My workplace started having us report onsite at the beginning of August. Times of change and upheaval are times for reevaluating everything one does. The Gods are the stones around which the waters of our lives move, providing structure no matter how rapid or slow we wind downstream.
Sometime in July, as I watched the amount of Anthony’s Instant Coffee in the bag dwindle, I realized that it would be done just as I was starting work again. For some time now, I have contemplated stopping coffee in favor of tea — a drink I used to love — and the possibilities of August’s routine disruption made it seem within reach. I have been drinking matcha for several weeks now, occasionally bolstered by Darjeeling or oolong in a thermos at work. The matcha is quick and easy to make. It seemed bitter at first, but I am relearning matcha’s flavors. Coffee is delicious, but it has been a harsh beverage to my nerves. I noticed very quickly that I felt more even after matcha.
This is my third week of onsite work. I queued The History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps’ episodes on Aristotle to listen to, as I am reading Aristotle’s Metaphysics, and have been consuming them during my commute. When onsite work started in early August, I resumed using noise-canceling earplugs (yes, they make those) and rapidly purchased noise-canceling headphones because there is no acoustic separation between our offices, and earplugs are not what I need to stay collected in Zoom meetings. For the return onsite, I bought a few new packs of cloth masks and a meditation cushion. I have successfully kept up the meditation habit when I take breaks. The cushion sends coworkers an unambiguous signal.
My weekday prayer routine is consistent with how it has evolved over the past year. For months now, I have kept a separate, brief hearth practice related to ancestral Gods, inspired by some of the things written in and about the Late Platonists about people who were active in Platonic circles while at the same time following non-Hellenic hearth practices. I am not Greek, so this makes sense to me as a way of honoring what was destroyed by Christianization and finding my foundations buried beneath the ash, dirt, and dust. An imperfect analogy to the difference between hearth practice and affinity practice is comfort foods you associate with childhood and belonging vs. the foods you enjoy. Sometimes, these things are the same. Often, there is a sliding scale of sameness and difference that depends on the person and where they’re at physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Currently, it looks like praying to Frigg, some Nordic and Gaulish household spirits, and a few other Gods of interest. I offer palo santo and kombucha. While I’m using up old tea lights now, my preference is to use saffron-scented candles, which remind me of baked goods and the holidays. It’s a simple, five-minute ritual modeled on the recommendations I have made here. My mom and I talked about Frigg the first time she visited this summer, and when I explained my logic to her about re-establishing hearth cultus, she (a Hekate devotee) also ordered a Frigg icon (edit: I think the icon may have been Eir, and perhaps my mom was more commenting on the fact that we ordered Nordic deity icons in the same style). The second time she visited me, she went online to check the shipping status, and we both ended up browsing Etsy together and looking at agalmata for a few hours. (I may have ordered an intricately-carved icon of Eir.) I was worried when I started worshipping Frigg because I don’t connect to the way I’ve seen her described in modern praise-poetry, but rapidly realized that she’s very no-nonsense, stern, and accountability-focused.
The ritual involves Nordic Gods because my mom’s side of the family is Scandi American and there is more source material to get started. I firmly do not identify as Asatru. I currently have a document where I’m collecting other avenues to explore, mostly involving Gaul, and I’m trying to separate mental baggage about my dad’s side of the family from an effort to reconnect with ancestral Gods. I may integrate the Matronae and Brigando into this practice, perhaps the Lares. My primary motivation for doing this is to develop integrity and right relation in my household practice, in addition to not letting decolonization just be empty words. In America, families trace roots to so many different parts of the world, and mine is no different.
After I do that first set of prayers, I set up my shrine practice for the Hellenic Gods. My abbreviated prayers for onsite days consist of Prayer to All of the Gods II, a brief chant from the Chaldean Oracles with a short strand of prayer beads, and prayers to Athene and Apollon. I pray to the God(s) of the lunar day, and I close with an offering to Hekate, Hermes, Apollon Agyieus, and Hygeia. Theologically and philosophically, the Hellenic Gods are where my heart lies — the Hellenic Gods have sparked love and awe in people around the world for millennia. Or, to put it in the words of the personalized section I added to Prayer to All of the Gods II:
Apollon, I adore, archer, Alexikakos,
firm root of my noetic flower.
I praise the Mousai, musical sisters,
and Mnemosyne’s eddying expanses;
Goddess of wisdom, wondrous Athene,
praised for intellect, proven in strife;
Hermes who entices everlasting secrets
to pour over the mind in unmatched plenty …
Prayer lasts 20 minutes. If it’s an offsite day, I have more opportunities to give longer prayers and pause.
When I finish praying, I pack my lunch and work bag. The incense burns down. I head out into the world. Sometimes, during the day, I read snippets of Platonic dialogues or commentaries when I need a moment of downtime. A while back, in a book called Hidden Zen that I was browsing through for cross-religious takeaways about contemplative theurgy, I read that serious (not lay) Zen students spend, at minimum, two hours practicing per day. I am definitely at the level of an interested lay person in that case.
Over the past few weeks, there have been other changes. I bought a countertop dishwasher, which gives me back 45 minutes of time in my evenings. I have used that time to do more creative writing and to have slower evenings. I stopped bullet journaling and started using Microsoft ToDo for work and Notion + Google Keep in my personal life, in addition to keeping longhand freewriting and poem idea journals. I now do a Headspace morning routine in the app — a one-minute breathing exercise followed by a video — when I wake up. The Native language revitalization app I donated to via Patreon has sunsetted, and I’ve made a list of alternative indigenous charities to support because I take what I have been saying for years about the Eumenides seriously.
Often, I ponder the difference between that inner brilliantly-lit still place and the suffering in the world. This has been especially keen over the past few days. There is something at the intersection of the two that is hard to identify or explain. It is oddly calming to think about impermanence or the wild fact that all of our joys and sufferings are happening upon a slim surface in a vast universe.