Strong Roots and Wide Branches: A Polytheist Class with River Devora

Last summer, I had the chance to help a good friend and local pagan community leader, River Devora, build out a course on the fundamentals of polytheism. She had seen a need in the Bay Area’s community for a place for polytheists from many traditions to share experiences and techniques to build interfaith dialogue and further refine our individual spiritual practices. I was honored to be asked to help review the curriculum, as I definitely saw the need for it and kinda wished we had had something like this back when I first became pagan. I added in a lot of my insights from my 12 step program, my recent interfaith work, my years of being a schoolteacher, and as my personal experiences as a dedicant of Freya and a member of the Heathen tradition for the last 15 years.

At PantheaCon this year, River, and Anomalous Thracian (both of presented some of the concepts that the classes will cover and the reasons behind wanting to create a class like this. The class will meet monthly and will cover one topic each month (or two months, depending on the amount of discussion a given topic involves), and the topics range from concepts such as ancestor veneration; divination; what it means to be a priest in a given tradition; how different traditions handle life changes such as birth and death; and the different types of relationships that we have with our deities. Due to the enormous interest in the class already (and also because I and a few others, such as the Thracian, are not be able to attend in person) River has decided to open it so students can participate online as well.

River, Rynn Fox of the Wild Hunt and Coru Cathubodua, and likely other drop-in experts on various topics, will be leading the classes. If you’re interested in attending one or all of the classes, you can find out more info on River’s Patreon page here and on the Strong Roots and Wide Branches Facebook Group. The first class is called “Intro to Living Polytheism” and will lay the foundations of the class as well as be a meet and greet for all of the people involved. I’m very excited to participate in the discussions and to see how the class progresses! We’ve already gotten a lot of feedback from various deities and powers that be that They are just as excited about this as we are; in my opinion it will help lead a bunch of people to a polytheist path and help us have stronger foundations to continue to grow our traditions to honor our Gods.

Click: Burnt offerings

It’s funny how I can know a lot of things on an abstract, intellectual level, but that information doesn’t really make much difference until I actually experience it myself, or for whatever reason it hits at a heart level. Maybe it’s just me. /shrug

Yesterday’s example of this is the Hellenic tradition of burning offerings that are aimed at the sky gods (as opposed to burying those for the chthonic deities). I have a crapload of logistical stuff the next few days which involve a rental car, two different airports, luggage, a plane ride, a cat, a bus, a hotel, misc. paperwork, and my day job. (Plus, the weather in the Midwest, and getting my extremely reluctant parents to pick me up at the airport, which, to hear them talk, is equivalent to enduring a root canal with no anesthesia.) In any event, I’m completely stressed out because I have no control over most of this and there are a billion things that could go wrong. And I’m already exhausted from a 2.5 week trip. So! An offering to Hermes seemed in order.

I picked Him up a chili cheeseburger (Thenea’s suggestion) and burned bits of bit in a small brazier in another friend’s backyard. Now, I’ve known for a long time that this was The Thing to Do when giving offerings to the Greek deities; and logically, it makes sense–sky gods would want their offerings in a form that would go up into the sky–but it always felt a bit odd to me. But after slicing the burger up into small bits and feeding it to the fire for five hours or so, I finally got it. Yes–that smell of burning fat and meat is delicious, and not nearly as charcoal-y as I had expected. The experience is  reminiscent of summer days when you get wafts of grilled meat from a neighbor’s barbecue. It made me hungry, and I had just eaten. So, yes, Greek Gods–I get it. And now that I do, I’ll be giving you more offerings in this way in the future.

And Io Hermes! Wish me safe, secure, hassle-free, efficient, and inexpensive travels this week!

Brisingamen, by Ann Groa Sheffield

Time for some poetry….


The first looked out – his eyes were opened
At summer´s height – his heart was softened
(Sweet murmur of sunlit water;
Swaying grace of willow´s shade.)
The forge he readied; thus he wrought:
Warmth and laughter, ease and languor
This is what he learned of love.

The next looked out – his eyes were opened
At storm and sky – his heart was seized
(Reeling currents shed the clouds;
Lightning blazes; thunder bellows.)
The forge he readied; thus he wrought:
Fire and fury, fierce delight
This is what he learned of love.

The third looked out – his eyes were opened
At gentle rain – his heart was wrung
(It drips from fir trees, iron-dark,
And stains the rock a deeper rust.)
The forge he readied; thus he wrought:
Strange contentment born of sorrow
This is what he learned of love.

The last looked up – his eyes were opened
At winter´s hoard – his heart was pierced
(Dreaming stars in darkness´ throat;
Slow kiss of windless cold.)
The forge he readied; thus he wrought:
Joy and stillness, awe and silence,
Fitting for his fairest love.

–Ann Groa Sheffiled