Mathētic Order of Offerings to the Theoi

One of the longest spiritual practices I’ve maintained more-or-less continually, or at least kept around in one form or another, is that to the Greek gods.  I have a shrine to a few of them in my temple, and though the form and shape of it has waxed and waned over the years, I’ve kept venerating and offering to them since I got started, pretty much.  From my apartment after college where I had Hermēs in one corner of my bedroom and Asklepios against the wall, and after with Dionysos joining Asklepios; then moving into a house with my boyfriend and having an entire room for my spiritual stuff, with an elaborate set of glass shelves for the theoi, with separate spaces for Zeus and Aphroditē and Apollo and Hephaistos and even Hadēs at one point; now into the house I moved in with my now-husband and having another room set up with different qualities and things got downsized a bit.  Hestia, of course, has been around in every house in one form or another, and Dionysos has gone from having an entire shrine dedicated and decorated to him to being…reduced in size but not in presence to a special contraption I set up just for him.  All the same, throughout all these changes, I’ve still kept up my worship of the theoi.

My practices have changed somewhat between moves from house to house and temple to temple; for instance, in the last place where I lived, my temple room was across from the hallway bathroom and had a window outside, so it was trivial to dump offerings out or get water anytime I needed.  Now, however, my temple is in a basement room with no easy access to either external ventilation or a sink or drain of any sort.  This makes disposing of old offerings and libations a little different, and given the lack of ventilation and general light, it’s easy for libations set out to evaporate really quickly or get mold faster than I would’ve thought otherwise.  That makes, for instance, the use of many small libation vessels for each theos I have enshrined a pain, because they all have to be hauled up the stairs to the kitchen to be emptied and washed then all hauled back downstairs, and so forth.  Besides that, I used to open the window during ritual as a symbolic act as a means to “let the god in” and for incense offerings to reach the heavens, but I can’t do that at this point, so I have to adjust my processes for that.

As I’m getting back to my daily practice (and struggling to find out how to make things more efficient and effective while still making things count), I’ve also been digging through my notes to see what insights I had before, what my proposed methodologies or practices were, and how I managed to get by before and how I did things.  I suppose that’s one benefit of blogging so much, because I found two such posts on my method of offering to the theoi, specifically within the context of Mathēsis, one post on general daily mathētic practices, the other on a specifically mathētic procedure to make offerings to the gods.  The former is good for me to review anyway, because it’s something I need to get back on as well, either by reworking it to be less-than-daily or by incorporating it into my general daily practices, and because it recommends a regular, daily offering or invocation of the god of the day according to my Grammatēmerologion calendar.  The latter is actually useful, because it documents one such way that an invocation and offering to a god might be done, whether associated with a particular day or otherwise, and whether it’s a grand offering or just a small quick invocation.

However, as I look back on this procedure, there are things that I really would feel more comfortable changing than keeping the same.  (That’s one good benefit of writing my own blog; I get to make the claim that anything I write can be improved on later!)  Between my own experiences and interactions with the theoi on their own terms and by bringing in other ideas that I’m comfortable with applying across the board, there are some things I’m getting into the habit of that I wouldn’t’ve considered before.  For instance, while in the past I would often (but not always) make a perfunctory and preliminary offering to Hestia while also saying that it’s not strictly necessary, nowadays I’m definitely on the side of always making an offering to her to start with before any others, though I’m not entirely convinced that every offering must also conclude with another one to her, as well.  Rather, I’m now in the habit of honoring Zeus in every offering, regardless whether he’s the focus of my prayers or not, due to his role as divine cosmic king who rules over the three realms; at first I had his name praised and made a perfunctory offering to him before any other god (besides Hestia), but after some conversation, I make him last.  Or second-to-last, if Hestia gets a final offering as well.

So, let me draw out my process and my thinking.  It is true that many of the theoi operate independently in some respects, but it is also true that they are all part of the same pantheon and part of the same cosmic schema.  Just as you can’t remove a single number from the Decad and have it still remain the Decad, you can’t really remove a single theos from the theoi and have it remain the pantheon.  However, not every individual theos needs to be worshipped at all times, but a few key ones that allow for worship to happen at all makes more sense.  For that, the general order of invocation and offering that I use nowadays goes like this:

  1. Perfunctory initial offering to Hestia.  Hestia should always get the first offering, because she’s the goddess of the hearth and home itself.  Without her, we would have nowhere to live, build, or establish shrines; it is only by her support that we can make such offerings in our own homes, dwellings, and temples.  If one is living in the wild and makes offerings in a pristine place untouched by civilization with offerings that are not the products of agriculture or animal husbandry, then I would make an argument that an offering to Hestia is not needed, but it would still be appreciated as she is still rightly the eldest of the first generation of the Olympian Theoi.
  2. Perfunctory offering of wine to Dionysos.  This step is sometimes skipped depending on what I’m offering.  If I’m offering wine in this ceremony, and I’m either going to run out of an existing bottle or if I’m opening a new bottle of wine for any reason, I open it up here and pour a small amount for Dionysos, giving him thanks for his own sacrifices and allowing us to partake in his sacrifice of flesh and the grape which allows us to perform our own sacrifices.  In many ways, Dionysos is the god of wine as well as the god in wine; by opening a new bottle and giving him the first pour, we recognize his presence and dedicate our sacrifices to his own.
  3. Perfunctory offering to Hermes.  Hermēs is important to always recognize, and by calling on him, we ensure that our prayers can be heard by any and all the gods.  Hermēs is the messenger of the gods, to be sure, but he’s also the messenger between gods and mankind; it’s by him that we come to know the will and desires of the gods, but it’s also by him that they come to know our prayers and supplications.  Hermēs is, indeed, the god of prayer and ritual in general, just as Hestia can be said to be the goddess of shrines in general and Dionysos the god of sacrificing wine in general.  Plus, this helps with the notion of “bringing the god in” for when I call upon the presence of a particular deity; before, I’d open the window as a formal “opening of the gate”, but since I don’t have a window anymore, this seems to suffice as well.  It’d still be great to have a window or some other aperture, but I simply don’t have that option available to me.
  4. Main offering.  This is where the actual invocation to the god begins.  All their prayers and invocations and offerings and whatnot take place after all the initial offerings are made.
  5. Perfunctory concluding offering to Zeus.  At the end of the ceremony, once the other offerings are made, Zeus should also always be honored, as the divine ruler of the cosmos, the father of gods and men, and the supreme king of all.  In honoring Zeus who rules over the three domains of sky, sea, and land, we also honor all those who live within them, both mortal and immortal.  This suffices not only to render tribute to the god of gods, but also to recognize the divinity of all the other gods who fall under Zeus’ domain.
  6. Other perfunctory concluding offerings.  As Hestia is the first-born of Rhea and Kronos, she is also their last-born; she was born first from Rhea’s womb, and torn out last from Kronos’ belly.  The Homeric Hymn to Hestia (#24) says that “without you mortals hold no banquet, where one does not duly pour sweet wine in offering to Hestia both first and last”.  However, I don’t think that this sort of concluding offering is strictly needed after that of Zeus, but it can certainly be done; if it were, I think it would also be appropriate to honor both Hermēs and Hestia both for both their roles as divinities of prayer-speaking as well as that of shrine-keeping.  In other words, after the main offering and offering to Zeus, we work backwards: if we start with Hestia and Hermēs, we end with Hermēs and Hestia.  It’s something I’m still working out, admittedly.

This idea of a ritual process, going through multiple divinities in order to sacrifice to one, may seem needlessly complicated; I know I thought that at one point, and before, I’d just go to my Apollo shrine and do my thing and be done with it.  That said, I think of my other traditions where there is absolutely an order to worship, where certain divinities must be honored before others; this idea works for the Greek gods, too.  Plus, there are other examples of having such an order; consider the Hellenist reconstruction group Elaion and their ritual templates shared by Elani Temperance over at Baring the Aegis, where every ritual begins with a libation to Hestia, to Gaia, and to Themis before proceeding with the main event, and all of which conclude with a final offering to Hestia.  This also makes sense: just as we honor Hestia for being the goddess of hearth and home and shrine, so too do we honor the Earth for supporting all that happens and to divine Law and Order for that which is proper that all might continue to be proper.  Sure, it might seem easier to just make offerings to one god (and a lot less use of wine and oil and incense), but the more I think about it and the more I practice it, the more sense it makes to really go in for the process and proper sequencing of things in a formal offering.

Of course, all that above is just the general template, and templates change in certain circumstances.  For instance, if I were to just make an offering to Hestia for Hestia’s own sake, I wouldn’t really bother with Hermēs or the other gods, because Hestia is already right there present in my home, so Hestia is one of the very few (perhaps the only) divinity I could just sacrifice directly to and not get the rest of the gang involved and not feel bad about it.  In general, however, there’s always going to be a process, and there are certain rules to how that process might change in certain examples.  Let’s consider a few examples, with the main event in bold text and anything unexpected in italics:

  1. Hestia
    1. Dionysos (if new bottle of wine), Hestia, Zeus
    2. Because Hestia is always first no matter what, she still comes first.  However, as she’s immediately present and we’re already making an offering to her, we don’t need the messenger/interpreter presence of Hermēs.  If a new bottle of wine is to be opened, a perfunctory offering to Dionysos should come first before Hestia, though this is really more a respect gesture than anything else.  Likewise, Zeus can still be honored afterwards, but beyond Hestia and honoring the hearth itself that even the gods honor, there’s not too much that needs to be done.
  2. Dionysos
    1. Hestia, Hermēs, Dionysos, Zeus, other conclusions
    2. Normally, we’d have a perfunctory offering to Dionysos before Hermēs if we’re opening a new bottle of wine.  However, if I’m offering to Dionysos himself, I’d skip that stage and celebrate him entirely in his own part of the ceremony.  Instead of being given just a token, perfunctory offering, he gets his own full thing going on.  After Dionysos is honored, then we’d give a perfunctory offering to Zeus, and if desired, any other concluding offerings to e.g. Hermēs and Hestia.
  3. Hermēs
    1. Hestia, Dionysos (if new bottle of wine), Hermēs, Zeus, other conclusions
    2. Pretty straightforward here; Hermēs takes his usual place after Dionysos (if needed) and before Zeus, but as there are no other gods to be worshiped, Hermēs himself becomes the focus.  Instead of giving Hermēs a perfunctory offering, he gets a full offering here.
  4. Zeus
    1. Hestia, Dionysos (if new bottle of wine), Hermēs, Zeus, libation to all the gods, other conclusions
    2. Like with Hermēs, instead of just getting a perfunctory offering, Zeus himself is celebrated in full.
    3. However, remember that Zeus is normally celebrated in every ceremony to remind ourselves of his divine and cosmic importance, and by him, we can honor all the other gods and goddesses of the cosmos.  However, if we’re worshiping and offering to Zeus as Zeus alone, then we’d need something to step in to formally recognize all the other entities of the cosmos, hence a separate step for the “libation to all the gods” after Zeus.  This would be perfunctory, as the offering to Zeus any other time would be.
  5. Apollo
    1. Hestia, Dionysos (if new bottle of wine), Hermēs, Apollo, Zeus, other conclusions
    2. This is the basic template, using Apollo as the main offering.  Nothing unexpected here.
  6. Asklepios
    1. Hestia, Dionysos (if new bottle of wine), Hermēs, Apollo, Asklepios, Zeus, other conclusions
    2. This is essentially the basic template, with Asklepios as the main offering, but note how we’re also honoring Apollo immediately before him.  This is because, as I reckon it, Asklepios is not sufficiently independent or major of a god in his own right.  Sure, he can be offered to independently and on his own, but I find it more proper to recognize his father Apollo first.  In other words, to use a royal metaphor, Asklepios is a noble in the royal court ruled by Apollo; as Apollo is the ruler of that court, he gets first honors, and then any
    3. A similar case would go for any other minor god that is clearly part of another god’s “court”, such as Hēbē under Hēra, Eros under Aphroditē, Tykhē under Zeus, Nikē under Athena, and so forth.   Recognize the primary god of that court first with a perfunctory offering, then the minor god as the main offering.

Although the Greeks may not have conceived of their gods as belonging to “courts” per se, I think it’s still a useful classification of the minor gods and goddesses around central rulers who were more well-known.  For instance, I would consider all the thalassic deities Triton, Nereus, and the Nereides and Naiadēs including Thetis to all belong to the court of Poseidon, who either is the father, husband, brother, or conquering usurper of the other gods.  In sacrifice and myth, this may not really be true, but it’s a really useful way to organize “groups” of the theoi for the purposes of my Grammatēmerologion calendar, which assigns the letters of the Greek alphabet to the days of the lunar month, and by the letters, to individual signs of the Zodiac or other powers, which are associated the major gods of the Hellenic pantheon.  For instance, in the Grammatēmerologion, the twenty-third day of the lunar month is given to the letter Tau.  Tau is given to the zodiacal sign of Pisces, which is associated with the theos Poseidon; thus, it makes sense to cluster the worship of all the oceanic deities onto the day of Tau, just as all the deities associated with Hēra like Hēbē and Eileithyia are given to Hēra’s day of Sigma and so forth.  If nothing else, honoring the “court ruler” of a minor god also counts as honoring the primary god of the same day that minor god would be worshiped on, which fulfills part of my daily mathētic practices.

So, when I say “perfunctory offering”, what exactly do I mean?  Basically, a token offering, a nod, something I give just enough to recognize the divinity I’m making such an offering to.  It’s really little more than a very quick pour of wine or clean water, no more than an ounce or a few drops, accompanied by a few words of honor and veneration, calling upon their aid.  If I feel like it, I’ll recite the entire Orphic Hymn or one of the shorter Homeric Hymns to them, but in general, what I’ll say is something short, like:

Hestia, as you were first born of Rhea and last born of Kronos, so too do you receive the first offering and the last!  Queen goddess of the hearth, without you we could not live nor could we offer to the gods.  Right and proper it is to honor you first in all such rites.

Dionysos, roaring lord of reborn life, yours is the blood of the vine which we cut and rend that we might live and live well.  As you spilled your blood that we might partake in it, I give you the first offering of this bottle that you might always be honored in every pour and spill.

Hermēs, you are the messenger of gods and men, to whom we all turn in all our rites.  Hear my prayers, take these sacrifices, and carry them aloft to divine ears and immortal hands!  May all the righteous ways of worship be opened for me and for the gods!

With that, I’ll pour out a bit of wine and olive oil out—not a lot, because it’s better to give a little so that we always have something to give, and if we’re going through the process, then we’ve already got a lot to give.  From what I’ve been doing, it seems that a standard set of offerings will take around half a normal 750ml bottle of wine and maybe an ounce or two of olive oil.  While before I was pouring straight from the wine bottle into individual vessels for each individual divinity, which was fine when I could more easily wash them or empty them without having to schlep them up and down stairs, I’m now in the habit of using a large white bowl I set before my entire Greek shrine, and pouring in libations into that from a smaller white bowl.  That way, I can partake of the libation and give a toast to each of the gods as I offer, and I replicate the old practice of pouring a libation out on the ground itself.  The bowl, of course, keeps it all contained instead of splashing everywhere, and is easier to carry up instead of four or six silver or glass chalices full of wine and oil.

Of course, all of the above—the process, the order, the perfunctory offerings versus the main offerings, the courts, etc.—only really count if I’m making an actual offering to the theoi.  On days when I don’t, either because I don’t want to or don’t need to, there’s no need to go through all of that.  Instead, a simple invocation will suffice.  For instance, say that it’s the day of Gamma; Gamma is associated with Taurus, and thus with Aphroditē.  If I’m going to make a full offering to Aphroditē that day, then yes, I’ll go through the process of Hestia, Dionysos, Hermēs, Aphroditē, Zeus, &c.  However, if I’m not, whether because I’m too tired or don’t plan on doing an offering to Aphroditē that day, then I’d just call on her and give her a simple prayer; rather than giving her a main offering in the midst of a bunch of perfunctory offerings, I’d just give her a perfunctory (or bigger) invocation with no other process involved.  In other words, if all I’m doing is verbally honoring and recognizing the god of the day, then there’s no sacrifice or offering, so the whole process of offering doesn’t apply.  Easy, indeed, and if it’s all I need to get by for a daily practice, then all the better.

I’m sure, given enough time, this proposed method will continue to change.  What is becoming clear to me is that it’s easier for me to bundle my already-existing Hellenic/Greek practices into my overall Mathēsis work, which is fine by me; the less I have to arrange as separate “practices”, especially when one directly comes from the other and is going to subsume it anyway, the better.  By refocusing my Hellenic work into my Mathēsis work, I can better focus both together and synthesize them in a way that reduces stress and conflict while still being able to expand and expound on both.  Plus, if this Mathēsis stuff is actually going to head in the direction I want it, having processes for this sort of thing are definitely a needed and beneficial organizing principle.

On Budgeting Time for Work and Work

I’m spending these Days of the Cyprians and the following days leading up to Michaelmas trying to get back to my magical practice.  It’s…well, let’s be honest, I haven’t really had much of a magical routine since 2015, between new-job-chaos and having-to-buy-a-house and house-moving and Santería-initiatory-period and so much else.  Even doing simple planetary invocations strikes my heart with beauty and power, and the muscle memory of prayer comes back easily, though meditation is, as ever, a pain in the ass (a good one, though).  But what strikes me is that my ideas of a magical schedule like how I used to do it simply aren’t as useful as they once were.  It’s not to say that my notion of what constitutes good daily routine for spiritual activities aren’t effective—they most certainly are!—but that I simply can’t use them in the way my life has developed with everything that goes on.  Some practices and prayers I don’t have the need anymore, but others, I don’t have the time for.  It’s not like I haven’t talked about my daily practices before, but maybe it’s time for a refresher.

Let’s consider my daily schedule, shall we?  On a normal workday when I go to the office, with no magical routine nor frills nor extra plans thrown into the works, my schedule looks like this:

  1. Wake up no later than 0615.
  2. Get a shower, brush my teeth, and get myself put together around 0630.
  3. Get breakfast and scarf it down, finishing no later than 0645.
  4. Take a break, make sure all my stuff is together, then head out the door to go to work between 0715 and 0720.
  5. My work day is flexible, demanding anywhere from six to twelve hours, plus about two hours for commuting either way total (including wiggle room to make sure I don’t miss my train) so I can be home anywhere between 1730 and 2030.  Taking the average, let’s say I get home at 1900.
  6. At some point, I need to spend roughly 15 to 30 minutes doing chores around the house just to keep things livable.
  7. In order to get at least six (preferably seven) hours of sleep, which is generally sufficient for me to be operational and which I can catch up on more on my days off or teleworking, I need to be in bed by 2300.

That means I spend time on the following:

  • Sleeping: 6 to 7.25 hours
  • Out of the home working, running errands, etc.: 10 hours to 13 hours
  • Other necessary activities: 45 minutes to 1 hour

All told, that means anywhere from 16 hours to 22 hours of my day are spoken for, leaving anywhere from like two hours (on a rough day) to just under eight (on a really relaxed day).  This is what my free time consists of, so on an average day, let’s say I have about four hours free leftover for whatever I want.  I know people whose schedules are more strained than mine, and I know others who have more relaxed schedules than mine.  Admittedly, it’s my commute (anywhere from three to four hours a day?!) that really eats up a substantial chunk of my time, but we can talk about that in a bit.

Four hours of free time, I suppose, sounds generous enough, but the moment you get engrossed in something, boom, it’s gone.  The moment something slips and needs to be redone or done differently, boom, it’s gone.  The moment you get lazy and want to just take a break, boom, it’s gone.  The moment you have something that needs your immediate attention, boom, it’s gone.  The moment something rears its head from your procrastination because you didn’t have enough time earlier, boom, it’s gone.  The problem is that “free time” can’t all go to one’s leisurely activities or spiritual pursuits; I can’t spend all of that time on playing video games, writing my book, praying and devotions, energy work, or what-not.  Things that are arguably higher priority are:

  • Groceries, supply-shopping, and other procurement for my household (+30 to 60 mins)
  • Chores, housework, and household improvements beyond the daily tidy-up (+30 to 60 mins)
  • Working out for fitness and health (+20 mins for getting to the gym and back home, +60 to 90 mins for the actual workout)
  • Client work and consultations (+30 to 60 mins)
  • Mandatory spiritual obligations and observances befitting my station and initiations (+10 to 30 mins)

Then, when it comes to my desired magical routine, what is it I’d like to do?

  • Meditation: 15 to 60 minutes
  • Prayer: 15 to 60 minutes
  • Energy work and sphere attunement: 15 to 30 minutes
  • Offerings: 5 to 30 minutes

We’re looking at anywhere from almost one hour to three hours of spiritual work a day.  On the face of it, that’s going to be impossible some days, and pushing it on others.  And that’s just the daily routine; that doesn’t take into account special things I want to do, like intense offering sessions to a particular entity, conjurations, consecrations, and so forth, which take up their own time and have their own preparatory phases.  This means that I need to keep my daily routine short, sweet, and to the point, but then I feel like I have to rush it lest I fall behind schedule with something else; the prime time for me to do daily routine is just after I wake up, so that means I need to wake up at least an hour earlier, which means I need to get to bed an hour earlier, which cuts down my time in the evenings after I get home from work.

What all this adds up to is that I have a busy life, and I simply can’t take care of everything I want to in the way I want to.  I have go to go work, I have to sleep, I have to keep my household in order.  I really can’t slack off on working out (like I already have been for too long already), and now that I’m getting back into a magical routine, I don’t want to slack off on that, either.  I simply have too much going on to handle everything I want every day like I want.  Some days have to be set aside for one thing, other days for another thing; I have to really prioritize everything I do and be as efficient with everything as possible if I want to feel useful.  I won’t be able to run errands for groceries and supplies on the same days I go to the gym or have to extra-special prep the house for company, nor will I be able to spend extra time making offerings and doing ceremony if I have other necessities planned like taking my pet to the vet or going out with my husband on date night.

Then there’s the fact that I simply can’t be doing something all the time.  Nobody can, nobody should; sure, we shouldn’t waste time, but consider that you just need downtime where you’re not doing anything at all besides self-care.  Watch a movie, take an extra-long bath, veg out on YouTube, go to happy hour, whatever to just unwind.  If you’re doing things you have to do all the time, you’re going to wear yourself down thinner than tissue paper, and you’re going to run yourself into the ground.  It’s not healthy.  Sure, there’s always a lot to do, but there’s always a lot to do; setting aside an appropriate amount of time in moderation for yourself isn’t going to make things substantially worse than they already are, so you may as well enjoy yourself when you have the opportunity.

Happily, all the above doesn’t go for every single day.  For one, I have the ability to work from home, which allows me to (a) avoid spending three to four hours commuting and (b) I work from home longer hours so I spend shorter hours in the office.  Right now, that’s just once a week, though in the future, I might be able to get it to twice, which would be substantially helpful in freeing up more of my daily time.  There are also the weekends, where I simply don’t have to do nearly as much; of course, “have to do” is different from “need to do”, because these are prime times for me to catch up with friends (which I consider a necessity!), visit family or godfamily (who live up to four hours away), work religious ceremony (which can honestly be an all-day event, if not across multiple days),  intense research, and the like.

Plus, there are times when I’m doing something else necessary that I can overlap with other things.  For instance, while I’m in the office, I’m not always busy; I have downtime there, too, and I often use that for writing and researching and taking care of some client stuff that I don’t have to do at home (mostly paperwork, sending stuff out, and conversations for clarification and guidance).  I’d like to be able to do readings in the office, but between the spiritual gunk that drifts in and out and the fact that I don’t have a fully-enclosed office, it’s hard to have the privacy and ability to concentrate that I’d need, so I have to limit myself to just the mundane paperwork side of things.  The hour and a half I spend on the train…well, you’d think I could use that better than I can, but there’s no wireless connection on the train, the cellular signal drops out frequently, and the seating is awfully crammed for someone my size with large legs.  I try to read, but more often than not, I end up falling asleep and use my traintime as backup-naptime.  I know many people who can overlay trainrides, carrides, and working out with audio books, but that’s not for me; I find such disconnected listening to someone speaking even more soporific than stupid ASMR videos.  Either way, it’s totally possible for me to overlap work and commuting with some of the less-active tasks I have, but it’s not guaranteed that I’ll be able to do so; plus, it’s hard to use these times as honest-to-god downtime or relaxation times, because I’m still technically at work or cramped up in a fast-moving metal box surrounded by people, and it’s hard to be really relaxed to the point of being able to decompress like that.

Ugh.  So where does this all leave me?  There are things I need to do, and then there are the Things I Want to do.  And, unfortunately, I don’t have the time or lifestyle that lets me do it all at the same time.  If I had my way, I wouldn’t be working nearly as long or nearly as far away (housing costs and lack of comfort in cities, yo), which would do me good, surely.  I’d be able to wake up in the early morning, take care of my meditations and prayers and other magical and religious routines, then go to the gym, come back home, get ready for work, go to work, then come home, enjoy some peace and relaxation and work on a few things that needed my attention, then go to bed.  Unfortunately, that can’t happen in the real world, not with the lifestyle I have with its own pre-existing demands.

The big thing to keep in mind is that, for better or for worse, you have to do what you have to do to keep you afloat.  I can’t dedicate my time primarily to magical stuff because that doesn’t pay the bulk of my bills which keeps food in my belly and a roof over my head (career work), and I have to dedicate the proper time to make sure that food in my belly doesn’t rot my bones due to lack of use (working out), as well as making sure that roof over my head doesn’t rot from lack of maintenance (chores and household work).  These are essential things that cannot be compromised.  It’s what I have time leftover that I have to use wisely and prioritize, and that not only means I have to prioritize my routines and day-to-day activities (is this a day for running errands or running on the treadmill? a day for spending time in profound ritual for divinity or spending money in the supermarket for groceries and clothes?), but it also means I have to prioritize my overall projects I work on.

Projects throw an interesting wrench into this whole thing.  There are several big, overarching things I want to do in my own personal practice:

  • Finish and publish my geomancy textbook
  • Begin the Arbatel Operation with the seven Olympic Spirits as well as the Four Kings of Secrets
  • Dig deeper into Mathēsis, including zodiacal explorations
  • Nine-week exploration of particular aspects of Sts. Cyprian, Justina, and Theocistus
  • Explore my own Four Guardians of the Directions
  • Toy around with some of the more involved rituals of the PGM (esp. PGM XIII’s Eighth and Tenth Hidden Books of Moses)

There are other things I want to do, too, and there are also other pots I have my fingers in.  For instance, there’s also the need to learn more songs and practices and rituals for La Regla de Ocha Lukumí (a.k.a. Santería), which is a pretty  involved thing on its own, but again, the study portion of it can be handled elsewhere, and the involvement parts that demand my presence handled on their own dates and times and places.  Each of the projects above is a big, overarching thing that isn’t done in a single one-off task, but a series of tasks established over days and weeks and months.  To work on a project takes time, and I only have so much time.  If I use my spare time to write my geomancy textbook, I don’t have time to focus on Arbatel preparation; if I spend time planning and researching Four Guardians stuff, I don’t have time to give to St. Cyprian.  Sure, I might be able to switch focuses now and then, but it’s a lot easier to dedicate all my spare mental processing cycles to a single thing than to split them across multiple things.  For instance, it’s a lot less stress-inducing to know that I have just my geomancy textbook to work on than to remember, in my idle moments of enjoying chillwave mixes on YouTube, that I have my geomancy textbook to work on as well as that Cyprian invocation next week and also the New Moon’s coming up so I need to prepare for some Mathēsis investigation, etc. etc. etc.

I suppose this is all just me flailing around, trying to figure out how I want to get to where I want to be, how I want to become what I want to be, given the fact that I can’t seem to fit everything into my daily and weekly schedule as much as I want to.  But at least I know how much time I have to afford on a daily basis, and I know how much time certain things take.  It’s a start.  All project, timeline, and schedule planning demands to know how long certain things take and in what order they need to occur; knowing this much is helpful for myself.

On the One True Geomancy (or Astrology, Alchemy, Etc.)

Within reason, of course, I enjoy fielding questions from my readers through social media, whether it’s through @s on Twitter or messages on Facebook.  I do my best to answer them as they come, and I generally have an answer, though it might take me a bit to compile it in full.  Sometimes, the answer just can’t be made simple enough for a quick message, and we need to engage in a proper conversation to flesh everything out.  However, on occasion, some of those questions or the discussions we have over them raise something up in my mind that I think needs to be explored more, and this is just one such an occasion.

One of my friends on Facebook—introduced to me by a mutual friend over (what else?) geomancy—had some questions and problems with reading over some of my posts, specifically where I catalog an assortment of geomantic texts’ attributions of elements to the figures.  Basically, in that post, I go over how there’s a lot of talk in books modern and classical about how to reckon the elemental rulerships of each of the figures, and there are a surprising number of variations about how to go about just that.  Modern confusion can arise from John Michael Greer’s use of a dual system of outer and inner elements of the figures, outer elements based on Zodiacal attributions and inner elements based on structural concerns, and I’m sure that I haven’t much improved on that with my own system of primary and secondary elements (though I find it increasingly useful).  My friend was happy to scrap the outer element system of JMG, but after reading my post, things only got more confused and muddled for her.  She vented a bit to me about some of her frustrations in learning geomancy from my blog:

I think I am a bit disheartened.  According to your work even the planetary rulerships vary from Agrippa to the Golden Dawn.  When I found geomancy, I was excited because it was based on numbers and my study of sacred geometry, and it made me hope that this system was at root based upon the same principles.  After reading a lot of your work. I am left with “everyone does it different, good luck!”

You know what?  That’s completely fair, and it’s easy for me to have lost sight of that.  I appreciate her bringing me back down to earth a bit by sharing her feelings with me on this.

As you may have noticed, dear reader, the Digital Ambler is my blog.  Yes, it’s a website where I advertise my services and ebooks and share my research and rituals and make myself available for a variety of consultations and readings, but first and foremost, the Digital Ambler is my blog.  I write about what I want on my blog at the rate I want with the focuses I want in the way I want; it is, after all, my blog.  However, I write my blog for the public to read not just to keep track of my own notes, experiments, projects, ideas, and studies, but also to help others in the occult, Hermetic, and geomantic communities as well.  Over the years, my blog has become something of a resource for many, and I take a bit of pride and satisfaction and fulfillment that I’m able to help at least a few people through my writing.

One of the ways I think I help is that I share my research and notes, and when it comes to geomancy, there’s a lot to research—about a thousand years, to be precise, across Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and Europe.  Even with my limited resources, I have access to texts by John Case, Robert Fludd, Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim, Christopher Cattan, John Heydon, Bartholommeo della Parma, Gerard of Cremona, and Pietro d’Abano, to say nothing of more modern authors ranging from Franz Hartmann to Stephen Skinner and JMG himself.  As time goes on, I hope to get access to even more obscure materials that exist in undigitized, microfiche, or manuscript form.  And, I expect, as I get access to more such resources, I’ll learn more about how geomancy was practiced by a variety of practitioners across the millennium it’s been in use.

As a researcher, it’s evident and plain to me that geomancy is not a single, fixed subject.  Yes, even from its inception and introduction into Europe, there have been many things fixed and stable about the art: the basic meanings of the figures, the basic use of the Court and Shield Chart, how to use the House Chart, what planets the figures refer to, and so forth.  However, there are a great many things that vary between one author and the next: whether this technique or that is more useful, how many variations on a single technique there might be, how to assign the zodiac signs to the figures, how to assign the elements to the figures, how to do this or that and…well, as can be seen across many of the posts on my blog where I document classical techniques, there’s a fair amount of variation in geomantic practice.  For me to introduce that into my blog is part and parcel of my research: I research to document what was done, no matter how it was done, so I can figure out what was kept back then and why, as well as what I might keep that works and how to make what works work even better.

Why is there so much variation in what was done?  Simply put, it’s because geomancy is not a monolithic tradition: there is no canon, no centralization, no governing authority that says “this is proper geomantic practice” and “that is not proper geomantic practice”.  We in our modern age are used to such centralized authorities certifying what’s in and what’s out or what’s good and what’s bad to the point where we take it for granted, and we expect to see that such centralization would be present in previous eras.  It’s simply not the case.  Sure, there were commonly-available resources and texts, especially after the invention of the printing press and the beginning of mass-produced books, but it still was nothing like the scale of today’s “Art and Practice of Geomancy” or “Geomancy for Beginners” or “Geomancy in Theory and Practice”.  What was available were texts produced on a much smaller scale available to a smaller percentage of wealthier people who could afford books within a much more localized region; besides those, there were actual, living, breathing geomancers who not only practiced, but taught as well.  Though I’m sure some students of geomancy kept in touch with others, each geomancer was likely to be left to their own devices, see what works, and see what doesn’t, then develop and refine their own practice on their own.  Couple a few decades of that with books that may not always be 100% correct or vetted for typos and clarity, and minor variations are bound to result.

The commonalities between different geomancers and texts vastly outweigh the differences between them, to be sure, but many of us who like to investigate the details and ply those for whatever we can might be foiled by encountering so many different ways to assign figures to elements or what have you.  As my friend said, it can often come across that, when I present my notes on how geomancers of the past practiced this art, it might just come across as “everyone does it different, good luck”.  To an extent…yeah, actually.  Everyone did do it different.  Heck, everyone still does it different; I don’t do the same exact geomancy that Stephen Skinner or JMG or Al Cummins or Eric Purdue might do.  We all understand the basics of geomancy, and the commonalities of our practices far outweigh our differences, but there are definitely differences to be had.

To be fair, though, this isn’t just a thing with geomancy.  Astrology has the same variations across its many thousands of years of practice and development based on era, land, language, and author.  Today, you’ll still find arguments about which house system is best, how to allot certain things to certain houses, whether the modern planets have any purpose in horary astrology, and so forth.  You’ll find the same thing in general Hermetic magic (Golden Dawn or Thelema? Lemegeton or Grimoirum Verum? Heptameron or Trithemius?), in ancient Greek religion (Hesiod or Homer? Attic or Doric? Delphi or Dodona?), and really in any ancient tradition.  No tradition is ever truly monolithic unless it was designed that way, and even then, if it’s at all taught and carried on by successive generations of students, there are bound to be variations.  That’s how we ended up with Theravada and Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism from a single teacher, and within each vehicle of Buddhism all the different sects and schools thereof.  That’s how we ended up with Catholic and Orthodox and Protestant Christianities, and all their own sects and denominations.  Spiritual traditions, sciences, and lineages are inherently messy in their development; as I said to my friend, “if it’s confusing, it’s because there are a lot of different voices shouting different things under the same big tent”.

So what do we do about it?  Is it really as simple (and confusing) as “everyone did it different, good luck”?  Well…yes, actually.  In my research-related posts on this blog, I don’t often just document what was done, but I also give my thoughts on what makes the most logical sense or what has the strongest justification, as well as share my own thoughts, experiences, and preferences on the variations on technique.  I do my best to show my own practices and why I do things the way I do and where I get the things I do from, but at the end of the day, it’s a combination of study and experimentation that informs my practice: study the things that are common and fixed in the tradition, experimentation to see which variations work best.  The way I teach geomancy is going to be different from other geomancers past and present because it’s going to be informed by my own practices, experiences, and experiments; consider that I find (much as Robert Fludd himself did) that the techniques to predict letters and numbers are crap. Heck, even among geomancers today, what I consider vital and important to the art (as far as details go, at least), Al Cummins may find ridiculous or nonsense, and vice versa.  That’s fine!  We each have our own opinions informed by our own studies, and that’s great!  It’s not going to be as simple as 2 + 2 = 4 where there’s only one right answer, but it’s going to be “which art movement is better to understand the 19th century occult movements, Pre-Raphaelite or Art Nouveau?”.

If you’re looking for the One True Geomancy (or One True Astrology, or One True Solomonic Grimoire, or One True Alchemy, etc.) with all and only the right techniques, well, you might be disappointed.  There’s really no objective, centralized, certified Manual of Geomantic (or Astrological, Solomonic, Alchemical, etc.) Practice out there, nor will there ever be.  The best you can do is find a single teacher and study what that one teacher teaches, and even then, they might change their views over time, just like you will.  In the meantime, though it might be a rough road to follow, learning what was done and seeing all the variants out there of a given technique is helpful because it informs you of what was done before to give you an idea of what works and what options you have when working your own practices.  In doing so, you have guides that point in useful directions (maybe not always the right directions) to show you where you should focus your practice or steer your practice towards or away from.  Experimentation is a must in this and every kind of occult art, but you can and should listen to your peers and colleagues and teachers to see what was done before so you don’t invent the wheel all over again and again and again.

Happy Days of the Cyprians 2018!

For those who keep track, today marks the beginning of the Days of the Cyprians 2018, with yesterday having been the feast of Saint Cyprian of Carthage, and with September 26 being the feast of Saint Cyprian of Antioch with Saint Justina and Saint Theocistus, the three holy martyrs who watch over all those who make and break magic, those who wield it and those who wish it, those who wage it and those who suffer it!  At this turning of the year, as the Sun sinks lower and lower into the southern skies, I hope you all have a blessed Cyprianic season, that your left hand be as wise as your right, that your right hand be as cunning as your left, and that both your hands be strong and capable of attaining all your works and ends!

I’m going to use this period to get back on the ball with magical routine, which I’ve been sorely lacking for…quite some time now, and to lay some foundations for actual Work again.  I’ve been feeling like like all I do anymore, outside of religious ceremonies I help work with my godfamily, is divination and writing.  Satisfying and fulfilling as it is, and bearing in mind how much writing I still have to do for my own projects, I haven’t forgotten my origins, and I haven’t forgotten my goals, either.  Research and study only gets one so far.

Need a good resource for some prayers, orisons, and novenas for the good sorcerous saint?  Consider getting a copy of my ebook, the Vademecum Cypriani from my Etsy today for US$9!

Original Greek and faithful transcriptions up for two ancient Hermetic prayers!

As many of my readers know, I have my Etsy shop set up for the things I make.  I tend to stick to beadwork nowadays, bracelets and necklaces and chaplets and rosaries and that sort of thing as well as my ebooks (which you can also find directly on my website on the Books page), but in the past, I’ve taken commissions for wands, Tables of Practice, and other woodworking things.  I don’t do the woodworking thing as much anymore; there are several others I would recommend on Etsy, instead, for things along those lines, who have better setups and tools and skill than I do.  Still, depending on the need and the medium, I’m certainly not opposed to taking on commissions.

Recently, I received an interesting request for a commission.  Rather than it being a physical thing, it was a digital item; sure, I can do those, too, and I’ve made designs and the like for others by special request.  After all, art is art, and craft is craft.  This, though, was also unusual; I suppose it could be said to that I was contracted rather than commissioned.  I was contacted by one Soror MNA to help her with some of her own research and work.  She took a heavy interest in two of the things I’ve shared previously on my website, the Hermetic prayers from the Greek Magical Papyri known as the Hymn of the Hidden Stele (PGM IV.1115—1166) and the Stele of Aiōn (PGM.1167—1226).  These are beautiful hymns indeed, and I’ve used them to powerful effects in the past for serious and heavily theurgical purposes.  However, I’ve only basically given my (minor) variants of them in English, with the Greek barbarous words of power rewritten in the Greek script for ease of analysis and preservation of nuances in pronunciation.

What the good Soror MNA wanted me to do was to get her copies written in Greek of these two prayers.  After all, it’s not hard to find Preisendanz’s transcriptions of the PGM online (volume 1 for PGM I through PGM VI, volume 2 for PGM VII and after); all she needed was these prayers in their original Greek as well as transliterated into Roman script for study and use in her own rituals.  So, since this was a pretty clear-cut job of typing and transcribing, I gladly took the job.

All of this is simple and straightforward and otherwise unmentionable and not worthy of note if it weren’t for the fact that, at the end, I requested a change to the terms we had agreed to that would be in both our favor.  As it was, I was just going to give her a document with the transliterations she requested, but for the same reasons she found it valuable to have these prayers in their original Greek and transliterated into Roman script, I figured it would be good for the broader occult community, especially those interested in PGM-style Hermetic work, to have access to the same.  She agreed, and to that end, graciously permitted me to share the fruits of my labors on my website.

To that end, the Hymn of the Hidden Stele and the Stele of Aiōn pages on this website have been updated and augmented with the orignal Greek and their transliterations.  All of this is thanks to the gracious and generous support and sponsorship of Soror MNA, who has my thanks for helping me and funding improvements to my website!  If it’s been a while since you last checked these hymns out, or if you’re unfamiliar with them and have any interest in some pretty potent prayers, go and take a look!  The transliteration scheme I use is custom to my own work, which I feel preserves the pronunciation and accenture of the original Greek slightly better than other texts; most of the accenture is unnecessary unless you’re intimately familiar with the byzantine Byzantine use of polytonic Greek, but in order to keep it as faithful as possible, I included it all the same.  Thank you again, Soror MNA, for your generous support!

Just to remind all my wonderful readers: if you’d like to support the Digital Ambler in my projects, writing, and other work, remember that you can do so through Ko-fi!  Every little bit counts, and you’ll have my unending, undying thanks and appreciation.  Heck, if you wanted to sponsor a post or something big for my website like what Soror MNA said, suggest something in the comment when you donate and I’ll see what I can do!

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

On Gender in Magic, or, What to Rename Puer and Puella

Twitter is always full of fun people.  Yeah, the platform is garbage and full of Nazis, white supremacists, TERFs, and a variety of alt-right douchebags, but it’s also been the platform I’ve been on for the longest sustained period of time going back to…god, mid-2010, I guess.  In that time, despite its changes for the worse and the increases of awful people, I’ve also made many good friends on the platform, ranging from furries and fanfiction authors to astrologers and occultists and any number of people in between.  Lately, I’ve been enjoying the company of a good number of (somehow all bewilderingly attractive) astrologers and diviners, which gives me endless entertainment and education (and gawking over how insultingly good they look in their photos).

Not that long ago, one of my mutuals started up a conversation among this very group that struck a chord with me:

This, yes, absolutely, forever.

Even from an early date in my occult studies, stuff about gender has always not set exactly well with me, e.g. the whole bullshit Law of Gender from the Kybalion, yet another reason why I hate and detest the damn text.  I mean, while I am gay, I’m also comfortable in my cisgender identity as a man, but I have quite a few other friends and colleagues who aren’t but who are transgender, genderfluid, nonbinary, agender, or otherwise.  That so much in traditional magical literature relies on a system of gender that doesn’t work for so many of us is…troubling, honestly.  It’s nothing insurmountable for me, and I would hope that it’s likewise not a total obstruction for others, but that it poses a problem for many of us can’t be denied.  Like, for me, who has no sexual or romantic attraction to women, the notion of an element being “feminine” would logically suggest that it should be cut off from me as something inherently foreign, which is certainly not the case.

Time and again we come across scientific evidence and studies that show that there aren’t even always two physical sexes per species, or that the roles and responsibilities of each physical sex shift and change between species or even between stages of life in a species, or which change based on the environment around and hormones within the members of that species.  If occult philosophy is rooted in natural philosophy, i.e. if studying the occult is grounded in studying the world around us, then shouldn’t we actually respect what we find in the world around us rather than imposing a really simplistic view that doesn’t even work for us as a species or a civilization?  To be fair, I do understand and agree that most humans are cisgender and heterosexual, and most animal species reproduce sexually in a way that we can identify as being carried out by something resembling heterosexuality in humans.  That, however, does not mean that it is any more natural than variations seen in gender, sex, or sexual behavior, because those are as natural as the more common set.  Being uncommon does not mean being abnormal.

There’s also the argument that oh, even as a gay man, I should be in touch with my “feminine side”.  Tell me, what is a “feminine side”?  What are the essential qualities that make something feminine?  I know many women who don’t have such qualities, and many men who do.  I know that much of what one culture describes as “feminine” is considered masculine by another culture, or vice versa.  I know that much of what nontoxic masculinity is could easily be described as expected feminine behavior, and vice versa.  To me (and I speak only for myself in this), gender is a role that one plays based on cultural norms, with nothing essential about it; there can be no “masculine side” and “feminine side” because both of those are meaningless terms that just play out in a given context or arena of culture, society, and communication.  To be sure, these things have power and meaning as far as such things do, but there’s nothing essential, fundamental, or elemental about them that needs to be carried into a fair amount (maybe all?) Western magical practices.

I know that it’s certainly traditional to refer to the elements of Fire and Air (and all their corresponding tools, symbols, planets, zodiac signs, and other correspondences) as masculine or male and to Water and Earth (and all their correspondences) as feminine or female, but we can do so much better.  For one, knowing that each element is a combination of heat and moisture, a system going all the way back to Aristotle:

Dry Wet
Hot Fire Air
Cold Earth Water

What quality immediately jumps out at us that links the “masculine” and “feminine” elements?  It’s heat!  The “masculine” elements Fire and Air are both hot, and the “feminine” elements Water and Earth are both cold, so why not just call them hot and cold, or warm and cool, instead?

This and so many other alternatives to “masculine” and “feminine” were proposed in the conversation on Twitter, some of which I like and others I don’t as much care for, including:

  • solar and lunar
  • diurnal and nocturnal
  • odd and even
  • independent and communal
  • fast and slow
  • electric and magnetic
  • celestial and terrestrial
  • light and dark

(Personally, when not using the celestial and terrestrial dichotomy from my Mathēsis stuff, I absolutely adore the electric and magnetic dichotomy, because electricity and magnetism are really the same underlying force that operate in two different ways.)

There is also, of course, the almost-as-traditional “active” and “passive”, but this is dispreferable in another way, because “passive” has some unfortunate connotations that also doesn’t exactly work.  For instance, if I throw a large amount of water onto a fire, well, fire is supposed to be an active element, right?  So it should act upon the water, but what happens is that the water puts out the fire: the “passive” element acts upon the “active” one.  Not exactly helpful in that light.  Plus, the connotations of “active” and “passive” play into the traditional male-female roles during sex, where the “active” man is on top penetrating the “passive” woman on bottom.  Okay, boring.

You could reframe this “active” and “passive” issue using, for instance, “convex” and “concave”.  Consider the Chinese characters for these words: 凸 and 凹, respectively (as might be evident).  Like…you can see it too, right?  It’s not just my mind in the gutter?  If we equate “convex” with “active” and “concave” with “passive”, well…let me tell you that anyone who’s receiving in sex and is just remaining passive is doing sex wrong and should be ashamed of themselves.  You can take it and still run the show.  Being “passive” does not equate with being inert, boring, or ineffectual; being “receptive” or “concave” does not equate with being submissive, unassuming, or calm.

Personally?  I’m all for getting rid of the notions of gender in our elements, tools, zodiac signs, and other correspondences.  You can include them if you like, but I don’t care to have a system or cosmos that’s inherently structured and built upon them, especially when everything has an undivided, indivisible, undifferentiated Source.  You can have polarities and dichotomies and spectrums without having gender, and gender is not the be-all end-all of polarities.  We don’t have to reduce all dichotomies to a socially-bound, Western categorization of how certain people with certain physical differences should behave.  We can be so much better than this. We can do so much better than this.  We don’t have to be locked into a procrustean bed of gender-locked magic and cosmology when we can literally see and interact with cosmic forces that do not follow laws of gender and, indeed, break the very systems that gender tries to support and maintain.

Then I take a deep breath, and I go outside, and I…look at geomancy, and I’m reminded of the figures Puer and Puella.  And I frown, because we have this very gender/sex issue embedded in two of our figures, going back to the founding of geomancy itself.

I’ve gone on at length about these figures before, describing how their elemental structure suggests and effects their divinatory and occult significations, and so much else.  Yet, here it is, the male-female dichotomy itself staring at us in the face.

Geomancy itself is a system built upon dichotomy.  Dichotomy literally means “a cutting (categorization) into two”, which is the fundamental aspect of binary systems.  Geomancy, as a binary system, has rows that have one point or two points.  In this particular case, I think the use of “active” and “passive” is useful to describe such an arrangement, because it’s referring to the literal existence or non-existence of a given element within a figure.  For instance, if Fire is active, then it can cause a change in another figure’s Fire line (odd to even or even to odd); if Fire is passive, then it preserves and takes on whatever is in another Figure’s fire line (odd stays odd and even stays even).  This is how I interpret odd or even as far as numbers go, and to me, the mere presence or absence of an element has nothing to do with that element being “male” or “female”.  Again, gender/sex is just one kind of polarity, if it even is to be reckoned having two poles at all.

So, what to do about Puer and Puella?  Well, I know that the names of figures aren’t fixed.  Throughout the history of geomancy, many sets of names have been applied to the figures, even within the same language.  Stephen Skinner in his Geomancy in Theory and Practice gives a huge table of all the names he’s been able to document for the figures across multiple manuscripts, books, and traditions.  For instance, the figure Fortuna Maior (literally meaning “Greater Fortune”) has also been called:

  • Auxulium intus (interior aid)
  • Tutela intrans (entering assistance)
  • Omen maius (greater omen)
  • Honor intus (interior honor)

Still, despite the variation in names, they all have more-or-less the same meaning.  But then we come to figures that don’t have any similarity with their common names, such as Imberbis (beardless) for Puer.  Such names come from a much older, Arabic-inspired tradition that uses similar names for the figures, which tie into the meanings through other symbolic means; “beardless”, for instance, refers to young men who are yet energetic while still not old enough to have the full features of maturity.  Other names for Puer include Flavus (blond, perhaps referring to the bright golden hair color associated with young children?), Belliger (warring), or even Gladius Erigendus (erect sword, which…mmhm.)

What I’m saying here is that the names of the figures have gone through quite a lot of change and variation over the centuries, and what matters is that the names are descriptive of the meanings of the figures in divination and magic.  Puer means a whole lot more than “boy”, of course, as does Puella than merely “girl”, but a whole set of personality, physical, temperamental, and situational traits that go far beyond merely what might be considered masculine or feminine as determined by medieval European society.  So, why not think of other names for these two figures that can decouple them from a reliance on the male-female distinction?

Personally, I like going with Hero and Host, playing off not just the initial sounds of the words, but on the dichotomy of hostility and hospitality, rough and smooth, or as my mutual above phrased it, “gall and grace”.  They tie into my own meditations and visualizations of the figures, too.  On Puer:

The young man dressed in rags and armor, riding his horse, drops his armor’s visor, raises his sword, and plunges into the fight.  All he’s in it for is to fight, and the fight is real, especially if he’s the one to start it (he usually is).  If he’s on the right side in the fight, he’ll lay his enemies bare and clear the field to pave the way for future foundations; if not, he’ll live to fight for a hopeless and regretful day later.  But that doesn’t matter to him, anyway; he lives for the fight, the struggle, the excitement, the passion, the heat, and the war that never ends for him.  His visor limits his vision, cutting out peripheral vision entirely and causing him to focus on what’s right ahead of him; just so does he only care for the current day and the current battle.  He’s young and without experience of victory, or even finesse in battle, his rashness and recklessness giving him all the flailing speed and power he needs, but he’s fighting not just to fight but also for that experience he lacks.  And, after all, he’s fighting because there’s one thing he’s missing: someone to really fight for.  Don’t expect him to be your ally when you call, but expect him to call on you or pull you into the fight.

And on Puella:

…I saw myself walking into a massive pyramidal hall, an ancient temple with smooth golden sandstone walls neatly fit together rising up to a square hole in the ceiling, with a light shining down into it illuminating everything the temple with a rich, warm, delicate light.  The whole of the temple was filled with treasures, rich tapestries, delicate statues and figurines, and piles of paintings; it was a temple in the old style, a warehouse and storeroom for all the holy treasures a temenos or church would’ve accrued over the centuries.  At the end of the temple, meandering through a forest of statues and stacks of gold, kneeling down in prayer was a young maiden, dressed in the finest dress, modest but alluring, sweet but experienced.  I approached her, and she looked up at me with the most genuine, kindest, warmest smile I’ve ever seen; she stepped up, took my hand, and walked me around the temple.  It was bliss, even for me who doesn’t go for women, but she told me about how she had been expecting me, preparing all this for me, watching out for my arrival; she told me that she wanted to make sure I was alright.  I told her that I was, and by then, she had led me to the entry of the temple and gently guided me out with the kindest and warmest of farewells.  I left with a smile on my face, both in my mind and in my physical body.

You can just as easily swap out “young man” for “young woman” in the former, and “young maiden” with “young prince” in the latter.  Neither of those rely on gender or sex.  There might be an argument for the dot patterns of the figures: some say that Puer represents an erect phallus and Puella an open vagina, and I can agree with those!  But dot patterns are fickle things, and they can be interpreted as any number of other things, too: Puer can represent a sword and Puella a mirror (a la the original forms of the glyphs for the shield-and-spear of Mars and the handheld-mirror of Venus), or Puer could represent a person with their arms low in a defensive fighting stance and Puella a person standing with their arms out in embrace and welcome.  If you’re troubled by the notion of Puer representing a woman because of its emphasis on erection, don’t forget that the clitoris also swells with blood when its owner gets aroused—a.k.a., an erection.  As for men worrying about being seen as womanly by being associated as the Host (née Puella), don’t forget that some of the greatest role models we have for nontoxic masculinity in the West include Mr. Rogers and Bob Ross, the perfect neighbor who welcomed all to his neighborhood and a stunning artist who found beauty in all scenes and spread it to all who wanted it.

As for the new terms, I can also hear some saying “well, hero has a feminine version, ‘heroine’, and host has a female version, ‘hostess’, these aren’t gender-neutral terms!”  Sure, I suppose, if you want to use the French, Latin, or Greek roots of the words we have, where the language was inherently gendered along grammatical lines.  But, at least in English, we don’t really have gender on words unless we force gender onto those words; “host” suffices just fine for men or women, as does “hero”.  We don’t need to specify “hostess” or “heroine” unless we want to emphasize that someone is hosting and is also a woman, or that someone exceptionally brave and courageous is also a woman; we can use the unmarked forms of the words as being applicable to any (or no) gender just fine.  After all, we call women “director”, “doctor”, “administrator”, and “aviator”, not “directrix”, “ductrix”, “administratrix”, or “aviatrix”, which are the proper feminine versions of those words.  We can drop the gendered endings because they’re not necessary unless we want to absolutely reinforce the notion that someone’s gender must be specified at any and every given opportunity.

Will I start using and enforcing the terms Hero and Host on my blog?  For the sake of communication, probably not.  Chances are I’ll just keep them to myself and refer to them that way in my head, using the more popular and common names that have been in solid use for five centuries or more in public for the sake of communication.  Still, when teaching these figures, I think it’d be useful to have an alternate set of names for them as well, which most texts are already liable to do.  Adding another pair of names to help decouple gender from magic isn’t too hard an effort to make, but the results are worth it, I claim.

I was on a podcast over at My Alchemical Bromance!

Personally speaking, my preferred medium is the written word.  I get to clarify and refine my thoughts into an actually acceptable format, it’s easy to peruse if you have time or skim through if you don’t, and searching through it is trivial with most modern search functions (though I have my issues with the WordPress search from time to time).  It’d be a weird day indeed if I were to start making videos or podcasts of my own as a Thing, but I’m certainly not opposed to other people doing it, especially when they’ve got good practice at making it work well for them and entertaining to boot!  I like leaving this sort of thing to the good people who’ve mastered it.

Not that long ago, I was invited to chat with the good Rev. Erik L. Arneson over on his podcast of My Alchemical Bromance,  Rev. Arneson, who also manages the website, blog, and reading services of Arnemancy which focuses on a variety of Hermetic topics old and new, invited me onto the show to chat about the Greek Magical Papyri, geomancy (which I think is becoming almost my cliche thing? eh, it’s definitely my thing, to be sure), ceremonial magic, and a variety of other topics as we share a drink.  He had a fancy beer, while I drank my already-half-emptied 1.5L bottle of Barefoot Sweet Red blend, leftover from offerings done earlier in the week, which he mirthfully mocked me for (and rightfully so).

What?  Y’all knew I don’t bother with taste if I don’t need to.

You can listen to the episode directly on their website at this page, or you can listen to the 1hr37min debaculous chat here:

Once you’re done (and I do hope you enjoyed it—it was super fun chatting with the good reverend), be sure to like them on Facebook, follow them on whatever RSS feeder you prefer, and subscribe to their podcast!