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.

A Shrine to Lord Saturn

This year, both I and my husband turn 28.  It helps that we’re only born, like, six weeks apart, so our natal charts aren’t too dramatically different from each other’s, at least for the slower-moving planets out there.  This is especially the case for Saturn, which we both have in Sagittarius and dignified by both face and term.  It’s a weird place for Saturn to be, but it’s not a terrible spot for either of us.  This is a good thing, as we’re ramping up to face our first Saturn return together at pretty much the same time, which is awesome and awful.

What is a Saturn return?  Roughly every 30 years (29 years, 5 months, 15 days to be exact), Saturn returns to the same place it was when you were born.  As Saturn gets closer and closer to this position, people start feeling these effects a little early, some as early as 27.  The effects tend to drop off soon after the return is made exact, so the range for feeling the effects of this first Saturn return transit usually goes roughly from when you’re 28 to 31, or three years.  The second time happens from ages 56 through 59, and the third from 84 through 87.  Some very few people ever get to experience a fourth Saturn return, but that’s neither here nor there.  Unlike other planetary returns, Saturn returns are most notable as being fundamental shifts from one stage to another in a person’s life: the first Saturn return marks either the midlife crisis or one’s final ascension into adulthood, the second return one’s passage into senescence, and the third return one’s preparation for death.  In general, how one adapts and responds to one’s return lays out how well or poorly one’s life will go through the next return.

So what is it like during a Saturn return?  Essentially, Saturn becomes the dominant theme of your life, and its energy and power suffuses every day of the transit.  Think: Saturn is the planet of final cosmic justice, restriction, obligation, limitation, scarcity, famine, depression, poverty, disease, and darkness.  By the same token, however, think about the idea of the thick cell wall of prisons or monasteries: sure, they keep one isolated and trapped, but by the same token, they also keep one safe and sound from anything going on outside.  Saturn shows us our limits, where those limits are to be obeyed without question, and where those limits can be pushed back or knocked down.  Saturn is a planet of atrophy, but it is also one of soundness; one might be thinner, but one becomes stronger in the process.  Saturn returns force us to confront ourselves and our own blown-up ideas of ourselves, and deflates us down to a shriveled, wrinkled mess.  In the process of everything we think we are and everything we think we need being taken away from us, however, we find out what it is we’re truly made of and what we truly need to survive on.  Once we know the bare minimum of what we can do and what we can survive on, we can build ourselves up once more in a proper way to truly come into our own.  Saturn return is a time of refinement through intense trial that we cannot escape or delay.  Jobs we think we love get taken away from us, lovers we think we can’t live without leave us, homes we think we will own for the rest of our days get burned down or sold from under our feet.  If you’ve ever asked for “take away everything that hinders me and holds me back”, Saturn return does this in fucking spades.  No need to do a cut-and-clean spell if you don’t want to; if you just wait long enough, the cosmic clockwork of the solar system will make it clear that it’ll happen one way or another.  Saturn is the cosmic judge who takes stock of everything you are and everything you do, and when Saturn comes home, he is going to clean house.

So, faced with this insurmountable trial of fate and gravity, how do I plan on surviving these next few years?  Most people become assholes and fight against it, or depressed and mope about it lamenting their inevitable fate that happens to each and every one of us.  Those are awful ways, and not what I consider to be the easy and proper way: by welcoming it, embracing it, and giving respect and honor where they’re due by setting up a shrine to regularly confront and propitiate the forces, energies, entities, and god of Saturn.  By working with the forces of Saturn, we can better integrate them into our lives, accepting the trials that come to us easier and forewarned that they will happen, acknowledging our pain and actively reaching for our own refinement, treating this as a time of tough cosmic love rather than cruel hellish fate.

With that in mind, let’s do a brief bit of some Liber 777-type research on Saturn.  For the sake of expanding our symbol set and connecting the dots together, what’re some of the attributes we can find about this planet in the Western magical literature?

  • Names in classical languages:
    • Latin: SATVRNVS
    • Greek: Κρονος (Kronos, the god/spirit of the planet), Φαινων (Phainōn, the titan/body of the planet)
    • Hebrew: שבתאי (Shabbathai)
    • Arabic: زُحَل (Zuḥal)
    • Persian: کیوان (Keyvan)
    • Sanskrit: शनि (Śani)
    • Egyptian: herukapet (Ḥeru-ka-pet, also known as Horus the Bull)
    • Sumerian: cuneiform |TUR.DIŠ| (Genna)
    • Babylonian: (Kayyamaanu, written as UDU.IDIM.SAG.UŠ or as above in Sumerian)
    • Chinese: 土星 (Mandarin Tǔxīng, Cantonese tou2 sing1, Middle Chinese /tʰuoseŋ/, Japanese dosei, Korean toseong)
  • Spirits and entities associated with it:
    • Angelic governor: צפקיאל (Tzaphqiel), often rendered into Latin as variants on the name Cassiel
    • Picatrix angel: Isbil (Arabic original), Heylil (Latin translation)
    • Olympic spirit: Aratron
    • Planetary intelligence: אגיאל (Agiel)
    • Planetary spirit: זאזל (Zazel)
    • Choirs:
      • Agrippa: אראלים (Aralim)
      • Pseudo-Dionysus: Thrones
    • Zodiacal angels:
      • הנאל (Hanael, angel of Capricorn)
      • כאמביאל (Cambiel, angel of Aquarius)
    • King of the Jinn:
      • Name: ميمون (Maymon, the Auspicious One)
      • Nickname: ابا نوخ (Abba Nuh̬, the Father of Rest)
    • Heptameron Spirits:
      • Angel: Cassiel
      • Angel of the Air: Maymon Rex
      • Ministers: Abumalith, Assaibi, Balidet
      • Wind: Africus (southwest)
    • Lemegeton Goetic Rank: Knight (only one spirit of this rank, Furcas)
    • Deities associated with Saturn:
      • Sumerian: Ninurta, Ninmah
      • Babylonian: Adar, Nintu, Tiamat
      • Persian: Zurvan
      • Phoenician: Asherah
      • Egyptian: Sobek
      • Gnostic: Yaldabaoth
      • Greek: Kronos
      • Roman: Saturnus, Lua
      • Etruscan: Vetis, Veiovis
      • Hindu: Śaniścara
  • Qabbalistic correspondences:
    • Numbers: 3, 15, 45
    • Shape: Triangle
    • Sephirah: Binah
    • Sephirothic colors: Crimson, black, dark brown, grey flecked pink
    • Path: #32 (the World, connecting Yesod-Malkuth or Moon-Earth)
    • Path colors: Indigo, black, blue-black, black rayed blue
    • Godname: יהוה אלוהים (YHVH Elohim)
    • Hebrew letter: ת (Tav, 400)
    • Greek letter: Ω (Ōmega, 800)
    • Weekday: Saturday
    • Zodiac signs:
      • Domiciles: Capricorn, Aquarius
      • Exaltation: Libra
    • Geomantic figures: Carcer, Tristitia, Cauda Draconis
  • Religious concepts:
    • Deadly Sin: avarice/greed
    • Heavenly Virtue: generosity
    • Hermetic Virtue: silence
    • Hermetic Vision: The Vision of Sorrow
    • Apostles: Simon the Zealot (Capricorn), Jude (Aquarius)
    • Prophets: Enoch, Samuel, Nahum (Capricorn), Habakkuk (Aquarius)
    • Judges: Elon (Capricorn), Abdon (Aquarius)
    • Theological Figure: The Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalene
    • Weekday archangel: Selaphiel or Sealtiel, the angel of prayer to God and who presides over the priesthood
    • Psalms for Pentacles (KJV): 72:8-9, 109:18, 18:7
  • Materials and substances:
    • Metals: lead, black iron, pyrite
    • Stones: onyx, sapphire, brown jasper, chalcedony, lodestone, sulphur, antimony, jet, turquoise, magnesium, all dark and weighty and earthy minerals
    • Plants: white daffodil, asphodel, dragonwort, rue, cumin, hellebore, benzoin, mandrake, cyprus, opium, pine, cypress, black fig, hemlock, yew, myrrh, sesame, aconite, cactus, cocoa, datura, spurge, fennel, male fern, lichen, mos, lungwort, soapwort, weeping willow, tobacco, pomegranate, ivy, orchis root, thistle, coconut, ramthorn, spikenard, galbanum, asafoetida, euphorbium, colophony, stammonia, rhubarb,
    • Animals: ape, cat, hog, mule, camel, bear, mole, donkey, wolf, hare, mole, dragon, basilisk, toad, serpents, scorpions, ants, mice, vermin, cranes, ostriches, peacocks, screech-owl, horned owl, bat, lapwing, crow, quail, eel, lamprey, dog-fish, tortoise, oysters, cockles, sea sponges, cuttlefish
    • Parts of the body: skin, bones, spleen, knees, lower legs, right foot, right ear, right eye, left hand, excretory system, mouth, intestines, bladder, genitals
    • Other organic substances: soma, civet, musk

And, to top it off, a gallery of various Saturn-related seals, sigils, symbols, and signs from all the stuff collected across my blog:

With that said, I now present to you how we combined so much of all of the above into our household’s Shrine to Lord Saturn.

Shrine to Lord Saturn

The primary color of the shrine is black (the primary/Queen color of the planet) accented by crimson (the secondary/King color), accented by a pale Solar gold.  Within the shrine is a particularly pretty (to my mind) metallic print of Saturn eclipsing and illuminated by the Sun.  Surrounded by a the fabric canopy and lengths of chain is a custom talismanic art I made that concentrates the images and seals of Saturn together in a coherent way.  This artwork combines, again, all of the symbols, seals, sigils, numbers, names, spirits, intelligences, angels, and characters of Saturn together, with very subtle nods to the zodiac signs Capricorn and Aquarius (the domiciles of Saturn), Libra (its exaltation), and Sagittarius (where my and my husband’s natal Saturns are) and Aries (our housemate’s natal Saturn).  Additionally, there are three written statements on there: the Sanskrit mantra to Lord Shani, a Greek invocation to Phainōn and Kronos, and a Latin invocation to Saturnus:

  • Sanskrit: ॐ शं शनैश्चराय नमः (Om Śaṃ Śanaiścaraya Namah, “Hail to the great name of Shani”)
  • Greek: ΙΩ ΦΑΙΝΩΝ ΙΩ ΚΡΟΝΕ ΙΩ (“Hail, Phainon! Hail, Kronos! Hail!”)
  • Latin: IAVE SATVRNE MAXIME NITIDE SEVERE IA (“Hail, great, bright, grave Saturn, hail!”)

I had originally planned to do this in stark black and white, but I opted instead to use a blend of silver, gold, white, and a few basic colors to suit the characters or needs.  All told, this painting forms a sort of all-around “map” to the powers and resonances of Saturn.

Talismanic Saturn Painting

The focal point of the shrine table is the oil lamp in the middle.  In Indian astrology, devotees of Lord Shani burn sesame oil in honor of the god, so I figured I can incorporate the same.  I got a traditional ceramic oil lamp glazed in dark brown and dark blue, both colors associated with Saturn, and filled it with cooking-grade sesame oil mixed with three drops of myrrh essential oil.  Here I’m using a simple cotton thread wick, but normally I’d use a linen strip or a cotton ball, rolled out flat, pressed into a thicker cloth-like sheet, written upon with sacred symbols of Saturn in consecrated ink, and twisted back lengthwise into a wick.  I placed the lamp on a wooden placard I made that has the symbol of Saturn in the middle of a large hexagram, surrounded by the symbols of the other six planets in each of the triangular wings of the hexagram.  Around the symbol of Saturn in its central hexagon, and on the outside of each of the triangles, I inscribed the characters of the seven planets from Agrippa (book I, chapter 33) and wrote around the whole thing the name Κρονος in Greek.  Each of the planetary symbols are colored in the usual planetary color, as are their characters.  The word Κρονος, the symbol and characters of Saturn are all filled in silver, while the surrounding circle and the hexagram itself are all filled in gold.  Everywhere else on the placard is covered in black.  I also added on the name of God “Elohim” written in ancient Phoenician script around the edge, split into six characters and colored for the six non-Saturn planets.  On the underside is the name IHVH, again written in Phoenician and colored in gold, around the edge, surrounding a 3 × 3 grid.  I originally was going to have the nine numbers of Saturn etched in here, but my woodburner failed me for good; what I plan to do is draw in a word-sigil on the qamea of Saturn to tune our rituals to a specific need, such as “stability” in times of chaos or “wisdom” when preparing for a ritual.

The reason why I made this planetarily all-inclusive placard, instead of one that just focused on Saturn, is that this would be used for a household shrine for both my use and that of my husband and our housemate.  While I’ve done the Work necessary to simply launch deeply into a planetary energy and come out unscathed, my husband and our housemate haven’t, and even though respecting and honoring Saturn would be good for all of us, there is a notable risk for them to be overloaded by Saturnine energies that could easily overwhelm and devour them.  To that end, I decided to balance out the light of Saturn that we would shine in our house by making a kind of planet-specific Table of Practice that would act to balance out and harmonize all the planets, focusing and building up to Saturn.  Thus, we first light six small candles, one on each of the triangles around the placard, and briefly invoke each planet before lighting the oil lamp for Saturn in the middle, which precedes the rest of our usual offering.

In addition to the crafts above, I also have a three-footed iron censer for burning incense, usually myrrh, placed atop an old Saturn magic square I made, woodburned and painted in gold and black, to the right of the lamp.  I’ve also incorporated and enshrined, in an unseen way not visible from the pictures above, the powerful Saturn talisman I made back in 2011 (almost five years ago to the day, holy crap!).  All this combined, we have a simple yet elegant Saturn shrine that, from the get-go, already brims with dark stellar power.  Over time, we will probably add more talismans, charms, statues, or pieces of Saturnine art, but this is good for now.

We present small glasses of offerings to Saturn: one of pure water, and three small bowls of a dry offering mix made from rock salt, black rice, black gram, and black mustard seeds.  We place these to the left of the oil lamp placard, while we burn incense in the censer.  We then take some time to recite the Orphic Hymn to Saturn (hymn #12), or, if we’re feeling more adventurous, the Picatrix Invocation to Saturn (book III chapter 7, one version as used here for my Saturn talisman consecration).  Alternatively, we might use the Heptameron Conjuration for Saturday or the equivalent from the Munich Manual (see this page) for a more directed purpose rather than a general laudation of Saturn, or we might just be cool and intone the vowel ōmega and offer a more personal prayer to Saturn.  We do this all every Saturday during one of the daytime hours of Saturn, if possible, usually the midday hour, as that’s the time we’re all most likely to do this together.  Barring that, due to scheduling or whatnot, we might do our own thing with a smaller offering.  We let the candles burn out on their own, and we let the oil lamp burning for at least as long or until it starts to sputter.  We let our offerings sit for a whole week, and then clean off the shrine before we make offerings the next Saturday.  We each clean off with our bowl of dry offerings, pour it into the water, and dump the whole thing out into the road.

Besides all these offerings we plan to make weekly and regularly, there’s so much else we can do to honor Saturn in our lives.  Saturn rules over all disabled people, especially those who are crippled, diseased, or handicapped in some way, as well as vagrants, the homeless, and in low social stations and in menial jobs.  Working for their sake, paying them respect, and making donations (especially in groups of three or in amounts of multiples of three) is a good way to get on Saturn’s good side, as well as making fasts in his honor.  It goes without saying that respecting Saturn in our daily lives is also of paramount importance, including not saying disrespectful or joking things about the god.  We still plan to be realistic about his awful, detrimental effects, but we’re not going to blow them out of proportion; Saturn is, after all, the planet of perspective.  Saturn, given the day of Saturday, is also associated with Shabbat and the Jews; observing a set of shabbat-like restrictions regularly is also a way to show one’s devotion to the planet and its spirits.

I’m honestly pleased I was able to set this shrine up, and I’m very happy with how it all turned out.  At the first invocation, I felt that usual Saturnine heaviness seeping into my bones, like wearing multiple heavy Siberian winter coats without the heat, but this time it lingered on the back of my neck and around my ears.  It’s good to finally give Saturn the respect he deserves and has deserved in my life; truly, Saturn now lives in our home, though I specified that this shrine would be set up for three years, with only the possibility of it remaining up longer.  We’ve enshrined Saturn to help facilitate the integration of his energies into our lives during our Saturn return periods, so that Saturn helps us and does not hurt us, so that Saturn gives us succor and not suffering.  He’s still a heavy, grave, serious planet and a malefic no matter what, but he is just as able to give blessing as much as he can dole out curses.  Here’s to hoping we only see his good side, with his bad eye turned and kept turned far away from us.

Do you worship or have a devotional arrangement with Saturn, in any of his incarnations among the world’s religions?  How do you pay your respects to the planet or the spirits associated with it?

Honoring Venus on the Great Day of Gamma

It’s funny how I never really paid attention to the Moon, even as a magician, for years and years.  Yes, I’d check a calendar to see whether it was waning or waxing when making a particular talisman or other, and maybe I’d be caught off-guard and wonder why the nighttime is so bright outside before looking up and spontaneously saying my Full Moon invocation from the PGM, but beyond that, the motion of the Moon was simply something I never paid attention to.  That was, of course, until I started working on my grammatomantic calendar, a lunisolar method of tracking the passage of the Moon against the seasons and the yearly passage of the Sun.  It was a short leap to make from assigning letters to the days to assigning rituals to the days, and I ended up in short order making a ritual grammatomantic calendar based on the individual days of the months.  In the past, especially when getting the discipline of mathesis kicked off (which I’m still working on getting back into after so long), the use of the ritual grammatomantic calendar cycle has really helped before.  In short, I’ve termed the whole system of a lunar grammatomantic calendar, with all its prescribed rituals and applications, as the Grammatēmerologion.

There’s an interesting side-effect to how I set up the Grammatēmerologion, however, and one of those side-effects is coming up in short order.  The Grammatēmerologion system includes a way to not only assign the letters of the Greek alphabet to individual days of the lunar month, but also to whole months as well as to whole years.  For instance, this past Noumenia (the first day of the lunar month, starting at the sunrise after the New Moon) had the day letter Α (first day of the lunar month), which started off the month Β (second month in the lunar year) in the year Ε (fifth year of the 38-grammaterological cycle).  This system of day-letters and month-letters can be exploited in a ritual way by using particular days when the day-letter and month-letter are the same.  When the day-letter matches the month-letter, we have what I call a Μεγαλημερα (Megalēmerai), or “Great Day”, a day when the effect of the day-letter upon the world is significantly stronger than it would be in a month when the day-letter does not match the month-letter.  A Megalēmera for any given letter occurs only once every two years since there are twelve (or, sometimes, thirteen) lunar months in a given year, and since there are 24 letters in the Greek alphabet, it takes two years to cycle through all the Greek letters for each lunar month.

As you might have surmised, dear reader, we have just such a Megalēmera coming up on Monday, August 17, the third day of the third lunar month of this year, when both the letter of both the day and month are Γ.  The letter Gamma is associated in the system of grammatomancy with the astrological sign of Taurus, and thus with the goddess Aphrodite according to the Orphic system of zodiacal-theological correspondences.  I would find it an exceptionally fine day to honor Aphrodite on this day for this reason, with the necessary mathetic and ceremonial flairs, of course, and I’d like to talk about just such a ritual.  I already have a framework for a generalized mathetic invocation and offering to the gods, so we’ll use that as a template and build off on that.  After all, if that sort of ritual is good for any ol’ day, then we’ll want to make it comparatively greater to make it fitting for a Great Day.  This is the first time I’ve made any sort of ritual for a Megalēmera, so this is an experimental setup for me, although I think it’s well-grounded enough to be used in the future, as well, with some tweaks here and there based on how this setup goes.

On the day before the Megalēmera (Sunday, August 16), prepare the shrine accordingly if you do not already have one set up.  This should be done at some point before sunrise on the Megalēmera, so it can be done in the wee hours of the dark morning if you can’t do it on the day before, if needed.  The shrine should be left standing until sunrise on the day after the Megalēmera, so that it can be active during the entirety of the Megalēmera.  While we’re setting up the shrine, we’re preparing a suitable basis to honor Aphrodite on the Megalēmera itself, but we’re not making any offerings at this point.  Only the mathetes, or mathetic initiate, is to prepare the shrine, and the mathetes alone.  Other forms of personal preparation, such as fasting, can be done at the mathetes’ discretion.

  1. Before touching or preparing anything, cleanse yourself using khernips.  You’ll be using a lot of it, so make a decent batch for this day.  It helps if you also do all the usual mathetic daily stuff ahead of time to prepare yourself accordingly.
  2. Go outside and find four small pebbles, preferably from a crossroads or a driveway.  Set these aside for now.
  3. Sprinkle khernips around the area and in the air of the area where the shrine will be erected.  Chant “απο απο κακοδαιμονες” (“begone, begone evil spirits”) while doing so.
  4. Obtain an elevated platform, e.g. a table or shelf, that is at least waist-high.  Wash off the surface of the table with khernips.  This will form the foundation of our shrine.
  5. Cover the shrine with a cloth.  For Aphrodite, according to the color scheme I use, I suggest something green, ideally with shades of emerald or reflective green against a solid brighter green.  If you can get something with a floral or organic design or pattern on it, even better.
  6. Obtain an image of Aphrodite; this can be a statue or a framed picture.  Wash off the image in khernips and set it in the middle of the shrine.
  7. Obtain three white candles or clean olive oil lamps, each washed off with khernips.  On each candle or lamp, engrave or write the letter Γ three times.  Set the three candles or lamps around the image of Aphrodite in a triangle, with one behind her and two before her, and light all three.
  8. Set an empty cup or small bowl to the right of the triangle made by the candles, a censer before it, and a vase to the left of it.  Also set three green candles engraved with the word ΑΦΡΟΔΙΤΗΙ (“to Aphrodite”) around the image of Aphrodite, but not where the three white candles are.  Unlike the rest of the offerings, these candles are not to be washed off in khernips.
  9. Anchor the image of Aphrodite in the shrine by performing the Tetractys Meditation.  Modify this, however, in the following way: after visualizing and holding the image of the Tetractys in your mind, project the image onto the surface of the shrine, with Aphrodite standing in the middle of the Tetractys with the three flames at the three outermost pointsof the Tetractys, and connecting the image to the 24 paths of the Tetractys from where she stands in the middle.  Visualize the flames to burn a bright emerald green, and to fill the whole visualization with green light from them through all the paths of the Tetractys into and around the image of Aphrodite.  Fix the visualization as strongly as you can, and silently breathe the name of Aphrodite three times onto the image of Aphrodite on the shrine, fixing the visualization in the material form.
  10. Get those four pebbles you gathered a bit ago, and wash off each in khernips.
  11. Obtain a small cup of wine mixed with a small amount of olive oil.  For each pebble you obtained, dip each pebble in the wine and place them in a row leading towards the shrine.  When placing each pebble, call upon Hermes in the following way:

    Hermes Diaktoros, you are the god of guides and guide of gods, men, spirits, souls, and heroes.
    Hermes Odolysios, you open the doors and clear the roads and smooth the paths.
    Hermes Theogogos, you lead the words and presence of the gods to the world of man.
    Hermes Pompaios, you lead the hearts and minds of men to the world of gods.
    Hermes, open the way for Aphrodite to take her seat here on her throne, that I may honor her as is her due and that I may derive from her the blessing that is my desire.

  12. Take another white candle and wash it off in khernips.  Place this between the shrine and the pebble closest to the shrine.
  13. Take the cup of wine and oil used for the pebbles to the nearest road, along with any remaining khernips.  Throw the wine and oil out into the road as an offering to Hermes, and return home without looking back.  On the way back, sprinkle all the remaining khernips from the road back to your house to cleanse the way for the goddess.

With that, the preparation for the shrine is complete.  Spend some time getting wine, olive oil, incense (I suggest rose mixed with benzoin), flowers (ideally roses, at least red but preferably of three different colors), and any other offerings you might want to make, including jewelry, fruit, honey, sea-water, shells, copper, statuary, and the like.  The candles or lamps are to be left until they burn out, and the proper Megalēmera ritual can only be done after they have done so, so be sure to set up the shrine with enough time beforehand.  When they burn out, remove them from the shrine; beyond this, no further work is to be done between the time the shrine is erected and proper ritual on the Megalēmera.

On the Megalēmera itself, at sunrise, do your normal mathetic ritual daily practice as usual.  Ideally, performing the Megalēmera ritual immediately afterwards would be best, but if not, they can be performed at any time before the next sunrise.  The Megalēmera ritual is to be led by the mathetes, but any others who wish to join in to honor Aphrodite as well may do so, so this can easily become a communal or community ritual or feast.

  1. Open a window or door to allow Aphrodite to enter the shrine.  Even a small crack is sufficient, so long as there’s some way to the outside.  Needless to say, if the shrine has been set up outdoors, then no such step need be taken.
  2. All present are to dress primarily in white, with green or copper accents or jewelry if desired.  Before approaching the shrine, all are to wash off with khernips.  Perform the Tetractys Meditation together.
  3. If desired, in another place nearby facing away from the shrine, make an offering to Hestia in some way one might choose as eldest and youngest of the children of Rhea and Kronos.  This is intended primarily for the more Hellenistic crowd, and is not strictly required according to the practice of mathesis, but may be done if so desired for ritual propriety’s sake.
  4. Sanctify the area of the shrine once more with khernips, by sprinkling khernips around the area and in the air of the area where the shrine is erected while chanting “απο απο κακοδαιμονες” (“begone, begone evil spirits”).
  5. Approach the shrine, and pick up each of the four pebbles one by one that lead up to it.  When all pebbles are picked up, stand up and, with the pebbles in the right hand, call upon Hermes as before.
  6. Place three of the pebbles around Aphrodite at the exact spots where the three candles or lamps stood the day before, i.e. at the three points of the anchoring Tetractys.  When placing each pebble on the shrine, say aloud “Hermes, lead Aphrodite to us”.
  7. Take the fourth pebble and touch the image of Aphrodite with it, and say aloud “Aphrodite, be here with us”.  Place this pebble on the image of Aphrodite or just before the image, touching its base.
  8. Light the white candle and begin the letter chant-meditation on the letter Γ, including a chant for the sacred name of the letter, which for Γ is ΓΕΝΙΟΜΟΥΘΙΓ (Geniomūthig).  Continue this until a desired and sufficient numinous power has been built up for the letter and its associated goddess.
  9. Knock on the shrine and call out the name of Aphrodite three times, then pray her Homeric Hymn.  Either the short hymn (Homeric Hymn #6) or the long hymn (Homeric Hymn #5) may be used, with the very short hymn (Homeric Hymn #10) used only if pressed for time.  Other hymns, such as Proclus’ hymn to Aphrodite or one independently written, may also be used.
  10. Announce yourself fully by your full name, as the child of your parents by their full names, and any mathetic or magical name you may use before the gods.  Announce yourself fully and openly that Aphrodite and all in attendance, whether god or mortal, may know who you are without deceit.  All others may announce themselves to Aphrodite as well, at least using their first names but as openly as they choose to.
  11. Dedicate all offerings to Aphrodite.  Light the three green candles on her altar, followed by the incense which is to be placed in the censer.  Pour out wine, olive oil, fresh water, and honey into the offering cup or bowl for her.  Place flowers in her vase.  Place any other offerings to be dedicated to Aphrodite around her shrine as well.  Only the mathetes is to light the candles and incense and to pour the libation into the cup, but everyone else may give their offerings afterward.  Everything placed on her shrine is to be joined with the words “for Aphrodite on this Great Day”.
  12. All present are to recite the Orphic Hymn to Aphrodite at least once, ideally three times.
  13. After this, the mathetes is to make any supplication, request, personal prayer, or praise of the goddess.  All others in attendance may do the same one by one, with the mathetes standing off to the side and the others stepping before the shrine.  Remember that all prayers are to be said aloud, as is customary for the Greek gods; silence should be reserved for meditation.
  14. Celebrate the Great Day of Gamma by sharing drinks, food, and leisure amongst each other.  Those who wish to do so may meditate in the presence and glory of Aphrodite on her shrine and continue their prayers.  Share her stories, talk about her powers, and do all that may be done to exalt and honor her in her presence.  Additional libations may be made by pouring the first part of one’s drink into her bowl before anything has been drunk from the cup, along with a plate with the first part of all food given to her, if so desired.
  15. When all celebration and meditation is complete, the mathetes is to bring the ritual to a close with all present.  Thank Aphrodite for her presence, blessing, and graces, along with all her divine entourage, and ask her once more to accept all offerings made to her as her gifts and property.  Bid her farewell respectfully, asking that she stay or go as she so desires, and acknowledging that she will be honored again at the proper time after she leaves.
  16. Call out the name of Aphrodite and knock on the altar three times.  Recite the formal close:  “If anything has been done improperly, if anything has been said improperly, let it be as if it were done and said properly.”

After this, the Megalēmera ritual is complete.  After sunrise the next day, long after the candles and incense have burnt out, the shrine is to be dismantled and the image of Aphrodite formally unanchored from the shrine, and all offerings made to her are to be disposed of respectfully.

  1. Once more, prepare another decent batch of khernips, and wash yourself off with it.
  2. Sprinkle khernips on the pebble touching the image of Aphrodite, and in doing so, visualize the light that anchors the image of Aphrodite to the Tetractys dissolving, with the Tetractys and Aphrodite both filled with green light yet as separate entities.  Sprinkle more khernips on each of the three pebbles around the image of Aphrodite at the distant points of the Tetractys, and in doing so, dissolve the paths on the Tetractys into a floating green formless light.  Breathe in the green light that results from this.  Circulate this green light through your body; once you have been “flushed” with this light, breathe it out and into the world.  The image of Aphrodite is to remain filled with green light on its own; the image is to be removed and kept at her usual place, or another permanent shrine may be built for her.
  3. Take the four pebbles and a good amount of khernips and go out to the road, sprinkling khernips before you every step of the way.  Throw the pebbles into the road and any khernips that remains, and thank Hermes for his guidance and help in the worship done the day before.  Alternatively, the four pebbles may be used to build up a herm for Hermes, with the khernips splashed across the herm.
  4. All perishable offerings made to Aphrodite (food, fruit, flowers, waters, libations, etc.) along with any incense ash is to be collected and disposed of respectfully outside.  Any river, beach, or body of water is good to deposit the offerings into; if none of these are possible, they may be deposited at any crossroads after splashing khernips onto the crossroads.
  5. All nonperishable offerings made to Aphrodite (jewelry, stones, metals, pictures, etc.) are to be split evenly between the mathetes and any other person who has a shrine to Aphrodite.  These possessions are Aphrodite’s, not belonging to any mortal, and must remain so.  If there are gifts made that are not accepted by anyone, they are to be respectfully buried outside, either at a crossroads if the Megalēmera ritual was done inside, or on the spot where the Megalēmera ritual was done if it was done outside.
  6. The remainder of the altar is to be sprinkled with khernips, and dismantled and washed in whatever way one may desire.

And that’s it!  I’m looking forward to honoring Aphrodite in this way, and I’d like to see how it plays well with her.  This is something substantially bigger than any weekly or monthly offering I’ve made to her yet, though it follows the same overall format; since I already have a tiny shrine for her in my temple room, I plan on setting up her Megalēmera shrine in a more grand manner in my living room at the center of my house.  Hopefully, I can use this same format for other Megalēmera rituals, and those who can figure these things out can determine how they might be done for other gods and goddesses in the Greek pantheon using the same mathetic format.  While it’d probably be best to honor each and every god for each and every Megalēmera, if I were far more invested in the time and energy to honor the gods as properly as they should be, I’ll really only focus on the ones I’m more intimately connected to, either by spirit or profession or purpose; I don’t plan on throwing twelve Megalēmerai a year, maybe only a handful, depending on the god in question.  Still, such a grand celebration can easily be done as desired for each of the gods that can be associated with the Greek alphabet on these Great Days.

Mathetic Invocation and Offering to the Gods

The last post described a daily practice for people interested in working with mathesis, and how I use it for getting myself in line with the entities and powers present within this system: a meditation on the Tetractys, a meditation on the Greek letter of the day of the lunar month, a grammatomantic divination to plan my day, an offering to the god of the day of the lunar month, a pre-bed invocation of Hermes Oneirodotes for dreams, and a recollection of the day’s events as I go off to sleep.  It’s all fairly simple and I described the method of each, except for one: the offering to the god of the day.  I realize that not everyone has the same offering procedure: some go all-out with the gods with wine and food and the like, some make a quick prayer under their breath as they leave their house for the day, and some fall in-between the two extremes.  I never really offered a method of offering to the gods, so I want to talk about what I do as a template for other mathetai.

While it’d be nice to make awesome offerings to all the gods, that’s pretty much going to be impossible; there were effectively an infinite number of gods back in the old days (not like that’s changed since), with regional rituals differing from polis to polis as they differed from town to town, neighborhood to neighborhood, or even household to household.  Some people hold this god in high esteem, some that god, while nobody seems to really rever this other god even though they have a high mythological stature.  It’s important to honor all the gods, but honoring the gods doesn’t necessarily mean to make offerings or vows to them all; all deities should be honored, but not all deities should be worked with.  We can make a personalized practice and roster of gods by limiting ourselves to the deities have an important role in our lives: major gods relate significantly to our lives’ works, acts, jobs, and activities, while minor gods don’t have much of an active role.  For instance, as a software engineer, Hermes has a huge role in my livelihood, while Demeter doesn’t since I’m not much of a gardener, planter, or farmer.  Zeus as king of the gods has a universal all-ruling aspect to him, but besides honoring him as cosmic king, I’m not much of a prince or ruler besides myself.

Just to clarify: the terminology here of “minor” does not imply a generally unimportant or localized role, like how river gods or gods of a particular grove or street corner might be consider minor.  Rather, “minor” only implies that one doesn’t have much to do with that god, like a software engineer with Demeter or a hippie pacifist with Ares.  When making an offering to a minor god, the minimum we need to do is an invocation of them to praise them for the general work they do in the world and that they continue to bless us, however indirectly, by the people who carry out their work, by their general blessing to make our lives better, and by their presence that we may come to know and honor them more in a better way.  “Major” gods, on the other hand, directly impact our ability to live and prosper in the world, and so we fall much closer to them than the “minor” gods.  Again, the minimum needed for them is prayer, but a much more personal prayer, asking for the blessing of the god as we carry out their work and that we may receive their blessing in the work we do, and by it to

So, how do we know which god to honor on which day?  We use the lunar grammatomantic ritual calendar I developed, where each day of the lunar month is associated with a particular letter of the Greek alphabet.  Each letter can be associated with a stoicheic force, and one or more of the gods can also be associated with a stoicheic force, and so we honor that god/those gods on the day of that letter that shares a stoicheic force with that god/those gods.  So how do we associate the letters with the gods?  Again, let’s use our threefold division of the letters into simple consonants, complex consonants, and vowels:

  • The simple consonants are associated with the twelve signs of the Zodiac.  Cornelius Agrippa corresponds the zodiac signs with the Twelve Olympians (counting Hestia, not Dionysus) in book II, chapter 15.  His method seems a little haphazard, but it works.  Agrippa seems to be using a combination of assigning pairs of gods to opposing signs based on relationship (e.g. Apollo and Artemis, twins, to Gemini and Sagittarius) or pairs of gods to signs ruled by the same planet based on idea (e.g. Athena and Ares, gods of warfare, to the Martial signs Aries and Scorpio).  However, we can expand this list to include closely-associated deities with the Olympians, such as Asklepios with Apollo, Pan with Hermes, Nike with Athena, Eros with Aphrodite, and so forth.
  • The complex consonants are associated with the four elements and the metaelement of Spirit.  Agrippa doesn’t assign these to the Olympian or other gods in his Three Books, although we can assume that the gods of these days directly pertain to the element of the day and, moreover, aren’t among the Olympians.  I’ve settled on giving the letter Psi, associated with the metaelement Spirit, to Dionysus, since he’s the outsider god, able to commingle with gods and men and travel in all places above and below.  Theta, associated with Earth, is given to any divinity of the Earth itself: Gaia, Rhea, and Kybele come to mind, but this also would include any flora or fauna spirits, the fae, gnomes, and other nature spirits of the land, mountains, or forests.  Xi, given to Water and generally falling on the day of the Full Moon, can be used to honor Okeanos, Thetis, or any divinity or spirits of the seas, rivers, or lakes, but I also give this to the underworld gods Hades and Persephone, since deep waters often have chthonic or subterrestrial associations.  Phi, associated with Air, I give to any spirits of the air and the mind, including the Muses and Graces.  Khi, associated with Fire, is given to any spirit of light, fire, the stars, or otherworldly spirits, but given that Khi falls near the end of the month, I also give this to the fiery underworld goddess Hekate.
  • The vowels are associated with the seven planets, and although one could honor the Olympian associated with each planet (e.g. Ares for Mars) or the pair of Olympians associated with the planets by means of their signs (e.g. both Ares and Athena for Mars), I reserve these days for magical operations involving the planets.  Technically, the planets were considered either as the bodies of the Olympians or as titans in their own right, so I don’t really make offerings on these days so much as I call down the forces themselves.  Alternatively, we can associate the planets with the seven directions (north, south, east, west, up, down, beyond) with the different winds (Boreas, Notos, Apeliotes, etc.) or other guardians of the directions (Erbeth, Lerthexanax, Ablanathanalba, etc.) and honor them, too.

However, in our lunar grammatomantic calendar, we also have two other types of days: three days that use the obsolete letters of Digamma, Qoppa, and Sampi; and three days that have no letter at all.

  • The days of obsolete letters are given to our ancestors, heroes, and blessed dead, spiritual entities who are lower than gods and were human but are no longer among the living.  These days have no stoicheic force, but the spirits that guide them are those that helped us become real in our lives; without our ancestors and blessed dead, we literally would not exist.  I generally divide up the spirits of the dead into three categories: Ancestors of Kin (blood-related and otherwise familial ancestors), Ancestors of Work (masters and teachers in one’s studies, profession, traditions, and lineages, both spiritual and mundane), and the Ancestors of the Great (culture and war heroes whose work impacts us today though not directly, as well as all the forgotten dead).  I honor the Ancestors of Kin on the day of Digamma, Ancestors of Work on the day of Qoppa, and the Ancestors of the Great on the day of Sampi.  However, this division is kinda artificial, and it does no harm to honor “the dead” generally on the obsolete letter days.
  • The unlettered days have no offerings prescribed for them.  Moreover, without a letter or stoicheic force or spirit to guide or rule the day, these days are generally considered unlucky and unfit for most spiritual activity.  It’s better to focus on the world itself today and get one’s cleaning, chores, and purification done on these days.  Clean up altars and spiritual spaces, aerate the house, take a good long bath, and the like.

So, my overall ritual calendar (after a bit of fine-tuning) has come to look like this:

Day Letter Stoicheia Observance
1 Α Moon Selene, Hermes, Erbeth, Apeliotes
2 Β Aries Athena, Nike
3 Γ Taurus Aphrodite, Eros
4 Δ Gemini Apollo, Asklepios
5 Ε Mercury Stilbon, Apollo and Demeter, Sesengenbarpharanges, Boreas
6 Ϝ Ancestors of Kin: family, relatives, blood-relatives
7 Ζ Cancer Hermes, Pan
8 Η Venus Hesperos and Phosphoros, Aphrodite and Hephaistos, Ablanathanalba, Zephyros
9 Θ Earth Gaia, Rhea, Kybele, fae, flora, fauna, lands, mountains, forests, etc.
10
11 Ι Sun Helios, Zeus, Lerthexanax, Notos
12 Κ Leo Zeus, Tykhe
13 Λ Virgo Demeter
14 Μ Libra Hephaistos
15 Ν Scorpio Ares
16 Ξ Water Persephone, Hades, Charon, Okeanos, Pontos, Nereus, Tethys, Thetis, bodies of water
17 Ο Mars Pyroeis, Athena and Ares, Damnameneus, Styx
18 Π Sagittarius Artemis
19 Ϙ Ancestors of Work: traditions, professions, lineages, guilds, etc.
20
21 Ρ Capricorn Hestia
22 Σ Aquarius Hera, Hebe, Iris, Eileithyia
23 Τ Pisces Poseidon
24 Υ Jupiter Phaethon, Artemis and Poseidon, Malpartalkho, Agathodaimon, Hyperion
25 Φ Air Spirits of air and sky, Muses, Graces
26 Χ Fire Spirits of fire and light, otherworldly spirits, Hekate, Furies, Asteria
27 Ψ Spirit Dionysos
28 Ω Saturn Phainon, Hera and Hestia, Akrammakhamarei, Ouranos, Kronos, Khronos
29 ϡ Ancestors of the Great: culture heroes, war heroes, forgotten dead
30

Now, while one could adapt this type of lunar grammatomantic calendar to other pantheons, such as the Norse or Egyptian pantheons, I’d question why you’d want to do that.  This is all based on the Greek alphabet, after all, which is tied up culturally and mythologically with the Greek gods.  Before you go saying “Well, Thor is a god of lightning, so he should be given the same day as Zeus or the planet Jupiter!”, you might want to ask Thor whether he’s okay with that.  Heck, even this type of calendar isn’t traditional at all in Hellenismos or attested Greek cultural practice (at least in Ionia, Hermes was honored on the fourth day of the month, not the seventh), but my gods don’t seem to mind it one whit, and they’ve given me the go-ahead to use it in a cohesive system with the rest of my work.  Be respectful when trying to squish systems together.

So, say you’re good to go now with the ritual offering times for the gods based on grammatomancy and the lunar calendar.  Now what?  Now you need to make offerings to the gods, bearing in mind the major/minor distinction from above.  In general, we can use the same format for the individual gods, groups of gods or spirits, ancestors, and planets, although the fine details will differ from each to each.  The general format of offering I do follows the same course:

  1. Preparation of ritual space.  It’s important to maintain a proper sacred ritual space to invite the god into, and this usually consists of sprinkling a small amount of holy water or khernips (ancient Hellenic lustral water), around the area chanting “απο απο κακοδαιμονες” (“begone, begone evil spirits”).  I also make sure the lighting is right, not too bright but usually not completely dark, and I always make sure there exists an open window or doorway leading outside for the god to come into the room; of course, if you’re doing this outside, there’s no need for that last part.  Also, always involve Hermes into your worship; after all, he is the messenger of the gods and goes between the gods and mortals, and helps to ferry our prayers and offerings to them, and their messages and blessings to us.  Call upon him as Hermes Odolysios, Hermes the Road-Opener, before calling upon the god properly.
  2. Initial invocation of the god.  At this stage, I open up the ritual by singing the Homeric Hymn to the god (usually if there exists a short one), or some other personalized invocation to the god to invite them to the ritual space.  This sets the mood and formally announces to the gods that I’m calling upon them to receive my offering.  I also ask them to be present to accept the offerings and devotion that follow in a gesture of goodwill and grace.
  3. Announcement of the officiant by name.  I announce myself fully so that the god knows who’s making offerings to them.  I declare myself by my full name, being a child of my parents called by their full names, and I also announce any magical or working names I may be using so that the god knows who I am openly and without deceit.
  4. Dedication of offerings.  This is the part where I offer candles, incense, wine, oil, water, food, statues, or whatever I feel is good to give to the god.  For some of my shrines, I dedicate new altarpieces and nondisposable votive offerings during this point, but this is a once-in-a-while thing.  Usually, it’s just a liquid libation paired with at least one candle and one stick of incense.
  5. Singing of hymns.  I usually dedicate the singing of a hymn, such as one of the Orphic Hymns, as part of the offerings being one of praise and honor, but sometimes this accompanies the offerings in fulfilling a different role, something that blends both the previous step of dedication and the next step of supplication together.
  6. Supplication and meditation.  After I make my offerings, I request the blessing of the god in whatever senses I may need, or I may just sit back and chill in the presence of the god, meditating in their presence, conversing with them, learning from them, and the like.
  7. Closure of the invocation.  I thank the god for their presence and for having accepting the offerings prepared for them, and I use the Roman closing supplication of “if anything was said improperly, if anything was done improperly, let it be as if it were done correctly” from the Iguvine Tablets.  I bid farewell to the god respectfully, bidding them to go or depart as they choose to but acknowledging that they will be honored again at a proper time.

Optionally, if you’re of a more traditional bent, you might also consider making a preliminary and concluding offering to Hestia.  In Hellenismos and ancient Greek reconstruction paganism, Hestia is given the first and final offering every time a god is made an offering to, since she’s both the first-born of Gaia and last-saved from Kronos (and, in a sense, last-born), and most altars of the gods doubled as hearths for the family.  I don’t do this, and you can read more about my own work with Hestia in an older blog post, but it’s something to consider.

Just a note: whenever possible, the prayers and invocations and whatever should be spoken aloud, at least loud enough for you to hear yourself clearly.  It was traditional practice in ancient Greece that prayers were meant to be spoken aloud, that even if the gods are, y’know, gods, they aren’t necessarily omniscient or mind-readers.  Be direct and clear with the gods, speak your mind (respectfully, of course).  Indeed, Sophocles in his tragedy Electra has Clytemnestra (not a good person, thus her actions in the play are against common practice) pray to Apollo (who is certainly not on her side) in silence and obscurity rather than being outspoken and direct as a way to suggest that such prayer is badly done:

Raise then, my handmaid, the offerings of many fruits, that I may uplift my prayers to this our king, for deliverance from my present fears. Lend now a gracious ear, O Pheobus our defender, to my words, though they be dark; for I speak not among friends, or is it meet to unfold my whole thought to the light, while she stands near me, lest with her malice and her garrulous cry she spread some rash rumour throughout the town: but hear me thus, since on this wise I must speak.

That vision which I saw last night in doubtful dreams—if it hath come for my good, grant, Lycean king, that it be fulfilled; but if for harm, then let it recoil upon my foes. And if any are plotting to hurl me by treachery from the high estate which now is mine, permit them not; rather vouchsafe that, still living thus unscathed, I may bear sway over the house of the Atreidae and this realm, sharing prosperous days with the friends who share them now, and with those of my children from whom no enmity or bitterness pursues me.

O Lycean Apollo, graciously hear these prayers, and grant them to us all, even as we ask! For the rest, though I be silent, I deem that thou, a god, must know it; all things, surely, are seen by the sons of Zeus.

Just…just speak your prayers aloud, please.  You don’t need your son killing you with the blessing of the god you’re invoking because you decided to sleep with another man and want to hide it from the gods and other people around you for the sake of saving face.

So, let’s give some examples of worship.  As might be guessed, Hermes is one of my “major” gods, being my patron generally as well as the patron of mathesis specifically, so I make offerings to him not just on his day of the lunar month but also lesser observances every Wednesday (the day of Mercury of the week), but let’s focus on what I do for his major offerings.  Note that I have a shrine set up for Hermes, but you may not need one; it’s up to you, but I make full use of my shrines for my gods whenever possible.  If you read closely into the following, you’ll catch snippets of the phrasing I use with the gods and can apply them as easily in your own offerings.

  1. At sunrise (or whenever I can), I ritually prepare his shrine by sprinkling holy water around it, and I open the window in my temple room.  I set out four tealights anointed with a special kind of oil, and a stick each of frankincense, cinnamon, and sandalwood incense.  I pour out his offering bowl of wine and clean it out, if needed, and pour in fresh wine and a dallop or so of good quality olive oil.  I don a special orange silk scarf I use when doing my Hermaic priestly stuff, and I take up my ritual caduceus staff.  Since this is the offering to Hermes himself, I don’t really need to have him open the roads for his own reverence, though it can’t hurt if you so choose to do this.
  2. I knock on the shrine four times (four being the number of Hermes) and I recite a personal prayer I wrote to Hermes as well as the shorter Homeric Hymn to Hermes (#18).  I call out for Hermes by several of his epithets and roles, and I call for his presence with me
  3. I announce myself to Hermes as his priest, servant, dedicant, and devotee by my full name, my parents’ names, my magical names and mottoes, and that I have come to make him offerings in a spirit of love, thanks, honor, glory, and joy.
  4. I dedicate the candles to him burning for his honor, glory, exaltation, enlightenment, and empowerment, asking that as the candles shine their light upon the room, so too may he shine his light on my paths and empower and enlighten me.  I dedicate the incense to him burning that it may fortify, sate, and cheer him, asking that as the incense rises to fill up the room, so too may he fill up my body, soul, spirit, and mind with his blessing and essence of his divinity and presence that I may be initiated deeper into his presence and mysteries.  I dedicate the wine mixed with oil to him that it may refresh, please, and satisfy him, asking that as the libation has been poured out to him, so too may he pour his spirit into my life that I may be blessed completely by him in all aspects.
  5. I recite the Orphic Hymn to Hermes reverently, seeking that as my words ring out in the air, so too might they ring out throughout the entire world that all people may come to honor and revere Hermes.
  6. I ask for the blessing of Hermes in my life: skill in my profession, guidance when traveling, sharpness in thought, swiftness in talk, protection in work, proficiency in Work, and that he help me communicate and commune with all the other gods, as well as leading me through the mysteries of mathesis as he and I are both able.  I ask him for his guidance on any specific matters that might come to mind, and I generally chat and enjoy time with him, meditating in his light and power.
  7. I thank Hermes for his presence, for he has come as I called and aided me as I asked.  As he has come to receive these offerings, I bid him farewell; he can go as he will or stay as he will, but I leave him letting him know that he will always have a place of honor and respect in my life and in his shrine, and that if anything was done improperly, if anything was said improperly, let it be as if it were done and said properly.

Now, what about a “minor” god?  Let’s pick Demeter, the goddess of fields and produce of all plants, who although I rely upon for sustenance and survival, I don’t much deal with directly.  The format is overall the same but is much more pared-down; while an offering to a “major” god for me can last half an hour or more, a “minor” god’s offering can be as short as three or five minutes.

  1. At sunrise (or whenever I can), I ritually prepare a clean, raised space in my temple room by sprinkling holy water around it, and I open the window in my temple room.  I don’t usually make offerings of light, incense, or libations to gods I don’t have much of a relationship with, though if I feel moved to do so, I’ll set out a tealight, a stick of generic temple incense, and a clean glass of pure water or wine without oil.  I knock on the altar once and call upon Hermes Odolysios to be present with me and to clear the path from me to Demeter and from Demeter to me so as to allow my prayer to be heard and my offering to be received.
  2. I invoke the presence and blessing of Demeter to be with me in my life, to nurture me, and to help me honor her more fully as a human who relies upon the gods for his survival.
  3. I announce myself by my full name as a child of my parents, and that I have come to make her offerings in a spirit of love, thanks, honor, glory, and joy.
  4. I dedicate my praise to Demeter much as I would to Hermes, but without expectation or asking for reciprocal blessing; rather, I’m giving her offerings for her own sake and honor.
  5. I recite the Orphic Hymn to Demeter reverently in the same way I would Hermes’.  If a particular god lacks a hymn, I generally praise them however I can with whatever comes to mind, or I just sit in contemplation of their presence singing a Hymn of Silence focused on them.  Even then, if a god does have a specific hymn, I often just get by with a Hymn of Silence and contemplation with them praising them in silence.
  6. I ask for the blessing of Demeter generally, that she use her powers to help me in my life as I need them, and that I may come to be more aware of her work and her workers in the world that I may come to honor her more and more suitably.
  7. I thank Demeter for her presence, for she has come as I called and aided me as I asked.  As she has come to receive these offerings, I bid her farewell; she can go as she will or stay as he will, but I leave her letting her know that I will honor her again, and that if anything was done improperly, if anything was said improperly, let it be as if it were done and said properly.

Overall, all my offerings go mostly the same, though the prayers and specific offerings might differ.  Some gods prefer food, and I like offering fresh apples to Aphrodite; some gods like something done to one of the things on their altar, like making a notch in a specific wooden figure every month.  My ancestors get separate glasses of wine, water, and rum, and I also pray the Chaplet for the Dead, sing the Mourner’s Kaddish, and meditate with them while I play the Eggun song used in Santeria.  I rarely make offerings to the planets themselves, instead using the Orphic Hymns for their respective Olympian figures while I work with the planetary angels from my Hermetic/Trithemian work to honor and invoke their presence and powers in my life.  While my calendar may seem full, I only make major offerings to a very small subset of them based on the work I do, and I generally pare down my offerings to the minor gods to just a quick acknowledgment on mornings I’m busy.  It’s the major gods I work with who get focused offerings, after all.

So what happens if you happen to miss a day of offerings?  Let’s say it’s the day of Kappa, where one honors Zeus, and you have Zeus as a major god in your personal practice.  You get up early to make offerings at sunrise, only to remember that you have extra work to do in the office and need to leave early to make it home as you normally would, so you say that you’ll make offerings to Zeus when you get home.  However, despite leaving early, your day has still more work than you expected, and on the way home there’s a nasty traffic accident blocking the roads that makes you even later getting home.  By the time you get home, it’s already your bedtime, so you simply didn’t have time to make offerings.  In this case, you could simply pare down the major offering to a minor one during a few moments of silence or peace in the office, or do it right before you make your nightly supplication for dreams from Hermes; if you can’t manage that, try making the offering the next day, or at least on the next day you’d honor the ancestors.  So long as you catch up on the ritual sometime by the following unlettered day, you should be good, but this doesn’t give you a blank check to procrastinate on making offerings.  Whenever you can, always make at least one minor offering a day to the god, gods, or spirits of the day, no matter how rushed or quick.  Always acknowledge the gods each and every day; that’s the important bit here.  If you can’t afford the time or materials to make a major offering, don’t, but always try to make some kind of invocation to the gods as an offering of praise and honor.

One of the takeaways from all of this is that, for the mathetai, Hermes becomes a major god for us all, uniting us as being his students; we’d be οι μαθεται του Ερμου, after all, the disciples of Hermes, so it’s proper to honor him as a major god for us in mathesis.  Beyond Hermes, however, I can make arguments for all the others gods being both major or minor depending on what you do in your life, but for the purposes of mathesis, Hermes takes a central focus.  If you already have a relationship with Hermes, consider bumping it up by making more offerings to him, at least once a month (either on the seventh day of the lunar grammatomantic month or the fourth day of the traditional Ionian lunar month), but maybe a “minor” god-type of offering to him as well every Wednesday as you can.

Hestia and Me

A large part of my devotional activities focus on working with the Greek gods.  This goes well beyond Hermes, of course, though he does take up the major focus of my work between the new field of mathesis as well as being the god of guides and a guide of gods, men, spirits, souls, and heroes.  I also honor Aphrodite, who’s arguably my celestial mother in astrological terms, as well as Hephaistos for my crafting work, and Dionysos because he came into my life for an as-yet unclear purpose and who am I to turn down He Who Comes?  There are yet other gods I honor and work with, enough so that it helped me out to develop a ritual calendar for making monthly offerings based on lunar cycles and grammatomancy.

One of the gods who made that list is the hearth goddess Hestia, lady of the hearth flame and arguably the definition of domestic deity, whose name itself literally means “hearth”.  Hestia is a daughter of Kronos and Rhea, of the same generation of Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Demeter, and Hades.  She is probably the least dramatic of all the Olympians, not having many stories of her exploits since she didn’t really have any, and the only one that comes to mind is how she got her position as goddess of the hearth.  Basically, Apollo and Poseidon both wanted her hand in marriage, but she wanted nothing of them nor of marriage in general, and so begged Zeus to remain a virgin all her days; Zeus agreed, and instead of giving her in marriage gave to her the hearth of the gods and, thus, of all mankind.  And since in older times the hearth was the focal point of domestic life, providing warmth and light and food and protection for the family, Hestia became the goddess of all of these.

Moreover, as the household hearth was also often the shrine to nearly all the other household gods, as much as it was in Greece as it was in Rome, Hestia presided over all offerings and worship made at her hearth.  Indeed, since she was both first-born of the original six Olympians as well as last-born (recall how Zeus ripped out or forced his father Kronos to vomit his other children, and how Hestia was eaten first and therefore escaped last), it was custom for Hestia to receive both the first offering and last offering made at any ancient Greek ritual.  Going to a scale larger than the family, Hestia was often viewed as the goddess of the city hearth itself, with a central fire from which all other hearts burned and took their fire, and from which other colonies of a given city could trace their hearthfires back to as well.  Even more unusual for a Greek deity, she had no processions of her own, no parades to celebrate her; as the hearth was an immovable part of the household, so too was Hestia’s worship and honor solely situated on the hearth itself.  In spite of Hestia’s lack of epic poetry or exploitations, she’s kind of a big deal to the ancients.

I associate Hestia, according to Agrippa (book II, chapter 14), with the zodiacal sign of Capricorn, and thus with the Greek letter Rho according to the stoicheia of the letters.  Her day is the 21st day of the lunar month, which I would normally set aside to make special offerings for her as I do the other gods, but Hestia is different in many ways.  In fact, up until earlier this year, I didn’t really honor Hestia at all.  Sure, there was the genius domus and genius loci, the spirits of the house and land where I lived, and I referred to them as “children” of Hestia and Gaia, and worked with them to make my residence better for myself and my neighbors.  That said, there was no real hearth to the place; it was a second-story apartment in a suburb of DC, our living room was nearly bare and only my roommate spent any amount of time in it, and our kitchen was small and cramped.  It was only when I moved to my new house this year that I decided to formally welcome Hestia into my life and my new house, especially since this new house has an actual wood stove placed against a stone wall with built-in stone shelves.

Now, before I proceed any further, let it be known that while I work with and honor the Greek gods, I am not a Hellenist in the sense of belonging to Hellenismos, the Greek neopagan reconstructionist religion.  I do not follow all the rules and customs that survive to us from ancient writings, nor do I follow the rules and customs of other Hellenistic communities; I generally do my own thing, inspired by the rules and customs as well as by my own experience and interactions with the gods themselves.  After all, times and cultures change, and it’s a given that most traditions change with them.  I’d love to make more offerings of piglets and pigeons to Hermes and Hephaistos, for instance, though I need to build and consecrate a proper altar outside for that, and most neopagans would revile me for even entertaining the thought of blood sacrifice, though I have nothing against it.

Though I live with my fiancé and our mutual close friend, none of us are particularly into cooking large meals.  When we cook at all, we tend to cook for our individual selves, and regardless of whether we cook for ourselves or for all of us, we do it in the kitchen with our fancy modern stove and oven and microwave and cooking supplies.  We don’t use our woodstove to cook (though we may experiment with it foolishly come the winter), nor do we keep it burning (we’ve not used it yet and should probably get the chimney cleaned first), nor do we rely on it for warmth (we have a HVAC system for that) nor for light (since we have electric lightbulbs and not torches or firepits).  We live out in the country, so there’s no big municipal center with its own central hearth, since hearths and common grounds both are generally missing in most of modern urban, suburban, exurban, or rural America.  Even if there were a local community hearth fire, I strongly doubt most people in this neck of the woods would think to honor an ancient Greek goddess with any amount of reverence.  Most of how the ancient Greeks honored Hestia simply doesn’t work for me, and indeed, most of the relevance Hestia had to the ancient Greeks is missing for me.

Still, that doesn’t mean I should just ignore Hestia; she’s an Olympian for a reason, after all, and although many of the amenities of houses have changed, the things for which she stands never have.  We still need light, heat, and food, which Hestia provides through an old-fashioned hearth or through modern lightbulbs and HVAC systems and ovens.  We still need shelter, protection, and a place to call “home”, which Hestia abundantly provides.  We still need a place to gather and celebrate our lives and rituals, which Hestia allows us to do.  Hestia, though she is the goddess of the hearth which is becoming rarer and rarer to find these days in active use, is also the goddess of the home generally, and we definitely have one of those.  It is thus right for me to honor Hestia, giving her a spot to call her own, her own simple shrine in the place she’d feel most comfortable and honored: right by our fireplace.  At the very minimum, I acknowledge her every day as the goddess of the hearth, house, and home itself, and thank her for letting me live there and watching over the house.

Still, I don’t honor Hestia as the ancients did, nor how Hellenists tend to do.  For one, Hestia is an outlier to me; she was one of the original Olympians, yes, but recall that there are 12 Olympians.  There’s Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Aphrodite, Hephaistos, Ares, Athena, Apollo, Artemis, Hermes, and Demeter, who form 11 of the 12, but there’s both Hestia and Dionysos to deal with.  Although we don’t have a surviving story that says as much, it’s believed that Hestia gave up her seat at the table of the Olympians to give to Dionysos when he was (re)inducted into the Olympian ranks; Hestia did this to prevent upsetting a balance or causing drama, always the arbiter of peace and prosperity in the home, and took her eternal place by the hearth of the gods.  Likewise, I have my temple room on the other side of the house from the hearth where I do all my spiritual work, with all my shrines and altars and prayer tools.  Hestia, on the other hand, is separated from all that, kept by the fireplace in the living room, isolated from both my spiritual work as well as that of my fiancé and housemate.  My gods are not the household gods, and they’re kept in their own little temenos apart from the public spaces in the house.

Further, while my other gods get their monthly offerings (or, depending on the god, weekly), and although Hestia has a day set aside for her in my lunisolar grammatomantic ritual calendar, I do something different and make offerings to Hestia much more frequently.  I buy novena-like 8″ glass-jar candles from the dollar store near where I live in bulk, and they last about 5 days each; I keep one burning for Hestia at her shrine, and when it goes out, I light her another one along with making her an offering of wine, oil, and incense, and sing out her Orphic Hymn and (short) Homeric Hymn.  The only other shrines I light this type of candle for are my primary devotional altar (which serves as a symbol of the Eternal Infinite Light of God) and for my ancestors, though neither shrine gets special offerings when I light them a new candle (the ancestors have their own trimonthly schedule of offerings).  Hestia gets a large amount of attention from me every five days or so, amounting to about six offerings a month, which is more than the other gods.  Even Hermes gets weekly offerings in addition to his larger monthly offerings, so about five offerings a month.

That said, I’ve only recently started up the process of making an obligatory initial offering to Hestia before the monthly offerings of my other gods.  Before I do any offerings to, say, Zeus on his day of the month, I set out a small amount of wine and oil by her image, thanking her for allowing me a place to live, love, rest, relax, and honor the gods, then I go back to my temple and resume my usual song and dance.  This doesn’t apply to my weekly offerings; those I find more intimate, casual, and off-the-cuff with individual deities I share a very close relationship with, and not everyone gets both a weekly and monthly offering.  Overall, making a preliminary offering to Hestia is a nice gesture, and it helps me prepare myself mentally to do anything else with the gods.  Sure, it’s a little more wine and oil spent, but it’s worth it.  I don’t, however, make her an offering after my other monthly stuff; it suffices for us that she get the first pour of wine.  Plus, this only applies when I’m working with the Greek gods; different traditions necessitate different rules, and some traditions (like Santeria) specify that one of their deities must be fed first; in order to prevent a conflict of interest when one might arise, I keep Hestia before offerings to Greek gods and other deities before gods of their own kind.  (This is one of the problems with having your fingers in so many spiritual pots.)

When it comes to food, well, none of us are big cookers or bakers, though we are known to prepare some large dishes from time to time, or host an occasional dinner party.  When we produce a large amount of food (and I’m talking something substantially more than a pot of macaroni and cheese for an after-work dinner), we set aside small portions for our ancestors, and I set aside another small portion for Hestia.  After all, if the hearth is where food is cooked, then it can be argued that the kitchen is one such hearth for us, and since Hestia allows us a home to live in and cooked food to live on, it’s proper to honor her too.  This follows no schedule, of course, beyond whenever we happen to make a large amount of food or bake a loaf of bread.  When it’s time for the food to be removed, a day or more after I make the offerings, I do with the food the same as I do all the other spiritual offerings; throw it into the pit in my backyard.  That way, we feed the land with the actual material food, which in turn provides more for us both materially and spiritually and helps out the fae and other flora and fauna, both physical and metaphysical, in our area.  In other words, we compost.

Of course, Hestia isn’t the only household spirit we work with.  As I mentioned, we have a big fae population where we live out in the woods, and we feed the fae once in a while, perhaps giving them offerings of their choice (usually red wine and berries with whipped cream).  Plus, in addition to Hestia, I also have a household guardian, a coywolf spirit I’ve been working with for some time now.  The coywolf gets offerings along with Hestia, and a smaller candle lit just for her.  If we get other spirits who decide to take up residence with us as household spirits or guardians, we’ll likewise honor them in a similar way; that said, I don’t exactly intend to call on them the same way as I did the genii I did in my old flat; Hestia and the coywolf guardian suffice for my needs.  It’s not like I need to ask them for much, either; they keep the household running safely and soundly, and all goes well.  When I offer a candle to Hestia, I often dress the candle with oils that encourage peace, prosperity, and fortune in the home for me and my housemates.

So, when I actually do make offerings to Hestia, what is it I seek from her?  I mean, honoring the gods in and of itself is a virtue that should be inculcated, but in my Hermetic and Hermaic mind, nearly all worship and honor is a transaction.  Of course I honor her because she’s Hestia, but I also honor her to ask for her blessing.  When it comes to Hestia, I think my goals are pretty straightforward: I want to live in a place that is safe, stable, and secure from those who would try to harm me intentionally or unintentionally; I want to live in a place that helps me obtain peace, prosperity, and protection from the world, both natural and humane; I want to live in a place that gives me tranquility and takes away tension.  I want a place where I can live, learn, love, rest, relax, study, store my belongings.  I want a place where I don’t have to be evicted or come under threat of it.  I want a place that won’t be destroyed by plague, earthquake, fire, or flood.  I want a place where I can be warm when it’s cold, cool when it’s hot, dry when it’s raining, fed when I’m hungry, rested when I’m fatigued, and safe when I’m persecuted.  I want a place to call home.

Of all the sacred places in ancient Greek thought, from Gibraltar in the West to the Indus in the East and all the shrines and temples in between, probably the most sacred one of them is the oikos, the home itself, which itself is the sanctuary beyond all sanctuaries and temple beyond all temples, the one to which we ourselves belong.  Hestia has much to provide for us, even in our day and age.

Lunar Grammatomantic Ritual Calendar

About a year ago, I first encountered grammatomancy, the Greek alphabet oracle, and just took it and ran with it.  I do a Daily Grammatomancy on Facebook and Twitter (or, at least, mostly daily, excepting days I’m off work or am not up for it), and I’ve even written an ebook on the topic that correlates the Greek letters to the different forces of astrology, the Greek gods, the angels, and many others.  Later on last year, based on my inspiration with my daily grammatomancy reading and watching a friend use the Mayan calender system for divination, I toyed around with the idea of applying the Greek alphabet oracle to a calendrical system of its own, making two variants:

Of the two, the lunisolar one is the more easily approachable and immediately recognizable as a calendar that the ancients might conceivably have used, especially when considered against the highly mathematical and rigorous solar variant.  Of course, the ancient Greeks had their own calendars, with the ritual ones largely based on the cycle of the Moon, so it made sense for me to base my lunisolar grammatomantic calendar on such a system, and given that the most data we have on such calendars comes from Athens and Attic culture, I based my calendar on the Attic lunar festival calendar.  The Attic calendar had several feasts and ritual days scattered throughout the month based on the myths of the gods, such as Hermes on the fourth day of the month, Apollo on the seventh, and so forth.  By straightforwardly connecting the letters of the Greek alphabet in my lunisolar grammatomantic calendar to the lunar festival calendar of Attica, we get something like the following:

Day
Name
Letter
Festival
1
New Moon
Α
Noumenia
2
2nd rising
Β
Agathos Daimon
3
3rd rising
Γ
Athena
4
4th rising
Δ
Heracles, Hermes, Aphrodite, Eros
5
5th rising
Ε
6
6th rising
Ϝ
Artemis
7
7th rising
Ζ
Apollo
8
8th rising
Η
Poseidon, Theseus
9
9th rising
Θ
10
10th rising
11
11th
Ι
12
12th
Κ
13
13th
Λ
14
14th
Μ
15
15th
Ν
16
16th
Ξ
Full Moon
17
17th
Ο
18
18th
Π
19
19th
Ϙ
20
earlier 10th
21
later 10th
Ρ
22
9th waning
Σ
23
8th waning
Τ
24
7th waning
Υ
25
6th waning
Φ
26
5th waning
Χ
27
4th waning
Ψ
28
3rd waning
Ω
29
2nd waning
Ϡ
Omitted in hollow months
30
Old and New
— (Ϡ if hollow month)

Pretty simple.  A civilized calendar for a more civilized age, I suppose, but it’s a little lacking for me.  I mean, it clusters most observances in the first week or so of the month with little to do later, and most of the gods and heroes it includes I simply…don’t work with.  I mean, my practice is going to necessarily be different than those of the classical Athenians even if I base some of my work off them, so it makes sense.  I recall Sannion developing his own calendar and observance cycle based on his own practice in the vein of a new system, which I believe (though he can correct me if I’m wrong) he’s using for his Thiasos of the Starry Bull; making a ritual calendar fine-tuned to one’s own practice, I believe, is a helpful thing indeed, and a few stray comments on Twitter inspired me to take a closer look at my own calendrical observances and system.  I mean, I have a ritual schedule in place, though it’s also all over the place, with daily, weekly, monthly, lunar-monthly, yearly, seasonal, and astrological observances, and honestly, it’s a mess.  Add to it, my day-to-day life with offices and commuting and aikido classes takes up a significantly large chunk of my time, and it’s not always possible to follow through with the plans I set for myself at the beginning of the year based on what else I need to do and how much sleep I can get (which is, as ever, not enough).

In my ebook on grammatomancy, I linked the letters of the Greek alphabet to the various gods of Greek religion based on their stoicheic correspondences of the elements, planets, and signs.  And since I also linked the letters to the days of the lunar month, it makes sense that I could link the gods to the days of the lunar month, as well.  However, so that it could suffice for me as a proper lunar grammatomantic ritual calendar, I also wanted to add in things specific to my practice or modern practice, such as a day to venerate the ancestors and mighty dead, a day to celebrate other forces that aren’t specifically gods, and the like.

  • For any given letter and its singular stoicheic correspondence, there are usually multiple gods that correspond to it; for instance, Khi, associated with Fire, can be attributed to Rhea, Hephaistos, Hekate, or Hestia equally well.  I associate each day with one god, perhaps with a closely-associated figure, such as Hermes with his son Pan, or a group of gods or spirits as a class.
  • Some of the days of the month are significant purely for their lunar symbolism, such as the dates of the New Moon, Dark Moon, and Full Moon.  Other rituals happen on these dates, but are not specifically nor necessarily associated with the celebration of a particular god.
  • Days of the month that have no letters associated with them (days 10, 20, and the final day in full months) have no rituals associated with them.  No letter, no stoicheia, no gods, no ritual.  These are basically dedicated break days, a kind of sabbath, or they can be used to clean up offerings and rituals from the preceding decade of days or prepare for the next.
  • Three days of the month (days 6, 19, and 29) are given the obsolete Greek letters Digamma, Qoppa, and Sampi.  These letters have no stoicheic correspondence, nor do they have any gods associated with them.  Since they were pirits of light, shadow, and the starsonce used and inherited from the Phoenicians, however, while they may be effectively missing from use, they’re not forgotten.  I’ve given these days to the ancestors, whom I divide into three groups: Ancestors of Kin (those related by name, family, marriage, and blood), of Faith (those of spiritual lineage, teachers, prophets, and tradition founders), and of the Great (culture heroes, saints, and other great people whose work has benefited our lives).
  • Although it might be expected that the seven days that have the seven vowels associated to them (days 1, 5, 8, 11, 17, 24, and 28) would be given to the gods that equate to the planets (such as Hermes for Epsilon on day 5), I normally invoke and make offerings to the planets on their corresponding days of the week (which is an unrelated cycle to this calendar).  Instead, I mark these days by honoring a set of powers I call “Guardians of the Directions”, kinda like Watchtowers of Enochiana or Archangels in the LBRP, but associated with the seven directions (east, south, west, north, above, center, below).  These are from my PGM explorations and daily energy work, which I’ve mentioned before, but they’re quite powerful forces in their own rights.  The Guardian at the center I associate with the word of power ΜΑΛΠΑΡΤΑΛΧΩ, or “MALPARTALKHŌ”, a word I’ve received for this direction when I don’t want to use my own Agathodaimon/HGA name, though it refers to the Agathodaimon generally.  These forces are closer to the earth than some of the other gods, and certainly closer than the seven planets, yet still distinct from the world itself and its own sets of spirits.  Their letter correspondences come from the directions one faces when working with the powers of the seven planets, themselves associated with the seven vowels, according to a ritual from the PGM that I’ve adapted to my own uses.  These seven powers, as the seven planets or seven archangels, form a synaxis, a coherent and unified group, that work together, so I figured I should recognize them and elaborate on their places in my life a little more than I do currently.  Sets of gnostic aeons, the seven planets as gods in their own rights (perhaps as titans?), the seven Sages of Greece, or similar entities might similarly be worshipped on these days, but I figure that the Guardians are good for now.
  • Although I tried to keep the five elemental letters associated with things close to their elements, these are basically the catch-all days for groups of spirits or deities, with the exception of Psi, given to Dionysus, since Psi’s associated stoicheion is spirit, not quite an element but not quite a celestial force, either, perfect for the god as I see it.
Day
Name
Letter
Festival
1
New Moon
Noumenia
Α
Erbeth
2
2nd rising
Β
Athena
Nike
3
3rd rising
Γ
Aphrodite
Eros
4
4th rising
Δ
Apollo
Asklepios
5
5th rising
Ε
Lerthexanax
6
6th rising
Ϝ
Ancestors of Kin
7
7th rising
Ζ
Hermes
Pan
8
8th rising
Η
Ablanathanalba
9
9th rising
Θ
Gaia and Oceanos
Spirits of land and water
10
10th rising
11
11th
Ι
Sesengenbarpharanges
12
12th
Κ
Zeus
Tykhe
13
13th
Λ
Demeter
14
14th
Μ
Hephaistos
15
15th
Ν
Ares
16
16th
Full Moon
Ξ
Persephone
Hades
17
17th
Ο
Damnameneus
18
18th
Π
Artemis
19
19th
Ϙ
Ancestors of Faith
20
earlier 10th
21
later 10th
Ρ
Hestia
Spirits of house and home
22
9th waning
Σ
Hera
23
8th waning
Τ
Poseidon
24
7th waning
Υ
Agathodaimon
25
6th waning
Φ
Nine Muses
Three Graces
26
5th waning
Χ
Hekate
Three Moirai
Three Erinyes
27
4th waning
Ψ
Dionysus
28
3rd waning
Ω
Akrammakhamarei
29
2nd waning
Ϡ
Ancestors of the Great
(day omitted in hollow months)
30
Old and New
Dark Moon

(Ϡ if hollow month)

(Ancestors of the Great if hollow month)

So, as a ritual calendar, that’s not too shabby.  It’s busy looking, of course, and if I were to give timai (honor, worship, service, etc.) to all the gods and spirits here listed, I’d be wrecking myself with overwork and more wine poured out than I could afford.  Happily for my health, that’s not the case, since I don’t give timai to all the gods.  I only wanted to show what a full ritual calendar made for my practice might look like theoretically; in practice, I’d make services only for those deities and spirits I work with or involve in my life.  This isn’t to say I don’t respect, say, Artemis or Ares, but I don’t involve them in my life as much as a hunter or a warrior would.  Plus, if I started working with a new god in this scheme, I’d already have a day allotted for them instead of having to cram them haphazardly into my schedule, which is my current MO and not a very good one at that.

So, given this schema, I’d be doing my daily offerings to the angels and planets as usual.  I’d be making offerings to the ancestors three days of the lunar month, plus the seven Guardians of the Directions; I’d also be making offerings to Hermes, Asklepios, and Dionysus as I do now, and I plan on working Aphrodite, Hestia, and Hephaistos into my routine.  At a minimum, then, I’d be making these special offerings 16 days of the 29- or 30-day lunar month, which’d increase to 21 days if I also include offerings to some of the other deities I’d like to work with once in a while: Zeus, the Muses and Graces, Hekate with the Erinyes and Moirai, Persephone and Hades, and the spirits of land and water.  It’d be a busy schedule, granted, but at least I’d have a good schedule to work with the gods in, and I could give them the time they need alone and separate from the others instead of being crammed in with a bunch of spirits on a Monday night after groceries when I have time.

The schema would indicate I’m focused on the Olympian gods in my worship, but that’s not entirely true; I only work with a handful of them, and their associations come from their links to the signs of the Zodiac, which I’ve associated with the “simple” consonants of the Greek alphabet (those except for Theta, Ksi, Phi, Khi, and Psi).  If a particular god, deity, or spirit has some sort of connection to one of these gods, or if they fall under the same realm, I might use the Greek grammatomantic day above to work with them if I can.  Also, of course, this only would be used for routine regular offerings, like what I do currently.  Yearly festivals, special observances, and the like are on their own cycle; the yearly Hermaia would still be kept on the fourth day of the tenth lunar month after the summer solstice, for instance, and so that would coincide technically with that month’s Apollo/Asklepios offerings.  Plus, I’d keep this system separate from the weekdays, which I use to work with the angels, saints, and other spirits that aren’t like the Greek gods or Hermetic ideas.

And, if I really wanted to get crazy with this, I could even tune this schedule into a straight 24-cycle of gods to worship all within a single day.  By taking a page out from my solar grammatomantic calendar idea, we can associate each of the 24 hours (diurnal and nocturnal as unequal hours, just like with the planetary hours, starting at dawn) with one of the 24 letters of the Greek alphabet, omitting the three obsolete letters of the alphabet.  Each hour could be given to one of the gods in a sequence, allowing for an intense full day of worship and rituals to honor all the gods and forces of the cosmos.  So, starting with Alpha at dawn, we’d honor Erbeth, then Athena, then Aphrodite, then Apollo, and so forth until the hour just before dawn the next day with Akrammakhamarei.  The ancestors wouldn’t be explicitly honored, but as they’re always with us and living through and by us, they’re already involved in every ritual, anyway.  This would be an intense working, though not one I’d likely perform for a while, and is mostly just a thought to toy with at the moment.

What about you?  Do you use a kind of ritual calendar to schedule or arrange observances and worship in your own practice?  Do you prefer to just go to the gods as needed or as felt?  Do you schedule things by the week, month, year, or at all?  Share your practices in the comments!

49 Days of Definitions: Part IX, Definition 6

This post is part of a series, “49 Days of Definitions”, discussing and explaining my thoughts and meditations on a set of aphorisms explaining crucial parts of Hermetic philosophy. These aphorisms, collectively titled the “Definitions from Hermes Trismegistus to Asclepius”, lay out the basics of Hermetic philosophy, the place of Man in the Cosmos, and all that stuff. It’s one of the first texts I studied as a Hermetic magician, and definitely what I would consider to be a foundational text. The Definitions consist of 49 short aphorisms broken down into ten sets, each of which is packed with knowledge both subtle and obvious, and each of which can be explained or expounded upon. While I don’t propose to offer the be-all end-all word on these Words, these might afford some people interested in the Definitions some food for thought, one aphorism per day.

Today, let’s discuss the forty-first definition, part IX, number 6 of 7:

Where(ever) man is, also (is) God.  God does not appear to anybody but man.  Because of man God changes and turns into the form of man.  God is man-loving and man is God-loving.  There is an affinity between God and man.  God listens only to man, and man to God.  God is worthy of worship, man is worthy of admiration.  God does not appear without man; man is desirable to God and God to man, because desire comes from nowhere, but from man and God.

“[Both God and man] are one: God and man after the species” (I.1); “nothing is uninhabited by God…God is in heaven, and heaven in the world” (III.1); “God is within himself, the world is in God, and man in the world” (VII.5); “everything is within man” (IX.4).  These are all things we’ve seen before: not only does God dwell within the soul that dwells within the body, but that not only is Man within God, but God is within Man.  Moreover, “whoever thinks of himself in Nous knows himself and whoever knows himself knows everything[;] everything is within man” (IX.4).  This tightly couples up the identities and existence of God and Man so closely, especially with knowledge itself delivered by God/Nous/light being everywhere as it is.  Man, being endowed with Nous, can know all things, and can in a way be everywhere just as God is everywhere.  Thus, this definition starts off with a profound statement: “wherever man is, also is God”.  We are not only made in the image of God, and we are not only endowed with the power of God, but we are with God wherever we go.  We are always within and with God, so perhaps it’s not shocking, but this definition makes it clear that we are never separated from God.

Moreover, “God does not appear to anybody but man”.  This is probably shocking, but consider that Man is the only one among the living beings capable of Nous.  Because of this, we’re the only ones who are able to transcend the material realm (VIII.7), and we’re the only ones capable of examining the entirety of creation (VI.1, VII.2).  While Nous sees all things through all souls, only Man among all the ensouled creatures can know Nous in the other direction, and in the process know himself and all other things.  Other creatures are limited in what they can see, and can only see themselves and their own worlds that exist within God.  But Man is Man because “he has got a notion of God” (IX.1), so only Man truly understands what God is, while other beings don’t.  Man is special because he alone can know God, and since knowledge is so tightly bound up with light and sight, Man is special because he alone can see God.  Thus, “God does not appear to anybody but man”.

Of course, if we can see God appear, then that means God must appear sensible to us, but we know that God is intelligible.  But that’s not always the case: “because of man God changes and turns into the form of man”.  God condescends down to us and takes on a human form, which allows us to know God.  This can be taken in two big ways, as far as I can tell: either God comes down as his own human to lead us to God, or God comes down as us and becomes us so we can know ourselves to know God.  The former is basically soteriology: we have some savior, some divine human (as if humans aren’t divine!) who comes down as God and appears to us, speaks to us, and leads us; this could be Jesus, or Dionysus, or Horus, or Mithra, or Krishna, or any other savior-god.  This allows us to witness God as something external to ourselves (though this isn’t ultimately true, but in the world of forms and matter it can appear so), making it easier for ourselves to know God through the God-human.  On the other hand, God comes down to the world as us, taking on human forms as us, and lives down here as us.  In this case, it makes sense why human souls are given Nous; that’s God who dwells within us, and by coming to know ourselves, we come to know Nous, and we come to know God.  In either case, we are made as God and as gods to know God, and to do this, God appears to us in ways we can understand.

But why?  Why does God even bother with us?  “God is man-loving and man is God-loving”.  God loves us.  With knowledge, there is no fear (IX.3), but now we know that love is the opposite of fear.  With knowledge, we love God, and God loves us.  God, by extension, loves everything, since everything is within Man and everything is within God and Man is within God and God is within God, but we alone are the only form that God takes down here, and it’s for our sake.  Everything God does is for our sake (VIII.2), because God loves us.  This isn’t some passionate romantic love, but this is an existential, “you are family”, “you are part of me”, “you are me” love.  This is agape, the unconditional love of God for Man, a promotion of well-being in response to having been made well.  “There is an affinity between God and man”, suggesting that everything between God and Man is mutual, and that we love each other, as spouses love each other.  Together we form a whole, as was mentioned in I.1.

Not only does God appear only to Man, but “God listens only to man, and man to God”.  Just as God appears to Man because Man is the only creature endowed with Nous to know and sight to see, God listens to Man because Man is the only creature capable of Logos to speak reasonable speech.  Logos is the servant of Nous, and is the only means by which we can come to approach and know God (V.1).  All reasonable speech is of God, while unreasonable speech is only worldly (V.2, V.3).  Thus, God only listens to reasonable speech, and the only source of that that is not itself is Man, so “God listens only to man”.  Man, however, listens among himself and the words of others, but can also listen to God.  Whether an “only” is omitted in that latter half of the statement or whether it was intentionally left out is not known, but if we assume the parallel structure here omitted it, then “Man [listens only] to God” is what we should be reading.  All speech comes from the world and the voices it produces, though reasonable speech comes from voice and Logos used at once.  But the world and all voices all come from God, and voice is used according to one’s nature, whether Man or any other creature, and “nature is the mirror of truth” (VIII.5).  Whatever Man hears, he can understand, and he can understand it with reason even if the original utterance was unreasonable.  Thus, no matter what is said, or where or when or by whom, Man listens only to God.

God loves us and is so much bigger than us; this we know now, but we also know that everything is within God, and everything is within Man.  So which is “bigger”?  When you deal with matters of infinity, things can always get a little hazy, since God is truly infinite while Man is…well, Man is finite.  But yet we have everything within ourselves; this isn’t as much a literal truth as it is a reflection of it.  So, rather, while Man is by nature representative of God, God is in truth God; we might say that Man is the nature of God, especially if God appears in the world as Man and if truly “nature is the mirror of truth” (VIII.5).  Thus, no matter how great Man may be, God is greater, and gives that greatness to us.  Thus the next part of the definition: “God is worthy of worship, man is worthy of admiration”.  Admiration literally means “to look at”, and we know that by knowing Man/ourselves, we know God.  To know God is perfection and completion in all things, and is where our reverence and prayers truly go toward.  God is worthy of worship above all, since God is the greatest and, moreover, the Good (II.1), while we have the choice between good and evil and can choose good (VII.6).

“God does not appear without man”; after all, “God does not appear to anybody but man” and “wherever man is, also is God”.  This makes sense with an older definition, VI.1: “if there were nobody to see [the world], what would be seen would not even exist”.  After all, if everything is within Man, and if knowledge of the world is knowledge of God, and if we know God through the world, then God appears to us through the world and through other human forms.  So, if we were no Man to exist to see things, then there would be no God to see, and there would be no need for light or things to exist.  Yet, here we are, and so “everything exists because of man” (IX.1).  So why is it that we exist at all?  Because “man is desirable to God”, so God wants Man to exist and live; moreover, “God [is desirable] to man” because we are within and blessed with God which leads us to him as our desire.  Where does this desire come from?  We know that desire is a passion of the soul that moves it and the body (IX.4), but this desire comes from Nous within our souls (VII.3).  Desire as a passion does not come from the world, nor does it come from other humans, but it comes from within ourselves.  Thus, “desire comes from nowhere, but from man and God”.

Now, one of the things that this definition introduces but does not clarify is why we should worship God.  God made us, and God loves us, and God finds us desirable.  Sure, okay, we can get that.  We also know that because knowing God is immortality and knowledge and love, we also love God and naturally strive to know God.  Okay.  But why does God love us and find us desirable?  This isn’t something said or known yet, and it’s unclear at this point whether the Definitions will say so later on.  That said, why would it matter for the Definitions to tell us?  Why would God make the world at all?  Why would God make things the way God did?  These are purely intelligible things, I’d claim, that are not for humans to know, at least not those without Nous.  Suffice it to say that it gets us started on our path to God to know that God loves us and God wants us to live and perfect ourselves.