Saturday, August 31, 2013

Back Away from the Tarot Cards!

If you’re a qadish, a practitioner of the Natib Qadish Canaanite religion, you may want to think twice before bothering with Tarot cards and other prevalent Western European forms of divination.

In other communities which use divination (such as the New Age and Pagan communities), tarot has become ubiquitous. Choosing only tarot when there are many cultural specific options available demonstrates a need for further exploration of our ways. If you are devoted to the tarot so that the thought of divorcing them causes you to feel faint, then of course you can use them as a part of an informal practice. Just keep in mind that they are not Canaanite in symbolism, and they can be an obstacle to learning Canaanite symbolism and practices in depth.

In the not-so-hazy past, I used tarot cards for divination, but I found myself increasingly dissatisfied with them. I would try another deck for a while, one that was shinier and newer than the previous, but my dissatisfaction would inevitably return. I would try an older deck, just to see if I could reacquaint myself with it, but again apathy would strike. Oh, yes, I love the art; and oh, yes, I enjoy the stories that tarot can tell. I still keep a couple of decks around for the art—but I got rid of most of my divination decks. Every time I used them I felt my readings lacked luster and bordered on clichéd, and that the readings were I haven’t used tarot in over two years.

Tarot and Canaanite symbolism speak different languages. Cups mean blessing in Canaanite thought--not “emotions” and certainly not the “element of water” since that system of four elements is absent in Canaanite culture and religion. Wands in Canaanite culture represent personal charisma and leadership, not creativity. And swords would represent martial prowess and strength, not intellect and thought. Depending on the art and the theme of the deck, symbolism can become skewed even further.

Now when someone comes to me for a reading, I use divination systems that pertain to Canaanite culture and symbolism: I would not use tarot or Norse runes. After all, you don’t go to a babalawo for a tarot reading or a look at your Western astrology chart; no, you’d go to him for an ifá reading. And trying to read Canaanite/Phoenician letters laid out in a Celtic Cross tarot spread is also awkward. It may work, but it will not work as well as it could and it hinders a deepening into Canaanite thought.

Canaanite tools with Canaanite symbolism will yield better results. Anything after that is watered down, beings to lose its potency, and sometimes it gets downright awkward. The nuance changes and you can lose information by using cultural oracles interchangeably (i.e. a Near Eastern Canaanite system with a Western European divination tool).

Think of using Norse runes without knowing Norse culture: you can memorize pat answers from a pamphlet or you can become truly proficient by having a deeper understanding of what each Norse rune truly means in a broader cultural context. Anyone can parrot back an answer, but it takes cultural understanding and depth to go further and the deities of the culture are better able and more comfortable communicating in an oracle compatible with their cultural metaphors.

Natib Qadish has its own options for divining. Some of those methods, such as teratomancy and hepatomancy, were used mainly by the priesthood in particular situations; situations which most of us do not have today. This leaves a qadish with categories such as oneiromancy, necromancy (as in seeking counsel from the ancestors, not as in reanimating the dead), claromancy (lots), lunamancy (moon omens), and possibly scrying. Of all of these methods, I suggest that oneiromancy, lunamancy, and claromancy are the techniques best suited to the layperson. But as far as oneiromancy (dream interpretation) I would suggest avoiding Jungian interpretations and looking towards Canaanite, Middle Eastern, and Mediterranean symbolism.

If it’s necessary, use spreads and tools you have, but remember that this is a crutch and you can learn much more if you put in the effort to learn about Canaanite divination tools. And for best results, use a Canaanite-based divination tool with a Canaanite-style method or spread.

I will cover different divination methods at a later date. Until then, The Horned Altar explores this subject in depth, including methods of dream interpretation, casting lots, reading Phoenician letters, and lunar symbolism, and includes notes on when to use divination.

Today is
25 Ra'shu Yeni, Shanatu 85
It is the 25th day of the lunar month of Ra'shu Yeni (the month of new wine), and it has been 85 years since the rediscovery of the Canaanite city-state of Ugarit.  Our next holiday is 'Ashuru Mothabati, the Festival of Dwellings, on the evening prior to the coming new moon--Wednesday, September 24 this year.

Image Notes
An original card from the tarot deck of Jean Dodal of en:Lyon, a classic "Marseilles" deck. The deck dates from 1701-1715. Public Domain. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Setting up a Shrine: A Pocket Guide

For those with experience with Greek and Egyptian methods of worship, some of this may look familiar.

First off, what you're setting up is a shrine, not an altar. An altar is a specialized offering surface in a temple and involves more formal rites and requirements. A shrine is more approachable and indicative of folk/informal religion, so the rules are more flexible.

In setting up a shrine, make sure you have a flat space up off the floor such as a shelf, t.v. tray, dresser top, card table, et cetera. Clean it off of clutter, then dust it and make sure it is presentable even for a testy matriarch with white gloves testing your housekeeping skills. If it has some glaringly awful blemishes, try to fix them. A couple of scratches won’t make a difference, but if the surface is ghastly, try to touch it up or at the very least put a lovely cloth over it. Make sure this the shrine is in a place where they aren’t turning their sacred area into a pet dish: pets should not be climbing on the shrine and should not be eating the offerings.

Purify it by sprinkling rose water on it or anointing it with olive oil to which myrrh has been added, or olive oil to which marjoram essential oil has been added. Ask for the god Choranu to cleans the area, and be sure to make him an offering at least of incense for his efforts. 

Make sure your hands are passably clean before working with or on the shrine. If you just came in from gardening, scrub up first. This is where good common sense comes into play. In Canaanite culture, the deities are not treated as family, but as royalty. The deities are qadish: full of splendor, holy fire, passion, separateness, spirit, and even of “holy dread;” they are “set apart.”

Put up images of the deities. These are a little bit tricky to find. Actual statues or bas relief are notoriously difficult to find, so don’t feel badly if you must use an image printed off the internet. Just print it in decent quality on good cardstock or photo paper. To find the deity image, sometimes you may have to search under multiple variations of the deity’s name. If you get stuck, just ask; it’s what I do.

As for placement of the images, some deities would rather not be placed together and some would like to be together. ‘Anatu and Baʻlu Haddu like to be together, but neither of them like to be near Yammu. Athiratu prefers not to be near Baʻlu Haddu, but likes to be near her consort Ilu. Yarikhu and Nikkalu like to be together. Shapshu doesn’t mind Kothar-wa-Khasis, or sometimes Rashap. None of them like demigods, ancestors, demons or daemons honored with the same status as a deity. If you decide to honor the Canaanite ancestors, you could do what I do: I keep a shrine shelf on one side and an ancestor site on the other side, but both are on the same flat surface. And never, ever make offering to Motu, the god of Death. He is the god of death, not the god of the dead: he never received offering in ancient times and should not even today for he will eventually take all of us as offering.

In an informal offering, purity issues aren’t as strict. You can walk up to the shrine and honor the deities whenever you need to or feel that they need offering without much prior arrangement. However, if you want to boost the signal and deepen the respect, it helps to do a few things first. These are suggestions, guidelines—sometimes necessity and haste override these. The more you adhere to the suggestions, the more likely it is you will be able to sense them. Keep clean. Rinse your hands with cool water. Take your shoes off, take your socks off if your socks are holey. Cover your head. Be sincere.

This part is required: bow and/or prostrate. When you approach the deities at the shrine, bow or prostrate yourself before them. When I bow, I bob at the knees before I bow and I bow fully to the extent where my head is near my waist. Why the knee-bob? The Ugaritic word for blessing is related to the Ugaritic word for knee, and it just so happens that this linguistic association carries on even into Hebrew. When you approach their space, avoid using foul language except perhaps in the case of being around just the martial deities in which case sometimes you can get away with using some foul language in front of them. When you approach them, as you are stepping into their space, it is good to do so on the right foot.

I like to keep a bowl in front of the shrine and I fill it with Lebanese rose water from the ethnic food section of the grocery store, which I use similarly to Florida water. Alternatively, I will use water with a few drops of marjoram essential oil: some botanists believe that marjoram was the “hyssop” purifying herb of old. I will rinse my hands with the water and sprinkle the water throughout the shrine to provide a continual cleansing. Change this water out at least every other day. 

I keep an incense holder on the shrine, too, and I frequently make dugathu/dujathu throughout the day. This is a form of incense offering. I make sure that the incense I get is not the cheap stuff with dung in it. (It seems like a no-brainer, but a lot of folks don’t realize that some of that stuff has a dung base.)  I will sometimes put a beverage on the shrine, or meat. No pork; no pork ever. And they have a preference for farmed meats above game meats—beef and lamb are favorites, as is beef liver and some organ meats. Choranu doesn’t like goat, but the rest of them seem to like goat. Most of them don’t care for beans unless it’s in the form of hummus. Ilu loves shawarma, the beef and lamb combination and seems to be ok with gyros, too. Most of them love Mediterranean fruits and nuts: pistachios, figs, pomegranates, dates, almonds, candy coated almonds, carob chips, grapes, and so on. They're happy with cheese made from goat or sheep's milk: they like these a bit better than that made of cow's milk. They like whole wheat flat bread and olive oil, or even an olive oil infused with spices. They like Mediterranean cooking from Greek, to Lebanese, to Turkish, to Palestinian. They love wine. Baʻlu Haddu sometimes prefers white wine in the rainy season (our late autumn through winter) and red wine for the hot summer months. Obviously no fast food (I’ve had someone ask this, so I thought I would specify—the “meat” in those “burgers” isn’t good and often isn’t completely meat.) For specific deities’ preferences, feel free to ask. 

Food offerings of this sort are often referred to as shalamu (singular) or shalamuma (plural). They literally translate as “peace offerings.” These offerings are made to strengthen, restore, heal a being and to promote wellness and wellbeing. These offerings can be food, drink, or items. One can make shalamu to the deities, to the ancestors, or to other living people. This is one of the simplest forms of offering, and there are many forms of offering from sharpu (burnt offering) to dabchu (sacrfice/communal meal). I would suggest just starting out with shalamuma.  

They like offerings of light—olive oil lamps with a pinch of salt in them to keep them from smoking too much, or beeswax candles. They’re ok with paraffin candles, but prefer beeswax or olive oil as possible. Most of them prefer no smoking and no tobacco: there’s a connection with fresh, sweet air and a sense of hygiene and sacred purity; besides, sometimes they like to appear as a scent. If strong scents overpower the area, they can’t “appear” in this manner. 

They like scented oils and perfumes: the higher quality the better and try to avoid artificial and chemical scents as much as possible. Many of them like essential oils dropped in olive oil—this is good both as offering, and as a substance to anoint their images with. This is sometimes a good offering for them. They love olive oil infused with myrrh or olive oil with drops of myrrh essential oil: this is called shamnu moru, myrrh oil. (Shamnu moru is also good for spiritual cleansing and healing purposes.) I have an unguent I’ve made that I use in temple to anoint their brows daily. When I anoint, I use the pinky and ring finger of my right hand and sweep across or dot their brows.

Many of them like honey, especially some of the goddesses.

Sweets for celebration. No sweets for serious events.

The simplest prayer to make when giving offering, if you would like to make a prayer, is “yishlam le-kumu” which means “may there be peace/wellbeing/wholeness/restoration to you all.”

After making offering, it is a good idea to take a couple of steps backwards away from the shrine before turning around. They don’t like someone turning a back on them up close. When stepping away from them, it is good to back away left foot first so your right foot is still towards them. If a priest is there, a priest can partake of the offerings on behalf of the deities, however this isn’t something that a layperson should do.

Keep the altar clean. Dispose of offerings by the next day. The Canaanites saw the next day as starting with the dusk. Clean the incense ash off at least once a week and do a little dusting with a clean cloth or paper towel. When you dispose of liquids served in cups, do not overturn the cup. An overturned cup is really bad luck. Instead, place the full cup under the faucet and let cool water run into the cup until it pushes out all of the offering liquid, this way the cup is now “empty.” I usually tap on the cup three times first and then pour out the water, but tapping is optional. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A Chant to Ishtar

In a vision, seven stars call joyfully for the queen of earth and skies:

Kaddousa kadousa ya Ishtar: you are so sacred so sacred, Ishtar!

In the name of the first and the last,
The one that angels praise and worship,
I call for her help to protect me from the evil spirits.
I call upon the guardian spirits to keep me safe.
Kaddousa kadousa ya Ishtar!

Ishtar, queen of stars, is perfect with no flaws.

My heart calls for you and belongs with you.
Kaddousa kadousa ya Ishtar!
Light of the skies and the universe, my spirit calls for you--
To you all the creatures bow.
Kaddousa kadousa ya Ishtar!

Queen of all,
Creator of things that were and will be,
My heart belongs with you.
Kaddousa kadousa ya Ishtar!
My body calls for you,
Longs for you.
Kaddousa kaddousa ya Ishtar!

To the merciful Ishtar, my goddess:
Humble and loving,
My emotions to you call.

Ishtar, my goddess,
Light up my spirit with your eternal light
And heal my heart with your love.
Ishtar my goddess
For eternity

I, I gave myself to the stars.
I, I gave my eyesight to the cats and lions.
I, I threw my spear and unleashed my emotions for you.
I played my guitar for you.
I put my feathers to make wings for justice.

"I am the hidden flame in all religions."
Is this the truth your lips are telling, my dear?
Are these fantasies that your fingers are trying to touch?

Do you know what am asking for:
Am asking about your blood...does it bear her breath?
Am asking about your mind...can you feel her tears?
Ears listen very well and eyes watch very carefully.

I am the lover and you’re the object of my love.

"They talk of a heart...I talk of a god.
They talk of a father...I talk of I.
I am your father and I am your mother;
I am the king and the queen.

"I am who I am:
I am the first and I am the last.
I am your breath.
I am your tears.
I can hear you calling before you even speak it.
I am love and I am anger."

Sacred, you are queen of earth and skies!
Sacred, you are our muse.
Your name is the light;
You are the highest light.
All creations are yours.

You are the lover and the loved--
And love itself.


To do such a thing in Arabic to a goddess indigenous to the lands where Islam is now the primary religion--certainly to the exclusion and almost extinction of polytheistic religions--is nothing short of revolutionary.

Translation above by my friend Roy from Lebanon. The chant was uploaded to YouTube by Society of the White Flame, but I do not know who originally wrote and performed the chant. This ode is in Arabic and is a modern one.

The goddess Ishtar comes from the Babylonian culture in the area called Mesopotamia, the Fertile Crescent. Babylonian culture lasted from about 1950-635 BCE (about 3962-2647 years ago.) She is a protective, powerful goddess of warfare and sexuality. Although not a Canaanite goddess, she is a goddess to the Canaanites' neighbors, the Babylonians and the Assyrians. She is related to the Canaanite goddess 'Athtartu. The Canaanite goddess 'Athtartu does not have the same association with sex, but she maintains influence over warfare, hunting, justice, treaties, and vows.

Image Notes:
This statue is likely from the Hellenistic period in Mesopotamia, and the statue dates to about the 2nd Century BCE. She is made of alabaster, gold, and rubies. The photo is by Marie-Lan Nguyen and was released into public domain.

Today is:
7 Dabchu-Pagruma (month), Shanatu 85 (year)
This is the seventh day from the new moon which marked the beginning of the month Dabchu-Pagruma in the Canaanite/Ugaritic calendar, as noted in primary texts from circa 1200 BCE. It has been 85 years since the Canaanite city of Ugarit was rediscovered. It is the third month of the year, the year starts with the new moon before autumnal equinox.

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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Opalescence: An Ode to Moon Gods

O Nanna, Suen, moon gods of
The once-great Sumer, you yet glow
Inflaming the dry seas we call
The desert. Your ephemeral,
Untouchable hands caress dust.
In deepest silence you will make
A mirror image staring back.
Each grain of sand: a star that sweeps
Across the desolation vast.

Bright Nanna, your heralds are
The bull and lion-dragon bold.
You marry Ningal, Nikkal
To the Canaanites. She bears you two
Strong children: ardent Inanna
Of love and war and passions fierce;
And shining solar Shamash, god
Of molten sun. Assyrians
Pray to you, Sin, called Namratz, “He
Who shines forth,” and Ashimbabbar,
Another name. At Harran, they
Know blazing Nusku as your son,
O Sin, the god of flame and light
Your cherished son in Harran’s lore.
In Anatolia your name,
Good Kushukh, secretly still drips
From the flaked lips of ghosts
And warriors who dare anew
To grasp the Hurrians’ old ways.
They beckon you great Kushukh to
Light the foothills with your radiance.
The people of a thousand gods,
Brave Hittites, bring their offerings
To wingéd Kashkhu. Nobly you
Don crescent crown, august and proud.
The Luwians watch you, esteemed
God Arma, favor Turkish nights,
The hours of darkness, with your clay
Lamp filled with olive oil
And linen wick that sparkles with
The lightest lover’s kiss of flame.
O Shipak, whom the Kassites praise,
Illumine the sand-strewn streets and cracked
Grand gates of conquered Babylon.

Yet I know of you, Canaanite
Yarikh. You woo your fruitful fair
Nikkal with star-flecked lapis lush,
With shimmering silver and with
A gift of gleaming gold. Your soft
Warm-honey’d words endear your souls
One to another, bound for life
Eternal. Heat-hazed, star-glazed nights
Bring forth your moist and virile dew
And quicken the fruit of Nikkal.

O moon gods, holy lamps of night,
We call your names, we beckon you,
O crescent-horned gods: measure months,
And tidal-pull the heavy seas;
Enrobe our skies in pearlescent
Rich drapes of lust’rous lunar-beam.

Written on winter solstice 2010 just prior to the full lunar eclipse. I wrote the poem in iambic quadrameter to represent the four phases of the moon. Originally published in Anointed: A Devotional Anthology for the Deities of the Near and Middle East. I would also like to point out that Nanna, Suen / Sin, Kushukh, Kashkhu, Arma, Shipak, and Yarikh (also called Yarikhu) are all male moon gods.

Since today is the evening of a full moon, I offer a hearty "Yishlam le-Yarikhi" (Hail Yarikhu!)

Today is
14 Ra'shu Yeni, Shanatu 85.
Day 1 of 'Ashuru Ra'shu Yeni, the Festival of New Wine.
The fourteenth day of the month of Ra'shu Yeni (New Wine), and the day of the full moon. It is the 85th year since the rediscovery of the Late Bronze Age Canaanite city-state of Ugarit, from where we have gained much of our primary source documents written in Ugaritic cuneiform on clay tablets. Our new year begins on the next new moon...

Image Credits
Image is a photograph taken by NASA of the moon just above the atmosphere. It is used under Creative Commons License. 

Friday, August 16, 2013


In response to some issues I've seen going around about Priesthood:

I am the nightmare that creeps in at an unguarded moment because I am your dark mirror. I am your dark mirror because I say what you don't want to hear. But your shadow, your reflection, they will remind you of my words. Take a deep breath and let go of the blinders. If you dare. If you can.

You know why you're angry with me? I took a match to the tender of your preconceptions. I took a match to your carefully constructed image of greatness. I took a match and smelted that ring you wanted me to kiss.

See that? That's my fiery kiss. Smooch.

Think I'm not you're friend? Think I'm Meanie McMeaniepants? Guess what: I just did you the biggest favor ever by by telling you the truth, if you can take the heat. And it would have been way easier, more comfortable, for me to smile and nod, to play nice, instead of speaking up.

Do you want to know how I know who is great and who is not? Do you really want to know? Warning, you can't un-know this once you read it.

I know great people by their humility. I know by how they prostrate themselves to their gods. I know by how they treat their ancestors. I know by how much they give. I know them by their acts, their words, their deeds. I know them by how much genuine respect they've accrued in larger communities. I know them through their relationships with their deities. I know them by their years of service. I know them by their passion. I know them through their boundaries. I know them through oracles. I know them by their education, I know them by their investment of time, I know them by their daily devotions, I know them by the company they keep. I even know them by their enemies. I know them by their quiet, I know them by their loudness, I know them by their intensity. I know by the strength of their souls. I know by the purity of their spirits. I sense it like the scent of sun-warmed shamnu moru (myrrh oil) on skin.

I know them because my deities tell me to know them. I know them because their deities tell me to know them.  I know them by an inner light, a charisma, a beauty that emanates from them. It's a freakin' halo like in religious art.

Some people confuse this aura of greatness with "power": it isn't a matter of dominance over another. It isn't a matter of being stronger than anyone else, although that can come with the territory. Instead, it is a display of divine favor. And it comes not from a person's force over others, but from his/her humility to the gods and the ancestors.

Greatness is about humility. There. That's it in one tiny four-word sentence.

Greatness has its own crown, its own scepter, its own stunningly beautiful mantle of handspun splendor. All of these things are heavy and they come at the price of service and humility. All of these things chafe, all of these things bruise, all of these things cause as much pain as pleasure. All of these things: they are not given, they are not bestowed by birthright. They are earned. 

For those who would seek to grab a crown, a scepter, a mantle of your own, instead of earning it, instead of serving the deities, instead of honoring the ancestors:  your misguided actions make me sick. To put yourself on par with these people who are great, to call yourself great in connection to them, to insist on a title you haven't earned, is deeply misguided and it makes a mockery of their service. It is misdeed. It is khats'a.

You can indeed become great in time--when you are humble before your gods and your ancestors, when you serve your community. When you are great, you will know these words are true and your anger will evaporate. The nightmare will become beauty, and the shadow will no longer dog your steps. Your reflection will be clean.

And you will laugh in joy.

Today is

10 Ra'shu Yeni, Shanatu 85.
The tenth day of the month of Ra'shu Yeni (New Wine). It is the 85th year since the rediscovery of the Late Bronze Age Canaanite city-state of Ugarit, from where we have gained much of our primary source documents written in Ugaritic cuneiform on clay tablets. Our next holiday, Ra'shu Yeni, which celebrates the grape harvest and the new wine, starts the evening of Monday the 19th and extends for seven days through the full moon. Our new year begins on the coming new moon...

Image Credits
Photo by Sebastian Ritter. Used under Creative Commons License

Saturday, August 10, 2013


Natib Qadish is an organized polytheist religion. As such there are requirements for priests. A person cannot refer to him or herself as a priest without meeting certain requirements.

Gulp! What do You Mean Organized?

Some folks have a great deal of discomfort with the idea of “organized” religion, and an “organized” priesthood with a hierarchy. Organization is not the enemy. Structure is not the enemy. Hierarchy itself isn’t always a bad thing. What is bad is when a person in authority misuses the authority. In such cases, authority should be taken away. I’ve seen organization and hierarchy creep into what had been thought of as an “unorganized” group, and I’ve seen the leadership abuse the roles. So let’s not kid ourselves and pretend that such abuses of hierarchy can’t or don’t happen even in “dis-organized” religions. Indeed, sometimes it’s easier to take advantage of the chaos for ill-intent.

I think that people who are apprehensive of organized religion sometimes forget that there are two components in religious practice: formal religion and informal/folk religion. It never has to be one or the other—in fact in the case of most “organized” religions, you’ll find both. For instance, a Jew who attends synagogue will lead her own family Shabbat dinner prayers. A person who goes to Catholic church services sometimes makes use of curandero practices. What a Wiccan does in an Alexandrian circle will differ from his kitchen magic. Just because a person participates in an “organized”, structured religion doesn’t prevent, preclude, or prohibit her religious practices in an informal setting. And it surely doesn’t mean that a person needs to check brains and free will at the door. One can certainly take charge of one’s own practices, and one’s family’s practices, without being a priest.

In this confusion, A priest not accepted by the community does not represent the shared deities of the community or the community itself, and the community is under no obligation to call him by his chosen title.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Jezebel: A Martyr of Polytheism

In honor of Jezebel, my ancestress, a freedom fighter for polytheistic religion.

᾿Iyazabal, Jezebel’s real name in Phoenician, means “Where is Baʻal,” “Baʻal is Exalted” “Baʻal Exaults” or “Baʻal Lives.” Other proposed monotheistically and polemically-biased translations of her name drag her name literally through dung and question her morality. A native of the Phoenician city of Tyre, ᾿Iyazabal was the daughter of a priest of ‘Ashtart who became the king of both Tyre and Sidon.

According to the narrative made “official” by monotheism, ᾿Iyazabal was a woman of loose morals and sexuality who “seduced” her husband Ahab into polytheism. With her urging, Ahab set up temples in Israel to her Phoenician deities so that she could continue doing what was right. This queen kept to her ancestral religion and did not follow the religion of her husband; she did not quietly allow the dismissal of her polytheistic religion. She is said to have rounded up a hundred of the one-god’s prophets and had them assassinated. In response, the one-god’s prophet Elijah (whose name means “Yah is God”) staged a showdown with four hundred and fifty of the prophets of ᾿Iyazabal’s Baʻal. Baʻal is a generic term for a Phoenician god and means “lord;” the lord referred to here is likely either Baʻal Hadad the storm god or Melqart, a god later identified with the Greek Heracles. In the biblical narrative, the prophets of ᾿Iyazabal’s Baʻal are unable to meet Elijah’s challenge. Elijah slaughters the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baʻal.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Lions' Roar

A troubling dream filled my mind on the first evening of the lunar Month of Silence. What follows is a summary of the dream and its interpretation. I had begun a fast the evening before the dream and I would continue the fast for twenty-four hours.

The Dream

The dream appeared dark, as if a filter overlaid  it. Shadows, night, and teal tones stretched thick over the images.

I had been walking by when a group gathered around me, pulling me into their fold. The group counted me as an outlying member, only remembering me when they could use me. It felt cliquish, and they didn’t see me as an equal. I was content not to be a part of their social structure, but when I was useful to them they’d pretend I had always been a part of the group. The group seemed to have a schizophrenic nature to it.

There was some kind of problem and a group of people decided “Oh, Tess can deal with it, she’s strong, she can fix it.” In the dream, I seemed to be aware of and know the group, but I didn't know the people very well, and  I grew to like them less and less. I was angry at them for assuming I could fix their mistake: keeping lions but not attending the lions. I was angry at them for keeping lions and not understanding the nature of lions and lion’s needs, and the dangers inherent in keeping lions. There was no way they could or would care for the lions well. And I was angry at their demands. But I felt compelled—more for the sake of the lions, and less so for the screwed-up people—to help.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Poem for the Masses

Scarlet poppies bloom, bursting in my mind as I see the deceased man sleeping in his bed. Dried trails of tears, earthen streaks, run down his cheeks: trails like the trails of earthworms leading down into the Deeps, into Motu's Pit of Firmament, where we will all go.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Roaring Into Silence

Sometimes the magic reset button isn’t magical and the reset is an upset.

My Month of Silence on behalf of polytheism has not been pleasant. I’m happy for those who may have found this a time of restoration. My month unfolded differently.

Long before choosing to take the month of silence, I decided fast instead on the day of the new moon. Four people knew about my fast. But after seeing ever more garbage online, I finally experienced that “straw which broke the camel’s back"--I decided to use the fast to initiate a lunar Month of Silence. I fasted because I mourn how the deities have been treated over the years—how they’ve been diminished in the eyes of many a human as metaphors, tools, archetypes, facets of a “oneness”, or even demonized. I mourn for our ancestors. I mourn how polytheists have been mistreated, and how the deities’ priests have been mistreated. I weigh my disappointment over how many “self-defined polytheists” aren’t polytheists and how out of misunderstanding they appropriate the word “polytheism.” I mourn for my gods, I mourn for others’ gods, and I mourn for my people.

I mourn the dominion monotheism has taken for two thousand years and how it has thoroughly rooted in culture and mind. I will always mourn these matters. I consider becoming a Johnny Cash of polytheists, wearing black to signify our situation, but people would just think I was “goth.” I tried a little scarification—a Canaanite mourning tradition—but that didn’t work out as well as I’d hoped.

I started the fast on the evening of July the seventh. My family joined with a modified fast; Galina Krasskova also joined the fast, and I was grateful for the support. From dusk onward that new moon and for twenty-four hours I took in only water. As per a chudthu (new moon) evening in my household, we also abstained from television, computer, telephone, text, internet, radio, and electric lights. We played games. I meditated, prayed, then went to bed. I had a dream of people mistreating lions.

I spent the day in pain, falling apart: a quiet futility like the rushing up of ants from a sidewalk crack. I had practiced fasting and had no problems before, but this time I did not have a sense of floating peace that I expected. This fast overwhelmed me. I had taken on cleansing misdeed not just for myself but for others. I felt every last black ant pushing out from the cracks. I documented the ordeal for myself: eye-gougingly pathetic reading. At dusk, I made food offerings for the deities before I ended my fast. I ate gratefully, and went to bed with a headache-generated light show behind my eyelids.