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.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

My Plan for the "Mysteries of Hekate-Despoina" Project

As you probably know, I was recently awarded a fellowship grant by the Center for Global Polytheist and Indigenous Traditions of Indic Academy in the field of Reviving Polytheisms. The subject of my proposal was the creation of a modern mystery cult centered on Hekate-Despoina. Specifically, this will take the form of a book for the sake of convenience and accessibility. My approach in realizing this project, evidenced in the title of this post, is two-fold.

On one hand, I will carefully study the pertinent mystery cults of antiquity (the Arcadian Mysteries of Despoina, the Eleusinian Mysteries, the Andanian Mysteries of Messenia and others) with the intent of forming a foundation of factual, historical information upon which the new mystery tradition can be built. I have multiple goals in regards to this:

a) the examination of historical polytheism from the perspective of a contemporary polytheistic theologian (something which can confer new perspectives on the material beyond those of secular and monotheist academics),

b) noting patterns between different mystery cults, their commonalities and differences and utilizing that information for the creation of the modern tradition,

c) and conceptualizing a theological framework influenced by the historical material that allows both a seamless insertion of the new tradition in the diverse corpus of contemporary Hellenic polytheism as well as the cultivation of current and relevant polytheistic theology.

On the other hand, the project also has a practical side. That is the actual creation of a tangible mystery tradition which can be utilizing by practicing polytheists and which can offer much-needed nourishment of the soul and deepening of our relationships with the Gods.

Furthermore, I will strive to design a detailed outline of the ritual processes, including an annotated version with exegetical commentary for every part of the system. In addition, the last part of the project-turned-book will be a step-by-step guide for the actual and immediate application of the new mystery cult, including offering alternatives for accessibility, substitutions, and necessary adjustments.

Satisfying the need in polytheistic traditions (especially and specifically Hellenic polytheism in this instance) for legitimate and fulfilling mystical experience and inspiring others to pursue the same, is of vital importance to me. It is even a duty I have towards Hekate as Her devotee.

My plan and work right now focus on putting together a starting bibliography and examining relevant material. I will also be posting a lot of information and interesting stuff relevant to this project over at my Patreon!

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Exploring Identity: Hekatean, Hellenic, or something else? Part Two


Turns out I had a Lot to Say™ so this ended up needing two parts. In Part One, I got into the “something else” rather than explain why I don’t often self-identify as a Hekatean or Hellenic, despite occasionally and partially using both. Somewhat backwards of me but I hope you won’t mind terribly.

As I explained in Part One, Hekate is the central deity of my practice and overall Triskelion system. Understandably, one might ask “how are you not a Hekatean then?”. The answer is, well, I am! I do consider myself a Hekatean practitioner (devotee, witch etc) but I don’t often use it as an identifier unless I’m referring to the Hekatean community in general. The main reason for that being that despite Hekate’s monumental significance in my practice, She is far from the only important deity or influence. Limiting myself to identifying mainly as Hekatean would be a disservice to the other Gods and Spirits I follow and who are dear and important to me.

This reason also applies to my avoidance of “Hellenic” as a self-identifier although in this case, there are other reasons as well. To begin with, I have to say, being ethnically Greek means I am Hellenic anyway. “Hellenic” is an ethnonymic adjective for my people, our land, our culture and all we create (the Hellenic language, for example). We call ourselves “Hellenes”, not Greeks (though the latter exists in our language today as well as in antiquity: “Γραικοί”). We call the Gods my ancestors worshiped and named Hellenic or Greek: they are “of the Hellenes/Greeks”. Furthermore, I do worship and honor Hellenic Gods as well as study and utilize Hellenic sources for religious and magical practices (though not necessarily as a Reconstructionist would).

Technically speaking, I am a Hellenic polytheist. I don’t usually call myself that though. A big reason is my personal disdain with the local and international Hellenic communities and the tendency to equate Hellenic polytheism as a whole with Reconstructionism (which is a methodological approach, not a religion or religious practice in itself). In other words, I avoid self-identifying directly as Hellenic polytheist because I do not want to be associated with the related communities in general (that said, I know plenty of individuals who are excellent people and practitioners and do wonderful work to heal the Hellenic polytheistic communities – sadly moreso internationally than in Greece). The general disapproval of magic and mysticism in the Hellenic communities is another factor, given the importance of magic and mysticism in my own practice.

I have chosen a unique label for my religious identity (Triskelion Witch) and prefer to use more neutral labels when interacting with less in-the-know people, such as “polytheistic witch” or “religious witch” plus a brief mention of my devotional relationships, i.e. “devotee of Hekate, the Wildwood Court, and the Witchfather”. Even then, despite the rather common label of “Witch”, I still use another word to precede and clarify it. The complexity and multi-aspected nature of my praxis require a suitably unique and specific label. Fun fact, before it evolved to its current incarnation, I used to call the early form of the Triskelion system “NeoHellenic Witchcraft”. However, the growing importance of the Wildwood and the eventual arrival of the Witchfather made me reconsider the place of “Hellenic” in the main name for the practice.

Names are powerful. As a theologian and practitioner of magic, names are power to me. To name something properly, to know its true name, is to hold power over it. Taken a bit further into the mystical, to name something properly, to know its true name, is to truly know that thing. Properly naming yourself, your practice, your work means truly knowing these things. Dare to name yourselves.