the Spring Equinox. This drew heavily from the Arcadian Mysteries of Despoina at Lykosoura, as I later found out while researching. I obviously cannot say that what I’m doing or writing is the actual ancient mysteries but I do believe the Goddess taught me how to revive them in spirit and merged with Her own particular Mysteries. After performing that ritual Hekate granted me knowledge of the next step, another ritual process to be performed on the Full Moon of the Perseids. I could already tell that this entire thing was bigger than I initially expected and highly mystical and theurgic. Before the time of the second stage rites came, the Center’s fellowship program was announced and after some encouragement from friends, I decided to expand my devotional experiment into a full-fledged mystery tradition. At the same time, this would allow me to achieve multiple goals at once. Firstly, I would be able to contribute a mystery practice to polytheists, something Hellenic polytheism specifically lacks today. Secondly, I would be able to demonstrate the value and significance of polytheistic theology. Thirdly, I would be able to examine and interpret historical information of the ancient traditions explicitly from the perspective of a modern polytheist. All of these have the same common idea: enriching and developing reviving polytheism further.


As far as the project itself, in the form it has taken now, is concerned, I must say it has already been quite rewarding, both as a process and as a product. Interestingly enough, it’s not a linear project where I write everything from beginning to end. Instead, the aforementioned three parts are developed concurrently, with historical research, theological writing, and ritual performance happening parallel and interconnected to each other. Let’s explore these three parts further though:


The first part is historical examination of ancient Greek mystery cults. The Arcadian Mysteries of Despoina at Lykosoura and Phigaleia, the Andanian Mysteries of Messenia, and the well-known Eleusinian Mysteries are the main traditions I am studying, with others, such as the Mysteries of the Kabeiroi or of Demeter at Pheneos and elsewhere, being secondary. The reason for this historical examination is to provide a basis for the theological framework that comes in the second part. By studying the ancient mystery cults, I aim to combat the extensive lack of information on the mystery traditions themselves through cross-reference and comparison. Studying many of them allows me to look for common patterns, practices, and approaches, which will let me create what can essentially be called the profile of a mystery cult.


With that information at hand, I can expand the second part, that of theological theory, further. This involves interpreting the historical data from the perspective of lived, experienced polytheism as well as synthesizing that information with modern, new theology and the concept of revealed knowledge – in other words, direct divine guidance. A living religion that considers its Gods reality recognizes that these Gods can and must have an active, direct involvement with their worshipers. It is also imperative for reviving polytheisms to not only rely on the past through the methodology of reconstructionism but invest in the future through innovation. The development of new theological currents and schools of thought is essential. This is what I try to do in the second part of the book. It is my hope that my attempt will incentivize other polytheists to do the same. I gladly welcome theological critique of my work if it means the creation and establishment of more polytheistic theology!


The formation of a theological framework in the second part, helps refine and adjust the third part which concerns actual practice. Theory alone, however interesting it may be, is not enough for a living polytheistic religion. Practice is what allows us to experience the Gods and to permit our religions to truly exist and grow. This entire project, too, would be meaningless without the practical aspect; the mysteries of the Gods must be experienced to be grasped, since in their true form they are ineffable and beyond our limited scope – definitely beyond the capacity of language and writing. With that in mind, the third part of the book will include a step-by-step guide for readers to put the rituals in the book into practice. The goal here is to help others experience the mysteries of Hekate-Despoina through a more-or-less standardized process. Repeatability and proper procedure can allow multiple people to go through roughly the same spiritual pathway of experience. Of course, no one will have the exact same results since the experience of the mysteries is a profoundly intimate matter and everyone is different. It also depends on how the Gods themselves react to one’s attempts; we cannot know who will be graced with revelation of the mysteries and who won’t.


At this point in time (October 28th), I have completed two of the three stages of the practical aspect of the mystery cult. The next and final stage is on the Full Moon of the Winter Solstice. I expect to be able to hasten my work after I have completed the practical part since I will have a full understanding of what the mystery cult will entail in its entirety. The plan is to complete the project by June 2022 which is the deadline in my fellowship agreement (ideally, it will be finished earlier) and I will spend the summer of 2022 working on self-publishing the book. I chose the option of self-publication almost immediately after the project began because I wanted complete control over this particular book as far as editing and omissions are concerned.


Finally, I would like to address two of the most commonly asked questions I receive regarding this project: why Hekate-Despoina and why a mystery cult? The answer to the first will be found in greater detail into the book itself but a brief explanation is this: the syncretic form of Hekate-Despoina is one I am drawn to due to my theory on Hekate’s cultic origins, a theory which is a core element of the theological foundation of this project. The Mycenaean roots of the ancient Arcadian Mysteries of Despoina, the connections and associations Hekate has with both the Mycenaean world and the Gods in the Despoinian Mysteries (Demeter, Poseidon, Artemis, Despoina herself), the obscure and mystery oriented identities, even holding “Despoina” as an epithet all point to ample capacity for syncretism between the two. As for why choose to develop a mystery cult for the project, my answer is simple: it’s what I feel Hellenic polytheism lacks nowadays, as already mentioned, and I also chose it because it among my primary specializations and fields of expertise. Mystery is always sought after by humans and there is vast interest in deep, profound, intimate experience of the Gods.