The theme of my last post was the ritual that (barring the unforeseen) I’ll be presenting at Many Gods West in Olympia on August 1. (Huzzah!) I’m mentioning it again because (a) I don’t think I adequately expressed my pleasure and gratitude for this opportunity the last time I posted, and (b) the excellent people making Many Gods West happen have posted a draft of the schedule and program for the weekend. I’m thrilled to see that I’ve been scheduled August 1 (just as I’d hoped), and in fact in the last slot of the evening before the musical performance. Time management, at least when I was teaching, was always a huge struggle for me, and I’m hoping that with this time slot it won’t be the absolute end of the world if things run over somewhat. It’s an enviable position, and I’m extremely sensible of the honour.
I’m also thrilled to state that, as of today, I have my own program for the Kalends of August basically worked out. Some items I have ordered and are in preparation; other items are in varying stages of assembly; but I can now confidently say that I know what I need, and more importantly I have a clear idea of what I’ll say and do. It will be a slightly more elaborate ritual than I generally do on my own, but not out of sight. And of course, the assembly (whoever assembles!) will elect an ersatz sacerdos of Rome and Augustus, who should make things considerably easier to manage.
Talking of ‘whoever assembles’, I have now to reflect on the one down side of my excellent place in the schedule: the conflict with both John Murphy’s presentation on the Yezidis, and Coru Cathubodua’s ritual for Cathubodua, both of which I had fully meant to attend. Inevitably, with a program packed full of such incredible presentations, one cannot do everything; but I would have listed practically anything by the Coru as a can’t-miss. I think I may ask whoever comes to my event why they’re not at the Cathubodua ritual—I will be truly curious. My one consolation on this score is that I will be able to see Morpheus’ keynote address on July 31 and also River Devora and Rynn Fox’s ritual for the Matronæ on August 2. Actually, the latter is more immediately relevant to me than the Cathubodua ritual; I do worship the Matronæ, but I would like to develop the connection further, whereas Cathubodua is generally outside my area (and in her stead, as it were, I have a much deeper ongoing relationship with Ancamna, like the ancient Treveri before me).
In a larger sense, the amount of Gaulishness at the inaugural Many Gods West will be tremendous! Apart from the opening and closing rituals (by the way, I want to thank PSVL for eir really delightful idea for the opening ritual!), I count six rituals on the schedule—three of which are either Gaulish or Gallo-Roman in theme. This is fantastic. For a long time, Gaulish polytheism has been eclipsed in North America by its nominally pan-Celtic (but mainly Irish) counterparts, or else consigned to the dungheap of civilizations (‘So then they were conquered by the Romans, and we can have no further interest in them’). In terms of raising our visibility and other polytheists’ sense of Gaul’s dignity as a civilization worthy of respect on its own terms, this is huge.
But enough of events in Olympia two and a half months hence! I’m writing on May 14, which means that WordPress will tell the world it’s May 15, namely the Ides of May, also known as Mercuralia. That means that this is the big day of the year for my patron god, the sine qua non of my spiritual existence, the lord of the Puy de Dôme and Mount Cyllene, the traveller, the nuncio of the gods, the speaker of wisdom, the guide of souls, and the bringer of dreams.
Now, the Roman Mercuralia—from what we glean of it from ancient sources like Ovid’s Fasti—particularly highlights one particular aspect of Mercury’s divine persona, viz. his role in commerce and the workplace. And I admit, this is an area I would likely neglect were it not for this annual reminder.
Employment is an immense boon, and I do not take it for granted. Not only does it keep your time busy (not a challenge for me under any circumstances!—I don’t think I’ve felt bored since I was about 9), but the difference between having a living wage and ekeing out a patchy existence on part-time work where I could get it is just of huge importance, psychologically no less than financially. Employment gives people some sense of independence—even of purpose—certainly of pride. If you’re paid anything like enough, it frees you from a vast deal of anxiety and frustration. And all this is true regardless of the exact balance of power in the workplace. It’s true of our undemocratic, top-down, acquisitive workplaces no less than in the non-profit worker co-ops I’d love to see take over in a post-capitalist economy.
So with all that said, tonight I bless a vial of water, praying to Mercury that it might be for me like the water drawn at the Capene Gate for the ancient Romans. Tomorrow I take the said vial into work and sprinkle the various tools of my trade with the holy water: computer, printer, pica ruler, and also my own head, hands, and tongue. And after work, I’ll also offer incense and wine to my god, in thanks for gainful employment and all its attendant blessings. For (as Cæsar wrote) the Gauls hold Mercury to have greatest power over gains and pecuniary transactions. And in the mind of this socialist, that’s really no bad thing.