Thursday, 29 November 2012

Trees Are Awesome Beings

Having lived in the tropics for 26 years, I had never seen real Douglas Fir in my life before this tree! (We do have pine in the highlands, though.)

I really, really love trees. But, beautiful as they are, would you find it more "eco-friendly" to buy a synthetic tree than to cut down a real one for the holidays? 

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Trees, Traditions, and Snowless Cold Weather

Surprise, surprise, it's that time of the year again when I feel a little more Germanic than I usually do: Yule!

It's a day after the nones or 9th day of the month, and we're nearly finished in decorating our Holiday Tree. If you think it's a little too early for Christmas, I'd have you know that Filipinos are total Whos. Christmastide lasts from September to January in most of the country. Talk about Christmas creep.

Holiday lights in Ayala Triangle Park, Makati City
The lights at night
You should see them in action.

My family, however, is a little conservative in this regard. Christmastide should, at least, begin after the annual ancestral rites. I reckon it a little odd to put up lights and wreaths and divine baby figurines alongside candles and offerings to the Dead. A time for everything, as they say.

And, that time has come (whobilation!) as we officially started welcoming Winter (which is really just mildly cold weather here) on the first new moon after All Souls (which also happens to be the time when the cold northeast winds replace the warm southwest monsoon). By this time, almost everybody's got their decor up, anyway.

Of course, I'm willing to bet my left arm that 99% of the locals who put up trees and wreaths here have no idea what they're supposed to mean. There weren't any holiday trees before the American colonists came, and even when they came over, nobody ever thought about what it was for. (In all fairness, though, I don't think most of the colonists knew about its significance, either.)

And, whilst it's unlikely that the ancient Romans and Greeks put up 'commemorative trees' to honour the pan-European axis mundi, I see no reason why we - as modern pagans - can't, especially if it means something to us. In my case, as one who has a couple of German ancestors, has had the Holiday Tree as a family tradition for generations, and as one who generally likes trees and December holidays, it feels very, very appropriate.

Our Holiday Tree
It's not real, but we treat it as if it were a real tree
After 10 months of slumber, it gets bathed and is crowned with a golden bough
It is adorned with flowers and sheaves of grain
It is showered with spices and aromatic herbs
Because this tree is not just any tree

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Katallageia and Hermaia

Before I post pictures of last night's Noumênia rites, let me share two modern Greek festivals that are happening tomorrow and the day after tomorrow.

Quoting the calendar of Neos Alexandria:

Hermaia EriouniaThis modern Greek festival occurs on 4 Audenaios (the Makedonian equivalent of Maimakteriôn). 
Festival of Hermes as Luck-bringer - games, role-reversal, gambling. Sacrifices for good luck for the coming year.
Katallageia ("Reconciliation")This modern Greek festival occurs on 5-6 Audenaios. 
This festival celebrates the resolution of the antagonism between Hephaistos and his mother Hera. On the first day Hephaistos is banished from Olympos. His image is concealed and all fires are extinguished and technology avoided, since this is what the world would be like without the god. No lights are permitted to be lit, whether lamps or electric ones. All food consumed on this day must be eaten raw, without the benefit of fire. Avoid television, radio, internet, or other electrical devices unless your job depends on these and if possible walk to work. Spend the day in gloomy meditation, thinking about all the ways that the Smith god impacts our lives, and how horrible it would be without him. Then around midnight bring the image of Hephaistos out of hiding: present him before the image of Hera and pour out bowls of wine since Dionysos is the one who facilitated their reconciliation. Turn on all the lights in your home and celebrate the joyous return of Hephaistos with offerings to him, Dionysos, and Hera.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Pre-Noumênia Planning

This is what should happen today through tomorrow morning (again, as we begin our "days" at sundown):
  • Me, sleeping at this very instant
  • Waking at around 4 or 5 this afternoon to clean the Household Shrine and other 'vital' parts of the house my mother forgot to clean (she usually just cleans the floors downstairs)
  • Mother should be buying grapes or other fruits in season
  • Taking out the old offerings to be burnt before sundown
  • Bathing in absolute silence, no words to be uttered until the first prayer is recited
  • Lightning the shrine flame for the first time in the new month with prayers to Hestia at around 7 in the evening - the flame has to be fed with butter or oil
  • Carefully performing the initial rites to open the new month, prayers to Hestia, Apollôn Noumenios, and the Moon (second part to follow at first light)
  • Doing whatever, eating a full meal, having fun with family, getting some sleep
  • Waking up at around 5 in the morning to prepare the first offerings for the new month
  • Cleaning the hearth-stove and kitchen (very, very important) - this is where we prepare and cook our food
  • Cleaning the threshold and the doorstep (also very important) - this is where we pass through and where gods enter to bless us
  • Again, bathing in absolute silence, no words to be uttered until the first prayer is recited
  • Lighting the hearth-stove with the shrine flame (linking the two fires, making them one) at around 7 in the morning
  • Carefully performing the second part of the rites to open the new month, prayers to the Earth-mother, Janurmes (that's Hermês + Janus LOLOL), Dawn, and the Household Gods (Zeus, Hêra, and the Agathodaimôn on top)
  • First offerings ("first fruits") set at the House Shrine to "feed" the new month
  • All is set, enjoy the rest of the month

Thursday, 15 November 2012

New Moons on Busy Weekdays

Okay, one last thing before I sleep.

Tonight is when the moon makes its first appearance in the night sky, marking the beginning of a new month. It is the first evening (as we begin our days at sundown) in the lunar month of Maimakteriôn (Μαιμακτεριών), 5th in the old Athenian calendar. With work in the way, it's only realistic to predict that I won't be able to perform the traditional rites to start the new month for my household on the exact date of the new moon. It's almost past noon and I should be sleeping now (ideally, I should be sleeping at 10 and waking up at 6). As much as I take my cultus seriously, health is also an important part of my devotion to the Gods. I need my beauty sleep.

But, worry not, as new moons have happened on busy weekdays before, I have decided to perform the opening ceremony tomorrow evening, instead. I'm sure the Household Gods wouldn't mind resting for another day.

I promise to sleep earlier tomorrow as it's going be a Noumênia + Agathos Daimôn combo! But hey, if you're already celebrating tonight, have a Kala Noumênia!

Saints, Souls, and Apples

Okay, so I just got home from a 14 hour work-day (4 hours of which is travel time from my town to the big city). Exhausting, as usual, but I don't dread it a bit. It's a good paying job, it helps people, and I'm surrounded by a bunch of amazing individuals.

As promised, here's what went on during our super extended "All Hallows", when the Veil is thinnest, when the spirits of our departed -- according to our belief -- are granted free passes into our world as our honoured guests.

Why, I decided to make it a long holiday to bridge the two calendars (civic and lunar) was because I didn't feel comfortable choosing which to follow with regard to such a large and important event. If I had chosen the lunar date, I would've missed out on a large communal event. If I had chosen the civic date, then what am I celebrating the cycles of the moon for? So, I chose both. ANYWAY.

First Night of Remembering: 31 October / 16 Pyanepsion, night after the full moon
  • Sunset, baked lots of apple pie (apples being the fruit traditionally associated with the Otherworld) and some dark bread, watched Hocus Pocus (a Halloween tradition for me and my late Dad for the past 19 years)
  • Evening, covered the upper and middle portion of the Household Shrine dedicated to the Olympioi and Lares to make way for a 3-day ancestral memorial, offered apples and dark bread to the Ancestors at the House Shrine
  • Laid out a candle by the door to burn through the night as a guide to visiting ancestors and for other departed loved ones to find their way to their families
  • Last day of work before a long 4-day weekend (WOOHOO!) as All Saints and All Souls are national holidays here
  • Shared some of my Apfelkuchen with office folks

Second Night of Remembering: 1 November / 17 Pyanepsion
  • Daytime, visited the Houses of the Dead with my family (as did the rest of the country), party time for our Beloved Dead
  • Evening, offered grain and honey to the Ancestors at the House Shrine
  • More apple pie and candles by the doorstep

Third Night of Remembering: 2 November / 18 Pyanepsion
  • Morning, visited the Houses of the Dead, poured milk and beer for the Ancestors by their tombs, and offered honey to the Pathfinders (Hermês and Hekatê as guides of the Dead) along the way to and from the cemetery
  • Sunset, started a sacrificial fire and offered beer, grain, and milk by the fields for our ancestors tracing "back to the beginning", made the little paperboats with their names prior to the rite
  • You guessed right, more apple pie for friends and family and candles by the doorstep for ghostly guests
  • Midnight, old offerings to the Ancestors and Household Gods were buried outside

3 November / 19 Pyanepsion
  • Morning, cleaned the house, opened the House Shrine, and new offerings of grain to the Ancestors and the Household Gods
  • Between this time and the last night of the lunar month was decided to be the liminal period where daily offerings and prayers to the Household Gods may resume before the annual ancestral memorial officially comes to an end (at the end of the lunar month)

4 November / 20 Pyanepsion, 10 days before the new moon
  • Celebrated the first harvest of rice (the country's staple grain), honours to Dêmêtêr, Korê, and Dionysos as Gods of the land's fertility
  • Roughly the same time as the third and last harvest for our kinsmen in the Northern Atlantic, right before Jack Frost returns

7 November / 23 Pyanepsion, astrological date of the November Feast
  • My first High Day as a dedicant and the birth of this blog
  • Cooler days and nights begin as Amihan (the northeast wind) takes her place as Queen over the exiting King Habagat (the southwest wind)

The Last Night, when the old meets the new: 14 November / 29 Pyanepsion, last day of the lunar month
  • Covered the upper and middle portions of the House Shrine again, leaving the lower part open for the Ancestors and the Khthonioi
  • Honours to Hekatê and Hermês as guides of souls and as gods of the in-between, the traditional deipnon (dinner) for Hekatê laid out by the Household Shrine
Hekatê and Hermanubis

I forgot to add the garlic and roots

Last day before the rise of the New Moon, the Veil closes
  • Annual honours to Plouto and Persephonê as King and Queen of the lands below and of Haidês, Land of the Dead, wishing the Ancestors and our Beloved Dead a blessed and prosperous afterlife
  • Honours to Hermês for a swift and safe passage for our Dearly Departed as they return (free passes expire today as the annual ancestral partay ends) 
  • Offerings of boiled rice and beans for the Ancestors as a parting gift (photo to follow as this will happen later)

And, because I'm totally OC, here's what didn't happen but could've:

  • Offering of an apple for the Dead and sharing of a pomegranate for the Living on the last night (idea from Ceisiwr's Samhain ritual) - I forgot to buy a pomegranate! Do you think an orange would've went just as well?
  • A soft prayer to ackowledge Death, our Coverer, and an apotropaic offering to send him away for another year

So, there. As I'm bad with endings, I'll leave you all for now. Wish me sweet dreams!

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

The Closing Feast

It's the last day of the month of Pyanepsiôn (Πυανεψιών) and I just woke up (I work the nights). It's a special hena-kai-nea (last day of the month) tonight because not only is it Hekatê's traditional dinner, but also a feast to close the series of ancestral rites that ran from All Hallows Eve through tonight.

It was a personal choice to extend the traditional ancestral rites because of the calendars my household follows (both the civic Gregorian and the lunar Athenian). The coming month is also when we raise up our holiday tree and welcome Amihan, the indigenous personification of the northeast wind.

I'll post real pictures tomorrow morning and explain more in detail.

Oak and Palm

Was what I had originally intended to use as a blog title, but I didn't want it to sound as if I was peddling corned beef. ("Olive and Palm" was my next choice, but that didn't sound very enticing, either. Oils anyone?)

The majestic oak tree was and still is a very important symbol to many European peoples. It is commonly associated with the Thunder God.
The palm tree is a symbol of fertility and life for many civilisations in Asia. In the Philippines, it is known as the Tree of Life.

To state the obvious, I have chosen these two trees to represent the two ancestral cultures that make up my religion and spirituality.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Khairete! Salvete! Mabuhay!

Khairete! Salvete! Mabuhay!

My name is Aldrin and I am writing to you on the 8th of November, 7 days before the new moon. I dedicate this space for any and all musings I might and will have as I walk the Dedicant Path, serving also the purpose of documentation for the group. A recent addition to the Ár nDraíocht Féin (ADF) fold, I am also a member of NeokoroiNeos Alexandria, and the Hellenic Polytheistic Community on Facebook. Amongst many others.

This is me checking out our first shoots of rice.

To tell you a little more about myself: I was born and raised in the Philippines, just south of Manila. Like the very country I live in, I am an ethno-religious hotchpotch myself (an inoscule to be tree-ish about it), having ancestors from both ends of the world. Baptised and educated Roman Catholic, I now consider myself primarily Graeco-Roman (or is it Romano-Hellene?) in religious orientation. Luckily, I already am all sorts of Mediterranean-ish, so not much cultural shifting there. Still, I maintain a liberal interest in other pre-christian, polytheistic cultures.

Reading-wise, I am currently enjoying Ceisiwr Serith's "Deep Ancestors" and Jennifer Hunter's "Magical Judaism". But, other than those two and the amazing mythology books I have, I am rather poor on religion, mainly because publications on modern polytheism are quite difficult to find here and because ordering them online can sometimes take for ever. Oh well, thank Hermês for the Internet.

When things get better, I plan to add the books of Jeremiah H. Lewis (Sannion), Isaac Bonewits, and Tess Dawson to my collection.

I also dance, write, paint, bake, and speak in tongues.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Updates Coming Up!

Updates coming up! Just a little busy with my corporate job. Here is a picture of our beautiful, "eco" building.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Welcome to Under Two Trees

Where I write about my journey as an ethno-religious inoscule in the Philippines.