I asked my fellow Free Hellenics about how they relate to Athene and my dear friend Magda offered this:
I am Athenian. I come from Athens. Granted, it’s not Greece, Georgia or Alabama. It’s a very small town, about the size of your thumbnail, located in the Southeast corner of Tennessee, wrapping snugly in the valley of the Appalachian. Still, I followed an Greek scholar atheist friend’s footsteps when preparing for my GRE exams. I visited the Lady of Wisdom to ask her for her support during this preparation to go back to school. I put some dollars in the museum’s (cough, temple, cough) donation box and looked both ways, before sneaking through the rope barrier. I laid my hand on the Snake, her Snake, the one sculpted out of the Lives of the people with whom I grew up- Athens. And I distinctly heard Her voice in my head, “You are Athenian. Don’t worry. I’ve got you.” Granted, I didn’t do Great on the exam, but for someone who had not hit the books in about six years, I’d say, the gods help those who help themselves.
I am not an Athenian, not in the same way that dear Magda is, though she brought me a t-shirt from her home town. I’m really more Delphinian, but my own home town is not that far from her Athens with Sparta about halfway between here and there. These are not big cities, but it’s a testament to how compelling the idea of Ancient Greece is. Less than thirty miles from here, in the “Athens of the South” stands a 42-foot statue of Athene in a full-scale replica of Greece’s Parthenon that was built in recognition of our dedication to higher education. Many like to think that this is a museum, but those of us Paganfolk who have seen Our Lady of Nashville know that this is a temple.
Like Magda, I have visited Her when I’ve needed help understanding how I should proceed in my education and I called upon Her many times through the course of my studies. When I graduated, I did so with a 4.0 GPA and I’m proud of the work that I did to earn that. But I also know that I couldn’t have done it without Athene. She has blessed me many times with wisdom, a clear and quick mind, and the calm necessary to do my best on a difficult test. She has given me the tools to do well in academics and my success, such as it is, is my offering to Her.
I’m out of the academics game for now so that I can stay home with the little bit and, frankly, because the job market is terrible. But my devotion to Our Lady continues. At the age of five, I had difficulty with small motor skills. It wasn’t anything serious; I was just a little fumbley with a pencil. At the suggestion of my teacher, Mom taught me to sew and I took to it like a duck to water. I’ve been sewing for thirty-two years now and have picked up a number of other textile arts since then. I’ve been doing embroidery, garment-making, and experimenting with hand-dyeing since I was in middle school or high school; knitting and crocheting since my second or so year as an undergraduate; spinning yarn since I started my graduate studies; and weaving since just before my ordination about six years ago. Athene has been with me at every step, encouraging me and inspiring me. At this point, I may not pick up many new crafts, but I will certainly continue to improve my skill at the ones I’ve already learned. In this way, as I have done with my academic studies, I seek arête as an act of devotion and with the knowledge that without Her and Her wisdom, none of this would be possible.
Each project is an act of creation and it is a great joy to be able to connect with others while I create something new. Asa West’s recent article on prayer shawls is a great example of this and the excellent communities in Ravelry are another. Many local yarn shops (LYS) offer time and space to stitch or spin with others in the community and our local Pagan community is rife with knitters. Rose, who taught me, Sophia, Magda, and Bella all knit, among others. Sophia’s eldest and middle child have both picked up the habit. My eldest has knit sporadically since age four and she has taken an interest in garment sewing recently, which I highly encourage. My sister can knit, but much prefers to tat lace. Her work is amazing. Textile arts help to bind us together as a community and it’s not just a ladies’ club, either. Conor O’Brien Warren wrote about his devotion to Athene through learning to sew.
This co-creating we textile artists do ties in very nicely with polytheism in a broad and general sense. There isn’t just one act of creation and there isn’t just one creator. We all create together and even if Ms.West and I were to knit the same lace pattern, doing so would be an act of sharing. For me, and I’d wager for Mr. Warren, we connect to this tapestry through the blessings of Athene. Others might connect through Frigg, Ix Chel, Neith, Saint Seraphina, Zhih Nu, Holda, Amaterasu, or Brigid. I’ve left out a host of spinning and weaving goddesses, I’m certain, but the idea is that there doesn’t have to be just one. I imagine a cosmic stitching bee where the Fates and the Norns compare the quality of different threads of life and where Athene and Frigg tell stories of battle, and where Ix Chel and Neith help each other warp a loom. There are many creators and many acts of creation.
I am not an Athenian, but I do the work of Our Lady through needle, spindle, shuttle, hook, pen, and keyboard.
And because I have learned, I teach. Teaching others helps them understand their creative potential and binds us together in the Fates’ Great Tapestry. Each of us who crafts has learned from someone who learned from someone else in a continuous thread that binds teacher to student through the generations to the first person who came up with the idea of string. All that we have been taught has come from someone before us and the capacity to open ourselves to all kinds of learning is one of Athene’s blessings. I’m infinitely grateful to Her for that and to every one of my teachers for helping me realize my creative potential. So I continue to learn and to pass on what I’ve learned. Her blessings of demokratia, of liberty, justice, and equality, have given me the opportunity to learn and create in Her name.
As the last of the July 4th fireworks pop and sparkle in the night and as we approach Panathenaia, I hold all this in my mind and in my heart. I’ll be visiting the Nashville Parthenon this month and I’ll bring some wool, some prayers, some knitting, and a picnic lunch to share with family and friends. I’ll carry Her blessings with me both in the works of my hands and in the threads that bind me to my fellow co-creators.
May all be blessed with threads of wisdom.