There's an old saying that "we plan and God laughs" and sometimes I think there's a lot of truth in that. So many times the Gods gift us with the unexpected. So many times They seem to send us tumbling down unsought after paths. We get where we need to go but oftentimes I think it's never where or what we expected to be. There's a grace in there somewhere, even if only the grace of making that journey well. Mind you, it's not a grace I particularly possess - I'm usually the one who has to be dragged or drop-kicked onto my path more often than not with much kicking, screaming, and cussing involved. But c'est la vie, right? There's no getting around it. A certain flirtation with the unexpected seems to have defined my own spiritual life through the years and if I were a gambling woman, I'd bet I'm not the only one who could confidently say that.
For the record, if things had gone according to my plan (and feel free to laugh right about now), I'd have been solely a priestess of Sekhmet, content to serve the Mother of Battle for the rest of my life in my own temple space, quietly, very quietly somewhere. She (and Odin) had other ideas and now I'm Heathen and a Northern Tradition shaman and I've grown accustomed to the change. Still, Sekhmet holds a deeply honored place in my heart and in my devotions. I don't often talk about my relationship with Her, but suffice it to say, She made me into something Odin found useful. That is a debt I shall never repay."
In honoring Sekhmet through the years, I've encountered many interesting and devout people and many who combined veneration of Her with their devotion to Hellenic Deities. There's quite a bit of historical precedent for this, by the way, which I would imagine makes the whole process proceed a bit more smoothly for those involved. It's always a delight to find someone who loves or honors a Deity so close to one's own heart.
One of those people, whom I recently met through Neos Alexandrina, is author Melitta Benu. A devotee of Sekhmet, she is also deeply devoted to Persephone, Greek Goddess of the Underworld, and she's living out her devotion in some very interesting and unexpected ways. Melitta was gracious enough to take some time last month to speak with me about her work, her Gods, and the importance of devotional practice.
Tell me a little bit about your background. Why Hellenismos?
I began like many people seem to, by experimenting with Wicca as a teenager. Later, I was introduced to ceremonial magic and Egyptian religion by a now defunct group, and through them, I was given my first taste of Pagan Reconstructionism and began serious worship centered on Sekhmet and the Memphian triad. In time, I left that group to pursue my own aspirations, which included reconstruction of Greek religion and many aspects of Greek nekromantia, in service to the gods of the Underworld. Nevertheless, I missed my Egyptian roots. After getting to know Sannion, who is the author of The Balance of the Two Lands and many other wonderful works, I managed to bridge Hellenismos with Kemetic Reconstruction and found a place with Neos Alexandria, where I have recently started to get more involved in their devotionals.
So, I actually consider myself more on the Hellenic side of Alexandrian Reconstruction. Currently, I am rebuilding my personal practice based on many new sources of information/experience and studying with my local OTO body.
The way you talk about "Alexandrian Reconstruction" makes it sound as though that is a unique "denomination" (for lack of a better word) or branch of Hellenismos. Would that be the case? Certainly it sounds like it incorporates a holistic blending of Greek and Egyptian practices.
To be honest, a better person to ask about that would be Sannion or Rebecca Buchannan; I can't really speak for the movement itself, and they could do a far better job of it than I could. As far as my own practice and what it specifically means to me, it is a unique denomination and gives me plenty of room in which to play. I research both of the traditions (traditional Kemetic and Hellenismos) and incorporate them as I am able, and according to what fits. I lean very much more to the Hellenismos side than I do the Kemetic side, but the more I learn and re-learn from before, the more the two begin to balance each other out.
How does your work with the OTO complement or fit itself into your devotional practices?
One of the principle tenets of the OTO and the religion they believe, Thelema, is "Do What Thou Wilt," which isn't indulging in every whim, but discovering what your True Will (or the purpose of your life) is and doing nothing but that. Seeing that, despite (or because of) the heavy influence of both Thelema and Ceremonial Magic, it actually fuels me in my devotional practices and other work that Persephone may want of me. The entire point of Thelema and the work of the OTO (according to what I've seen, anyhow) is to discover and encourage the enacting of Will; in that way, it pushes me to examine, to discover anew and to constantly ask, "Is this in accordance to my True Will?"