The Equine Serpent was announced and briefly explained during the presentation on the Mysteries of Hekate-Despoina I gave in the Salem Witchcraft and Folklore Festival in 2022. This current article is the first full explanation and unveiling of it I have done.
The Equine Serpent is a form of esoteric Mediterranean polytheism expressed through three distinct but interconnected systems of practice called “Roads”. Each Road focuses on a particular aspect of esoteric polytheism: mystery, magic, and priestcraft.
Thus we have the Road of Mystery, which is a mysticism-oriented practice centered on Hekate-Despoina and the Gods and mysteries associated with Her.
There is the Road of Sorcery, which is a magic-oriented practice drawing upon ancient chthonic sorcery, witchcraft, and ritual magic of later eras.
And, last but not least, there is the Road of Priestcraft, which is a devotional type of practice focused on religious rites and the idea of temple maintenance re-imagined for the contemporary polytheist.
Each Road is intended and designed as a self-contained and independent system of polytheistic practice and each can be followed on its own if so desired. However, the true value and potential of the entire system is made apparent when all three Roads are pursued and integrated in one’s personal path and practice. That is when the practitioner becomes a hieromagos, a sorcerer-priest fully immersed in the currents of esoteric Mediterranean polytheism. Still, following only one or two of the Roads is still a perfectly valid choice; not all paths fit all people! A “less complete” form of the Equine Serpent comprised of one or two Roads instead of all three will still allow for a marvelous journey (pun intended) and can be useful and influential for the spirituality of the one who pursues it.
Since the original conception of the Equine Serpent contains all three Roads though, it’s in the pursuit of all three that the most complete approach is found. This is also why there are many points where the Roads overlap and connect with one another. For example, the Road of Mystery also has elements of priestcraft and magic, both due to those being natural expressions of esoteric polytheism, like the mystery practices, as well as due to their practical usefulness which compensates for the disadvantages of solitary practice. Likewise, the Road of Sorcery is filled with devotional and mystical elements, since the polytheistic sorcerer works magic irrevocably tied to their Gods and spirits. Finally, the same situation exists in the Road of Priestcraft, which contains elements of magic and mysticism for their practical usefulness and natural connection to devotional religious life respectively. However, while there are shared elements and overlap between the three Roads, each Road is first and foremost focused on its namesake concepts.
Here it must be noted that the Equine Serpent is a modern system that combines ancient knowledge with divine guidance and experiential gnosis. As a type of esoteric polytheism, it recognizes and celebrates the methodology of reconstructionism that revives ancient polytheism as well as the creative innovations born from hands-on experience of Gods, spirits, and magic and seeks to merge the two seamlessly.
Why “Equine Serpent”?
The name of the entire system is a reference to two of the most symbolically important animals within the context of esoteric Mediterranean polytheism: the horse and the snake (“Equine Serpent” literally means “horse-like snake”). Both are largely chthonic animals, strongly tied to mystery traditions (especially those of Arcadia, which are the inspirational fount of the Road of Mystery), spiritual intrigue, and magic. They are also both famously associated with Hekate, who is the undeniable center of the entire system and its Roads. Incidentally, the shape of the main sigil of the Equine Serpent alludes to two more, “secret” animals which are similarly strongly tied to ancient divinities and especially to Hekate Herself. This hidden duo of animals symbolizes a more private layer of the Equine Serpent and its practices.
The Road of Mystery
Originally this was called “The Mysteries of Hekate-Despoina” (which is still the main title of the related book) but as a full-fledged Road of the Equine Serpent its name has been altered accordingly. It is a mystery practice focused on Hekate-Despoina and deities associated with Her, primarily (but not exclusively) those related to the ancient Arcadian mystery traditions of Despoina. The primary practice of this Road involves a year long ritual journey of initiatory character with three main milestones (called “stages”) as well as other, simpler practices that aid the mystical process. After the completion of the first year’s practices and the successful induction in the mysteries of Hekate-Despoina, the practitioner performs anniversary rites on the dates that commemorate the three stages each year and continues to refine and pursue their mystical journey through additional practices and personal gnosis.
The Road of Sorcery
This Road is the de facto magical practice of the Equine Serpent. It blends the ancient magic of goeteia (chthonic sorcery) and pharmakeia(witchraft) with the theurgic ritual magic of late antiquity and later eras, creating a deeply polytheistic and well-rounded form of contemporary magic that can compare to the tried-and-true magic of the traditions found in the currents of Western Esotericism and modern Paganism. More specifically, it draws inspiration from the Greek Magical Papyri and other ancient sources of magic as well as the wealth of folk magic and ritual magic of more modern times (such as the grimoire traditions, traditional witchcraft, Greek folk magic, and so on). Chthonic spirit-work (including necromancy), planetary magic, ecstatic magic, charms and magical rituals are some of the staples of the Road of Sorcery.
The Road of Priestcraft
Priestcraft is a term I chose intentionally to avoid the term “priesthood” since the latter has connotations of community service, leadership, status, and organization that aren’t necessarily present in this Road of the Equine Serpent. Priestcraft is, quite literally, the craft of the priest. It’s a form of devotional polytheism that takes things a step further than religious practice for solely personal reasons and well into the idea of service to the Gods. Priestcraft includes the concept of “temple maintenance” in the sense of upholding and observing religious duties in service of the Gods that are done for the good of all (regardless of how public or private the duties might be). Think of the ancient priests who tended the temples and sanctuaries of their Gods and who would have to perform private rituals and other duties (such as tending to an eternal flame or performing various rites without a physical audience of lay participants). Priestcraft builds upon this concept in a re-imagined form relevant and applicable to the contemporary polytheist. The Road of Priestcraft involves series of rituals and prayers as well as other duties in the service of the Gods first and foremost and while it can extend to community service as a priest, that is an “expanded” form and not a requirement. As such, there is no status of priesthood to be granted to anyone save for those who feel inclined to claim it for themselves (with all the additional duties and burdens it brings) or who are recognized as priests by their communities and co-religionists.
This is the form of the Equine Serpent at this point. The main idea is to disseminate and teach the entire system through four books: one for each Road plus an introductory book for those who have little to no experience in polytheism and magic since the Equine Serpent is not intended for complete beginners and builds upon the practitioner’s pre-existing experience with these matters. Since the Equine Serpent as a concept was conceived after the Mysteries of Hekate-Despoina and their book had already been planned and were in-process, the book for the Road of Mystery is the first that will come out, followed by the others in an as-of-yet undecided order. Therefore, as of the writing of this article, the state of the Equine Serpent is this: the Road of Mystery is completed in practice and its book is in development, while the Roads of Sorcery and Priestcraft are in development with regards to their practices, and their books are in the planning stage.
In lieu of a conclusion, I would like to answer a question I have encountered quite a few times both directly and indirectly in the past few years: what’s the point of all this? In all honesty, the points are many. Devotion to the Gods, deepening of our relationships with them and our experiences of them and of their mysteries and blessings, proliferation and development of all kinds of magic (magic, in all its many forms, being a sacred and Gods-given gift and tool we possess), especially polytheistic magic thus making polytheists self-sufficient in their magical needs (i.e. without needing to borrow from monotheistic magical systems), and much more. On a simpler level, this is just something I feel strongly called and inspired to do both through personal drive and through the guidance of my Gods and spirits. The Equine Serpent in my answer to what I perceive as an incomplete contemporary polytheism.
Keenly following your work and eager to read more. Many thanks for your diligence and devotion, and for bringing the light and holding the lantern high.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thank you for the kind words!
Love the priestcraft explanation – really elucidated for me something that I think I have been moving towards. Priestcraft in service of the Gods rather than (or before) clergy in service of the community.
I look forward to reading more in the books!
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thank you! It’s a concept that’s present in various traditions and has been very important in my own practices but rarely gets properly explained so I’m really looking forward to fleshing it out!