Devotion, as it is applied to pagan and particularly to polytheist religious engagement, is characterized as intensely loving, passionate, and may have the features of romantic love. Devotional practice – the expression of these feelings in behaviors, actions, decisions, thoughts, and problem solving within a distinctly religious context – is characterized as similarly passionate; after all, devotional practice rises out of these intense sentiments, right?
Some of the discussion surrounding the boundaries that delineate devotional practice and devotional engagement from other types of polytheist religious practice erroneously assume that action follows sentiment, that one’s religious inclinations and behaviors arise from emotions that are already present within the worshiper.
This model of emotion preceding action is, perhaps, cultural; certainly this model is based in the way we culturally imagine the experience of love. That feeling, that spark, leaps up inside the body without us asking it to; something…
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A beautiful devotional poem for Aphrodite.
Out of the sea
Resplendent in her nakedness
Magnificent, golden ass
Redolent with heady perfumes
Hair like tow
Golden skin kissed by the sun
Rise, O Aphrodite
Raise the scepter high!
Make a pronouncement upon us
Declare this day
A day of love
An occasion for pleasure
Hear, O Muses, the tale of the love goddess
And the consequence of Ouranos’ sacrifice:
Without love, husband descended upon wife unwilling
Before love, both childbirth and its cause were misery
Unguided by love, Kronos sought power
And the blood of the Sky descended to the Sea
There, in the belly of Thalassa,
Hot blood mingled with salt water
The surface of the sea became turbulent,
White foam was upon the lips of the waves
The ocean currents were fitful
Until womanly face and limbs and breasts and buttocks
Complete and perfect
Longed to draw air
Then, with bitter, burning travail
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As wedding planning grinds my stress responses into dust; as I am tearing out my hair more and more at all the little details I need to manage; as I am truly wishing I could emotionally handle having an elopement because it would be so much simpler, I keep returning to one simple fact: I am crazy in love with Ogre, and I want nothing more than to pledge myself to him in a ceremony before the gods and our chosen witnesses.
And what helps with this has been listening to an Aphrodite playlist on 8tracks, because music helps me cope with life — but especially this song:
It’s a cover of Crazy in Love by Beyonce, and the fact that it’s a cover cleanses it of the taint it acquired when used for the Fifty Shades of Grey movie. (Fifty Shades of Grey is about abuse, not love. I have written extensively on this in other places.) For me, at least. I can’t listen to the Beyonce version for FSOG without cringing, because the trailer played so many times it made me sick.
Still, it is a good song, and yes, it does describe a lot of my state with the Ogre.
So I listen to it on repeat, and imagine how beautiful our wedding will be, and calm my ass down so I can actually plan the thing.
“Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public”
Love triumphed in the States today.
This morning, same sex marriage became legal nationwide. Those few states who were holding out for a right-wing hero are screwed — gay marriage is now federally recognized, federally legal.
This is a victory. This is a victory for love, for queer rights, for justice, for the progress of us as a species.
And yes, there is much more work to be done. Things still pretty much suck across the board for the majority of QUILTBAG people, especially trans* folk. We should not forget that, ever.But we should take some time to celebrate.
Today I saw people say, in the same breath, “Hooray! BUT LET’S GET BACK TO WORK GUYS” — allowing themselves a millisecond, at most, to feel good about this victory before throwing themselves back into the fray.
This is the fastest way to burn yourself out and make yourself useless to activism. Trust me — I’ve been there. Multiple times. I now have such a short burn-out fuse that I can barely accomplish anything, and am only able to focus on one or two small issues to fight for. I destroyed myself in the pursuit of justice, because I did not care for myself.
In the long, grand scheme of things, same-sex marriage may be a small victory — but it is still a victory, and dear Aphrodite does it feel like a big one. And it’s one so many people have been working towards for so long. Achieving it should be a celebration.
Aphrodite isn’t just the goddess of romantic love, or sexual love. She is love — which means She is justice, and She is self-care. Never forget self-care when you’re in the pursuit of justice.
Refusing to take any time to celebrate, to breathe — even for small victories! — will guarantee you burn yourself out quicker. It will make all the losses hit you harder. It is absolutely essential to taking care of ourselves as activists to allow ourselves time to celebrate.
So take three days. Three days where you just bask in the triumph of love — because love did triumph. And then on Monday we can all get back to work, more refreshed, more eager to take on the fight.
We’re only human. We are not tireless machines.
Love yourself, as Aphrodite loves you.
So I’ve been thinking about syncretism a lot lately. I don’t know why; it’s just been on my mind. And then I read this post over at Adventures in Vanaheim and I got a bit of a lightbulb; that is, that the Aphrodite I know is syncretized with Naamah.
Cue chorus of spluttering “But but that’s ~*~pop culture paganism~*~! It’s wrong and dirty and evil, I tell you!”
If that’s your opinion, you may want to leave all my blogs well enough alone. Just as a heads up.
Naamah is just as real to me as Aphrodite or the Morrigan or Brighid or Manannan or any of the other gods I honor, worship, and work with. As are the other gods in the Kushielverse.
I haven’t, as of yet, done much work with Them, and I think it’s because I’ve felt a bit overloaded with the gods already in my life. But this thought of syncretism keeps coming back to me and I wonder…have I avoided working with Them because I felt I already was? Do I see Kushiel as connected to the Morrigan, because of my godslave, D/s relationship with Zir?
I don’t actually have answers to the questions of the rest of the Companions — but I can tell you I have a very strong feeling that I’m not just worshipping Aphrodite, but Naamah as well, and that I’m enough of a medium-scrambled polytheist that I can accept that Aphrodite is Aphrodite and Naamah is Naamah and sometimes They’re also each other and both at the same time.
So I think, when I’m able to set up a physical shrine to Her/Them again, it will be to both Aphrodite and Naamah. And I’ll see where it goes from there.
(No, I don’t know how this fits with my feelings of Aphrodite/The Lady of the Stars. Maybe the Lady of the Stars is Naamah too. Maybe not. I don’t have all the answers.)
Devotees of Aphrodite (and, to a lesser extent, Pan) are lucky if they go to pagan events, because at pagan events there is often, if not always, a Temple or Shrine devoted to Aphrodite and sometimes one for Pan. These are generally places set aside so adults can enjoy consensual sexual activities with each other, but sometimes they are used for non-sexual activities, either solo or with a partner (or many partners!), or solo sexual activities.
My first real pagan event was Witchcamp, 2007, and the Temple to Aphrodite had non-sexual activities like cuddle and story time, when a bunch of adults snuggled up together and read fairy tales aloud from a book, changing the more Christian elements to pagan imagery. It was a lot of fun, and my first time feeling completely comfortable with other adults in such a vulnerable sort of environment.
At Pirates and Fairies this year there was a Temple to Aphrodite and a separate cuddle tent, which is good, because the Temple is usually very busy with folks engaging in sexual activities.
My fiancé and I were lucky enough to snag an hour in the Temple this year, and we worshipped heartily.
Sex in the Temple is definitely the best sex I’ve ever had. It helps that we’re ridiculously in love, of course, so our sex is like, always amazing, but doing it in the presence of She Who Heals All Wounds…it’s an extra level of holy gods, amazing. In the Temple I feel completely safe asking my partner for what I want in sex, which is not something I find easy to do, generally. But in the Temple, all acts of love and pleasure are Her rituals, and I can not feel wrong asking him to do things that might make me feel embarrassed otherwise. Or things that may make me feel unsafe — I’ve had a rocky history with D/s, to the point where I crave it and fear it at the same time. I trust him implicitly, and feel more comfortable with him taking those sorts of roles with me — namely because he’s not actually into D/s himself, but he is into getting me off. I don’t have to deal with bullshit Domly Domness Domism with him; I can submit without fear.
Even though I know that, sometimes it’s hard to remind myself of it in the mundane world. In the Temple, it’s just obvious that She’s watching over us, and it makes me feel even more safe and protected.
This time, he was even tolerant of my taking a few moments to pray to Her before we had sex; this is big, considering he’s pretty atheist. I think our time in the Temple no doubt contributed to this Pirates and Fairies being one of the best yet, for me. It deepened my love, my faith, and my hope.
I’ve been pondering Aphrodite in Her other aspects. She gets reduced to a goddess of just love, just sex, and yet She’s so much more.
I don’t know. There’s something…more here.
At any rate, I feel I need to deepen my worship of Her — go beyond what the Greeks thought, and find something more substantial.
The first time I felt Aphrodite’s presence was at Pirates and Fairies 2010. I was heartsick and lonely; determined to spend the evening with someone who could help me forget the summer, if only for a night, I gave Her an offering in Her temple (a condom; something others could use in their use of the temple itself). I asked for Her blessing in my life, because I was tired of getting hurt. I felt a gentle brush — nothing so thwappy as when I’m dealing with one of the Triad I worship — and felt real hope my prayers would be answered.
They were — and then some. The man I spent that night with at P&F is now my long-term partner, and I’m finding real healing for previous heart-wounds that have been left bleeding.
In honor of Her blessing in my life, and in hopes of Her continued blessing, I keep a shrine for Her in my bedroom. I light a candle on Fridays, and have started this blog as a virtual shrine to Her. I will try and post every Friday about Aphrodite and my relationship with Her.
It will be difficult, because my relationships with the Triad tend to overshadow everything else, and hearing or feeling relationships with other gods can be an exercise and a half. But I’m determined to keep this relationship going, to keep offering to Her in thanks for all Her blessings.
She’s helping me learn to love myself again. She deserves my love and attention.