Brotherhood, Fellowship, and Transformation

As my readers know, I have been involved with the Brotherhood of the Phoenix for a number of years and I have recently been in positions of leadership – Magister (President) of the Chicago Temple and Bursar (Treasurer) for the national organization.

We have had some major changes bubbling inside our Order for a while now, and they are just starting to break the surface, so I think it is time for me to start writing about them here.

We were founded in 2004 as a neopagan order for men who love men. Since I have been involved, that has meant inclusion of gay, bi, trans, and queer male identities. Our cosmology, our deities, and our rituals specifically avoid the forms of heterosexual male-female duality that is common in many Pagan traditions. Some of our Brothers have had a strong interest in “male mysteries” and explorations of masculine sexuality as it relates to and embodies the sacred. To be honest, this aspect has not been central to my experience of the Brotherhood.

It has become increasingly clear to us that many people who don’t identify specifically as men are interested in our tradition. Women, non-binary, and genderqueer people have been supporters and close allies. At the same time, many of us have become uncomfortable with drawing the line which leaves these seekers outside of our group. There is a value in exploring and celebrating the spiritual dimension of male sexuality – but the mission of our group is larger than this. Many of us have experienced this message from our deities. There are even those within our group who have stepped away from identifying as “men”, which has brought the challenge of inclusion to the fore.

At the same time, two of our long-time Brothers recently moved to Seattle and are dedicated to expanding our group there. However, they wanted to start that group without the gendered limitation that we’ve had in Chicago. They wanted to be – from the beginning – open to LGBTQ/Queer people of all gender identities. And with a lot of discussion, the national organization is supportive of that. But it meant, among other things, figuring out a name for the organization that doesn’t limit/define gender.

So, the first announcement is that our national organization will be changing its name to “Fellowship of the Phoenix”. It is going to take some time to figure out all the official things that need to be changed in order to make that happen. The Seattle group will be using that name from its inception. Their first public ritual will take place on August 19, 2017.

For the moment, our Chicago group is still processing this – the cauldron is still bubbling. We will have a vote next month about adopting both the name change and changing our definition of who is invited to all public events, our novitiate program, and to apply for membership. I don’t want to tell you that Chicago will definitely adopt all these changes. It will be the decision of the group. But I do know that many of the active members are ready for these changes to be adopted. Others feel like there is something special that we will be giving up by changing our focus and broadening our target audience. Emotions have run high at times. Letting everyone have a voice in the process can be frustrating, but it’s necessary.

So, for now, we will have a “Seattle Fellowship of the Phoenix” and a “Chicago Brotherhood of the Phoenix” under a national umbrella called “Fellowship of the Phoenix”. At least for the moment.

The Phoenix is a symbol of transformation. This concept is central to who we are. I am personally happy that this transformation is finally starting to manifest. It will take some time and processing for this phase of transformation to be complete.

A Terra Sol Story

Once upon a time, there was a child named Quin. Quin lived in a beautiful sheltered Valley that was full of fruit and nut trees for food, clear streams of water, and plenty of wood for a fire, although, to be honest, it was almost never cold. There were other people in the Valley, kind people who helped Quin, but it was always clear that these people were not Quin’s family.

Quin began to turn into an adult, and the curiosity about their family grew stronger. Quin had a distant memory that told them “you are a child of Terra” and “you share your family with Sol”. Quin did not know Terra and Sol, but assured that these were their family, a quest began.

Quin asked the people of the Valley where to find Terra. They hummed and scratched their chins, but finally, they said that the best place to look for Terra was in the deep cave at the far North of the Valley.

Quin set off to this place, which was on the very edge of the little world they knew. The cave was dark and damp, but Quin persisted inward with the help of a torch. The tunnels wound back and forth, and sometimes they were a tight squeeze, but finally, the cave opened into a chamber lined with glistening crystals and stalactites.

At the far end, there were two people, one was a Youth, perhaps just a little younger than Quin, and the other was an ancient, stately Elder in robes and a crown. As Quin approached, the Youth was on the ground, looking at their own toes as if they had never seen them before – wiggling them, sniffing them, playing with them. The Elder was sitting on a ledge, still and with eyes closed, but with a sense of alertness.

“Hello, friends.” Quin started. They were not used to talking to strangers.

“I was told that I may be able to find Terra here.”

“Yes, definitely” said the Youth, excited to share this bit of information. “This is an excellent place to find Terra.” And after a pause, “But you can also find Terra wherever you came from.”

“I believe that I am the child of Terra.” Said Quin, filled with confusion. I am trying to find my parent.

The Youth giddily blurted out. “You are a child of Terra, as are we, as are all the trees and animals and rocks.” At that, the Youth got up, grabbed Quin’s torch, and ran over to the crystals on the wall and began waving the torch back and forth and seeing how the crystals catch the light.

The Elder finally spoke. “You are surely the child of Terra. Everything in your being is made of Terra. Our bones and flesh are Terra. Every part of your body and everything that nourishes you is Terra. Terra is mud and rock. Terra is grass and bird wings. Terra is the very substance that makes us possible.”

“Oh. I was hoping for a breathing, speaking kind of parent. One that might tell stories and give hugs.”

“Terra can be that. There are many stories and messages contained in Terra, contained within yourself. And every act of connection is the touch of Terra. This is the source of your very being. You must treasure it.”

With some convincing, the Youth gave up the torch, and Quin found their way out of the cave and back to the Valley. Not really satisfied by the first part of the quest to find family, Quin went back to the people of the Valley and asked if they knew where to find Sol.

“Sol isn’t another rock, is it? I don’t think I want to find out my whole family is a mud puddle.” The people of the Valley laughed at this, but again they puzzled over the best place to find Sol. Eventually, the answer was that Sol could be found up on the top of the high mountain at the south end of the Valley.

So, again Quin journeyed to the very edge of their known world. The climb was difficult and tiring. Quin climbed through the night, with the light of the Moon, and as the Sun began to rise, Quin passed the tree line and saw the top of the mountain, an open windy space with a view for miles in all directions.

There were two figures on the highest spot. One was a lovely person with beautiful skin and long hair, scented with flowers. Quin was immediately drawn to this Lover, whose welcoming gaze beckoned. The other one was harder, harsher, carrying the sword and shield of a Warrior and with a look of determination.

Quin, a little nervously, giggled a little and then spoke to the Lover. “I was told that I could find Sol here on this mountaintop.”

“Yes, of course you can. Sol is rising there in the eastern sky.” The Lover gestured to the spreading purples and pinks of the sunrise.

“Oh no. That’s not what I thought. Sol is supposed to be my family.”

“Sol is your blood, your breath. Sol is everything that makes you move and think. Sol is the force that animates us all. It’s what makes the leaves turn green. It’s what makes the wind blow. And it’s what makes the heart beat.” The Lover reached over and touched Quin right over the heart. And Quin’s heart beat a little faster looking into those beautiful eyes.

The Warrior now spoke up. “Sol is motivation, strength. Sol is what gets us moving and keeps us alive. It’s love and it’s anger and it’s purpose. It takes your flesh and bone and it makes it into a living person.

“You have lived a sheltered life in the Valley, but now that you are grown, you must meet the world and know it for what it is. You must know the power of Sol and use it to both celebrate life and to fight to protect it.”

Quin, thoughtfully and a bit reluctantly, left the mountaintop and returned to that corner of the Valley that had been home. But now that Quin knew that they must explore the world outside the narrow confines of what they know. Terra and Sol were their family – they were what they came from and what they are made of. The raw stuff of Terra is animated by the power of Sol – that’s what makes each one of us who we are.

So, Quin set off to see the world and explore, to find joy and to find purpose.

And so the story continues. Did Quin live happily ever after? That part hasn’t been written, yet.

If you don’t have anything nice to say…

I have been quiet on this blog lately. I have done some writing – I wrote and submitted a piece for a queer magic anthology, which I will have more information on in the future.

I have also been putting a lot of mental energy into my new position as Magister for the Brotherhood of the Phoenix, which I mentioned on my previous post. This has taken a great deal of mental energy, even more than I anticipated. We’re going through discussions that cut to the very core of our mission and which will redefine who we are as an organization. And they have been contentious and sometimes emotional. And that intensity looks like it’s probably not going to let up for months, at least.

So, I’m getting some hands-on learning about how to help guide a group through conflict. How do I foster an environment where everyone feels heard? How do we balance the urge to hold onto what we know and value, while opening up to a broader vision? I knew these conversations were bound to happen, but they weren’t in the front of my mind when I took this position.

One of the Four Powers of the Sphinx is “to keep silence”. I have been thinking about this a great deal lately. I think a lot of people in this noisy world find this to be a very difficult lesson. Without trying to boast, I think I am better at it than many (which still doesn’t make me particularly good at it).

In much of my adult life, I have not sought to take the spotlight. I gave up music and theatre that I loved during my teen years. I didn’t put any of my writing in the public eye for years after college, even though I studied Creative Writing. It’s only in the past few years that I have kept this blog and occasionally did talks to (usually small) groups. I really made the decision to restrain my own voice. I try to think about whether my voice will contribute something in a given context before I speak up.

Now, as I am trying to navigate a leadership role in an organization, restraining my own voice has seemed even more important. If I start off a discussion with strongly stating my opinion of our path and what we should and shouldn’t do, I risk stifling different opinions. I have to find the right balance of saying enough to get the conversation going without trying to dominate the conversation. And of course, I have to watch to make sure conversations don’t descend into something hurtful.

Another aspect of this silence is that when I think about something to write about, I have been feeling empty, and a bit helpless. There are so many horrors in the world, from American politics, which seems to be lurching from one crisis to the next, to the horrifying stories coming out of Chechnya, to environmental disasters and disastrous environmental policy decisions.

I often feel the urge to run away to a remote location where I can plant a huge garden and watch over and try to protect some patch of forest. I have no idea how to change people. I don’t know how to make people compassionate or conscientious. I don’t know how to make them stop harming others and the environment. And I don’t think my voice – whether it be a blog post, a chant and a placard at a protest, a public meeting – is going to open people’s eyes to reverse the disastrous course that we’re on.

I guess we just had a Pagan holiday…

I have to admit I’ve never had much of a connection to Imbolc (or the various permutations of the pagan holiday around Feb 1st or 2nd). It doesn’t line up with anything that I’ve ever celebrated culturally or any celebrations that I grew up with (Groundhog Day is kind of a *meh* holiday).

I do like bonfires, but I don’t think I’ve ever been invited to an event this time of year centering on one. I’m not aware of any sacred wells around here. And as for the lambing time – lambs are pretty darned adorable, but as a vegan, they don’t form a part of my financial or agricultural world.

I guess all that’s left of that is the association with the beginnings of Spring. But I have to honest, early February doesn’t typically feel much like the beginning of Spring around Chicago. Most years, we’re still in for a full month or more of hard winter. This year, of course, we had an unusually mild January, so I don’t even have that severe Winter fatigue that normally accompanies this time of year.

I do like the Irish story of the Cailleach, the sacred hag, associated with the day. On Imbolc, she would indicate whether the winter was ending soon or if it would hang on for a long time. If there was still some harsh winter in the future, she would cause the weather to be bright and clear so she could gather more firewood to last the rest of the winter.

In the Brotherhood of the Phoenix, it is the beginning of a new cycle in our year. In our upcoming event called SpiritSong, we celebrate the Divine Youth, after celebrating the Elder in January. The Divine Youth gives the gift of Wonder, and that is an important one in this season of year, when the plants are dead and the skies are often gray. It is also important to remember in this political season, as so many threats seem to be lurking at our doorstep and the ungenerous hearts are the ones that lead us. We are building walls and cutting off assistance for those in need. We are lifting the protections to the environment and taking away funding from schools and the arts.

Wonder gives us the gift of seeing beauty in the simple and everyday things. It allows us to break the mundane unthinking patterns of our life and appreciate what we take for granted. It allows us to appreciate the marvelous talents that people have, and the skills that can seem almost magical. It is bound together with Gratitude and Joy. It makes us appreciate the many things that are provided to us, the bounty that surrounds us.

This gift of Wonder, tapping into something within ourselves that improves our outlook – this is something I will celebrate.

Ecstasis Event October 8th – Brotherhood of the Phoenix

In the cosmology of the Brotherhood of the Phoenix, we are in the season of the Divine Androgyne. I think the Androgyne has many things to teach us about accepting parts of ourselves and finding a way to keep a dynamic balance, particularly in times of change.

Ecstasis is our celebration of the Androgyne, and it is open to people of all genders and sexual identities (ages 18 and over). Because it is open to everyone, we typically get a nice crowd, filled with our friends and supporters. I would like to welcome you, too. It is the evening of October 8th, at a location just west of Chicago’s Loop. We will have a ritual followed by a potluck. Find more details at one of the links below.

Facebook Event Page

Event information on the Brotherhood of the Phoenix website

Some Updates for September

It’s Pagan Pride season, and our Chicagoland celebration will be held on Sunday September 18, 2016 in Oak Park, Illinois (just west of Chicago). I wrote about last year’s celebration here, and I included a number of photos.

Brotherhood of the Phoenix will be leading the opening ritual this year, and I will be helping our spiritual leaders in that task. Leading a large public ritual, outdoors and filled with many strangers, is quite a bit different from celebrating our usual group rituals. Two years ago, I did take a role in a public ritual at Pagan Pride led by Earth Traditions, so it’s not an entirely new experience for me. I held one of the eight points of the circle around which a giant web was woven, which was a wonderful visual image. (I am in the deep background in photos 5 and 12 in this photo set.)

If you are in the area, please join us on Sunday the 18th. In addition to leading ritual, the Brotherhood will have a tent/table, so you can connect with us there.

 

On a separate note about my ongoing involvement with Brotherhood of the Phoenix, I was elected to the Council of Guardians at the National level for the organization, which is the organization’s governing body. I have already been involved with the Council for our Chicago Temple, but this is a new level of involvement, and as always, I am learning a great deal at each step along the way. It is an exciting time for the Brotherhood, since there is likely going to be a new temple within the next few months in a new city, which represents a significant expansion for our small and emerging order. We’re also revamping the website and going through various other interesting changes.

 

I love the Fall, and my garden has been very productive with tomatoes, summer squash, turnips, kale, and other goodies. Ceres is a great provider and I am in constant awe. I think the worst heat of the summer has passed (although you never can really tell). I’m looking forward to the next few months, even as I realize the country in general, and the Pagan community in particular, is in a divisive mood. Certain people’s prejudices have been on display more boldly and harshly than usual lately. I want to hear people’s perspective, but sometimes I have to unplug from the anger and, frankly, lack of compassion that I hear so often.

 

Enjoy the harvest season, my friends!

My Polytheism

As part of a project to present many different views of polytheism, as shown on the My Polytheism website, my contribution is here.

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My Polytheism is about variety. At its heart, it’s based on a belief that no one is “in charge”, at least not in any over-arching sense. There are many powers in the world, many of which are greater than human powers. As we make our way through the world, we encounter many of these (if we are paying attention) – Gods, Goddesses, spirits, genii loci. Some are specific to places and times. Some have greater power to exist over long periods of time and great expanses of space. Human perception of them is limited. Human understanding of them is incomplete. But, if we are lucky, we are able to have some kind of communication with them.

I understand these powers to be distinct beings, therefore I embrace the term polytheist. Trying to think of them as part of some unified being seems intuitively wrong to me. Sometimes they seem to look almost human and communicate in a human way, but that may be either their effort to be relatable, or my own mind’s attempt to comprehend what I am experiencing. Sometimes they have existence that is clearly not like that of humanity.

In creating my own framework for a modern polytheism, I look to ancient Rome for inspiration, but I do not aim to slavishly recreate Roman practice.

I love that the Roman religious world was multicultural, eclectic, and pragmatic. Gods and Goddesses from various traditions were incorporated into the Roman religious landscape without any perceived contradiction. I love that at least one major strain of Roman devotion has a tradition of not using animal sacrifice (the Numa tradition).

I am fascinated by the way that Roman religion worked in multiple layers.

  • There was a home-based religion, based around the hearth and the lararium.
  • There were public temples and shrines, as well as festivals, often sponsored by wealthy individuals or groups. These could be for the benefit of a neighborhood, a full city, or on the roadside for travelers. I would love to see some of this in our modern age.
  • There was a state-sponsored religious cult*, dedicated to certain Gods, and eventually to deified Emperors. I don’t have much interest in a revival of this (and I don’t even understand how that would work in our current society).
  • At the same time, many people belonged to mystery cults* – initiatory organizations usually devoted to particular Gods and Goddesses and offering a more personal revelatory and/or ecstatic experience. These organizations had their own rules and practices.

None of these methods of devotion were contradictory. People could pick and choose their devotion (although for political reasons, there were expectations or even compulsions for the actions of public figures around the public festivals and state religious rites).

*When I use the word “cult”, it refers to a devotional tradition and it does not carry the negative connotation that it often does in modern usage.

At the same time, the Romans were deeply conservative, in the sense that they revered any practice or tradition that was seen as ancient. There was a strong cultural drive to maintain rituals, both in the broad and specific senses of the word. They were very picky about the specifics of how rituals were performed, often stopping and starting again from the beginning if something unexpected happened. They had the tendency to continue traditions long past the time when anyone had the faintest idea of their purpose or origin.

This kind of unexamined adherence to the past is not my way. In fact, if it were, I would likely still be a Catholic, perhaps even a priest of that Christian religion where I was raised. The truth is, for my family and for nearly everyone in this country, there is no unbroken line of polytheists. Any such traditions are revived (with varying degrees of guesswork involved) or created anew.

Because I believe in the reality of the Gods, Goddesses and various other spirits, I believe these new traditions can be valid and guided by divine inspiration. But going from divine inspiration to concrete ritual, texts, and institutions will always be colored by the current cultural landscape and individual personality of those involved.

And that brings me to my involvement with the Brotherhood of the Phoenix. The Brotherhood is a neopagan order for men who love men (gay, bi, trans, queer). Being neopagan, it isn’t explicitly polytheist, but my experience of the Gods of the Brotherhood is polytheistic. As part of the emergent tradition, there are eight Gods that we work with (an example of my work with them here), and I understand them as distinct deities. Not everyone in the Brotherhood does. But the training that I have gained through the Brotherhood has been formative for me, and it has effected my practices beyond the Brotherhood Gods.

The Brotherhood traditions are influenced by Western Ceremonial Magic tradition, and my sense of ritual and ecstasy, of mental preparedness for spiritual experience is formed by this. Going back to the framework of Roman religion, this is an initiatory group, with a special spiritual focus for the enrichment of its members. I include it in the broader scope of my religious life, and lately, it has been in a central place.

Finally, I want to say that my polytheism is ecstatic (or it aspires to be). I think the experience of Gods, Goddesses, and various other spirits is what makes it all meaningful. My polytheism doesn’t give commandments, it offers experiences. It may be that sense of wonder when walking in the woods on a gorgeous day or looking out over the ocean and trying to comprehend its vastness. It can be much more specific – a God talking to you, appearing in some form, giving you messages. It can be the feeling of a Goddess giving you a message that you must write down and pass along.

To me, much of the purpose of devotion is to honor and grow closer to the deities and spirits, to welcome them into our lives and value who they are, as far as we can understand it. It may even be just to express our awe and appreciation, and it may be to ask for guidance, focus our minds and hearts, or provide us peace. As long as we understand that these relationships do not work like vending machines, but rather that we are cultivating relationship, we can see the value in our practices.

The Gifts from My Deities Require Work

I have talked before about some of the work of maintaining a relationship with the gods and goddesses. Keeping them welcome and satisfied requires attention – made concrete in the form of prayers, candles, incense, offerings, and other devotions. As with a relationship with another human, time and attention are key.

But the work doesn’t end there. Relationship with deities are not like vending machines. Two prayers, a stick of incense, and poured out glass of wine doesn’t mean that you get a package with your heart’s desire, ready to use. To truly receive and truly appreciate the gifts themselves, we often must engage – physically, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. Without an ongoing engagement, we miss the true benefits of these relationships and their gifts.

In my personal practice, I am particularly devoted to Apollo and Ceres.

Ceres is a longstanding connection for me, and my interest in her is closely related to my interest in food and plants. She is the one who makes plants grow, which is the cornerstone of all food, all sustenance. Ceres’ gifts are very concrete – she makes plants grow, and she delivers abundance, at least in season. But anyone who knows about farming, or even gardening (my experience) knows that it requires a fair amount of labor to turn her gifts into something usable for humans. Naturally occurring, readily edible foods are fairly scarce. Most types of plant foods – grains, vegetables, nuts, and legumes – require effort to plant, cultivate, harvest, process, cook, etc. Fruit can often be eaten directly after picked, but even there, the planting and harvesting requires human input. Her gifts are abundant, but they aren’t usable without work.

Apollo is a god who chose me, in a sense. One day, he just started talking to me, which surprised me. I don’t think of myself as particularly “sunny”, so I wasn’t sure what a sun god wanted from me. But Apollo is a god of knowledge, culture, music, theatre, philosophy and clear thought. He is a god of divination and oracles. He can shine a light on knowledge, but he leaves the wisdom, the reflection to each person. What he reveals is often, frankly, puzzling. In short, his gifts require work, processing, contemplation. Sometimes, he leaves humans like Cassandra – with a knowledge of future disaster and no tools to avert it or even warn anyone.

 

I am also devoted to the gods of the Brotherhood of the Phoenix, an emergent tradition that I have written about in the past. Each of these gods have a face and personality that requires reflection and lessons. Our writings, our rituals, our tradition gives us guidance as well as a chance to interact with the god. Some of the gods are clearly reflected within ourselves and it’s easy to find an affinity, a connection. Others can be harder to find, but we continue to show them respect and hospitality, knowing one day they will have lessons to impart.

One of the main goals of the Brotherhood, and a prime purpose for our interaction with the gods, is to explore aspects of ourselves as men who love men – gay, bi, queer, trans men in a broadly defined scope. Some conceive of these gods as archetypes that men who love men can relate to, when often the archetypes of other Neopagan traditions seem to exclude us. I have worked with them long enough to see them as distinct personalities and I think of them and treat them as distinct gods. They have often given me unexpected messages that are not simply the result of some abstract idea. They require self-examination and work toward embodying their lessons in a way that is authentic to our self and our identity.

 

This is the season of The Healer, and I have been thinking about the lessons of this god. What does it mean to be The Healer, a healer of oneself and of others? I have embraced some tools. I grew up in a medical family – my father was a medical technician and then manager of a hospital laboratory for years. My mother went to nurse’s training. Other members of my family worked in medicine in one way or another. Hygiene, nutrition, general health maintenance was a frequent topic of conversation. I embrace using food as an avenue to health, and I am always eager to learn more about the properties and processes of healthy food, as well as making it appealing to those who enjoy it (i.e. cooking).

On the other hand, I am less successful at embracing the healing properties of exercise. My inclination is often to be a homebody, rather than craving activity. I love some types of exercise, such as a walk in the woods, but it is an effort for me to get out and move. Also, I know I fail at stress management. I let stress build up in my body, tightening my muscles and making my stomach churn. It can literally make me sick, and I often fail at reaching out for ways to alleviate the stress and its effects. I also have bouts of depression, mercifully less severe than what I experienced when I was younger, but still present. It can be challenging to reach out for the help I need to ease my situation when those hit. The despair and disconnection can take hold and become a self-reinforcing loop.

So, having taken stock, I will call on the Healer to help me embody some of these better habits, and help me heal myself. I will also call on the Healer to guide me to be open to helping others with their own path of healing – physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. This is how I will hope to gain the gifts of the Healer and take another step toward my own transformation.

Devotional Rituals to the Brotherhood Gods

The altar for the Lover, prepared for devotion

The altar for the Lover, prepared for devotion

The Brotherhood of the Phoenix is devoted to the Eight-Fold God. Our public rituals throughout the year are each devoted to one specific face of the God as we move through the cycle of the year.

In addition to the public rituals, we have tools to develop our personal relationship with the Gods. Each of us approach this a little differently, some use meditation, some write journals or poetry. There is an anthology of some of this devotional poetry that is available through the Brotherhood.

I’m going to give you a window into something that I do for my personal practice. Since my framework is devotional polytheism, I look at the faces of the God as separate gods, knowing that, as with all gods and goddesses, their own personality and identity is actually far more complex than what I see when I look at them. I interact with them as distinct persons and clear personalities, but I don’t have a dogmatic belief about their nature. The Brotherhood does not have any dogma about this matter either.

We are transitioning from the season of the Explorer to the season of the Lover, so I am going to show you my devotional ritual for the Lover.

First, I start by printing out the appropriate Eight-Fold God Prayer Candle Template provided by the Brotherhood here. These pages are intended for devotional candles (which is another method some Brothers use). For my purposes, I am going to use the God image, the prayer, and the list of correspondences off this page. As you will see, I am taking this in a different direction than just a simple candle.

I use the list of correspondences to collect items for an offering to the God. In this case, I have chosen the following for a connection to the Lover:

Plum
Avocado
Vanilla Bean
Roses
Tulips
Silver Candle
Peach Mango flavored coconut water

To the extent that’s feasible, I try to use things I have or are easily accessible to me. As you can see, many of these things can come from a typical grocery store. If they can come from your garden or are the result of your own labor, that’s even better.

I choose altar decorations that are compatible with the suggested colors and correspondences. In this case I chose flowers and rose quartz from the correspondences, as well as the grey cloth. I will also offer some of the flowers to the God during the ritual.

I always include some items that I can also consume, so that I can participate in the offering. I always include one liquid to be poured out. Sometimes I include an incense. This time I did not, since the chosen items already had some strong fragrances, which I did not want to overwhelm.

The idea is that the chosen items are the things that the Lover loves and appreciates. It is his taste and his embodiment. I am offering him what he likes, as any good host does, in the hope that he will feel welcome and spend time with me. I partake of these tastes and smells to bring myself closer to him.

I set these all up on the altar. It is a temporary altar, which is a focal point for the ritual. I print out and cut out the God image and place it on the altar. I also have an offering bowl to receive the items that I will be giving to the God.

I light the candle. I read the prayer provided aloud. I also usually provide a prayer of my own. I breathe. I smell the flowers.

I place the items into the offering bowl one by one, offering them to the God and also appreciating them myself – by smell, by looking, or in the case of the plum and avocado this time, I keep a few pieces for myself to eat. At each step, I raise the offering bowl, being mindful of the offering and the hospitality.

Then I pour out the drink, first to the God and then to myself.

The altar to the Lover, with the offering given

The altar to the Lover, with the offering given

At this point, I may offer another prayer, and then I sit for a while in the presence of the God. I usually keep a notebook handy, in case I receive a message or impression. Sometimes, I am inspired to write down quite a lot at this time. Sometimes, it is just a matter of being present and aware.

When I am done, I thank the God for being with me. In the Brotherhood, we do not “dismiss” the Gods. We say “I honor you always in the circle of my life” to divine presences as a closure to rituals, and then blow out the candle. It’s a closure to this interaction, but we will always welcome the ongoing presence of the God.

I typically take down the temporary altar that same day. I take the contents of the offering bowl and return it to the elements, usually putting it into the earth in my garden. I use this ritual during the season for each God, and at other times as needed, when I have felt the need to connect.

To the Divine Youth

In the Brotherhood of the Phoenix, we celebrate the faces of the Eight-Fold God according to the season. We are in the season of the Divine Youth, and he will be welcomed at our Spirit Song celebration on February 20th.

I wrote this prayer and meditation on what the Divine Youth can mean in my life.

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Divine Youth,

Show me the Wonder of a new born child.

Let me see the common things of the world in a fresh way.

Bring me to a state of mind that is clean and innocent.

 

Let me discover how the snow feels when I pick it up. Or how mud feels when I squish it between my fingers. Let me feel how a dog feels when I pet the fur and how the dog’s tongue feels licking my face. Let me spin around again and again until I am dizzy.

Let me taste without memory or prior ideas of what I like and don’t like. Let me taste applesauce or olives or clean pure water like I’ve never tasted them before.

Let me smell a flower, baking bread, an old book, a fart – just smell and not let the thousand memories overwhelm the simple experience of smelling.

Let me see something right in front of me, so common that I forget to see it.  Really look at it. What color is it, what size and shape? Is it shiny or dull? Turn it upside down and open it up to really see it. If it’s worn or broken, don’t even think about what it was originally – see it for what it is in this moment.

Let me listen to the sounds around me with fresh ears. The hum or thumping of machines. The chirping of birds. The low roar of traffic. Is there music playing or is someone talking – don’t make out the words. Listen to the rhythm and pitch. How does it make me feel? Do I want to dance? Do I want to cry? Is someone making a point or are they trying to soothe? Let it wash over me.

 

Divine Youth,

Let me experience and puzzle over feelings and tastes and smells and sights and sounds.

Let me set aside what I think I know and see the world with a new vision.

Let me feel Wonder.