2022 Winter Solstice Reflections, Annual Goals, and Household Rites

Yesterday, at sunset (4:25 PM), I gave offerings to Helios, Sunna, Sulis, and Belesama — frankincense and Grüvi nonalcoholic wine. I welcomed the household Gods, read Fragment 1 by Parmenides, and read prayers to the Sun Goddesses from A Year of Pagan Prayer before turning to a prayer that I composed for Belesama and Proclus’ hymn to Helios. I then sat in a simple “follow the breath” meditation for a few minutes and closed out the offerings.

When that was done, I made myself some hot cocoa and heated up some leftovers, and I got to work doing goal-setting for 2023. In 2022, partly because I started following her YouTube channel a few years ago, I used Rowena Tsai’s Notion template, which worked well for decompressing from 2021 and thinking about 2022 priorities. This year, I copied the template anew and changed the dates on it. I altered the “This Year’s Systems” table to include more concrete quarterly goals, starting with Q1 of 2023 and adapting from there. My workplace is switching to a quarterly goal system, so I want to align how my personal goals work to fit that.

For the past … I don’t even know how long … I’ve focused on actionable annual goals rather than the vague statements that saturate the news cycle and get-togethers at the beginning of the new year. So I write out what I am hoping to do, and then I write out things that can get me there. In 2023, I want to deepen a lot of Zoom social connections and possibly establish more in-person ones. One of the local yoga studios has full moon yoga, so I decided to try it out a few times to see if it helps me find local polytheists/pagans who aren’t New Agers. It may not help, but it’s a concrete step!

Spiritual practice-wise, I identified the two books that I will be reading in Q1 of 2023 in addition to what I’m reading for Zooms. I set out plans to do three novenas (nine-day prayer cycles) — one each month, which should allow for planning and doing each of them, but it’s OK if I need to go slower — I am juggling a lot, and as I wrote in the margins while planning out this December, it’s no wonder that I’m so tired if my idea of “taking it easy” in December involved as much as I wrote down. I’ve never done a novena before, but it seems like a great way to build relationships with household Goddesses related to my roots. I already feel like I did one for Hestia-Vesta because about 20% of the second volume of Hermias’ commentary on the Phaedrus has a strong Hestia push, and I was contemplating her while reading it and praying and ended up feeling very connected to her. I’d like that with Nantosuelta and Frigg (other household Goddesses), and I also want to do one for the Disir (again, rootedness) during the month Anthesteria happens (its lunar month is 2/20-3/22 this year, and Anthesteria is sunset on 3/2 to sunset on 3/5). Part of this is me testing how these work out because I’m feeling satisfied by which Gods are in my life — I don’t think I’ll be doing an annual cycle for anyone new come June, and these shorter devotional cycles seem like a great way to spread out devotional focus without overextending myself.

I don’t think of this practice — that is, what I did for the solstice after my mom went home or what I do when I light my shrine flame every morning or what I’m planning to do in Q1 of 2023 — as eclectic or syncretic. As I’ve said elsewhere, it’s basic theism. What I do at my household shrine every morning has definitely shifted over the past few years to include more non-Hellenic household Gods. My core practice, however, is for the Gods most associated with the Platonic tradition. The solar-series Gods like Belesama, Sunna, and Sulis are a big exception to that, as is the devotional practice that I started on June 17 this year for Eir. What unites these solar Gods all theologically for me is that they are associated with the solar disk, and they are deities who use the sun as a symbolic vehicle.

This contrast between what we do for our hearth and what we do for our spiritual growth is, I think, a sustainable one, and it puts down roots at the same time that it opens up possibility. Besides, in a hypothetical alternative timeline in which Christianity declined instead of spreading 1600 years ago, keeping one’s hearth Gods and adding on practices based on affinity (natural vs. prohairetic choice of Gods and rites, to take after the framework Simplicius gives us in his commentary on Epictetus, except “natural” here is a bit of a prohairetic thing, too, given how screwed up the past fifteen hundred years have been) is exactly what people in Gaul and Scandinavia would have done during the cultural reception of Platonism. Of course, under the current phase of the prevailing circumstances, many/most of us add the affinity practices before we start looking at repairing and broadening our hearth practices (and some don’t do the latter at all — it all really depends on the direction your home practice grows towards and whether you’re at it alone or with family/close friends). The American context is a bit different because most of us have been here for at least a few generations, and we thus often have more to harmonize together.

I hope everyone has a wonderful end to your 2022, and happy Dark and New Moon tomorrow and Saturday.

2 thoughts on “2022 Winter Solstice Reflections, Annual Goals, and Household Rites

  1. Applying the natural/prohairetic distinction to our devotional practices and relationships with the Gods is opening up some fascinating avenues to consider.

    In the first place: Can we fittingly see our (ideal) natural relationships to Gods as being especially connected to the body, and/or to the present life (this incarnation), while the (ideal) prohairetic ones are especially related to the soul, especially the soul as considered in her eternal aspect, in her journey across lives? This would accord with the basic pattern for Simplicius’ other applications of the natural/prohairetic dichotomy.

    Also in keeping with Simplicius’ use (which I wrote about about quite a few years back), there will be something especially beautiful and wonderful about taking a divine relationship with in itself is merely natural, and making it also prohairetic, as (perhaps) when we especially pour ourselves into devotion and worship for one of our ancestral Gods… while also acknowledging that not every natural relationship can or will be transfigured in such a way.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, it would follow the same distinctions that Simplicius outlines for the natural and prohairetic in other contexts. This would back up concepts like treating the current incarnation as a guest-house (which is in Epictetus and that I think Simplicius comments on, but he’s more into working with the cruise ship metaphor, if I recall well) and what Hermias says about the soul’s duty to its current life being important for growth and improvement, especially in that section about blood crimes and family histories.

      It seems like the ideal would be a harmonization between the natural and the prohairetic, with the additional caveat (again) that sometimes estrangement is how that relationship expresses itself during a lifetime, just as how we’re sometimes estranged from siblings and parents. And I recall a conversation you and I had about America and its tendencies regarding which Gods are big here, so perhaps this cultural context is a factor in what “(ideal) natural relationship” means to a greater or equal extent as personal family history.

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