WEEKLY GROUP RITUAL

A new weekly ritual will be posted here each week, which we will use in our Sunday meetings. For more information on these meetings, see the Get Involved page.

Preparation:
It is recommended that you have two bowls: one with pure water, another empty. You will also need a glass with your offering to the Gods. Typical offerings are wine, milk, or water, but the offering can be specific to the deity you are addressing. It is also appropriate to have a candle and incense.

Wash your hands in the bowl of water to purify yourself before the gods.

————

The ringing of a bell begins the meeting. Then follows music and a stanza from Hávamál.

***

19.

Don’t hold on to the mead-horn,
but drink your fair share.
Say something useful or stay quiet.
And no one else
will judge you poorly
if you go to sleep early.

***

First, we worship our Gods,
pay reverence to the noble Heroes,
and greet the spirits of the Dead,
who dwell in otherworldly realms.
So let us offer this libation,
for the honour of their power
and communion with their souls.

Today’s libation text is a prayer by Simplicius at the end of his commentary on Epictetus’ Handbook. Simplicius does not explicitly identify who he is praying to, but I believe it is Zeus the Demiurge.

***

I beseech you, Lord, father and guide of the reason in us,
remind us of our noble origin,
which we were deemed worthy to receive from you.
Act with us (as we are self-movers) for our purification
from the body and its irrational emotions,
that we may be superior to them and rule them,
and that we may use them as instruments in the fitting way.
Act with us also for the precise correction of the reason in us
and its unification with the genuinely existent things
through the light of the truth.
And the third request to the Savior:
I beseech you, completely remove the mist from the eyes of our souls,
‘so that we may clearly know,’ as Homer says, ‘both God and man.’

***

As you give to us, so we give back to you!

Pour some of your offering into the empty bowl.

Neither earth nor heaven were,
when chaos ruled the empty space.
But from the two that shape and form –
from light and darkness, sky and soil –
the world was forged and ordered.
So shall we be brought to order,
As we partake of this drink.

The remainder of the drink is consumed.

A bell is rung to initiate the reading.

Today’s reading is an excerpt from Hierocles’s commentary on the Golden Verses. He is commenting on this section of the verses:


Father Zeus, from many evils you would surely deliver all men,
If you would show to all what sort of daemon they have.
But be of good courage, since the race of mortals is divine;
To them sacred nature displays and reveals each thing.
If you have a share in this, you will master my commands,
Find a cure, and save your soul from sufferings like these.

For newcomers:
Each person who chooses to read will read one paragraph from asterisk to asterisk. One person will read at a time. We will read in alphabetical order and repeat this order as many times as needed till the reading is complete.

***

It was customary for the Pythagoreans to revere the maker and father of this universe by the name of Zeus. Since through him all things exist and live, it is right that he should be named after his activity. The name of god that best suits his activities and creations is truly valid. But the names that obtain among us, which seem to be valid, are settled by chance and choice instead of being discovered through the relationship to substance. This can be seen in the many names that are improperly given to people, for example, when someone of evil character is called Agathon and someone of a godless disposition Eusebius. Such forms have no share in the rightness of names, because they show nothing of the substance or activity of those things to which they adhere as names. It is fitting then to seek the real rightness of names among eternal things, and of those among the divine things, and of the divine things among the best. Accordingly, the name of Zeus is also a symbol and spoken image of a creative substance, because those who first gave names to things, on account of their superior wisdom, revealed the powers of those things by using names like images, just as the best sculptors do. They fashioned spoken names as symbols of the thoughts in the soul, and they made of the thoughts themselves cognitive images of the things that had been thought. …

*

Thus they long ago named the creator ‘tectractys’, and now ‘Father Zeus’ for the reasons we mentioned. What the text of the present prayer asks of him, this has already been unfolded over all things through his goodness, and our part is to receive what he eternally gives. In the earlier verses also it was said, ‘But go to your work, having prayed to the gods to perfect it’, seeing that they always give goods, while we receive them at those times when we strive after the divine gift. For our freedome of will would not receive the true good if it were not willing to receive them. These goods are truth and virtue which originating from the creative substance always and uniformly radiate over all things.

*

And now the text demands, as a necessary condition for the deliverance from evils, that we recognize our own substance. This is the meaning of ‘what sort of daemon they have’, which is aid instead of ‘what sort of soul’. Thereby it is determined that the escape from evils and the manifestation of the things offered by god for our happiness necessarily follow upon such a turning to ourselves. And so the text continues with the assumption that if all were to recognize what they are and what sort of daemon they have, they would all be delivered from evils.

*

But this is impossible. For universally not all are able to philosophize and receive the goods eternally given by god for the perfection of their happiness. What is left then but that those alone should be of good courage who advance to the knowledge that manifests to us our proper goods? They alone will be delivered from the evils engrafted in mortal nature, since they alone have turned themselves to the vision of the true goods. They even deserve to be enrolled in the divine class on the grounds that they have been instructed and trained in their duties by ‘sacred nature’, that is, philosophy. And we will show whether we ‘have a share’ in the fellowship with divine men when we adhere to virtuous deeds and expert forms of knowledge, by which alone the soul of man is healed and freed from the toils here below, having passed over tot the divine sphere. Now to put it briefly, the sense of the present verses is the following: those who know themselves are delivered from the affection of mortal passions. Why then are not all delivered, seeing that all have innate tendencies for the recognition of their substance? Because most people, as I said, ‘have freely chosen their troubles, who neither discern the goods that are close by nor give them heed’.

***

This completes our reading. We will pause a moment for silent contemplation.

As we conclude our meeting –
in the honour of our Gods,
of our Ancestors, and the World,
which is an image of the Gods –
let us remember how to live
with justice, wisdom, temperance,
with holy thoughts and valiant deeds.

A bell is rung to signal the end of the meeting.

The offering can be left in the bowl for some time. Later, it can be poured outside into the earth.

————

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