Local cultus 2: problem-solving personal practice

Back in 2017 I wrote about my personal local cultus, which was mainly centered around sea gods. It’s been 4 years and that post is now completely outdated, since I’m now in a completely different country, not to mention that my practice has also changed a lot. This will not be informative unless you’re interested in how I approached the issue. Note that obviously this is stuffed with UPG.

I was living in an environment where the climate was similar enough to Greece that I didn’t need to do much tweaking, if at all. That has drastically changed when I moved.

There are two main points that I needed to take into consideration when thinking about adapting my faith to a new land:

  1. what is the local nature like / does traditional flora grow here?

  2. was this land known by the ancients / have the gods been worshipped here?

I went from answering those two interrogations by yes/yes to no/no, and because the nature here is so different, there came the need to find appropriate replacements. Before thinking about replacements, though, I checked what was in common:

  • Apple tree: sacred to Hera and Aphrodite, easily available.

  • Barley: For the altar. Finland’s biggest cereal production is barley. All good there.

  • Hazel: Artemis had a grove of “karya” which can mean both hazelnut and walnut.

  • Oak: sacred to Zeus, easily findable, especially in the south.

  • Pine: Sacred to Dionysus and Pan. More precisely, (Northern) Greece and Finland only have two pine species in common though, the Scots pine (pinus sylvestris) and the Macedonian pine (pinus peuce). Not a problem for pinecones and wreaths, more of a ??? when it comes to using the resin and whether or not it is comparable to the one of the Aleppo pine, which is the one traditionally used for wine and which probably created the association to Dionysus.

  • Willow: The white willow (salix alba) is probably sacred to Persephone (Homer mentions the tree as being in the Underworld), but I have little relationship with her. My focus is more on the “goat willow” (salix caprea), which I associate with Pan.

So those are nice to have, but I’m left with 3 plants central to the religion that I don’t have access to: the laurel, the olive and fig tree. The problem with them is not finding the fruits or even leaves. Most supermarkets will have olives, figs (dried at any time, fresh depending on season) and laurel leaves. The issue resides in finding branches and/or wood, not for offerings but either for ritual tools (eiresione, hiketeia) or for decoration (wreaths).

When I made my eiresione, I went for a silver birch replacement that was favorably confirmed via divination, but I decided to dig a bit deeper into the potential of the association, especially in regards to Apollo. The silver birch places itself has a culturally important tree in a way comparable to what both the olive and laurel tree mean to the Greeks. The sap is 99% water, harvestable and drinkable and has been historically used for soap making. Those elements, coupled with the fact that the silver birch is present in the northern regions of Greece make it a good candidate to be associated with Apollo and make the divination result make a lot of sense.

This is getting long so I’ll conclude there for now: there’s still a fair amount of work left to do and a ton to explore and learn. My next focus now will be about finding a proper replacement for a fennel stalk. Might update this post at some point if new, valuable information arise.

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