This week, two things have happened in my life. One of these is highly topical and has to do with syncretic religious expressions; the other is a realization that I came to — and confirmed via divination — about things I have been mulling over regarding religious and philosophical communities for a few years at this point. I’m presenting them together solely because I tend to post once a week or less, and they both happened this week.
When I write on Mondays and Wednesdays, I have a standardized devotional practice that I follow. On 19 August, I wrote the following in the post “Casual Devotion and Inexact Terminology”:
In addition to my morning prayers, I have prayers that I give to Apollon, the Mousai, Hermes, Mnemosyne, and Seshat on Monday and Wednesday nights before my Freedom.to extension kicks in and my Internet is disabled for several hours so I can focus on writing my 1.3 million word epic fiction project (update: I have written 200,000 words since mid-December, which adds to the 300,000 words I already have written in this project — I’m 38% of the way there). I write at other times during the week, too, but may or may not make prayers beforehand. Based on the Ancient Egyptian Book of Thoth, I have also added a sponde for Hermes in addition to the incense he receives from me during these prayers. The shared cup of purified water has really enriched that prayer.
Earlier this summer, I started syncretizing Seshat and Mnemosyne. I can’t articulate this in words quite yet beyond saying that something clicked in the iconography and resonances of the two goddesses, and I understood something innate about them that was equivalent. I worship Seshat in a Greek-ish way and not an Egyptian way because my pidgin-level understanding of Egyptian ritual praxis is not where it would need to be for me to comfortably make offerings in that style.
This starts with a streaming music playlist, which I play at the beginning of the offerings. Music for gods comes at the beginning, followed by the ambient electronica that I prefer having on while I write. In practice, the prayers I give are not always completely in sync with the Ancient Greek sacred music playing. Some musical compositions are 4 minutes, while others are 1-2 minutes.
On Wednesday, I started my playlist. I offered incense to the Mousai, Mnemosyne, and Apollon. I offered incense and shared a sponde of clear water with Hermes. I finished these prayers when the “First Delphic Hymn to Apollo” was just concluding, and the “Homeric Hymn to Hermes” was due to start when I began praying to Seshat.
Except not really. My TIDAL playlist literally skipped forward one track to the Mnemosyne piece when I clapped my hands together and started praising Seshat. And guess what? It then went back to the “Homeric Hymn to Hermes” once that had finished. This is the strangest thing technology has done to me this week. The playlist wasn’t on shuffle.
That’s not common buffering behavior. It was just weird. I guess (a) I am on the right track with syncretization and (b) Seshat really wants the correct music to be playing when she’s praised as the Mistress of the House of Books Who Tames the Animals into Meaning.
I’m interested in having coffee get-togethers with other Hellenists in Connecticut on a 4-6 week interval, probably in a New Haven, CT, place. New Haven is on Metro North and (will) be at the base of the rail line connection slated to go up towards the Hartford area — in short, it is very convenient.
My thought is that we could gather to talk about specific myths, ritual practices, and/or things that are religiously important to Hellenists. It wouldn’t be a Facebook group because I’m not on Facebook, but we could easily arrange something via Meetup.com. If you’re in CT and this has piqued your interest, please let me know in the comments.
A sub-comment on how this came about
I have been thinking very carefully about some priorities in my life and have decided that local community engagement should be phased in. There’s another thing I am going to be phasing out over the next year or two. To avoid making vague and mysterious statements, many of you know that I have also “been” Unitarian Universalist since 5th grade or so. I have been on the fence for some time about scaling back involvement due to personal commitments and social ties, but a turning point happened this morning in my thinking.
The Unitarian Universalist Society I attend had its Welcome Back service today. For context, I read both Galina Krasskova’s comments on syncretism and Apuleius Platonicus’ “‘Many Sides’ in Late Antiquity?” right before the service started. I’m also listening to Hardcore History’s “King of Kings” series (about the Persian Empire) and writing/blocking out a large and complex novel about a harrowing continent invasion with a large technology differential and weaponized propaganda. NPR woke me up this morning talking about North Korean nuclear testing and income inequalities. (Once I’m done with this Hardcore History arc, I swear I’m gonna binge-listen to every cutesy queer scifi audio drama in my queue.)
Three things happened at the Welcome Back service: A very Christian friendship parable was shared — something with a lot of references to the Holy Trinity as the One True God — and afterward, one of the hello-everyone comments included the phrase idolatries of the mind. Last, one of the members emphasized that the congregation comes out of the Universalist tradition — which is true historically, but not in practice. All of those things would have been typical on their own, but three in the span of three minutes was not. It’s something I’ve been attempting to tolerate for a while.
It made me hunger for a better religious community where everyone involved was at least on the same starting point of Many Gods — even given that such a thing does not preclude strong philosophical disagreements. I felt mildly miasmic after that service, and divination has confirmed that the best way to do this is gradually so I can ensure that nobody is let scrambling.