Astragalomancy Workshop Handout

I just realized that I never uploaded last year’s PSG handout. How silly of me.  The workshop dealt with how to perform astragalomancy (‘knuckle bone’ divination) within a Classical context.  For anyone curious, my blog banner features sheep/goat astragali in their various positions and numerical designations! Enjoy, and as always, citing is caring.

Astragaloi Handout

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Libanomancy

Preparations are underway for my next PSG workshop on libanomacy, the art of divining with incense smoke…I’ll be ordering even more resins and herbs this week and plan to have at least two censers going during the demonstration portion of the workshop.

Three KingsIncenses

Wodensday

It’s a beautiful sunny day and while walking outside I knew that I shouldn’t put off my offering to Odin any longer.  I’d participated in sumbel with my fellow Catskin Sisters and I had promised to graduate this spring. How foolish! Delay after delay happened and I was stuck waiting for my thesis samples to be analyzed by a third party. I’ve learned my lesson and will choose the words I cast into the Well of Wyrd more carefully in the future.  For Odin I burned pine resin incense blends while I offered up a full bottle of White Winter Winery’s Dry Mead.  Delicious and fragrant, yet simple, gifts.

I drew runes to ask HIm if the offerings had been well received.  His answer: Naudhiz.  Consdering today is my last day of the semester (and it’s a Wednesday to boot!) I couldn’t have delayed the offering any longer without breaking my oaths.  He was direct and to the point.  I also made sure to ask if the offerings were sufficient enough so that my actions would not negatively impact the wyrd of those I sumbeled with.  His answer: wunjo.  (Catskins reading this post, you guys are in the clear!).

I drew further runes to ask personal questions about the nature of Our work together and where we are headed next.  After closing the mead’s portal to the Well, I had a sudden inspiration on how to finish offering the mead to Odin.  I live on the third floor and was performing this rite on my balcony that overlooks tall pine trees.  Instead of going downstairs and pouring out the mead at the base of the trees, I instead, grabbed the handle of the stein, raised the mead in salute, sang out an Ansuz galdr, and flung it over the balcony railing in a wide arc (after first making sure there weren’t any random folks walking around down below).  The moment was perfect.  The bright sunshine reflected off of the droplets of falling mead, creating a glittering rainbow that brushed the pine boughs while smoke from the pine incense curled around my arms.  It was a moment filled with grace. Simple and beautiful.

Food for the Living, Food for the Dead

*I do not own the rights to any of these images. I am happy to remove them upon request.

Hand of Venus
Detail from Rossetti’s “Venus Verticordia” 1864-1868
(photo source: http://www.rossettiarchive.org/docs/s173.rap.html)

After reading A.R. Littlewood’s “The Symbolism of the Apple in Greek and Roman Literature” I have a renewed interest in using apples as offerings for multiple deities and the dead.  From my childhood love of Greek mythology, I was already aware of the story of Paris and the golden apple of discord, the role of Aphrodite’s golden apples in the story of Atalanta and Hippomenes, and the golden apples of the Hesperides, but I was not formerly aware of how apples are sacred to Apollo.  Littlewood cites how apple garlands were used occassionally alongside the laurel garlands at the Pythian Games.  This fact intrigued me further to explore how apples are symbolically portrayed and used in Greek culture outside of the spheres of love and marriage…

Apples for the Dead

Littlewood mentions the role of apples in rituals for the dead, citing Hyginus Fabulae 104, which a translation of (courtesy of theoi.com) states:

When Ladomia, daughter of Acastus, after her husband’s loss had spent the three hours which she had asked from the gods, she could not endure her weeping and grief. And so she made a bronze likeness of her husband Protesilaus, put it in her room under pretense of sacred rites, and devoted herself to it. When a servant early in the morning had brought fruit for the offerings…

What does this imply? Were apples frequently associated with gifts for the dead? Apples as a part of the totenmahl, or funeral banquet, are frequent depictions as part of the banquet desserts, alongside images of pomegranates, figs, eggs, and specific cakes (Grandjouan 1989: 9).  ***Look below at the low table beneath the reclining man to see the various foods.  The little pyramid shaped object is one of the special cakes…

Funeral Banquet

   Totenmahl Votive Relief, Athens

Based upon this new information, I now plan to offer apples to the dead when doing Hellenismos rites where I call upon Aphrodite Epytimbia and Askalaphus. I feel inspired to use apples blossoms alongside laurel leaves when offering to Apollon in his aspect as Apollon Nymphagetes, and especially in conjuction with honoring the Epimelides, nymphs who protected the apple orchards and sheep flocks.

In my practices of Norse heathenry, when I find synchronicities between Greek practices and those of my Northern gods, I am well-pleased.  Iðunn’s golden apples, the apples of youth, are also discussed as being food of the dead. Apples were also found as grave offerings in Oseberg ship burial site, where in the burial chamber a chest of wild apples and corn was found (Davidson 1968: 17). In my trip to Helheim, the road to Hela’s garden was lined with the twisted trunks of ancient apple trees.  In future rites for the Norse dead, I will offer apples, especially apples drizzled with bright honey (the nectar blessed by Freyr, king of those under barrows) to the hungry spirits in order to nourish them and anoint their lips with prophecy.

Ancestors, Apple Cider, and Self-Esteem

So last night being the dark moon, I had witchy business to attend to.  The problem? I finally succumbed to the upper respiratory infection that has been spreading throughout my college campus.  I hemmed and hawed over what to do.  Yes, I could cut a circle when I finally felt better and ritual as though it was the dark moon, but the problem with this rite lay in the fact that it was specifically for the dead and as I contemplated pushing the ritual off until later (which I had already done twice before for other reasons), I could *feel* them getting increasingly irritated and angry with me. No one wants to piss off their ancestors, so I decided to buck up and give them something small, but heartfelt, until I could muster up the energy to do things properly.  Immediately after coming to this conclusion, I gathered up my offerings: a red candle dressed in Lawless’ Shades oil, water, honeyed milk and apple cider libations, and Ancestor incense.  I wanted to offer some food too, but looking around my scarce pantry, I didn’t feel like anything I had was fine enough—which in hindsight was really very silly of me.  I suppose that a PB&J sandwich would have been accepted by them if I offered it with respect and love, but I doubled up on the libations to make up for the lack of food.

Why am I posting on this? For a witch that is interested in working with the dead, this awkward rite was one of the first times I had ritualed specifically for them, and not treating them as a “plus one” in a rite for a deity  (which I shamefully admit to doing often).  The response to this offering, even though made by me in my pajamas while sniffling, hacking, and popping sudafed tablets, was overwhelming! There was an immediate increase in the pressure of the room (and no, it wasn’t just my stopped up sinuses causing it).  They showed up quickly and in numbers.  I had hallowed the space near the altar and sort of set up a boundary to keep them from wandering in on me in undesired settings (yeah, I’m paranoid like that).  I let them hang out as long as they liked, letting them take their time in partaking of the offerings, and did a little divination with my astragalomancy set.  When I slipped out of the bounded area to rest on my couch and blow my nose, they crowded around the edges of the circle, clearly interested in what was going on, and surveying my apartment.  I had thought about masking the apartment from them, but since I invited my own ancestors (and only the ones who weren’t out to cause me trouble) it seemed like an ass move on my part.  I will say, I will never again invite them in without having my apartment looking completely spotless. I realize that it’s a respect issue (which was part of the reason why I wanted to postpone the rite until after I’d recovered enough to pick up the place), but there are some ladies in my ancestral line that probably equated the cleanliness of their homes with feelings of personal self-worth.  Needless to say, I got an “earful” over the state of my apartment.  Damned if you do, damned if you don’t, right?

Long story short, even though I (and my apartment) looked like a hot mess, and I was feeling tired and feeble, my ancestors clearly appreciated the gesture.  I had originally been under the impression that I was supposed to ritual to Hermes and Askalaphus again, but as I was gathering my supplies, Hermes sort of tapped me on my shoulder and I had a sudden realization that this was supposed to be a transitory rite, meant for the dead this time, not as much for the deities.  I still offered some incense and gin to them, and for some reason Hermes seemed very partial to the Abramelin incense that night.  Oddly enough, his incense burned strangely fast, as in the whole stick had converted to ash in about 5 minutes.  The incense stick seemed to mirror his behavior that night where he showed up only briefly, and was primarily focused on getting me to talk and offer to the dead.  Divination confirmed that I shouldn’t rush into things when working with the dead, that building a relationship is the most important part, and to neglect that is to invite trouble.

Admittedly, I had always been a little hesitant to offer to my ancestors in my own home because I was scared that what I had to offer wouldn’t be “good enough” somehow, or that I turn out to be a disappointment to them.  Pure silliness on my part.  While I did get a mini lecture on my housekeeping, they seemed truly happy to be remembered and I finally feel much more confident about working with them and any weird low self-esteem issues about creating and maintaining a link to my ancestral dead are gone.

An Overdue Meeting

Trance Journey Diary:

So last night I made an unexpected trip–to Asgard of all places. It was about 8:30 last night when I had a rushed feeling, a pressure building up, a sense that I really needed to take a journey. Now.  As I was not in the middle of anything else, I followed up on that feeling and here is what happened…

I got the understanding that I didn’t have “time” to take a full shower so I cleaned up a bit– brushed teeth, washed face, feet, and hands so I didn’t feel distracted by any bodily dirt.  I then proceeded to put on my silver bear claw necklace (awesomely made by my talented friend Cindy, author of “The Dreaming Wood” blog), grab my rune set of bear phalanges, and [lightly] slather myself in Lawless’s Henbane ointment, astral travel oil, Yggdrasil oil, and Saining oil.  Yeah. Lots of oils. I wasn’t sure how they’d mix and I was alone in my apartment so I was being relatively careful…I wanted the extra entheogenic push because I figured that if this trip was that important I might be there awhile and sure enough…I was right!

First things first. Draw a rune.  Mannaz.  Yep, I’m not going to be alone on this journey…

Lay back down.  Damn.  Too much henbane? I’m unfocused, having trouble piercing through the worlds.  Cast a bindrune.  An intricate combination of elhaz, wunjo, and naudhiz [made up on the spot…not sure if others have used that combination of runes for similar effect]. It phased me through with no problem and I ended up at the base of Yggdrasil itself where my fetch was waiting for me.  We greeted one another and I found out the hard way that solar energy in super concentrated form is not a very digestible offering for one’s fetch–don’t worry, he wasn’t harmed, it was more like he had indigestion.  He also bit me in impatience because we had places to go and people to see and apparently he was keeping a much tighter schedule than I was.

I climbed onto his back and we set off at a breakneck pace at a 45 degree angle.  As we’d never traveled this way before I was a little apprehensive.  We also got a bit too close to a “no fly zone” near Asgard and we totally got a warning arrow over our shoulders.  Nice of them not to shoot to kill, right?  I of course start freaking out and asking if we’re supposed to be going to Asgard and if so, why didn’t I know about it earlier, I could have brought some nice gifts, etc. etc. For the first time. Ever. The bear spoke to me out loud.  A baritone voice said, “It’s not that kind of visit”. Eeesh, that sounded ominous. So I suggested that we head over to Bifröst if that led to where we needed to go.  The Bear gave me a look that said “I’m sure you could find a shortcut” but after what happened in Svartalfheim and because I’d have Heimdall to answer to (plus, who wants to be know as that “girl who trespasses all the time”?) I quickly ended that train of thought.

The Bear took me to the base of Bifröst and I stared at it for awhile.  Yes, it is a rainbow, but a very odd one.  For me it was iridescent glittering mist in a permanent prism of colors.  Seemingly as insubstantial as a cloud.  We took a moment to adjust to it and I had a feeling that our intentions were being tested.  It was decided (by Heimdall or the bridge itself I am not sure) that we indeed “had business” in Asgard.  Up we went.  The mist of bridge coalesced under the feet of the Bear for brief moments only as he tore up this path.  I was holding on for dear life and leaning forward to keep my balance–it felt like ascending a super high roller-coaster.  The Bear never slowed down and I got the feeling that one does not dither on Bifröst lest they tumble or slide off with unpleasant consequences.  I urgently wanted to be off the bridge as soon as possible and the gate of Asgard was a welcome sight–it jutted out toward the bridge, looking like small floating continent.  As we stepped off the bridge, Heimdall stood before me and stared intensely at us.  I bowed my head and greeted Him.  I felt Him “scan” me and gruffly let me in.  He had a brilliant white-gold shine to Him that hurt to look upon for any length of time. The Bear and I quickly moved on.  We followed a large stream further into Asgard for quite awhile…it flowed past meadows and trees and emptied into a small lake at the edge of a clearing.  The Bear stopped and indicated that I should dismount. “Wait here,” was all that he said before disappearing.

I was fidgety and nervous and sat down on the grass.  I realized that my panicked feeling wasn’t going to be helpful so I took some deep breaths and calmed myself.  Was I ready? Yes. Cue urge to turn around.  It was Odin…wearing hunting leathers. So…unexpected. He was amused at my surprise and snapped his fingers to change his appearance to the dark grey/blue/black cloak and long robe that I’d encountered him in before.  His cloak reminds me of the color of darkest storm cloud…and I have come to the conclusion that I really identify with the energy in his “Storm” aspect..he is Thor’s father after all! The two of us had our long overdue talk in that glade for what happened to be an hour in real time, but I was not really aware of time in Asgard. In that time we talked “business”, set some some parameters, and he imparted just a taste of his vast knowledge.  As He plainly said to me, “words are binding,” and I’d made a promise to him that he was not going to let slide for any longer.  “Sacrifice bears a gift” was also stated..knowing the double-meaning of the word “gift”, [“poison”] there is much to be gained but also much to endure…and thus this adventure unfolds…

Phoibos Apollôn: The Blinding Light

Having one of those metaphysical “a-ha!” moments after reading Marcel Detienne’s “Apollo’s Slaughterhouse” and gaining some insight to Apollo’s role as both a killer and purifier (1986: 51-52).. A beginning glimpse into the god of bloody ash altars and healing springs is found in this small passage:

             In archaic Greek, phoibos signifies pure and holy, like Ocean’s water or the sun’s brightness.  In the religious vocabulary, according to Plutarch who was well versed in it, phoibos in composite form designated a state of segregated purity…to be phoibos is to be so rigorously separate that one becomes consecrated, as are, in effect, the priests which Apollo loves to surround himself with.  It means to become consecrated like the Hosioi, the perpetually Pure of Delphi; but also like the suppliants of Cyrenus…personally tied to the god…and part of his property…among the latter are found the “decimated ones,” the dekatoi, homicides whose abominable pollution places them entirely on the side of the gods, on the side of phoibos. It is precisely here that the totally impure tends to merge itself with the pure.  Apollo is fully phoibos. He is the untouchable in his two poles: murderer to the point of madness…[and] Apollo, the Hyperborean purifier, [the] emblem of a way of life so pure that it excludes the blood of death and the blood of birth.

The article goes on to tell about how at Delos, a site linked to Apollo’s birth, two altars were placed side by side: one “pure and pious” unsullied by blood, the other formed out of the entwined horns from previous sacrifice, upon which the “bloodiest sacrifices” were freely invited to take place.  Acknowledgment of Apollo’s dual nature is something that I’ve found missing from a lot of introductory literature about Him…much of it focuses on his role as a healer, diviner, musician, poet, leader of the muses, archer, etc….while I desire to work with these aspects of Him, I also know that I personally need to give cult to both polarities of Phoibos Apollôn, the “Prince of Sacrificers”.

Sacrifice Apollo

“A Sacrifice to Apollo” — Gayley 1893

http://etc.usf.edu/clipart/18800/18865/sacrifice_ap_18865.ht