A Prayer to Artemis

One of the cats that I live with is having medical issues (two emergency vet visits in 3 days) and I’m feeling really stressed and upset about it. He’s such a good kitty and I hate that he’s in pain. I’m writing this prayer to Artemis to help channel some of this helplessness and sadness away.

Hail to Artemis,

Guardian of wild and tame animals,

I ask you to extend your care and protection to those animals in pain.

Watch over them and ease their suffering,

Ease the worry of those that love them and care for them.

Heal their injuries and their sickness,

Bring them calm and respite,

Extend to them your caring hand.

Artemis Hemerasia, Artemis Pheraea,

Please grant them ease.

Invocation of Apollon

I call to bright Apollon.

Of clear sight and sure hunter’s step,

Whose passing is like wind in the tree tops.

Delian Apollon, whose hands hold equal skill

On both lyre- and bow-string.

Your presence is like sunlight through the forest canopy,

Filtering down soft and warm and geeen,

To encourage new growth.

From your sure hands come healing,

And from those same hands, the storm of plague.

Your guidance can be seen in flight of arrow and honeybee,

And your music fills the air around both.

Noble and dread god, wreathed in laurel,

Who loves the wild meadows and forests

And whose messages come on the night-dark wings of crows,

Speak, and I will listen.

Your far-seeing eyes shine like stars in the darkness,

Your guidance lights the path like sunlight breaking through clouds.

True of word and deed, bacchic and wild I call to you,

Turn your shining face to this rite.

Self Care with Aphrodite

My job, and my life in general, is stressful on a good day. My partner and I joke about my job being primarily staring human suffering in the face and shouting “NOT TODAY SATAN.” Which, really, is only half a joke. I’m a social worker with anxiety and intermittent depression. Compassion fatigue is something I struggle to deal with on a regular basis, and in the midst of trying to help other people solve their problems both in my personal and professional lives I often forget to take time for myself.

I was talking with my therapist a couple weeks ago about my difficulties making time for myself and she said something along the lines of “No one knows better than you how to take care of yourself. Not your partner, not Jesus, not Allah, not Aphrodite the goddess of love.” Now she was being snarky and making a point about how I’m the only who really knows what I need, but it got me thinking. I have a hard time sticking to healthy habits. It’s just easier to revert to bad habits when I’m too stressed to think straight and too tired to stand than it is to make healthy decisions for myself. One way I’ve had luck in the past doing things that are good for me are making them devotional activities to my gods. For example, I hate going to the dentist, it is my least favorite of the necessary health care appointments. My solution? Make going a devotional activity to Apollon. He, like (hopefully) most spouses, likes it when I take care of myself and is a god of physical health so it works out.

However, asking him to help me develop better coping skills was a bit of a nonstarter. He is not a god of mental health, per se. And while he does appreciate it when I take care of myself in terms of my health he’s…not always the most flexible about things – see: that time the cupcake I wanted to eat flew out of my hand and into the trash. Also part of my difficulty taking care of myself stems from a place of not liking myself very much. I figured my therapist’s off-hand comment about Aphrodite might actually be a halfway decent place to start.

Aphrodite and I have a bit of a difficult relationship. I am not super femme, neither in terms of my understanding of myself not always in terms of my presentation. I have a hard time relating to her. And we’ve had some communication errors in the past, most of which have since been resolved but require a lot of vigilance to keep from repeating. We get along well enough, but sometimes she can get on my nerves a bit, if I’m being honest. Difficult relationship or not, she’s never steered me wrong, so I reached out to her in hopes that she could give me some self-care advice. What follows is the set-care regimen she prescribed in no real order.

Aphrodite’s Self Care Advice for the Overworked

  1. Drink more water. Seriously. Drink water. All day. Please. Staying hydrated helps your skin, your organs, and your body chemistry not hate you. Especially in the hot months you NEED to drink more water.
  2. Eat small amounts throughout the day if you can. Your stomach is not as big as you think it is and it’s healthier to eat small amounts than a few large meals.
  3. Take your meds and make sure you have the right amounts of vitamins if your diet is lacking them.
  4. Find things you appreciate about your body. I know bodies can be hard to deal with, especially if you don’t feel like your body suits your image of yourself. Even so, you only get one body per lifetime and you should find things you can appreciate about it.
  5. Take it easy on yourself sometimes. Not everything has to get done right away.

I’m mostly focusing on the first three right now. Small steps. Two bottles of water a day – my water bottle has Aphrodite-themed stickers on it to remind me. Eating less in a sitting and spreading it out more. And fixing my vitamin intake. The other two are going to be more work but if I stick to it hopefully I can work on getting myself into a better place.

As I get used to the new additions to my routine I’m hoping I can work with Aphrodite to figure out at least some patch measures for my self-esteem issues, but she wants me to get my body on track first before we dive into the howling abyss of my mind.

I’m also working on some small daily rituals I can do moving forward to give myself some encouragement and reinforce the habits I’m trying to build. I haven’t entirely decided what those rituals will look like yet, but they will likely be small daily devotional practices like I have for Apollon, or every few days like I have for Hermes, Athena, or Artemis.

Please note, working on this with Aphrodite is not a substitute for working with my therapist to address my mental health issues. If you have a mental illness please continue to see your therapist and take your prescribed meds, and talk to your psychiatrist if they’re not working. Magic, mysticism, and religion are not substitutes for healthcare, but they can help to support your efforts.

Child Blessing

Recently a confluence of events has had me thinking about the importance of having rituals to mark significant events for the Hellenic community. Events like the birth or naming of a child, a marriage, a death are important points in the life of individuals and a community; and it seemed to me that these rituals are missing in the Hellenic community, or at least the part of it that I interact with. With that in mind I sat down and thought about which deities would be involved in a ritual like this.

Artemis and Hekate are referenced in their epithets as being guardians and caregivers to children. Athena would be a good choice for a girl, while one could call Apollon for a boy, however both can be called for any gender.

Below I’ve included verses for Artemis, Hekate, Hermes, Apollon, and Athena. The idea was to call the aspects of each deity that most closely related to the blessing you want given to the child. I used gender neutral pronouns, people can obviously use other pronouns as they see fit. I also want to encourage people add or remove deities per their practice. For example, I might add Hera or Aphrodite to the deities called. This is just to get people started and to, hopefully, start providing our community with the tools to mark momentous occasions in our lives.

I call to Artemis Paidotropos,

I call to Artemis Philomeirax,

I call to Artemis Hemerasia,

Protector of children, guardian of youth,

We ask that you extend your protection to this child.

Please extend your watchful gaze to (child’s name.)

Guard their sleep and their waking,

Guard them in success and failure.

Let them learn from their mistakes and the mistakes of others,

Let them flourish and grow unhindered by needless sorrow.

I call to Hekate Kourotrophos,

I call to Hekate Phosphoros,

I call to Hekate Átalos,

Nurse of children, guide and light bearer,

We ask that you extend your protection to this child.

Please extend your watchful gaze to (child’s name.)

Guard their sleep and their waking,

Guard them in success and failure.

Let them not stray from the safe path,

Let them be secure in their journey.

I call to Hermes Kharidotes,

I call to Hermes Kharmophron,

I call to Hermes Eriounes,

Giver of good things, watchful shepherd,

We ask that you extend your protection to this child.

Please extend your watchful gaze to (child’s name.)

Guard their sleep and their waking,

Guard them in success and failure.

Let them not lack for joy,

Let them have a life full of laughter.

I call to Apollon Alexikakos,

I call to Apollon Oulios,

I call to Apollon Epikourios,

Giver of good health, repeller of harm,

We ask that you extend your protection to this child.

Please extend your watchful gaze to (child’s name.)

Guard their sleep and their waking,

Guard them in success and failure.

Let them not fear the darkness of the world,

Let them enjoy the full breadth of their life.

I call to Athena Eryma,

I call to Athena Alalkomeneis,

I call to Athena Oxyderkes,

Protector and defender, sharp eyed goddess,

We ask that you extend your protection to this child.

Please extend your watchful gaze to (child’s name.)

Guard their sleep and their waking,

Guard them in success and failure.

Let them always be watched over by kind eyes,

Let them be defended from all harm.

Connecting with Ouranos, Gaia, and Pontus

So a while ago I was thinking about grounding exercises and how they often focus on connecting specifically to the element of earth, or use a four element system (five if you count spirit). While the concept of the four elements is fundamentally Greek there was also the understanding that the world was divided into three powers, Sky, Land, and Sea – Ouranos, Gaia, and Pontus. As a result of this train of thought I sat down over the course of several lunch breaks and wrote up different meditations with the goal of connecting to these powers.

Ouranos

Go somewhere you can see the sky largely unimpeded by buildings. It doesn’t matter what the weather is so long as you are comfortable. Sit down in a position you will be comfortable in for a reasonable period of time. Look up at the sky. What color is it? Are there clouds? What kind of clouds are they? Notice everything else in the sky but don’t focus on it. Focus instead on the sky itself, and focus on the air around you.
Close your eyes and feel the air moving. Note the temperature and how it changes when the wind blows across you. Notice any sounds or scents the wind carries with it. Feel the wind filling and exiting your lungs as you inhale and exhale. Your breath connects you to Ouranos. Take several deep breaths, feeing your chest rise and fall with each one.
Open your eyes and again explore the vast dome of the sky above you. There are things to be seen even in an empty sky. Think about the stars, hidden by the light of the sun but still present, the way the color of the sky shifts as the sun makes its path across, the way a total covering of clouds shifts in the air currents, find something to explore. Keep focusing on your breathing and close your eyes again.
Imagine yourself as a bird. Feel the air currents under your wings. Notice what is below you, notice how high up you are. Imagine what it feels like to almost be part of the sky, your wings holding you apart from the world below. Explore that connection to Ouranos, and hold onto it. It is part of you as well.

Gaia

Go outside and walk barefoot across the ground. Find somewhere you can comfortably sit for a reasonable period of time. Settle yourself on the ground. Pay attention to how it shifts beneath you as you move. Look around you; is the ground dry or damp or muddy, is it covered with grass and plants or is it bare and rocky? Explore the area, are there any animals or insects nearby? Are there any people? Notice them, but pay attention to the earth below you.
Close your eyes and feel the ground below you. Lay down if it helps you feel more connected. Notice how the ground feels against your skin. Notice the way your body presses against it. Explore those points of contact in your mind. Your body connects you to Gaia. Shift your body however feels comfortable, make whatever movements you need to to to explore that connection.
Open your eyes and again explore your surroundings. What plants grow here? What animals do you see and hear? What are you sharing this space with? Find something to focus on and explore how it connects to the earth. Continue to move your body however you need to and close your eyes again.
Imagine yourself as a plant. Feel your roots cradles in the earth, drawing nutrients and water from it. Imagine how it feels to be partially submerged and sheltered in the earth and reaching for the sun. Explore that connection to Gaia, and hold onto it. It is part of you as well.

Pontus

Sit near a body of water of any size, this can be anything from a lake, to a bathtub, to a glass of water. Make yourself comfortable and notice how the light in the water changes as your perspective changes. Notice what colors and shapes are reflected in the water. Is it clear, murky, silt-laden? Is there anything floating in it? What surrounds the water? Notice these things, but keep your focus on the water.
Close your eyes and listen to the sound the water makes. Pay attention to the smell of it, the feel of it on your skin if you can. Notice the way I moved, framed by the solidity if the world around it. Think about how it compares to the blood in your veins. Your blood connects you to Pontus. Focus on the beat of your heart, and envision your veins and arteries as rivers and streams.
Open your eyes again and observe the water before you. Let your mind catch on the way the light reflects off of it. Let your mind get lost in the way the images refract in it. Find some element of it to focus on and explore the flow of the water. Keep your mind on your heartbeat and close your eyes again.
Imagine yourself as a fish or other aquatic animal. Feel the way your body is surrounded by the water. Imagine the feeling of being as part of the water, feel the currents that surround you, explore them, follow them as feels right to you. Explore that connection to Pontus, and hold onto it. It is part of you as well.

These can be expanded on or shortened as you see fit. The idea here is to provide you with a framework for connecting to these energies.

One Year

Yesterday was the one year anniversary of my dedication to Apollon, which seemed like a good opportunity to do some reflecting. My dedication was a small affair, myself and three friends passing bottles of wine between us up in the mountains. It was dark, and cold, and we cooked meat over an open fire and libated into a fire pit. We filled the back of a car with blankets and fake furs and huddled together until late at night, talking, trancing, and doing our best to honor Apollon with what we had.

Last night I had friends over to my house. I made roasted mushroom caps, potatoes, dirty rice, and salad. There was cider and vodka, and tiny vegan cakes. We were inside, warm, and had a fair bit more freedom of movement than was afforded by the back of the car. It was a far cry from the lonely mountainside campground I had oathed myself to him in a year ago. But that didn’t stop me from feeling him there.

I called him with an invocation that I wrote myself, full of my experiences of him and my emotions for him. I libated into a ceramic vessel consecrated to him, and I felt him standing behind me, like his hand was resting on my shoulder as I poured out to him. Even after seven straight days of work I felt energized. I felt happy, even though my depression has been making things difficult and my lover is on the other side of the country. I put on music and danced like an idiot and I felt him dancing with me. We passed around hard ciders, and sparkling apple cider spiked with vodka. We got drunk and swapped truths. It was a small group, six people at the most, winnowing down to three at the end of the night, but we were together as a community, just as much as the four of us had been a year ago.

This year has been a rollercoaster, I started a new job, moved into a new home, started a new relationship, my partner had a baby, and I’ve been offered a promotion at work. My mom was also diagnosed with MS this year, and one of my housemates has had medical difficulties. So much of this year has been overwhelming and throughout everything Apollon has stood beside me and supported me. When things got to be too much, I could turn to him knowing he would offer what support he could and that he would do what he could to ease my worries.

I am, as a person, inclined to anxiety and second guessing myself. My brain will dredge up decisions that I made in the past and remind me about all the negative consequences of those decisions. Since moving to California I’ve had less of that. I don’t regret my decision to move here, except in some of my grimmer moments. But overall this move has brought me some of the best things in my life, including my relationship with Apollon. While I worked with him before moving here, I can guarantee that he and I would not be so close if I had stayed where I was. The person I was working with at the time did little to assuage my doubts and heavily contributed to my tendency to second guess. I can say with come certainty I wouldn’t have allowed myself to believe that this relationship was even a possibility if I hadn’t moved here.

Over the past year Apollon has helped me deal with the anxiety that was slowly taking over my brain. He has supported me as I navigate all the changes this year has brought. He’s been far from my only support, but his presence has meant a lot to me in this past year. On the topic of regret, I have no regrets about my relationship with him. While it has some ups and downs, it’s like any other relationship in that sense, and I’m more than happy to put in the work to keep the relationship moving forward.

Here’s to many more years to come.

Thoughts on Selfishness

This week has been rough. I’m going to say that right off the bat. My lover has been gone for a little over a week and it sucks. Half of the state of California is on fire and even with respirator masks I still feel dried out and like I’m carrying smoke in my lungs. Also the gas in our house was off so there was no heat or hot water for half the week while we got a leak fixed. Everyone around me is stressed, I’m stressed, hell I think even our cats are stressed.

So today, while I was grumbling to myself about one annoyance or another I caught what I thought was a sense of disapproval from Apollon. Specifically I caught it on the end of me thinking I was being hella selfish and that I really ought to stop thinking only about how things were impacting me, that the people around me had their own struggles. I interpreted this as Apollon agreeing with me that I was focusing too much on myself and got back to my job. Which, appropriately enough, had me giving out Thanksgiving good bags to low income individuals today.

When I got home I sat down and apologized to Apollon about my self-centered thoughts through automatic writing since I wanted a slightly clearer channel than my muddied up thoughts. What follows is a slightly edited discourse from Apollon about selfishness that I thought it might be a good idea to share.

Thinking about yourself is not, in itself, a selfish act. Weighing how things impact you and whether or not you like that impact is not inherently selfish. If you only acted on those thoughts then, maybe, you would be selfish, but the thoughts alone do not make you selfish. Besides, there’s nothing wrong with being selfish occasionally. Being selfish can help you find your center of power. Finding what drives you and what matters to you sometimes necessitates being selfish. Knowing yourself sometimes means focusing on yourself rather than others.

Being selfish once in a while doesn’t make you a bad person, it just makes you a person. When you work yourself to exhaustion to please and help others you also need to make time to make yourself happy.

Balance is something that comes up a lot in my conversations with Apollon. Balance and taking better care of myself. This conversation became about both. Our society puts a lot of pressure on people who are socialized as female to always be giving and to take care of other before ourselves. I’m struggling to learn that I’m allowed to take care of myself before others. Apollon is trying to teach me that lesson.

I enjoy helping people, it’s fulfilling to me. So much so that I make my living doing it. The problem with this is that between work and my home life it’s too easy to give to others until I burn myself out. Over the last few days I’ve been trying to be better about finding that balance, and telling people “No.” It helps to have Apollon around to remind me sometimes, or to nudge me with questions about whether or not I actually have the energy to do something. At the end of the day though, I need to be able to do this on my own.