Honoring the Moon

The ad hoc ritual space at the beginning of the ritual.

There’s a passage in Marinus’ Life of Proclus, the hagiography in honor of Proclus’ life, that really struck me because it made me nostalgic for lunar rituals when I first read it, and often near the full moon, I’ll remember it because it was very striking.

Although [Proclus] was anxiously invited by the teachers of eloquence, as if he had come for this very purpose, he scorned the oratorical theories and methods. Chance led him to hear first Syrianus, son of Philoxenus, at whose lecture was present Lachares, who was profoundly versed in the doctrines of the philosophers, and at that time was an assiduous auditor of the philosopher, although his art in sophistry excited as much admiration as Homer’s in poetry. It happened to be late dusk, and the sun was setting during their conversation, and the moon, quitting her conjunction with the sun, began to appear. So as to be able to adore the goddess alone and leisurely, they tried to dismiss the youth who to them was a stranger. But, after having taken but a few steps from the house Proclus,—-he also seeing the moon leaving her celestial house—-stopped in his tracks, undid his shoes, and in plain sight of them adored the goddess. Struck by the free and bold action of the youth, Lachares then said to Syrianus this admirable expression of Plato’s about geniuses: “Here is a man who will be a great good, or its contrary!” Such are the presages,—-to mention only a few of them—-that the gods sent to our philosopher just as he arrived in Athens.

Proclus, or, Concerning Happiness, Marinus of Samaria, trans. Kenneth S. Guthrie

In my early/mid-teens (2000-2005), after a woman who had been initiated into Dianic Wicca in Chicago started participating in the community and offering things — she coordinated a new email newsletter, for example. Full moon rituals became a community thing, often in small groups, and it was exciting to no longer have just the main holiday rituals every six weeks to do with others.

Wicca was never the best fit for me because I don’t do magic and, while I respect that others feel complete with it as part of their practice, I’ve always been a prayer person. It’s probably a minimalist thing, but the few times I’ve participated in group magic (in Circle as a teen and in college while in the pagan group there), it was always extremely stressful to me to consider how to declutter items from Workings and whether or not that harms the original charm, as I physically feel clutter in my space like creepy-crawlies against my skin (possibly a real phenomenon given my dust mite allergy). Moving into worshipping the Hellenic Gods was great from that standpoint, and currently, I agree with Iamblichus’ assessment in On the Mysteries — it’s a shadow of actual theurgy.

Yesterday, things took an interesting turn. I texted my mom to ask if she had the Zoom info for her coven’s Samhain ritual (which I had been invited to), and she said that it had been moved to 7 November. Since she didn’t seem thrilled, I asked if she wanted to do a full moon ritual yesterday night instead. She asked me to put something together.

A divine sign came to me in the words of Lindsey Graham in short order — he implored us young women (remember, “young adulthood” ends at 35 and I am 33½) to embrace our traditional religion/faith and family structure. He definitely meant worshipping the Goddess and following the traditional eldest daughter’s role of acting as Priestess under the proud, watchful eyes of her initiated Wiccan mother. I accepted his challenge. 🙃🙃🙃 The oracle at the beginning of the week told me to pay attention to verbal symbols and sayings because they could indicate the path to arete, after all. 🤣😇

In Hellenism and other religions like Hellenizing American polytheism, there is less emphasis on the full moon because the dark moon (belonging to Hekate) and the first sliver of moon (belonging to the Gods of the Noumenia for the monthly celebration) are prioritized. I did not remember how to do a Wiccan full moon ritual, so I Googled it. And then I Amazon searched it because their filters are quite robust. My mind wrote an entire research paper about how post-2008 Wicca more closely resembles the eclectic practices in the PGM (Greek Magical Papyri), and then I grew more and more annoyed that all of the lunar rituals were about manifesting abundance. It’s very Prosperity Gospel, except Wiccan, and what the PGM, curse tablet practices, and Wicca share is that this literature has exploded in times when ordinary people have been suffering a lot from inequality and badly-managed governments that are harming citizens. What bothered me more is that this was all there was, and I have zero interest in magical Workings; devotional rituals for the moon seemed impossible to find.

One silver lining is that I found Payam Nabarz’ Stellar Magic: A Practical Guide to the Rites of the Moon, Planets, Stars, and Constellations, which is an eclectic wonder of synthesized sources ranging from the PGM to the Chaldean Oracles and beyond, so I decided to consult it. The book gave me major Timaeus commentary feels given what Proclus says while discussing the stars’ divinity, and it presented a ritual that did not seem focused on any of the things in the other books that made me bristle. I plan to peruse Nabarz’ book in greater detail later; while I saw some methodological things that I disagree with, there may be some interesting takeaways that will be useful for the thought problems I’m intermittently thinking through concerning how to reconcile the divinity of the stars against modern physical cosmology and the implications that has for understanding the material stars, what should receive worship, and how.

So I wrote out the ritual, pulling out the grounding/centering exercise from Stellar Magic and synthesizing it with what I remember about casting circles and doing quarter calls. For reference, here is how the quarter calls ended up:

East: Hail to the spirits of the East and of air, you of the breath that quickens our lungs and incites us to think and wander, we invite you to come and witness this full moon ritual in perfect love and gladness. Hail and Welcome.
South: Hail to the spirits of the South and of fire, the energy that warms all, that keeps our breath alive within us, we invite you to come and witness this full moon ritual in perfect love and gladness. Hail and Welcome.
West: Hail to the spirits of the West and of water, as deep and all-knowing as memory, you whose boundlessness holds the energies of the fires that move us, we invite you to come and witness this full moon ritual in perfect love and gladness. Hail and Welcome.
North: Hail to the spirits of the North and of earth, grounding ones in whom our breath moves, in whom our fire finds sustenance, who envessel all within us, we invite you to come and witness this full moon ritual in perfect love and gladness. Hail and Welcome.

Instead of the God, Goddess, and Spirit, I decided that we would read the Orphic hymns to the Stars, Selene, and Hekate (my mom is a Hekate devotee), and the main body of the ritual would be charging a bowl of water with lunar energy, offering some of it, and drinking the rest as a way of connecting with the Moon. It ended with some chants — a Reclaiming one that I modified for theological reasons, one from the Mike Oldfield album Incantations, and a third chant that my mom has written for Hekate.

While creating the ritual, I understood that it could be modified very easily to achieve something else, namely a Hellenic Syncretic Polytheistic (HeSP) ritual for the full moon that excises Wiccan elements while preserving (and focusing on) the theurgic elements that I consider important in a HeSP practice. I copied the document to a new document and did the rewrite while waiting for my mom to respond to the Google Drive file share request for the first ritual.

The ritual at the end, once the offerings had been made and the water consumed.

We did the Wiccan version at 9 PM, and it went well; it balanced a “lunar adoration” focus with the liturgy that I remember, and I believe that the offerings were pleasing to the Gods based on my subjective experience of them during the ritual.

Because this post is already a bit long, I have shared the HeSP ritual in a separate post. Since I’m not Wiccan and this blog thus does not have a Wiccan focus, I won’t post that one unless someone requests it.


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