I pour coffee into each offering tray before the sun rises. Later in the day, I sprinkle tobacco and a rose-herb mix into the smallest bowl, breaking cigarettes into the other. Everything smells vaguely of coffee and sweet oils. A broken egg sits in the middle offering dish, and the incense from earlier has burned all the way down.
Honoring the deification of the Dierne has been quiet. It was no celebration – no decorations line the walls, and the offerings themselves were simple. The prayers at the shrine were soft-spoken. The day is contemplative. There is little for me to do but pour more coffee and sit before the shrine, thinking.
I make a nest of blankets and pillows, and I sit.
When I first met the Dierne, she would always turn her face from me. I would catch her smile, and her star-filled black hair, and the smell of wind and rain. But her face was hidden from me. She slipped through my fingers. Every time I think I have caught her, she twists away. There is no holding her down. I may cling as tightly as I can to the hem of her heavenly dress, but she will still walk away.
When I see her now, she does not turn away. She is like air, like steam, like a song you can almost remember, but she lets me see new sides of her. It has been years, so she turns and lets the light reflect off her as if it hits diamond. She wears white against her dark skin, making the contrast in her life into a game of glamour and beauty.
Feeling so far from her, and the other gods, I have never felt so in love.
The Apotheosis of the Dierne is one of the most important holy days in the Otherfaith. But it is truly about who the Dierne is before she is a god – the star spirit Pallis. Pallis literally crashes into the myths with her brother Mircea. They are known as the fallen stars of the West, renowned for their beauty, and for much of the myths that is all Pallis is known for. Her dark night beauty, her star-glazed skin, her stunning smile. Her brother rises to much more prominence, as the one who strikes down a would-be god and sets their adoptive world on fire.
But even after her world has been burned to the ground, even after she is exiled and her gods lost in themselves, Pallis has faith. She remains devout, even when her whole world seems lost. It was this part of the god that came to me as I sat before her shrine today. This holy day is about revolution, is about Pallis returning to her land and striking down her own brother, is about shaking the gods up until they return, is about the horror of conflict waged personally and globally.
Pallis is crowned in blood, but she receives her crown of divinity for her devout and faithful nature as well. More than any wielding of weapons or war, she becomes a god through her faith. Faith in her gods, faith in those around her, and finally faith in herself. Her silver crown weaves all of those strands together, and she is able to sit beside her gods as part of their family.
Her stories are often about trust and faith. As a god, she presides over devotion, the god most likely to travel to humans and teach them. She is a god placed above the Clarene, but she still kneels at the Clarene’s feet. She still offers incense and herbs. She is devout in concrete ways. But she is also doubt, wavering the way we do. She questions, and she hesitates, and she wonders. She is no more able to see into the hearts of her god-family than we are able to see into the hearts of each other.
Thinking of the Dierne as a god that is deified through devotion, rather than just death, shifted my understanding of her and of her holy day. How could I write of something so foreign to myself – violence, death, revolution? My words would just be platitudes, pretty phrases with no substance. And as much as the Dierne is airy, drifts where she will, she is just as able to strike down entirely, fully, loudly. She deserves more than platitudes.
Each of the Four Gods deserves more.
These past months have been tough, religiously. For a while, I saw no purpose in giving offerings, in praying. I wrote about the gods and spoke to them, but the stable floor of religion had fallen under my feet. I was in free fall. I was pounding against a brick wall, the gods silent, their presence absent, my life hollow. I would sit at my shrine and be blank.
I give offerings now, and I pray. I weave their stories again. My crisis, the ‘dark night’ – that which will forever be Pallis to me – has passed, and a new floor rests under me. I speak not to walls but through glass now. Just as the Dierne’s devotion warps when she is deified. Devotion must take new shape if it is truly be alive. Clinging to what has stopped serving does no one any good – myself, those around me, and the gods themselves.
The spirits call July ‘Hell Month’, in recognition of the difficult period the gods go through. But knowing that, walking into Hell Month knowing that I would go through hell, doesn’t make the change easier. My responses were no more reasonable having expected serious religious upheaval. I was lost, as the gods were, stumbling in the dark of a spiritual night.
And Pallis, herself the dark night, herself coated in empty blackness, herself born from the black of space, reached for me as she did for the gods, and she pulled me toward starlight.
She teaches us how to move forward into a new life.
Thank you for reading. ‘of the Other People’ is a site dedicated to the Otherfaith, a modern polytheist religion. You can find more about us here and here. You can contact us here if you have any questions or would like to get involved.