[Monday] Idea of the Week

Happy (late) Monday. Over the past weekend we had our usual hangouts. If you’re interested in participating, submit a membership request to our G+ group. If you’re part of the Otherfaith, interested in it or our gods, feel an awkward fit in the pagan and/or polytheist communities, or just want to chat about religion, you’re welcome to join us. This weekend we’ll be having text-only chat, by request.

Currently, I’m reading Francesca de Grandis’ Be A Goddess and Goddess Initiation, which I’ve begun simply calling the Goddess books. The former shaped the Otherfaith in ways, at least in the beginning of this religious tradition. Rereading the books, I’m stuck by how far I’ve moved from what I once believed. Or not even believed, but accepted. I’ll be chronicalling my more in-depth thoughts on Tumblr, which I will also be getting more active on.

One reason why this week’s posts have been late is because I’ve been working on a new wiki project for the Otherfaith. While Wikia is a very common wiki platform and is, so far, the easiest to format, it unfortunately has some incredibly awful drawbacks (one of which is their approach toward content). Part of going to a new wiki (one that using the Mediawiki software) means learning how to format and understand coding, at least on a basic level. That will be slow going, but to have a wiki that functions how I want it (and has talk pages) it’s worth the effort. I also think a wiki is beneficial to the Otherfaith as it allows for more collaborative contributions. As that project advances I’ll post updates, both here and on our social media extensions.

For our idea of the week, I want to talk about purification.

Cleansing and purification is a topic I’ve touched on briefly before, but it’s been over a year since I’ve addressed it in any meaningful way. Cleansing is tied with shame in the Otherfaith, though before we do that we have to address why the shame exists in the first place. (We don’t want to cast out shame because we’re guilty of hurting another person, for example.) However, it isn’t limited to that. There are also connections to more mundane cleansing, like cleaning our homes and shrines and making them comfortable to live in. Being a twenty-something with too many books, that is a lot easier said than done. Keeping the house organized? Especially when it comes to laundry, we’re typically messy.

It was actually religious reasons that got me cleaning as a teenager. I’m nowhere near as dedicated to it as I should be, but that’s an exercise in habit. Just like when it comes to prayers and offerings, another practice that I’m iffy at keeping up (at best!). Cleansing and purification have definitely fallen to the wayside in a lot of ways for me – not in the sense that I don’t think of them, but they’re very far from active parts of my practice. If anything, the most active part of my practice is writing and tinkering with ideas.

But purification is an important part of the practices in Be a Goddess, and there is something relaxing and wonderful about simply letting go of ourselves. Whether that be our drama, internal or external, our assumptions and expectations, our wounds, or whatever – sometimes we simply have to reach in and pull it out. I tend to give my spiritual and emotional muck to my gods, though I’m unsure where that practice originated. Maybe it was just easier. It is, for me, a way of opening up to my gods and being honest with them. I can let go of my desire for perfection and my impatience and simply be, unfortunate wounds and all, with the gods I love.

My purification practice revolves mostly around the Ophelia. the Ophelia is the opposite god to the Laetha, their challenger and protector both, and I suspect my relationship with her is influenced by the Laetha’s patronage to me. the Laetha and Ophelia were the first two gods I met, as well. the Ophelia, in her towering, veiled form, cold to the touch and carrying her heavy, suffocating air about her, was frightening and enticing both. I came to her in desperation, in longing, in sorrow. Even when she was at her most horrifying, the pain belonged to her.

Even before I had a name for the ‘faith, I dreamt of her. Her and the Laethelia, our sea god, haunted me. Nightmares are no stranger to me, but I could always tell when a frightful dream meant a bit more. And I dreamt, in terror, of bright blue seas, the endless depths of the ocean, and water that pulled me under. the Ophelia is whom I speak of when I grasp at lucid dreams, the god who most often swirls in those incoherent images. I dreamt of an apocalypse where everything was washed away, where the Ophelia had sunk the world to the bottom of her waters.

When I had given her a name, or she had given me hers, the dreams ebbed, only flowing in on occasion. She had a name, and a face, and a human form – she wasn’t a destructive river trying to wipe me out. If I approached her close enough I could feel that danger still, but her human face shifted from an untouchable beauty to someone far more comforting. Even when she reached in and yanked out mud and mold from my heart, she had morphed from a dreadful presence to one of dark sanctuary.

I meet her mostly in the shower, nowadays. Turning up my hands and praying to her – and then talking, just speaking out to her of what fills my stomach like stones. She doesn’t much need to rip into me anymore. Those days have passed. Her presence, even when overwhelming and cold, is comforting. Unlike my patron and his mother the Clarene, I can be open. I can just speak with the Ophelia. Shame, fear, sorrow, despair, and hope all swirl together in her.

I open with a prayer to all the gods, murmuring their names in a litany before moving on to ask the Ophelia to help. And I speak with her before scrubbing off my body and praying that certain things be washed away.

The other two gods associated with purification, in a more direct way, are the Laethelia and Ophelene. the Ophelia as purifier is more focused on washing away and getting rid of, in a somewhat gentle fashion. She invites us to reflect honestly upon ourselves. the Ophelene, by contrast, is about cutting off and destruction. She is less concerned with our comfort and more focused on slicing away that which doesn’t serve (whether that be her community or an individual). She doesn’t wait, she acts. And the Laethelia is associated with the healing, far more gentle than the other two gods. This shows in her association with seafoam and bubbles, though she does have connections to the deep ocean.

These gods purification and cleansing associations can be understood as the Ophelia being tied to darkness, the Laethelia to light, and the Ophelene to blood (or blood-letting). They can also be understood cyclically, as the Ophelene cutting open what needs cleansing, the Ophelia actually cleansing the wound, and then the Laethelia healing us.

All of these gods also have a water connection – the Ophelia being a river god and giving some form of water association to her syncretic daughters the Laethelia and Ophelene. This ties in or explains why water is important to cleansing and purification in the Otherfaith.

I’ll be posting specific practices and ideas for purification over on our Tumblr, so check there for updates. And don’t forget that you don’t have to be on Tumblr to submit questions or content to our Tumblog!

Thank you for reading. ‘Of the Other People’ is a site dedicated to the Otherfaith, a modern polytheist religion. We are supported through Patreon and want to give special thanks to our patrons Jack at Drawing Stars and Leithin Cluan at Treasure in Barren Places. If you enjoy the writing here, consider becoming a patron!

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