Devotion to Poseidon

Devotion to Poseidon October 30, 2016

Depth of PraiseDepth of Praise: A Poseidon Devotional

by Terentios Poseidonides
Published through CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, August 2016
Paperback: $11.99
80 pages

Pagans have been self-publishing books for as long as there have been Pagans. First there were Books of Shadows copied by hand. Then there were teachers and groups who would photocopy their training materials and give them to their new students. Now, print-on-demand services make it possible to produce professional-looking books at reasonable prices without the need for a traditional publisher.

Perhaps the most impactful use of this technology has been for the publication of devotional anthologies. Prayers, poems, stories, artwork, and even recipes for a particular deity or pantheon can be collected and made available to the general public. I’ve read and reviewed several of these over the years, and I recommend the better ones on regular basis to newcomers and long-time devotees alike.

The most recent such book is Depth of Praise: A Poseidon Devotional by Hellenist, Wild Hunt journalist, and Pagan Waystation proprietor Terence P. Ward. Terence sent me a review copy, but as always, my first obligation in a book review is to the reader, not the author. If I thought the book was lousy I’d conveniently forget to review it.

It’s quite good. Unlike all the other devotional anthologies I’ve read, Depth of Praise isn’t an anthology. Terence Ward wrote the whole thing under the name Terentios Poseidonides. That means my biggest complaint with devotional anthologies – the wide variation in approach, emphasis, and quality of writing among the contributors – isn’t an issue here. It reads like one book, because it is.

Most of this book is devotional poetry. In the introduction, Ward says:

What you are now reading is my attempt to answer the question “Who is Poseidon?” Each of the entries in this book is a prayer, a hymn, a song, or a poem dedicated to a single name given to this god of land and sea.

The entries remind me of the Hymns of Orpheus in both form and tone. Whether this was intentional, unintentional, or just the way Hellenic praise poetry is supposed to be done, I don’t know. I just know it works – it’s beautiful and reverent. The opening entry to Poseidon Domatites begins

I sing to Poseidon Domatites, god of the house, the doorways, the windows.
Builder of the walls of Troy, you bring safety and protection to your own.
In the liminal spaces you dwell between sacred and profane,
Purifying all that enters with your sacred waters…

Ward freely admits some of the epithets were not used in antiquity, and others were “made up entirely.” Ward lives in New York – one of entries is to Poseidon Hudsonios:

Of all the places Poseidon touches
by current, by surf, by rhythm of tide,
none so clearly he holds as the river called Hudson
from its mountainous sources to its bay, deep and wide…

This strikes me as the best approach for contemporary polytheists. It’s anchored firmly in the beliefs and practices of our ancestors, but it’s applied and adapted for us here and now.

It also addresses the multiplicity of the Gods, which is an element of polytheism I intuitively struggle with. Is a Greek sea God somehow the “ruler” of a North American river? That’s not the point. The point is that when Poseidon is acknowledged, honored, and worshipped at a North American river, the experiences and relationships that come out of that devotion will necessarily be different from those that came out of devotion to Poseidon in the Aegean Sea 2500 years ago.

Depth of Praise also includes two short prose sections: one on suggested offerings to Poseidon, and another on auspicious dates for honoring Him.

Who should read Depth of Praise? Poseidon devotees, of course. Other Hellenists and devotional polytheists will find something helpful and inspirational, as will anyone who simply wants to read good devotional poetry.

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