Showing posts with label prayers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label prayers. Show all posts

Monday, October 16, 2017

The Many Functions of Incense During Prayer/Ritual

We often think incense to be among the simplest of religious and ritual tools, but it does, in fact, serve a range of functions in one's spirituality, and knowing this can help a practitioner grow.

The first step in using incense properly and successfully when you pray is to find some that is of quality make and sweet fragrance. Often times, people settle for cheap brands that can be found in places like Walmart. They smell terrible and are probably not made from pure material. It's a cheap knock off and it's not going to be pleasing to anyone sensing it. Walmart may have other great things, but incense isn't one of them. I know this because, back in the day, I also used to purchase said incense and it was always unbearable. When I started buying quality material like frankincense from reputable suppliers, the difference was amazing. A Pagan supplier is going to give you your best incense, not cheap chain stores. It's important to know the difference.

When you burn your cones or sticks during ritual and/or prayer, the first obvious purpose is offering to the Gods. Since ancient times, incense products have been used to invoke and please Deities. Certain kinds, such as frankincense, also act as a purifying force to cleanse the area of negativity and miasma (pollution). Sometimes when I just want to pray at my shrine, I'll light a cone of incense on the altar for the purpose of purification and to burn as a consistent offerings to every God I pray to during that time. It's easier than presenting individual gifts. Perhaps one could call it a bulk offering. Incense lasts quite a while, giving me the ability to pray and offer to numerous Divinities one right after another.

The smoke of the incense and its fragrance can also travel with your prayers/words to the Gods who are near at hand when invoked, and thus your prayers arrive at them in great sweetness and pleasantness. It helps gain the attention and admiration of the Gods to your verbal statements and petitions. In short, the incense helps to please them when hearing your prayers.

Incense is also pleasing to your own self, and this is very important as well. The nice smells can lessen your stress, quiet your mind, and calm your very soul. This aids greatly in spiritual focus and physical health.

There really is no reason to not burn incense often, either during your religious activities, personal time, or both.

In the Goodness of the Gods,
Chris.

Monday, April 3, 2017

The Ease of Constructing a Basic Greek Altar

One thing I love to teach people as a Hellenic priest and writer is how to construct places of worship and carry out rites. One of the reasons I enjoy teaching this is because it's not as hard or costly as some people might think or portray, especially if you're creating what I call "natural altars." It is not a complicated trade whatsoever. Lots of practitioners have really beautiful and elaborate shrines and altars with numerous statues and the like, but these things are not needed to carry out Hellenic worship. All you really need is a basic altar where you can pray, make offerings and sacrifices, and carry out ritual work. The fancy things are nice, and can indeed help with focus, but it's important to remember that the niceties are not what you're worshiping. The Gods, Spirits and Heroes are not statues, temples, or elaborate tapestries and pottery. To connect with the Gods simply because they are the Gods, is the greatest achievement.

As you can see in the picture above, the main altar of my own shrine is a simple stack of stones, which is a traditional structure of the Greek altar. It's a very simple design. These earthly pebbles were purchased for less than $1, but you can also find natural stones probably out in your yard or driveway. You only need to properly wash and cleanse them before making into an altar. Upon this stack of simple natural stones, once dedicated to your worship and the Gods, you can carry out any kind of religious practice that needs or involves an altar or a worship space. Incense can be burned upon it, libations poured, and general offerings placed. It's also very appropriate to recite prayers, hymns and practice worship here. 

So if you want to make a genuine Hellenic altar right now, find yourself a proper and safe surface, go get some natural stones, and cleanse and stack them there. This simple, virtually cost-free method is all you need to begin practicing Greek Polytheism. Everything else can come later in good time as you are able, should you choose. 

To dedicate and officially "open" your natural altar, you might recite a prayer along these lines and light a cone of incense as your first offering to The Dodekatheon at this structure,

Upon this sacred structure,
I request the blessings and recognition of the Gods of Olympus,
that it may now be a holy altar in their honor and glory.

In the Goodness of the Gods,
Chris.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

In The Presence of the Gods: The Night That Changed Our Lives Forever

This is an experience I do not normally talk about, because I don't want to come off as a bragger. I always say that you can tell the difference between people who have had legitimate spiritual experience and those who haven't, because those who have will not brag, or try to use it to score religious, social or financial points. Those of us who have had real experiences in these realms, don't go around blowing our own trumpets. The only time I tell this story is when it is necessary to describe why my wife and I became worshipers of the Greek Gods. It's not something someone will usually find me discussing or trying to spread around on a consistent basis, because I don't feel the need to be personally validated or convinced of my experience, nor do I care if others believe me or not. In fact, the only reason I am telling it now on my blog and website here is because I feel I should make a reasonable post about it for my readers. They read my life story in my autobiography, but it doesn't describe this massive change, so I am going to tell one of the greatest stories of my personal life.

Many people in our time talk about experiences with their own deities, especially in the mainstream religious society, giving countless stories about how the Christian, Jewish or Muslims god came to their rescue in their time of greatest need, or showed them a way to enlightenment. We can hardly read mainstream religious material, or watch shows, videos or movies without hearing some story regarding these religions. And yes, some may be false or exaggerated, but they still exist nevertheless. And because there are so many of these stories, they overshadow the minority religions who can and do have stories of personal experience with the old Gods just as fascinating and spectacular if not more so. It is my own story of that genre that I now wish to share. Over the centuries, there have been countless attempts to remove the old religions and the old Gods from our world and the memory of mankind. Even as you read this, there are people continuing that effort.  From the closing of temples to the destruction of statuary and the literal murder and persecution of those who refuse to accept the new religion, there was and continues to be a religious genocide. But they have all ultimately failed, and two such places where they have failed is the United States and Greece, which is where my story comes from, as I talk about how the Greek Gods came to rescue the life of my wife and I one hot summer night in 2009.

The Greek Gods are not merely myths as many consider them to be. They were real before and during ancient times, and they remain real in our own time, immortal and deathless, and the rulers of heaven, Earth, and the worlds and realms beyond those. Nothing escapes their authority or their blessings, for it is theirs, and always has been and will be. If you don't agree with my beliefs, that's fine of course. I do not express my beliefs or tell my stories with the intention of trying to change that of someone else, nor to tell them that they are wrong. But it is certainly what I hold as the sincere truth of my own heart, mind, body and soul.

The event took place shortly after my wife and I, my fiancee at the time, moved into our first apartment together in North Carolina in the summer of 2009. At that time, she was a Wiccan of ten years and leaned more toward a Norse Pagan persuasion, but she also knew of the Greek Gods and considered herself to have a relationship with Athene. I considered myself to be a "Christian Wiccan," or more accurately, a "Christian Witch." Even though I knew of the Greek Gods as the only alternative religion I had heard of through my years in school, I retained the Christian belief system I had been exposed to all my life and combined it with the emerging practices of magick and witchcraft that I so dearly loved. I didn't see any reason why I couldn't practice magic and be a Christian, for to my understanding, the bible and the Christian religion was full of magical practices, just in the name of its own god instead of any other. Now there were Christians back then who told me I wasn't a real Christian, I am sure that many Christians would still say that, and that's fine, but the fact remains that I was extremely loyal to Jesus and the Christian belief system. And there are many Christian denominations out there all telling one another that they are not real Christians either, so I didn't think too much of it when people told me I wasn't one, for I was sure I could find someone to tell them the same thing.

Because we had just moved in together and completely left our old lives, we had little money. I was unemployed and my wife only had a part time retail job. So we had to go to thrift stores to get the things we needed for our apartment, which there's no shame in at all. Many times, thrift stores can have very nice things. Although this particular thrift, which shall remain nameless, was unlike any I had ever entered. When you walked in, you could sense that there was just something very, very negative, even perhaps evil, about the place. It just was not a pleasant feeling at all, but rather a feeling of extreme uneasiness. It's not unreasonable to think that such places could possess negative influences, energies or beings because you never know where the items therein originated. They could have been involved in violence and other bad things, or could be the property of a deceased who is very angry that their stuff is being sold. There are several problems that could come with random belongings of others that have been taken or discarded. Nevertheless, we really didn't give it much thought at the time. We just wanted to get a table and chairs for our kitchen, and after a short time, we found a set and went on our way back home.

On into that evening was when things turned weird and terrifying for us. A presence began to manifest in our home which can only be described as a serious and aggressive haunting. Some kind of spirit or negative influence had entered our home, probably having followed or latched onto us from the item we came into contact with and then attacked when we took it to our home. Whatever this thing really was, it made itself known by slamming doors and filling us with fear, saying that it was not going to leave until death was brought on us. Not only could we feel and hear its hostility, we could hear its voice and it talked to us as plain as any person would. 

Me being highly Christian, I began an exorcism, calling on Jesus and also Saint Michael, the biggest enemy of Satan, to kick the spirit out. However, not a single prayer of mine worked. In fact, the situation became more and more desperate with each passing minute because the creature grew more and more powerful, or so it seemed. One thing is certain, it laughed at me in everything I did and every prayer I prayed. 

My wife told me that she could tell that the spirit feared the old Gods, and how she knew that I did not know. Perhaps she was closer to the Greek Gods than I was at the time. But at this point, I was willing to try something different because nothing I was doing was working. So I decided to turn my prayers to the Greek Gods, particularly to Athene and Apollon. Athene is the great warrior Goddess and defender and Apollon is the God of Light who averts evil and purifies ill. So I prayed to them, my wife joining me, simply asking for them to please help us. After what seemed like a few seconds of praying to these Greek Gods, my wife described an image of a lady with a spear and a male of light appearing and confronting the spirit. To quote her exactly, "Athene grabbed him by his tail," and stabbed him, then Apollon's light filled the area and cleansed away all the impurities. Then, almost as fast as it had begun, the time of terror came to an end.

Needless to say, my wife and I cuddled closely in the bed for the rest of the night, sometimes fearing the spirit might return, but it never did. It was gone, and so was our former religions. The next day, without even verbally confirming it to ourselves, we became ancient Greek. It was a given after our experience, especially with me, because the god I had spent years serving and defending never showed up, while the Gods I had given nothing to, gladly extended their hands in help in our time of desperate need.

Now, of course, I cannot tell you what this thing actually was beyond all doubt. Was it an actual spirit? Was it just bad energy? Or was it simply the manifestation of negative and stressful emotion and pain? After all, we were under a lot of stress at the time, which can also make a person vulnerable to outside aggression in many forms. Or could it have been a combination of the three? The truth of the matter is that I don't know, but what I do know is that the Greek Gods annihilated it, and we would go on in life to receive ever greater blessings from the Gods, such as when our premature son was expected to die but didn't, and all the great things they have brought to our lives and bad things they have kept from us.

I knew that each time I would tell this story, there would be Christians who would not only tell me I wasn't a real Christian, but that what really happened was not that the Greek Gods came and rescued us, but that it was actually Satan tricking us, that he was the one who removed the demon of his to trick us. The theory of this ultimate conman is reverted to sometimes more than the name of his counterparts. But what I found to be interesting about this claim was the fact that Jesus said the exact opposite in the bible, because Jesus plainly stated that Satan cannot cast out Satan, because it would divide his kingdom (Mark 3:22-27). By the words of their very own religious and spiritual icon, no, it wasn't a trick by this alleged Satan, because Satan would not drive out his own presence. The simplest answer is probably the right one, that the Greek Gods are real, they are authorities of goodness, and they came to restore goodness and order once more as they have done for so many years in Greek religious belief.

In the Goodness of the Dodekatheon,
Chris.

Friday, May 22, 2015

How Do I Begin Practicing Hellenism? Beginner's Course

In the past, I have written about practices for beginners of Hellenism, as some people who are new to the religion have absolutely no idea how to even begin the practice because of the lack of information. When it comes to a mainstream religion, information on it is extremely abundant. With a mere click of a mouse or a quick trip to the library or bookstore, one can uncover centuries of detailed information. But as for a minority religion, there is little to none, especially when you consider the religion of ancient Greece because so much of the history has been lost, misrepresented or remains hidden. So, in the post, I will lead the beginner through basic steps to begin their journey into Hellenism.

One good thing about Hellenism is that it does not require a special rite or passage, unless of course you are part of a specific organization or temple who might have their own methods of initiation. But generally speaking, there is no such thing. You merely have to decide that you want to worship the Greek Gods in accordance with Hellenism, which I assume you already have if you are reading and considering this entry.

Shrine and Altar
The first step in Hellenic worship is to establish a place for such activity. To begin this section, one should take into account the difference between a shrine and an altar. To put it simply, a shrine is a place for divine representations. In other words, statues, pictures, and sacred objects. Consider the shrine to be the house of the image or images of the Gods. The altar, usually being part of the shrine in some way, is where offerings are given and other ritual work carried out. For example, my altar exists to receive offerings for the Gods and to hold the flame of the entire shrine and altar structure itself.

A shrine can be constructed to all the Gods, or to a specific one, which is more of a Henotheistic approach to Hellenism if a singular representation of one God is all that exists in a Hellenist's worship, whereas most of us worship numerous Gods. Some Hellenists may have a specific shrine to Hestia in their home, but another shrine for general Hellenic worship. In constructing a shrine or shrines, it can be easy for a Hellenist to be carried away with the projects. Hellenists are called hard polytheists, and not without good cause, because we are extremely polytheistic people. We believe in numerous Gods, Spirits and Heroes, too many to reasonably list here. Therefore, one could find themselves wanting to built numerous shrines around their home. My wife use to joke that I turned every available space into a shrine, and it was true, I was always looking for ways to build things for the Gods. While this is perfectly fine if that's what you want to do, I found it exhausting to go from one to another, so I made one large structure to hold all of my statues and the altar beneath it, as you can see in the picture above. The central shrine compartment holds a statue of every Olympian, while the top is for Gods without a throne on Olympos, Hestia's statue being in the center of the entire structure because She is first and last in general worship.

I also have a small shrine/altar to my patron Hero, Theseus, set up as a small sanctuary to Him that you can see on the right as well, which brings me to my final point about shrines and altars. Although they are two separate structures, if one is pressed for space and has to use one surface or structure for both, that's fine, just make sure the areas are specifically designated and not crossed over with each other.

For YOUR shrine set up, assuming that you don't have the money or materials to construct something hugely elaborate yet, start with a simple construction. Of course, it can grow overtime at your own pace, but to begin, I would say start by having a statue or image of an Olympian God or Goddess of your choice. You could also start with an Olympian, along with the Agathos Daimon (the Good Spirit), and a Greek Hero, as this moves to encompass the three levels of worship and prayer; God, Spirit and Hero. Of course, as time goes on, you will likely find yourself adding more things and decorations to your shrine and general worship area. Lastly, keep your shrine clean and protected. It's not a place that should be allowed to gather extreme amounts of dust or dirt, and it's not a place for keys and clothes or for house pets to walk. Keep it sacred.

The use of the altar is for offerings and ritual work. The altar itself will usually consist of a central flame. If you use a flame, make sure it's done safely. Simply put, a flame is the central fire of the ritual. It is a symbol of the Gods, and a place to consume offerings given. Often times, I use a nicely-sized candle that burns tall and hot. Usually, the offerings I throw in are small pieces of barely. One must be careful, however, to reasonably toss the offerings into the flame so you don't get too close and burn your hand. While an altar flame is a nice addition, keep in mind that fire is nothing to play with, so practice safety on every level. Also add an incense burner and a small bowl for libations. For solid offerings, you may want to also include a basic plate.

Once you have completed your shrine and altar construction, you are ready to start practicing Hellenism. However, do not mistake the shrine and altar for being the only window to the Gods. It is but a house or a structure in honor of them. The Gods are everywhere in nature, all around us, and they can be contacted whether you are at your shrine or not. Lastly, before beginning any Hellenic ritual or religious activity, make sure you are properly cleansed. This can be done through a shower or a ritual bath, and put on clean clothes, all white if possible. Now I would be dishonest if I said that I always put on all whites every time I do a prayer or give an offering, because sometimes I don't, but I do wear whites often, as well as at every religious observance, festival and offering on the Hellenic calendar, aka the Calendar of Attica.

First Offering and Libation
Generally speaking, common offerings to the Gods consist of an offering and a libation. The offering itself can be things like incense, food, or valuables, while the libation is a liquid offering, usually being something like juice or wine (if you're 21), or any other libation of good taste. Begin by giving your libation to Hestia, Goddess of the Hearth, while asking Her to be present in your home and help bring you into the presence of the Gods. Now burn your incense or place your offering to the Dodekatheon (Twelve Gods aka the Olympians), with the most going to Zeus the King.

First Prayer
Your first spoken prayer at your first ritual does not have to be an elaborate one that rivals the hymns of Orpheus. You can simply dedicate yourself to the Gods, as in a dedication ceremony of your own. Upon bringing your ritual to a close, thank the Gods for hearing your prayers and accepting your offerings, and pray once more to Hestia, for She is first and last, accompanied by a small offering of some kind. I usually use barely for this. 

Suggested Readings for Beginners
In my view, Hellenic religion exists in three forms, those being spiritual, physical and mental, or theology, practice and philosophy. Hellenic culture has given to us some of the most influential philosophy in the history of humanity, and many of those works are available today. I generally focus more on history and philosophy than mythology, because myth does not stand as literal fact or necessarily history. However, I will recommend a good mixture of some philosophical and mythological works here, all of which are easy to obtain. Start off with these readings:
  • Euthyphro and Apology by Plato (Philosophy).
  • The Iliad and The Odyssey (Mythology).
I hope you have found this helpful, and if you have any questions, simply post them in the comment section of this entry and I will respond.

In the Goodness of the Gods,
Chris

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