Showing posts with label Goddesses. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Goddesses. Show all posts

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Building A Safe and Effective Outdoor Shrine


No one's happier than a Pagan or Polytheist with yard space. I know I certainly was when I bought my first home. I was already marking out where I would place my temple's shrines and altars, in the rather vast space that had enough room for dozens if I chose. But once you begin a permanent structure of this importance on your property, you may find that it takes a little more work and preparation than initially thought. For this post, I will primarily use my outside shrine of Athena Pandemos as an example, which is pictured above. Feel free to scroll and refer back to it at your own will.

The first step is, of course, rather obvious; finding a suitable or preferred location. For me, my terrain is flat and, in most places, easy to lightly modify with gardening and digging tools. But generally speaking, you want to try and pick a spot that is as independent of outside influences as possible. For example, don't build next to the main road or near a sewer or trash container. The reason for this is because your shrine stands a conceivable chance of being involved in an accident or a desecration. Someone could go off the road and run over it, or contaminants that will create miasma may filter in. My Athena shrine is in my fenced in backyard, among the natural trees and foliage. The only religious structure I have ever built close to my main road is my Boundary Marker because of its function, and I am actually looking at moving it up to my door or steps. Luckily, nothing has happened to it.

Second, you must first place a structure for the shrine's statue to stand upon, and also choose the proper tools and elements by which to firmly install it. Storms will come and bring strong winds along with them. My Athena statue stands upon a Greek Ionic column. Now the other important thing to consider is the material that the column and statue are made out of. Do not use cheap alabaster columns that you can find at craft stores. They will quickly rot in the face of the elements. Even if you paint them, it doesn't matter. They are just not designed to stand up to weather. My column was purchased from a designer that specifically equipped it with weather resistant materials. It is a hard, very durable plastic, but not a cheap one. Its looks, weight and design makes it cost around $150.00. But consider the investment. You will never have to replace it. If you can't afford one, there are other options I will get to a bit later. Your statue, likewise, should also be able to resist the outside weather. There are Greek and Pagan suppliers who make them, and can be found easily online at affordable prices.

The column's base rests in the ground, inside a small hole dug specifically for it to fit in. For a hole this shallow, however, simply putting the dirt back on top will not be enough to hold it against strain unless it is placed within an enclosed area where wind will have a difficult time directly hitting it. For the completion of the base, fill the hole with quick drying cement, which can be purchased extremely cheaply at hardware stores. The kind I have used successfully is called Quikrete. Pack it down, wait for it to dry, and cover it up with the excess soil. As an extra anchor, I also placed a concrete block on the ground on either side of the column, so that if a strong force does begin to push against the base, it will have a harder time uprooting it to the point that it would harm the statue.

Third, place the statue on top of the column with a base sealant. I use E6000 to glue the top of the column and the bottom of the statue together. An abundant amount will greatly secure it against mishaps. You don't want to just stand the statue and leave it without an anchor. Especially if it's a large, expensive one like mine. You want to make sure it cannot be easily toppled, which brings me to the last section of this outline.

You'll notice the nice garden gate that encircles my Athena shrine. That's not just there for decoration. It serves two vital purposes. The first is to close and section off the shrine as sacred. The second is to protect it from overheard dangers, as there are trees directly above it. We don't normally think about it, but a falling branch or even a sturdy twig can destroy or damage the statue or column. But in the case of mine, the falling tree would impact with the iron gate and be unlikely to penetrate. The gate may need replacing depending on the strength of the object, but the shrine will be saved. A strong garden gate of this kind will run you at least $200.00. However, depending on the size of your statue and its location, you may not need it. If you look at the picture and take notice to the altar that is used for sacrifice to Athena, you'll see that it is simply made from straightly stacked concrete blocks. These blocks can also be used in like manner to build a pedestal for the statue, saving you cost on the column, and their immense weight will be enough to keep them in place by themselves. Although you should take note that I do not know if glues such as E6000 will bind to concrete. However, I am sure there are sealants that will. Ask the people at your hardware store. Once you have built the stone column and placed the statue on it, use much smaller blocks or stones, or some other very hardened material, to construct a small shelter around the statue. You must also make sure that said structure won't collapse or fall away. Of course, if you build the shrine away from any direct dangers, you don't need a cover at all. My Artemis shrine looks to the open sky and does not have an overhead for that reason. The protective barriers only need to be in place if there are exterior dangers possible.

The shrine should now spend time being cultivated by you, the builder and devotee. There's more to a place of worship than just stone and iron. It's sacred to the God it represents. They can even spiritually visit it. It is a holy place for their holy presence, and a center for your supplication for their bliss, blessings and wisdom in your life. Therefore, make it welcoming and devoted to the God. My Artemis shrine will have a fresh pine tree in its precinct this year, dedicated to Her as the Goddess of forests and Her immortality, as pines do not lose their green. The more you love and grow the shrine, the more, I think, you'll be surprised at how the God shows their presence there. After I had built my Athena shrine, an owl took up residence somewhere in the nearby trees and sometimes hoots at night (an owl is Athena's sacred animal).

When you get down to the bottom line, a shrine is really a place where you show a God or Gods how much you love them. It is one of their homes, one of their sacred areas, and one of their universal places for you to welcome them.

In the Goodness of the Gods,
Chris Aldridge.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

A Sense of Faithful Fear

If you base your religion on the views of the ancient Greeks, there's no denying that Greeks do fear, as well as love, the Gods, but it's for a good reason and perhaps not in the way you think.

Firstly, any mortal who doesn't have some level of fear for a God, is foolhardy at best. Fear isn't something that is directly taught in Greek religion, it's simply there by nature. You should fear a God for the same reason you'd fear a bolt of lightning, or a raging sea, because they are more powerful than you and can wipe you from life in the blink of an eye. A God is also far wiser than yourself will ever be. Fear is the result of a recognition of superior power. It is the "right" kind of fear because it breeds humility and prudence. Without a good sense of these things, we may find ourselves in more trouble than we can get out of.

Fear does not mean you're not brave, strong or confident, there is simply a fine line between these things and arrogance and stupidity. For example, saving someone from drowning is brave, strong and confident, but swimming with sharks is stupid, and you will eventually become drive thru for a dinosaur. Fear is merely the recognition of your place and limitations, arrogance is a failure to do so. Now some people might ask me, "Didn't the Heroes do things that most people would have considered beyond human limitation?" Yes, they did, but they were sent by the Gods to do something that was possible. They also didn't sink in over their heads. In fact, the Gods routinely provided them with assistance so they wouldn't. Bellerophon couldn't have killed the Chimera without Pegasos (the horse of heaven). A Hero always knows, recognizes, and most importantly, accepts the difference between themselves and the Divine. Being an affront to the Gods is not what it means to be a Hero.

I find that a lack of fear and piety among Pagans can be an issue. I've seen Pagan writers call Gods "scoundrels," and Pagan worshipers call them "assholes." While it may be rare, it is certainly a real case. A mortal picking a fight with a God is idiotic at best. Probably the only reason they haven't punished those people is because of their forgiving nature, or they think there is something mentally wrong with that individual. At any rate, you're never going to gain the favor of a God by insults, arrogance, or impiety. Even if they don't punish you, they'll probably turn away. Would you help someone who insulted you? Probably not, you likely wouldn't even give them the time of day until they shaped up and treated you with proper respect.

The only time fear is wrong is when it's unwarranted. Fear the Gods because you know they can destroy you, but love them because you know they're kind enough not to, and you will find wisdom. 

In the Goodness of the Gods,
Chris Aldridge.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Bibliomancy Divination In Daily Rites

If your Pagan or Polytheistic religion has religious texts, you may find, like myself, that you enjoy a morning rite accompanied by Bibliomancy. It's not just a Pagan tradition, either. Christians do it all the time. I remember when I was southern baptist, my grandmother Faye told me that when I needed to know something for my spiritual, religious and personal growth, that God would guide to the right passage in the bible. Of course, these days, my texts are things like The Iliad, The Odyssey, and various philosophers like Plato.

In short, Bibliomancy involves the practice of finding selected words or passages in a book for answers to a question, normally guided by the hand of a God or another kind of spiritual presence.

The reason I enjoy Bibliomancy probably better than any other form of personal divination, is because of how detailed the message can be when it speaks to you. Instead of producing a card with brief epithets or a stone with a very general marking, you can actually have an entire response a page or more long.

Like today, as I celebrated the monthly observance of Athena's birthday, I used an antique copy of The Iliad in asking Her, basically, "What message might you have for me today, O' Goddess?" I was guided to page 455, which said,

"Cease from the strife! Let godlike Achilles drive from the city right now the Trojans; for what care I for contention and succor? Do not mistreat the Immortals for a mortals' sake. Thus the rage of Xanthus was tamed, but by the dissension of the Gods, the broad earth groaned."

Really, the entire page talked about me allowing myself to have peace in life, to blame mortals for mortal problems and not the Gods, and that the Gods, if angry at anything, are more so upset with the state of the world, not me personally. It was clearly a message for a man who is being too hard on himself as an individual, and to call on the Gods and Heroes to help fight the things that are overwhelming to me. And lastly, that if I am trying to impress the Gods with my own feats, it may be of little consequence to Beings who are far bigger than myself. In other words, once again, don't be so hard on myself.

The advice of the Goddess was a tremendous blessing. I needed it today more than ever, for Her to say those words. She clearly knew my suffering with the hardships of my life, and the ones I have put on my own mind and body. She came in mercy to assure me of the love of Heaven, and this is one of the main reasons I like Bibliomancy. Through the text, She was able to speak to me with direction and precision, because there were many ways that those words could be utilized.

In the Goodness of the Gods,
Chris Aldridge.

Source: Smith, William Benjamin, The Iliad of Homer, The Macmillan Company, New York, 1944. Print. PP. 455.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

The Controversial Subject of Animal Sacrifice

It's no secret to history, and no doubt to any logical mind, that the ancient Polytheists (not just Greeks) participated in the practice of animal sacrifice to their Gods, and not in small amounts. At the Panathenaia, for example, Athena received a sacrifice of 100 oxen, which were then used in a great banquet to feed the worshipers. There are also vase paintings from around 500 BCE that show bulls being led to the altar of Athena for sacrifice, with the Goddess lording over the procession. While people in mainstream society, and even many modern Pagans, may find the act to be cruel at best, what does animal sacrifice really entail? What is the reality of it all? Are we really appalled by it, or are we just being reactionaries to something that has been made taboo? Is our condemnation of it real, or manufactured?

I think I am first safe to say that most Pagans, and Hellenic Polytheists like myself, do not practice animal sacrifice today for a number of reasons. One, the expense. Two, many of us don't feel the need or the desire to go through such pains. And three, there's no need to sacrifice an animal when any meat you like can be picked up fresh at the grocery store and placed on the altar of the God you wish to offer to. It is far cheaper, far less burdensome, and far less messy. We are just as, if not more content, by pouring libations, burning incense, and giving general foods and goods to our Gods. On the other hand, there is also no law in the United States that forbids the sacrifice of livestock for religious purposes. The US Supreme Court ruled, by all 9 Justices, that animal sacrifice for religious purpose is protected under the 1st amendment during a case involving the Floridian city of Hialeah and resident worshipers who preformed animal sacrifice.

So let's break the subject down simply. Mostly no one becomes offended or repulsed if I tell them that I am going hunting. They have no problem with me loading a rifle and putting a bullet through a deer's heart, and afterward, breaking his body apart and using it for meat. They don't think twice about it even if I decide to stuff and put his head on my wall when all is said and done. However, if I put a religious meaning onto it, then all of a sudden, the exact same act becomes an offense. Why? Why is it more wrong to chop up a chicken for my family while praying to a God, than it is to simply chop it up without prayer? It's ridiculous to suddenly make killing an animal a horrid offense the minute it becomes religious, but totally fine if there's no religion attached. The animal dies either way. The only difference in the actual act of killing is that the Pagan may offer the animal to a God as well.

Animal sacrifice, in my view, actually gives the animal more respect and honor than simply putting them through a conveyor belt in a killing house. With the religious aspect, the animal is made sacred and treated with the utmost respect because it is being given to the God. Even more honor is bestowed by the fact that the animal will likely be used for good purpose once the sacrifice is over, such as the oxen at the Panathenaia, instead of being killed for mere sport like many hunters do these days, or being massively killed on farms for mere profit. These are the people and places that truly do dishonor to the animal and commit the horrid acts. They exploit the animal in every way imaginable, and could not care less how close they bring the creatures to extinction. The Pagan or the Polytheist who gives the animal to the God cares for the creature far more than your average, mainstream butcher or hunter. The animal is seen as a sacred gift to the Divine, and a salvation to the people by the food and service that its body gives.

In the Goodness of the Gods,
Chris Aldridge.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Learning From The Greek Gods: Artemis

Continuing my series on learning from the Greek Gods, today's entry is about Artemis. Without any doubt whatsoever, Artemis is one of the most popular, worshiped and revered Goddesses ever in the history of the world, and remains so in the hearts and practices of modern Hellenists and many general Pagans. As with the other Gods of the Dodekatheon (the Olympians and highest-ruling Gods), She encompasses numerous epithets, but some of Her most popular have to do with the natural wild world. She's Goddess of the Hunt and the Mistress of Animals. She presides over forests and general wild lands and comes to humans personally as a Goddess of Childbirth and a protector of infants and children. She loves dearly Earth's animals and young ones. Some also call Her Goddess of the Moon, while some sources disagree with that epithet. However, She is a Light Goddess beyond all doubt, and the moon is the largest form of natural light on the Earth beside of the sun, which is ruled by Apollon, Her Brother and fellow member of the Dodekatheon, who is also a Light God. So it's very reasonable, to my mind, to worship Her as the supreme Goddess of the Moon while Apollon stands as the supreme God of the Sun.

However, there is more to Hellenism than just worshiping the Gods. There is also a great emphasis on their teachings and learning from them, so what can we learn from Artemis? Being the Goddess of the Hunt and Mistress of Animals, She adores nature, while also understanding the need for survival that it provides for all living creatures. She's the Huntress, and therefore, She hunts down the stag and slays it. Hunting encompasses the act of killing for food, in the case of humans. Nature provides us what we need to live, but I also think Artemis wishes us to be caring and compassionate with nature, using only what we need, respecting the animals we must kill, and giving them proper respect by using all of their parts instead of just killing for sport. I believe killing for sport would be a high offense against Her, and in my personal belief, I believe deer to be exclusively sacred to Her, and therefore I don't kill or eat them at all myself. But some do, and that's fine within reason. So as She loves and cares for nature, so should we, for how can we honor the Gods without loving and respecting what they also love and respect? And this is true in every case. 

Artemis is also the protector of children, and very few things hold more virtue than being a good parent and treating the weakest and most vulnerable among us with love, care, compassion and protection. As She gives these things to children, so should we if we are to call ourselves Her followers and worshipers.We don't serve Artemis best in this field by giving fancy speeches on how something needs to be done to help children. We serve Her best when we actually get out there and do it, making the difference ourselves and being the change, by helping to feed, house, educate and care for children in all the ways they must be. And also, by treating them with love and care and never causing them physical or emotional harm or torment.

There are many great things we can learn from Artemis to help us live better lives and make our world a better place, and these are among the ways we can begin that wonderful journey in our Hellenic lives.

In the Goodness of the Dodekatheon,
Chris.

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