Monday, March 1, 2010
The books will tell you the obvious, that you should recite Her hymns in an ancient Greek dialect (although none of them can agree just what that sounds like) while you make libations of olive oil to Her on the third day following the new moon. That her priestesses in Athens wore white robes. That she's something of a stiff.
I respectfully disagree.
Oh, sure, She likes hearing Her old hymns recited, but she likes it even more when you have something new to say. The books are correct in that you really can't use enough olive oil when working with Her. You'll find that you bathe in it, that you rub it in your skin, your hair; that you buy products just because they contain that blessed ingredient. Honoring Her on the third day after the new moon is good. Honoring her at the start of something new is better. She delights in creation, and in the activity of the mind.
She likes red. Deep red. Garnets are a favorite. You'll find that you paint your nails garnet, and paint images of Her draped in rich crimson silk. In the Middle East She was called Anat, and is noted in myth for Her bloody raiment.
You will say a little prayer to Her whenever the pungent salt of an olive bursts in your mouth.
You will find that you take up the fiber arts. You will teach yourself how to spin yarn from wool fillets. You will collect exotic yarns. You will knit and weave as an excuse to procure more yarn, to spin more skeins. Your craft room will overflow with sculpting tools, paintbrushes, blank canvas, fimo, beads, embroidery floss, and assorted Simplicity patterns. That is, if it didn't already. She probably saw you coming.
Owls will flock to you. She likes it when you are dumbfounded by one of them, wild, up close, and in broad daylight. Give Her coins and feathers and burn frankincense whenever She sends one your way.
You may seriously consider purchasing a spear. She revels in a good Pyrrhic war dance, and it just isn't the same without a good spear.
There is a danger of becoming engrossed with turn-based strategy games. She likes games of war as much as any real battle, for it is strategy and cunning that pleases Her most. She abhors war. It is a way for heroes to prove their mettle and that is all. She is a Lady of peace, civics, and prosperity. It pleases Her when you choose your words carefully in a debate, and when you work for peace in your environment.
She is known for Her shining eyes. The little blue glass beads that Greece has become famous for, marked with blue staring eyes to repel the evil eye, are favored by Her. Iconography of St. Lucy, especially her almond-eyed medals, make good offerings.
Frankincense is always a favorite, but she also likes a bit of dragonsblood on occasion. It is Her deep red color, and has serpentine associations that honor Her snake-tasseled aegis, Her gorgon-bearing lamen, and Her son, the serpent of Athens. Snakeskin is a lovely addition to her shrine.
She likes beef -- most of the Greek Gods do -- burned from rich deep red to ash on Her altar, seasoned only with salt and hymns.
Make a pilgrimage to the Nashville Parthenon if you can. Her image will knock the wind from your lungs and make you weep with wonder. Better still, travel to Her native land of Greece and walk through Her holy city.
Her festivals can tell you a lot about Her preferences. The ninth day after the new moon in January was a major sacrificial day for Her. In late May Her image was removed from the temple to be washed each year. In early June She shared a the mystery of Her son's conception and birth with Aphrodite via a very holy covered basket -- She is known for keeping artifacts of great power and mystery tucked into Her aegis. Late July is Her birthday festival. She was feasted with games and gifted with a newly woven peplos -- She enjoys new clothes as much as the rest of us. Late September was another day of sacrifice. The end of October marked a mysterious hieros gamos festival between Her and Hephaestus concerning a bronze bridal chamber. She is fond of offerings of bronze.
Be clever yet humble. Be brave yet cautious. Be creative yet piously give thanks to the source of that creativity. Wear white robes if they suit you, or a silver tetradrachm on a chain close to your heart. Do good deeds. Work for peace. These are the offerings Athena favors most. Honor her with reverence and joy.